How to Simplify Your Fitness and Nutrition Journey

Hey Angels and Alphas,

You know it, I know it, the world knows it – people *love* overcomplicating things.

Fitness is one of those things that’s both easy and hard. It’s easy in the sense that getting from A to B is not at all complicated. It’s hard in the sense that people can easily start overindulging in information and create misconceptions that will stop their progress in its tracks.

Today, I’m here to change that. We’re going to talk about the simplest ways you can narrow down your entire fitness journey and turn it into what it’s supposed to – a healthy lifestyle of constant progress toward a goal.

To do this, I’m going to give you everything you need to know and separate it into two categories – exercise and nutrition.

By the end of this article, you will have all the information you need to get started on your journey and begin making massive progress.

Without further ado, let’s jump right in.

Simplifying Exercise

STEP #1 – SET A GOAL

First and foremost, you need to choose a goal. Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to gain muscle? Do you want to become better at a sport you already participate in? Or do you just want to get fit and be healthy?

You don’t have to limit yourself to one goal – for example, you might want to lose weight *and* gain muscle.

Whatever the case may be, this is the point at which you decide what you want. This is the first and most crucial step in your fitness journey, as it will determine how you’ll take the rest of your steps.

STEP #2 – CHOOSE A PLAN

Once you’ve decided what your goal is, it’s time to find an appropriate routine.

You can do your own research on this if you’d like, but the basic premise is all the same.

Whatever your goal is, you’re most likely going to need a mixture of strength training and cardiovascular training to make it happen.

Choosing a routine, in this case, has more to do with exercise variations and intensity than anything else.

In general, gaining power and building muscle will primarily emphasize resistance training over cardio. For increasing strength, your focus should be on low-rep resistance training programs. For gaining size, your focus should be on hypertrophy programs.

If your goal is to lose weight or lean out, you will still need a mixture of strength training and cardio, but the emphasis here will be on cardio. Not just any cardio, though, HIIT. Study after study, it remains the best type of training to lose weight, right next to full-body workout programs.

If your aim is to improve mobility or sport-specific movements, you should find a program that has *that* goal and only *that* goal in mind. These programs are often highly individual, but not a lot of people set these goals, and those who do probably already have a good idea of what they should be doing.

STEP #3 – GET THE BASICS RIGHT

Regardless of what your goal is, the only thing you should be focusing in the beginning is mastering the basics.

I have always advocated perfecting the basics as the best thing a beginner can do, and everything I see in fitness reinforces that.

For strength training, your fundamental movements – the bench press, squat, deadlift (or bent-over row if you dislike deadlifting) are ones that should be done the most. You’re not going to be going all-in on weight every workout, but you are going to perform them every workout so your muscles can get used to the actual movement. Some trainers go as far as not putting any weight on the trainee’s bar until they start doing basic movements with extreme precision.

For weight loss, mastering the basics means learning the process of calories in and calories out. This is not to say that you shouldn’t be perfecting your cardio, but when it comes to burning fat and leaning out, diet will always be more important. More on that later.

STEP #4 – OVERLOAD… PROGRESSIVELY

Once you’ve started working toward your goal and you’ve got all the basics down, you’ll have no problem getting results.

This beginning period, however, will only get you this far. If you want to progress toward your goal, the most fundamental concept you need to understand is progressive overload.

Progressive overload is the gradual and continuous increase of stress placed upon the body during exercise training.

This is done by either increasing the volume or the intensity of your exercise.

For gaining muscle strength, this means adding more weight to the bar and/or more exercises of a given muscle group during the week.

For gaining muscle size, this relates to a higher number of high-intensity repetitions, or once again, more exercises of a given muscle group during the week.

For weight loss, this means gradually decreasing the overall number of calories you consume in a day. In this case, this is only done to a point. You don’t want to reach a point where you’re starving yourself, only a point where you can predictably lose weight.

STEP #5 – TRACK YOUR PROGRESS

Once you’re making results and progressing on your path, the only thing you have left is to track your progress.

The best way to do this, as we’ve talked about before, is keeping an exercise/diet journal. Journaling will not only help you keep track of your progress, but will also help you achieve your goals faster.

Once you’ve successfully set a goal, made a plan, got the basics right, and made progress, you review your progress and start again at square one. Good job!

Simplifying Your Diet

STEP #1 – CALORIES IN VS CALORIES OUT

This is what both weight loss and weight gain boil down to.

Calories are energy, and if you want to lose weight, you should be using up more energy than you’re putting in your body. Therefore, leaving your body in a calorie deficit.

Naturally, if you want to gain weight, you should consume more calories and be at a surplus, so your body can transform this extra energy into muscle (or other, usually less desirable things.)

This happens alongside the first step in the “simplifying exercise.” When you’re choosing your goal, be it weight loss or muscle gain, you’re making a decision on whether you should be at a calorie surplus or a calorie deficit.

STEP #2 – FIND YOUR MACROS

This happens alongside step two in the “simplifying exercise.”

When you’re making your exercise plan, you should also create a diet plan that breaks down the number of macros you’ll need to make progress with that exercise regime.

Here’s the general rule of thumb:

If you’re losing weight, focus on high protein (40-50%), low carb, and low fat. (20-25%)

If you want to maintain your weight, focus on 40-45% calories from carbs, 30% of calories from protein, and the rest on fat.

If you want to gain muscle, focus on high protein (35-40%), high carb (40%), and low fat (20%). (Or switch carb and fat and keep the same distributions.)

A lot of these numbers *might* change based on your body composition, current activity level, and caloric needs, so if you can’t get a trainer to help, you can use a calorie calculator online. Naturally, though, you can’t expect precise accuracy there.

An important note here is that even though you have the numbers down, you should still be focusing on more nutrient-dense foods that contain micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

STEP #3 – CUT NASTY FOOD OUT OF YOUR DIET

Most of us already know that our diets can use a little cleaning.

There’s no need to completely overhaul your entire diet because you still have to keep it sustainable. For the sake of achieving your goal and matching the macros you’ve set for yourself, there are the foods you should be consuming less of:

Sugars, desserts, chips, fries, sweet seasonings, and pretty much everything that has to do with trans fats. Remember – trans fats are your *biggest* enemy! 

STEP #4 – SUPPLEMENT (ONLY IF YOU NEED TO)

If you live a busy lifestyle and you can’t afford to spend a lot of time cooking and meal prepping, supplements are a no-brainer.

After all, it’s much better for you to drink a protein shake than grab nasty fast food that’s full of trans fats.

In general, supplements * shouldn’t* serve as an actual “supplement” to real food, but they can help you reach the numbers you’ve set for yourself and therefore give your body the nutrients it needs to move forward.

I didn’t really want to dedicate a separate point to “making a diet” because I don’t like that approach when it comes to beginners. It’s much healthier and much more sustainable for you if you just decide what macros you’re chasing and try to reach them with the least amount of nasty food possible.

Sometimes, though, supplements come to the rescue and help us reach those macros.

Putting it all together…

As you can see, reaching your fitness goal doesn’t have to be complicated.

It’s really simple – set a goal, make a plan, track your progress, and repeat.

Don’t get me wrong – if you want to study the ins and outs of every aspect of fitness, you’re welcome to do what. But more often than not, beginners get petrified by the amount of information that’s out there.

This article serves to prove that making the first step on your journey and reaching your goal is really a simple process everyone can follow – use this as a checklist whenever you’re wondering what you should do next.

The Best Way to Track Your Fitness Progress (Shhh… it’s called journaling.)

Hey Angels and Alphas!

Without a doubt, everyone who goes to the gym goes there for one reason – progress.

Regardless if your goal is to lose weight, make your biceps bigger, or squat a hundred kilos, we all know this happens by slowly and gradually progressing toward that goal.

And knowing how much time we spend designing the way we train, organizing our workouts, and counting up the number of calories in our diet, it only makes sense that we’d apply the same effort (if not more) on tracking our progress.

Everyone tracks their progress differently. Some people keep journals (more on that later), some get on the scale every morning, and some people don’t even feel the need to track their progress and just go by their gut feeling.

Whether you’re super analytical and you write everything down, or you follow your progress by photos and the way you look, you can’t deny that tracking your progress is a vital part of your journey.

Today, we’re looking at the best way gym trainees can track their progress, and it’s called journaling!

Why is Journaling the Best Way to Track your Progress?

Logging all your workouts in a journal is by far the simplest and most effective way to track your progress.

Since your body adapts to exercise as you’re working out, continually doing the same exercises with the same weight every workout will not help you progress.

By keeping a workout journal, you can write down different aspects of your workout to ensure you’re always progressing toward a specific goal or milestone.

Not only that, but keeping a journal also helps you:

  • Learn more about yourself.
    You’ll be surprised at how many behavioral and training patterns you can start recognizing once you start journaling. You’ll learn more about your strengths, weaknesses, and what things you focused on at particular moments in your training history.
  • Document your journey.
    By making daily entries into your fitness journal, you’re not only tracking your progress, but you’re also documenting every step of your fitness journey. It’s always motivating and inspiring when you look back at all the progress you’ve made and think about all the pages you have left to fill.
  • Optimize your approach for better performance.
    You’ll be able to quickly learn what’s working and what’s not and change your training approach accordingly.
  • Keep yourself accountable.
    Did you know? A Harvard University study concluded that the best way to turn working out into a habit is to start a journal. Journaling goes a long way toward keeping yourself accountable– there’s something about it that makes us want to fill a page with our progress every day.
  • Recognize and break through plateaus.
    Taking that new perspective on your progress will help you recognize and deal with plateaus *way* quicker than you otherwise would. When you see that your numbers aren’t coming up seven days in a row, you know something is up.
  • Achieve your goals faster.
    As a combination of all the above benefits, journaling will help you hit milestones and achieve your overarching fitness goal more quickly and effectively. And we have the science to prove it! More on that later.

Now that we’ve established a gazillion reasons for starting a journal, let’s take a look at the different ways you can approach fitness journaling!

Journaling Your Workout Performance Metrics

(amount of weight lifted, speed and distance covered during cardio, body part circumference, etc.)

The most common example of this is when you get on the scale every morning.

Even though weight is the most commonly measured fitness metric, it will not give you an accurate idea of your overall fitness progress.

Professional athletes often choose a couple of specific workout metrics, and they track them in order to see “the bigger picture” of their progress toward those metrics.

If your goal is, for example, getting stronger at a particular exercise, writing down the amount of weight you lifted every time you did that exercise will help you manage your progress and spot patterns in it.

By the same token, if your goal is to run a mile in 5 minutes, you can track the amount of time you spent on the treadmill in correlation to the distance you ran every day.

This time of variable logging will help you toward the specific goal you’re chasing. It all depends on what metrics you choose to track, be it speed/distance, strength, or even those such as body fat and FFMI.

When it comes to strength training, variable journaling is a must. At any point, you must be able to identify how much weight you were able to perform on your focus exercises so you can manage your growth effectively.

And for bodybuilders, journaling is an effective way to track the circumference measurements around different parts of the body – namely the shoulders, chest, waist, hips, legs, and arms. Since proportions are immensely important in bodybuilding, journaling these measurements will help you identify essential ratios (like your shoulder-to-waist or waist-to-hip ratio).

To start journaling workout metrics and get better in specific areas of your training, you need to first determine what metrics you need to track.

This means that next to the date on your journal page, you should be recording things like the weight you lift at a specific exercise, your speed, the distance you ran until full exhaustion, your heart rate, blood pressure, VO2 max, just to name a few.

Pro tip: determine what areas you want to improve on and find the metrics that will best relate to progress in those areas.

Journaling your Exercises

One of the most common ways of journaling your progress is by logging all the exercises you do each day, along with their respective set and repetition counts.

If your goal is long-term fitness success (and I really hope it is), you’ll find that this journaling method will help you identify what aspects of your fitness regime need work when you hit a plateau.

For example, if you look back at your logged workouts three months from now, you’ll easily be able to track your training volume and frequency for each body part.

As with variable journaling, this is especially important in bodybuilding and strength training, because tracking your volume is essential to keeping progress going and avoiding overtraining.

This journaling method will also help you track your cardio efforts and your rest days, which are vital when it comes to managing training volume.

To start journaling your exercises, here’s what you need to have on the page: the date of the workout, the exercises you performed, the number of sets you did, the number of reps you did, and the amount of weight for each set.

Journaling Your Diet

The American Journal of Preventative Medicine did a study about a decade ago, where they took 1,700 people with the common goal of losing weight. They found that those who kept a journal lost double the weight compared to those who didn’t!

A similar study from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics discovered that study participants who kept a food journal lost about 13 percent of their body weight, 5 percent more than those who didn’t log their progress.

Journaling is a scientifically proven weight loss tool! Diet journaling especially has the power to keep you accountable for your diet and help you recognize habitual eating patterns. (For example, craving sweets around 4 p.m. is pretty normal for a lot of people who drink coffee in the morning because of the usual drop in blood sugar levels.)

Logging everything you eat in a journal will help you manage your diet, spot the symptoms of emotional eating, and achieve your calorie surplus/deficit goals *much* easier.

To start diet journaling, here’s what needs to be on your page: the date, your weight measured at the start of your day, the foods you ate (and at what time), their macronutrient proportions, and the overall amount of calories for that day.

*A Note on Journaling with Photos*

Adding photos to pages when you log your progress will make your journal feel all the more like a journey.

Moreover, if you’re into bodybuilding and weight loss, adding photos to your journal will be a massive motivator toward your future progress.

When you can look back and see how far you’ve come and see all the empty pages of your journal still in front of you, you get an inspiring yet humbling feeling that your journey is bigger than you are.

Photos will add a visual aspect to your journal, and that added level of visualization goes a long way both in terms of tracking your progress *and* your journey.

Putting it all together…

Journaling is part of the life of every athlete.

If you want to keep track of your progress, achieve your fitness goal faster, and document your journey as you go, journaling will help you do that.

Personally, I believe a pen and paper will do just fine. That being said, there are thousands of apps out there that you can use to track your progress.

This brings me to my final point.

Journaling is not about carrying around a diary and writing down numbers in it.

Journaling is about taking the time to evaluate yourself and the progress you’ve achieved every day and keeping a record of it that you can always come back to.

This makes your fitness journey actually feel like a journey.

Never underestimate the power of journaling. Instead, use it.

The Athlete’s Guide to Vitamins

Hey Angels and Alphas,

We’ve talked about vitamins and minerals many times before, but never in detail. I feel like vitamins/minerals are a topic that gets talked about a lot, and I’m happy about that. At the same time, a lot of the voices surrounding it are only there to help the fitness industry benefit.

Nevertheless, vitamins and minerals are crucial for you, regardless if you’re an athlete or not. Some studies out there point out that vitamin intakes should generally be higher for athletes to improve optimum performance. However, there’s no specific guideline on how much vitamins/minerals an athlete should be taking.

If you work closely with a dietitian or a nutritionist, they’ll help you get a better idea of the vitamins you might be deficient in. Those are truly the only ones you need to focus on.

There hasn’t been much evidence supporting the idea that taking extra vitamins helps improve performance (more on that later). However, there has been a ton of evidence proving that vitamin deficiencies are nasty and can cause an enormous amount of problems if not properly addressed.

Today, I want to shine light on the most famous vitamins and minerals that gym-lovers and athletes love taking. They are staples in vitamin supplements often recommended by nutritionists, and statistically speaking, you might have a deficiency in at least one of them.

So regardless if you’re an athlete or not, let’s get into it.

The B-Vitamins

The B-Vitamins are regarded as some of the best vitamins for increasing your energy and focus. A deficiency in pretty much any B vitamin would lead to having less energy and worse cognitive capabilities. This means bad memory, low concentration, and even low mental resilience. People who are deficient in B-vitamins have even demonstrated slow learning ability. Yikes.

That’s why they’re in pretty much the staple in almost every vitamin supplement. They’re used in everything. From breaking down nutrients into serotonin to proper cell function.

If you want to get a boost of concentration and productivity (or at least up to the normal level), make sure you’re taking enough B-1 (Thiamin) B-3 (Niacin), B-6, B-9, and B-12.

  • Vitamin B-1 is known as Thiamin. It plays a crucial role in breaking down carbs and protein. Good sources include peanuts, black beans, and grain products. Good sources: Whole or fortified grain products, pork, peanuts, and black beans.
  • Vitamin B-3 is also known as Niacin. Good sources are peanuts, fish, brown rice, and whole grains.
  • Vitamin B-6 is involved in a vast amount of metabolic pathways – it’s essential for the optimal breakdown of food (and particularly carbohydrates) from big nutrients into small units the body can use. Good sources include bananas, tuna, chickpeas, and pistachios.
  • Vitamin B-9 is called Folate, and it’s essential to the production of red blood cells. It also helps create and maintain new cells. It’s one of the building blocks of DNA and RNA. Good sources include avocados, leafy greens, broccoli, green peas and more.
  • Vitamin B-12 is one of those vitamins labeled a “performance enhancer”. When it comes down to it, I suggest you watch your supplement intake and focus more on food sources (if you can). Vitamin B-12 is only found in animal products.

If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you’re most probably aware that it’s a common deficiency. What I’ve seen as the best alternative to that are breakfast cereals or plant-based meats. Be sure to read the label and make sure the label says “fortified”. Meaning the food is vitamin and mineral enriched.

B-12 is a common supplement, but you need to check with your doctor or nutritionist to make sure you need it. Good sources include milk, cheese, eggs, meats, and the above-mentioned fortified cereals.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is one of the easiest to manage – you get it from the sun! That being said, depending on things such as your location, skin color, and weight, you could be absorbing Vitamin D differently.

When it comes to Vitamin D3 (one of the two main forms, the other being D2), it’s regarded as one of the best focus and concentration supplements. It plays an important role in the nervous system, as it’s involved in over 200 processes around your body, from your bones to your mood.

Needless to say, that’s not a deficiency you’d want. To perform at your best as an athlete, you need that optimal cognitive function.

In western society, about half the people are deficient in Vitamin D3 – essentially risking physical and mental issues. This, too, is common for vegetarians and vegans.

Some great sources of vitamin D – direct sunlight! Also eggs and fish – tuna, salmon, sardines, oysters, shrimps, etc. For plant-based diets, go with fortified soy milk.

Vitamin A

You’ve probably heard how essential vitamin A is when it comes to vision. But there’s more! It’s also a powerful antioxidant. What’s important about vitamin A is that it can be dangerous when it’s in excess – make sure you’re not overdoing it with your supplementation.

Sources of vitamin A include carrots, pumpkins, spinach, sweet potatoes and more.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Regarded as one of the best supplements out there in the world of vitamins, they’re responsible for a huge array of functions from your liver, to your heart, to your eyes.

But the more important benefits of Omega 3 come through as improved cognitive functions. It’s proven to directly affect brain size, improve memory, boost your attention span, and heighten the speed of neural transfer while working on a complex task.

Most people nowadays are deficient in Omega 3, and that’s not good news. Low-fat diets are making this deficiency popular, and the irony here is that this leads to higher rates of diabetes and obesity. Also, depression and a whole bunch of cognitive/attention disorders.

When it comes to Omega 3, they’re crucial regardless if you’re an athlete or not.

They’re found in salmon, oysters, fish oil, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and dairy.

Magnesium

We’ve talked about how awesome Magnesium is before, but we’ll do it again.

Magnesium has been proven to assist healthy bone mass, better workout performance, and blood sugar regulation – in clinical research. It’s a crucial component of thousands of chemical reactions in your body. It also plays a role in converting B-vitamins into their active form.

Magnesium has also been linked to lower stress and anxiety levels. It helps your entire physiology run smoothly, and those who take it often report feeling relaxed, calm, and more focused throughout the day.

If you’re not supplementing with it already, give it a try. Other than that, you can find it in almonds, cashews, avocados, seeds, and best of all, dark chocolate.

Calcium

Many regard Calcium as the most important nutrient for athletes. However, most people nowadays are deficient in it – or at least consume less than the optimum daily dose.

Calcium intake is mostly a concern for female athletes. I won’t go into detail, but make sure your calcium intake is high if you’re training – especially if you’re young.

You should monitor your calcium intake, and make sure you’re consuming at least 1000mg a day. If you have a dairy sensitivity and you can’t get calcium from dairy, supplementation is often the easier option rather than chugging glasses of skim milk all day.

Iron

Iron plays a huge role in transporting oxygen throughout the body. Iron deficiencies often lead to fatigue and lower physical performance.

For the athletes who train less than 4 days a week, iron deficiencies are most likely not a problem. But if you’re training 6 days a week, every week, you must get checked for an iron deficiency. Like right now.

Athletes usually use up iron quicker than non-athletes, but nevertheless, optimal iron intake is crucial to proper growth and body function.

Some great sources include beans, spinach, oats, clams, beef, and turkey.

What about Sodium?

The combination of sodium and chloride (essentially table salt) makes a frequent appearance in sports supplements.

The only thing you need to know here is that if you’re doing cardio all the time and you’re sweating a lot, you might be risking a sodium depletion. Weigh yourself before and after training sessions and try to determine how much fluid you’re losing. Stay hydrated, and make sure you get some more sodium in if you plan on sweating all day.

Conclusion – Don’t Just Take Multivitamins

If there’s one thing I want you to know about vitamins, is that they’re not simple. Some cause problems when you’re deficient, other cause problems when they’re in excess.

But hopefully, you can now identify some of the markers of these deficiencies (or their opposite).

The solution is probably not laying around in a bottle waiting to be taken in tables every day. The solution to optimal vitamin intake is in your diet, and most importantly, you have to figure out what vitamins and minerals you’re deficient in – and get that handled as soon as possible, regardless if you’re an athlete or not.

The 5 Best Ways to Improve your Body’s Natural Defenses

Hey Angels and Alphas,

If you want to improve your immune health and stay as healthy as possible, you may be wondering how you can strengthen your immune system so you can help protect your body from illness.

As with a lot of things in the health and wellness space, improving your immunity is easier said than done. But there are lifestyle changes, dietary changes, even exercise changes that you can make that, in the long-term, will strengthen your body’s natural defenses and help you ward off illnesses and disease-causing microorganisms.

Today, we’re exploring the 5 most science-backed, effective, and straightforward ways you can boost your immunity.

Important note: If you’re worried about COVID-19, you should know that no amount of exercise, supplements, diet, or lifestyle changes can protect you from developing this virus. However, boosting your immune health can increase the probability that you’ll stay healthy and strong in the long-run. That being said, let’s jump right in.

1. Eating More Whole Plant Foods.

Let’s begin by addressing some of the dietary choices you can make that have been proven to boost immunity in one form or another.

For starters, whole plant foods such as seeds, nuts, fruits, veggies, and legumes, are abundant in nutrients and antioxidants that have been proven to give you an upper hand on the way to stronger immunity.

The antioxidants found in these food groups have anti-inflammatory properties. They decrease inflammation by combatting unstable compounds known as free radicals, which are directly linked to the accumulation of inflammation in the body.

Furthermore, the fiber in certain plant foods enriches your gut microbiome, and a healthy gut microbiome improves your immunity and helps keep you safe against harmful pathogens.

Important note: Fermented foods are very rich in healthy bacteria called probiotics. These foods include kimchi, kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, and more. Research has proven that a flourishing gut microbiome can help your immune system work more efficiently by differentiating between normal, healthy, and harmful organisms.

Let’s not forget, fruits and veggies are rich in micronutrients such as vitamin C, one of the best known and most well-studied supplements for strengthening the immune system.

2. Eating More Healthy Fats!

Healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, nuts, and olives, also boost your immune system’s effectiveness against pathogens by decreasing inflammation.

Even though low levels of inflammation are a completely natural response to stress, injury, or illness, chronic inflammation is known to suppress the immune system and diminish your ability to ward off disease.

For example, olive oil is anti-inflammatory, and it’s been directly connected to a decreased risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Moreover, Omega-3 fatty acids, abundantly found in chia seeds and salmon, have been shown to reduce inflammation as well.

By combating chronic immune suppression, healthy fats are one of the best ways we can naturally work our way toward preventing disease and staying healthy. 

3. Exercise – regularly.

We know that exposure to prolonged, high-intensity exercise can suppress the immune system. But moderate exercise can bolster it.

Some studies indicate that even one session of moderate-intensity exercise has improved the effectiveness of vaccines in people with suppressed immune system function.

Not only that, but moderate exercise also helps our bodies fight inflammation and helps our immune cells recover and regenerate more effectively.

Moderate exercise doesn’t have to mean a 45-minute gym session. It can also include jogging, bicycling, swimming, light hiking, or just a couple of sessions on the treadmill.

By promoting the healthy turnover of immune cells and reducing inflammation, these forms of cardio are a powerful way to keep our immune system (and weight) in check.

4. Get more (and higher quality) sleep.

We can’t talk about immune system function without mentioning sleep.

Immunity and sleep are closely linked, and inadequate or poor-quality sleep has (more than once) been proven to make you more susceptible to illnesses.

In fact, a study in hundreds of healthy adults showed us that people who sleep less than 6 hours a night are more likely to catch a cold than those who get in their daily 8 hours.

Considering this fact, it’s easy for us to realize why getting adequate sleep helps our natural immunity flourish. Not only that, but people tend to sleep more when they’re sick, allowing the immune system to effectively fight off the sickness.

The golden rule should be at least 7 hours (or more) of sleep every night, with younger people needing more sleep – around 8-10 hours, and children or infants needing up to 13 hours.

But it’s not just about quantity – it’s about the quality of your sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping or you’re waking up feeling exhausted, try limiting your screen time at least in the hours before going to bed, as well as reducing blue light emissions from your phone or TV.

These things are all a part of our sleep hygiene, and they keep our body’s natural circadian rhythm in check. That’s why it’s absolutely vital to our health and wellness that we strive to get at least 7 hours of quality sleep every night.

5. If you’re going to supplement, do it wisely.

It’s very easy to fall for marketing tricks about certain supplement’s ability to treat or prevent the new coronavirus. However, a science-based approach will quickly show you how these assertions are baseless.

There’s no evidence out there to support the use of any supplement for preventing or treating COVID-19.

However, some supplements do strengthen your body’s immune response, including:

  • Vitamin: which has been found to reduce the duration of colds by 8% in adults and 14% in younger children.
  • Vitamin D: because a vitamin D deficiency increases your chances of getting sick. Supplementing counteracts this effect, and it’s especially important if you’re sheltered at home. Many people are deficient in vitamin D, but if you aren’t or you’re already taking a supplement, vitamin D won’t provide you with any extra benefit.
  • Zinc: which in a study of over 500 people suffering from the common cold, reduced the duration of the cold by 33%. (At usage around 100mg of Zinc per day.)

While these supplements have tremendous potential to help your immune system work more efficiently, they won’t prevent COVID-19. Remember, supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), making them more prone to mislabeling.

That’s why you should only purchase supplements that have been tested by third-party organizations.

To conclude…

There are dietary and lifestyle changes that you can make today that will help you strengthen your immune system and your body’s natural defenses against disease.

These include focusing on nutrient-dense foods, working out, getting the right amount (and quality) of sleep, and supplementing to fill the gaps in your diet.

And while none of these suggestions can prevent you from catching COVID-19, they will definitely reinforce your body’s defenses against it (and other harmful pathogens) and ultimately make you a better, healthier individual.

 

7 Ways to Prevent Gaining Weight During the Pandemic

Hey Angels and Alphas,

With every country around the globe during their best to “flatten the curve” of the pandemic, many of us are laying back and taking time off the gym in response to these “shelter at home” suggestions.

And while losing weight is still completely doable, perhaps for the time being the best option that we have is to focus our efforts on maintaining our current weight.

Why? Because it’s completely normal to be feeling stressed and anxious in the face of so many life and career uncertainties. You might be tempted to shelter at home with whatever junk food you can get your hands on or order takeaway every day until the pandemic is over.

But what’s best, most healthy, and most productive for you is that you combat the inactiveness and stress-eating so you can maintain your weight and actually make some progress. You can come out of this better and stronger than you were before, all you need is the right plan.

That’s why today, I’m here to talk about the 7 best tips you can follow to prevent weight gain while being sheltered at home and actually make progress toward your goal even though you probably won’t be seeing a gym in the next few weeks.

Let’s get right into it.

1. Set your daily calorie goal

Just because there’s a worldwide pandemic, this shouldn’t mean that we should throw all our planners out the window. And whether you’re focused on losing weight or just maintaining it, you have to keep tracking your body’s energy expenditure, i.e. measuring the calories you put in your body.

There are thousands of apps and solutions out there for you to choose from, but the old-school way of writing everything down will never go out of practice. Logging every day

will help you check in with yourself, stay on track, and make sure you’re not overeating (or undereating) so you can lose weight consistently. 

2. Take a careful look at your shopping list

When we’re sheltered at home, we have to make every trip to the store count. Especially if you’re trying to eat on a budget, now is the perfect time to take a step back and become more intentional with what you buy. It’s a great time to start reducing processed foods and stocking up on healthy options – fresh and frozen fruits and veggies, beans, rice, whole foods, etc.

Not only will this contribute to eating healthier foods on every meal, but it will also reduce the sweet and tempting snacks that are stopping you from maintaining your weight.

3. Set a meal/ snack schedule

It’s no secret to anyone – following a consistent schedule of healthy foods is literally the perfect way to diet. Over time, it helps you maintain your weight, spot your cravings and stop them in their tracks, have more energy throughout the day, and perform better in the gym. What more could you ask for?

Plus, when you have a schedule, you’re way more likely to make smart, healthy choices and habits every day. This consistency adds up in the long-term and helps you achieve your goal way faster than people who *don’t* incorporate a schedule.

All you really need here are a calendar, notebook, or app, which you can use to write down your schedule of meal and snack times for the day. Don’t forget to create reminders and use them as a cue for when you should be logging your meals and intake.

4. Establish an empowering morning/ evening routine

Building up on our last point, we have to say that deviating from any type of routine or schedule can be detrimental to your efforts. And right now, in a situation where your mood can easily be ruined by what you hear on the Internet, it’s even more important to develop routines that keep you sane and productive throughout the day.

Not to mention, trying to re-establish your routines later might be just as stressful as deviating from them.

That’s why you should give your day a frame. A wake-up routine and a pre-bed routine. This will give you the needed structure you need in your day and bring back the balance that feels pretty much gone during these times of uncertainty. This will also contribute to getting better sleep, which in turn keeps your metabolism strong (and you healthy.)

Creating these routines shouldn’t be hard. The key is in racking up small wins as soon as you start the day – don’t hit the snooze? Win number one. Drink half a liter of water? Win number two. Meditate for ten minutes? Win number three. Once you start building up these small wins, your day will be positive and energized and you’ll have an easier time de-stressing and staying productive

5. Meal prep your snacks

During these stressful times, it’s so easy for us to fall into impulsive eating and stock up on high-calorie snacks. But if we know this is happening, we can stop it in its tracks, and that will go a long way toward helping us maintain healthy weight during quarantine.

What you should do is prepare a bunch of low-calorie, nutrient-dense, delicious snacks that you can opt for any time. Pro tip: keep your snacks somewhere out of reach, so by the time you reach them, you’ll have time to check in with yourself and see if you’re really hungry or if you’re just impulsively reaching out for something sweet because you’re stressed. 

6. Find new ways to deal with stress

Stress is detrimental to weight loss and weight maintenance. These two things just don’t mix. Stress skyrockets our cortisol levels, which in turn leads to more cravings for comfort food. That’s why we should always be looking for new ways to de-stress and relax ourselves, especially in times like these.

Lucky for us, finding new ways to relax is actually… relaxing! Try putting on your favorite songs, trying a guided meditation, reading a book, calling a friend or family member, taking a walk outside (at a proper distance), listening to a podcast, trying on new essential oils… the possibilities are endless, and they’re so, so needed!

7. Make a commitment to staying active!

One of the best ways to reduce stress and lose weight at the same time – get moving! At least once a day. Not only do our bodies desire movement and release feel-good endorphins when we do it, but it’s also a great way to burn some of the extra calories you might be getting from snacks.

And gyms being closed doesn’t mean we can’t move anymore. Take walks, do a jog every morning, or put on a YouTube video or app to add some variety to your home workouts. Believe me, there are plenty of ways to stay in phenomenal shape through exercise even if you’re just sitting at home and you have little-to-no equipment. Take that chance and walk out of this quarantine a better, stronger, and healthier you!

 

 

Everything You Need to Know About Muscle Memory

Hey Angels and Alphas,

As we all know, good fitness is the result of a combination of factors working over a long period of time. One of these factors is especially interesting in that it highlights the complexity of the process of growth and recovery of our muscles – that factor is more commonly known as “muscle memory.”

Now, it’s important that we’re clear right off the bat – muscle memory has 2 meanings.

The first type of muscle memory implies that the muscles have a memory related to fitness, and can quickly return to it after someone skips the gym for a few weeks or gets injured.

The second type of muscle memory relates to the on-board neurological memory regarding how muscles move, often related to sport-specific exercises like throwing a ball, throwing a jab, and so on. This means the person can perform that specific movement years later, even after they’ve stopped practicing the sport.

Until recently, we didn’t have any documented evidence on the first context, and very poorly understood studies regarding the second.

But even though pro athletes and gym-goers didn’t have any definitive proof of this, they sort of intuitively knew it because of their personal experience.

Today, I hope to dive deep into each of these contexts so you can learn how they work, how they overlap, and how you can benefit from these in your fitness journey.

Let’s get started.

Neurological Muscle Memory

This is the ability of muscles to remember and perform complex motor patterns that are usually very specific. The most common example of this is riding a bicycle. It’s something that the individual learns to do intuitively.

If you get on a bike after a long period of time, you’ll find that this isn’t a skill that needs to be re-learned. However, you’ll probably find yourself lacking balance and being a little “wobbly” in some particular movements.

You can notice which movements you have “muscle memorized” because they won’t require much of your concentration.

Athletes such as boxers, dancers, and gymnasts know very well that this type of muscle memory actually beings in the brain – and further extends to the body through the central nervous system.

This type of muscle memory is not actual memory. It’s a muscle movement controlled via your network of neurons. When this movement is done over and over, the neural connection grows stronger, and the “memory” is reinforced.

There is a very important takeaway here:

Everything we do sends information back to our central nervous system.

Driving a car, unlocking your door, throwing a ball, everything.

The body learns to efficiently interpret all this data with time. Therefore, a complex series of dance movements or martial arts combinations become easier to encode and perform. This is why constant repetition makes you better at literally everything.

Every time you are successful at something, your brain receives signals and remembers them. And every time you’re not successful at something, it doesn’t.

This leads us to conclude that this type of muscle “memory” is, in fact, a real phenomenon. The specific neural networks formed to control a movement or activity are all in our brain, and we can still access them even if we haven’t practiced in a long time. That being said, there’s still going to be a little of that information lost because our neural connections will have naturally weakened a bit over time.

Cellular Muscle Memory

Now, this is the other type of muscle memory often talked about in the fitness community. It started as a few anecdotal reports from athletes who, after coming back from a layoff, realized that they got fitter and stronger faster than those who didn’t have a similar background.

Everyone who decides to stop going to the gym altogether knows how quickly the body can react – with visual changes being visible in as little as 7 days, and strength dropping in as little as 14-21 days. This is a very fast reduction – in both endurance and muscle mass.

And from the standpoint of evolution, this makes total sense. Muscle is expensive to your body metabolically and it requires a lot of energy to maintain. When your body feels you don’t need it anymore, it starts a process of energy conservation that begins this reduction.

