The Different Muscle Fiber Types (and how to train them)

muscle fibers

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Whether you realize it or not, your muscles literally help power your every move. From running, to lifting weights, to smiling. Your muscles are made up of an enormous number of cells known as muscle fibers. These hard-working little critters are split into two different types, which each have their own specific function and ultimately impact how your body responds to movement and training.

Today, we’re going to review everything you need to know about the types of fibers that make up the muscles in our bodies.

Let’s start with the basics.

There are two primary muscle fiber types.

  • Slow-Twitch Muscle Fibers (also known as Type I)

Type I muscle fibers are focused around endurance. This means they slowly relax and develop force, and they have the unique ability to work for extended periods of time without facing fatigue. Under a microscope, they look red because of their huge concentration of oxygen-carrying red blood cells.

  • Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibers (also known as Type II)

As opposed to slow-twitch muscle fibers, fast-twitch muscle fibers develop force and relax quickly, which makes them responsible for more explosive movements and rapid strength generation. However, they tire out much faster, so they’re tailored toward short-duration efforts. They look light red under a microscope due to their lower concentration of red blood cells.

Most of the muscles in your body contain a mixture of type I and type II muscle fibers, although some muscles generally have higher concentrations of one as opposed to the other.

For example, one of the two main muscles in your calf is the soleus, and it has the highest percentage of type I muscle fibers in the body. And that’s precisely because it plays a vital role in endurance-focused activities such as walking, jogging, even standing. Generally, muscles that are working against gravity at low levels all day are more fatigue-resistant and contain more type I fibers.

At the same time, muscles that are used for more power-generating tasks such as the glutes and deltoids tend to contain more type II fibers.

Not only that, but some people are also genetically predisposed to have higher concentrations of certain muscle fibers. These are exactly the differences responsible for the variations we see in different athlete’s body shapes. This means that athletes who possess a higher percentage of type I fibers in certain areas will inherently be better at endurance tasks, while people with type II will be better at short-duration power tasks. (If all other things are equal.)

So which muscle type should you favor when training?

It’s probably easy for you to guess which type of muscle fibers you have more of, based on the certain activities you’re better at. If you’re, let’s say, a slow sprinter, but you can run a 13-mile dash pretty quickly, then it’s pretty safe to say you’re more type I dominant.

You may also be able to tell which type of muscle fibers you’re abundant in by examining your body type. If it’s usually easier for you to gain muscle when you start working out, you probably have a high percentage of type II. On the opposite side, if you struggle to put on muscle mass despite all your efforts, you’re most likely rich in type I fibers.

Is it possible to change muscle fiber types?

Your proportions of type I and type II fibers are largely determined by genetics. You can’t really turn one type into the other.

That being said, within those primary muscle fiber types there are also subtypes including type I, Ic, IIc, IIax, IIac, and IIx. This allows you to change a muscle fiber’s subtype through training, but not its original type.

For example, the type IIx muscle fibers are known to produce the most force out of all fiber types, but they’re also the ones that tire out the fastest. But exercising a bit converts those type IIx fibers into IIa fibers, which have more endurance than IIx.

Training for slow vs. training for fast-twitch muscle fibers…

Even if you’re not naturally fast and explosive, or you’re not naturally equipped for endurance, you can still do your best to maximize the muscle fibers you have through exercise.

You should keep in mind that you won’t achieve the same result as someone who is genetically predisposed to better muscle fiber proportions.

If you want to focus your attention on developing your type I muscle fibers for endurance, here’s what you should do:

  • Isometric exercises such as the plank (variations of it, not the plain ‘ol plank), because isometric exercises keep your muscle fibers engaged for extended periods of time.
  • High-rep resistance training with lighter weights.
  • Circuit training, in which you can jump from one exercise to the next without any rest, training your endurance even further.

And if you’re someone who wants to make the most out of their type II muscle fibers and train for strength and explosiveness, you should:

  • Strength train with progressively heavier and heavier weights in the 2-6 rep range. Take long rest between sets (upwards of 5 minutes.)
  • Explosive moments and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) such as kettlebell swings, jump squats, barbell snatches, and more.

How Long Will It Take to Lose Muscle?

muscle

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Whether we like it or not, many of us will sooner or later have to pause our workout routines. We might be stressed at work, on a vacation, or just needing a break – there are plenty of reasons why sometimes, we’re going to take time off the gym, and that’s completely okay.

However, no matter how badly we need a break, you’re always going to worry about losing all your hard-earned muscle gains before you’re ready to start training again.

That’s why today, we’re here to break down the science of how long it takes to start losing muscle mass, and what you can do to make sure that doesn’t happen even while you’re on a break.

Let’s get right into it.

In the first 72 hours after your last workout…

If you’re someone who doesn’t particularly train or follow a regime, you’re going to see quick losses in muscle mass in the first 72 hours after your last training. Even your heart, which is a muscle as well, will show signs of decreased performance by lowering the amount of blood it can pump per beat after 72 hours off from exercise.

You’ll instantly notice the effects of stopping exercise on your heart health – much sooner than you will in your biceps or quads. If you work out on a Monday and then proceed to miss three training days (therefore training again on Friday,) you will feel a lot more breathless than usual. This is because less oxygenated blood is being sent out from the heart on every beat. Even though it’s not going to break your training, it’s actually pretty noticeable of a difference.

Although you actually start losing muscle mass after 3 days, you probably won’t notice any of the losses until you’ve gone at least 3 weeks without training. One recent study found that men who train regularly can take up to three weeks off from exercise without any noticeable loss in muscle mass.

What factors come into play when determining how fast we lose muscle mass?

How long you’ve been training (and how consistently.)

The more time you’ve spent in the gym and the more time you’ve spent on developing your muscle mass, the better off you’ll be and the longer the break you can take without experiencing any major losses. If you’re already fit, and your muscles are developed, you will have a baseline of muscle that other, less experienced lifters, will not have.

Your dietary choices and habits.

For example, adequate protein is a necessity when building and maintaining muscle mass. If you’re skipping on your protein or not getting enough, your body will simply not have the necessary amino acids (which are the building blocks of your body’s proteins) to keep up with the continuous breakdown and reshaping of cells. Eventually, your body starts pulling protein from your muscle stores in order to get the necessary amino acids it needs. The result? You guessed it, losing muscle.

One study examined sedentary and moderately active elderly women who followed a low-protein diet (which was about 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight every day) lost approximately 14% of their muscle mass in just 9 weeks! What’s surprising is that 1.5 grams of protein a day falls within the healthy recommended range of protein per kilogram for most older adults.

That’s why even if you’re not training, you have to make sure you’re getting enough protein to maintain healthy muscle mass.

And sure, protein needs may vary from one person to another, but as a general guideline, the INSS (International Society of Sports Nutrition) suggests that active people should aim for a protein intake between 1.5-2 grams per kilogram of body weight (and older adults should aim for the higher end of the spectrum.) To put that in perspective, that’s about 100-130 grams of protein every day for active adults.

Your age and current fitness.

There are many age-related changes that will ultimately make it harder for you to build and maintain muscle. One of them is a change related to the nervous system. 

As we’re aging, we being to lose motor neurons. Some studies suggest that there’s a drastic decrease in these motor neurons between the ages of 60 and 70. Motor neurons transmit basic impulses from the spinal cord that tell our muscles when they should contract. 

When you lose these motor neurons, it becomes very difficult to recruit more muscle fibers. And when you can’t recruit muscle fibers, this means fibers won’t break down and rebuild back stronger. 

Strength training will, however, reverse these changes to the nervous system – as well as various other age-related body changes – but that being said, once you stop training, the benefits gradually dissipate. 

Your gender.

When it comes to muscle, men tend to have a slight advantage. Men have more natural testosterone, which is anabolic to the muscle tissues and helps with their development and maintenance. (Anabolic meaning the process of building larger molecules out of smaller molecules, just like building protein out of amino acids.)

The bottom line is…

That how quickly you’ll lose your muscle mass after you stop training depends on a variety of factors, but as a general rule of thumb, you can expect noticeable losses in muscle mass in 2-4 weeks after you stop training.

If you have to stop exercising for whatever reason, and you wish to maintain and keep your hard-earned muscle mass, you could achieve a lot of luck just by doing two strength training workouts per week, as experts suggest. Target every major muscle group, do that 1-2 sets of 8-12 reps, and maintain a high intake of protein, and you’ll slow down the process of gradual size and strength loss. 

But even if you can’t, or you just don’t want to train for a few weeks, you don’t have to go back to square one when you restart your routine. As long as you’ve been training consistently up until your break, you will be able to rebuild your size and strength rather quickly.

7 Sustainable Ways to Lose Weight Without Fad Diets

Hey Angels and Alphas,

We all know and understand fad diets. They all promise easy and quick weight loss, and they’re often extremely restrictive with a list of do’s and dont’s. But odds are, we’ve all tried one (or more) at some point.

Don’t get me wrong – fad diets do work, for a short amount of time. That’s why people keep coming back to them. They each have a somewhat fanatical following of loyal fans. The problem with fad diets, however, is their sustainability.

WHY FAD DIETS DON’T WORK

One of their main characteristics of fad diets is that they tend to overemphasize one particular nutrient or nutrient category and underemphasize the importance of a balanced diet. They often lead to a cycle of gaining weight and losing weight often referred to as weight cycling, where successful weight loss is followed by another unintentional weight regain. This behavior has a horrible impact on your metabolism, making it harder to lose weight (and keep the weight off.)

Not only that, but what works for you might not work for another person. It’s very unlikely that the best diet for you is the best diet for your neighbor, your best friend, or whoever. Genetics, gender, age, lifestyle, all of those are variables that play a factor that make losing weight such an individual process.

HOW DO WE MAKE WEIGHT LOSS SUSTAINABLE?

People tend to over complicate this, but it’s all down to adopting a healthy lifestyle. This means a collection of healthy habits that you’re used to (and that you enjoy.) This will ultimately keep you away from different fad diets and the cycle of yo-yo dieting so detrimental to your weight loss success.

That being said, here are 7 tips you can use to turn weight loss from a daring adventure to a consistent, habitual lifestyle thing…

TIP #1 – BOOST YOUR METABOLISM (with regular meals)

When you’re going on long periods of time when you’re not going to consume any calories, it’s natural that your blood sugar will drop. This can result in more adverse symptoms such as fatigue and dizziness, and will lead to cravings for sugar-rich foods.

It’s definitely easy to go from one end to the spectrum (being very hungry) or the other (feeling extremely full) if you just bypass the usual hunger signals and wait too long before consuming a meal.

That’s why you should always keep eating meals and snacks at regular intervals, including a balanced intake of protein, fat, and carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar balanced.

TIP #2 – CUT BACK ON (ADDED) SUGARS

We can’t make a list of healthy habits and not include this. Sugar is often disguised on food labels under many different names, and added sugar is basically the main reason packaged and processed foods are so packed with calories. Our bodies can rapidly break down added sugars, causing blood sugar and insulin levels in our bodies to spike. Added sugars also lack a sense of satiety, creating more and more cravings in the long run.

One easy way to cut back on sugar is to basically eliminate it from your morning meals. You can start the day with cereal, flavored yogurts, muffins, or even a fancy latte, but they’ll all be packed with added sugars. Instead, choose a savory breakfast that includes all three macronutrients, such as avocado toast or eggs with sweet potato hash.