But here’s what the studies say. A 2016 study by molecular exercise psychologists at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm concluded that muscle tissue doesn’t have “memory” of this past exercise.

They did a study where they asked more than 20 people (who all had a sedentary lifestyle) to come into their labs and do a basic leg kick movement for up to 45 minutes. Participants repeated this exercise four times a week for three months. Then, they took nine months off and came back again – but this time, with both legs.

Then, they took muscle biopsies before and after each training period and analyzed which parts of the muscle tissue were the most active in each leg. They concluded that both trained and untrained muscle tissue showed the same physiological change.

When you first train a muscle, the first thing that happens to it is the increased number of nuclei. They’re responsible for the production of protein – essential for the growth and recovery of the muscle. These proteins are necessary for the healthy function of your muscles, especially during exercise. The more nuclei a muscle group has, the better it responds to high-intensity exercise.

The findings of the Karolinska Institute were that even though one leg had a three-month training program months ago, there weren’t any differences in its gene expression.

As it happens, they were focusing on the wrong part of the mechanism around muscle memory. Detrained and untrained muscles actually don’t exhibit differences in gene expressions even as they build up strength.

Two years after that study, a follow-up study was done, observing muscle tissues from a cellular level.

This time, they took men and put them through a 22-week period of exercise, then a layoff, then exercise again.

What this study revealed what we all already knew: that getting into shape is faster after a layoff than building up for the first time.

This means that muscles that were strong before can be strong again by quickly increasing the production of essential muscle-building proteins.

Here are the two most important takeaways:

  • Muscles have a memory of their previous level of fitness and strength, and it’s encoded in their genes, allowing them to rebuild faster after a layoff.
  • Continous exercise produces epigenetic changes on a cellular level, allowing us to modify DNA (technically).

Note: Although retraining muscle is easier, the ability to remember strength-building capabilities decreases as we age. This means one thing – it’s better to keep exercising than stop and take a rest, blindly believing we can just pick up where we left off.

Here’s what this means for YOU…

Here are the practical takeaways you can learn to boost your motivation, fitness, and physical ability by utilizing both types of muscle memory.

Neurological muscle memory:

  • Repeating complex movements is essential for motor skill development.
  • Activities like boxing and dancing are some of the best examples of effective neural adaptation.
  • You need to reinforce your neural muscle memory to keep the strength of the connections growing.

Cellular muscle memory:

  • Continuous training (3 months+) creates changes at a cellular level. This also happens to be the length of time first-time trainers need to see the significant changes in their body and performance.
  • If you’re younger, you’ll have more time to develop and grow this muscle memory.
  • Trained muscles recover and grow quickly after a time away from training.

A variety of training programs that will constantly challenge you as you move forward on your fitness journey is the best way to deliver quality cellular adaptations. Creating new variations of your training routine while ramping up the challenge will deliver excellent results quickly.

To conclude, we can say that both types of muscle memory can work for us (instead of against us) when they’re better understood. Together, they paint a clear picture of how the body and mind are two parts of the same organism, and they help each other by receiving, interpreting, and adapting based on information.

How to Create your Warm-up and Cool-down Routines

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Now, you probably already know how important warm-up and cool-down routines are. They help us prevent injury, stay on top of our game, and reduce the negative drawbacks of intense exercise such as soreness and stiffness.

They’re basically the two doors to a powerful, productive workout – one on the way in and one on the way out. That being said, a lot of people still experience problems with these routines. Not only do people spend less time on these routines than they should, but they’re also really confused as to how to do them correctly!

Today, we’re here to answer these questions and settle it once and for all – what are these routines all about, how should they look for you, and why should you invest the time and energy to make them a habit?

Let’s get started.

Welcome to warm-up 101.

The goal of a warmup is to get you and your muscles prepared for the exercises you’re going to do that workout. In this case, this means warming up your body temperature so blood can easily flow to the muscles that you’re using and distribute energy properly.

Naturally, your warm-up should be adjusted to prepare you for exactly what you’re about to see or do – soccer players warm-up every point of their legs and core, basketball players warm-up their shoulders and arms, and gym-goers warm-up the muscles that they’re about to use.

Warmups put your body out of that inactive, lying-in-bed state and put you in a state of preparedness. If you’re forcing your stiff, cold muscles, joints, and tendons to take loads that they’re not expecting, you’re taking a huge risk. Most injuries in the gym happen because we weren’t prepared for whatever we tried to do.

Here’s what all of them have in common – warm-ups are all dynamic! You should constantly aim to be in motion, moving, and getting your heart rate up to the point where you’re ready to get into intense or heavy exercises. 

A lot of people make the mistake to include static stretching in their warm-up routine, which only ends up backfiring most of the time. Static stretching prior to your workout will diminish your strength, and that’s very counterproductive to the exercise routine of a weightlifter, for example.

Okay, so what *does* a warm-up include?

Here are the golden rule pointers:

  • Constant low-intensity cardiovascular activity such as walking, jogging, or light biking.
  • Dynamic stretching – for example, a series of lunges, jumping jacks, toe touches, windmills, trunk twists, and so on. (Essentially, dynamic stretches are stretches that go from and to a certain point without particularly holding a given stretch. Their sole purpose is to get the body pumped and moving.)
  • Doing every exercise you’re about to do that day for one set with little-to-no weight.
  • Gradually diving into your workout while starting slowly and steadily increasing intensity.

If you follow this, may we say, anatomy of the perfect warm-up, you’ll have no trouble preparing your body for your workout effectively and reaping the benefits such as more strength, more endurance, and loosened, explosive, ready-to-go muscles.

Your warm-up should ideally consist of 10 minutes of low-intensity cardio backed by a series of dynamic stretches, followed by five minutes of doing no-weight movements and gradually starting to put on weight. 

Keep in mind that, even though you can create and follow this universal warm-up model, the more intense you plan your workout to be, the longer and more in-depth your warm-up should be.

Warm-ups that incorporate dynamic stretching exercises often include the side shuffles, hip openers, leg swings, as well as the exercises we mentioned above.

Let’s talk about cool-downs!

After you’ve completed your workout and you’ve put your body through a real challenge, your cool-down routine will be your saving grace from soreness, stiffness, and pain. 

The bad news is, most people tend to ignore it! I know, I know, the last thing you want to do after an intense workout is to spend another 10-15 minutes doing ouch-inducing (but actually really relaxing) stretching. 

But what you need to realize is that your cool-down will gradually slow down your heart rate, relax you and your muscles, and help you stretch out the stiffness that’s just waiting to settle in.

Cool-down routines always include some type of motion before you get to static stretching, especially if you were just lifting heavy. Static stretching, as we all know, drastically improves our flexibility and performance, but it’s also great for injury prevention.

As with a warm-up, what cool-down exercises you choose depends solely on what you were doing before that. If you just ran half a dozen miles, you might take a few moments to shake off and walk around before you begin stretching. The key is in alleviating every muscle group you worked on during your workout.

Here are my guidelines for a cool cool-down:

  • Don’t just stop whatever you’re doing in the gym after you’re done. Instead, gradually slow your pace and the intensity of your exercise. So, if you’re running, start reducing your speed until you’re at a jogging intensity and walk a few minutes before stopping.
  • Stretch out your muscles with static stretches. Static stretches are stretches in which you reach and hold a position (like a lunge) for an extended period of time. Hold whatever stretch you’re doing for at least 20-30 seconds so your body can overcome its stretch reflex.
  • Breathe deeply through every stretch you do.

I know what you’re going to say. “I don’t have time to do a cool-down!” 

But please realize, cooling down is not something you should (or want to) skip. It will skyrocket your athleticism if you haven’t done it until now, and it’s just so relaxing! Everyone could use a good stretch once in a while, even more so if you’re training 4-5 days a week!

Examples of static stretches: the hamstring stretch, the posterior capsule stretch, the quad stretch, and the long lunge.

Remember: Exercise breaks down muscle tissues. The time you spend recovering is the time when they adapt and rebuild to become stronger. If you keep hitting the same muscles every day, you’re not giving them the opportunity to recover and rebuild. 

Cool-down routines help you improve that recovery, but you still need to space out your workouts to allow your body enough time to rest. That being said, why *would* anyone who is serious about training miss them?

I promise you, once you try them, you won’t want to go without them. They’ll help recovery, relax you, and improve performance. What more could you ask for?

To conclude…

We have to be kind to our bodies. And while there are just so many benefits to warming up and cooling down, we can’t ignore the fact that they help us ease in an out of the activity we’re participating in, and that’s perhaps the best thing they do for us.

And once you find a routine that works for you, you’ll see dramatic improvements in your performance and recovery – only the two most important things in training.

But that’s where the key is – finding something that works for you. 

Your warm-up could be super simple, like walking to the gym and going up that huge flight of stairs instead of taking the elevator. And your cool-down routine might involve just ending your workout five minutes early so you can relax and stretch out.

These routines don’t have to be long. They don’t need to be complicated. They just have to be there! You have to make that effort and invest in your athleticism, but rest assured – that’s an investment that pays off.

Your Guide to Pre and Post-workout Nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

You know figuring out what to eat before and after workouts can be such a struggle. But you know what? It’s worth it.

When it comes to pre-workout snacks, what you consume will have a massive impact on your workout performance. And no, we’re not talking about pre-workout supplements. We’re talking about real, cooked (or prepared), delicious meals.

And when we’re talking about post-workout snacks, what you put in your mouth in the hours after your workout is done will have a drastic effect on your recovery. Giving yourself the proper refueling after you’ve exhausted yourself will help you get the right nutrients where they’re necessary.

This means being mindful and strategic about your pre and post-workout meals can help you maximize the benefits of both your hard work and your periods of rest. But when it comes to making the right food choice, everyone always asks questions like “what’s the best pre-workout snack?” or “what (and when) should I eat after I’m done lifting weights?”

Today, we’re going to answer both these questions (and more.) If you’re one of those people who has trouble sticking to (or even making) the right exercise-oriented food choices, this article will help you put the pieces together and take the next step moving forward.

To do this correctly, let’s start by going in-depth on the aspects of pre-workout nutrition.

What’s the purpose of a pre-workout meal?

The purpose of a pre-workout meal is to fuel your body and give you the energy you need to excel at your task. Naturally, eating before exercise will give you the best chance of making the most out of your training.

If you don’t eat before you work out, you risk workout dizziness, light-headedness, or even feeling nauseated. And even if you don’t have this experience, chances are going to the gym hungry will have you feeling sluggish and inefficient.

But let’s be real – sometimes, you just don’t have the time to fix up a pre- workout meal. Some people wouldn’t do it even if they had the time – they just don’t like it. If you’re one of those people who works out after a workday (kudos), you might even find it difficult to squeeze in a smack on your way to the gym.

The truth is, some people can get away with working out on an empty stomach. But that has a lot to do with the type of their workout and its intensity. But if you can’t manage to make a pre- workout snack (or you just don’t want to), you should expect lower strength, endurance, and performance.

Ideally, you should always try to fuel your body before doing any sort of physical activity.

To do that, your body needs an adequate amount of:

Carbs.

Carbs *are* energy. Carbs break down into glucose in our body, they enter our muscle cells, and they let us exert our maximal physical capacity. Your muscles store glucose (as glycogen) and usually access these reserves when you’re putting yourself to work.

Eating carbs before a workout guarantees that you’ll have the extra glucose you need to replenish these glycogen stores. When you’re missing glucose, you’ll feel weak and tired your whole workout.

Great sources of pre- workout carbs: bananas, oats, dried fruit, trail mix, pasta, a chocolate/protein bar, fruit smoothie.

Protein.

Protein supplies your muscles with vital amino acids. It’s an excellent addition to carbs, and consuming protein before a workout has been linked to increased performance in weight training.

When you’re doing resistance training (such as weightlifting), your aim is to create small tears in your muscle fibers. Your body needs protein to re-build these micro-tears and build new lean muscle tissue.

Great pre- workout sources of protein are easy to digest – nuts, Greek yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, or a glass of milk. Always be sure to *not* go too heavy on the protein in a pre- workout meal.

Here’s how much protein and carbs you need in your pre- workout meal:

Carbs = 0.25g – 0.30g per pound of your target body weight.

Protein = 0.25g – 0.30g per pound of your target body weight.

Here are a few examples of pre- workout meals that include a great mix of proteins and carbs:

  • Apple with peanut butter (or almond butter)
  • Fruits with Greek yogurt
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Fruit smoothie with protein powder
  • Trail mix with nuts and fruit
  • Oatmeal (or other whole-grain) with milk

How soon before the workout should I eat?

Don’t eat immediately before a workout. Not only will this cause discomfort, but you’re going to confuse your body by creating competing demands – digesting foods and forcing your muscles to perform.

Instead, eat at least half an hour to two hours before you work out depending on the food you eat (and how fast its digested.)

Post- Workout Meals

Post-workout nutrition is usually a little more complicated. When you’re refueling your body after a workout, your purpose is to supply your body with the nutrients it requires to repair, replenish, and recover after the training stimulus you went through.

It’s a fact – you have to eat after a workout. There’s no way around it. You have to replace all the calories you just used. Moreover, it’s important to replenish your glycogen stores. What’s more, consuming protein after a workout is an absolute must if you want to recover properly, especially after resistance training.

When you don’t take the time to eat after a workout, you’ll probably end up feeling tired, fatigued, and you’ll find yourself with low blood sugar. This naturally inhibits your body’s repair processes. But if you go as far as to consistently skip eating after workouts, you’ll find achieving your fitness goals *way* more difficult.

By focusing on your post- workout nutrition, you’ll be:

  • Assisting in the increase of muscle protein synthesis
  • Reducing cortisol levels (stress hormone)
  • Minimizing muscle soreness, muscle damage
  • Replenishing muscle glycogen

And to achieve these benefits, you will once again need two things – carbs and protein.

Here’s how much protein and carbs you need in your post-workout meal:

Carbs = 0.25-0.5g per pound of your target body weight.

Protein = 0.25g-.0.30g per pound of your target body weight.

The vast majority of people prefer to consume this meal in the form of a nutritional bomb – a protein shake or sugar-packed recovery drink. This is largely because appetite is suppressed immediately following a workout, and so liquid nutrition is way easier to take in.

Meanwhile, some people prefer having “real meals” that pair proteins and carbs – fan-favorites are chicken and rice, steak and potatoes, peanut butter sandwiches, and more.

While both approaches have their pros and cons, I’d say the first option is more sustainable. Following your workout up with a protein shake is a great way to get that protein in, which you could then top up on with carbs later on.

How soon after a workout should I eat food?

As soon as you can manage.

It’s best if it’s in the first 30 minutes following a workout because the body is prepared to receive (and put to work) any helpful nutrients you give it.

Here are a few great ideas for post-workout meals and snacks:

Snacks: a cup of chocolate milk, lean meat on top of whole-wheat toast, peanut butter sandwiches, bananas, protein shakes, rice cakes, Greek yogurt, protein-rich smoothies…

Meals: an egg omelet with avocado, baked sweet potatoes, pasta, grilled chicken with dark leafy vegetables, 1/2 cup oatmeal sweetened with honey, risotto with sardines…

*A note on hydration*

You should be hydrating before, during, and after your workout. Your water intake should be consistently spread out throughout the day, *not* gulped up once or twice a day in big chunks.

This will not only help you avoid feeling bloated, but it will also help your digestion function more effectively.

To wrap it all up…

Your pre and post-workout nutrition should consist mainly of healthy proteins and carbs.

Both of these nutrients help you fuel your workout, encourage muscle protein production, and repair the damages from intense physical activity.

Make an effort to eat a snack at least an hour before your workout and then immediately after your training sessions is done. Also, always remember to replace fluids and electrolytes by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

If you do this right, you’ll find that your (1) workout numbers will skyrocket and (2) your recovery game will change completely. Just by making a few tweaks in your diet (and its timing) you can reap the benefits that all pro athletes strive to achieve – optimal energy consumption, enhanced performance, and a speedy body recovery.

The Benefits of Music on Working Out

Hey Angels, it’s Ally!

Let me ask you something – do you bring your headphones to the gym?

Have you ever felt a grumpy sensation when you realized you forgot them at home?

For some people, that’s enough of a reason to run back home and get them. Exercising without music might seem unfathomable for some of you, regardless of whether you listen to heavy metal or the latest pop hits.

Now, I’ve been a personal trainer for years, and while working with so many people, I’ve noticed something intriguing that relates to the way they treat their gym playlist. Even though they have mixed feelings about the scientific benefits of music during an intense workout, playing their favorite playlist certainly makes them grind harder!

But what about the actual science behind it – have you ever wondered about how different types of music impact your physiology?

Well, science has some things to say about it.

For some athletes (and for many people who run, jog, and light weights) listening to music is not superfluous – it’s an essential part of reaching peak performance and having a gratifying workout. Some people prefer audio books and podcasts, but many others depend on bumping beats and thoughtful lyrics to keep themselves pumped under the bar!

In the last ten years, research on workout music has produced a lot of interesting studies. Psychologists have refined their ideas about why exercise and music are such a great pair.

Music distracts people from pain and fatigue, improves your mood and endurance, and reduces the perceived effort. Some studies have even shown music to promote metabolic efficiency.

Today, I want to summarize all the benefits of the great playlist during the gym session – the benefits that have valid scientific backing!

I’ve gathered these benefits and separated them into four elements…

Let’s dive in!

1. Mood

Take a moment to reflect – what mood are you in right now?

For years now, scientists have been talking about the countless benefits of music on the brain. It reduces stress levels, eases anxiety, and releases dopamine in the brain – just like exercising.

But that’s not all it can do for your mood.

One of the most beneficial effects that music has on your body is that it makes it easier for you to focus on yourself and get cheerful.

Let’s face it – a lot of people listen to music to get into a great mood during workouts, while getting ready to get out, in clubs etc.

A study done in 2013 concluded that people who often listen to music use it as a way to alter their mood and become more self-aware. Study participants said that music centered their focus on themselves and gave them an escape from the present.

Social scientists have shown that music helps people reflect on who they are, who they want to be, and the line in between. Even if you’re not feeling like it, music can get you in the cheerful focused mood you need to power through a workout.

Sometimes, it can be hard to find the focus necessary to give your 110%.

Putting on your headphones can help you zone-out, reduce the chatter, and focus on the task at hand. (more on the positive distraction later)

So even though it won’t make you lift heavier, music will certainly allow you to lift more, in a sense.

Imagine you’re sitting perfectly still, listening to enjoyable music. Even in this case, you’re going to see a lot of electrical activity in brain regions important for focus and coordination, including the cerebellum, ventral premotor cortex, and the motor area.

Some studies conclude that this neural communication is what makes people want to move in the rhythm of the music.

Speaking of which…

2. Pace

Music is all about tempo and speed.

Psychologists discovered that some songs make you want to move more than others do, and called it a song’s “call rhythm response”.

We all have the instinct to sync our movements to whatever music is playing – tapping our toes, nodding our heads, snapping our fingers. Even if we often repress that instinct, it does occur in a lot of situations.

Researchers say that a lot of songs just possess “high-groove” qualities and the brain gets excited and induces movement.

That’s because music and dance go hand-in-hand. Put on one of your favorite tracks, and you’ll instantly invoke such a response.

The rhythm of your playlist stimulates the motor area of the brain and tells it when to move, making self-paced exercises easier. All you have to do is “tune in” these time signals.

How amazing is that? Your playlist has the ability to make you move any time!

If you’re running on the treadmill at the gym, sometimes all it takes is a lapse of your concentration, random chatter, or even someone on the treadmill next to you to throw you off your pace.

With music, you can keep a steady pace since you always have a target you can use to go to default. Even if you don’t feel like you need to run or move in the exact pace with your workout music, synchronizing may help your body use energy more productively.

A lot of misconceptions occur on the topic of music when working out – one of which is that music can help you lift heavier.

This is not the case.

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research did an analysis in which they addressed this misconception. They tested two groups of people – one didn’t listen to music, and the other picked their playlist. Both groups reported no change in the amount of weight they can lift, but a dramatic increase in explosive power and speed under the bar.

Remember – music is all about tempo and speed.

Moving on, even though the word “’motivation” can be defined as the sum of the first two factors – pace and mood – I believe it’s vital that we talk about it separately.

3. Motivation

What’s the number one song on your playlist right now?

Is it one that pumps you up and gets you excited, or one that’s more mellow and relax your physiology?

A 2010 study by the National Institute of Health concluded that cyclists that listen to fast-paced bumping music worked out harder, with around 130 beats per minute being the optimal range for workout songs.

When listening to faster music as compared to music at a slower tempo, they not only worked harder, but enjoyed doing so, and reported enjoying the music more when it was played at a faster tempo.

Songs in the 120-140 beats per minute range had the maximum effect on moderate exercise.

But what about you? What music inspires you to work harder?

A prime example of a motivational song would be the Rocky theme. That song became so widely accepted as inspirational that it became a household term and anyone who hears the song nowadays relates it to that specific moment in the movie when Rocky is training, instantly reinforcing a boost of motivation in their bodies.

The chances that some songs impact you more than they do other people is dramatically high – people establish neural pathways in the brain that in a sense tell them how to respond to certain stimuli.

What’s annoying to you might be motivational for someone else, and vice-versa.

If you’re choosing to work out to music that has lyrics, those lyrics will speak to you throughout your training and impact your physiology.

Listening to your favorite pump-up playlist is guaranteed to release mood-enhancing hormones (like the above-stated dopamine and opioids) that will fill your body will motivation, help you want to work out harder, and raise your pain threshold.

Scientists have proven countless times that high tempo music like EDM, techno, and metal proactively stimulate the motor function in your brain.

This is the same part of the brain that makes your body want to move – the perfect addition to a workout.

Upbeat music has more information for your brain to process – this takes your mind off the other distractions.

Speaking of distractions, the final (and in my opinion most powerful) benefit of music…

4. Focus

Here’s where it all comes together!

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a firm believer in making every second count, but to be completely honest, running on a treadmill for an hour isn’t the most exciting task in the world.

Just think back to that feeling you get when you’re 3 minutes away from being done with cardio…

Nobody ever goes “aww, I wish I could run for another hour”.

However, I don’t know if it’s just me, but I feel like listening to music makes time pass faster than it usually does – especially on the treadmill. When we do things that we don’t particularly enjoy doing, it’s like our brain is looking for distractions to take us off that task.

Sometimes, when the music that’s playing through the gym speakers isn’t a genre that you like, it feels like every song takes 10 minutes to finish!

Not to mention the endless sounds of people chatting, machines grinding and bars hitting the floor. Without your pair of headphones, sometimes it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed, get distracted, and lose focus on what you’re doing.

Imagine you’re working, at home or the office. Minimal distractions are always going to be one of the keys to a job well done, and it’s the same in the gym.

That’s why it never hurts to turn off the world inside the gym once in a while, creating your personal training bubble that helps you optimize your workout and take your mind off the physical strain of working out and your perception of pain.

We know, some people simply love working out and don’t need all of that, and that’s okay.

But if you’re trying to get in serious shape, lose a lot of weight, or grind toward a competition, sometimes that personal bubble is a necessity.

By always having your favorite playlist ready to go, you can quickly turn a workout from unenjoyable to enjoyable, and an enjoyable workout into an unforgettable one.

A quick study before I go:

WebMD says the faster the music, the fewer distractions you’ll get. The Guardian Magazine concluded that working out with music not only made the participants in their study be more focused, but it allowed them to be less aware of their exertion, benefitting athletic performance by up to 15%.

So where does that leave us…

Do you remember the first workout you had after putting together a kick-ass playlist?

You feel like you’re on cloud nine before you’ve even stepped in the gym.

Some people squirm at the thought of working out without pumped songs blasting in their ear, and with over 1,000 studies on music conducted since 1911, we can see why that’s the case.

In this blog post, I wanted to outline to you what science has agreed on to be the real benefits of music on physical performance.

In short, gathering a playlist of your favorite workout songs will without a doubt improve your performance – pumping you up, improving your mood, reducing fatigue, all while taking your mind off distractions and the strain of physical workout!

And even if a hype song won’t increase your one rep max, it’s certainly going to help you get there faster.

So don’t forget that sweet pair of headphones next time!

How to Choose the Right Type of Cardio

Hey Angels and Alphas!

Being a trainer, athlete, and gym-lover for so long has taught me one undeniable fact – if you dedicate your time to a particular type of training, you might as well make the most of it.

Cardio is something that we haven’t talked about in much detail, but that’s about to change.

Today, we’re going to talk about the what, the why, and the how on the topic of cardiovascular exercise.

I believe cardio is a detrimental part of your long-term health and progress in the gym. When it comes to getting lean, we know diet is more important, but cardio goes way beyond just helping you burn calories.

That’s why you have to find the type of cardio you enjoy doing the most – once you start seeing the benefits of aerobic exercise on your life (and on your routine), you won’t want to stop!

This article will help you understand cardio better, and allow you to choose a type of cardio that you will both enjoy and see results from!

Let’s get started.

How do you define cardio?

Cardio is like slang. You’ve also heard it as cardiovascular exercise, aerobic exercise, maybe even cardiovascular activity.

Essentially, any activity can be cardio if it fulfills these three requirements:

  • It raises your heart rate and respiration
  • It uses large muscle groups
  • It’s rhythmic and repetitive

Which is why doing cardio is like exercise for the heart, lungs, and the circulatory system. And just like any exercise, by progressively exposing yourself to more and more challenges, you’ll start to improve your performance.

Cardio can be heavily categorized.

We’re going to take a look at the two categories of intensity a bit later, but now, let’s talk a little bit about high-impact and low-impact cardio.

High-impact cardio is exercise in which at some point, both of your feet are planted on the ground. This includes jumping rope, box jumps, even dancing. In this type of cardio, you’re primarily supporting your own weight against gravity (by using your limbs).

Low-impact cardio is cardio in which one foot is always kept on the ground. This includes walking, hiking, and other forms of cardio that are generally low-intensity.

What’s the best type of cardio for your goals?

No type of cardio can qualify for the best type of cardio. Everyone has different goals, strengths, and weak points.

But what we can do is find a type of cardio that we enjoy (while getting results).

I want you to remember that, in fitness in general, it’s not that much about what’s theoretically optimal. Instead, you should focus on finding activities that you can sustain in the long-term.

The most common cardio activities include walking, running, cycling, swimming, rowing, and HIIT, to name a few.

Depending on the type of cardio, you’ll have to perform different routines and exercises to make the most of it.

That being said, there are three keys to cardio training that you absolutely must remember – they are fundamental guidelines that you must be conscious of when you’re training.

  • The first cardio guideline is to start gradually, working your way up toward your desired heart rate.
    Start out by slowly introducing cardio into your routine, increasing the intensity of your workout, and building your way up to your working heart rate. Even though there’s no such thing as a “fat-burning zone,” generally, the higher the intensity of your workout, the more energy you’ll be expending, the more calories you’ll be burning.
  • The second cardio guideline is to do enough to get your desired effect, and not more than that. Don’t over-do it with cardio. Even though the point is to find a cardio type you enjoy doing, you can still get burned out if you’re constantly working out. If you combine it with a weight-training regime, you’ll be achieving all the benefits of total fitness. However, you should make an extra effort to make sure you’re not overtraining (especially those who choose to do HIIT).
  • The third and final guideline is to drink water before, during, and after cardio.

The Importance of Combining Cardio and Weight Training

In order to make the most out of cardio, you should always include some form of resistance/strength training to your regimen – period. This helps you not only burn more calories but enables you to develop a strong base of strength that your body can utilize to progress. Remember – cardio should be a part of your routine. Not your entire routine.

*What if I work all day?

In the case of having a full-time job where you’re active all day, you have to decide for yourself whether or not you need extra cardiovascular work or not. However, I believe that in order to fully utilize the benefits of cardio, you need to perform at least one dedicated workout where all your attention goes toward getting the most out of your exercises.

The Two Main Types of Cardio

Now that we’ve learned what cardio is and how to do it, let’s move on to the different types of cardio you can choose from!

Keeping in mind the things we’ve said so far, choose the type of cardio that best fits your goals, needs, and availability. Remember – it’s all about finding what’s sustainable, not what’s theoretically the most effective.

Low-Intensity (or Steady-State) Cardio

When you hear “cardio,” what do you imagine? Someone jogging or running on a treadmill? Or someone who is doing interval training with crazy intensity?

Low-intensity cardio is all about keeping your exercise difficulty low but performing it for extended periods of time (like 30-45 minutes).

It’s like the slow, long-distance brother of HIIT, and it’s best for the individual who needs to bring a little structure to their workout. It’s for the people who prefer longer, almost therapeutic cardio sessions. It’s also an excellent option for those who aren’t really used to regular exercise, but want to start getting into more intense routines.

The options for low-intensity cardio are endless! Cardio machines, treadmills, bikes, you name it. Pretty much any activity that keeps you active and going while being able to hold a conversation.

If you want to start implementing low-intensity cardio to your workout, start with two sessions a week and track your progress accordingly.

Lower-intensity cardiovascular work (50-70 percent of maximum heart rate) will:

  • Keep your joints safe, making it perfect for those who aren’t active throughout the day.
  • Burn more fat in long morning cardio sessions.
  • Can be performed on rest days as a method of active recovery.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIIT is the other side of the spectrum. By definition, a harder type of cardio, the goal here is to get your heart rate up to safe peak intensity to stimulate the maximum amount of energy expenditure.

The higher the physical effort, the higher the intensity.

One of the most significant benefits of HIIT is that it’s really schedule-friendly. You can have a HIIT workout done in 15-20 minutes. They definitely take less time than their low-intensity counterpart does.

All you need for a great HIIT is a quick warm-up and a few minutes of cardio intervals that get your heart racing, then rest, then repeat.

They are perfect for the people who don’t have as much time to work out, but still want to reap all the benefits of high-level cardiovascular activity.

But in order to perform HIIT the right way, you need to have a good foundation for your conditioning. If you haven’t done any cardio recently, it’s probably not a good idea jumping right into HIIT.

For most people, the tools of choice when it comes to HIIT are their feet and their bikes. It’s more of a training modality than it is a method of exercise. The idea is to get your heart pumping and progressively challenge yourself more and more.

HIIT (70-80 percent of your maximum heart rate) will:

  • Help you burn more total calories and fat.
  • Will help you improve endurance and strength.
  • Will help you burn more calories for the rest of the day, even after you’ve finished working out.

To conclude…

No matter what cardio you prefer – low-intensity or high-intensity, what’s important is for you to choose a sustainable regime.

Strengthening your muscles, your respiration and lung function, allowing more oxygen facilitation in your body, reduced stress and tension, improved heart efficiency… you’ll get all of this from cardio.

And while HIIT will be shorter and more intense, low-intensity cardio will take more of your schedule, but give you therapeutic and stress-relieving benefit.

What’s most important is getting yourself to do it consistently and make it an activity you look forward to, instead of looking at it as a chore.

If you can get yourself doing it consistently, all the results will come – trust me on that!

The Basics of Eating for Athletic Performance

Hey Angels & Alphas!

Today, we’re going to go straight into it. I’m going to talk about one of my favorite topics – nutrition. More specifically, the impact that your diet has on your energy levels during a workout.

We all know that the body utilizes food for energy, but how exactly? And how do we plan our meals so we’re efficiently providing energy to our muscles when it’s needed?

Well, I’ll tell you!

The reason I’m sharing this with you is that I honestly believe this might change the way you go about your diet. Honestly, once you get a basic understanding of how you can eat to boost your sports performance, doing it becomes effortless.

But in order for you to understand how food directly impacts your energy levels during a workout, there are a few things we have to go over first!

(Please feel free to check out my blog post titled Healthy Eating: Understanding Your Protein, Carb, and Fat Intake to get a better idea of the characteristics of the major macronutrients).

First of all, how does the body turn food into energy?

There’s a couple of ways we can look at this. All the food you eat is essentially a rich cocktail of macro and micronutrients.

These nutrients go through a variety of energy systems throughout your body. What system they choose to use is based on the type of nutrient. Proteins, carbs, and fats all get processed by the body through their each energy system.

The end goal is for these nutrients to turn into adenosine triphosphate. Without sounding too science-y, you most probably know this as ATP. Through the breakdown of ATP, we receive the energy we need to contract our muscles.  

What are these “energy systems”?

You can look at it like this.

  • Protein is used to nourish and repair your muscles and body tissue. It’s not primarily used as an energy source for physical activity.
  • Carbohydrates are responsible for fueling mostly moderate/high-intensity exercise.
  • Fat is used to fuel exercises that focus on low intensity stretched out over a period of time.

Carbohydrates and fats essentially go through their own metabolic pathway so they can turn into ATP. But your body can’t really store a lot of ATP, so you can’t just rely on that. You have to also be generating it while you’re working out.

To learn how to do that, you need to know the two primary ways your body turns nutrients into energy – aerobic and anaerobic.

You can divide each of them into a variety of combinations of energy systems. Your body determines which type to use based on the situation and its available resources, so let’s look at both of these individually.

Aerobic Metabolism

The main difference between aerobic and anaerobic metabolism is that aerobic metabolism requires oxygen.

With it, you’re mostly “burning” carbohydrates, fats, and protein and turning them into energy. It’s essentially your body’s way of producing energy long-term. It focuses on the sustained, continuous production of energy, so it’s not efficient when it comes to generating massive amounts of force in a short amount of time.

This way of producing energy is slower because your body requires oxygen to move around the body and convert nutrients into ATP.

You can think of jogging, walking, low-intensity cardio drills, anything that doesn’t really get your heart rate up all that much (above 50% of your max heart rate).

Most often, when you’re exercising, your body switches back and forth. Imagine a sport like football that involves a lot of running and big short bursts of energy.

At the beginning of your workout, your body will most likely be using anaerobic metabolism ATP. Then, your heart rate increases. Your lungs open up, and you have access to way more oxygen. After that, aerobic metabolism starts taking control.

The byproduct of the aerobic metabolism of carbohydrates are water and carbon dioxide. You mostly get rid of those by breathing and sweating! But the anaerobic metabolism of carbohydrates produces lactic acid as a byproduct.

If you reach your lactate threshold (the high-intensity “burning” point of an exercise), this means that oxygen in your body is not moving quickly enough. So you stop generating ATP, and your anaerobic metabolism comes back to save the day.

Let’s sum up what we know about aerobic metabolism:

  • Aerobic metabolism requires oxygen.
  • Your body uses aerobic metabolism when providing energy for low-intensity exercise.
  • Aerobic metabolism provides the energy you use for your daily body functions. Walking, breathing, talking, etc.
  • Aerobic metabolism produces water and carbon dioxide in the body.

Anaerobic Metabolism – glycolysis

Have you heard about the phosphate system? It’s basically what drives short, intense bursts of exercise. (Such as a heavy squat or a 100-meter dash.)

It’s an energy system based on ATP and creatine phosphate, and it doesn’t require oxygen. So how exactly does it create energy?

Simple. In the first 3-4 seconds of an exercise, it uses up all the ATP that’s stored up in your muscles. After that’s gone, your body resynthesizes ATP using creatine phosphate. When both of these are used up, your body goes back to square one and decides which of the two systems to use to generate ATP.

This way of generating energy comes only from carbohydrates. Your body breaks down glucose for energy without the need to utilize oxygen. As I mentioned above, this leads to you building up lactic acid in your muscles until you reach your lactate threshold.

With the right training regimen, athletes slow the buildup of lactic acid. They use calculated workout methods that aim to bring up the lactate threshold and increase the athlete’s VO2 max.

Let’s sum up what anaerobic metabolism is all about:

  • Anaerobic metabolism relies on carbohydrates and does not require oxygen.
  • Your body uses anaerobic metabolism when providing energy for lifting, sprinting, and other forms of intense exercise.
  • Anaerobic metabolism kicks in when your body needs to produce big short bursts of power for a short period of time.
  • Anaerobic metabolism produces lactic acid in the body, leading up to the burning sensation you feel when you work out.

Now, we know all about how our body turns nutrients into energy.

But how do we use that to our advantage and gain an extra edge in our performance?

I’ll tell you…

Consuming the right type of food for your workout!

When talking about specific macronutrients, each has its own use. As I stated above, protein is primarily used to repair the body tissues.

Fat is excellent fuel when it comes to endurance-based training. However, it’s simply not an adequate source of energy when it comes to explosive, short burst exercise. Technically, if you have enough fat stored as fuel and you have access to oxygen, you can do low-intensity exercise for days.

But If you want to continuously improve exercise intensity, you need carbohydrates. They’re more efficient than fat. If your glycogen (carb) stores are full, you can go up to 1,5-2 hours of intense exercise. The downside here is its low and limited energy stores.

Higher intensity always requires carbs. And not just any carbs. If you’re planning an intense workout, you should eat a meal consisting of easily-digestible carbs at least an hour before you head for the gym. If you get there and your carb stores are not full enough, your body will tap back into fat metabolism and demolish your weightlifting.

If your goal is better athletic performance, you need to feel ready for the right workout every time. To do this, you need to consume the correct type of energy.

Healthy carbohydrates are the best nutrients for boosting energy during a workout session. They help your body run optimally on many levels.

Easily, the best pre-workout energy foods are carbs. Both simple and complex. Simple carbs can include fruits, veggies, juices, and complex carbs include foods like oatmeal or whole-grain bread.

The best way to utilize the benefits of the right type of energy is to consume it at the right time prior to your workout. Every person digests foods differently, but nutrient timing is an essential concept that everyone should learn about individually.

You can’t eat your energy-giving foods too long before a workout. This way, your body will have already used up all the energy you got from them.

You also can’t limit your intake to half an hour before a workout or less. If you eat too close to your workout and you go all guns blazing on your one rep max, you’re going to get nauseous. (Digesting food requires blood to flow to your stomach and exercising points it elsewhere – the cause of workout nausea)

To properly time your pre-workout meal, you need to adjust. You need to learn how your body works and digests food, and how long it takes to turn it into energy.

When it comes to proper nutrition timing and eating for athletic performance, trial and error is your best option.

Start taking notice of things like how long it takes for you to get energy from certain foods, and you’re automatically tracking them in your head. You’ll learn how foods make you feel, how your body responds to different diets, as well as how energy flows throughout your body.

That’s the key to using food to boost your performance in the gym or in your sport.

And now, that key is in your hands.

Talk to you soon,

Ally

Last Year Reflections and Goal-setting for the New Year

Hey Angels and Alphas,

The New Year right around the corner, and with it comes a great opportunity!

It’s an opportunity to reflect on what we’ve experienced in the past year and learn from it. An opportunity to review ourselves and our progress. Most importantly, an opportunity for us to set new goals and work on achieving them with last year’s momentum.

This festive season is the perfect moment for you to stop for a second, take a deep breath, and make a mental note of where you’re at now and what you’re going to achieve.

In this article, I’ve outlined a clear step-by-step process you can follow to successfully identify your mistakes, learn from them, and turn them into strengths you can use in the new year.

Let’s begin…

Reflections from the Past Year

We’ll start off by reflecting on the past year with a series of questions!

Sit down with a notebook and a pen, follow this process, and answer these questions to gain valuable insights into your progress this year.

The first, and probably most significant, question to reflect on is: What did you learn this year?

Every experience we have, every day, every month, every year, is there to teach us something. It’s our choice whether we tune in and learn from it.

By taking the time to reflect on our experiences, we’ll always learn a lot of valuable insights. Even if you do it once at the end of every year.

What did this year teach you? What were the most important lessons you learned from both your positive and negative experiences? What adjustment in your attitude or mindset do you have to make to *not* make the same mistakes again?

The reflections you make should serve as the pivoting point of your past behavior toward something better.

Ask yourself; What goals did I achieve?

For some people, achieving goals means making a ton of money and building their business. For others, it means letting go of a toxic relationship or developing more self-esteem.

Regardless of what you define as an accomplishment, examining the goals you successfully tackled will give you a ton of momentum toward achieving your goals in the future.

This is especially great when you can dive deep into an experience and find lessons you never thought you’d find. Achieving some goals is easy, while others might become an unanticipated struggle that you can learn a lot from.

Remember – create SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-sensitive. When you’re reflecting on your goals, you’ll quickly realize how much it helps to have them be specific and measurable. Just by making it official, writing it down, and giving it some specifics like a time frame, you’re significantly increasing the chances you’re going to increase that goal.

How have your priorities changed in the last year?

Some people, for example, new parents or people who just graduated from college, experience these quick but significant shifts in their priorities.

Think of the priorities you had when you were single or those you had when you didn’t have children. Or even those you had when you were still in college. Chances are, they look very different than what they do today.

Have you felt such a shift for yourself in the past year? Most likely, you left some things behind last year and went through some new experiences, but is there something that didn’t matter so much at the start of the year compared to now?

These types of reflections, those we do on our priorities, are often those we learn the most from. Journal about it – write down how your priorities have shifted, and you will see how much you’ve changed over the last year.

This exercise is great for helping you bring things into perspective.

Did you face any of your fears?

Did you do anything this year that you were terrified about? Did you take on any new adventurous opportunities? Did you tackle any unexpected challenges?

If you have, give yourself the praise you deserve.

One of the most important lessons you can learn about fear is to ask yourself: would you rather have no fear or know that fear can’t stop you?

It’s precisely from facing our fears do we become stronger, smarter, and more resilient. This is how personality and confidence are built.

If you’ve had any similar experiences this year, make sure to write them all down and list out all the things you learned from facing that situation.

What was your most positive experience?

What were the most exciting, joyful, and mind-opening experiences you had this year? Did you travel or go on any trip? Did you create any new memories with your friends and family?

This is a great moment for you to go to your phone gallery and examine all the memories you’ve recorded throughout the year.

Take the time to organize your photos, and be sure to add all the positive ones in a “memories” folder you can go back to any time.

The end of the year is the perfect time to preserve these photo highlights and remember all the moments of joy, happiness, and gratitude you had throughout the year.

What would you change about the last year if you could do it over again?

Is there anything you experienced this year that makes you feel regretful? Is there something you would’ve approached differently if you were given another chance?

Of course, we all wish we can turn back time and escape from even the slightest inconvenience. We all make mistakes and face difficult roadblocks. This, however, is an opportunity to learn, not an excuse to stop moving.

Think about all the people you have to apologize to and all the people you have to forgive. Take responsibility and make amends with your experiences so you can guarantee you’re not carrying them into the New Year.

The faster you can let go of your regrets and move on, the quicker you’ll grow through them.

To wrap up this year’s reflections and move on to setting goals, let’s recap;

  • Write down both the positive and negative experiences you went through this year.
  • Write down the lessons you learned from both of them – what you were grateful when you were happy, and what you were avoiding when you were unhappy.
  • Use the insights you learned as momentum toward the goals you set for the New Year.

Setting Goals for the New Year

Some people create goals. Others set New Year’s resolutions. Regardless of what you choose to call it, you can’t deny people naturally gravitate to this periodical goal-setting.

Earlier on, we mention what characteristics you need to give your goals in order to have a higher chance of achieving them.

Here are my five tips to enhance your goal-setting abilities for the upcoming year!

Step #1 – Create a SMART goal.

When it comes to goal-setting methods, SMART goals take the cake.

As we mentioned above, SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-sensitive.

When people set New Year’s resolutions, most often they are just vague and unrealistic ideas of the things they want to achieve. They’re not well-thought-out, they’re not practical, and they have no real game plan people can follow to achieve them.

You can apply the SMART method to a variety of goals, both professional and personal, and you’ll have an actual blueprint to success if all your goal-setting endeavors.

Step #2 – Write it down!

By juggling family, school, career, and a hundred other things, we can often get lost in life’s daily routines. By writing things down, we can put everything that’s on our mind in front of ourselves, therefore cleaning out our subconscious of all the mental clutter.

Especially when it comes to setting new goals, writing them down is crucial. Writing helps you organize your thoughts and visualize your goals. Moreover, you can track your progress by creating plans and checklists for yourself to follow. This will give you an added sense of accomplishment and motivate you to move forward.

So don’t hesitate – pull out that journal and write down every goal you have for the next year (and how you plan on achieving it.)

Step #3 – Embrace what you’ve learned.

Setting goals involves listing out what you need to do to achieve them.

More often than not, the lessons you’ve learned throughout the year will serve as stepping stones to your success in the future.

When you’re writing down all the steps you need to follow to achieve your goal, make sure you take into account everything you’ve learned, and use it to optimize your approach and your attitude.

Also, remember to embrace failure as a necessary part of achieving every goal. Success doesn’t happen in spite of mistakes, it happens because you can learn from them when you make them.

Step #4 – Don’t self-sabotage!

Whatever your goal is, you can drastically increase your chances of success by limiting the amount of self-sabotaging behaviors you have.

Do you find yourself comparing yourself to others? Do you find yourself having a problem with authority? Do you think people’s qualities are fixed, or do you think people can grow past their mistakes?

These types of behaviors are very common and yet very personal. Everyone has them, but they’re different for everyone.

In order to realize your own limiting beliefs and self-sabotaging behaviors, you have to go back to the first part of this process and reflect on the things you’ve learned about yourself through your own experiences.

Once you do that, you can actually take effective steps toward developing a new habit and healing that self-sabotaging behavior.

Step #5 – Enjoy the process!

Massive successes are made up of small victories. Whatever your goal is – earning more money, having better relationships, or losing 20 lbs, chances are it’s not going to happen overnight.

You have to learn to enjoy the process.

Having goals is crucial, but if you never take the time to enjoy the process of achieving them, achieving the goal itself will not give you the satisfaction you desire.

If you can learn to derive genuine satisfaction from the process itself, you will achieve any goal you set your mind to – I promise you.

5 Diet & Nutrition Myths That are Stopping Your Progress

Hey Angels and Alphas,

From all the topics in fitness, diet and nutrition have to be the most misunderstood ones. 

Athletes, dieters, and gym-goers know how important healthy eating is, that’s exactly why there’s so much information about it floating around in the community. Everybody is trying to tell people what to do, what to eat, when to eat, etc. 

Moreover, with so many people and companies sharing their views and ideas, the diet and nutrition world has become flooded with biased information.

Naturally, this means a ton of misconceptions, myths, and misinformation reaching the people that actually need the right guidance.

Today, that’s precisely what we’re going to talk about. We’re going to address the 5 biggest diet and nutrition myths in the fitness community, so you can get the right perspective on your dieting efforts and make the most out of them.

Let’s jump right in.

Myth #1 – Fat is bad for you.

This is probably the biggest misconception in the dieting world. 

It’s really common for women to fall into this myth and make horrible diet choices based on it. 

Fat has suffered an onslaught of bad media, and “low-fat” crazes are the next big thing in fitness because they claim everything with fat in it automatically puts fat on you. Thankfully, that’s not true.

Let me explain a little bit more about the different types of fat out there.

Saturated fat is a healthy energy source for the body. It keeps you feeling full for long periods of time. Your body naturally stores excess carbohydrates as saturated fats. Research has proven that diets high in saturated fat usually equate to lower total caloric intake. Research also shows that places in the world where saturated fat consumption increases, obesity declines.

Monounsaturated fat is well-known within the avocado lovers community (it’s a real thing). It’s mostly found in high-fat fruits and nuts (like almonds, cashews, etc.) Monounsaturated fats help your body manage cholesterol, and some research links them to fat loss.

Polyunsaturated fats are also labeled as good fats. They’re found in fish products like fish oil and salmon, and they’re also found in plants like quinoa. They contain essential fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6. They are absolutely vital to the proper functioning of our physiology and cannot be produced by our own bodies. They improve heart health, fight inflammation, promote bone health, and they even support your mental health.

Trans fat is where things get nasty. These are the fats found in deep-fried foods, French fries, pizza, margarine, and other highly processed foods. You should be wary of these. Coincidentally, there are the fats that are found most often in nowadays’ fast foods. They will undoubtedly have an adverse effect on your body, diet, and health.

Now that you know the different types of fats, it will be easy for you to realize that it’s *not* your enemy. Trans fats are definitely the nemesis of your fitness and diet journey, but other than that, other types of fats are wholly beneficial to your health. They help vital bodily processes, they help you maintain good health, they help you manage your weight, and so much more. 

You *need* fat to be healthy. This brings us to our next point…

Myth #2 – Eating low-fat will help you lose fat.

This could not be further from the truth.

Fats are essential to the functioning of our physiology. 

In an earlier post, I gave the example of research done off the coast of New Zealand. The native residents of the Tokelau area consume a diet consisting of over 50% saturated fat. Yet, they top the world rankings in cardiovascular health.  

Many health organizations pointed the finger at fats because of alleged relations to cancer and heart disease. This, however, was entirely disproved. 

As stated above, in countries where fat consumption rises, obesity drops. There could be many reasons for this, like the fact that fat keeps you satiated for longer, but the statistics support the fact that higher fat consumption equals in lower total caloric intake. 

In a study involving around 50,000 women in the span of 8 years, half the participants went on a low-fat diet while the others didn’t. The study concluded that women on the low-fat diet didn’t really lose any weight. Moreover, they didn’t decrease their risk of heart disease. 

Please remember – fat will not make you fat. Excess calories will. Don’t stay away from fat because of biased information, it’s healthy for you! (Not trans fats, though.) 

Myth #3 – You should never ‘cheat’ on your diet.

Okay, no. What kind of message are you sending to yourself if you say this? That you should comfort to some standard while completely disregarding the things you enjoy?

We’ve talked about this a lot – the concept of sustainability. You will simply not have the willpower to stay loyal to a diet you don’t enjoy. 

It’s perfectly okay if you decide to go off your strict eating plan every once in a while. If you can make the switch from a diet high in trans fats and processed carbohydrates to a diet that focuses on vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, you’re well on your way to healthy eating. 

However, this doesn’t mean that you have to be strict and disciplined all the time. You know I’m a supporter of the 80/20 principle. If you do the right thing 80 percent of the time, you can allow yourself some indulgence in your favorite sweet and tasty foods. 

What’s important is that you don’t let your cheat days turn into cheat weeks and cheat months. You do need discipline if you are following a healthy diet, but discipline doesn’t mean torturing yourself. It means doing what is optimal for you and your lifestyle. If this means eating sweets one day of the week, this is completely okay, and it’s *way* healthier in terms of your overall health.

Myth #4 – Good Nutrition is Expensive

The idea that healthy food costs more than junk food is a common one. I’ve had trainees tell me that they want to eat healthier, but can’t afford to. 

In reality, cooking food yourself is the most affordable way to get your amount of healthy nutrients in. People believe junk food is cheaper because huge fast food chains charge a *lot* for salads and healthier fast food alternatives.

Some studies that compare the price per calorie of food suggest that unhealthy food is cheaper, but they’re not telling you the whole story.

It’s precisely these cost per calorie studies that are negatively influencing public perception. Using this measurement, the lower-fat dessert will *always* appear more expensive because it contains fewer calories. But studies that compare the price per unit weight of food suggest that healthy food is cheaper. 

While good food *can* be more expensive, it doesn’t have to be. Delicious home-cooked meals can go for less than a few dollars, and a meal prep regimen will allow you to eat healthy, tasty, and affordable food throughout the entire week. 

Overall, there is little-to-no support for the argument that healthy food is more expensive. Quite the contrary.

Here are a few super affordable and healthy food choices: broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, butternut squash, brown rice, beans, quinoa, edamame, bananas, oranges, canned fish, cottage cheese, eggs, and yogurt.

Myth #5 – The best way to start a diet is with a cleanse/detox.

While detoxes *can* be useful, they’re not really necessary for anyone. 

Your body has a super-efficient system for filtering out harmful substances. Unless you’ve been poisoned or something. This system is made up of the liver and the kidneys. Our kidneys filter out any waste from our diet, and our livers can process and detoxify the chemicals we digest. Paired together, these two organs do wonders for cleansing your body. 

Detox diets are often deficient in protein. While five glasses of juice a day will help you lose some weight, it will not help you maintain less muscle and will end up only hurting you in the long run.

The entire detox mindset is kind of silly. You sentence yourself to ten days of torture, and once they’re over, you can pretty much get back to eating whatever you want. Don’t fall for this, as it is not beneficial to your body. Nor is it useful to your mindset on proper nutrition.

Conclusion…

We’ve reviewed the most common healthy eating myths out there. Just by taking in the right information and debunking these myths, you’ve already done more for your diet than most people. 

To summarize:

  • Fats are essential to you. Avoid trans fats and enjoy all other types of fat.
  • Allow yourself cheat days if you’re on a strict diet. If you’re not on a strict diet, follow the 80/20 principle. 
  • Good food is more affordable than junk food if cooked at home.
  • Detoxes are largely unnecessary.

That being said, I hope you take all of this advice to heart and make the necessary implementations in your diet, so you *can* achieve your fitness goals faster.

Trust me, your body will thank you for it.

Everything You Need to Know About Stretching

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Whether you’re going to the gym for an intense HIIT session or to put as much weight as you can on the bar, we all know that’s not how your workout starts. I hope.

Before you start doing anything else, you perform some sort of warm-up routine to get your muscles ready and prepared for what’s about to hit them. Most of the time, that warm-up routine includes stretches or light cardio.

Today, I want to talk about those first (or last) 5-10-15 minutes of your workout that few people talk about in detail, yet they are crucial to muscle growth and recovery.

All the stretching you do either before your workout or after it is going to set the scene for your muscle’s performance and repair. This means that learning how to adjust your stretching to your specific goal can benefit not only your workout, but also everything that happens after it.

Add that to the fact that stretching can quickly turn into a relaxing habit, and you’ve got all the right reasons to learn and master the art of stretching.

First of all, what is stretching, and how does it help us?

Stretching can be defined as any means of deliberately flexing or stretching a muscle or tendon in order to get it to gradually lengthen, relax, and allow its full range of unencumbered movement.

There are thousands upon thousands of different stretching routines out there, and most sports even have their own trademark stretches. Still, when most people hear stretching, they imagine the classic static stretch that involves holding a muscle in a stretched position for up to a minute.

That’s definitely not doing stretching any justice, and it can even be harmful.

There are a couple of joints you have to warm-up before you perform any kind of activity, and they include the neck, shoulders, the trunk, the elbows, wrists, and fingers, as well as the hips, knees, ankles, feet, and toes.

This might seem like a lot of work, especially considering that you’re holding them each in a stretched position for up to a minute. That’s just one more reason why static stretching isn’t going to be enough to get you warmed up and prevent you from injury.

Overall, the benefits of stretching include:

  • Higher flexibility
  • Improved posture
  • Increased blood flow to muscles
  • Increased range of motion
  • Stress relief

But these cannot be achieved by static stretching alone. To achieve them, you need a stretching routine that combines and utilizes different types of stretching.

Let’s break down the 3 types of stretching so you can get a better idea of where your current routine might be lacking.

(There are actually around 7 types of stretching. But most are just combinations of the main three, and others are even harmful. For simplicity’s sake, I’ve brought it down to 3 main ones).

Static Stretching

Static stretching is the usual go-to for everyone the first time they step in a gym or on a running track. It’s a basic form of stretching in which you hold a position for about 30-60 seconds, after which you release and repeat.

The goal here is to lengthen the muscles and the connective tissues – the fascia. However, recent studies have concluded that this isn’t an effective method for pre-workout stretching. And it’s definitely not a way to increase workout performance.

Using a static stretching program before your training session may result in inhibiting muscle performance. This is thought to be because static stretches release muscle tension and increase the length between resting muscle fibers.

When this healthy relationship between length and tension is altered, this results in lower muscle excitability. This, on its own, directly inhibits proper muscle function.

If we overstretch our muscles, we reduce their elasticity, directly lowering performance.

Personally, I believe static stretching is useful only after you’ve finished your workout – when the body is still warm, and the tendons could use some stress-relief.

Examples of static stretches: the posterior capsule stretch, the hamstring stretch, the quad stretch, and the long lunge.

Active Isolated Stretching

AIS is a stretching method that’s been around for 30 years. It was first introduced in a book called; you guessed it, “Active Isolated Stretching,” by Kinesiotherapist and Licensed Massage Therapist Aaron L. Mattes. He created it to help amateur and professional athletes develop more agility at a lower risk of injury.

Here’s the basic premise.

You isolate the muscle you want to stretch, you repeat your stretch around 10 times, and you hold your stretches for no more than 2 seconds. Simple, beautiful, and useful.

Some of you might be wondering how you isolate a muscle to stretch it. If you want to stretch your hamstrings, you contract the quadriceps. When you flex your quads, your brain sends a signal to your hamstrings to relax, helping you stretch them more effectively.

In other words, you stretch the muscles by actively contracting the muscle opposite to them.

You repeat each stretch around 10 times to get more blood, oxygen, and nutrients going into the muscles. If you hold your stretches for more than 2 seconds, you activate your body’s stretch reflex (or myotatic reflex). It’s the reflex that prevents the body from overstretching – the body’s shield against tears and sprains.

This way of holding short-term stretches has been proven to grant the highest flexibility gains per session. It’s most often performed with a rubber band to assist movement.

However, just like static stretching, it’s not that effective when it comes to your pre-workout warm-up.

It should be done in separate flexibility sessions or just after your training.  

Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching is another form of active stretching, and it’s perfect for a warm-up. It’s performed by engaging the desired muscle’s opposing tendon through the joint range of motion. It’s also held for 2-3 seconds max.

And because it’s held for such a brief period, it stretches the muscle without reducing muscle tension or excitability. This allows you to improve your range of motion and get the tissues ready for exercise without sacrificing force production.

Dynamic stretching is also related to more sport-specific movements, although it shouldn’t be confused with simple warm-up drills.

Warm-ups that incorporate dynamic stretching exercises often include staples like the side shuffles, walking lunges, hip openers, torso twists, leg swings, and more.

The goal here is to improve the muscle’s movement, speed, and even reach.

Dynamic stretching should not be confused with Ballistic Stretching, a dangerous alternative that suggests going way beyond the desired range of motion.

There are no bouncing movements, just dynamic, controlled back and forth motions.

The rep range here is around 8-12.

Now you know all the main types of stretching, but one question still remains – when should you stretch?

Warm-up Stretching

Stretching before a workout helps your muscles, joints, and connective tissues get ready for more intense loads and gives you better range of motion. It also increases your core temperature, making it easier for your muscles to perform at a higher intensity.

The key here is to use dynamic stretching if you’re warming up. Since you’re preparing your body for dynamic movements, it only makes sense that you would do dynamic movements. This way, you can continuously prepare your body for more intense ones.

Dynamic stretching before a workout is a must. It not only prepares your muscles, but tells your nervous system that it’s time to get moving. This, in its own right, boosts your heart rate and improves your coordination and awareness. Not to mention, it helps you shield your muscles and joints from injuries.

Post-workout Stretching

Once you’ve already gone through the highest intensity for the day, stretching becomes a great way to relax.

Post-workout stretching is different than pre-workout stretching because it focuses on easing stress and lengthening your muscles. That’s why it’s always better to perform static stretches rather than dynamic ones.

When it comes to post-workout stretching, your choices are either static or active isolated stretches. With them, you’ll be able to focus on specific muscle groups that need relaxing, for example, the hip flexors and hamstrings.

If there are any areas of your body in which you feel tight after you work out, a cool-down stretching routine is a must. You don’t need anything drastic, just 5-10 minutes of stretches to help ease tension off the tendons.

Conclusion

Sometimes, finding the time for both a nice warm-up and a long workout can be difficult.

But neglecting your stretching will, without a doubt, put you at higher risk of injury, lower your performance, and may even lead to imbalances.

Developing a stretching routine and performing it at the right time of your workout goes a long way to helping you reduce those risks.

Not only that, but you’ll reap all the benefits of higher range of motion and joint mobility, better flexibility, and mental relaxation.

For more specific cases that involve rehabilitation from injury, I suggest checking in with your doctor on what types of stretches are best for you.

Other than that, I suggest you stretch away!

Until next time,

Ally

 

8 Ways to Prevent Comfort Eating While You’re Stuck at Home

Hey Angels and Alphas,

We know that self-isolation has been widely suggested to protect us against the ongoing pandemic, but we know that being stuck at home and having our routines shifted around can lead to many unhealthy behaviors, including overeating due to boredom and stress.

And while taking comfort in our favorite food is a normal reaction when we’re feeling stressed, overeating continuously can negatively impact our mood, our health, and our anxiety levels.

Today, we’re looking at 8 ways we can stay on track with our fitness goals by preventing comfort eating while we’re stuck at home. Let’s get right into it.

*Disclaimer. It’s important we’re clear right off the bat – stress eating and disordered eating are two completely different things. If you feel like you have a disordered eating tendency, these tips shouldn’t be relevant to you. For information about eating disorders, consult a doctor or physician so they can correctly address your needs. That being said, let’s get started.

1. We have to start by removing temptations.

Even though having a bowl of your favorite colorful candy or a cookie jar on your counter, this can easily lead to unaccounted calories and therefore overeating.

Having tempting foods at arm’s reach almost always leads to frequent snacking and overeating because when we’re working at home or just going about our day, we tend to get distracted and reach for our favorite snacks even when we aren’t hungry.

There’s actually research out there that suggests that visual exposure to high-calorie foods creates stimulus in your striatum, the part of your brain responsible for modulating impulse control. This, in turn, leads to cravings and overeating.

So if you do keep a snack shelf at home, make sure it’s out of your sight so you can reach for a snack when you actually need one. There’s nothing bad about snacking, but overindulging too often can and will harm both your physical and your emotional health.

2. We also need a healthy meal schedule.

Just because you’re stuck at home doesn’t mean you should change your normal eating schedule. If you’re used to a schedule of three meals a day, just keep doing that even if you’re working from home.

When your day-to-day schedule gets disrupted, it’s easy to stray from your normal dietary patterns. That’s why it’s important for us to make an effort to continue our regular eating patterns and be mindful of our needs and preferred eating times.

If you’re really thrown off, and you find yourself reaching for snacks too often, make sure your schedule has at least two solid meals a day and base your snacks around that so you can reach a comfortable consistency with your eating habits.

3. Remember not to restrict!

One of the best nutritional rules anyone can follow to prevent overeating is to not deprive themselves of foods they love. More often than not, being overly restrictive with your food intake will backfire on you with cravings for high-carb, high-calorie foods, naturally creating an easy path to overeating.

It’s never a good idea to follow an overly restrictive diet. It’s never a good idea to deprive yourself of food, even more so when you’re stressed.

Research has shown this – restrictive diets are not only ineffective and unsustainable in the long-term, but they also have adverse effects on physical and mental health, skyrocketing your stress levels even more.

4. Staying hydrated.

Drinking enough fluids somehow always makes it into lists on how to stay healthy and prevent overeating, and for good reason. Not only is maintaining proper hydration vital for your overall health, but science tells us it can help prevent overeating related to anxiety and stress.

Research has found a direct link between a higher risk of obesity and chronic dehydration. Dehydration also alters your mood, focus, and energy levels, which can either work for or against your eating habits.

If you have difficulty drinking more water than you feel like you need, add a few slices of fruit to your water so you can give it flavor. This will help you stay hydrated throughout your day without adding any significant amount of calories to your diet.

5. Staying active!

Perhaps the biggest problem with being stuck at home is that our activity levels plummet, leading us to boredom, stress, and increased risk of unnecessary snacking. That’s why it’s important that we always make time for physical activity, even when we’re stuck at home.

If you’re feeling bad about the fact that gyms and workout studios are closed, you have to make an effort to do home workouts, take hikes, jog and take walks, and just do anything you can to maintain your activity levels.

It’s no secret that physical activity helps us improve our mood and alleviate stress, instantly reducing your chances of stress eating.

6. Practice portion control.

Do you realize how much overeating happens just because people eat snacks directly from the containers in which they come in?

For example, a bowl of ice cream is more than enough to satisfy all your cravings, but if you’re eating directly from the container instead of taking out a single portion, nine times out of ten, you will end up reaching for another spoon. And another spoon. And another spoon.

To prevent this, always make sure you single out your servings in portions of food instead of eating out of large containers.

7. Make your meals count!

Fill up your shelves with filling, nutrient-dense, low-energy-density foods, and you’ll see a massive change in your overall health – that’s a promise. Not only will you reduce the tendency to stress eat and munch on highly palatable foods, but you’ll also be making smart choices that actually nourish your body and fill you up in a healthy way.

Filling foods are foods usually high in healthy fats, fiber, and protein. These include seeds, nuts, fruits and veggies, beans, eggs, and more. They’re both satiating and satisfying, helping you prevent the casual munch on chocolatey snacks.

8. Prevent boredom!

If you find yourself with a lot of extra time on your hands, boredom is a guarantee. It will quickly set in once you’ve tackled everything on your to-do list that day.

However, if you want to prevent boredom and make sure it’s not a reason for sacrificing your health, find ways to make good use of your spare time. New hobbies, physical activity, interesting projects, these are all options you can use to fill up your otherwise busy schedule.

This is the perfect time to be learning new skills, focusing on home improvement, organizing your life, taking an educational course, or start a new business endeavor.

Learning new things or starting new projects doesn’t just prevent boredom, but also helps you feel more productive and release the stress that comes with being stuck at home.

Bringing it all together…

Due to the current circumstances, you might be finding yourself stuck at home, feeling stress and bored all the time, and making poor decisions that lead to overeating and weight gain.

And while indulging in stress foods is a part of our nature, we can’t let it turn into a habit and take a toll on our physical and mental health.

With these tips, you’ll be able to control the stress and anxieties you feel that are the root causes of overeating and overindulging. Follow them and keep a checklist nearby, and I guarantee you, you will walk out of this situation a better, healthier, happier you.

8 Foods that Boost Your Immune System

When it comes to boosting your immune health, just like every other health and wellness goal out there, proper goal-oriented dieting is one of the keys to success.

Certain foods have been proven to keep our immune system strong, and right now, in a time when everyone is looking for ways to prevent colds and stay flu-free, they’re turning to the grocery store shelves to find the best immune-boosting foods.

Today, I’m here to discuss 8 science-backed immune system boosters that you should be stocking up on if you want to stay healthy and protected from foreign invaders. (Not to mention, they’re delicious.)

Let’s get started.

1. CITRUS FRUITS

Some of the most healthy and popular citrus fruits include oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes, and grapefruits.

They are very popular in the wellness community specifically because they’re rich in vitamin C. Many people turn to vitamin C as soon as they catch a cold, and for good reason. Vitamin C has been proven to increase the production of white blood cells and infection-fighting antibodies that protect your system from illness and germs.

And since our bodies don’t produce vitamin C (or store if for that matter), we need to intake an adequate amount of vitamin C every day to ensure continued health. Almost all citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, that’s why they’re first on this list. With such a wide variety of healthy and delicious choices, it’s easy to add a squeeze of vitamin C to any of your meals.

2. YOGURT

Greek yogurt specifically, since that’s the yogurt that will most often have the “live and active cultures” sticker printed on its label. These “cultures” have been linked to stimulating your immune system and helping it fight off diseases.

But instead of pre-flavored or sugar-rich yogurts, go for plain yogurt. After all, you can sweeten your plain yogurt with healthy fruits (or even a drip of honey) and make it a much healthier option than traditional sweetened yogurt you’ll find at the store.

Yogurt is a very popular choice during quarantine because it’s a great source of vitamin D, hence people often go for yogurt brands that are fortified with vitamin D. Vitamin D helps regulate and support your immune system, and it’s even thought to boost our body’s natural defense against illness.

3. SHELLFISH

Shellfish isn’t really what jumps to mind when you’re trying to boost your immune system, but actually, a few types of shellfish are loaded with Zinc.

Even though we tend to disregard Zinc when comparing it to many other vitamins and minerals, it’s actually one of the most vital aspects of a healthy body, and we need it so our immune system can actually function properly.

Zinc-rich shellfish options include lobster, clams, crab, and mussels.

Though you should keep in mind that, you most likely don’t want to have more Zinc than you really need. If you find yourself deficient in Zinc, these options should be your go-to, but if you’re already getting enough Zinc in your diet, you probably won’t benefit from adding on top of it.

Adult men should be consuming 11mg of Zinc, whereas women should be consuming around 8mg of Zinc every day to support immune system function and overall health.

4. BROCCOLI

When it comes to disease prevention, broccoli is kind of a superhero.

Not only is it supercharged with vitamins in minerals, including vitamin A, C, and E, but it also contains rich amounts of many antioxidants. It’s also packed with fiber. Put all these together, and you can clearly see why broccoli is one of the healthiest veggies you can have in your meals.

Broccoli is very easy to find in a grocery store since let’s be honest, it’s not really everyone’s first choice when it comes to sides to a meal. That being said, it’s still an immune-boosting food, and you’ll find a vast amount of nutrients inside it that are usually linked to protecting the body from damage.

Pro tip: the key to broccoli’s power is keeping it uncooked, or at the very least, cook it as little as possible.

5. GINGER

Ginger is an ingredient that most people turn to only after they get sick. That’s because ginger has been linked to helping the body decrease inflammation, which helps you alleviate a sore throat or any other inflammatory reaction. It’s also known to bring relief to people with nausea.

If you haven’t been using ginger in your sweet desserts, start now! Ginger is an ingredient that has been shown to decrease chronic pain and even possess some properties that help the body lower the amounts of bad cholesterol.

6. ALMONDS

And foods from the nut category in general. When it comes to preventing (and actually fighting off) a cold, almonds take the cake. They’re rich in vitamin E which is directly linked to a healthy immune system, although it sometimes takes a back seat to the more popular vitamin C.

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, and this means it requires the presence of fat to be properly absorbed. This makes almonds a great option since they’re also full of healthy fats. A half-cup serving of almonds provides all 100 percent of the amount of vitamin E you need daily.

7. GREEN TEA

Green tea, although a drink, deserves a place on this list because it’s packed with flavonoids, a type of antioxidant. It’s also full of a very powerful and important antioxidant called EGCG, or epigallocatechin gallate.

For example, black tea goes through a fermentation process that heavily reduces the amount of EGCG, whereas green tea is steamed instead of fermented, so EGCG is preserved.

Green tea is also a rich source of L-theanine, an amino acid that’s vital in the production of germ-fighting compounds inside of the body’s T-cells.

8. POULTRY

Have you ever wondered why so many people recommend chicken soup when you’re sick? Well, it’s not a placebo effect!

Poultry, such as turkey and chicken, helps relieve the symptoms of a cold and keeps you safe from getting sick in the first place. Chicken and turkey are particularly high in vitamin B-6. 3 ounces of light chicken meat contains half of your recommended B-6 intake.

Vitamin B-6, in its own right, is a vital aspect of many chemical reactions inside the body. It’s also vital to the formation of healthy red blood cells. It helps gut health, improves immunity, and it’s chock-full of other nutrients that are important to the proper functioning of your body – such as gelatin and chondroitin.