TIP #3 – LIMIT ALCOHOL

This relates to our last point, but please realize this – at 7 calories per gram, alcohol is the second most dense source of calories. More than carbohydrates and protein (at 4 calories per gram.) Even though you don’t need to skip happy hours for the rest of your life, you can become more aware of how much alcohol you consume. Many cocktails are loaded with added sugars.

Not only that, but our bodies don’t burn anywhere near as many calories metabolizing alcohol as they would breaking down fat and protein. Moreover, drinking alcohol leads to interrupted sleep and dehydration.

That’s why you should try to limit your alcohol intake as much as possible, and consider low-sugar options such as wine or liquor with sugar-free mixers (such as club soda or fresh-squeezed citrus.)

TIP #4 – EAT COLORFUL FOODS RICH IN FIBER

High-fiber diets can not only protect you against chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, but they’re also good for your fitness. However, despite the obvious health benefits of fiber, many people simply don’t consume enough fiber.

Having a rich supply of veggies and fruits can help you spice up meals and snacks, as well as stay full for longer.

That’s why you should opt for more fiber-rich foods such as veggies, fruits, nuts, and whole grains, and they’ll also contain other essential nutrients that benefit your health.

TIP #5 – ADD MORE WHOLE FOODS TO YOUR DIET

Whenever you can, you should choose whole foods over processed foods. This sounds easy enough, but many fad diets have a line of prepackaged snacks, breads, cereals, and other foods that you have to be on the lookout for.

They’re hidden secret sugars and fillers, which are not whole foods. Always opt for foods in their most natural form, as this will ensure you’re getting the most minerals and vitamins without added sugars or additives. When you eat more whole foods, you’ll also feel fuller for longer, helping you achieve more sustainable weight loss.

TIP #6 – PRACTICE EATING MINDFULLY

You’ve heard time and time again that you shouldn’t eat in front of the TV, in your car, or while you’re checking your e-mails. And that’s actually solid advice because these distractions come at a cost.

When you aren’t even focusing on what you’re eating, it’s very easy to ignore your body’s natural satiety cues and overeat. Mindful eating means you’ll be paying attention to every bite you take – the aromas, flavors, textures, and presentation of your food. If you’re eating mindfully, you’ll avoid overeating and you’ll appreciate your food much more, instead of mindlessly reaching in the chip bag.

TIP #7 – MAKE SURE EXERCISE FEELS GOOD

When you find exercises you truly enjoy and look forward to doing, weight loss will become much more sustainable and it will have a positive effect on both your physical and mental well-being.

That means even when you’re applying all these habitual changes to your diet and lifestyle, you should always look for new ways to make exercising fun and exciting.

Maybe this means trying a strength-training class, starting a jogging habit, or doing yoga at home – whatever fun and productive exercise means to you, find it and do it.

The Different Types of Competitions in Bodybuilding & Modeling

In this article, you’re going to learn about the different organizations and competitions in the bodybuilding/modeling world.
You’re going to learn about…

  • The WBFF
  • The NPC
  • The ICN
  • The NABBA
  • The IFBB
  • The ANB

Whether you’re a gym-goer looking to learn more about the different bodybuilding organizations, or an athlete interested in learning more about how competitive bodybuilding works in the real world, this article is for you.

You’re going to learn everything there is to know about how these organizations were created, what their goals are, the differences in their rules and regulations, and the various categories of athletes that they’re looking to promote and work with.

Let’s get started.

WBFF

WBFF stands for world beauty fitness and fashion. The professional athlete, Paul Dillett, found the organization. It’s one of the few bodybuilding organizations created by a professional athlete. They aim to become an industry leader by providing competitors with marketing opportunities to grow as athletes. The goal of WBFF is to merge music, fashion, beauty, and fitness.

Not only that, but they want to support their partners to promote health, fashion, and entertainment. The WBFF seeks to raise the standards in the industry by being professional and honest. They are not just a fitness organization – they view themselves as a brand that wants to support their athletes to reach the next level in the sport of bodybuilding.

The WBFF uses its connections with different partners to provide each of its athletes with sponsorship and other marketing opportunities. Their events are of the most well-produced shows in the fitness industry.

Male Categories

Male Fitness Model

The Men’s fitness model category is for men who display an athletic and defined physique without having as much muscle as a muscle model. Every competitor has to wear square-cut shorts that can be plain or patterned.

Muscle Model

This category is for athletes who appear too muscular to be a fitness model, but don’t generally participate in bodybuilding. The judges are looking for overall physique, symmetry as well as muscle definition, and conditioning. Competitors can crossover to the Male Fitness category if they want.

Transformation Division

This division is for people who are making their way to a healthier lifestyle. They may not be ready for more advanced division, but they can show the world how much they have improved. To participate, you’ll need three before and after photos, as well as a short bio explaining your personal journey.

Female Categories

Diva Figure Model

The Diva Figure Model competition is for those women who have more muscle and definition than diva bikini or fitness competitors. Judges are looking for marketability, incredible physique, and excellent stage presence.

Diva Wellness

Here, the competitors should have more developed lower body physique. The focus of this competition is on the muscle and tone of the body. The judges are looking for overall beauty as well as marketability.

Diva Bikini Model

The Diva Bikini Model is a beauty contest for women who appear slightly muscular and have an excellent tone definition. Judges are looking for a more developed body physique. The focus is on the shape and tone of the body as well as overall beauty and marketability.

Diva Fitness Model

This category is for female athletes who have more muscle tone and definition than those participating in the Diva Bikini Model. Judges are looking for athletic physiques, excellent marketability, and a confident stage presence.

Commercial Models

The competitors should be between the ages of 17 to 45 to participate. It’s a very specialized branch of modeling, but it’s incredibly lucrative. Here, the judges are looking for beauty and marketability, as the winners will pose for some of the world’s biggest magazines.

Rules:

  1. All competitors have to use the official WBFF Beauty Service as well as the official WBFF tanning service if they want to participate.
  2. The models should wear shoes that compliment them and that are in line with the WBFF brand. The WBFF no longer allows clear stilettos.
  3. To compete in any WBFF category, you need to be at least 18 years of age.
  4. For the Diva Bikini Model category, there is an over 35 years class.
  5. Contestants shouldn’t invite guests backstage.
  6. No alcohol is allowed at the shows.
  7. If you’re competing for the first time, you should attend the WBFF amateur competition.
  8. No previous experience is required to participate in a WBFF competition.
  9. All props and costumes have to be approved by the WBFF before the competition.

NPC

NPC, or the National Physique Committee, is the most well-known physique organization in the world, created in 1982. In this competition, the athletes in bodybuilding, fitness, figure, bikini, and physique can participate as long as they are members of the organization.

It’s the primary amateur organization in the world, and many of its successful athletes attend professional IFBB events later on in their careers. NPC’s athletes frequently appear in different magazines like Muscle & Fitness, Muscular Development, and others.

Their most popular divisions are the Men’s physique and Women’s bikini fitness. The competitors in these categories can appear in various magazines and marketing campaigns. The NPC competitions are not hardcore bodybuilding contests but rather an amateur competition where they celebrate each of their athletes’ achievements. They organize thousands of live events, and they are frequent appearances of celebrity hosts like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Male Categories

Men’s Classic Physique

The competitors should have a nice muscular physique as well as symmetry. Judges are looking for marketability and excellent stage presence. Competitors shouldn’t be as bulky as other categories, but they still have to display strong muscle development.

Men’s Physique

Competitors should have proper shape and symmetry as well as excellent musculature and overall condition. However, this is not a bodybuilding competition. Judges are looking to see the confidence and personality of each competitor when posing. They have to display their bodies uniquely and creatively.

Here are the weight classes for male competitors:

  • Bantamweight – up to 143 ¼ lbs.
  • Lightweight – over 143 ¼ lbs up to 154 ¼ lbs.
  • Middleweight – over 154 ¼ lbs up to 176 ¼ lbs.
  • Light-Heavyweight – over 176 ¼ lbs up to 198 ¼ lbs.
  • Heavyweight – over 198 ¼ lbs up to 225 ¼ lbs.
  • Super Heavyweight – over 225 ¼ lbs.

Female Categories

Women’s Physique

Competitors have to show musculature as well as overall symmetry. They should have a balance between the upper and lower body. Judges are looking for marketability as well as stage presence and confidence. The athletes have to present themselves in a muscular and yet feminine way.

Bikini

Here, the judges look for musculature that displays the female body in a sexy and feminine way. They need to have full round glutes with a slight separation between the hamstrings and the glutes. Competitors should have overall symmetry and excellent body shape, as well as marketability and great stage presence.

Figure

Competitors should have an excellent V shape figure that has a small degree of muscle definition. They also have to display excellent condition. Judges are looking for overall symmetry and balance that shows the beauty of each contestant.

Wellness

This competition is for female athletes that want to show more body mass in their hips, glutes, and thighs. They should have a developed upper body but not as much as their lower body. This division is all about displaying the most beautiful parts of the female body without demonstrating any imbalances.

Here are the different weight classes for female competitors:

  • Lightweight – up to 115 lbs.
  • Middleweight – over 115 lbs up to 125 lbs.
  • Light-Heavyweight – over 125 lbs up to 140 lbs.
  • Heavyweight – over 140 lbs.

Rules:

  1. Male competitors have to wear plain in color suits without fringe or wording.
  2. Female competitors have to wear two-piece posing suits that may have printed design, including fringes, lace, sparkle, or fluorescents.
  3. All posing suits must be V-shaped without any thongs.
  4. Each competitor can bring their own music, but it shouldn’t contain any vulgar lyrics.
  5. Only wedding bands and earrings are allowed. Competitors can’t wear any other jewelry as well as props or gum.
  6. Competitors must have US citizenship if they want to compete in a US-based NPC contest.
  7. If they don’t have US citizenship, they must at least have a green card.
  8. If the competitor is Canadian, they should be a member of the CPA to participate in a competition.

ICN

ICN was created in the 90s with the idea of taking Australian bodybuilding on a world-class level. Nowadays, they run around 40 competitions a year. The ICN is focused not only on running events but on educating young people about the dangers of obesity and unhealthy eating. Not only that, but it focuses on the natural side of bodybuilding.

The organization’s goal is to support natural athletes who want to develop their physique without taking any performance-enhancing drugs. The creator of the organization is Wayne McDonald, who wanted to develop natural bodybuilding in Australia. He organized their first event, known as “The Australian Natural Titles” in 1991, which was a massive success.

The first event in Australia had an Olympic Gold Standard in drug testing, which showed that Wayne is serious about developing natural bodybuilding in Australia. In 1995, Wayne organized the first international bodybuilding event outside the US in Melbourne.

It was the World National Cup, which was another great success. More than three decades later, the ICN remains of the most critical Australian bodybuilding organizations, having eight independent state organizations.

Male Divisions

Fitness Model

Here, competitors have to present themselves professionally as a model. It’s more of a beauty contest than a bodybuilding competition. The judges are looking for symmetry, body competition, and stage presence as well as marketability.

Men’s Physique

Competitors have to show proper shape and symmetry as well as muscularity and excellent condition. However, this is still more of a beauty contest than a bodybuilding competition as the judges are focusing on symmetry and body composition.

Bodybuilding

In this category, competitors have the most bulk and muscle definition, compared to other divisions. Here, the judges are looking for musculature and a well-balanced physique as well as stage presence.

Female Categories

Bikini Model

Competitors shouldn’t have a six-pack. The judges are looking for a softer, beach body compared to a category like the fitness model class. The competitors have to wear just bikini and have a great overall body shape as well as marketability and stage confidence.

Ms. Runway

This category is all about looking fit and healthy in a classy dress. Competitors have to wear a long evening gown style of dress. While their bodies are important, the competitors have to display confidence, excellent posing as well as symmetrical body structure.

Sports Model

In this division, judges are looking for remarkable sportswear and shoes that complement each competitor’s body. It lies between Bikini and Fitness models. Here, the competitors have to show symmetry, body composition, as well as confidence, and stage presence.

Swimwear Model

This category is for competitors whose shape looks better in a one-piece outfit. They have to showcase their bodies in the best light possible. Judges are looking for symmetry, beauty, and excellent body composition, stage presence, and uniqueness.

Angels

The Angels division is open for all female competitors. They not only have to show an excellent body composition and symmetry but personality and confidence as well. Here, the judges are looking for a combination of beauty and presentation. The competitors have to express their personalities in a fun and creative way.

Fitness Model

In this category, judges are looking for competitors with six-packs. The judges are looking for a good balance between musculature and beauty. Not only that, but the competitors have to display themselves in a way that compliments their feminine personality.

Classic Figure

Judges look for overall symmetry, balance, and excellent stage presentation. This is more of a bodybuilding competition compared to the previous divisions. Here, the judges are looking for a more muscular look as well as confidence and creative presentation.

Figure

In this category, judges are looking for a bodybuilding build but with less bulk. The competitors have to show their feminine side as musculature. Competitors need to have an excellent symmetry, good body structure, and stage presentation.

Bodybuilding

Compared to the other categories, competitors should have the most bulk and muscle definition in this division. The judges are looking for an excellent tone, symmetry, and body structure that showcases their musculature.

Rules:

  1. There are no restrictions on the color or design of the dress.
  2. Competitors must be Australian citizens or have a residency visa.
  3. Competitors with muscle implants or injections can’t participate.
  4. Competitors have to enter the event a day before because same-day entries are not allowed.
  5. The athletes have to be members of the organization to participate in the competition.
  6. The minimum age of all competitions is 15 years old.
  7. To compete, the athletes have to be in the top 5 in any ICN contest.
  8. All competitors must be completely drug-free to participate in any contest.

NABBA

NABBA is the original competitive bodybuilding association, created in 1948. It ran the first Mr. Universe competition in 1950. The late Oscar Heidenstam became the secretary of the organization and ran it for more than 30 years. Some of the most high-profile performers in this competition were Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Pearl, and Reg Park.

The international branch of this organization was created in 1984, and since then, it has hosted European and Worldwide championships. This branch has the support of more than fifty countries around the world. They are ten elected area reps that cover England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland that are members of the NABBA council. Each of these areas holds a qualifying event that leads to the annual Mr. & Ms. Britain Finals.

That event then turns into a qualifier for the European and Universe Championships that become harder and harder every year. The last Universe competition had more than 130 athletes from more than 20 countries competing for the grand prize.

Male Categories

Men’s Bodybuilding

Judges are looking for the overall quality of muscular development. Competitors have to weight a maximum of 80kg to participate in this category. The judges are looking for equal development of their body parts as well as an overall symmetry of their body composition.

Men’s Sports Shorts

This is more of a beauty contest than a bodybuilding competition. The judges are looking for symmetry and well-toned body composition. Here, competitors should have defined abs but not as a bulky physique as the bodybuilding competition.

Female Competitions

Miss Bikini

Competitors should wear one or two-piece bikini. They should have a natural tan that compliments their physique. In this competition, the judges look for the complete package of musculature, beauty, and personality.

Miss Toned Figure

Judges are looking for a balanced and symmetrical athletic figure. The competitors have to be confident in their presentation to show their best. However, this is more of a beauty contest than a bodybuilding competition, so too much musculature won’t be appreciated.

Miss Athletic Figure

The competitors in this category have to show athletic and feminine development. One of the most important aspects of this competition is showing muscle definition and low body fat. However, the judges are not looking for the extremes. They want to see a healthy balance and musculature.

Miss Trained Figure

Here the competitors must have a feminine shape and proportion. They have to retain a “trained look” and low body fat levels without carrying development or definition to an extreme that could be classed as unfeminine. Here, the judges are looking for the complete package of musculature, beauty, and well-balanced body definition.

Rules:

  1. All competitors have to be NABBA members.
  2. Competitors can’t participate in more than one contest.
  3. Junior competitors must be 20.
  4. Senior athletes must be over 45.
  5. Competitors can use tanning color.
  6. Any competitor that acts in an unsportsmanlike manner will be disqualified.
  7. A first-time competitor shouldn’t have competed before.

IFBB

IFBB stands for the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness. It’s the governing body of bodybuilding and fitness, founded in 1946 in Montreal. Two brothers, Ben and Joe Weider, found the organization with only one goal in mind – to establish world-renowned athletes that take the sport to the next level.

Now, the organization oversees International events like World and Continental championships. Now, IFBB has more than 170 national federations worldwide, having grown from 2 initial. The IFBB holds more than 2500 events globally, which vary from local events to global competitions. The most successful competitors go to the IFBB Hall of Fame.

To join the Hall of Fame, the competitor must have made major contributions to the sport of fitness and bodybuilding. Also, they must be retired for at least five years to be considered for the honor.

Male Categories

Bodybuilding

Judges are looking for athletes that don’t have any weak points. Competitors have to train their body parts and muscles to their maximum while maintaining symmetry and balance. The athletes that show more muscle details are going to be the winners of the competition. The other important thing is the balance of the physique.

Classic Bodybuilding and Games Classic Bodybuilding:

This contest is for competitors who want to develop a lighter “classic physique” than the bodybuilding category. The judges are looking for a well-balanced and tom physique that shows excellent muscle shape and definition.

It has five different height categories:

  • 168 cm
  • 171 cm
  • 175 cm
  • 180 cm
  • over 180 cm

Games Classic Bodybuilding

This contest is for less muscular men compared to the Classic Bodybuilding category. It has two different height categories – up to 175 cm and over 175 cm.
The judges are looking for more of a balanced physique than a muscular definition and stage presence and marketability.

Men’s Physique

The judges are looking for competitors to show proper shape and symmetry, as well as musculature and excellent condition. This competition is for athletes who eat clean, train hard, and show their physique but have less muscular development.

Here are the different height divisions:

  • 170 cm
  • 173 cm
  • 176 cm
  • 179 cm
  • 182 cm
  • Over 182 cm

Men’s Fitness

The competitors must not only display strength and muscle definition but flexibility and confidence as well. The judges are looking for an overall balance and presentation that shows a strong and well-developed physique.

It has four height categories:

  • 170cm
  • 175cm
  • 180cm
  • Over 180cm

Female Categories

Women Fitness

Here, the judges are looking for a shapely, athletic-looking physique. The competitors should have less musculature and more of an overall athletic physique.

There are two height categories – up to 163 cm and over 163 cm.

The judges want to see an excellent strength and conditioning as well as confident stage presence and flexibility.

Women Body Fitness

The competitors need to have an overall athletic appearance, looking symmetrical with a small amount of body fat. The judges are looking for more of a balanced physique and stage presence than overall muscle development.

There are four body height categories:

  • 158 cm
  • 163 cm
  • 168 cm
  • Over 168 cm

Women’s Bikini-Fitness

Competitors don’t have to be as bulky as other categories, but they still have a nice body definition with a little musculature. Here, the competition is for women who keep their bodies in shape and eat healthily but are not as muscular as the bodybuilding categories.

The competition has eight height categories:

  • 158 cm
  • 160 cm
  • 162 cm
  • 164 cm
  • 166 cm
  • 169 cm
  • 172 cm
  • Over 172 cm

Women’s Physique

This division is for female athletes that want to show a heavier, bodybuilding-style body without going to the extreme. They have to display an aesthetically pleasing shape that still remains feminine.

There are two categories in this division – up to 163 cm and over 163 cm.

The judges are looking for overall athletic development as well as a well-balanced and symmetrical physique.

Women’s Wellness Fitness

The category is for women who want to display a more muscular physique that’s also bulkier compared to the other categories.

There are four Wellness Fitness categories:

  • Up to 158 cm
  • Up to 163 cm
  • Up to 168 cm
  • Over 168 cm

Mixed Pairs

This category is for women that are participating in either the female physique category or the female fitness to perform with a male who is performing in a male bodybuilder or the classic male bodybuilder competition.

Here, the judges are looking for an overall symmetry, muscle size, definition, and skin tone. The couples are going to be judges as a unit to see how well they complement each other’s physiques.

Children Fitness

Children Fitness is the only sports division that’s for children. It has no lower age limit, but the upper age limit is 16 years old. The judges are looking for athletic performance, stage confidence, as well as creative ways for the competitors to display their personality.

Here are the age categories for girls:

  • Up to 7 years
  • Up to 8 years
  • Up to 9 years
  • Up to 10 years
  • Up to 11 years
  • Up to 12
  • Up to 13 years
  • 14-15 years

Boy’s categories:

  • Up to 7 years
  • 8-9 years
  • 10-11 years
  • 12-13 years
  • 14-15 years old

Rules:

  1. To participate in an IFBB competition, an athlete must have an IFBB international card as well as the citizenship of the country they want to represent.
  2. The competitor can’t represent two countries in the same year.
  3. The athletes must have the approval of her national federation to participate in the competition.
  4. Competitors can’t contact the organizer directly.
  5. All competitors have to show up in the official athlete registration before the show.
  6. At the time of registration, all athletes must have a valid IFBB international card, a passport, or a citizenship card, and a music CD.
  7. The music shouldn’t contain any vulgar or offensive lyrics.

ANB

A young man, passionate about strength training, created the ANB (The Australian Natural Bodybuilding Federation) in 1983. His name is Robert Powell, and at the time, he owned a supplement store in Sydney.

Now, more than two decades later, ANB has hosted countless world and Australian championships. Their membership base is growing every year, attracting the best Australian athletes. Their focus is on helping athletes build their own legacy by giving them a platform to show their physique. ANB continues to sell out shows providing its athletes with maximum exposure.

The ANB organization’s goal is to raise the standard in bodybuilding, health, and fitness by being professionals. They want to support their athletes with unlimited sponsorship and marketing opportunities. ANB provides everyone with equal opportunity and support, whether their athletes, sponsors, or partners. They treat all of them as part of the big ANB family.

Male Categories

Fitness Model

This category is for competitors who have a little muscle definition but are not as bulky as classic bodybuilders.

The Fitness model category has five divisions:

  • Novice
  • Under 25
  • Over 25
  • Over 35
  • Open

The judges are looking for an athletic physique that has a nice muscular development as well as tone.

Physique Model

Here, all competitors have to wear European trunks. They have to show more muscle than the fitness model category.

It has five different divisions:

  • Novice
  • Under 25
  • Over 25
  • Over 35
  • Open

However, this category is more of a beauty contest than a bodybuilding competition as the judges are looking for a well-balanced physique.

Bodybuilding

Judges are looking for the most muscularity compared to the other categories. Competitors should have excellent muscle definition, condition, symmetry, shape, and presentation.