To conclude…

When it comes to proper, healthy, immune-boosting nutrition, variety is the key. Focusing on one of these foods will bring you a health benefit, but no one food is enough to help you fight off the flu and keep you protected.

Pay attention to your daily intake of vitamins and minerals so you’re not getting too much of anything. But include these foods in your weekly grocery list, diversify your diet, and you’re guaranteed to see their health benefits.

How Long Should You Rest Between Sets?

Hey Angels and Alphas,

As we speak, we have the top strength and conditioning experts in the world trying to figure out a rest period general rule of thumb for your training.

For years, we’ve been told that the more weight you lift, the longer you should wait between your sets. But as more and more research is being done on this subject, this has been exposed *not* to be the case.

So what is the optimal, best amount of time to wait between sets? And how do different rest periods serve our individual fitness/training goals?

Well, as you can probably guess, that differs. The same reason researchers can’t decide on a general rule of thumb for rest periods is the same reason that you can’t go for an all-in-one approach.

The fact is – rest periods matter, and they have a massive impact on both your performance *and* how your workout plays out as a whole. Not to mention, they are a big variable to consider when working toward a specific training adaptation (e.g. training for strength, training for endurance, etc.)

That’s why today, we’re going to put ourselves in a couple of different situations and depending on the goal/perspective we have, we’ll decide on the most optimal rest period (based on science!)

Before that, here are some factors we have to consider about rest intervals…

When it comes to determining your rest periods based on your goal, there are a few things you have to consider. In the list below, we’re going to highlight a few of the most important ones. Keep in mind that these vary from training to training, from athlete to athlete, and from person to person.

What’s your current fitness level? If you’ve been into weightlifting for a while, you’ll have probably advanced to the point where you can sustain higher intensities for longer periods of time. The more fitness experience you have, the more intensity you’ll be able to maintain – in terms of both physical and neural efficiency. 

What’s your training history? Forget how long you’ve been lifting. Consider how much you’ve advanced and how much your strength and endurance you’ve gained since you’ve started your fitness journey. The more progress you’ve made, the more stimulus you’ll be able to handle.

What exercises are you doing? The rest interval between two strength exercises will generally be different than the rest interval between a strength and an endurance exercise. Naturally, movements that require a lot of strength are taxing on the muscles and nervous system, so those are exercises after which you’ll need more rest.

More considerable factors include your exercise order, your exercise intensity, and things like your current training status (off-season, in-season, etc.)

When you’ve taken all these things into account, you can get a good foundation of what you expect to be an optimal rest interval.

That being said, let’s take a look at what you need to know about rest periods based on the results you’re looking to achieve…

If your goal is weight loss…

Rest for 30-60 seconds between sets.

If you want to boost your muscular endurance and get in better overall shape, you should keep your rest periods relatively short.

Most strength and conditioning experts agree that you have to both (1) keep your heart rate up and (2) give your muscles the oxygen they need to recover properly. This means that even while you’re resting, you should still be moving around. Essentially, your goal is not to stand still and rest, but to transition from low-intensity movements to high-intensity movements and vice-versa.

This enables you to burn more calories than you otherwise would just by resting, and it also helps your muscles recover so they can gradually push for more intensity.

If your goal is increased muscle endurance…

Rest for 30-60 seconds between sets.

(Or rest for the exact amount of time that will allow you to reach your repetition goal for the next set.)

A study published way back in 2009 has some interesting things to say about this. They took a group of people and put them through different rest intervals during strength training sessions.

They did it to find optimal ways to create new training adaptations via rest periods, but what they concluded was really profound.

They discovered that when it comes to single-joint exercises like the machine fly, 3 minutes of rest is sufficient rest between sets. But when it comes to multi-joint exercises like the bench press, the participants responded better to a 4-5 minute rest interval.

However, they also discovered that the optimal rest period when aiming for a muscle endurance adaptation to their training was no more than 1 minute between sets.

When we usually think about strength training for endurance performance, we tend to believe low weight, high reps is the way to go. Naturally, this means more than 12 reps per set of an exercise with around 1/3 of your one-rep max.

But because this type of training relies more on oxidative metabolism (and increases your mitochondrial density), the most optimal rest duration is technically the amount of time you need to be able to perform your repetition goal. More often than not, this is between 30 and 60 seconds.

If your goal is to build strength…

Rest for 3-5 minutes between sets.

Remember that study a couple of paragraphs ago? Another study was done in March of 2016 that built upon it, and it analyzed the differences between 5, 3, 2, and 1-minute rest intervals in strength training.

Every participant took eight strength training sessions with two exercises (machine fly and bench press), and they trained with weight near their one-rep max.

The study concluded that participants needed a bare minimum of 2 minutes for single-joint exercises and a bare minimum of 3 ½ minutes for multi-joint exercises.

Why such long rest periods?

Because training for strength is different than training for endurance. Your muscles need more time to replenish the energy they need for contraction (and to allow the nervous system to recover.)

When you’re lifting heavy weights (meaning 8 or less reps), these long rest periods are a must – they’re essential for the optimal activation of muscle fibers, which is exactly what you want when you’re training for strength. It’s that activation that leads to the hormone response responsible for muscle growth.

If your goal is hypertrophy/muscle size…

Rest for 60-75 seconds between sets.

Sixty to ninety seconds is the ideal rest periods for those who want to achieve an increase in the cross-sectional size of their muscles.

Resting for anything longer than 75 seconds basically compromises the metabolic stress that you’re working so hard to achieve. This decreases the potential you have for muscle growth.

And resting for anything less than 60 seconds won’t give your muscles the ability to recover and recuperate so it can perform well in the next set.

If you’re new to resistance training…

Rest for longer than you feel like you should

If you’re new to strength training, you need to utilize every second of those rest periods. Many beginners often push themselves in the gym to the point of feeling sick, especially when it’s their first time training a huge muscle group like legs or back.

Because of this unexpected stimulus, you can throw your physiology into a bit of a frenzy. Whereas if you just take your time and rest for more than you think you should (or someone is telling you), you’ll have much better results both during training and in your post-workout recovery.

When you’re a little bit more advanced, you’ll be able to rest less during workouts without much of a problem, but that’s only when your body has gotten used to this type of stimulus.

As a general rule of thumb here, rest enough to not be short of breath but don’t let your heart rate and body temperature return to resting levels.

Putting it all together…

Studying and optimizing your rest intervals is one of the most beneficial things you can do to adapt to a new method of training.

That being said, rest interval transitions should be done slowly – and attention should be paid to every factor in both your current training level and the level you’re trying to achieve.

While it’s true that the general advice “more weight, more rest, less weight, less rest” can be a good oversimplification, it’s just that – an oversimplification. In reality, your rest periods depend entirely on your fitness level and the goal you’re trying to achieve.

But I hope that this article brought some clarity on both of these topics. Now, you have an idea of how rest periods generally work, and how to create a rest period that supports both your fitness performance and your growth.

Best Healthy Habits to Develop in the New Year

Hey Angels and Alphas,

We’re about a couple of weeks into the New Year, and even though it might feel late, now is a great time to set goals for the upcoming months and reflect of what you’ve learned in the last year (because there’s never been a wrong time to do that.)

To help you in your goal-setting venture, I’ve created a checklist of healthy habits you can adopt to make sure that you’re always growing, glowing, and becoming healthier!

We’re going to tackle both physical and mental health, energy, memory, willpower, mindfulness, and more!

If you’re someone who wants to create as many healthy habits as possible but doesn’t know where to start, you can save this checklist and come back to it every time you need ideas!

Let’s get right into the six best healthy habits to develop in the next 12 months.

Healthy Habit #1 – Stretch before/after you work out.

So many people ignore their stretching routine, yet it’s so vital to growth and recovery!

If you want to improve your recovery, relax after your workout, and improve your flexibility, you need a stretching routine! If you feel exceptionally stiff after your workouts, that’s another great tell that you need to be implementing a stretching routine into your workout.

There are two different types of stretching you need to incorporate into your stretching routine:

  • Static stretching: which essentially means moving into a position that lengthens your target muscle and holding it.
  • Dynamic stretching: which refers to moving in and out of a position that lengthens the target muscle. A lunge is a good example of this. With subtle bouncing movements, you can put pressure on and off the muscle tissue.

Static stretching is best used after your strength training workouts. Dynamic stretching is an excellent way to warm-up before your workouts.

Whichever you chose, before or after your workout, all you need are 10 minutes of routine stretching.

Develop this habit, and you’ll be reaping major health benefits on muscle recovery, improved flexibility, injury prevention, and so much more!

Healthy Habit #2 – Become a Breakfast Person

I know what you’re going to say.

“Some people just don’t eat breakfast.”

But that’s not true! It can’t be. Before you say you’re one of the people who never eat breakfast, you need to make sure that (a) it’s not just habit that’s keeping you from getting hungry in the mornings (b) you’ve actually tried to set up a breakfast schedule.

What you’ll find is that if you eat a healthy breakfast every day for a week, your body’s energy levels will completely skyrocket. A breakfast chock full of protein and healthy fats will get you the vigor you need to feel energized throughout your entire day. Get a good breakfast, and you can easily feel satiated until the afternoon.

Plus, this puts your body in the right rhythm – stocking up on energy early in the morning when your body needs it most.

This also helps your metabolism! When you put food in your stomach early in the morning, you’re telling your body to prepare to burn more calories that day. And when you wake up in the morning and keep your stomach empty until noon, you’re sending the signal to your body to conserve energy.

To try implementing this habit, have breakfast every day for seven days and then examine your energy levels.

Healthy Habit #3 – Journaling

We’ve talked a lot about journaling lately, and with good reason.

Not only is it a great way to track your progress and keep your new habits in check, but it’s also a great way to vent out and write about the things you learn daily. The scientific

benefits of journaling on mental health have long been proven, but did you also know that journaling is a great way to lose weight?

Even though losing weight by writing sounds fatuous, it’s actually backed by science and research!

Two groups of participants were put through a weight loss program, and one of the groups had to journal daily about it. They tracked their progress throughout the journey and identified key metrics that they could improve on. The result? The group that kept a journal lost, on average, 5 percent more fat than the one who didn’t.

To try implementing this habit, grab a pen and a journal and vent out your thoughts by writing either first thing in the morning or just before bed. Do this for seven days and start thinking of ways you can track the progress of the habits you want to develop for yourself.

Healthy Habit #4 – Prioritize Sleep!

The list of benefits of getting good sleep is just too big. It keeps you in a good mood, sharpens your memory, helps you learn, gives you energy, and that’s just scratching the surface. In the long term, it keeps you away from diseases and helps you stay trim.

This is a huge reminder for those who have been putting sleep off – you need to focus on getting quality sleep if you want to be healthy, let alone making progress in the gym.

If you have difficulties getting enough sleep at night, your next step should be starting a sleep log!

If you start tracking (1) how many hours per sleep you get per night, (2) at what time you go to bed, and (3) at what time you wake up in the morning, you’ll get a clear picture of your sleeping patterns.

This way, you’ll find out the optimal amount of sleep you need every day. And once you start going to bed and waking up at the same times every day, you’ll get into a routine that will allow you to get the quality sleep you need.

To implement this habit, log your sleep for 7 days and then start building a micro-habit of waking up at the same time every day. Very soon, you’ll have no problem going to bed at the same time every night, too.

Healthy Habit #5 – Daily Meditation!

In the age of information, meditation helps us develop skills that have become quite rare. Being able to focus and being able to point your attention away from negativity are two things that a lot of people can’t do anymore.

Everyone is overwhelmed by information and environmental stimuli and most people can’t seem to be able to quiet their minds.

However, these mindfulness skills are vital to your success – in the gym, in school, in your career, everywhere!

Meditation has become increasingly popular in both the Western and Eastern world. Whichever way you choose to go and whichever philosophy you choose to follow, meditation is going to have a profoundly positive effect on your life and your journey toward your goals.

It will help you learn how to focus, how to pay attention, how to quiet your mind, how to block negativity, and a ton of other skills that will help you achieve the results you’re looking for in pretty much any area of your life.

To develop this habit, approach it gradually. Start with five minutes of meditation a day and build your way up every day until you reach half an hour.

Healthy Habit #6 – Yoga!

When it comes to yoga, a lot of people make it stick as a habit very easily. Others tend to go in and out of their routine, but the fact remains – pretty much everyone who has tried yoga has enjoyed the results.

If you want to start and keep a yoga habit, you need two things. You need to make yoga accessible, and you need to learn about it daily.

It might be tempting to get a membership to the nearest yoga studio that has classes. But when you think about how much time you spend at work, at school, or traveling, you quickly realize that if you want to make yoga a consistent practice in your life, you need to make it accessible. This means getting your own mat and learning to do yoga anywhere.

And when you start learning about yoga daily, you’ll begin to see how many philosophies and benefits are truly behind it. You’ll start to notice a natural connection to it as a practice. Yoga goes back thousands of years, and it’s no coincidence that people are starting to pick it back up now.

To implement this habit, your first step should be buying a yoga mat. When you get some experience, join a class and you’ll find your own yoga “tribe!”

To conclude…

If you want to make this a year of positive change, developing a few healthy habits would be a great start.

In this list, you’ll find the easiest, most effective ways to stay in shape both physically and mentally (not to mention, they’re all habits that will help you on your journey toward your big goal).

If we successfully integrate all of these habits in our lives, we’d all be healthy, sharp, and motivated. So why don’t we? In the next 12 months, I challenge you to develop all six of these habits for yourself – regardless of how hard or stressful that might sound, you’re probably closer than you think.

Save this post and keep this as your personal habit checklist for 2020, and if you check them all off until the end of the year, you’ll be a better, stronger, and healthier you – that’s a promise!

How to Succeed as a Beginner Personal Trainer

Well, you did it. You spent the last couple of weeks studying and working hard, but you finally got your personal trainer certification. You love fitness, and you’re now a true expert at it. To you, it might even be the most obvious career choice.

You’re confident in your skills and abilities, and you’re ready to start changing lives and getting paid for it. 

Now what?

How do you begin signing clients, creating content, building your network, and making a name for yourself?

How do you start applying what you learned and helping people reach their desired body goals? 

Well, Angels and Alphas, that’s exactly what we’re here to talk about today!

I’m writing this as your introduction to the personal training industry, and hopefully, by the end of this post, you’ll have no doubts as to what you have to do next to start your career as a certified PT online.

Let’s begin with the first (and probably most important) tip for those of you who want to start landing clients for their training service, growing their online audience, and expanding their network.

Personal Trainer Tip #1 – Brand Yourself Online

Now, it’s no secret to anyone – fitness coaches excel online. Thanks to the Internet and social media, you no longer have to stay at the gym all day training people.

That’s not to say you can’t do that, but for most coaches who newly enter the industry, the Internet is a big opportunity.

An opportunity to get recognized, bring awareness to what you do, and start helping people reach their body goals even if they’re on the other side of the planet.

Here’s the crux. Your branding is essentially your online image — the collection of thoughts and emotions people have about you and your service. 

Coaches with great branding have clients lining up on waiting lists to work with them, while coaches that don’t really pay attention to branding struggle to gain traction. 

Your branding compiles everything from your website content to your Instagram bio.

From your Facebook posts’ comments to your online advertising. 

You can look at it this way. Marketing yourself means getting the word out about you and your service, while branding determines what that word is. 

Will you brand yourself as a blood, sweat, and tears hardcore trainer, or a fitness coach that emphasizes diet, yoga, and meditation? Will you brand yourself as someone who helps thousands of clients, or someone who works with a select few? 

You have to enter the scene with at least an idea of the branding you want to establish for yourself. If you don’t, you risk becoming soulless and having other people determine your branding. Keep in mind; this isn’t something you should have a fully clear idea of.

You should think about your branding long-term and grow into that branding as time passes.

Bringing us to our next point…

Personal Trainer Tip #2 – Specialize

People love working with experts. We can’t help it. Ever since that time you first stepped into a doctor’s office, you know what a specialist looks like. They are like a beacon of authority in what they do, and people always reach out to them for help.

Even though this relates to branding, it deserves a different approach. Your specialization will determine what kind of people ask for your help. It’s your “thing,” your secret sauce.

For example, if you position yourself as a powerlifting coach and you specialize in that niche, it’s only natural that you’ll be contacted by people who want to get better at powerlifting. Same with wellness coaches, running coaches, fitness coaches, calisthenics coaches, you get the idea.

Find your “thing” and specialize in it. You’ll have a lot more success when you can target a specific problem and help people solve it, instead of running about trying to solve everyone’s problems. If you’re everywhere, you’re nowhere. Remember that.

Personal Trainer Tip #3 – Promote Yourself Online

As a personal trainer, you’re a service provider. As a service provider, you must create an offer for your services that essentially turns a problem’s solution into a product.

This could be your coaching sessions, your online programs, your meal plans, anything that you’re expecting to get paid for as a coach. 

Once you have that offer figured out based on your branding and specializations, it’s time to get the word out there – marketing time!

  • Paid Advertising
    Advertising online is both easier and harder than it ever was before. Nowadays, you can literally spend a few dollars and show your offer in front of thousands of people. The tricky part is actually creating advertising that’s persuasive and valuable for your prospects. An ad that speaks to their problem, and positions your product (technically service) as the best solution to that problem is undoubtedly going to bring you results.I’ve seen personal trainers advertise their services and courses on Facebook, Instagram, Google Search, YouTube, SnapChat, LinkedIn, you name it. As far as channels go, you have complete freedom to share your message (as long as you’re compliant with ad guidelines, of course).
  • Free Content
    Don’t worry though, if you aren’t really into paid advertising, or you don’t know exactly how to run and manage ads, you can skip that part for now.Regardless of whether you do ads or not, you’re still going to be posting a lot of content Every piece of content, regardless if it’s a blog post, a social media post, an infographic, a YouTube video, and so on, serves multiple purposes.First, it lets you provide value to your audience for free. Second, it puts you in the shoes of an author, therefore positions you as an authority in your field. Third, it lets you freely express your views on certain topics in the industry. Especially when it comes to fitness, the possibilities for content are endless! I suggest you choose at least one social media platform (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.) and use it to share information about fitness completely free.Post videos of workouts, share tips, views, comment on other people’s content, engage with your “colleagues,” etc. This way, you’re helping people while getting the word out about what you do.It’s not only a great way to stand out in your niche, but it’s also a great way to bring awareness to your services and land clients who share your views and want to work with you.
  • Free Assessments
    Offering free assessments is one of the best ways to give value and land clients. To do this, you don’t really need to spend any money on ads or create any extra content. It’s a great way to practice working with people if you don’t have that much experience as a trainer yet. Start letting people know that you’re offering a free, no-obligation, fitness assessment, and take your prospects through it.You can frame this as a consultation or even a short private coaching session. In it, you can essentially bring people results in less than 30 minutes by finding out a problem of theirs and providing them with a step-by-step solution to solve it. It’s a great way to let people get to know you, your method of work, and do that while bringing them real results in a short period. 

Fitness Coach Tip #4 – Have a Perfect Website!

Your website is like your temple — the central social hub of all your other online channels. 

It’s the first place people go to learn more about you. Even if they see you on Facebook or Instagram, they’re going to go to your website if they want solid information.

That’s why investing in a well-designed, well-written website is one of the best things you can do for your online branding and marketing. 

A sloppily designed website will make you look sloppy. A thought-out website will give people all the information they need to decide whether they want to work with you or not.

On your website, you can list your services in full detail; you can share your message, your story, your vision, your mission, and have a section full of free and useful content people can enjoy.

This is the place where you’ll likely be collecting most of your leads. 

A note on e-mail lists…

Building a list of e-mails is vital! 

Regardless of who you are, what you do, and what you’re selling, you need to be collecting an e-mail list. This is not up for debate!

Your e-mail list is your biggest asset, so treat it as such. 

For the most part, all your branding and marketing efforts should be targeted toward building a list, not selling your service directly. This is a topic for another time, that’s why I’m not going to go into much detail here.

But remember – if you’re not growing your e-mail list, you’re not growing your network. 

Fitness Coach Tip #5 – Build Case Studies 

So far, you’ve built your brand identity, you’ve started promoting yourself, and you’ve probably got a couple of clients that are ready and excited to work with you.

At this point, the only thing you should be focused on as far as building your credibility is creating case studies of all your clients, regardless of the results you’ve helped them achieve.

You can take testimonials, they do work, but case studies are such a powerful tool for both marketing yourself and keeping track of your progress as a coach. 

There’s no better credibility than actually delivering excellent results, and people know that. In the online coaching business (regardless if its fitness, dieting, wellness, business, you name it), it’s often the people who build the most trust in their clients that end up getting ahead. 

And that’s completely normal – if you need help with something, you’d obviously trust the person who has done it successfully hundreds of times before! Why wouldn’t you? 

Case studies are the ultimate tool for all coaches. You shouldn’t only be using them; you should be heavily focusing on them. It doesn’t matter if you have a shiny new website or a well-designed ad. That should be the icing on your branding cake. What matters is that you genuinely bring people results, and there’s no better way to show that than building a few great case studies. 

To conclude…

As you can see just from this short post, being a personal trainer in today’s digital age is no easy task.

You not only have to define yourself as an online brand, but you also have to promote yourself and your services.

And you not only have to promote yourself, but you have to make sure you’re building your list, growing your social media following, and expanding your network every single day.

…And you not only have to do that, but you have to turn this list and this network into an asset that continuously brings you clients.

…Moreover, you have to make sure you’re delivering real results to your clients and building great case studies.

But you know what?

If fitness is your passion, and you really want to succeed as a trainer, I promise you… all of this will feel like a walk in the park!

 

How to Choose the Right Training Split for Your Goal – Part II

Training Splits for Advanced Lifters

Hey Angels and Alphas,

In the last post, we discussed the most popular forms of the training split in the modern fitness community – the push/pull/legs, the upper/body split, and the full-body workout split.

Today, we’re diving even deeper into this topic.

I want to just give you a heads up and tell you that most of the splits we talk about today are also going to be really common to you. You’re going to see people doing them every day at the gym.

The problem here is that most of these people haven’t done their research when it comes to the pros and cons of each split. They could be making way better results in the gym and feeling way happier with their lifestyle if they made that little switch from blindly following trends to asking questions and making decisions.

I’m by no means saying that you can’t be a real pro if you’re just doing push/pull/legs all your life.

But what I do want to do is share my thoughts on some of the more peculiar workout splits out there, how to actually do them right, and how to transition into them correctly so you can use them to your maximum advantage.

Let’s pick up right where we left off…

4. The 4-Day Split

With the four-day split, you’re training fewer muscle groups every day, and you’re able to increase the volume and intensity at which you train them.

As you know, progressively exposing your muscles to higher intensity is one of the main factors contributing to long-term growth.

This split is usually done over the course of the entire week, meaning you get 3 days of rest. But some people prefer to do it 4 days on, 1 day off. That’s also fine, but I feel like it’s often not well thought-out.

In the 4-day split, the most efficient way to group what body parts you’re training is to pair a major muscle group with a secondary one. For most people, this means pairing chest and triceps and back and biceps.

As you’ve probably noticed, this structure is similar to what we see in the Push/Pull/Legs routine.

The difference here is that you’re always hitting your triceps after all your chest exercises so you can drain it entirely and reach peak intensity.

In this training split, you should always train the larger muscle group first, then follow up with the smaller one. The reason is obvious – if you train your triceps first, you’re not going to have the strength necessary to bench as much as you can later.

Your triceps assists all your chest movements, and training it first means impairing those movements, and limiting your ability to push heavy weights.

Keep in mind that, since the volume and intensity of your exercises are higher, rest days should be prioritized. That’s why I suggest sticking with the 4 days on, 3 days off when it comes to a 4-day split.

A great way to balance things out here is to turn one of your rest days into an active recovery day. You go out, do calisthenics, yoga, enjoy a hobby or sport, hike a mountain, you get the idea! This aid the natural recovery process, both physically and mentally.

Here’s an example of a tremendous 4-day split routine.

  • Day 1: Legs
  • Day 2: Shoulders
  • Day 3: Rest
  • Day 4: Back and biceps
  • Day 5: Chest and triceps
  • Days 6: Rest
  • Day 7: Active Rest

Or, you can do a 4-day split while targeting specific muscle groups with higher volume!

  • Day 1: Chest
  • Day 2: Back
  • Day 3: Legs
  • Day 4: Arms and Shoulders
  • Day 5: Rest

5. The 5-Day Split

This is an advanced training routine. Unfortunately, a lot of people pick this one to be their first. Especially the guys!

Separating your training into 5 different days allows you to emphasize each body part individually and fully control your weekly volume.

You don’t need to worry about your performing worse on chest movements if all you’re doing that day is focusing on your biceps!

With this split, you’re training each major muscle group in its own day, and if you’re doing it right, you’re giving them all the time they need to rest and recover.

With it, you can just get in the gym, crush your desired body part in an hour, and head out. Conveniently, you can save your weekend for your two weekly rest days, though I suggest always keeping an open mind and listening to your body. It will let you know if you need more, or less, rest.

Although this seems pretty straightforward, making this split work is actually harder than it sounds.

When you’re arranging this type of split, you have to be extra careful. If you’re doing shoulders on Monday, then chest on Tuesday, then triceps on Wednesday – we have a problem.

Inadequate recovery is the number one issue that can spring from this method of training, so we need to make sure we’re always leaving 48 hours of rest between major muscle groups.

This split can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. It all depends on how you decide to arrange your elements of training.

Here’s a sample of how the 5-day split looks in practice:

  • Monday: Chest – 4 exercises, 4 sets, 6-12 reps
  • Tuesday: Back – 4 exercises, 4 sets, 6-12 reps
  • Wednesday: Shoulders – 4 exercises, 4 sets, 6-12 reps
  • Thursday: Legs – 6 exercises, 3-4 sets, 6-12 reps
  • Friday: Biceps and triceps – 3-4 exercises each, 3-4 sets, 6-15 reps
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

When it comes to ab training, do it one day on, one day off. Alternatively, you can train it every day if you’re not including a lot of heavy core work in your exercises.

6. The Intensive/Extensive Split

This training split is a little different from all the other ones on this list.

To show what I mean, the intensive/extensive split basically involves you doing different variations of training in different days. You alternate between intensive and extensive workouts. Intensive workouts are the ones you need more than 24 hours to recover from – heavy weight work, HIIT drills, or just too many sets on a particular muscle. Extensive workouts are the ones you need less than 24 hours to recover from.

Like doing a heavy/explosive training day, followed by a day of higher volume day, low-weight exercise.

There isn’t any set rule of days per week on this split, but the usual is either 3 or 4. (Even though technically, you should be able to do extensive workouts every day, since they take less than 24 hours to recover from.)

This split is a truly advanced program that gives athletes the ability to strategize correctly when it comes to taking the next step in their professional journey.

While some days an athlete might want to focus on their coordination and stability, on other days they might emphasize movement skills such as acceleration and endurance.

Or to give another example, some bodybuilders often alternate between strength and hypertrophy days to get the best and shape possible.

This way, you’re adding a few more dimensions to your fitness progression.

On top of that, you’re aiding your recovery.

Because even though the stress you accumulate during workouts is limited by the intensity at which you work out, you still have to deload this accumulated volume to give your body a chance to recover and adapt completely.

The bad thing about these splits is that they’re, most of the time, extremely complicated to design for professional athletes!

You need a true expert in your specific sport to do this correctly. Someone who knows the ins and outs of training and biomechanics.

Workouts on this regimen are often longer than usual, especially on the days where you’re aiming for high-intensity or endurance.

Here’s an example of the Intensive/Extensive in action:

  • Monday: Coordination and balance.
  • Tuesday: Speed and footwork, compound push exercises.
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Coordination and balance.
  • Friday: Speed and footwork, compound pull exercises.
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Active Recovery

All workouts include different exercises.

7. The Primary-Secondary Mover Splits

This split uses old-school terms such as primary mover and secondary mover to describe the muscles you use during exercise.

This split gives you two options:

Either work your major body parts with a smaller body part that synergizes with them.

Or work your major body parts with a part that opposes them.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of each one!

7.1. Primary Mover + Synergist Split

This split aims to combine the major movers of exercises with their secondary movers in the same movement, exercise, and training day.

A great example of this would be the usual chest/triceps, back/biceps.

This split lets you have extreme flexibility when it comes to your training frequency.

Because of the synergistic aspect here, the split puts a lot of emphasis on supersets and drop sets, resulting in really time-efficient workouts.

But the bad part? It’s too advanced for beginners, and sometimes even the advanced lifters find it challenging to recover from it.

As with every split, the secret to doing it right lies within your training frequency.

If you’re using the synergistic approach, a typical workout week will look like this:

  • Monday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps – 1 exercise each, 3-4 sets, 6-12 reps
  • Tuesday: Back, Biceps, Rear Deltoids – 1 exercise each, 3-4 sets, 6-12 reps
  • Wednesday: Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, Glutes – 1 exercise each, 3-4 sets, 6-12 reps
  • Thursday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps – 1 exercise each, 3-4 sets, 6-12 reps
  • Friday: Back, Biceps, Rear Deltoids – 1 exercise each, 3-4 sets, 6-12 reps
  • Saturday: Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, Glutes – 1 exercise each, 3-4 sets, 6-12 reps
  • Sunday: Rest

*Every exercise ends with a superset or drop-set!

7.1. Primary Mover + Opposing Split

As you can probably guess by the name, this split takes the above one and flips the switch on it!

It allows you to work opposing muscle groups together in one day.

For example, have you tried crushing chest and back on the same day? Talk about shocking your body…

This split encourages non-competing supersets – they’re great when it comes to managing your training volume and achieving long-term muscle balance on the opposing sides of your body. A few studies have linked this way of training to improved performance and metabolic stress-related hypertrophy.

Just like its opposing brother, this split also allows you to be flexible with your workouts, giving you the option to go for 3, 4, 5, or 6 days of training a week.

The heavy emphasis on supersets here allows you to maximize your training volume quickly, and always give each body part just enough rest before you shock it again.

The only bad thing when it comes to this split is that most athletes find it uncomfortable incorporating these body part opposing supersets in their workouts… but once they start, they’re in for a treat!

Here’s what your typical workout week would look like with the opposing supersets split:

  • Day 1: Chest/Back – 2 exercises each, 3 sets, 6-12 reps, opposing superset after every exercise
  • Day 2: Biceps/Triceps – 2 exercises each, 3 sets, 6-12 reps, opposing superset after every exercise
  • Day 3: Shoulders/Legs – 2 exercises for shoulders, 4 for legs, 3 sets each, 6-12 reps, opposing superset after every exercise.
  • Day 4: Rest
  • Day 5: Rest or Re-start.

So many training splits… but which one is right for you?

To conclude part two of our journey in the world of training splits, I have to say this…

I’m not here to tell you what to do! I’m just here to give you all the information so you can make the right decision for yourself.

I’ve tried as much as possible to give my non-biased opinion as a professional who has tried and experienced all of these training methods at some point in my life.

I know – what works for me might not work for you.

That’s why I’m asking you to form your own opinion based on the information I provided you!

I firmly believe than you can only make the right decision when all the information is in front of you and it’s all absolutely clear.

At the end of the day, that’s what I’m here to help you do.

So I urge you, take a look at all of these splits, as well as the splits we talked about in part 1…

Choose the one that looks and sounds the most interesting to you, dig a little deeper, and based on the questions I asked you in the beginning of part 1, finally start building that perfect workout split we’re all chasing after!

I know I did it, I know you can do it, and after reading this blog post, you now know exactly how to do it and what your options are!

Good luck, and I’ll see you in the weight room.

How to Choose the Right Training Split for Your Goal – Part I

Full-body Workouts, Upper/Lower Splits, and the Push/Pull/Legs

Hey Angels and Alphas,

You can’t deny it – one of the leading long-term contributors to achieving your fitness goals will be the way you’re scheduling and structuring your workouts.

Of course, nobody is going to magically invent a routine that solves all your problems and gives you the body of your dreams overnight. But that doesn’t mean that striving for it is a bad idea!

If you want to be the most productive you can be in the gym and reach your strength or weight goals faster, you have to decide upon a consistent, productive training split.

You’ll probably go through a lot of different ones over the course of your journey. Through some parts of your life, you’ll only have the time to squeeze in 3 workouts a week. While at other times, when you’re more focused on your fitness goal, you can allow yourself 6 days of training.

These splits are the structure by which your average week in the gym goes by, and learning more about your options is essential to making the right fitness decisions long-term!

To organize the perfect training program, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself:

  • What’s my goal right now?
    Are you pursuing rock-hard triceps and chiseled abs? Are you just trying to stay fit? Or are you planning to pursue a competitive goal?
  • How experienced am I?
    If you’ve been training for a long time, you can allow yourself a higher training frequency.

    There’s no problem moving from a 5-day routine to a 6-day routine, but beginners or people who only train 1-2 times per week should be careful when it comes to sharp jumps in the intensity of their regimen.
    Also, take into account your weaknesses at this point. If you’re doing a longer split, you will have the opportunity to fit an extra body part in your workout so you can add a little bit more emphasis to it.
  • How many days a week can I train?
    If you’re always running around, juggling a dozen things between work, family, and your social life, you might not have the physical capacity to dedicate 6 days of the week to working out. (Even though short workouts work wonders, but that’s another story.)

    But if you’re fully dedicated to reaching a specific goal, you have enough time to pursue it, and you’re giving every major muscle group enough rest in between training days, 6 days a week of training could actually be a significant benefit.
    Keep in mind that, just because you’re bringing more work days doesn’t mean you’re increasing intensity. What you are doing is decreasing the amount of rest you get between those days. So be careful and DON’T work out the same muscle group directly without giving it at least 48 hours of rest.
  • How much rest do I need?
    Rest days aren’t what you do on your day off your routine. Rest days are a part of your routine, and they should be treated with the same importance as training days.
    And we’re not talking about just physical recovery. If you’re living a super busy, stressful life, you might need more physical rest than the average person. And that’s completely okay. But if that’s the case, you also need to do something to re-charge your batteries. This could be a rest day. It also could be a day dedicated to self-care or a day you spend outside!
    Either way, don’t fall in to the trap of demonizing rest days and labeling them as “days of not chasing your goal”. Because in fact, those are the days when you experience your most significant growth.

Once you’ve answered these questions for yourself, it’s time we start taking action!

Down below, I want to talk about the 3 most popular training splits in modern fitness – the full-body workout split, the push/pull/legs, and the upper/lower-body split.

There are a billion options you can choose from when it comes to actually structuring your exercises, sets, reps, and rest periods, so we’re just following a general model.

And the basics are always the right place to start.

If you’re stepping inside the weight room for the first time, stick to the first option – full-body workouts.

As you get more advanced, you gain the experience necessary to be more aware of your body, of all the exercises you do, and how much intensity you can handle on each.

Advanced lifters can handle less rest, more intensity, and more volume. Therefore, for those of you who have some experience under the bar, refer to the 4 questions and then make the best decision for yourself!

Let’s look at the 3 most popular training splits right now and I’ll give you an example at the end of each!

1. The Full Body Split

This is a training split most often categorized as a beginner’s go-to. And for good reason!

Training all your major muscle groups in one go usually involves doing just a few exercises with only a few sets on each.

This lower volume gives your body the ability to start adapting to this new stimulus, utilize more muscle fibers, and reduces the muscle soreness that sometimes discourages beginners.