It has ten different divisions:

  • Novice
  • Teen
  • Junior under 22
  • Masters +40
  • Under 65kg
  • Under 70kg
  • Under 80kg
  • Under 90kg
  •  Over 90kg
  • Open

The judges are looking for six-packs and well-defined musculature that displays confidence.

Female Categories

Swimsuit International

Judges are looking for an excellent stage presentation, symmetry, and posing. Competitors have to wear a one-piece swimsuit. The category is open for all bikini and fitness models. The competitors have to show nice muscle definition, tone, and athleticism as well as display confidence when posing.

Bikini Model

Here, judges are looking for a softer, X-shaped physique compared to a category like the fitness model class. Competitors should demonstrate symmetry, stable conditions, and great shape.

It has five divisions:

  • Novice
  • Under 25
  • Over 25
  • Over 35
  • Open

In this competition, the judges are looking for the complete package of beauty, musculature, and confident stage presence.

Fitness Model

Competitors should have a full six-pack as well as an X-shape physique that more athletic compared to the previous two categories:

It has five divisions:

  • Novice
  • Under 25
  • Over 25
  • Over 35
  • Open

The judges are looking for a more athletic physique compared to the previous female categories.

Female Figure

Here, competitors should have more muscle definition than the Fitness model category but not as a professional bodybuilder.

It has six divisions:

  • Novice
  • Under 25
  • Over 25
  • Over 35
  • Masters +40
  • Open

The judges are looking for symmetry, musculature, condition, and excellent stage presence and body shape.

Theme Wear

This category is open for all female models. Judges are looking for a creative costume selection as well as props. It’s about showing your personality. The competitors still have to look athletic, but they have showcase themselves in a fun way that compliments their physique.

Female Physique

Here, competitors should have more muscularity compared to any other category. Judges are looking for symmetry, shape, condition, and presentation. This category is open for all female competitors and models looking to show how strong they have become.

Rules:

  1. To compete in any of the above categories, you must be a winner in either an ANB national/Pro-AM event or a DFAC world event.
  2. Then, you’re eligible to compete as a pro.
  3. You receive a pro card that enables you to participate. It’s valid for 12 months.
  4. You’re free to compete in other natural bodybuilding federations.
  5. The cost for an athlete to participate in a show is $350.
  6. For amateurs, it’s $250.
  7. The renewal of the card is $175.
  8. As an ANB Pro, the competitors may be invited to make a guest appearance in a particular show.
  9. They have a strong anti-drug policy supporting natural athletes only.

Conclusion

To summarize, here are the major differences between the competitions:

  • The WBFF is the world’s leading beauty and fitness competition. It’s not only for showing athleticism but personality as well.
  • The NPC is the leading bodybuilding amateur organization in the world. It’s an excellent stepping stone for athletes that want to start competing professionally.
  • The ICN is an Australian organization that wants to bring the Australian bodybuilding to a world-class level by creating different competitions and events.
  • NABBA is one of the first bodybuilding organizations that has been created. It gave birth to world-renowned athletes like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
  • The IFBB is the governing body in the bodybuilding industry. It’s one of the most well- known organizations in the business. It oversees the biggest competitions like the European and World Championships.
  • The ANB is another Australian organization that creates events in the country. Their goal is to provide Australian athletes with a platform to grow and reach the world’s stage.

As you see, every organization has a different goal and a different way of achieving it. If you’re interested in participating in any of their competitions, you should check out their websites to learn more about their intake process.

10 Ways to Cut Sugar from Your Diet

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Let’s be honest. There’s nothing wrong with going for an extra scoop of ice cream every so often or indulging in a craving every now and then. But the line between an extra scoop and too much is often very thin, and we all know too much sugar has detrimental effects on our health and our efforts to lose weight.

The FDA has recommended that people get no more than 10 percent of their daily calorie intake from sugars – defined as the sugars added during the packaging and processing of food. This means honey, syrups, and juices with more than sugar than you’d otherwise expect of a 100% veggie/fruit juice.

Naturally occurring sugars that are contained in fruits, veggies, and dairy are rich in nutritional value, and they come with vital vitamins and nutrients. Not only that, but they contain fiber and protein that slow your digestion and make them a more reliable source of steady energy.

That’s why continuously finding new ways to swap added sugar for natural sugar is one of the best things you can do for your overall health and energy levels.

Let’s take a look at 10 ways you can do exactly that.

1. Let’s start with investigating your intake.

You have to start by figuring out how much sugar you’re consuming right now. The best way to do this is to start keeping a food diary or using an app to track your food
intake.

But even if you’re not the type of person to write everything down, you can do this for one week, and you’ll still get a sufficient statistical excerpt and will help you identify
your average sugar intake.

After that week, you should determine how much you are going to need to cut down on your sugar intake in order to stay under your daily limit.

2. Set your boundaries on sugar.

If some of your favorite foods are sugar bombs, such as cookies or chocolate, and they compel you to not stop eating when you start, you have to get real specific on
your limits. How often are you going to enjoy them? How are you going to stop yourself from reaching for more? A good way to handle this is to reserve your treats for special occasions, such as to reward yourself for a job well done.

3. Learn sugars by all its names.

Then, head to your pantries and shelves and grab anything with sugar in it. Check the nutrition labels on your favorite drinks and foods. Sugar is usually listed in there in a variety of names, including high fructose corn syrup, caramel, beet sugar,
dextrose, honey, cane syrup, turbinado, and many more. Even foods that usually sound good for you can take a toll on your weight loss efforts, such as granola and yogurt with “low fat” descriptions. They naturally use more sugar to maintain flavor.

4. Read all your nutrition labels carefully.

If you’re looking for granola, search for one that contains no more than 5 grams of added sugar per serving. Look for foods that are lightly sweet, contain healthy fats from nuts, or are packed with whole grains.

Make an effort to build the habit of compulsively checking nutrition labels. After all, you have to know what you’re putting in your body, be it for the purposes of tracking your intake, or to just make sure you’re not buying anything containing harmful ingredients.

5. If you want to sweeten your breakfast, use fruit and cinnamon.

Packaged cereal, yogurt, and granola often contain big (yet sneaky) amounts of sugar.

If you add sugar, maple syrup, or honey on top, that adds up very quickly if you’re not careful. That’s why you should go for plain yogurt topped with nuts, fresh fruits, cinnamon, or another healthy sweetener.

6. Always go for in-season fruit.

You know off- season produce isn’t nearly as tasty and delicious as in-season fruits and veggies. If you don’t believe me, try eating a blueberry in January.

They’re not only less sweet and don’t provide the same abundant healthy content, but they’re often less colorful and easy to spot.

Of course, what fruits are in season (as well as for how long) will depend largely on where you are in the world. If you want to make the right choice, ask the local vendors at the market about the best times to buy your favorite fruits and veggies.

7. Ignore high-sugar condiments.

While barbecue sauce, mustard, and ketchup are certainly delicious additions to any slice of Pizza, they’re most often packed with added sugar and sweeteners.

Some brands even sell condiments sweetened with fruit extracts or date paste, but even these supposedly healthier versions are devoid of healthy sugar and fiber.

That’s why you should limit high-sugar condiments and stop using mustard, pesto, or even olive oil mayonnaise. Focus on ones that potentially contain healthy fats and increase the number of vitamins your body absorbs every meal.

8. Decrease your portion sizes.

Even though this sounds painful, you’ll quickly find that mindful enjoyment of sweet foods can easily fit into a healthy weight management plan… however, the key remains in portion control.

Instead of buying a big box of your favorite chocolate or a pint of ice cream, you can focus your attention on single-serving desserts.

This way, you’ll have to consciously decide whether to open another one or put another one on your plate. This makes it harder to submit to your cravings, whereas it’s much easier to keep munching on a larger portion.

9. Cut down your grocery list a bit.

It’s much easier to say “no” once when you’re in the grocery aisle in the store than it is to say “no” a dozen times when sweets and snacks are already in your cupboard.

If there are certain drinks and foods that you struggle to portion control, consider just skipping them altogether in your grocery list and not buying them.

10. Get enough sleep!

If you make sure you’re getting enough sleep every night and you’re not just relying on caffeine to boost you up, you’ll have a much easier time managing cravings.

The evidence that people who get less than 8 hours of sleep consume more sugary snacks and treats is piling and piling study after study, and research all links back to less sleep = more sugar.

The next time you’re wondering whether to binge another episode of your favorite show or go to bed, the latter option will likely be a better choice for your weight.

The 5 Most Common Stretching Mistakes

Hey Angels and Alphas,

As you probably know, there are about a billion reasons to make stretching a regular part of your fitness routine. It’s not only relaxing, but it improves your flexibility and range of motion, preparing your muscles and joints for workouts. It also helps you prevent injury, improve recovery, alleviate soreness, and so much more.

But these benefits can only be achieved if stretching is done correctly.

Unfortunately, many people, both athletes and regular gym-goers, make several stretching mistakes that make their stretching sessions not only ineffective, but also potentially harmful and counterproductive.

Today, we’re taking a look at the 5 most common stretching mistakes – as well as how to fix them – so you can start doing productive, effective stretching routines.

STRETCHING MISTAKE #1 – DOING STATIC STRETCHES BEFORE YOUR WORKOUT.

Is it just me, or did it (at one time) seem like everyone was doing static stretches before their workouts? But right now, experts and researchers alike are all cautioning athletes and gym-goers that holding static stretches while your muscles are still cold (meaning before your workout) can increase your risk of muscle strain and significantly diminish your performance during your workout.

Not only that, but holding static stretches before your workout can decrease the strength of your lower-body by as much as 8 percent, according to this brilliant piece of research published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.

Researchers also speculate that lengthening your muscles (through static stretching) while they’re not warmed up can limit their potential to effectively “fire up” during exercise. And if you’re the type of exerciser that lifts heavy or performs a lot of explosive moments (such as sprints, jumps, squats, etc.) then you need your muscles to always be firing efficiently.

How do you fix it? Forget about static stretches when it comes to your pre-workout routine. The king of all pre-workout stretching is called dynamic stretching.

Unlike static stretches, which are basically passive singular positions held for longer periods of time, the dynamic stretches are active and use a back-and-forth movement to bring about a stretch in the muscle. This not only helps the muscle warm-up and gets your joints ready to move through their full range of motion, but it also does much more for you in terms of flexibility. Save your static stretching routine for after your workout, when your muscles are warm, so you can relax them and alleviate post-workout muscle soreness.

STRETCHING MISTAKE #2 – STRETCHING WITHOUT STRENGTHENING.

If you’re stretching after every workout, but the tightness in your muscles never seems to get better, you have to focus your efforts on building strength in that tight muscle group. A lot of the time, tight muscles are just muscles that are weak and they’re trying to hold tone.

For example, hip flexors are a group of muscles that help you bend your knees toward your chest. They’re notorious for being some of the tightest and weakest muscles in the body. And while stretching your hip flexors might feel great, they’re not going to experience any improvement or increases in flexibility until you start properly training them for strength.

How do you fix it? If your stretching routine is not helping you gain any flexibility, then you should focus on strengthening the muscle group. After your stretching, perform some low-intensity strength exercises. If we’re taking the hip flexors as an example, some awesome strengthening options include standing marches in place (but slow and controlled, of course), as well as hip bridges and lunges.

STRETCHING MISTAKE #3 – FORCING THE STRETCH.

This is a big no-no. If you want an effective stretch, you must be able to “relax into it.” While many exercises try to force stretches, this is not only unpleasant, but it can lead to serious muscle strain.