Not to mention, full-body splits often get linked to more fat burn, as well as faster strength gains for beginners.

The split usually involves training all big muscle groups in the same workout and repeating that 3 times a week, with 48 hours of rest between training days.

Here’s an example week of training with this split:

  • Monday: 1 exercise for each major muscle group, 4 sets, 10-12 reps
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 1 exercise for each major muscle group, 4 sets, 10-12 reps
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 1 exercise for each major muscle group, 4 sets, 10-12 reps
  • Saturday: Rest

2. The Push/Pull/Legs

This is a classic split, a favorite among all gym goers.

With time, as you progress in your fitness journey, you’ll develop the resilience necessary to train your body with more specificity.

One of the most common ways of categorizing which muscles to train on which day is looking at your major muscle groups, and the movements they’ll be doing.

Essentially, it entails grouping all your pushing muscles – your chest, shoulders, and triceps, and training them on the first day. Then taking all your pulling muscles – your back and your biceps, and training them on day two. And finally, leaving the best for last, training your legs on day three.

Abs can be trained pretty much every day.

The reason they’re grouped this way is that by using multi-joint exercises, you are essentially training all the muscles that are aiding that movement.

If you’re doing a barbell row, you’re engaging your biceps and your rear delts. If you’re bench pressing, you’re also hitting your triceps and your shoulders.

Alternatives such as the 4-day or 5-day split might not allow enough recovery time for these major muscle groups, so this split naturally became the most productive choice for the average but ambitious gym goer.

The Push/Pull/Legs split also allows you to efficiently work on your weaknesses by adding a third exercise for the muscle group you want to focus on.

For example, if you notice that your rear delts aren’t looking as sharp as usual, you can add one more exercise that solely focuses on them during your pull day.

With this split, you can either choose to rest once every 6 days or once every 3 days. If you choose the latter, you’ll essentially be hitting the entire 3-day split twice in the course of 8 days which is excellent when it comes to training volume for bodybuilding.

Here’s a quick example:

  • Day 1: Chest, shoulders, and triceps – 2 exercises each; 4 sets; 12, 10, 8, 6 reps.
  • Day 2: Back and biceps – 3 exercises each; 3 sets; 12, 8, 6 reps.
  • Day 3: Legs – 4 exercise; 3 sets; 12, 8, 6 reps.
  • Day 4: Rest or Repeat!

3. Upper/Lower-Body Split

The Upper and Lower-body Split is a super productive choice for the intermediate level lifter who wants to start transitioning form full-body workouts to the more impactful splits like push/pull/legs.

It allows you incredible control over your volume of work – you keep your volume low and slowly increase it until you can reach a point where you can train your upper body in two separate days.

You perform the split by separating your body into your upper part – chest, back, shoulders, arms, and abs, and the lower part consisting of your quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and abs.

Yes, abs can be done pretty much every day.

By using this split, you can quickly identify your weak spots, so you know for sure what body parts you need to start emphasizing.

By increasing the volume for your weaker body parts, you’re building a solid foundation that will make the transition into advanced methods much more smooth.

With the upper/lower split, you can either choose to do 6 to 8 reps per exercise and put the emphasis on strength, or focus on hypertrophy by picking a wider rep range like 10 to 12 or even 15.

Because you’re doing a bit more volume for each body part (compared to full-body workouts), you’ll need more rest days before repeating the same workout again.

Here’s what it looks like:

  • Day 1: Chest, Back, Shoulders, Biceps, Triceps – 1 exercise each, 5 sets, 6-8 or 10-15 reps
  • Day 2: Quads, hams, glutes, calves, abs – 1 exercise each, 5 sets, rep ranges 10 down to 6 or 15 down to 10
  • Day 3: Rest.

And repeat!

Pro tip: You can also repeat the split once before you take a rest day, but I recommend doing this only if you’re past the beginner stage. If you want to just generally increase intensity for smaller body parts, you can try doing 2 exercises for each body part, for 3 sets each!

But we’re going deeper…

So far, we’ve looked at the 3 most popular training splits in the fitness community!

Your natural progression from total-body workouts, to an upper/lower split, to then a push/pull/legs split… is something that will happen in the course of your journey.

Maybe not even in that order.

But with time, you’re going to try different things, you’ll find out what split suits your lifestyle the most, and you need to be using the one that’s the most productive and enjoyable for you.

We’re not going to stop at these 3 training splits…

What about more advanced splits?

Are there ways you can train that will let you get more out of your exercise in a certain situation?

Training splits that are engineered around your lifestyle, your weaknesses, and your body’s neurological needs?

For those of you who want to go in-depth on the topic of choosing the right training split…

I’ve created a Part 2 of “How to Choose the Right Training Split for Your Goal”, in which I’ll go over the more advanced, specific, complicated training regimens out there.

So If you want to learn more about training splits like the 4-day, the 5-day, the Intensive/Extensive split, and more…

I’m waiting for you in Part 2 – read right here!

Probiotics – All You Need to Know

Hey Angels & Alphas!

What if I told you that you’re not the only living thing that has made your body its home?

Did you know what, deep inside you, are residing more than 100 trillion bacteria cells that either want you to help you or harm you? (They amount to about 5lbs of cells).

The bacteria that are truly beneficial to us and our health, who just happen to live inside us, are called probiotics (meaning pro-life).

In this article, you’re about to get acquainted with them.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

What are probiotics?

The latest research on probiotics has concluded that they’re essentially living microorganisms that reside deep within your gut.

The term Probiotic may (or may not) be new to you, but these living organisms have been with you ever since your birth!

Probiotics benefit you in a multitude of ways, all of which can be separated into three categories:

  • Aiding digestive processes.
  • Boosting the immune system.
  • Improving mental health.

According to the National Health Interview Survey, 4 million U.S adults used probiotics or prebiotics in the past 30 days. For most people, probiotic/prebiotic supplements are the 3rd most common supplement used behind vitamins and minerals.

The use of probiotics has quadrupled between 2007-2012 because of their obvious health benefits.

How do Probiotics work?

There are many different kinds of probiotics, and each of them has a particular function in your body. The primary areas in which probiotics benefit you are in the functioning of the gut and digestive tract, the proper performance of the immune system (and getting rid of unwanted guests), as well as improving mental health and aiding weight loss.

Gut health is paramount to your overall well-being. Probiotics are constantly at work in your gut – destroying things that can harm the digestive tract, which includes harmful bacteria, chemicals, toxins, and other types of waste.

Just like there are good bacteria in your gut, there are also bad bacteria.

If there’s an imbalance in your gut, this essentially means too many harmful bacteria and not enough good bacteria. Consequences can include digestive issues, allergies, and mental health problems.

When you take probiotics, you’re helping your body balance out the good and the bad. You’re helping your body restore the natural balance in your gut. As a result of this come all the health benefits which we’ll talk about a bit later.

About 75% of your immune system is in the gut, and since this is the home of probiotics, it makes sense why boosting the immune system would be one of its many benefits.

Although they do an excellent job of keeping the bad bacteria at bay, this is not a job that should be left up to probiotics. What you eat determines how efficient these little organisms are in doing their job. So being conscious of this fact will help them do what they need to do to get your system running efficiently. Of course, this is easier said than done.

With so many people being exposed to toxic food in their lifestyle, they’re producing an environment in which probiotics cannot thrive.

How do we benefit from probiotics?

Since probiotics are live microorganisms, we can consume them through fermented foods or supplements.

A variety of probiotic cultures can be found in fermented dairy products, pickled vegetables, tempeh, and more. We’ll take a look at the best sources of probiotics a little later.

Probiotic supplements can be found as tablets, powders, capsules, and other products that contain these healthy bacteria in a dried form. However, some of them get instantly

ruined by stomach acid before you can even utilize their benefit. That’s why it’s important that you consume only adequate amounts of certain probiotic bacteria that you know will help you.

(Most studies that showed tremendous benefits suggested dosages from 1 to 100 billion live microorganisms.)

What are the benefits of probiotics?

The benefits of probiotics are so many, we can’t possibly look at each individual one. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Fighting off foodborne illnesses
  • Preventing and treats kidney stones
  • Reducing the overuse of antibiotics
  • Healing inflammation in bowels
  • Promoting oral health
  • Boosting the immune system
  • Lowering cholesterol
  • Reducing colds and cases of flu

Are there any side effects of Probiotics?

Just like everything else, there are pros and cons. For most adults, side-effects are limited to a little initial nausea.

But people who have serious health conditions shouldn’t look to probiotics as the main answer. In certain situations, probiotics can do more harm than good.

Other types of people who should approach probiotic use with caution include children, pregnant women, elderly people, and people who have immune system difficulties.

In certain cases (specifically weak immune systems), probiotics can actually increase the chances of getting sick.

That’s why you should always talk to your doctor/physician if you fit into any of these categories before taking any probiotics.

Where do we find Probiotics?

Since the area of probiotics is growing in popularity, people are always looking for new and different ways to get more of these good bacteria in your system. Many supplements are becoming readily available for people wanting to consume more probiotics, but the best source will always be natural sources.

Below is a list of the top probiotics foods that are sure to help you build up the number of good bacteria in your gut.

Top Probiotic Foods

Yogurt – Yogurt is the most mainstream and popular source of probiotics. There’s evidence that suggests that the animal providing this must be grass-fed.

Whether or not that’s true, this is still a great source to get probiotics.

Buttermilk – This nutrient dense food is also a great dairy product to get your probiotics from. Due to its lacto-fermented nature, even people who are lactose intolerant can enjoy buttermilk’s benefits.

It is not recommended to cook with buttermilk since the heat will destroy the friendly bacteria that live in it.

Kefir – This fermented milk beverage is made by fermenting milk with kefir grains. It has been used for generations and referred to as “an almost ideal probiotic”.

Kefir is also beneficial for people with sleeping disorders and ADHD due to its tranquilizing effect on the nervous system.

Pickles – Pickles also are wonderful for your digestive system. The bacteria the resides on the pickle has been shown to be effective at improving the body’s gut health.

Fun fact: Due to its probiotic nature, many pregnant women have been known to crave pickles!

Supplements

There are many different probiotic supplements out there. But how do you know which one to pick?

Due to the fact that probiotics aren’t regulated, one must have a systematic approach to determine what to take and what to ignore.

Doctors and health practitioners usually point to the fact that it’s not the total number of bacteria in a product that’s important. Rather, it’s the number of different strains of bacteria included in the supplement.

So, in short, the more strains, the better. Doctors and experts also suggest that the supplements you decide to purchase have these strains:

  • acidophilus
  • Longum
  • Fifidum
  • fermentum
  • rhamnosus

Conclusion

Probiotics benefit your overall health in a powerful way that can’t be ignored.

These little bacteria silent work day-in and day-out in your gut to maintain your health and vitality. The best way to aid them in this endeavor is to remain conscious of their presence and neglect to engage in behaviors that may bring them harm.

There’s a war going inside you. It’s up to you and your choices which side will win!

Answering the Most Common Questions About Strength Training

Hey Angels and Alphas!

Now… you know how I feel about strength training.

It’s one of my muses for sure, and with time, more and more people are starting to recognize it. Especially in women’s fitness, strength training went from taboo to widely accepted over the last decades, and I’m really happy that happened.

More and more people are opening their eyes, ears, and mouths when it comes to strength training. And they’re asking questions. Questions whose answer might be the difference between “one day” and “day one”.

As always, I’m here to help. Today, I’ve answered the most common questions that new gym-goers are asking in regards to weightlifting and resistance training.

I’ve focused on answering every question with extreme simplicity because I believe starting with the basics is the only right way to approach this.

You can’t rush into strength training and lifting weights without first taking the time to master the basics and, of course, get all your questions about it answered.

Let’s get right into it!

How do we define strength training?

Strength training is a form of exercise in which your focus is to use your muscles to resist against an outside force so you can stimulate muscle growth and strength gain.

You can also call it weight training or resistance training, but the basic premise goes. You create resistance and put it against your muscles so you can work them to your desired intensity. You can do this with weight machines, dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, hand-held weights, your own weight, and the list goes on.

It can be a class activity but most people approach it individually.

Why should I do it?

Muscle building is the most popular benefit of strength training, but that’s only because the media focuses on it.

Strength training provides a variety of benefits that go way beyond just strength and muscle gains!

  • You’ll improve your performance in sports like football, hockey, cycling, martial arts, etc.
  • Prevent lifestyle diseases and strengthen your immune system.
  • Sculpt your dream body and get in the best shape of your life.
  • Improve your balance and functionality.
  • Recover faster from injuries and fractures.
  • Develop mental resilience and perseverance.
  • Burn calories even after you’ve finished your workout and lose weight more quickly.

You can quickly check out my blog post on the four different approaches to strength training. There, you’ll learn how to use strength training to work your power, agility, explosiveness, and endurance.

Who is strength training for?

Everyone. If you’re able to strength train, you should. It’s a lifestyle endeavor that helps you see yourself grow and improve. Who doesn’t want that?!

Young men, young women, adult men, adult women, older men, and older women… everyone can benefit from a form of weight training!

For those of you in cardio-based sports, strength training (and more specifically stability training) is a must! To perform at a high level in your sport, you’ll always need the right balance between strength and cardiovascular work.

Different variations of strength exercises should be incorporated in your regimen, no matter how it currently looks like. Regardless if your end goal is performance, weight loss, a marathon, or Olympic competitions. You need to add strength training to your workout if you wish to see your body and performance grow in a balanced, timely, and productive matter.

Where is the best place to strength train?

Some people prefer starting with strength training at home. And that’s completely okay. All you’re going to need is a little extra equipment as you go.

However, the majority of people who follow regimes and plans often visit health clubs, gyms, fitness centers, or gymnasiums. These places are probably your best bet if you’re already advanced and need to add a variety of equipment and weights to suit your needs.

Both approaches have their ups and downs, to be honest. It’s either one of the two, so I’m not going to convince you which you should try. Just got with your gut. If you want to start at home, do so.

What equipment do I need to start strength training?

If you’re training at home, you can probably get away with a dumbbell, adjustable weight, or two resistance bands. As you start progressing, you’re going to need some essential equipment, but if you’re creative, you can pretty much find it all at home.

Things like yoga mats, inflatable balls, lifting gloves, and other such appliances will sure make your experience more comfortable, but they’re not completely necessary for beginners.

If you’re working out at a gym, the general rule of thumb applies! Always keep a water bottle, a towel, and the proper shoes and clothing in your bag.

Gyms usually have a variety of weights, machines, benches, bands, and so on. There’s often a room or separate area of the gym that’s dedicated to free weights – barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, plates, and everything else you need to hit the right intensity for each exercise.

What should I focus on as a beginner?

As a newbie, you need to focus your attention to mastering the basics.

A few basics movements are going to amount for the majority of your beginner gains. The squat, the bench press, and the deadlift are the three exercises you should always strive to master first.

Developing proper form while using focused reps with low intensity is the best thing you can do as a beginner to guarantee yourself a healthy and productive lifting journey.

To do this, focus mainly on the major compound exercises.

What’s the difference between compound and isolation exercises?

Compound exercises are multi-joint movements that target more than one muscle group. For example, the squat. It targets your glutes, quads, core, and calves. The bench press – targets your chest, triceps, and shoulders.

Isolation exercises, on the other hand, focus on, well, isolating a muscle group so you can achieve a higher intensity of work on that specific area.

How do you define good form?

In the broad sense, doing an exercise the way it’s supposed to be done.

It means following the body position and movement to ensure that the lift is productive and safe and the weight is being applied where it needs to be.

Continuing with our squat example, this could mean keeping your feet a little bit wider than shoulder width apart, firm on the ground, with your heels anchored, and your back straight.

But keep in mind – everyone has their own definition of good form. Just make sure that yours grasps the overall concept of safety, efficiency, and proper muscle targeting.

How should I be breathing while lifting?

Advanced lifters have a couple of techniques of their own, but the general rule of thumb is that you should exhale on the active part of the exercise. For example, when you’re doing a squat, inhale when you’re dropping down to the ground, and exhale when you need to push yourself up.

Honestly, it’s pretty easy to forget to breathe right when you’re weightlifting.

This is something that beginners don’t pay a lot of attention to; however, it’s one of the most critical factors of good form.

How many times a week should I strength train?

At the very least, you should dedicate at least one day a week to strength training.

However, that’s just a foundation.

If you want to see real benefits and make strength training a part of your lifestyle, you need to reserve at least three days a week to focus on the weights.

And if you’re had a couple of years under the bar and you’re trying to reach your body’s full potential, you should be training 5-6 times a week on a regimen that allows proper recovery.

How do you warm-up and cool-down after a workout?

Your warm-up should be a basic routine that includes 5-15 minutes of light dynamic repetitions of the exercises you’re going to do that day.

Before you get to the real weights, you always need to get your major muscles and your supporting muscles to be in-line and ready for higher intensity work.

Your cool-down, on the other hand, is here to help you relax and recover. Cooling down is best done with some stretching, foam rolling, or low-intensity aerobic work.

You can also read this blog post to learn how to make sure you’re always recovering correctly after a workout. Also, I go more in-depth on the most common gym injuries in this post.

Should I get a PT?

Hiring a personal trainer is an excellent idea if you’re serious about getting results quickly and efficiently.

Most gyms have a set of personal trainers that you can get for each of your workouts, but you can just as well hire a private PT for your training sessions.

They’ll create your training program, help you learn more about your body, and tell you how to behave in terms of nutrition.

The only crux here is that you have to make sure your trainer is qualified and experienced in handling clients who have a similar goal set. More on that in a later post!

What’s a “spot”? How do I spot someone?

If you’re bringing a friend along for your new strength training adventure, you’re in luck. You’re going to have someone there to watch you and assist you while you lift for safety purposes.

When you’re spotting, you may assist someone just as the weight is about to overwhelm them. You can also place your hands on the bar and not apply a lot of force so you can simply guide your friend through the correct form of motion during an exercise.

If you’re a beginner, I suggest always getting a spot for your last sets.

Conclusion

We can conclude this strength training FAQ with the following…

If you’re thinking about strength training and you’re looking into it so you can learn more, you already know it’s right for you.

In this post, I hopefully managed to answer every question that you might face on your beginner’s journey into weightlifting.

No excuses now – it’s time to take the first step. 🙂

The Athlete’s Guide for Thriving in the Holiday Season

Hey Angels and Alphas,

We all know the holidays are a time of joy, festiveness, and most of the time, indulgence. They are your taste buds’ favorite time of year, and they herald family get-togethers featuring tons of delicious foods.

Naturally, this poses a few questions. Athletes and regular gym-goers alike ask the same questions every year;

How do you stay fit during the holidays? How do you keep your exercise and diet in check? How do you stay on track to progress and head out the holiday season looking better than ever?

Those are precisely the questions we’re going to answer today. I know that the holidays are a tight labyrinth to maneuver, and that’s why I’m sharing my tips for staying active and fit during the holiday season!

Let’s get right into them.

First and foremost, be mindful. Self-reflect on your whole mindset behind the holiday season.

The first and most valuable step in your holiday fitness journey is self-reflection.

Think about it – Christmas and New Year’s are right around the corner. Why does that trigger people to stop working out?

If you go deeper into that question, you’ll start asking yourself, “well, what does it take for me to skip a workout”? That question is a great place to start. Or “Why does the holiday season feel like a time of overindulgence.” Should I fall into that?”

By digging deep and getting answers to these self-reflective questions, you’ll get a feel for how motivated and driven you are to achieve your goal. You’ll also get to understand your true subconscious motivations for your training (or lack thereof.)

In reality, there’s nothing about the holiday season that *should* stop us on our way to fitness progress.

That being said, though, there are still things we have to bring our attention to, so we make sure we’re not sabotaging our health amid all the festiveness.

Just remember that disciplining yourself out of overindulging, lack of exercise and low motivation is impossible without first realizing the real reasons behind them.

Ask yourself these questions to reflect on your fitness goals…

  • Why should the holidays slow you down?
  • Why should they trigger me to stop working out or stop taking care of my diet?
  • What does it really take for me to skip a workout?

After that, create a holiday goal and make a short plan.

Setting your goal *for* the holidays is simple.

Your goal should be to stay on track. Nothing surprising, nothing complicated.

If you’re training daily, keep doing that. If you’re counting macros, allow yourself a bit of indulgence. It’s really as simple as that. You don’t need to make it any more difficult than it is.

You can go as far as setting a small milestone for you to reach at the end of the holiday season, such as losing/gaining an extra two pounds or hitting a new 1RM.

Whichever way you choose to go, what’s important is that you don’t lose track of your main goal.

A lot of people start slacking during the holidays because they spend a week or two on resting and partying, and their healthy habits start losing their grip.

That’s why keeping your goal in mind and not letting bad habits set in is the best way to stay fit (and actually make progress) this time of year.

Journals are one of your best friends during this season.

Committing to writing a daily journal entry is one of the best things you can do to keep your fitness in check.

Not only can you track your progress throughout the holidays, but you can write about your positive habits so you reinforce them. Journaling is a great way to follow and strengthen pretty much every habit.

Not to mention, studies show us that people who keep a journal lose an average 40-50 percent more weight than those who don’t!

As the saying goes, what gets measured gets managed. If you keep track of certain metrics and write about your progress, your chances of following up with it skyrockets.

This makes journals especially vital during the holidays. Grab a journal if you don’t have one, commit to writing a daily entry, and you’ll see you’ll have no problems with overindulging and workout laziness.

Switch-up your routine a bit to burn more calories!

The holidays are also a time for a change. Don’t hesitate to switch things up in your workouts or even try a new routine.

Especially if you’re low on time during the holidays or you’re traveling back and forth, staying active can be difficult.

In this case, consider creating a short HIIT (high-intensity interval training) routine that you can squeeze in your schedule.

If you have access to a gym, you can craft yourself a 30-minute HIIT workout that will shed off most (if not all) the calories you consume extra that day.

If you plan on working out anyway, but you’re focused solely on resistance training, make sure to add some HIIT elements to heat up your workout and burn some extra calories.

  • If you’re strength training or training for hypertrophy, try adding elements of HIIT in your workout.
  • If you do lots of cardio, try moving up to a standard HIIT routine.

How should you keep your diet in check during the holidays?

Aside from the obvious avoidance of trans fats, sugars, holiday snacks, and processed foods, there are a couple of things you can do to fortify your holiday dieting efforts.

  • Every time you feel hungry for some holiday sweets, drink a glass of warm water. Sometimes, our body craves food to warm itself, and this can cause random episodes of craving sugary foods.
  • Speaking of which, make sure you stay hydrated throughout the holiday season. This time of year, a lot of people forget about pure water and turn their attention to warm chocolate shakes, coffee, high-carb fruit punches, and carbonated drinks. Don’t forget about pure water, even if these drinks have water in them.
  • Remember – a small part of food contains the most amount of calories. That’s what you should beware of – the chocolatey, delicious, carb-full holiday snacks. If you can keep them at a low, you can enjoy all the other sweets and pleasures of the holiday season guilt-free without sabotaging your diet.
  • Avoid alcohol. A glass of wine is fine, but you know what I mean. The holidays sometimes come with a lot of partying and drinking with friends and family, so make sure you’re keeping it in check. A lot of the time, it’s the drinks and beverages that come *with* the alcohol that are high in sugar. Nevertheless, aim for alcohol that has a low sugar content and avoid carbonated drinks like the plague.

Remember – fight the cold!

Some people get sick during Christmas like clockwork. Some people only get the flu when it’s warm.

Whatever the case may be with you, make sure you’re more than prepared for the potential flu that’s creeping right around the corner.

Here are some tips for keeping the common cold away and staying healthy during this season.

  • Try taking a multivitamin to avoid any deficiencies that might weaken your immune system.
  • Don’t spend too much time out in the cold after you’ve completed an intense workout.
  • Beware of showing in the gym when it’s cold outside.
  • Always make sure the essential brand medications like Aspirin are at hand’s reach.

Stay active with awesome Winter sports!

If, on the other hand, you can’t remember the last time you got sick, or you live in a part of the world where Winter is generally warm, you’re in luck.

You get to go out and enjoy a plethora of otherwise inaccessible Winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, and ice-skating.

Aside from being a super fun way to enjoy Winter, they’ll help you stay very active and motivated during the festive season.

Moreover, I know a lot of people love training in the cold. There’s something about training with all the snow and ice nearby that makes certain people love it.

If you’re one of those people, now’s your time. If you’re not, I don’t suggest trying it out to see if it’s fun.

To conclude…

An athlete’s journey through the holiday season can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be.

If you keep your goal in mind, avoid overindulging, and stay consistent with your training, there’s absolutely no reason to be worried.

You’ll probably end up making progress even if you put your diet to the side and focus on more intense workouts. However, keeping your diet in check isn’t difficult at all if you can stay away from alcohol, trans fats, and highly processed foods.

The only thing you should beware of is the common cold that can put you to bed and keep you away from the gym for a while.

Other than that, I believe every athlete is well-equipped to survive and thrive during holidays, and I believe you are, too!

 

8 Most Common Mistakes Women Make in the Gym

Hey Angels and Alphas,

I think the biggest roadblocks on the road to fitness success are the mistakes we’re making without even knowing that they are mistakes.

If you’re doing something and you *know* it’s not beneficial to your fitness journey (for example, cake), it’s up to you to correct that behavior and move on.

But what happens if you don’t even know you’re doing something wrong? How can we realize the mistakes we’re making on the way to fitness success if we don’t even know they’re mistakes?

That’s exactly what I’m here to talk about today – the 8 biggest mistakes women are making in the gym without realizing it.

If your fitness progress is currently at a halt, most likely, you’re doing one of these things without realizing it, and they are jeopardizing your ability to move forward toward your goal.

After you’re done reading this article, you’ll be able to identify these mistakes you’re making unconsciously, and you’ll have the knowledge you need to deal with them.

Let’s dive right in.

Fitness Mistake #1 – Avoiding Heavy Lifting 

We’ve talked about the benefits of heavy lifting over lifting light weights a dozen times. If you haven’t realized it yet, the benefits of living heavy are numerous, and they are all amazing.

It doesn’t matter if your goal is to lose weight or to develop a more athletic figure – heavy lifting is the way to go. Lifting heavy aids in fat loss, although most women generally think the opposite. They believe that they’re going to wake up one day and look like the Incredible Hulk. Far from it, sweethearts!

A big advantage of weight lifting is the ability to burn more calories during and after exercise. When your body is craving oxygen, your caloric expenditure bumps up, therefore causing an increase in metabolic rate. This leads to more fat burning, and coincidentally, fat loss. 

Moreover, resistance training will help you develop a better foundation of muscle on your frame, and the more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn just by sitting at home. It sounds like a great deal!

Don’t be afraid to grab the weights and add strength training as a part of your program. You’ll see enormous benefits regardless of your fitness goal. Other benefits include quality of sleep, more energy, a stronger immune system, and more!

Fitness Mistake #2 – Low-intensity Training

Most women in fitness gravitate toward low-intensity workouts, cardio-based workouts, or both. Some girls just focus on the number of sets and reps they do with a complete disregard for actual training intensity.

Doing 30 sets in a workout won’t make much of a difference if you’re too afraid to break a sweat. 

Instead, you should focus on making the most out of your time in the gym. Your workouts don’t have to be long, even though you’re naturally more enduring than guys are. When you step out of the gym, you should feel like you’ve pushed yourself to the limit – low-intensity workouts will not do that for you.

Fitness Mistake #3 – Too Much Cardio!

You should keep your cardio to 3-4 days a week, and no more than half an hour every session. Keep in mind, strength training should be a part of your training regimen for you to get the most out of your cardio.

Doing too much cardio has a lot of adverse effects on the body. Burnouts, lack of appetite, plus the added risk of losing muscle. If your goal is to be lean and healthy, doing too much cardio will only set you back.

Research proves that doing too much cardio increases the amount of cortisol in your system. This makes your muscles stiffer and more tense, therefore slowing down your metabolic rate. Ultimately, this jeopardizes weight loss.

Fitness Mistake #4 – Too Much Ab Work

I see this every day. Both boys and girls are racking on crunch after crunch, hoping they’ll get their abs to show.

A lot of women in the gym go as far as putting immense pressure on their abs. This is because having a slim waist and visible abs is a really common goal. However, ab workouts will *not*, I repeat, *not* shred layers of fat laying on top of the abdominal muscles. You can’t reduce fat by banging on crunches for half an hour. 

If a toned mid-section is what you’re aiming for, you should be incorporating hypertrophy core work (ab training with weights) along with a balanced diet so you can reduce your fat and actually make the muscles in your abdominals stronger. Eating real food, avoiding processed junk, and incorporating weights into your ab workouts are the only ways you can develop a strong, firm, lean mid-section.

Once you drop the fat down to the point where your abs are visible, you only need to work them out 2-3 times a week. 

Fitness Mistake #5 – No warm-up/ No cool-down.

I know. If you’re living a hectic lifestyle, you’re often in a rush – even when you’re at the gym. Sometimes, we all want to get our workout done and head home, but this has adverse effects on our workout performance. 

Rushing leads to quick workouts, which often provide inferior results when it comes to building muscle and losing weight. Not only that, but they can a recipe for injury.

Taking the time to implement a warm-up and cool-down routine goes a long way to improve the results you’ll get at the gym, even though it might not always seem like it. 

Stretching is usually regarded as one of the most undervalued practices in fitness. Still, its benefits are incredible – improving joint mobility, muscle stability, blood flow, energy levels, and so much more. Perhaps the most significant advantage of stretching is the minimized risk of injury during workouts. 

Stretching protocols are numerous, but I usually recommend women do a dynamic stretching routine before they workout and a static stretching routine after they finish. 

Fitness Mistake #6 – Really Long Rest Periods

Following your rest periods length is a problem for both men and women. Especially in this world of social media, one quick Instagram cruise between sets can turn into 5 minutes of sitting around near an exercise machine. Same with talking to someone at the gym or just getting lost in a song that’s playing through your headphones. 

Athletes beware of this, so they follow their rest periods closely. Every rest period has a specific purpose, especially when we’re talking about strength training and hypertrophy. 

Rest times can go anywhere between 15 and 120 seconds. Women who focus on strength training should usually rest up to 3 or 6 minutes between heavy sets. This is a separate topic, and it’s really complicated, but basically, the more you’re emphasizing strength gains, the longer your rest periods should be. Whereas if you’re aiming for hypertrophy and fat loss, you should keep your rest periods low.

Fitness Mistake #7 – Not Hydrating Enough

No matter who you talk to and what your problem is, the solution always seems to be drinking more water. 

This is especially true in fitness, but there’s a reason for that.

When you’re training and contracting your muscles, metabolic heat gets released in the body. The body then begins to sweat in order to maintain its average temperature. 

Water is an essential part of the process of replenishing the amount of water you lose during training. If you don’t do that, you’re basically asking for trouble. Water is also vital for carrying nutrients around the body, aiding in your post- and pre-workout digestion. 

Don’t ignore it and always bring a 1L+ bottle with you when you’re training, especially if you’re planning to break a sweat.

Fitness Mistake #8 – Doing the Same Workout Over and Over

While men typically change up their workouts whenever they please, most women tend to stick with the same training program for long periods of time. 

While changing training programs often is definitely not the right way to go, you should give every program at least 3-4 weeks to show its effects on your physical and mental state. 

I’m not a big fan of the whole “muscles get used to the workout” idea. To the intensity, sure, but to specific exercises? No way. That being said, repeating the same workout over and over again will actually stump your progress.

Remember, in fitness, rest is just as important as work. If you’re doing the same workout every day, you’re not giving your muscles any time to repair. You’re just continually stressing the same body parts, and you’re actually hindering their development.

While we can talk for days about what the optimum workout split is, just keep in mind that you need to give each body part *at least* 48 hours of rest before you train it again. This is the golden rule of training regime creation. 

To wrap up…

You now know pretty much every mistake (that doesn’t look like a mistake) that you might face on your fitness journey.

Most of them are rooted in misconceptions that are always floating around in the fitness world, and understanding them gives you a new and fresh perspective on training as a whole.

Now that these misconceptions have been debunked and removed from your psyche, it’s time we get to work again – and do it the right way!

Your Quick Guide to Fitness Superfoods

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Even though it goes without saying, we’ll say it again – nutrition is vital.

When it comes to getting lean, building and preserving muscle, losing fat, and pretty with much every other fitness goal you might have, nutrition is what’s going to get you to and past the finish line.

In this world full of nutritional options, the clever athlete/goal-chaser always chooses those that provide the best bang for their buck, or in this case, the best bang for their calories.

Today, I’ve compiled a quick list of a lot of “superfoods” that have been researched and documented to provide you with a health or performance benefit on your way to your goal. Foods that are changing the way we look at “healthy” food.

First, let’s give them a definition.

What classifies a superfood?

Now, the term superfood is fully non-medical. The media popularized it in the fitness and wellness community, and it refers to foods that have specific health benefits – such as reducing risk of certain illnesses, improving emotional health, or just being chock full of healthy nutrients.

Superfoods generally have one nutrient that they have in excess, for example, antioxidants or specific vitamins.

As a surprise to absolutely no one, they’re mostly plant-based with a few exceptions in the dairy/fish area. They’re often labeled as nutritionally dense; hence, they’re good for one’s health.

A lot of foods have the label of superfood nowadays. These include blueberries, salmon, acai berry, kale, beans, sweet potatoes, avocados, king mackerel, tilefish, hemp seeds, kale, broccoli, collards, Swiss chard, noni fruit, dragon fruit, rambutan, pomegranate, and more.

However, there are no specific criteria that determine which foods are superfoods, and which aren’t. That’s why you can think of this as a marketing label for foods that have been proven healthy.

Today, we’ll take a closer look at a few of these superfoods and what makes them so super. This way, you can get a better understanding of where their health benefits arise from and how they can help you achieve your fitness goals faster.

Let’s get right into it.

Superfood #1 – Avocados

Avocados are one of those foods that’s just misunderstood. A lot of people tend to generally avoid it because it’s high in fat. But what most people don’t realize is that the type of fat in avocados is good fat – monounsaturated fatty acids, also known as MUFAs.

Studies have shown that avocados help your body get rid of bad cholesterol, as well as raising the good cholesterol – an absolute key food for people with heart issues.

The average avocado is around 200 grams, and it contains 30 grams of fat and ~320 calories. They’re also a complete protein, meaning they contain all nine of the essential amino acids.

This, as found in a lot of recent studies, helps you preserve lean body tissue while using weight. It also gives your body the full protein profile it needs to build and maintain muscle mass.

They also contain a huge amount of both soluble and insoluble fiber.

Overall, they are one of the best foods when it comes to dropping body fat, and respectively, the risk of any issues related to high body fat.

Superfood #2 – Beans

Beans are not only known for their high protein and fiber contents. They’re also an incredible natural source of B vitamins, and the antioxidant vitamins E, A, and C.

They contain calcium, potassium, and phosphorus, and somehow, they do all of that while being low in calories and fat.

They’re the perfect muscle-building meal for anyone who is conscious of their weight, or for the vegans and vegetarians who prefer proteins from fruits and veggies.

Beans are definitely a food that should be in your menu on the regular, and to improve digestion, just make sure you soak them in water for a few hours before cooking them. 

Superfood #3 – Bananas

Did someone say vitamins and minerals? It’s no secret to anyone – bananas are fantastic.

Not only are they are a great source of energy pre-workout, but they also help you stay hydrated and ensure better muscle recovery post-workout. They’re delicious and super easy to digest – a quick and tasty snack that gives you a noticeable boost in energy.

Another critical factor that makes bananas so unique is that they’re high in potassium and sodium. Potassium and sodium play a vital role in the electrical impulses that are always going around your body, especially during intense muscle stress.

Superfood #4 – Mangos

Mangos are a delicious, quick-digesting carbohydrate that leaves you with a lot of energy and a tropical taste in your mouth. They’re low in calories and extremely high in vitamin A.

One cup serving contains between 20 and 30 grams of carbs, perfect for an immediate energy boost pre-workout. When it comes to living and dieting healthy, mangos are one of your tastier options.

Not to mention, they contain over 20 vitamins and minerals that play a crucial role in protecting your body from free radicals, as well as other effects of oxidative stress.

Mango salads, shakes, and desserts should be a staple in every gym lover’s menu, so if you haven’t paid much attention to them, now’s your chance.

Superfood #5 – Quinoa

You might’ve heard Quinoa called a grain in a lot of places. In reality, it’s a seed.

You’re probably thinking – how can a little seed be a superfood? Well, judge them not by their size, because these little fellows have an incredibly rich nutritional content.

They’re a complete protein containing all essential amino acids, aiding muscle development, growth, and repair. They’re also a complex carbohydrate, giving you 45-50 grams of carbs per cup at a slow digestive rate. One cup of them in the morning will fuel your body for hours, and because they’re such a good combination of proteins and carbs, they’re an excellent option for both pre-workout and post-workout meals.

Not to mention, they’re rich in vitamin C and E, both really powerful antioxidants that protect your body against free radicals, just like those in mangos.

Superfood #6 – Acai Berries

These little berries are phenomenal. Their antioxidant contents are through the roof, and they’re really rich in essential amino acids and trace minerals. Some studies have found a correlation between acai berries and better muscle contraction.

You probably won’t be going around making meals out of these berries, but they make a great addition to pretty much any shake and dessert.

Keep in mind that their most nutritionally dense content is in the pulp. Add it to your smoothies or yogurt, and you’ve got one of the most nutritionally-rich fitness snacks out there.

Superfood #7 – Peanut Butter

Can’t talk about superfoods without mentioning peanut butter. Peanut butter has culturally become one of the best breakfast foods, and with good reason.

If you start your day off with peanut butter, you’re fueling your body with healthy fats and proteins that will give you a massive amount of lasting energy.  

Peanut butter is known to contain the good types of fats – mono and polyunsaturated fats, while containing zero trans fats. It’s a rich source of protein and vitamin E, making it a delicious and potent muscle-building food. If peanut butter isn’t your thing per se, you might want to try almond butter.

Peanut butter snacks are easy to prepare, yummy, and filling. What more could you ask for from a fitness superfood?

Conclusion

As you might have noticed, most of these foods derive their health benefits from their extraordinarily high antioxidant or protein quantities.

These foods are all full of healthy nutrients, but no matter which one you choose to add to your diet, it won’t be enough to substitute a thoroughly productive and fulfilling diet plan.

No matter what your individual taste is, adding a few of these near-magical foods to your diet will help you stay healthier, recover quickly, and get the energy you need to power through workouts on your way to your fitness goal.

It’s no secret to anyone that fueling the body correctly is crucial.

And today, you’ve learned some of the most potent types of fuel for the body out there, and if you tend to spend a lot of time in the gym, consuming these types of foods isn’t a plus – it’s a must.

Hacking your Hormones for Better Mood & Energy

Hey Angels and Alphas,

As you know, hormones are chemicals that are produced by the various glands spread across your body. They make their way through your bloodstream, preforming the duties of messengers and making sure various bodily processes are working optimally.

One of these important functions is regulating your mood and energy, and certain hormones are known for promoting feelings of positivity, happiness, pleasure, and fulfillment.

These hormones, more commonly known as “happy hormones”, include:

  • Serotonin is a hormone and neurotransmitter that helps your body regulate mood, sleep, appetite, memory, digestion, and more.
  • Dopamine is the ultimate “feel-good” chemical, as it plays a vital role in your body’s brain reward system. It’s associated with pleasure, learning, motor system function, and more.
  • Endorphins are the body’s natural pain reliever, and they’re produced by your body in response to discomfort, stress, and fear. Endorphins are also released when you eat, train, or reward in other reward-producing activities.
  • It’s often called the love hormone. It’s essential to many bodily processes such as childbirth, parent-child bonding, relationships, trust, empathy, and it generally increases with physical acts like cuddling, kissing, and so on.

Today, we’re going to look at these natural mood-boosting hormones and find out how to make the best out of all of them. Let’s get started.

Exercise plays a vital role in the management of these hormones.

Exercise has many physical health benefits, but it’s also well known to have a positive impact on mental health and emotional well-being.

The very common term “runner’s high” is a result of the endorphin release that happens during exercise.

That being said, exercise doesn’t just work on endorphins.

If you partake in regular physical activity, you’re boosting your dopamine and serotonin levels.

Bring this together, and exercise becomes one of the best options for boosting your happy hormones and becoming happier, more productive, and more fulfilled.

And so does going outside.

If you’re looking to boost your endorphin and serotonin levels, spending time outdoors is one of your best and simplest choices.

According to research done over a decade ago, exposure to sunlight alone can boost production of both these chemicals and make you happier and more positive.

If you’re stressed right now, start with 10-15 minutes of walking outside every day. Parks are a great place to do this since being around nature always has a positive effect on people.

But what about diet?

It’s a fact – the enjoyment you receive from eating something you love can trigger spikes in dopamine, as well as endorphins. Studies have shown that sharing your meal with someone you love can also boost oxytocin levels because of the bonding over meal preparation.

Many foods also have a direct impact on your hormone levels, so remember this when you’re planning a happy hormone boost meal:

  • Foods containing probiotics – yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles – they influence the release of these hormones.
  • Yogurt, eggs, almonds, and meats are linked to dopamine releases.
  • Foods high in tryptophan can help increase serotonin levels.
  • Spicy foods trigger endorphin releases.

There are also supplements out there.

Many nutritional supplements are aimed at increasing the levels of happy hormones you have, but most of them are built upon or directly linked to one of these nutrients:

  • Green tea and green tea extracts trigger dopamine and serotonin releases
  • Tryptophan, for the reasons we mentioned above
  • Probiotics for dopamine and serotonin
  • Tyrosine, linked to dopamine production

All in all, experts who have studied the effects of these supplements have come to a variety of conclusions, and there’s more research needed to prove the supportive benefits of these supplements.

While supplements can be helpful, they’re not recommended for most people, especially those who have certain health conditions since they can interact with certain medications due to their hormone-changing properties.

What about our hobbies and social activates? Can they help too?

Yes, even laughing with a friend can relieve feelings of anxiety and stress, and turn a frown upside down due to its dopamine and endorphin-boosting qualities.

Have you ever heard the phrase “laughter is the best medicine?”

Moreover, bonding over something funny with your friend or a loved one could even trigger oxytocin releases.

Moreover, listening to music is also an amazing opportunity to boost your hormones.

Research has shown that listening to instrumental music can increase dopamine production, especially if it’s that type of music that gives you chills.

But simply listening to your favorite tracks is enough too. Putting on some music you enjoy will rarely fail to put you in a good mood, and a positive change in your mood increases serotonin production.

Not only that, but musicians also experience endorphin releases when creating music. Creating, performing, dancing, singing, they’re all linked to endorphin releases, which is why a lot of musicians experience a creative high they describe as a “flow state.”

Getting a good night’s sleep is vital to your hormones.

Not getting enough sleep makes you cranky – that’s no secret to anyone!

Not getting enough sleep means tanking your hormones (especially dopamine.) This obviously has negative effects on your mood, not to mention, your physical health.

Not getting enough quality sleep can affect your health in multiple ways.

That’s why setting aside 8 hours a night for quality sleep helps you restore the much-needed hormone balance in your body, automatically making you feel better.

Here are my quick three tips for getting a good night’s sleep every night.

  • Decrease your caffeine intake in the afternoon, and don’t go heavy on the carbs before bed
  • Create a quiet sleeping environment with no screens, light, or noise
  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, create a sleep schedule

What’s the role of meditation on these hormones?

If you meditate already, you probably already know how powerful it is when it comes to reducing stress and improving sleep quality.

Some studies done back in the early 2000s have linked meditation to increased dopamine production (during the actual practice.) Later research even linked it to endorphin releases.

If you’re not sure how to start, choose a comfortable place to sit, sit down quietly, and observe your thoughts. Don’t try to cling to thoughts, judge them, or remove them. Simply observe them quietly by acknowledging their temporary nature.

Do this for 15 minutes a day, and you have a new secret weapon when it comes to dealing with stress and anxiety.

Overall, finding new ways to manage stress will always mean you’re impacting your hormones positively.

Everyone experiences stress, there’s no denying that.

But living with it all the time without making an effort to relax, especially around stressful life events, can tank your dopamine and serotonin production, ruin your mood, and making it even harder to deal with stress in the future.

If you’re experiencing stress, the best advice you can get is to take a break from its source.

Everything we discussed so far will go a long way to helping you deal and reduce that stress by boosting your serotonin, dopamine, endorphin, and oxytocin levels. That being said, your journey toward a happier you stars when you acknowledge the importance of your hormones and you make an effort to work with them – not against them.

How Better Sleep Leads to a Stronger Immune System

During this global pandemic, we should really be making an effort to stay as healthy as possible. And while that does include hygiene, staying active, hydrating, eating properly, and more, it also includes one of the most often forgotten elements of health – a good night’s sleep.

We know for a fact that sleep quality and immune system strength are bio directionally linked. This means that if your immune system is weakened, your sleep quality will most likely suffer as well. This also works in the opposite direction.

Today, we’re going to talk more about sleep, sleep quality, and its relation to immunity. Let’s examine this well-documented connection and give you all the more reasons to start prioritizing a healthy, high-quality sleep schedule.

First, let’s talk about the link between quality sleep and good health.

It’s no secret to anyone – you know how rough you may feel when you don’t get enough sleep.

You’re irritable, groggy, prone to headaches, you can’t focus, and that’s just the surface result. You can also see it all over your face, if you’re one of the people who get breakouts when they don’t get enough sleep.

So at first sight, the impact of sleep on staying healthy is very visible. But today, we’re talking about health as in the ability for your body to fight off illness.

Ensuring you get a proper night’s sleep is one of the easiest ways to strengthen your immune system, as well as protect both your physical and your mental health. When you’re sleeping well, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines. Cytokines promote sleep quality, thereby making it imperative that your body gets at least 7/8 hours of rest per night to fight off infections and disease.

Sleep allows your body to rest and repair during the hours you’re doing it, which is why you usually feel tired when you’re unwell. By sleeping, you’re giving your body the chance to fix what’s wrong.

Sleep supports the cells and proteins of the immune system, and allows them to easily detect and destroy germs. Not only that, but it also helps your body remember them so they can fight them off even faster in the future. Sleep strengthens your immune response, and at times like these, it’s important that we’re getting enough of it.

So how does better sleep lead to better immunity?

Study 1

A team from the University of Tübingen (in Germany) recently did a study and found a mechanism linking sleep quality to the proper functioning of the immune system.

The researchers found out that getting an adequate amount of sleep boosts the effectiveness of specialized immune cells called T-cells.

In this research paper, which you can now find in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, the scientists explain what lies at the bottom of this relationship between sleep and the body’s defenses system against infection.

T-cells make up a part of your body’s immune response when a potentially harmful body enters your system.

These immune cells help your body recognize the pathogens, then activate integrins, which are basically a type of protein that allows T-cells to attach to their foreign targets.

However, the study notes that very little is known about how T-cells activate integrins, as well as what prevents these cells from attaching to these targets.

But the team continued.

They wanted to learn more about these mechanisms, so they focused on alpha-coupled receptor agonists. These are a type of signaling molecule that has the ability to block the action of the immune system.

Laboratory analysis found that some of these receptor agonists stopped T-cells from activating integrins, naturally preventing them from attaching to their target.

The study concluded that sleep has the potential to enhance the efficiency of T-cell responses, and that this is especially important considering that many people around the world suffer from disorders such as impaired sleep, depression, chronic stress, shift work, and other things that impair sleep quality.

Study 2

Another study did something different, and they looked at identical twins and found that the twin that slept less every night had a reduced immune ability to fight off disease compared to the twin that got a good night’s sleep.

From this, the researchers concluded that not getting enough sleep can compromise your immune system and make it easier for viruses or harmful bacteria to enter your system. Not only that, but when poor sleep quality suppresses the immune system, you’ll need more time to recover if you do end up getting sick.

This is because your immune system releases a specific type of protein called cytokines. They’re essentially part of your body’s first line of defense against invaders. Note: They’re also released in response to injuries.

When you haven’t gotten enough sleep, your body’s production of cytokines naturally decreases, and so does the development of infection-fighting antibodies, making you more susceptible to viruses.

What does this mean for you?

Because sleep quality and immune system function are so closely connected, this means that you can benefit your health by participating in activities that improve your sleep quality.

Proper dieting, exercise, meditation and relaxation, have all been linked to benefiting your sleep, and therefore, your immune system!

Even if you believe you’re getting an adequate amount of sleep right now, what you should be focusing on is sleep quality.

In reality, everybody has different methods for getting enough sleep. But if you’re struggling with getting high-quality sleep on a long-term basis, you need to be re-structuring your sleeping habits as soon as possible.

You may need a little help to develop your routine and achieve sleep consistency.

In a final study, researchers concluded that one in ten people sleep better after sufficient exercise. One in eight people said that reading a book before bed improved their sleep. Some people do yoga and report better sleep quality.

That’s why regardless if you’re getting enough decent sleep right now, it won’t hurt you to take a look at your sleep habits and decide on ways you can improve them.

During these stressful times, getting enough sleep helps you a lot. It reduces stress, enhances your immunity, improves your overall health, and it’s definitely something you should be prioritizing right now. Your body will thank you for it.

 

 

The 4 Most Common Micronutrient Deficiencies (and how to handle them)

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Whether you’re someone who is just now entering the world of nutrition or you’re a seasoned pro who counts every single calorie, chances are you should be paying more attention to nutrient deficiencies.

Often times in the fitness and nutrition community, everyone talks about protein, carbs, and fats while completely ignoring micronutrients. In reality, this just goes to show how much misinformation there is out there. Because once you realize how vital certain nutrients are to the proper functioning of your body, you just have to make them a priority.

And while getting the adequate amount of nutrition is possible from a balanced diet, the modern-day Western diet is especially low in a few key nutrients.

Today, we’re going to talk about the five most common nutrients deficiencies that people all over the world are suffering from – and of course, we’re going to talk about how to handle them.

Let’s get started with, by far, the most common nutrient deficiency in the world.

#1 – Iron Deficiency

Iron is an essential mineral that’s a vital part of red blood cells, in which it serves the purpose of binding and transporting oxygen to the cells.

Iron deficiency is extremely common, especially in young women, children, and those following a vegetarian/vegan diet. It affects more than a quarter of all people worldwide. It’s one of the causes of anemia, chronic fatigue, a weak immune system, and even impaired brain function.

There are two types of dietary iron:

Heme iron:
Heme iron is very well absorbed by the body, and it’s found in many animal foods – particularly red meat.

Non-heme iron:
This type of iron is more common since it’s found in both animal and plant foods. That being said, it’s not as easily absorbed as heme iron.

One of the biggest problems with iron deficiencies is that they’re really common in kids – almost half of preschool children suffer (mostly unknowingly) from a lack of iron in their diet. Unless their diets are focused toward more iron-rich and iron-fortified foods, most children are very likely to lack iron.

Another more common cause of the iron deficiency is found in young women – especially during pregnancy. And of course, vegetarians and vegans risk this deficiency because they only consume non-heme iron.

Here are some of the best sources of dietary iron:

Heme iron:

  1.  Red meat. 100 grams of ground beef can amount of almost 40 percent of your required daily intake.
  2. Oysters, shellfish, clams, mussels, sardines. Most fish products.

Non-heme iron:

  1. Dark and leafy greens! Broccoli, spinach, kale – all rich in iron.
  2. Seeds. Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, squad seeds.
  3. Beans. 100 grams of cooked beans equates to a third of your daily iron requirements.

Fact: You shouldn’t supplement with iron if you’re getting enough. But if you’re not, supplementing is an easier option. Keep in mind that vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron. Oranges, bell papers, and other vitamin C-rich foods can help you maximize your iron absorption.

#2 – Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D travels through your bloodstream and into your cells, essentially carrying information about whether a gene should turn on or off. Nearly all the cells in your body have a receptor for this vitamin.

Vitamin D’s most famous source is the sun! Most specifically, it’s produced when cholesterol (in your skin) is exposed to sunlight. Studies have shown that people who live far from the equator are likely to be deficient in vitamin D and therefore, have to make an extra effort to include more of it in their diet.

In the US, over 40 percent of people are deficient in vitamin D. Even more so in older adults and people with darker skin, because their skin produces less vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.

A major issue with this deficiency is that people often don’t realize they have it – the symptoms are super subtle, and actually develop over the course of months and years. The more time you spend deficient in vitamin D, the more likely you are to experience muscle weakness, impaired immune system function, and a higher risk of bone fractures.

In reality, not a lot of foods contain significant amounts of vitamin D.

Here are some of the few that do:

  1. Egg yolks. One egg yolk from a large egg can contain up to 10 percent of your daily vitamin D requirement.
  2. Fatty fish. Sardines, salmon, and mackerel are very rich in vitamin D. They should be your go-to option since 100g of serving of cooked salmon can provide you with all the vitamin D you need for the day.
  3. Cod liver oil. Not famous, but chock-full of vitamin D.

#3 – Iodine Deficiency

Iodine is an absolutely essential mineral when it comes to optimal and productive thyroid function (and the production of thyroid hormones.)

Thyroid hormones play a major role in a variety of bodily processes – such as your physical growth, your brain development, and the regulation of your metabolic rate.

But regardless of how important it is, it’s still one of the most common deficiencies in the world. It affects nearly a third of the world’s population!

The most common symptom of this deficiency is an enlarged thyroid gland. It naturally leads to increases in heart rate, weight gain, and shortness of breath.

Several studies have linked the iodine deficiency to very harmful conditions, especially in children. You have to make sure you’re getting enough iodine to ensure that your basic bodily growth and developmental processes are working normally.

Here are some great sources of dietary iodine:

  1. Fish – 100 grams of fish contains, on average, 50-60 percent of your iodine requirements.
  2. Dairy – best choice is plain yogurt.
  3. Eggs – two eggs a day keep an iodine deficiency away.
  4. Seaweed – kelp has more iodine than you would ever need! 1 gram contains more than 500 percent of your daily requirements.

Keep in mind, iodine is commonly found in soil and ocean water. This means that if the soil is low in iodine, it’s going to produce food that’s low in iodine.

#4 – Magnesium Deficiency

We’ve talked about the importance of Magnesium for athletes many times, but now, I want to stress out how important it is even for the people who don’t actively train.

Magnesium is an essential mineral for healthy bone and teeth structure, and it’s required in more than 300 enzyme reactions throughout the body! That being said, almost half of the American population consumes less than Magnesium than needed.

A low magnesium intake is closely related to many severe conditions such as metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Some studies even find that nearly half of the people who are hospitalized are deficient in Magnesium.

Some of the most common symptoms of this deficiency include – muscle cramps, restless leg syndrome, fatigue, migraines, and abnormal heart rhythm.

But there are more subtle symptoms that have to do with insulin resistance and high blood pressure – both things you don’t want to be dealing with on a long-term basis.

Here are some of the best dietary sources of Magnesium:

  1. Dark and leafy vegetables!
  2. Dark chocolate – 100 grams of dark chocolate provides you with half of your daily Magnesium intake.
  3. Nuts – especially almonds!
  4. Whole grains – one cup (250 grams) a day will give you more than enough Magnesium for one day.

To conclude…

We can say with almost absolute certainty that anyone who is reading this will be suffering from at least one of these deficiencies. Considering the huge amount of people who are deficient in these basic (but vital) minerals, it’s highly likely that we fall into at least one of these categories.

And if you’re a young woman, older adult, vegan, you’re at an even higher risk of more than one micronutrient deficiency.

The best way to handle these deficiencies and get your health on the right track is to focus on a balanced diet that contains whole, nutrient-dense foods. The more attention the fitness and nutrition community pays to macronutrients such as protein and carbs, the less time we have to talk about their micronutrient counterparts.

That being said, they are still there, and they’re still important, so we have to make an effort to consume the right amounts of them if we want to stay healthy and make progress on our fitness journey.

Even though it’s hard for most people to obtain the necessary amount of these nutrients through diet alone, it is possible – if you focus on the right foods. But if you’re one of those people who just doesn’t have the ability to micro-task and make sure they’re getting enough of everything, supplements are also a great option.

Finally, let this post be a reminder that you should check your diet and maybe even go see a professional to learn what type of nutrient deficiencies you have – so you can ultimately handle them and stay safe, healthy, and growing.

How To Create Your Default Diet

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Have you ever wished that you could make dieting simple, straightforward, and sustainable?

With no obsessing over numbers, no deprivation, and no ban-list full of your favorite foods?

Can you imagine a diet that gets you the results you want, but doesn’t require any willpower to follow? As a matter of fact, it’s so easy to follow, that you can simply make a few changes in your current diet and dieting philosophy and you’ll be reaping all its benefits!

Lucky for you (and everyone else), it does exist!

Today, we’re going to be talking about the Default Diet – a concept created by fitness coach and author Eric Helms. The Default Diet is a dieting approach that he uses with himself and his trainee bodybuilders to help them not only achieve the results they’re looking for but also build a good relationship with food on a psychological level.

If you’re someone who feels overwhelmed and lacking control of their diet, this article will help you regain that control and get the structure you need at no expense to your motivation and willpower.

Without further ado, let’s get right into it!

What is the default diet, and how does it work?

Eric Helms calls this methodology the default diet because it’s the basic setup of how you eat. For the competitors out there, you can think of it as a low-calorie day during contest prep.

It’s basically the structural backbone of your diet, a foundation that you set and then work on top of.

This approach is profoundly effective for both fitness competitors and dieting newbies. It’s essentially tailored around creating a specific “habit” diet that you follow effortlessly. The goal is to not only get the macronutrients you need to reach your goal, but as we mentioned above, to facilitate a healthy relationship with dieting.

Once you create this foundational diet, you can easily modify the rest in other to fir a different phase or goal.

For example, if you’re in the off-season, there is a big chance you’re stacking up on food and gaining weight rather quickly. And if you’re in a phase of contest prep, you’re focused on continuously decreasing the amount of calories you intake.

This is where we make a distinction between qualitative and quantitative variables. Instead of following a quantitative approach and prioritizing numbers, you instead head on the path to creating qualitative results – establishing a habitual diet that you follow without any effort.

This means that, once you establish that default diet, your diet won’t look drastically different in two different phases like contest prep and the off-season.

For the everyday lifter, this means creating a basic habitual diet that you then *add* things on top of. As the saying goes, everyone has a diet, and whether you realize it or not, you have habits and cues controlling all your dietary decisions.

For someone, the basic structure of their diet might mean eating four times a day and having a lean protein source and a fruit/vegetable with every meal. Essentially, this means that’s the part of their diet that’s habitual – it takes no extra effort or willpower to follow.

That being said, let’s talk more about the pros of this dieting approach and how it can help you achieve the results you’re looking for.

The Default Diet is all about flexibility.

Once you create this structural backbone of a diet, you can then mix and match different approaches based on the metrics you’re looking to achieve right now.

Therefore, the heart of your diet remains the same, and you have absolute freedom to add things on top.

A big mistake people make in dieting is thinking they will get results if they just eat this one specific thing at this one specific time of day. In reality, if your diet has no flexibility, it also has no sustainability.

You need to be able to adjust your approach and make changes in what you eat while still getting the macro and micronutrients you need to gain results. This is where the strength of the default diet comes in – once you follow it as an outlined philosophy, the specific foods you eat don’t matter as much.

As long as you know you have to get (a) a lean protein source and (b) a fruit/vegetable with every meal, the particular food choices you make are irrelevant. Basically, as long as you get your basic foundation in, you have endless flexibility when it comes to the rest.

The Default Diet is sustainable!

If you’ve been trying to change your diet habits (or adopt new ones), you know it can be a difficult and challenging task to go against your nature. For that reason, the default diet takes a unique approach to your diet’s sustainability.

For example, if you’re someone who wants to lose weight, you shouldn’t be trying to abolish all your current food habits. You can’t just ditch all the food you like and become “disciplined” enough to eat whatever you have to. If someone lives a sedentary lifestyle and stares at a screen all day, you can’t just tell them to start training.

But what you *can* do is guide them toward the right path through a mindset of abundance.

Instead of leaving foods behind, you might want to make it a habit to learn about new foods. You might want to make it a habit to eat a fruit/vegetable every time you sit down for a meal because fruits and veggies keep us satiated and have a low energy density. Ironically, studies show us that adding new foods to your diet is more beneficial than removing foods when it comes to losing weight.

When you approach dieting from this frame of abundance, creating habits becomes easier, eating healthy becomes effortless, and following a diet becomes something you don’t have to think about.

Something as small as switching chips with popcorn will have an incredible effect on the amount of calories you consume, even though it’s still considered “junk food.” That’s because popcorn takes a while to eat and generally has a lower calorie density than chips. (This means satiety signals come more quickly and you end up eating way less.)

This brings us to our final point…

The Default Diet is great for anyone!

Some of the hardest phases of competitive bodybuilding are the transition periods between the contest prep and the off season. Bodybuilders know that, if their habits are drastically different in these two periods of time, this results in poor performance at the show followed by overindulging and a bad relationship with food after the show.

Dieting vs. Lifestyle

Hey Angels & Alphas,

Today, we’re here to talk about one of the most (if not the most) essential concepts in all of fitness and training – the focus on long-term results.

I’ve talked about this on social media a few times, but I feel like I can’t stress it enough.

In the world we live in nowadays, everybody is looking for quick results. And that’s okay. That’s how the brain works, and that’s how we usually operate as people. On top of that, society is always bombarding us with more and more information, and more and more marketers are using the “quick fix” or the “just do this” narrative to attract people.

However, it’s not effective from a personal health and fitness progress point of view. Have you, yourself, dieted in order to achieve a weight loss result? If yes, you’re not alone.

The statistics speak. Over 40 million people in the United States alone go on a diet each year. Dozens of billions of dollars are spent on weight-loss. That being said, why is it that so many people still struggle with weight management?

Is this about our diet, or is this an issue of how we approach dieting?

Let’s break down the differences between the fitness “dieting” and fitness “lifestyle” mind frames. This way, you’ll hopefully get a clear picture of where you have to bring your awareness to, and the steps you have to take to achieve your results.

And it’s not just about weight loss; this applies to everything we do in life – from our fitness to our health, to our career, everywhere.

Let’s dive in.

What’s Dieting, and Does It Even Work?

When you look at diets in the traditional, modern sense, there are a handful of characteristics that are present in all of them.

  • You categorize foods as “good” and “bad” for you.
  • You restrict your calorie consumption.
  • Your progress is number-dependent, not result-dependent. In other words, reaching a number on a scale becomes your goal.
  • Diets have an end date.

In their nature, diets are temporary. Usually, when you get on a diet, you have a specific result you want to achieve – be it weight loss, weight gain, or handling some internal body issue. But when you frame your eating habits as a diet, you put a conceivable end in sight.

When you’re on a diet, your goal isn’t to improve your life. It’s to “survive” until the diet ends. In reality, your diet should not be a process of perseverance. You’re not supposed to just hold on a little longer until you finally get to see the result you’re after. Diets are looked at as something abstract from your normal life, something you have to do to get somewhere. That’s just not a good way to look at things.

Why?

Let’s face it – dieting ultimately fails when it comes to long-term weight management. It just does!

Here’s a research analysis published back in 2007 in the “American Psychologist” journal. They analyzed clinical data from over 30 studies and concluded that dieting does not work. Diets help you love an average of 5 to 10 percent of your body weight – in the short term. Nevertheless, it’s implausible that you’ll maintain that weight loss effect.

The research shows that over 70 percent of everyone who went on diets later regained the weight they lost. Not only that, but they added more weight on top! So not only is dieting ineffective, but it’s actually counter-productive.

On top of that, intense exercise regimes made dieters feel horrible. Once they achieved the weight loss result, they reported feeling that they needed to endure their workouts for their prescribed period.

Only to have all that weight come back, and then some.

Imagine being on a diet and getting a wonderful, sweet, chocolatey gift from someone. You might say, “Hey, I can’t eat that right now. I’m dieting. But in a couple of months, when my diet ends, I’ll finally be able to enjoy food again!”

And when you look at it from a long-term respective, that’s just uncomfortable and punishing. Your diet isn’t something you should have to endure.

Have you ever dieted for weight loss?

Most of us have. At some point. Especially when you’ve got a summer trip or an important event in the near to mid future. In this case, a diet feels like the “quick fix” solution to looking good on a trip or drawing eyes at that event.

But I’m here to tell you that diets are only there to bring you short-term results, and in most cases, will end up doing more harm than good.

If you really want to achieve results that will stick around…

If you believe that success comes from enjoying the journey, not rushing to the destination…

And if you feel like your eating habits are not something that you should be persevering through…

Then you don’t need a diet. You need a change of habits.

A lifestyle change.

What’s the Difference Between A Diet and A Lifestyle Change?

People fear the word change. They don’t like the fact that they’ll have to do something unpleasant for a little while. Which is ironic, because that’s what diets are for the most part.

When you focus on long-term lifestyle changes instead of short-term dieting, you’ll quickly discover a few things.

You’ll be less likely to experience cravings. There will be no food deprivation. No weakness and exhaustion. No mental stress. No harm to your body.

Lifestyle changes are much more about listening to what your body is telling you.

It’s not about achieving a short-term goal that disappears after a while. It’s about creating and sustaining a permanent result.

How Do We Make a Lifestyle Change?

In their very nature, they’re permanent. The most common goal for people on diets is weight loss, but when you make a lifestyle change, you’ll discover that your results will not disappear. That’s because lifestyle changes have no end in sight.

You won’t constantly be thinking about how to survive another day without your favorite sweets. When you’re in it, you’re in it for good. And you feel completely okay with that.

When you start adapting your life and behavior to match your new lifestyle goal, things change at a slower but more secure pace. Instead of throwing away all your sweets & treats, you might decide to save them for specific days of the week and look for healthier alternatives.

You start enjoying your food more by adapting your life to this new habit.

Your diet isn’t a chore anymore. It’s your day-to-day healthy living reality.

Lifestyle changes are about developing new habits that will, in the long-term, bring you closer and closer to the life you want to live.

While the focus of your diet is to make a short-term change in order to get a result, a lifestyle change is about creating habits that let you live your life without the need to make any changes.

As a counterpart to the study we talked about earlier, check out this one. Researches here concluded that lifestyle changes contributed to the dieters’ ability to keep weight off.

While diets focus on limiting foods and calories, lifestyle changes include things like eating breakfast regularly, exercising daily, tracking your weight management progress, and so on.

When you create this mindset shift within yourself, you don’t limit your result to weight loss. You’ll become healthier and more disciplined, you’ll sustain your progress, and you’ll do it without the need to persevere through it like a prisoner serving a sentence.

Lifestyle changes are about being mindful of yourself, your needs, and your goals. They’re about sticking for the long haul, not satisfying yourself with a short-term result.

Naturally, this means:

  • Focusing on moderation, not restriction.
  • Exercising regularly, not just for a short period until you get a result.
  • Listening to your body’s needs instead of ignoring them.
  • Losing weight at a slower, but healthier, pace.
  • Not attaching your progress to numbers.

To conclude, I can honestly say that if you’re on a weight-loss journey, dieting is not what you need. If you’re still jumping from diet to diet, it’s time you recognize the fact that there’s a long road ahead.

While losing a lot of weight in a short amount of time with a diet is tempting, it’s also bad for your health and will result in regaining your weight.

What you should do is aim for lifestyle changes, developing new habits, and truly focusing on your health and wellness instead of the number on the scale.

I promise you, if you choose to follow this path, you won’t regret it.

 

Healthy Eating – Understanding Your Protein, Carb, and Fat Intake

Hey Angels and Alphas!

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re working toward a fitness goal.

Now I don’t need to be a fortune teller to tell you that, but let me elaborate a little bit.

Whether you’re in the gym all day and you’re tracking all your food down to the last calorie, or you’re just someone who likes being active and learning more about fitness and nutrition, there is a goal in front of you that has to do with keeping your body fit and healthy.

And it’s that goal that brought you here. To a blog post in which I’m going to dive deep into the essence and function of the three major macronutrients – proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

Even though you know how important both exercise and nutrition are important when chasing a goal, I believe we can agree on two things:

No amount of dieting is going to balance out a lack of physical activity, and no amount of physical activity is going to offset a lousy diet.

So even though technically they’re equally important, I’m keeping the focus on nutrition for this post!

The reason I’m digging into this topic is that healthy eating is nowadays an extremely overcomplicated and misunderstood mess.

People are afraid of high protein and high-fat diets, and let’s not even get started on the carbohydrate hate floating around in the fitness world. (But we will get to it.)

That’s why today, I want to give you a new perspective on the topic of healthy eating.

Right now, I’m going to deconstruct proteins, carbs, and fats, so I can hopefully give you a better understanding of what your body truly wants and needs.

Once you know that, there’s going to be nothing else standing between you and a healthy, sustainable, goal-inspired diet.

Let’s get started!

1. Proteins

Proteins are essentially chains of linked small molecules called amino acids.

Protein is the second most abundant nutrient in our bodies (the first being water), and it provides our body with 4 calories of energy per gram.

While the fitness community has spent all their time bashing carbs and fats, proteins have become the most spoken-about nutrient among athletes, bodybuilders, and just about anyone who has ever stepped foot in a gym.

And that’s understandable!

Protein is like the glue that holds your body together. (And the body of every living creature for that matter).

When we eat protein, these amino acids split apart and get absorbed in the small intestines where they are rearranged and sent into the bloodstream. These newly reorganized proteins carry out most of our body functions.

There are twenty-two amino acids your body needs, but only nine of them cannot be produced by the body. That’s why if we want to achieve our healthiest, best-looking figure, prioritizing these nine essential amino acids is a must.

This is where your diet comes in!

The nine essential amino acids you must consume through food or supplements are; Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Tryptophan, Threonine, Valine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, and Methionine.

And honestly, it’s not even about eating a ton of protein – it’s about eating the right type of protein. Because without the right amount of each essential amino acid, your body will end up wasting the protein you intake by not consuming it properly and throwing it out.

Your body uses the calories from protein by utilizing them for energy, allowing them to carry out vital body functions, or just storing them as fat.

When you’re lacking carbohydrate or fat calories for fuel, your body is going to start using protein calories for energy. When you are sufficiently carb-ed up, your body is going to use protein calories to carry out specific functions like replacing old cells, building muscle tissue, and growing your hair and nails.

These amino acids are also directly responsible for your muscle growth and metabolic rate as they help the body produce hormones that regulate your blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
If your diet is low in essential amino acids, your body simply cannot carry out its protein-related functions!

There are foods out there that are known as complete proteins – they contain each of the nine essential amino acids. They include animal products like milk, fish, cheese, eggs, chicken, and beef, and a few plant-based ones such as quinoa, soybeans, and buckwheat.