Remember: a muscle is at its weakest when it’s in its end range. Take the bicep curl, for example. Your muscle is the strongest when your elbow is bent around the 90- degree mark, and it’s very weak when it is either extended or flexed. If you stretch at one of those end ranges (when the muscle is weak), you’re at a much higher risk of straining yourself.

To fix it, just learn to ease into stretches. If you notice that a stretch is making you change your breathing pattern, back off.

STRETCHING MISTAKE #4 – OVERSTRETCHING!

Yes, it exists.

Overstretching is more common is certain muscle groups more than others. It naturally leads to imbalances in flexibility, which can affect both your join stability and your posture.

If your hamstrings are overstretched, and then paired with tight hip flexors, you are guaranteed to end up with poor positioning in your pelvis over your hip joint. An example of this can be seen in gymnasts and dancers who often stand with an arched lower back (exactly from tight hip flexors and long hamstrings.) This type of posture irritates your hips and leads to poor core stabilization in the long-run.

The fix here is simple – learn to stretch opposing muscle groups. If stretching the front of your legs, always make sure to check the flexibility in the back of your leg. Similarly, if you’re stretching your shoulders or your upper back, make sure to stretch out your chest, as well.

STRETCHING MISTAKE #5 – RUSHING IN YOUR STRETCHES.

A stretch is only good when you can naturally ease into it and hold it for a period of time in order to lengthen the muscle. If you rush things out and don’t slowly and gradually build up into your stretch, you’re missing the point, and you’ll likely lose all the benefits stretching has to offer.

How to fix it? Ease into (and then hold) stretches for 90 seconds before releasing them. Repeat for another 90 seconds, for up to 5 sets total. This is the amount you need to see genuine changes in range of motion without exposing your muscles to unnecessary stimuli.

The Many Proposed Benefits of Collagen

Hey Angels and Alphas,

During this age of wellness and fitness trends, things such as coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, and diets such as Keto and Paleo seem to be highly debated by fitness experts.

One of these more well-known trends seems to be collagen. Collagen is the primary structural protein of your body, and it’s a vital component in cartilage, connective tissues, bone and skin elasticity. Collagen breaks down as you age, promoting joint pain and wrinkles.

Enter the new trend: collagen that is available in protein powders, supplements, skincare products, food sources, and more. A lot of people seem to think that supplementing with collagen can boost health, beauty, and gym performance.

But before you start adding collagen to your daily routine, here is what you should know…

Are the benefits of collagen legit and backed by science?

Well, for starters, we should acknowledge that many collagen peptide supplements also contain amino acids that are necessary for optimal body functions. There is, however, some scientific research pointing to the fact that collagen supplementation improves skin aging, arthritic pain and stiffness, and even wound healing.

That being said, research on collagen supplements is still mainly preliminary. Studies are small and vary in conclusions, and most of the evidence is anecdotal (for example, people claiming their skin or hair looks better after taking it.) And the pain-relieving benefits of collagen stretch as far as subjective pain assessments. Collagen supplements are, as a whole, moderately effective in terms of supporting rehabilitation post-injury, improved elasticity of the skin, and decreasing the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Is collagen a good source of healthy protein?

Collagen isn’t really considered high-quality protein. That’s because it’s not a complete protein – meaning it does not provide you with all nine essential amino acids.

Collagen is particularly low in one specific amino acid, methionine, as well as branched- chain amino acids such as isoleucine, leucine, and valine. This makes it a poor choice when it comes to building muscle. Collagen supplements do not displace protein supplements, let alone protein-rich meals.

Can collagen improve your performance in the gym?

There is some evidence that people who experience Achilles’ heel pain can benefit vastly from collagen (when combined with exercise.) People who take collagen supplements combined with exercise are more likely to readily experience increases in strength.

Some experts have concluded research that has shown multiple benefits present in collagen peptides, including (1) faster recovery after rigorous exercise and (2) increased muscle strength when combined with a strength training program.

What’s more, there’s a growing community of athletes turning to collagen peptides for the sake of injury prevention because one study showed collagen supplements augment collagen synthesis in many connective tissues across the body, such as ligaments.

However, the research that goes into proving these benefits is relatively new, and the effects are reported to be quite insignificant. Meaning that, even if there are any benefits, athletes shouldn’t really be expecting miracles from these collagen peptide supplements.

Does collagen really shine when it comes to skin health?

Given that it’s taken orally, collagen can indeed help the proper functioning of the skin and promote skin health. When collagen is consumed, it goes through your digestive system, where it is essentially broken down into component amino acids that then get sent to circulate throughout the body.

Taking collagen basically acts like sending a signal to your skin to rev up the production of collagen, as well as directly providing the building blocks to do so.

When a collagen supplement is ingested, it isn’t necessarily utilized later so it can contribute to the collagen you already have in your body. These collagen proteins are simply broken down to their constituent amino acids, and then they’re further reconstructed to fit the body’s needs. For this reason, the health of your hair and nails are likely not a priority.

What about collagen skin products?

Collagen is a large molecule! That’s exactly why it is so difficult for it to penetrate through the skin barrier, given that you’re applying it topically. If you’re interested in skin products that contain collagen, keep in mind that they might provide benefits in terms of skin protection and moisturizing, but it’s unlikely that the collagen itself is actually absorbed through the skin.

To conclude…

We can say that the body makes its own collagen by using a variety of materials – protein, vitamin C, copper, and zinc. If you’re not taking in these valuable nutrients from food alone, it’s likely that collagen supplements won’t do much for you.

Eating a balanced diet full of protein, fruits, and veggies will guarantee that your body has the necessary materials to create its own collagen (giving aging populations the ability to slow down age-related collagen loss.) Bone broth can also boost your collagen intake.

That being said, there are other ways to reduce the collagen breakdown inside your body – cutting back on inflammatory-inducing foods (such as sugar), as well as wearing sunscreen when you’re exercising in the outdoors.

If you are interested in collagen supplements, you should go for a collagen supplement that comes from a natural source – this means bovine/beef or fish collagen peptides. As a golden rule of thumb, the less ingredients you see on your supplement label, the better the supplement will likely function.

If you’re looking for a skincare product with collagen, experts and doctors both recommend that you choose one with retinol (also known as vitamin A.) Retinol is basically the most well-studied and proven ingredient you have access to that will stimulate your body’s production of collagen. This is because it binds to retinoid receptions in the skin, allowing them to skyrocket collagen-promoting activities.

Finally, you should look for a symbol on labels known as “USP.” USP is essentially a marker that ensures that supplements have been tested by third parties for their quality and absorption capabilities.

Overall, collagen supplements are new, not well studied, but provide many potential benefits for both young and older populations. There’s certainly no harm in trying them if you’re interested in promoting joint health, improving skin and hair health, and reducing age-related collagen breakdown.

How to Fix Strength and Muscle Imbalances

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Regardless of whether or not you realize it, you’re likely doing everyday tasks with the same side of your body. For example, you might go up your home’s set of steps with the same foot first, or you might be used to carrying your bag on the same shoulder every day while you’re shopping for groceries.

And that’s okay. We all do it.

Tooth brushing, writing on a notebook, kicking cupboard doors closed, scrolling on your smartphone – all of these seemingly unimportant actions have the tendency to stack up
over time, resulting in a “dominant” side of our bodies.

This, as you’re probably guessing, sooner or later, translates into imbalances and muscle compensations that result in less-than-perfect fitness performance and, ultimately, a higher risk of injury.

That same dominance-building on one side of the body is naturally happening every time you’re training in the gym, as well. Even if you don’t realize it, one side of your body is potentially doing more work than the opposite, creating massive amounts of muscle tension along the way.

That’s why today, we’re going to explore this topic in a little more detail, shining light on some of the more risky and negative aspects of muscle imbalances (and what we can
do to fix them.)

What are muscle imbalances, why do they happen, and how do they relate to poor posture?

When you have a difference on one side of your body that’s stemming from one side of the body being more dominant than the other, this can undoubtedly affect your posture. The more dominant the side is, the higher the impact on its antagonist.

When you’re working the muscles on one side of the body more than the opposite, this will slowly but surely lead to strains, sprains, chronic pains, and other complicated issues.

Moreover, the poor posture that results from this one-side dominance has been directly linked to back problems, joint pain, frequent headaches, respiratory problems, fatigue, digestive issues, and so much more. That’s why it’s definitely something you want to take seriously if you’re a gym-goer who doesn’t plan on stopping their journey anytime
soon.

You could even have muscle weakness on your dominant side due to overuse, and this can further set you up for a whole heap of bad-posture results (since your non-dominant side may not be developed enough to take all the pressure away.)

What happens here is, your body will try to compensate when there’s a significant imbalance. This compensation results in overcorrection, leading to more strain, especially around muscle groups that aren’t used to high levels of activity.

To wrap this up, this means that a muscle imbalance is essentially when the strength or size of a muscle on one part of your body is not symmetrical to the size/strength of the muscles on the other side of your body.

There are a bajillion reasons why muscle imbalances happen, and everyone is bound to face or develop one sooner or later.

For example, golf players and baseball players, although athletes, can easily produce muscle imbalances because they’re utilizing the dominant side of their body to perform swings or throws. Both gym newbies and gym veterans can develop muscle imbalances simply by relying on their dominant side to push through a heavy lift or intense exercise. Muscle imbalances shouldn’t be taken with a grain of salt – they can and will ultimately lead to bigger problems, from spinal positioning to posture, which will develop into more issues when you’re sitting, lying down, or walking.

Whatever imbalance you’re currently facing, your first step toward correcting it is to find the root cause of that muscle imbalance. When you know the root cause, you can make a precise effort to fix it.

Here are some tips on how to correct muscle imbalances.

In addition to resolving posture problems (and helping prevent them altogether), addressing your muscle imbalances will also help you improve your strength, flexibility, balance, all while lowering the total risk of injury you’re facing. Sounds like a great deal!

When it comes to actual strategies for building strength equal in both sides of the body (so you can address these imbalances), here’s what the experts recommend:

1. START USING YOUR NON-DOMINANT SIDE MORE.

If you’re always starting workouts with your dominant side, this will result in having less energy to push through on the other side. A great rule of thumb is to let your “weaker side” determine what volume you’re chasing, so you can do the same volume on each side of your body. Even if this doesn’t feel enough for your dominant side, what you’re doing here is trying to balance them out, and this will give your weaker side the opportunity to catch up in strength.

2. EMBRACE UNILATERAL EXERCISES

Unilateral exercises are movements performed with one arm or one leg that usually tend to highlight muscle imbalances. Let’s say you’re used to doing chest presses with a barbell. The unilateral alternative here would be to “seesaw” press with two separate dumbbells, so you’re essentially focusing on one side at a time. Other great alternatives for common exercises include the single-leg squats, single-arm rows, bicep curls, lunges, and more.

3. FOCUSING ON YOUR MOBILITY

Some of the time, imbalances are the result of one side of the body not being as flexible as its opposite. In these cases, mobility exercises can deliver amazing (and quick) results when dealing with these muscle imbalances. Full-body mobility exercises will bring an unmatched amount of elasticity to tissues in your body, easing muscle imbalances all throughout your body and letting you build a steady foundation of mobility that makes imbalances harder to develop.

4. BE MINDFUL IN EVERYDAY TASKS.

Perhaps the most difficult piece of advice you can receive (but maybe the most effective) is the tactic of doing everyday tasks with your non-dominant side. To do this, you have to be mindful, because let’s be honest, nobody really makes a conscious choice to hold their bag with their right hand, it’s just habitually built in us.

While it might feel very awkward to brush your teeth with the opposite hand or step up with your left foot first, this will result in more balance that helps speed up the progress when dealing with any muscle imbalance.

The bottom line…

Muscle imbalances are important, and they should never be neglected. You have to work toward improving the weaker side of a muscle or your body as a whole, so you can stay healthy and prevent further complications (because they will happen.)

To do this, you can…

  • Perform unilateral exercises.
  • Letting your weaker side control your workout volume.
  • Focusing on mobility and flexibility.
  • Concentrating on form and being mindful of which side of the body you’re using for everyday tasks.

Bring these together, and you have pretty much everything you need to rehab a muscle imbalance and get back on track to making balanced gains in strength and size.

Does The Length of Your Workout Matter?

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Many of us are lead to believe that if something is good, this means that more of that something will be naturally better. This mindset is prevalent in the world of fitness, especially when you consider movements such as the “no pain, no gain” or the “no days off.”

We keep going on and on about how long and hardcore our training was, and if you don’t believe me, just do a 5-minute scroll through Instagram and notice how many people are talking about exactly that – incredible workouts that last hours on hours.

But the thing we have to realize is that effective workouts are not long workouts. Just because a workout lasted more than 2 hours, doesn’t mean it’s superior to a 30-minute
workout of equal intensity.

This brings us to the topic of today’s talk – does the length of our workout really matter, and how long should we be actually working out for?

How long should my workout be?

As you can guess, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The truth of the matter is that how long you work out (and how frequently you train) depend on a number of factors, including your age, goals, training experience, available time, workout structure, rest time between sets, how crowded the gym is, and so much more.

There’s no perfect or ideal amount of time that any one workout should last. There are simply too many factors involved! Exactly the same thing can be said about training programs – not every program or exercise is right for every type of gym-goer.

But what’s more important is that we have to realize, the length of our workout is not indicative of the quality of our workout.

Let’s give a practical example. Imagine two trainees take 2 hours to complete a workout.

Trainee A is focused on powerlifting and does heavy triples for most of his exercises. This means that he needs long rest periods so he can regain his strength ahead of the
next working set. If you’ve ever trained for powerlifting, you know that it could take a full 5-6 minutes before you’re fully recovered and ready to make another attempt at a heavy
triple.

And then we have Trainee B. He’s a gym newbie who hits the gym 3-4 times every week because he wants to get fit. He also takes long rest periods, talking to his friends,
scrolling on Instagram, and mindlessly pounding out set after set on the bench press (but not pushing anywhere near his one-rep max.)

This might seem like an exaggerated comparison, but this is the reality inside of most gyms – and it’s here to prove a point. Just because you’re in the gym longer, doesn’t
mean you’re actually training hard, that you’re training effectively, or that you’re training at all.

There’s no reason why you should be concerned with the length of your workout. Your only goal should be to improve upon what you did in your last workout.

This can mean adding weight to the bar, adding reps to a set, or decreasing the amount of rest you take between sets (just to name a few.)

What’s more, a lot of people who are concerned with the length of their workouts are actually people under a time crunch. They want to maximize every second they are
spending in the gym, and at this point, they resort to techniques such as supersets, drop sets, circuit training, and more.

But just because their workouts are shorter doesn’t mean they’re not doing what’s necessary in order to progress. Your main goal, as a gym-goer, should be to stimulate your muscles so they have a reason to grow and adapt. That’s it.

Let’s talk about long workouts and cortisol levels.

Some people actually believe that working out for longer than 60 minutes can have adverse effects on their results, but this is not true.

Research has proved time and time again that short, intense workouts can increase cortisol levels just as much (if not even higher) as longer, less-intense workouts can.

The body doesn’t just say, “Hey, you’ve been working out for longer than 60 minutes, so now I’m going to flood the body with cortisol.” The body doesn’t work that way.

Okay, so how long should a workout actually be?

When you understand that training frequency and duration will be highly subjective based on factors and circumstances such as goals, training experience, and overall fitness levels, you can get a pretty good idea of how long an average workout should be.

That being said, here are some general rules of thumb you can follow:

  • If you’re looking to build strength and grow muscle size, you should be lifting heavy weights about 3-4 times a week, overall reaching about 5-6 hours total.
  • If you want to burn fat or lose weight, all you have to do is add 2-3 hours of cardio on top of your existing resistance training regime.

In both cases, you should take at least one full day of rest so you can promote recovery and reduce the chances of overtraining.

Bringing it all together…

There’s no shortage of misinformation when it comes to the perfect ideal length. You have half the people promoting the “hardcore” training approach and saying that more is always better, and the other half of people promoting a minimalist approach of 3 times a week, up to 45-minute workouts.

As with everything, the truth is somewhere in the middle, and it’s heavily subjective. You shouldn’t be asking the question of “how long should I work out”, you should be asking a
question of “what is the average length of a workout for someone in my situation who wants to achieve the same goal I do.”

Looking at it from this perspective, it’s easy to provide clarity and take into account the plethora of facts that have to be clear to you before you even step inside the gym. It’s easy to get flooded with information and succumb to paralysis by analysis in search of an “ideal” workout length for making progress. Don’t succumb to it – you’re better than that.

Why Weight Gain is Targeted

Hey Angels and Alphas,

As unfair as it sounds, we know our bodies tend to store fat in certain places more than it would in other places. Some of us store it around the waistline, some of us around the legs, but how and where we store fat depends on a variety of different factors such as height, weight, gender, genetics, as well as how many adipocytes (or fat cells) we have in certain areas of the body.

That’s exactly what we’re going to talk about today – the different factors that affect weight gain, and why weight gain seems to be targeted while weight loss is either all or nothing.

For starters, we should know that women and men store fat in different ways. And that’s precisely why we gain (and lose) pounds differently, too. Things such as hormone balance, genetics, lifestyle, age, stress, all of these play a role in how and where we’re going to gain weight.

Let’s discover why some of us have a tendency to gain weight around our bellies, while other more lucky people tend to store fat in their thighs and legs.

The most important factors are activity levels and gender.

The reason why men and women have body shapes that are so different is that our sex hormones – testosterone and estrogen – play such a big role in fat storage.
Women usually have a higher percentage of total body fat, close to about 7-10 percent more than men. Women also have the tendency to store more fat in their hips and thighs, also known as the gluteal-femoral region. Men, on the other hand, store more fat in their abdomen, also known as visceral fat or belly fat.

Testosterone has perhaps the largest influence on your body fat composition and muscle mass. With aging, testosterone levels begin to drop, and at the same time that testosterone begins to drop, more belly fat begins being stored and the metabolism slows down.

This is also true for the hormone estrogen in women. Estrogen plays a major role in regulating metabolism and body weight, and as women age, estrogen levels decrease.

This slows down the metabolism, which is why you see it’s harder to maintain weight and you usually gain a bit around your waistline as you grow older.

Not only that, but it becomes harder for both men and women to sustain high-intensity workouts over time, and they become less active as they get older. Not getting enough exercise and movement, and losing muscle mass, ultimately translates to more weight gain.

Another very important factor is insulin.

Insulin is one of your body’s fat-regulating hormones. It’s released into your bloodstream after you eat a meal with the purpose of helping you lower blood sugar
levels.

Insulin works by transporting glucose away from the blood and inside the body’s muscle tissues, fat and liver cells so it can be stored as glycogen (and then later used for energy.) That being said, your body has a natural capacity when it comes to storing glycogen, and once your body reaches that natural capacity, it naturally shifts into fat storage.

In short, insulin is a hormone that decides whether or not the extra glucose you consume will be stored as fat. This means that if we just lower the amount of refined
carbohydrates (and sugar) in our diet, we ultimately decrease the chances of maxing out our glycogen stores (and the need to stockpile fat stores.) This leads to less fat storage overall.

Let’s talk about the different types of fat.

There are essentially two types of fat.

The (1) first is subcutaneous fat, located directly under the skin, and the (2) second is visceral fat, located predominantly in the abdomen that surrounds and pads the empty space between your vital organs.

Even though you can grab subcutaneous fat with your fingers since it’s obvious to the eye and located between your thighs, under the arm, and etc, visceral fat is much more difficult to detect with the naked eye. And it’s more dangerous! It’s linked to a variety of health complications such as heart disease, diabetes, and more.

Have you ever met someone with a “pear-shaped” body? These types of people tend to store more subcutaneous fat in the much lower extremities of their body, such as the hips, buttocks, and etc. On the other hand, people with “apple-shaped” bodies tend to store visceral fat in the upper region of their body, namely their abdomen and chest.Even if you’re thin, you can still see and have visceral fat around your belly.

Here’s why you can’t reduce fat in certain spots.

Until now, you’ve likely realized that you can’t just pick and choose where you lose fat, as awesome as it would be. This is because the factors we mentioned above, along with your genetics, determine the locations where fat mostly accumulates.

And sure, you can try to “target” your subcutaneous fat by doing more pushups and core exercises, you cannot directly target visceral fat, which is actually the type of fat you should be trying to lose.

The good news? Visceral fat is most commonly the easiest to lose, and there are many strategies you can employ to lose weight and improve your overall health (as well as get rid of this pesky inch around your waist and get your abdominals to shine through.)

Losing weight… and keeping it off…

Rather than following not-so-conventional wisdom and trying to lose weight in one specific place in your body, create healthy habits for yourself that will allow your body to reach the weight and shape that you desire (and that is healthy and sustainable for you as an individual.)

  • Emphasize whole foods, fresh fruits, veggies, lean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbs.
  • Stay active, workout for at least 150 minutes every week to achieve weight loss.
  • Keep your stress levels low (stress is a big predictor of long-term weight gain.)
  • Get high-quality sleep (bad quality sleep or not enough sleep harms blood sugar levels and create cravings for sugary snacks.)
  • Eat a varied diet and supplement if you need to.

5 Habits to Improve Your Sleep Quality

Hey Angels and Alphas,
There’s so much we can say about sleep. If you decide to go to bed early and get some quality sleep tonight, you’ll not only feel more focused and energized in the short-term, but you’ll also start reaping the massive long-term benefits of 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night.

As they say, quality sleep is one of nature’s best medicines.

Every night when you decide that you’re going to get great quality, consolidated sleep, you’ll wake up feeling more refreshed in the morning, resulting in more activity and productivity throughout the day.

Over time, this positive loop of getting quality sleep and having productive days leads to lower stress and lower blood sugar, significantly reducing the risk you’ll face health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.

But the question remains – how do we actually improve the quality of our sleep?

Not to be mistaken with sleep quantity, sleep quality is a phenomenon that truly thrives in importance because it’s at the core of any sleeping disorder or issue you might have. If you get 8 hours of low-quality sleep at night, you’ll wake up feeling more sluggish and tired than you were at night.

However, if you are to get in 8 hours of quality sleep every night, you’ll transform your life, your health, and your fitness.

The answer to the question “how do we improve sleep quality?” is and has always been: healthy bedtime habits.

That’s why today, we’re looking at 5 easy, straightforward habits you can start developing today that will impact your sleep quality positively and help you start feeling energized and refreshed every single morning.

HEALTHY SLEEP HABIT #1 – LEARN TO RELAX

How many of us actually make the conscious choice to relax before we decide to go to sleep? How many of us consciously make the shift between “go-mode” and “sleep- mode” during bedtime?