Incomplete proteins are foods such as most plant products. They are the reason vegan/vegetarian diets often combine different incomplete proteins to fill the entire spectrum of essential amino acids they need to consume. Things such as grains and vegetables often complement beans and nuts in vegan diets.

Higher protein diets have been linked to better muscle development, faster and more productive recovery, stronger tendons, more gains in strength, weight loss, better sleep, and many more.

In short, all protein is good for you – but complete proteins are just awesome.

Addressing kidney problems…

Experts like to scare people away from high-protein diets by saying they cause all sorts of kidney related issues.

This, however, is not a concern for people who do not have preexisting kidney conditions. In the off chance that you do have one, your doctor has already told you a million times how much protein you need to be consuming.

But if you’re still worried, check out this study that concludes that the average training person should consume at least 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight to get an advantage. Simply put, if you’re going to be overeating on any one macronutrient, protein is probably the safest choice.

Pro tip: Aim for an average of 2.5 grams of protein every day for every kilogram of your desired body weight.

2. Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are made of sugar molecules that break down into smaller versions called glucose, glycogen, cellulose, and etc.

Carbs, just like protein, contain 4 calories of energy per gram.

And let me tell you – your body loves these little sugary molecules!

A lot of nutrition experts will tell you carbohydrates are your body’s favorite way of getting energy, but carbs play a much, much more profound role in our overall nutrition.

Look around!

Nowadays, every single diet seems to focus on carbs. (Especially weight-loss diets).

Carbohydrates have been demolished by the media and fitness personalities, and it looks like they’re competing with fats on which nutrient can get the worst reputation.

All jokes aside, carbohydrates are complicated.

Of course, some carbs are good for you! But when someone hears the word “carb,” they most often think about highly processed fast foods that are only called food because you can put them in your mouth. And yes, you can process any food over and over until it becomes unhealthy, but carbohydrates are taking the entire blame for the obesity epidemic, and that doesn’t do them justice.

It’s just that people love eating them!

For now, let’s take a look at the different types of carbohydrates, so you get an idea of what you need to be consuming more, and what you need to be consuming less of.

Carbohydrates are classified into two main categories: simple and complex.

There are also fibrous carbs that are found in fruits and veggies, but for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to discuss the carbs that have an actual impact on our weight. Carbs from veggies are unlikely to have an adverse effect on your figure.

Simple Carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates are often super tasty. They include honey, syrup, table sugar, soda, cakes, cookies, beers, candy, and so on.

They are the carbs most often referred to as “bad carbs,” and should be avoided outside of cheat days and moments of weakness.

They provide an immediate boost in blood sugar, but that boost is short lived and leaves your body craving more of these carbs in order to sustain its blood sugar levels.

And that’s the problem!

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates include bread, cereals, pasta, oatmeal, beans, fruits, veggies, and many more.

The general belief in the fitness community is that complex carbs are better for you, but that isn’t always the case.

What makes complex carbs significantly different from simple carbs is the fact that they’re digested at a much slower rate. This slower pace of digestion provides your body with a stable, linear flow of energy whereas simple carbs give your body short bursts of it.

So it’s not really about the type of carb you eat. The only thing that matters is how quickly your body can break it down into glucose and turn it into energy, and how your blood sugar levels are going to react to it.

The best way we currently have to rate the quality of carbohydrates is via their glycemic index (GI).

The GI refers to precisely those two things – the speed at which foods break down for energy in your body, and how much they boost your blood sugar.

But although eating low-GI foods is better than eating high-GI foods, the end result isn’t going to be much different if you’re still consuming the same amounts of calories.

Simply put, complex carbs are a better option because they “burn” more slowly.

What you need to remember is that you need carbohydrates to stay healthy. Don’t let these fad diets keep you from loading up on carbs before an intense workout.

Even though low-carb diets have shown to provide some health benefits, few of them relate to weight loss and gym performance.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition proved this when they compared low-carb and high-carb diets in a study and concluded that there were no significant differences between the two when it came to muscle retention, fat loss, and your metabolism.

Pro tip: Determine your carb intake last. Prioritize fats and proteins. Remember: the right amount of bad carbs is always better than the wrong amount of good carbs.

3. Fats

Fats are fitness’ scapegoat.

This onslaught of bad media has people buying into the “low-fat” craze, thinking what they’re buying is actually healthy, just because the label says it’s “low-fat.”

But ironically, everywhere where fat consumption decreases, obesity rises.

The positive effects of fat are rarely brought up, and I think it’s time we change that!

I’m not going to go all “scientific” on you, but really…

Fats have 9 calories per gram – they give us more than twice the energy that proteins and carbs give us. This makes them a super-efficient energy source for the body.

Fat plays a vital role in the healthy functioning of our nervous system. Every neurochemical signal in your body (for example when your brain tells your arm to move) happens because of fat. They help men produce testosterone, and they keep our hearts and muscles healthy.

On top of that, fat has an impact on your blood pressure, blood clotting, and the inflammation going on inside your body.

It’s also more satiating than carbs and protein, it protects your organs, balances your core temperature, and even regulates hormone production.

To sum it all up, fat is necessary for the healthy and productive function of your entire physiology.

Right now, I want to share with you a little bit about the different types of fats, and why you should make an effort to include all of them in your diet. (Not trans fats though.)

Saturated Fat

Let me just start off with this – studies have linked high saturated fat consumption to heart disease, but the majority of these studies have been disproved when researches went back and looked at the entire data.

Because of these old, biased studies, the media and different health organizations started pointing the finger at saturated fats as the reason for a variety of health problems such as heart disease.

Data has come up that disproves their claims, but it’s often completely disregarded.

Just to give an example, research was done off the coast of New Zealand in an area called Tokelau. Residents there consumed a diet consisting of over 50% saturated fat, yet they top the world rankings in cardiovascular health. This, along with other cases and data, is entirely ignored by the media.

They’ll tell you all about the newest low-fat products, but will undermine the fact that even the chairman of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard publicly stated that saturated fats are not the cause of obesity and heart disease.

Saturated fat is an excellent energy source for your body – not to mention, it’s extra satiating and keeps you full for a long time. Don’t let biased media and fitness personalities tell you that these types of foods are bad for you.

If saturated fat were bad for you, your body wouldn’t naturally store carbohydrates as saturated fat.

So if you’re not a vegetarian, stop running from red meat, eggs, and dairy!

Fun fact: research shows that diets high in saturated fats usually come with lower total calorie intake.

Monounsaturated Fat

Avocado lovers assemble!

Monounsaturated fats are most often found in high-fat fruits, nuts like almonds and cashews, butter, and olive oil.

They help your body deal with bad cholesterol, raise good cholesterol, and some researches even link them to fat loss.

Polyunsaturated Fat

Just like monounsaturated fats, these are labeled good fats and help your body lower bad cholesterol.

They’re found in salmon, fish oil, sunflower oil, quinoa, and more. They contain the famous EFAs – essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6. They’re crucial to our physiology and can’t be produced by our own bodies, yet they’ve been largely processed out of the food we eat.

They’re called “essential fatty acids” for a reason. They’re known to improve heart health, support mental health, fight inflammation, decrease liver fat, promote bone health, and much more.

Make sure you’re getting enough of them.

Trans Fat

Trans fats are a wolf in wolf’s clothing. Honestly, nothing good can be said about them. Think deep-fried foods, French fries, pies, pizza, margarine, anything along those lines.

A lot of meats and animal products contain traces of trans fats, but the majority of trans fats we consume are chemically produced by a process called partial hydrogenation. I’m not going to go into the nasty details, but when it comes down to it, trans fats are a result of overprocessing our foods so they can stand on store shelves for a longer time.

If you’re serious about your diet and fitness goal (or just don’t like eating garbage) avoid trans fats.

Pro tip: Based on your individual preference and activity level, aim for 20 to 45% calories from fat.

Where does that leave us…

In this article, you learned everything you need to know about proteins, carbs, and fats.

All of their essential functions, how to differentiate between the good and the bad, and even the reputation they have in the fitness community.

If you’re looking to make a few adjustments in your diet, now is the time! Just by learning about the things you consume, you get a better understanding of how your own body works, and you’re already one step ahead of your diet.

So ditch the trans fats for their healthier alternatives, give a little more attention to those complete proteins, and keep an eye on those simple carbohydrates…

I guarantee you’ll see the changes immediately.

Sports Psychology Techniques for Better Performance

Hey Angels and Alphas!

Today, we’re talking about a topic that goes beyond the physical and into the world of sports psychology!

We all know fitness has a mental aspect to it, but it’s something we can never really give a concrete definition to. It’s like some athletes just naturally possess qualities that set them apart from the competition in a positive way, give them laser-like focus, and help them cope with setbacks.

And here, we’re talking about top level athletes. Athletes who know how valuable that mental aspect is, so they invest more of their time and energy toward understanding it and mastering it.

If you take a closer look at the athletes who focus on developing their mental qualities, we can see they are just as strong and confident outside the field as they are in it.

Whether you’re an athlete or not, you definitely know the feeling of developing these qualities – in the times when you genuinely learned from a mistake you made, overcome a setback, or dedicated your full focus and attention toward the goal you were chasing.

So it doesn’t matter if it’s in the gym or outside of it, everyone can benefit from the mental health training techniques that sports psychologists teach the world’s top athletes.

A stable and focused mind is always going to give you an edge in your approach – be it for a sport, a competition, or just your everyday life.

So, let’s begin by giving a definition to sports psychology – just so we know what we’re getting in to!

Once you have an understanding of this concept, you’ll see how easy and yet powerful it is to use sports psychology techniques to train your mind all the way until you reach your desired goal.

Let’s get started.

What is Sports Psychology?

The best definition I’ve heard for sports psychology is a branch of science aiming to learn more about the impact our mind has on our athletic ability in different sports.

This scientific approach toward understanding an enhancing your performance via your cognitive ability allows us to learn more about relevant topics such as motivation, focus, and mental imagery.

A lot of athletes hire professionals that study how psychology influences sports, exercises, and physical activity. They teach them how to get a mental edge in their sport, improve their motivation, help them cope with the pressure of competition, and guide them toward achieving their sporting and health goals – all through the power of mental training.

These sport psychologists don’t just work with professional and amateur athletes. They also work with regular people – those who want to feel more joy from exercise, those who have trouble sticking to a program, and even the people who are just trying to get through a plateau in the gym.

Regardless if you’re an athlete or not, there are psychological techniques you can use to improve your cognitive health and maximize your performance during physical activity.

Maybe you’ve reached a point where you’re not motivated enough to go to the gym, or you’ve completely stopped seeing progress toward your goal.

If that’s the case, then it’s pretty clear that something is going on in your subconscious that needs your attention. Athletes who are aware with the concepts of sport psychology have no problem sparking their motivation back up – they find it easy to see their “why” because they’ve practiced meditation, mental imagery, self-talk, and other cognitive training techniques.

And after all, if you want to do something significant, you have to give yourself a significant reason to do it. Through sports psychology, you can use the power of your mind to make that reason real to yourself through visualization and goal setting.

So if you want to use these techniques to improve your performance in the gym (and out of it), hack your brain to be in a positive, focused state all the time, and set goals that motivate you instead of overwhelm you…

Here are four of the most effective cognitive training techniques sport psychologists use to help the world’s top athletes perform at their best!

Technique 1. Goal-setting and routine creation.

Goal setting is the strongest tool at your disposal. Your mind has given you the ability to make choices and decisions that better your life – and only you get to decide what bettering your life means. The top athletes in every sport are using complex strategies, plans, and routines to move closer and closer toward their goal – they aren’t just aimlessly practicing their craft.

A physique competitor might be adjusting their strategy to lean out more this season. A basketball player might be taking an extra hour working on their agility today. And a businesswoman might be practicing her skills by speaking in front of the mirror before every important meeting.

These are all examples of setting goals in the right way. Dynamically instead of statically. They’re all identifying their weaknesses, and adjusting their goal to work on improving their skills where they most need it.

Sports psychology research in the past two decades shows that setting goals the right way comes down to making them;

1. Challenging

Constantly tailor your goals to fit the sweet spot between challenging and reachable. Don’t expect to increase your squat every time you step in the gym. Setting goals too high will overwhelm and frustrate you while setting goals too low will not give you the necessary motivation to go out and achieve them. Be realistic and continuously come back and revisit your goal, adjusting it to fit that challenging/reachable sweet spot.

2. Measurable

Try to find a unit of measurement that helps you track your progress over time. In fitness, there’s variety – weight, macros, PRs, you name it. But in other sports, for example, it could be a goalkeeper daily saves, or a basketball player’s steals throughout a particular game.

3. Specific

If you know exactly what you have to do, doing it becomes easier. Athletes don’t get up in the morning saying “I want to perform better.” They wake up saying “Today, I’m working on this, this, and this.” If you have a specific, defined plan for what you need to do, you’ll naturally gravitate toward taking action.

4. Written down

A Harvard University study on habits and behavior concluded that tracking your progress and writing down your goals increases the chance of their attainment. Not to mention, a journal is an excellent source of motivation and helps you remember where you started.

Another great goal-setting technique is small-chunking. Basically, it means that you should be breaking down all your goals into small parts, making them more manageable, and then focusing on your next immediate target.

These small chunks of your overall goal create routines that you can follow all the way to success. These routines help you target your focus, prevent distractions, and spend your energy in a controlled matter.

They make the entire process of managing your growth and progress much more straightforward – they help you identify and learn from your mistakes while allowing you to focus on what you’re doing right and build up the confidence you need to do better next time.

But perhaps the most important part of successful goal-setting is not even about the outcome. It’s about the realization that you have to create your own process, and make it one you enjoy. When you’re focused on improving, things are in your control.

Outcomes though are something you can’t control. But if your focus is on the process and the small-chunked goals you set for yourself, your confidence and ability will keep improving even when the outcome isn’t what you wanted it to be.

Technique 2. Visualization and mental imagery.

All successful people practice visualization. They’re masters at seeing success in their mind, then turning it into reality.

Recent discoveries in neuroscience show us that just imagining ourselves performing an activity will activate the same regions in the brain as when we’re physically performing the task. Visualizing yourself practicing and/or winning is an excellent way to prepare yourself for what’s coming.

When an athlete is imagining scoring a goal, winning the belt, or finishing first, they’re building up the mental imagery necessary to perform that way in the real world.

When you’re exercising, use a variety of positive mental images to create feelings of power, happiness, and excitement, and then visualize them during your workout. Next time you’re doing a squat, imagine a gigantic magnet pulling the weight from your shoulders as you start moving up.

This type of visualization will help you build newfound ability and confidence in any area of your life you apply it to.

Here’s the expert advice on how to maximize the impact of your mental imagery!

1. Activate all of your senses.

When you’re imagining yourself, evoke as many as your senses as possible. Imagine what you’re hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling, touching, and feeling in that moment, and take a mental snapshot. The more senses you can activate, the more real the image becomes to you, and the more impact it will have on your psyche.

2. Involve a timeline.

When you’re visualizing yourself, do it from beginning to end. Don’t just imagine yourself winning. See yourself practicing, strategizing, exercising, focusing on your weaknesses, going out there, and earning your victory. Go through every emotion you can find and build your mental image piece by piece.

3. Use the first-person perspective.

Take that moment of you winning. Close your eyes, evoke all your senses, and experience it as if it was happening in front of your eyes right now.

* Watching video footage of yourself performing a task/exercise is one of the best ways to strengthen your mental imagery.

Technique 3. Positive self-talk.

Planned, specific, positive self-talk is something all successful people do – and with good reason.

It’s powerful! So much that depending on how you use it, it could make or break you.

If you’re in your head all day beating yourself up over past mistakes, doubting yourself, and spreading negativity like Nutella on bread, it’s going to be impossible for you to perform like you would when you’re “in the zone.”

Research done by the Association for Psychological Science confirms that the way athletes talk to themselves during training/competition makes a dramatic difference in their physiology and the way they perform!

So if you ever happen to beat yourself up over something you did (or didn’t), just remember that negative thinking is common. An inner critic lives in everybody.

But if we’re aware that these thoughts exist, we can slowly start replacing them with positive self-statements!

Here are three methods of self-talk you can try right now;

1. Motivate.

Research shows that motivational self-talk helps you perform tasks that require strength and endurance. It boosts your confidence, hypes you up, and allows you to create a loop of positive, inspiring, motivational thoughts.

2. Instruct.

Next time you’re doing a set, check in with your body and talk yourself through the entire range of motion of each repetition. In a situation like this, telling yourself to squat deeper or keep your feet aligned will be a better option than motivational self-talk like “I can do this.”

3. Use cue words.

Cue words are simple phrases or even noises that bring you back to a mental image or a focus point. Repeating words binds them inside your mind, and when you happen to hear them (or purposefully remember them), your physiology responds. Use that to your advantage when you want to redirect your focus.

Technique 4. Breathing and meditation.

The words psychology and meditation go hand-in-hand. In fact, meditation is psychology’s most well-researched tool. Countless studies have concluded that it helps you become more focused, reduces stress and anxiety, and promotes overall health and well-being.

Nowadays, most sports teams have scheduled meditation routines.

Mastering meditation helps you block out doubts, worries, and mistakes while blocking out the distractions around you. Meditation allows you to create a you-bubble in which the only things that exist are you and the object of your focus.

A basic way to meditate involves focusing on the sensations going on inside your body (like breathing) and ignoring everything else. With time, you learn how to sustain your focus for longer, and at that point, every distraction becomes a conscious choice.

While you’re paying attention to your breathing, you’re being fully present in the moment.

Control your breath to produce different psychological effects.

If you want to be calm and grounded, breathe deep.

If you want to be sharp and pumped up, energize the tempo of your breathing.

* And if you want to psyche your opponent out, breathe normally while they’re gasping for air…

Meditation and breathing are a powerful combination. You can use your breathing to create energy in your body, and through meditation, learn how to focus and target that energy anywhere you want.

But if you really want to feel the benefits of meditation, I suggest you do a little research so you can choose a method that you truly enjoy doing!

Where does that leave us?

To conclude, we can say there are a billion different ways athletes gain a psychological advantage in their field using sport psychology.

But the four techniques you learned today will serve as a perfect foundation for your mental training – it doesn’t matter if you’re an athlete, a gym goer, or just someone who likes going outdoors and being active.

If you practice and master these four techniques, pretty soon you’ll be able to;

• Set clearer goals.
• Control your mood.
• Control your focus.
• Avoid distractions.
• Create a positive thought-loop.
• Develop a better mind-body connection.

What do you think – if you’re able to learn and cultivate these things in your life, is any goal out of reach for you?

The Greatest Challenges Women Face When They Start Working Out (and how to overcome them!)

Ladies, let’s face it – in this society that’s built to impose norms on you, doing what you love and enjoy often ends up being difficult, overwhelming, and sometimes even painful.

Look how easy it has become for society to influence our decisions – if you’re a beginner in the gym, even a remark or question from a friend can stress you, put you inside your head, and make you doubt yourself and the journey you started.

When a woman enters the fitness community, she enters it with the desire to become a better version of herself, and more and more women are turning to the weight room instead of yoga or aerobic classes – and that’s a beautiful thing.

Working out doesn’t only help us reach our body’s full potential and look the best we could. In the gym, we also learn how to overcome obstacles and plateaus, and develop the mental resilience to break through the walls of society’s norms!

Honestly, nothing feels more rewarding than growing past your obstacles on the way to your journey’s pinnacle.

But some of the obstacles you face when you first enter the gym are going to be deadly – and if you don’t know what you’re dealing with, you’ll end up immediately sending yourself back to the comfort of aerobics class and low-intensity cardio sessions.

The worst thing about being new at something is that you don’t even know what you’re doing wrong. And without knowing what the obstacle is, you can’t even hope to overcome it!

That’s why if you’re determined to get the body you want, you’re going to need some help along the way.

Today, we’re going to talk about the four biggest problems women face when they start their fitness journey.
We’re also going to take a look at the quick fixes you need in order to overcome these challenges, so you can lose the stress and be well on your way to bringing sexy back!

Let’s get started.

Problem 1: Not knowing where to start.

Solution: Set a goal and start mastering the basics.

If you don’t know where to begin, you’ve already begun.

We all know exercise has a ton of benefits. From fat loss and shredded abs to healthy hearts – there are plenty of logical reasons why everyone in the world should be exercising.

However, none of these are actually going to get you in the gym if you haven’t first figured out your personal motivation.

For some people, their motivation is to be better looking. For others, it’s the ability to run for miles and not get winded. And for some, it’s the feeling of getting up on the stage and winning a competition.

Motivation is only going to come as a byproduct of your vision or goal.

The vision you have for yourself in the future – one in which you’ve already achieved what you’re now setting out to achieve. This vision is going to be your motivation. If you’re new to the gym, imagine yourself reaching your full potential. How do you look? How do you feel? Describe it in as much detail as possible, and you’ll have no problem motivating yourself whenever you want to.

Take this vision you have for yourself, put a deadline on it, and boom, you’ve just set your goal.

And once you’ve set a goal, you can really get to work!

The whole problem with “not knowing where to start” isn’t that you lack information – it’s that you have so much of it that you’re overwhelmed by it.

When you’re new to the fitness community, the best advice anyone can give you in regards to achieving your goal is to stick to the basics.

With all the hype around weight lifting, everything has been made overly complicated and fancy. The truth is, beginners only need to focus on the high-quality basics if they want to build a solid foundation.
Take your goal, break it down into smaller ones, and start building up momentum. If your goal is to build strength and endurance, you should first focus on mastering basic exercises like the squat and the deadlift. If your goal is to lose weight, you should focus your attention on HIIT training, and tracking your macros.

Beauty lies in simplicity – and so do results. Therefore the best way to start your fitness journey is to find your “why,” set a goal, and then begin mastering the basics!

* Most gyms nowadays host introduction sessions with personal trainers, and they can get you acquainted with proper exercises, form, and technique if you tell them what your goal or routine is. Never be afraid to ask for guidance – everyone is usually very helpful.

Problem 2: Avoiding Weightlifting

Solution: Realize that no routine is complete without strength training.

Believe it or not, a lot of women still disregard all the benefits of strength training because of their fear of turning into the Incredible Hulk.

Social media has conditioned us to think that weights are the enemy, but in reality, your exercise routine would be incomplete if it didn’t include any resistance training!

Not only does weightlifting make our muscles and bones stronger, but it also provides us with a metabolic boost that lets us burn fat for hours after a workout!

In terms of our overall health, strength training helps us lose more weight, develop better posture, build core strength, and have better control of our body awareness.

But whether it’s in bodybuilding – where the goal is aesthetics, or in strength training – where the goal is to get stronger, the major misconception remains among most women in the community!

But let me tell you – the idea that you’re going to be gaining pounds and pounds of muscle just because you’re suddenly lifting weights is nothing but a delusion.

In reality, people who lift are generally leaner. Strength, conditioning, and nutrition experts all agree on this.

So grab those dumbbells, and let’s get to sculpting ourselves lean!

Problem 3: Undereating

Solution: Reverse-dieting and tracking macros.

Within the female fitness community, where the majority of the focus goes towards getting smaller and leaner, undereating is a topic that doesn’t get talked about enough.

To make that worse, a lot of the crazy diets floating around the mainstream have women consuming an extremely low amount of calories every day!

More and more women are also skipping out on meat, dairy, and other forms of complete protein due to their health choices.

To top that off, the media is always debating on whether carbs or fats are worse for our diets, essentially making water the only healthy choice left.

If your body is used to low-calorie diets, you’re probably coming into the gym with imbalanced hormones and low energy reserves.

So if you’re serious about making results, a reverse-diet is a must!

It doesn’t matter if you want to gain or lose weight. If you’re going to be exercising, your body is going to need more energy than usual.

Focusing on whole foods, complete proteins, slow-digesting carbohydrates, and healthy fats will help your body build up the nutrition it needs to grow in strength and endurance!

Start tracking the calories you consume every day. Slowly start limiting the number of processed foods in your diet, and start adding healthier alternatives. Add 100-200 calories to your daily intake every week until you reach a sustainable baseline.

And if you feel like tracking your diet is confusing or unnecessary, you can always hire a coach or dietologist that will help you with your reverse-dieting efforts!

Problem 4: Feeling Self-Conscious or Anxious

Solution: Focus on your body, not your surroundings. Listen to music. Work out with a friend. Realize that nobody was born with abs.

Picture your most muscular guy friend doing yoga – that’s kind of like how you feel in the weight room!

The gym is no stranger to making people feel self-conscious. It’s an environment where you’re supposed to focus on yourself and your form while you hear countless people talking, machines clanking, and weights slamming on the ground.

And with all the dumbbells, barbells, and heavy machines laying around, it’s understandable why a lot of gals feel intimidated when they first walk in.

But even though you have all this built up anxiety about looking inexperienced, or people staring at you, I promise you – all the angst, stress, and pressure in you are completely made up.
Everyone who has ever stepped foot in a gym has felt “out of place” the first time they were there.

If you’re a complete gym newb, you can’t expect to immediately tie your hair into a ponytail and start squatting 45s. It’s only natural that you feel a little uncomfortable.

But the only way you’re going to get the confidence you need to go… is by going!

When you’ve spent some time in the gym, you naturally get used to the atmosphere.

The only reason you’re getting self-conscious is that you’re letting your mind wander around, and you’re not focusing your attention on your next rep, set, or exercise.

That’s why gym regulars who follow routines just get in, finish their workout, and get out… because they’re focused on their body instead of their surroundings. And even those who have made fitness a lifestyle sometimes feel stress – so they bring a friend when they work out (or the next best thing, a pair of headphones).

Everyone in the gym is just like you – they just want to work out and better themselves.

Don’t let your self-consciousness get in the way of you achieving what you want. Don’t let little insecurities and temporary roadblocks keep you from living a prosperous, healthy life.

So don’t hesitate – get in there and do your thing!

To conclude…

Any of these sound familiar?

To me, all of them do.

In my experience, these are a few of the most dangerous roadblocks that come in front of a lady when she enters the fitness world.

But these roadblocks are different than injuries or plateaus.

They’re obstacles that keep you from unleashing both your physical and mental potential.

And while it’s true that going to the gym can be confusing and overwhelming at first…

You now know everything you need to know to eradicate these obstacles and start your journey toward a new, healthier, and better you!

The 4 Different Approaches to Strength Training (And why you need all of them)

Hey Angels and Alphas!

I while back, I did a blog post on the 4 different approaches to weight loss – exercise, nutrition, metabolism, and appetite suppression.

Today, we’re going to the other side of the spectrum!

We’re not going to talk about gaining weight per se, but weight training. It’s a topic so close to my heart (and so vital for your gains) that I decided to take the 4 approaches format and share with you my thoughts on the different approaches to strength training.

I’m sharing this with you because strength training is often misunderstood. “Training for strength” is not enough! Whether you realize it or not, you’re taking one of these four approaches while exercising, and I’m here to shine a light on them!

When you know what approach you’re taking, you can make the right decision for yourself based on what your goal is in the gym.
So without further ado, let’s dive right in!

The 4 “Approaches” to Strength Training;

It all starts with a simple realization. When you’re strength training, you’re either doing it to improve your muscular explosiveness, endurance, agility, or power output.

In this post, we’re not looking at individual types of strength training such as full-body workouts, push-pull splits, or hypertrophy training. We’re looking at the underlining goals that stand behind them.

For example, traditional full-body workouts achieve a balance between agility and endurance training, but won’t do much for your explosiveness and power unless you decide to put more emphasis on them.
This post will help you recognize where you need to put that emphasis to make your workout routine complete.

No surprises here – weight training makes you stronger. But different types of weight training produce vastly different results and give “stronger” a variety of different definitions.

While some types will help you increase your one-rep-max and squat a gazillion pounds, others will make you an unstoppable rep machine that doesn’t know the meaning of fatigue.

And some variations of strength training will do almost nothing for you in terms of strength and endurance gains, but they’ll still produce significant health benefits for you!

By learning all about the different approaches to strength training, you’ll be able to pick the one that tailors around the weight, goal, and look you’re going for in the gym while aiming to fill the gaps in your routine (if there are any).

Approach #1 – Strength Training for Explosiveness

You hear the word “explosiveness” floating around the fitness community, but what does it really mean?

When we’re taking a look at any motion-related metric, we have to realize we’re dealing with a value of change. If you analyze human movements mathematically, every motion will come down to using a unit of force at a unit of time.

You can then define explosiveness as the maximal amount of force you can produce in a minimal amount of time – the lengthening of your muscle throughout its range of motion by a quick acceleration through the shortening phase.

When you’re training for explosiveness, that’s where your focus is – the speed of the movement throughout its range of motion.

Your explosive strength is your ability to generate tension by contracting your muscles rapidly. It’s about increasing the quickness of muscle fiber contraction so you can produce higher levels of force and improve the resilience of your muscles and connective tissue.

How do I train with this approach?

With this type of training, you should focus on compound and single-joint movements while using progressively heavier weights. Barbell cleans, kettlebell swings, box jumps, they’re all types of explosiveness training!

Your rep range should be in the 1-6 zone. If you want the highest amount of muscle power output, strive for short, sharp, explosive reps. Keep the tempo as fast as possible when performing an exercise, and rest between 60 and 120 seconds after every set. (Based on how much weight you were working with).

Who is it for?

Muscle explosiveness is the type of training you’ll see most athletes doing. With it, you’re achieving a great balance of strength and cardiovascular ability.

It’s also the perfect option for those looking to lose weight while gaining strength. While you’re training for explosiveness, you’re keeping your blood rate high, and you’re also demanding more from your muscles. You’ll not only build mass and build more calories at rest, but the lower weight you use will allow even those new to strength training to see quick improvements in their physique!

Approach #2 – Strength Training for Endurance

Now, endurance training is a topic that we could talk about for days!

Here, we’re taking a look at how to strength train for endurance, and we’re not digging in endurance training as a whole (that’s a story for another time).

Events such as marathons, 10Ks, and obstacle courses are also perfect examples of times when muscle endurance matters more than muscle strength. However, most runners don’t incorporate strength training into their endurance routine.

But a lack of strength can hold back an endurance athlete. Just look at triathlon participants! They not only have the aerobic ability to endure long periods of cardio, but they also have the muscle endurance necessary to move a somewhat heavy bicycle for a hundred or more miles. They use strength endurance training, and for the same reason, triathlon athletes are usually way more muscular than marathon runners.

In science-y terms, your muscular endurance is your ability to hold a muscle contraction (or a level of applied force) for extended periods of time.

A lot of bodybuilders focus on incorporating high-intensity endurance training into their routine. This is because bodybuilding exercises strive to reach full muscle fatigue in order to stimulate growth.
This method relies on aerobic efficiency to supply the working muscles with oxygen and nutrients.

How do I train with this approach?

Strength training for endurance involves compound, bodyweight, and multi-joint exercises. They require less intensity on each rep, and the rep ranges vary between 12 and 20 reps performed at a slow, consistent tempo. Keep your rest intervals here low. Between 30 and 60 seconds.

Another variation of weight training for endurance are isometric exercises. They include holding a weight up in one position for a given amount of time (without going through the range of motion). This improves your stamina and makes you incredibly strong in the positions you hold.

Who is it for?

Muscle-endurance training is for those who want to achieve higher aerobic efficiency of the muscles they’re working, get leaner, and stimulate muscle growth as a bonus.

Gymnasts, triathlon runners, rock climbers, and bodybuilders all benefit from strength-endurance training. But the people who benefit the most out of it are the endurance athletes who are missing out on weight lifting as a whole! If that’s you, start incorporating weights into your routine as soon as possible.

Approach #3 – Strength Training for Agility

While explosiveness is your ability to generate tension rapidly, and your endurance is your ability to hold that tension, agility is all about controlling that tension.

Because traditional strength training strives to make you better at moving a heavy load through your full range of motion, many tasks that require quick reactions and rapid changes in your power output merely fall behind.

Generating and decelerating muscle force, making quick changes in velocity and direction, and improving your reaction time will all come as a result of strength-agility training.
Imagine a strongman event or a CrossFit game – where participants have to cruise through a variety of exercises and quickly adapt their bodies to the new stimulus. They have to learn to shift the force they’re generating from one point to the other, and they need incredibly resilient connective tissues to achieve that. That’s agility.

How do I train with this approach?
To strength train for agility, you can use a variety of free weights or cable machines with moderate intensity. Your focus should be on your ability to change the direction of your power output – train your knee extensors (quadriceps) and your hip extensors (hamstrings, gluteus maximus, and abductor magnus). Knee extensions, reverse Nordic curls, and hip thrusts are all great exercises options for this type of training.
The goal here is to develop awareness and control over your own body through changes of direction, so a specific rep count isn’t necessary. However, I suggest staying in the 8-12 rep range as a general rule of thumb. Keep your rest periods between 45-120 seconds.

Who is it for?

Muscle-agility training is perfect for anyone who wants to improve their mind-muscle connection, balance, and coordination while decreasing your chance of injury.

Pretty much any athlete can benefit from strength agility training. Footballers, basketball players, hockey, martial artists, CrossFit enthusiasts – they all value agility in different ways and they all need it to perform at their best.

Approach #4 – Strength Training for Power

So far we’ve looked at the speed of your lift, your ability to hold it, and your ability to control the tension you put on your muscles.

When it comes to power, we’re talking about the highest level of muscle force you can exert. This comes down to your ability to use your muscles (or muscle) to engage all motor units, and generate the maximal amount of tension against an external stimulus.

This type of training requires extreme internal body coordination and neuromuscular efficiency. Recently, it has exploded in popularity, and more and more gyms are becoming powerlifting-centered.
Tailoring your program for power training helps your body quickly adapt to a new stimulus (and therefore become stronger) while increasing the levels of muscle-building hormones in your body and improving your bones’ strength and density.

How do I train with this approach?

Strength training for power involves mostly compound movements using free weights or specific machines. Exercises include squats, deadlifts, snatches, and pretty much every exercise that incorporates more than one muscle group.

The rep ranges are kept as low as possible, in the 1-4 range, with the goal of consistently improving your one rep max. Rest here should be held between 2 and 4 minutes depending on weight, tempo, and intensity.
*The focus here isn’t on speed like it is in explosiveness training! Aiming to perform your reps as fast as possible may lead to injury because of the sheer amount of weight you’re lifting.

Who is it for?

This training goal is for those who are looking to become as strong as possible.

Powerlifters, bodybuilders, strongmen, and any athlete that wants to focus on exerting more force in a specific movement.

Putting it all together…

You can look at these approaches as four different training protocols – the four parts of your strength training. For your workout routine to be complete, you need to pay attention to all of them!
If you’re following one of the traditional routines such as full-body workouts and push/pull/legs, chances are your routine is missing one of these essential aspects.

When you started working out, you probably saw some rapid changes to your body. But after your body got used to this new stimulus, doing the same movements may have stopped that much-desired progress.

So if there’s one thing that I want you to get out of this post today, it’s this:
Just by changing your workouts to tailor around one of these approaches, you are going to fill the gaps in our workout routine quickly! And this might be just the stimulus your body needs to get on the gain train again.

Well, what are you waiting for? Hop on! Next destination – your goals.

Talk to you soon,
Ally

What’s the Best Time of Day to Work Out

Hey Angels & Alphas!

What time of day do you hit the gym?