Ideally, you’re going to want to find a tech-free activity you can do for about 30 minutes before bed. You can read a book, do some yoga or meditation, plan out your next day, write in your journal, perform a breathing exercise, drink a cup of caffeine-free tea, take a warm bath or shower, or do pretty much anything that gets you to wind down and end the day on a relaxing note.

HEALTHY SLEEP HABIT #2 – PUT AWAY YOUR PHONE

The constant loop of cruising Instagram and checking your e-mails not only makes it very difficult to wind down but also exposes you to blue light from your phone and screen that messes with your brain. To the brain, lights signal “day”, and your brain is going to try and stay awake as long as it is under the perception that’s its daytime.

That’s why there’s a growing community of people right now that stop using electronics between 30-60 minutes before going to bed and report more vivid dreams and more restful and fulfilling sleep.

While this is a habit that’s going to take some struggle to get used to, do your best to replace your pre-bed tech time with a relaxing activity such as reading a book. This will limit the temptation to check email by keeping you engaged and, as we mentioned in our first point, will relax you and wind you down.

HEALTHY SLEEP HABIT #3 – AVOID MEALS AND CAFFEINE

The digestive stress put on your body by caffeine, alcohol, or any type of heavy meal can and will interfere with your body’s natural sleep process. Do your best to avoid caffeine and heavy meals in the evening and try to finish your dinner at least 2-3 hours before going to bed.

Caffeine and alcohol create different reactions in different people, so you might have to experiment to find your stopping point. However, if your stomach starts rumbling around midnight, it’s okay to have a small snack before you go on about catching your Z’s.

Many snacks such as Greek yoghurt mixed with berries or peanut butter toast contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid that is used in the production of serotonin and melatonin, chemicals that promote your body’s natural sleep process.

HEALTHY SLEEP HABIT #4 – STAY OUT OF BED

Yes, you read that right. There are certain things that only your bedroom should be used for – and watching TV isn’t one of them. Neither is working or exercising.

Your brain creates a natural association in your mind that beds are linked to sleeping, so if you’re laying around all day in your bed working on your laptop, don’t be surprised when you start feeling tired all day.

If you can’t sleep, resist the urge to scroll through social media or watch TV while you’re in bed. Get out of bed and go to another room, relax and unwind, and then go to bed when you’re actually ready to fall asleep.

HEALTHY SLEEP HABIT #5 – COOL DOWN YOUR ROOM

As the body is preparing for sleep, the body temperature drops. However, if your bedroom is too hot, or you exercise too close to your bedtime, your body won’t have the opportunity to cool off, making falling asleep much, much harder.

To promote and encourage sleep, try avoiding exercising before bed (if that’s your thing) or switching off the A/C. Keep in mind that most people tend to fall asleep easily when the temperature of their bedroom is about 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit and focus on doing what’s best to optimize your bedroom temperature.

Cooling mattresses, lighter clothing, and air conditioners can help if your room is too hot during Summer.

More ways to improve sleep quality…

One of the best pieces of advice on quality sleep you could ever get is to check in with yourself and see if there’s something preventing you from falling asleep, as it is likely the same thing worsening your sleep quality. If there’s some stress or anxiety in your life that is keeping you up at night, putting away electronics won’t really help you that much.

That’s why it’s important to check in with yourself often and do your best to ease your worries through relaxation and meditation.

Another great way to improve sleep quality is to keep a sleep diary. Write down when you think you fell asleep, what time you got up, and how many times you woke up during the night. Describe any additional details about your evening routine that might have played a role in your sleep.

Put these tips and habits together, and you’ll create an unshakable sleep routine that will have you feeling energized and refreshed every morning. That’s a promise.

8 Habits Sabotaging your Weight Loss Efforts

Hey Angels and Alphas,

We’ve said it time and time again – losing weight is a matter of expending more calories than you’re taking in. That being said, even though this sounds simple, weight loss is a process that becomes much more complex when brought down to the level of the individual.

We all have different lifestyles and habits, some of which help our weight loss efforts, and some of which actually work against it. That’s why today, we’re here to explore some of the lifestyle decisions and habits that negatively impact your weight loss efforts so you can make the necessary changes to your lifestyle and achieve your weight loss goals much more quickly. Let’s get started.

#1 – SKIPPING BREAKFAST.

There’s a growing body of research on whether or not breakfast is a must. That being said, many dietitians point to the fact that a lot of people who are stalled in their weight loss efforts happen to be people who skip breakfast.

If you don’t eat enough protein at breakfast, this likely means you’re missing out on a key opportunity to replace the protein you just broke down while you were sleeping. Skipping protein at breakfast will ultimately lead you to a sluggish metabolism.

What’s more, if you’re eating too light of a breakfast, for example some fruit or a pack of muffins, you likely won’t stay satiated until lunch. This will have a ripple effect on your day. On the other hand, if you eat a satisfactory breakfast, you’ll be less distracted by hunger, more focused, and way more energetic.

#2 – LACKING MAGNESIUM.

We’ve talked about the impact on sleep on your weight loss efforts countless times. Skipping on sleep one day makes you irritable and creates hunger cravings, so imagine what it does in the long-term. Your hormones get skewed, and you start reaching for sugary snacks more often throughout the day.

What you probably haven’t considered, though, is how much of an impact your magnesium levels play in your sleep. Most people don’t consume enough magnesium,
which interrupts their proper sleep quality. That’s why adding more magnesium-rich foods in your diet will, in multiple ways, ranging from optimal body functioning to quality sleep, aid your weight loss efforts.

#3 – NOT EATING ENOUGH.

Sure, the usual calories-in versus calories-out formula sounds simple, but you should know that your body has evolutionarily been designed to withstand long periods of lacking food. To compensate for this lack of food, your body will drive up hunger levels and put your body into conservation mode, preventing you from losing weight.

If you find yourself feeling tired all the time while you’re facing a weight loss plateau, this is likely because you’re not consuming enough calories to meet your needs. There’s a difference between consuming less calories than you need and undereating, and undereating will prevent you from losing weight in the long-term. Make sure you’re consuming enough calories to keep your body happy, but not enough so you’re going over your limits and giving it too much to handle.

#4 – FALLING FOR FAD DIETS.

There are always new “experts” and new fads coming out telling you what you should “really” be doing to lose weight. That being said, most of them come with long lists of restrictions and “don’t eat this”-foods.

Fad diets fail for countless reasons, but one of the biggest might be that they’re not sustainable. They don’t help you build a positive relationship with food. Fad diets are usually targeted toward everyone, claiming they can help anyone lose weight. They claim they’re quick fixes for weight loss, and present you with a list of good and bad foods.

Don’t fall for this. Focus on building a sustainable relationship with food that doesn’t limit your favorite foods yet helps you achieve the result you want. Coincidentally, this won’t happen quickly. It takes time to achieve true health and long-term results.

#5 – CUTTING OUT ENTIRE FOOD GROUPS.

Building upon our last point, we can’t not mention the fact that a lot of diets and food labels include the words “carb-free” or “low-fat.” Even though there’s a place for those in your life, they often fall under restriction.

Your body thrives on balance and requires that balance in order to function properly. When you’re taking an entire food group away, such as carbs or fats, you’re coming from a place of scarcity and deprivation, which never results in a positive outcome.

Deprivation not only negatively impacts your metabolism, but also results in binge- eating and food cravings in the long-term. Research published in the Journal of Obesity discovered that people who consistently binged lost only half the weight that non-binge dieters did. Instead of cutting out your food groups, make sure you’re focusing on the 80/20 method.

#6 – LETTING YOUR DIET MAKE YOU MISERABLE.

Even though we tend to boil down weight loss to a simple math problem, we can’t deny that your emotional well-being is another important factor in your overall health. If you’re depriving yourself of your favorite foods, you’re hungry all the time, and you’re reaching for snacks because of constant cravings, you’ll find it impossible to lose weight.

True health happens when you encourage your mental health and find a sustainable plan for weight loss. But how do you do this? One way is to surround yourself with positive connections. Relationships that are supportive (and that feel right) are the key to your success both in and outside the gym. Improving your emotional well-being is key when it comes to losing weight and getting healthy.

#7 – HAVING UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS.

Just because you choose a certain number for your weight loss, doesn’t mean achieving it will be that simple. Many factors come into play in this equation, such as
metabolism, age, stress, hormones, genetics, and more. All of these can play a role in getting you past that number on the scale.

But while this does sound a bit daunting, it’s actually a very freeing feeling. A realistic goal is achievable and makes you feel good and motivated, while unrealistic goals can only put you in a downward spiral of feeling bad about yourself.

#8 – NOT TRACKING NUMBERS.

Making sure you’re reaching a slight caloric deficit is undoubtedly vital to losing weight. But this means that you’ll likely need to be tracking these numbers in order to achieve the metrics you want. To find what your perfect calorie number is, you should track your
food, at least in the beginning.

It can be easy to forget what you ate and when you ate it, and this makes it harder to discover what’s stopping you from reaching your goal. That’s why you should grab a journal, grab a pen, and write down everything you eat along with its caloric contents.

What’s Your Lowest Effective Dose of Exercise?

Hey Angels and Alphas,
Determining your lowest effective dose of exercise is something that every trainee, beginner and advanced, should do.

We know that sticking with a routine can be hard enough on its own, but we all know there are times in your life you’re going to have to take time off the gym for one reason or another. Maybe you’re going through a stressful transition in your life, maybe you’re quarantined at home, or maybe you have other things to focus on.

That being said, the concept of your “lowest effective dose of exercise” becomes relevant when you’re trying to stay in shape during a stressful period or you want to
maintain your exercise habit even when you don’t have time to dedicate more effort.

When it comes to exercise, your lowest effective dose is the smallest amount of work needed to achieve the desired result or maintain current performance.

That’s why your lowest effective dose of exercise is closely connected to your goal – because it’s relative to your goal. If you want to improve your cardio, for example, you’d know that you need at least two sessions a week to keep progressing and maintain your cardiovascular health.

In times like these, this is especially relevant since we’re all under emotional and mental stress. That’s why sometimes, the best thing we can do is calibrate our physical efforts on staying healthy and well. Exercise positively influences our health, but without a doubt, too much exercise during a period of high stress is a recipe for disaster.

Here’s why your lowest effective dose of exercise is effective.

First of all, too much stress will backfire on you.

Physical, emotional, and mental stress are cumulative. And while working out is definitely great for you, physical stress can reach out to other parts of your life and make it hard to handle. If you’re experiencing physical stress on a daily basis and you’re not recovering correctly, this can have adverse effects on your mental and emotional health. It can even negatively affect your immunity.

Right now, we all have to make sure we’re paying more attention to staying healthy, managing stress, reducing inflammation, and supporting our recovery and our immune function. Your lowest effective dose of exercise does exactly that.

Second, your lowest effective dose of exercise can also bring you results.

Time-efficient, minimalist workouts are actually on the rise right now. They enable you to stay consistent, make a fitness habit stick more easily, and achieve a result that you can use to build on. Once already having built the consistency muscle in your psyche, moving on to another form of exercise (or just heavier exercise) will be quite easier. More exercise doesn’t necessarily mean better.

Third, it makes exercising feel more doable.