To be honest, I’ve heard every possible answer to this question, but I still keep asking it. There’s something about it that lets us learn more about the person – I believe the perfect time for you to exercise is as much about personal preference as it is about your physiology.

For some people, finding time to work out is challenging enough, so they tend to focus on working out whenever they can fit it in their schedule.

But for those of us who freely choose when we can go to the gym, how do we make sure our physiology actively supports our fitness goal at that time of day?

Exercise has to feel good to be productive. If your muscles are too stressed at the end of the day, or too tight in the early morning, your workout efforts can fall behind.

Today, I want to take a more in-depth look into what science has to say about this – so you know what to expect, and you can make the right choice regarding when to go hit that gym session!

Let’s discover the benefits of each of the three individual choices – morning, evening, and night workouts.

Science says morning workouts are the best…

Well, sort of.

Let me just say – I love morning workouts. There’s just something about the luxury and tranquility of the early hours that allows you to focus on that deep, intimate connection with yourself and set the boundaries of your focus for that day.

However, I know very well that most people aren’t morning people… and that’s completely okay.

Anthony Hackney, a professor of Exercise and Sports Science at UNC, believes that morning workouts are the single best way to burn off stored fat. Your hormonal composition right after you get out of bed will be one that fully supports the goal of losing weight.

Mr. Hackney states that in the early hours of the morning, your hormones predispose you to better metabolism of fat.

In the morning, we naturally have elevated levels of cortisol and growth hormone (both involved in your metabolism). Therefore, the professor says that your body tends to draw its energy from your fat reserves. What happens next? Fat burning and weight loss!

Some research even concludes that early-morning exercise leads to appetite suppression throughout the day, another significant factor in weight loss. Not to mention, breaking a sweat before lunch has been shown to lead to better mental health, awareness, and productivity throughout the day.

A study in the Journal of Physiology found out that working out is a great way to shift your body’s circadian rhythm. Exercisers who started working out at 7 a.m. every morning quickly got used to doing it consistently. They got tired earlier in the evening, and this lead to them getting enough rest at night, waking up the next morning, and doing their next 7 a.m. workout. Another similar study also found out something similar – people who worked out at 7 a.m. every day reported having better and more soundly sleep.

And to top that off, check out this research that concludes that healthy habits are easier to develop in the early hours of the day!

It’s somehow more comfortable for us to keep our morning routine consistent. If you work out in the afternoon or evening, you might have all the responsibilities of the current day still on your mind. And if you’re hitting the gym after work, being present and paying full attention could be even more challenging.

So if you’re a morning person who’s all about the productive, get-it-done mindset, early workouts are probably your thing!

But for all the loyal fans of the “Snooze” button, we have other alternatives!

Afternoon workouts don’t fall behind!

Believe it or not, a lot of people hit the gym in the early hours of the day because of the countless CEOs and entrepreneurs who promote “squeezed early-morning workouts”, naturally associating it with their lifestyle of success.

It all sounds great, but for most people, those 5 a.m. workouts are just not going to cut it.

Back to the words of Mr. Hackney – he says that lunchtime training is the best choice for long, rigorous exercise routines.

Because you’ll have eaten a meal (or two) by the time you get to the gym, you’ll naturally give your performance a boost. While training in the morning is ideal for burning fat, working out later in the day will help you (supposedly) perform better.

Every time you eat, your blood sugar levels rise. Of course, if you’re going to be working out at a higher intensity, you need sugar in the form of blood glucose.

Check out this research – it suggests that your body adapts to your regular workout times. This means that if you hit the gym every day at 2 p.m., you’ll start performing at your best at 2 p.m. The idea that sticking to a particular workout window results in better performance isn’t new – but scheduling your workouts is way more complicated than just picking a time and heading for the gym.

The same study that talked about 7 a.m. workouts states that working out between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. can also shift your body clock toward performing better in that time window – if you keep your goal in mind, that is.

An essential factor in the quality of your exercise is your body’s core temperature. Imagine someone who is shivering cold! Their muscles are likely stiff and inefficient, and they’re way more susceptible to injuries and sprains.

Your body temperature usually increases as the day goes on. This leads a lot of experts to believe that endurance and strength peak in the afternoon (when your body temperature is the highest) and your muscles become more flexible, your reaction time improves, and your blood pressure is kept low.

But probably the most critical factors in determining your optimal workout time are your hormone levels. If your goal is to build strength and muscle, you need testosterone, and your body will produce more testosterone during a late-afternoon workout than it will during an early-morning one.

Do you follow me so far?

Morning workouts are better for burning fat; afternoon workouts are better in terms of muscle performance.

All that’s left is…

Evening/night workouts have benefits too!

Convenience. For most people who work all day, this is the only practical way of squeezing a workout.

However, it can cause some problems.

The Journal of Physiology study I shared with you earlier found that 7 p.m. – 10 p.m. workouts delay your body clock! This means you’re not going to be going to bed anytime soon after a gym session.
But remember Mr Hackney? He’s not convinced!

He says that evening training shouldn’t interfere with your sleep patterns as long as you don’t immediately go to bed when you come home. He even suggests stress-relieving activities such as yoga to help you sleep better if you work out at night.

To top it all off, a few pieces of research out there suggest that nighttime workouts also set you up for weight loss by reducing the levels of hunger-stimulating hormones in the body.

Where does that leave us?

If you had to pick the best time to exercise, which would it be?

In the end, I feel like it’s essential that we create a realistic, consistent exercise schedule. And in order for it to be consistent, it has to be enjoyable.

Most people won’t enjoy getting up early for a workout, even though it has substantial weight-loss benefits. And the majority of people who are used to early-morning gym sessions just won’t feel right going to the gym at 8 p.m., even though they might have no other choice.

So the bottom line is; if working out in the morning is the best for your schedule, do it. If you’re goal is to lose weight, all the better! If working out in the afternoon/evening is more convenient, do it. An added bonus there could be slightly better performance.

Whether you choose to head for the gym as soon as your alarm goes off, or you wind-down with a workout after a long day at work, one indisputable fact remains true;

There’s no wrong time to exercise!

Your Checklist for Optimal Post-workout Recovery

Hey Angels & Alphas!

Every experienced trainer or physical therapist will tell you the same thing – in the gym, real progress happens only after you’ve finished your workout.

We’re talking about the time away from the gym – when you let your muscles rest, recover, and grow.

Post-workout recovery is a straight-forward concept, but I believe it’s somewhat overlooked nowadays.

All the latest trends in fitness point to a mindset of burning yourself out to achieve results. Especially with summer right around the corner, a lot of people are going as far as working out twice a day so they can push their bodies to the limit and get that desired “summer body”.

I say it’s time to relax and face the facts! (Hey, that rhymes.)

You’ve probably heard a lot about how important the recovery process is, but for most people, that’s not enough of a motivation to take actionable steps toward improving it.

But the fact is this – it doesn’t matter if you’re a gym-goer, a marathon runner, a dancer, or a professional athlete. During intense physical activity, you’re going to break down your muscle tissues, deplete your energy stores, and sweat out a lot of fluids!

I’d define your optimal recovery as the most effective and productive way for you to counter those effects. If you’re not giving your muscles enough water, nutrients, and time to rest, you’re going on the path toward overtraining.

Repairing your muscles, replenishing your energy, and restoring your body back to its normal state isn’t something you should have to think twice about.

Yet somehow, overtraining is encouraged by some of the most popular fitness gurus out there! That just goes to show how little some of these “experts” know about what’s right for you and what’s not. We’ve talked about how dangerous overtraining is before, but I can’t stress this enough…

If you’re not recovering correctly, you won’t achieve the results you want!

That’s not what I want for you.

For you, I’ve compiled this list of the three major components of the recovery process.

I created this as your personal post-workout checklist!

Anytime you’re feeling too sore, over-trained, stressed, tired, or unmotivated, you can come back to this post.

By doing this, you’ll instantly recognize which part of your workout rehabilitation is lacking, and you’ll know exactly what to do to fix it.

Then, you can focus your attention there and be back on track to your body goal in no time!

Without further ado, let’s look at the 3 essential components of optimal post-workout recovery.

Number #1 – Rest

Here’s your rest checklist! You can use to make sure you’re giving your muscles the adequate amount of rest they need to nourish, rebuild, and grow.

1. Prioritize sleep.

I don’t believe we need to spend too-too much time talking about sleep, but just know this; Lack of sleep increases your chance of injury, diminishes your performance, and ruins your chances of optimal recovery. Getting enough sleep has been proven to positively impact your motivation, focus, memory, muscle performance, accuracy, reaction time, and so much more. After all, while we sleep, our pituitary gland releases natural growth hormone! And growth hormone is a vital component of every major body function. However, I feel like I should point out that the quality of your sleep is more important than the quantity.

The best way to improve the quality of your sleep would be to develop a bedtime routine. This includes going to sleep at the same time every night, and waking up at the same time every morning, as well as avoiding TV/phone screens before bed and using sleeping masks whenever possible. That being said, aim for a minimum of 6 hours of high-quality, undisturbed sleep every night!

2. Give your major muscle groups adequate recovery time between workouts.

Working out the same muscle group at a high intensity two days in a row is a huge no-no. Your regimen should be structured in a way that, regardless of which major muscle group you’re working, you’re giving yourself at least 36 hours of rest before hitting it hard again.

This is the same reason you see regular gym-goers train upper body one day, then lower body the next. Useful exercise splits give all major muscle groups 24-48 hours of recovery down between training sessions.

Taking this time will allow your muscle tissues to heal, and your body’s natural hormone levels to be fully restored and ready for your next workout.

3. Take days off – don’t work out every day.

Even if you’re giving all your muscle groups 36 hours of rest, working out every day isn’t productive. Stress, pressure, and muscle fatigue accumulate over time.
To guarantee your physical and mental well-being, pick a day of the week and dedicate it to full mind and body relaxation. Your rest days are your best days.

4. Don’t use caffeine to power through workouts.

If you’re feeling tired or sluggish, don’t just chug a coffee and head for the gym.

I agree there’s a difference between only feeling tired and not being able to perform physically…

But if it’s your body that’s exhausted (and not just your current emotional state), listen to it. As much as people want coffee to be the solution to their lack of energy, it isn’t. Rest is.

5. Active rest.

We can’t talk about recovery without mentioning active rest!

Active recovery is essentially the idea that you should perform light to moderate (25-50%) physical activity even on your days off.

The goal here is to stimulate your blood flow and supply your muscles and connective tissues with healthy nutrients.
Your aim isn’t to further damage the tissues. It’s to substantially aid the natural healing process.

Number #2 – Nutrition

Here’s your nutrition checklist! Use this to make sure your dietary habits are in line with the purpose of giving your muscles the nutrients they need to re-build themselves.

1. Have a post-workout meal, but don’t overeat.

Calories are energy!

They’re literally fuel for the body, and if you want it to grow and adapt to the stress of working out, you’re going to need food rich in macro and micronutrients. Especially after a workout, when your glycogen stores are depleted.

That’s why a post-workout meal is always a good idea. Consuming a healthy snack after crushing a gym session not only feels rewarding, but it’s also super productive.
You’re restoring your glycogen stores and giving your body the energy it needs to kick-start the muscle rebuilding process!

When it comes to choosing the right snack, keep it as light and nutrient-rich as possible. Liquid “foods” are most often preferred over heavy meals. One reason for that is bloating. The other reason is that foods high in fat or fiber slow down your nutrient absorption.

That’s why protein shakes easily became the most popular post-workout “meal”.

Speaking of protein…

2. Prioritize protein and BCAAs.

If you want to ensure you have an effective recovery process and that you’re getting the most out of your workout, and at the same time, you want to drink something sweet and delicious, BCAAs are your thing. We need these essential amino acids (found in protein) to help our body repair and rebuild our muscle tissues on a daily basis.

For years and years, experts have been talking about the importance of protein for muscle growth. That’s because amino acids account for two vital muscle recovery processes; maximizing protein synthesis and minimizing protein degradation.

Women need approx. 0.7-0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight for muscle building and men usually go as high as 1 gram per pound of body weight.
So if you’re looking for a great way to reduce muscle soreness, promote muscle building, and get back in the gym faster, don’t forget to follow-up your workout with BCAAs or a protein-rich meal!

3. Stay well-hydrated.

I’m only going to lightly touch on this topic because it’s pretty self-explanatory.

Drinking water helps you replace lost electrolytes in the body and speeds up muscle recovery. Not to mention, being sore and dehydrated at the same time is definitely not a fun experience.

The only thing you have to keep in mind here is that you should balance your water intake – don’t consume vast amounts before or after your workout.

Instead, aim for a balanced water intake throughout the day to make sure you’re well-hydrated without risking bloating.

Number #3 – Recovery-aiding Essentials & Anti-Inflammatory Habits

If you’ve got your resting and nutrition habits in line, these methods will serve as the icing on your post-workout recovery cake!

1. Stretching

When you stretch and become more flexible, your muscular strength and endurance improve, but so does your ability to properly recover after each workout.

When you stretch, you release tension off your muscles and achieve a feeling of relaxation.

When your muscles aren’t tight and strained, they naturally recover (and perform) better.

Create a 5-10 minute post-workout stretching routine, and you’ll start feeling less sore and fatigued after you exercise – trust me.

2. Foam rolling

Foam rollers have skyrocketed in popularity in the last few years. Their ability to relieve tension and reduce muscle stress has made them a favorite among fitness and rehabilitation experts.
Most people value them for their pain-alleviating qualities, but the benefits of foam rolling extend way past physical recovery.

Foam rolling helps you stretch and hydrate the fascia, a thin layer of connective tissue that lies under the skin and covers every muscle in your body.

By doing this, you improve the circulation of blood throughout your entire body. This helps you flush toxins, oxygenate your blood, and “lubricate” your joints.

With the right foam rolling technique, you’ll not only recover faster, but you’ll also feel amazing too! Foam rolling helps me unwind and relax after a hard workout, and if that’s not vital to recovery, I don’t know what is!

3. Cold showers

Check out this study – it concludes that taking a cold shower or an ice bath after an intense training session will help you decrease lactic acid, essentially reducing muscle soreness and speeding up your recovery.

4. Saunas

When you’re in a hot sauna, your body releases what are called heat shock proteins. Studies have pointed out that these proteins directly improve protein synthesis and slow down muscle breakdown.
Even though this heat is technically a harmful stimulus for the body, this slowing down of muscle degradation increases your chances to grow and recover your muscles effectively after training.

If you’ve gone through an injury recently and can’t train, saunas are a great way to reduce muscle loss.

And plus, who doesn’t enjoy a relaxing sauna after a long day (or a really fatiguing workout?)

5. Epsom salt baths

Epsom salts were first extracted from seawater in 1618, in the British town of Epsom. They’re also known as Magnesium sulphate. Ever since fitness pros started adding them to their warm bath water, they’ve been linked to stress relief, improved circulation, better moods, and reduced swelling and soreness.

They’re absorbed through the skin, and they make for almost an instant muscle pain reliever. These minerals are more popular among women because female athletes have a higher physiological demand for magnesium.

If you love taking long hot baths and you want to improve your muscle recovery, do a little digging, and you’ll simply fall in love with them.

A word about self-myofascial release!

Even though self-myofascial release is most often related to foam rolling, I decided to take a moment to talk about it separately.

It’s not that much of a way to generally improve recovery as it is a way to target specific pain points or problematic movements related to past injuries.

It’s a form of manual therapy. It’s used by both fitness gurus and rehabilitation specialists to enhance myofascial (relates to the fascia we talked about earlier) mobility.

I do believe its effect on muscle soreness is rather minimal, but as I said, it’s an excellent way for those who have trouble with specific movements to enhance their range of motion, relieve pain, and ease a particular movement.

If you have a past injury and you have trouble recovering after working out, your problem might not be poor recovery.

It might be that you’ve just accumulated stress in a part of your body related to harmful exercise movement patterns.

Self-myofascial release can help you release that stress.

To wrap it all up…

No matter how many tips and strategies I give you to reduce muscle soreness, alleviate pain, and speed up your recovery, there are always going to be the two main components dictating how fast you’re able to bounce back after an intense workout.

These two main components are adequate rest and nutrition.

When these two are aligned, you’ll most likely have no trouble recovering after even the most taxing training sessions. But just in case, I decided to give you some actionable alternatives you can start using right away.

All of this – rest, sleep, nutrition, hydration, stretching, foam rolling, and every other possible post-workout recovery strategy…

It all matters only if you decide to make this one simple realization;

You should take your post-workout recovery as seriously as you do your training.

How Important is the Healthy Breakfast?

Three reasons why eating a healthy breakfast will help you transform your day!

Hey Angels, it’s Ally!

I got this question by e-mail recently and decided I should go a little in-depth…

One, so I could answer the question entirely, and two, so I could address this topic in front of all the people who go to the gym, yet skip breakfast every morning.

Have you ever heard the saying “the breakfast is the most important meal of the day”?

Of course you have, everybody has, but I today I want to answer the question “why”.

Why is breakfast so important?

Now… by the time breakfast rolls around, you’ve probably spent the last 6 to 10 hours in your comfy bed while your body has been using up all its precious resources.

This means that the first meal of the day is supposed to replenish these resources and give you an energetic jump-start you can use to attack the day!

Aside from giving you the energy to be productive and focus on your tasks, the proper breakfast also speeds up your metabolism and helps you burn more calories throughout the day.

Which means skipping it can throw off your body’s rhythm of fasting and eating.

And that’s a no-no!

When you wake up, your blood sugar is usually low, but your body needs it to make your muscles and brain work at their best.

I get it – many people skip the morning meal because they’re in a rush to get to where they need to be.

But let me tell you why those extra minutes aren’t worth it.

Here are the three reasons why breakfast is the most important meal of the day:

1. Energy Throughout the Day!

Breakfast is not only the most important meal but also the most often skipped – and that’s a shame!

The only reliable way to get the energy you need to dominate your day is to eat a morning meal packed of healthy nutrients.

When we wake up in the morning, our glucose stores are low, which means we have low energy. We need food to fuel ourselves up, and pancakes and burgers won’t do the job. What our bodies need in the morning is a meal that includes each of the three macronutrients: protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates.

The protein will provide us with sustainable energy because it takes longer to digest than carbohydrates. It would be best if you choose lean, low-fat, and nutritious foods such as eggs (or egg whites for those who watch their fat and cholesterol intake), peanut butter, and low-fat or fat-free dairy.

Fats are equally important, as long as you stick to good fats and avoid the unhealthy ones. Try to eat mono and polyunsaturated fats and avoid saturated (or worse, trans fats). You can sprinkle chopped almonds or walnuts over low-fat yoghurt or oatmeal. Also, use olive or canola oil in the pan when making eggs. Another alternative is low-fat milk and cheese.

Let’s not forget about carbohydrates. Every cell in our body relies on glucose for fuel, especially our brain cells. Carbohydrates provide quick fuel in the form of glucose so your cells can function properly. You can provide your body with carbohydrates in many ways!

Simple carbs include fructose, galactose, glucose and sucrose which are easily digestible and converted to energy. You can get these from foods like fruits, vegetables, and packaged foods which have added sugar. Regardless of what type of sugar you ingest, your body will convert it to glucose, and it will enter your cells to meet your body’s energy needs!

However, keep in mind that surpassing your daily sugar intake will force your body to store it as fat, resulting in weight gain. It’s not necessarily wrong to eat sugar in the morning, it all comes down to the quantity.

2. Concentration and Focus!

The calories you take in the morning provide resources that your brain uses throughout the day which elevates your short-term memory. However, according to the “Journal of Adolescent Health”, eating too many calories in the morning could harm your ability to concentrate.

Eating a heavy meal could leave you feeling drowsy and sluggish, making it more difficult to focus and remember important things. However, a meal which is too light in calories won’t provide your brain with enough fuel to function properly.

It would be best if you aim to take between 350 and 500 calories from your breakfast for the most benefit when trying to improve your learning retention and sharpening your focus.

The perfect morning meal should include a healthy mix of complex carbohydrates, protein and fat. This mix of nutrients will increase your memory and allow your brain to get the energy it needs to focus.

Carbohydrates are essential in the morning because they have the biggest impact on your long-term memory!

A research conducted by the University of Toronto found out that eating a carbohydrate-rich breakfast increases performance on short and long-term memory tests among participants, regardless of whether or not they were active gym-goers.

3. Impact on Weight and Gym Performance!

One of the easiest and simplest ways to lose weight and fat is by eating breakfast!

Studies show that by eating a substantial meal in the morning and reducing your caloric intake at night (also known as front-loading), you may be able to lose more weight than by doing the reverse.

That’s because your body follows a daily cycle, usually divided into two 12-hour periods, which are dictated by daytime and nighttime.

Your body naturally uses its resources more efficiently in the morning than it does in the evening. This is known as your circadian rhythm or “internal clock”.

Eating breakfast helps your body work in its natural rhythm which supports your weight loss goals and improves your performance in the gym.

You may think that skipping breakfast will reduce your caloric intake, but researchers say otherwise. Skipping your morning meal makes you more prone to overeat later in the day, often leading to weight gain.

Nutritionists agree that eating breakfast is a great strategy to help you avoid overcompensating with high-calorie, less nutritious options later in the day!

Conclusion

So, did you change your mind about breakfast?

It’s a fact – having a healthy first meal in the morning is essential when you want to live a healthier, energetic, more productive life.

If you’re in a rush in the mornings, prepare your breakfast the night before or simply make one which is quick and easy – such as. Things such as eggs and oatmeal are a fast and healthy option that will get you energetic, focused, and full – at least until lunchtime!

Remember, having a small breakfast is always better than skipping it.

Talk to you soon,

Ally

Full-body Workouts or Split Training – Which is Better?

Honestly, people ask me this question so many times a day; it’s not even funny!

Since the dawn of time, men and women in the fitness community have all been searching for the best way to structure and schedule their workout routines in ways that will help them achieve their goal weight/physique faster.

For most people, it’s simply not enough to just lift weights and run a few miles on the treadmill.

Most people want the exact process, system, or solution that will get them to where they want in the fastest, most comfortable way possible!

And that’s okay! We’re all wired this way – our brains are always looking for the best (and most of the time this means easiest) solution to the problem we’re facing, so it’s only natural that we like to separate things in a binary way and choose the right path.

We’re either doing weightlifting or bodyweight, weights or cardio, isolation or compound movements, high-reps or low-reps, full-body or split training and so on.

Today, you’re going to learn all you need about full-body workouts and split training regimes so you can rid your routine of that binary, limited way of thinking.

As with all our binary-thinking tendencies, what’s truly “right” for you can only be determined after you have all the information.

Whether you’re entirely new to the gym or have been going there religiously, we’re all always looking for the “right” way to organize our regime.

Some people love going all-in, training their entire body, and busting a sweat every time they step in a gym. Others, on the other hand, prefer to maximize the attention they give to every single muscle.

For you to find the best possible routine that will help you achieve your goals faster, you need to know what you’re getting into down to the tiniest detail. You have to find out what best fits your schedule, fitness level, and the goals you set, and I’m here to help you do just that!

I’m going to list all the pros and cons of both types of training, so you’ll be able to sculpt and train your body just the way you want to.

Let’s get into it!

Full-body Training

A full-body workout means you are exercising your entire body and stimulating all of your major muscle groups in one session.

It’s an excellent option for people who engage in different sports or types of fitness besides resistance training. It’s perfect for beginners, and coaches often recommend that everyone who is new to the gym starts off with two weeks of full-body workouts as a way to “warm-up” the body before entering a split day routine. However, this doesn’t mean that full-body isn’t just as effective on its own.

It’s also the best option for those looking to lose a lot of weight.

In this type of training, you’re working on your body as a whole. Statistically, more women prefer this method.

Pros;

1. More energy expenditure – more calorie burn!

The first (and in my opinion most important) benefit of full-body workouts is that you’re maximizing the number of calories you burn every workout. This makes this method of training perfect for those looking to lose a significant amount of weight.

When you’re training your entire body in one session, you’re expending more energy than you otherwise would because all of the major muscles in your body are getting taxed.

A workout consisting of squats, deadlifts, dips, and shoulder presses will take more out of you than your regular old biceps/triceps days.

By working on all of your major muscle groups in one go, your body is naturally going to release more energy, resulting in way more burned calories!

On top of that, that session is going to be like a reality check for your whole body. All the glycogen depletion, muscle stress, and microtrauma you’ve just caused your body gives you the perfect opportunity to load up on rich nutrients and achieve a super-compensatory recovery!

2. Higher frequency per muscle group and overall body balance.

Bodybuilding is about frequency. The more times you stimulate a muscle to grow, the more it will grow. (granted you get enough rest)

If you’re working out full-body three days a week, that’s a frequency that will always keep your major muscle groups stimulated and growing! If you want to use training splits to hit all your muscles three times a week, you’ll likely be doing at least two workouts a day. Sort of impractical, if you ask me.

When you’re training full-body and putting the same amount of emphasis on all your muscles, you’ll be growing your body in a balanced, more natural way. Chances are you’re not going to worry about muscle and strength imbalances.

3. Helps you save time.

If you travel a lot or you’re always juggling a busy schedule and can’t dedicate more than 2 or 3 days a week for the gym, full-body training is for you. Even though workouts tend to be long, you’ll be saving time in the long run. The time and energy you need to go to and back from the gym are also a part of this equation.

In terms of saving time, going to the gym twice a week is always better than going to the gym 5-6 times a week, regardless of how much time you actually spend in there.

Cons;

  • Extremely taxing on energy.
  • Increasing the training volume is hard. – Adding more intensity and exercises over time without making your workout too long can be tricky.
  • Long workouts.
  • Higher chance of overtraining. – For some people, even training full-body three days a week is a lot. The added frequency in which you hit different muscle groups can easily lead to overtraining. Don’t train full-body two days in a row.

Split Training

Working out on a split means you’re separating your muscle groups into different workout days. This way, you can put more emphasis on specific muscles and reach intensity levels that you wouldn’t be able to achieve in a full-body workout.

For example, you can train your chest on day 1, back on day 2, legs on day 3 and so on. You can combine muscle groups into different split days, but the golden rule is working out the bigger muscle group first. (For example, do back and biceps instead of biceps and back.)

This higher intensity and focus on specific muscles naturally makes split training more appealing to men.

Pros;

1. Heavier weights.

And a lot of them!

Think about it – because full-body workouts tend to burn more calories and use up more energy, they’re a lot more fatiguing overall. But for those who want to develop strength in specific exercises like the squat or bench press, this overall fatigue is counterproductive.

Consider the fatigue caused to individual muscle groups when compound movements are performed. After 3 or 4 compound movements, it’ll be harder for you to lift as heavy as possible. If you’re working on strength and size, you have tax each muscle group enough to overload it and let it adapt. Unlike full-body regimes, split training allows you to control that fatigue, and perform your best on specific exercises.

2. Focus on individual muscle shaping and definition.

If you want to spend more time getting broader shoulders, you can.

If you want to spend more time getting stronger, leaner legs, you can do that too.

Training on a split gives you freedom! It allows you to choose for yourself which part of your body you want to work on and improve. You have full control over the development and definition of your physique.

And if you have only two muscle groups to worry about, instead of your entire body, you’re going to give more concentrated attention to those two, which will result in specific muscle overload and adaptation. Split-based training helps you prioritize.

3. Better recovery.

If you’re working out all muscles groups 1-2x a week, you’re giving your body enough time to recover and grow.

With full-body training, anything more than three workouts a week will burn you out and make you wish you went for a split routine. With split-based training, you are far less likely to overtrain.

4. Making changes is easy.

Switching up your workout and adding/removing new exercises is easy when you’re only targeting one muscle group instead of your whole body.

Making these types of adjustments in your training split is as easy as focusing on different body parts on different days – but you have to be responsible with all that freedom!

Cons;

  • Going to the gym 5-6 times a week.
  • Less calorie burn.
  • Possible muscle and strength imbalances. – just like we’ve seen with the gazillions of fitness models that are walking around with arms five times the size of their calves.

To wrap-up…

Full-body training is for the beginners who want to set a great foundation, for those who want to focus on cardio and weight loss, for those who don’t have as much time to work out, and for the advanced lifters who want to push themselves to the absolute max.

Split routine training is for fitness models, bodybuilders, and advanced lifters. It’s for those who need that extra degree of control over the development of their own body and those who don’t mind going to the gym 5-6 times a week.

I want you to stay away from that binary way of thinking (this vs. this) and realize that different periods of your life are going to require different versions of you.

Today, you might be completely comfortable with your split.

Tomorrow, the full-body training option might seem more viable.

That’s why in this post I wanted to lay out all the information in front of you so that you can make the right decision for yourself.

It’s a fact that both of these methods offer great benefits, so don’t let your coach or anyone else downright tell you what’s best for you in your situation.

So I urge you, regardless of where you’re at in your fitness journey, try both of these for a week, see which one you like best, then stick to it until you’re sculpted sexy!

The Most Common Gym Injuries (and how to stay safe)

Hey Angels, it’s Ally!

When was the last time you experienced a workout injury?

I’m asking you this because injuries happen when we least expect them – and today, I’ll give you the ultimate preparation for them, by teaching you how to see them coming.

If you’re a regular gym-goer, you’re probably already aware of all the setbacks an injury can cause. What you might not be completely aware of is that in the society we live in today, media is bombarding us with information about fitness, and mantras that repeatedly reinforce the belief that we always need to push harder and reach beyond our limit.

Even though I support the belief of continuous struggle toward growth, but the continuous exposure to this “no pain, no gain” attitude has done nothing but hurt athletes in the long-run.

Today, we’re talking about workout injuries. I believe this is one of the most important topics a fitness enthusiast needs to learn about – if you want to guarantee yourself a long, healthy, and productive fitness journey, knowing how to avoid, prevent, and treat a workout injury is nothing short of a necessity.

Even small injuries like a sprained ankle or abnormal muscle strains, if ignored and not treated, have a higher chance of happening again and becoming a big problem in the long-run.

You’re going to learn about the most common injuries that occur in the gym, how to see them coming, and what you should (and shouldn’t) do to make sure you’re training safely and productively.

Let’s get started.

Here are the four most common gym injuries, and how to stay safe from each one!

1. Back Strains – according to statistics, this is the number one most likely injury for the regular gym-goer! The majority of people develop weak back muscles due to long hours of sitting at school, work, and home, and when the time comes to put heavy stress on the back, people tend to overextend and put on a load they can’t handle.

Even a sudden, sharp twinge in your lower back is a sufficient sign that you’re probably putting too much stress on it. Squats or deadlifts are two of the most common and basic exercises, yet they wreak havoc on your lower back if you’re not using proper form. Twisting motions, sideway bends, and heavy loads strain your lower back.

To stay safe, you need to learn how to maintain a neutral back. To do that, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Your spine should touch the floor under your lower back, and this posture allows the natural curve of your back to absorb stressful exercise.

Especially if you’re new to weight lifting, get your form correct first. Beginners should first try the leg press or hip sled before moving on to squats. If you’re unsure of your form, ask a qualified personal trainer.

By lifting with your legs and not your back, you can gradually strengthen your back muscles with lower intensity exercise!

2. Shoulder Strains – your shoulder joints have a wide range of motion. This easily allows for injuries that are related to heavy loads, poor posture, and bad form.

Four main muscles – the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis comprise the rotator cuff, surrounding and stabilizing your shoulder joint.

Dislocating your shoulder or damaging your rotator cuff can be detrimental to your fitness journey. If at any point in your workout you feel shoulder pain – don’t push through it. If you feel pain when trying to reach behind you, this may be a sign of a strain of the rotator cuff. It typically results from repetitive overhead activity. Athletes like basketball players or swimmers should definitely stay away from heavy movements like military presses in the long-run.

To stay safe, let your shoulders rest and strengthen your rotator cuff muscles as part of your upper-body routine. By using good posture, avoiding heavy overhead exercises, and staying away from behind the neck lat pulldowns, you’ll put less stress on your shoulders and promote a balanced, gradual, productive growth process.

3. ACL/PCL & Knee Injuries – this refers to Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) – injuries especially common in women. These are injuries of the knee ligament and are also common in athletes that play any sports that involve jumping, rapid changes in direction, or intense running.

If you’ve ever experienced sudden knee pain, swelling, a feeling of looseness, or an inability to put any weight on your knee without pain, this is a situation that calls for medical attention. If ignored, it can take you off your feet for months, and even require surgery.

Pain related to running and putting on pressure on the knees is also known as “runner’s knee”. It occurs when the bones in the lower leg are not lined up correctly, which causes an abnormal tension between the kneecap and the thigh bone – causing pain and possibly even tears in the ligaments.

To keep your knees healthy, incorporate exercises that strengthen the quadriceps and hip flexors. Seated and lying leg raises, butterfly stretches, bridges and lunges can help strengthen your quads and hips, easing the tension you put on your knees.

4. Pectoral Injuries – if you’re one of the women who enjoy a heavy bench press now and then, pectoral injuries are something you should seriously consider. Losing control of a dumbbell or barbell at the wrong moment can lead to what feels like a tearing sensation, and the chest and upper arm often turn black and blue. If you experience a pec tear, you should immediately see an orthopedic surgeon to determine if the injury needs surgery.

Feeling stress in your pectorals when working out can be a sign that you need to give your chest muscles more rest.

To stay safe, make sure that the weight you put on your bar is not only one that you can lift, but one that you can control.

So far, we’ve looked at the most common types of injuries relating to weight lifting.

We’ve analyzed what they are, why they happen, and how to stay safe from their setbacks!

After taking a look at the specifics, I want to say a few words about the general idea of healthy, productive training.

Staying away from injuries is a critical factor to your fitness longevity, and if for example, you’ve had knee problems in the past, you at least know what to look for – you know where the risk is.

But if you’re trying to get the fundamental knowledge on how to stay safe from injury, here are my top four tips to not only avoid but prevent injury.

First, always start with a warm-up. The Harvard Special Health Report concluded that warming up your body pumps nutrient-rich, oxygenated blood to your muscles and speeds up your heart rate. Getting blood to the muscles helps them more amenable to stress and change, which will help you avoid workout injuries.

Second, put your focus on your weaker muscles. Adding strength training and core work to your routine will help you maintain a balanced development. If your muscles are adequately proportioned and your core is fit, your body won’t wear down or have to compensate for certain movements!

Third, eating a balanced diet and hydration. We can’t not mention this. What you eat and drink is crucial to your workout. Not only will the right carbohydrates give you energy, but they’ll replenish your glycogen stores and promote better recovery. Protein after a workout is just as important, helping you repair the muscles you just put stress on.

And finally… listen to your body.

To conclude, I want to summarize by saying this – the truth is your body will give you all the signals you need to back off at the right time.

If you see no progress in certain areas, if you feel like you have less control of the weight you’re working with, if your knee is feeling achy, if your shoulders feel a little loose, if your soreness lasts for more than the usual 24-48 hours, or if you’re just plain tired…

Then it’s time to realize that long-term progress is what you’re genuinely after and that it’s better to take a week or two off when you see the symptoms of an injury, as opposed to overtraining and trying to push forward as much as possible.

I believe the majority of workout injuries can be prevented with proper rest and recovery.

So that’s why I’m bringing your attention to this today…

If you have even the slightest feeling that your body is telling you to stop and back off for a bit, listen to it.

Because when it comes down to it…

Those periods of complete rest and recollection on your routine are when you truly grow and move forward in your fitness journey.

Don’t skip them in the name of the “no pain, no gain” attitude.

It’s not worth it.

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