We’re bombarded on social media with pictures of incredible physiques and personal record videos. This can easily overwhelm any beginner into building so much anxiety that they never want to start in the first place. We often go into things with an all-in mindset and say “if I’m not working out for an hour, why am I even going?”

However, this thinking has its pros and cons. One thing’s for sure – knowing and implementing your lowest effective dose of exercise will help you get used to the fact that doing something is always better than doing nothing. Four 15-minute workout sessions in a week trump sitting on the couch any day.

How do I find my lowest effective dose of exercise?

There are a couple of factors that go into finding your minimum effective dose of exercise, and these include your age, gender, height, genetics, body composition,
goals, and more.

And let’s be honest – you don’t want to be that person targeting the spot between “just enough” and “not enough.” What you want to do is be productive and proactive, finding the right balance while listening to trial and error.

Think about it – how much exercise does it take you to feel sore and tired? How much exercise do you need to start feeling more energetic? Listen and pay attention to these clues, your body is signaling you how you’re feeling all the time, especially when we’re talking about your body responding to the physical stress of a workout. If you’re feeling refreshed and vibrant after a short session, that’s a clue that you’re near your LED.

The best way to find your sweet spot is to hop on a fitness schedule and track how you’re feeling every day through journaling. Do it for two weeks, all while taking measures and writing about factors such as sleep quality, appetite, resting heart rate, post-workout energy levels, soreness, and more.

Other than that, your lowest effective dose of exercise will also be determined by your overall goal. Here’s what you should know based on your fitness aspirations…

If you want to maintain your strength…

The golden rule, as pointed out by the American College of Sports Medicine, seems to be 2 days of exercise a week for maintaining strength with a rep range of 8-12. Meaning using a weight that feels challenging after the 8 th rep. Ideally, you want to work each muscle group at least twice a week to maintain your hypertrophy and strength.

If you want to lose weight…

You should know that nutrition would be a much better thing to focus on during a period when you can’t work out yet want to lose weight. That being said, conditioning workouts are a powerful weight loss tool, and they’re also pretty short. How many of them you do every week depends entirely on you and how much you can handle, but two 30-minute sessions a week seems to produce measurable changes in body fat rather quickly.

If you want to stay healthy…

Then the best thing you could do is to refer to the standards for physical activity by the world authorities. Ideally, adults should be looking at 150-300 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 90-150 minutes of rigorous aerobic physical activity to achieve health benefits. This translates to three 50-minute moderate/low-intensity workouts and three 25-minute high-intensity workouts.

Here’s How Muscle Recovery Really Works

Hey Angels and Alphas,

You know it, I know it, everyone knows it – there are few things that feel more rewarding than finishing a hard workout. You feel accomplished, you’ve pushed yourself to the limit, and you’re ready to indulge in a process of recovery.

But the fact is – just because you’ve stopped running, doing sprints, or lifting weights, doesn’t mean your body is done doing its work. In fact, from the moment you get in the shower to the moment you step outside the gym, your body has already started the process of repairing your muscles you just worked so hard to break down – so it can help them come back stronger and better at your next workout.

The majority of your results happen in between your workouts.

And while paying the utmost attention to your workout routine and how it plays out, you should know that learning the ins and outs of muscle recovery will help you go a long way toward achieving the results you’re really looking for.

Today, we’re here to break down everything that happens to your body after your workout, as well as the intricate mechanisms of muscle recovery that make it one of the most important parts of achieving your dream physique.

Your workout is the first trigger in a timeline of internal body events.

First of all, as you’re working out, assuming you’re working out for strength and hypertrophy, you’re basically working to create micro-tears in the muscles you’re
working. As soon as you drop the final rep on the final set, your body begins a complicated process of repairing these micro-tears.

Not every workout you do will produce the necessary “damage” to cause your muscles to become sore. And when a workout does that, you’ll probably feel it around 12 to 24 hours after your workout is finished. This soreness is known as DOMS, delayed onset muscle soreness, and it’s the often tight, achy, painful sensation that is basically a byproduct of your body’s recovery process.

Muscle recovery happens in two basic phases the initial phase and the resolution phase.

The first, also known as the phase of regeneration, also includes the part of your workout when you’re actually doing damage to your muscles since this is technically a part of the muscle repair process.

Although inflammation is something we’re all trying to keep away from our body, it’s actually an essential part of muscle repair. (That’s why if you take anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or paracetamol to ease your muscle soreness, this might actually lead to stalling your progress and decreasing your gains.)

When your body is recovering from a workout, it released a group of cells called helper cells or satellite cells, directly to the damaged areas so they can rebuild the micro-tears in your muscles. This repair process continues for as long as it takes a “messenger molecule”, a.k.a an inflammatory mediator, is present to send signals to your body to restart at the end of each cycle of building. That’s precisely why NSAIDs such as paracetamol prevent your gains – because they prevent inflammatory mediators from forming, cutting back on your recovery potential.

In the resolution phase, also known as the remodeling phase, the regenerated muscle fibers basically finish developing, and your strength goes back to normal.

So how long does it take for muscles to actually recover?

How long it takes for your muscles to recover is basically how we measure recovery. But this depends on a variety of factors, including how intense your workout was, what activities you participated in, and your overall fatigue prior to your workout.

Generally, it takes anywhere between 24 and 36 hours for your muscles to adequately recover from endurance exercise, meaning running and cycling. Moreover, it takes up to 72 hours to recover from more high-intensity forms of exercises such as heavy resistance training, HIIT, or plyometrics.

Some exercises, especially those that emphasize eccentric, or lengthening contractions of muscles also cause increased levels of muscle damage, and naturally, more intense forms of DOMS. Concentric (shortening) and isometric (static) contractions produce less damage.

We can take a prime example of eccentric-heavy exercise – downhill running – whereas cycling tends to be concentric-heavy. Isometric exercises could be wall sits, planks, and a lot of yoga poses.

Does this mean I should be sore after every workout?

Not at all! If your muscles are sore, it means you did more, or in some cases, different, than what your body is used to. That’s why if you want to progress in any given
dimension (i.e. strength), it is important that you keep challenging the muscles to make progress.

However, this doesn’t mean that you should be chasing after DOMS every workout you do. This is a recipe for disaster, and it is not a productive way to progress. Sooner or later, you will reach a point where you overwhelm your body with the intensity you’re putting it through, naturally leading not to progress, but to a degradation of your ability to recover. And when you cannot recover productively, you’re basically eliminating your progress, and you’re exposing yourself to incredible risks of injury due to overtraining.

To conclude…

We know this for a fact – muscle soreness isn’t really fun, especially if it’s all the time. And while muscle soreness is hard to avoid, especially if you’re a beginner, knowing how recovery works can reduce some of the anxiety that comes with your first direct experience with DOMS.

The best thing you can do is to learn how recovery works and be prepared to ease into new workout programs and new ways of training so you can guarantee your progress. Making sure you’re warming up, and cooling down, after every workout will decrease the pain and stiffness coming with DOMS and will give you the ability to improve your recovery so you can progress how you should be progressing – slowly and surely.

How Does Intermittent Fasting Impact Your Gut Health

Hey Angels and Alphas,

If you love reading about fitness and health, you’re probably no stranger to Intermittent Fasting (IF) – or in other words, the practice of restricting your eating to certain hours of the day.

Intermittent fasting has become very popular in recent times because of a variety of reasons from helping people lose weight to helping people control insulin and blood sugar.

But some people are saying that Intermittent fasting can also help you reduce inflammation, age better, live longer, and so much more, though the research on the
topic isn’t that conclusive.

Here’s another “buzzy” benefit of Intermittent fasting – improved gut health! Just like the many other proposed benefits of IF, research on the topic is limited at best. However, if you’re still interested in what intermittent fasting can do for your gut health, here’s what the experts are saying:

Gut health impacts your overall health, and it’s absolutely vital to your wellness.

Your gut microbiome is one of the foundational parts of your overall health. Though guthealth is usually a priority for people who have chronic digestive issues such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, it should also be prioritized by people who want to get or stay healthy. Improving your gut health means improving your digestion, absorption, immune system response, decreasing inflammation and stress, and more.

All of these benefits are undoubtedly vital to your overall health, however, they also give you a boost if you’re someone who wants to lose weight, gain muscle, or improve their athletic performance.

Let’s talk about your circadian rhythm and its role in your gut health.

Intermittent fasting seems to capitalize on your natural circadian rhythm. In other words, your natural sleep/wake cycles.

When the body follows its natural circadian rhythm, meaning you have a regular sleep schedule, the stress on the body is reduced. When that rhythm is broken or interrupted, this negatively impacts your energy, your appetite, and you guessed it, your gut health.

This is because it decreases the amount of healthy gut bacteria and increases your susceptibility to inflammation.

Interestingly enough, your gut has its own circadian rhythm. The different types of bacteria in your gut have, let’s say, different responsibilities, and when they’re faced with an obstacle, you can cause yourself growth of the dysfunctional bacteria in your gut.

When you’re sleeping, you’re fasting, and this helps your gut keep its own circadian rhythm going. That’s why some people believe that prolonging this fasting time window, like you normally do with intermittent fasting, can help you capitalize on its positive effects.

Even though intermittent fasting is not required for your body to follow its circadian rhythm, some people point to the fact that they feel better if they stop eating a few hours before bedtime. When you’re practicing intermittent fasting, you may decide to skip that pre-bedtime snack, which in turn gives your digestive system a break and helps you sleep better. This naturally leads to better gut health.

Let’s talk about “giving your digestive system a break.”

When it comes to gut health and intermittent fasting, one of the most talked-about benefits is that you won’t be overloading your digestive system. If you’re constantly eating and you’re not giving your digestive system a break, this can mess up its optimal functioning.

And while we can all agree it’s not healthy to be eating all day long, what you probably don’t know is that your digestive system needs a little time to carry out all its essential functions once you’ve eaten a meal or snack. Not to mention, if you want to keep your blood sugar levels optimal, you should definitely be taking breaks between meals.

However, scientists say that overloading your gut by eating too frequently doesn’t really happen. The problem arises when you’re constantly eating over the point of feeling full. This naturally results in bloating, fatigue, discomfort, and higher blood sugar.

While this isn’t dangerous for your gut health, it can lead to disruptions in digestion. And sure, your body can handle it once in a while, but overeating too frequently and you’ll cause yourself a heap of digestive problems.

So how do we improve gut health?

Let’s get one thing out of the way – you can improve your gut health without practicing intermittent fasting. That being said, intermittent fasting can have potential benefits for your gut health and overall health.

Here’s what experts recommend you focus on, some of which intertwines with intermittent fasting:

1. Improving diet quality. If you’re consuming a well-balanced diet, you’re doing more for your gut health than most people. Focus on consuming fermented foods such as kimchi or sauerkraut because they’re abundant in probiotics, which essentially feed good gut bacteria. Top that off with plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats, and you’ll be consuming just what your gut bacteria wants from you – rich, vibrant, healthy foods.

2. Getting more fiber. This is by far one of the most powerful ways to improve your gut health. And one of the most well-documented. Strive toward a daily goal of 25 grams every day (for women) and 40 grams every day (for men.) Through point number one, having a balanced diet, you’ll likely be consuming fiber-rich fruits, veggies, nuts, avocados, beans, chia, and more – all of which are great sources of fiber.

3. Think long-term. If you’re doing intermittent fasting and you prefer eating all your food in a small window of time, that’s great. That being said, your approach should be one of a healthy lifestyle, so the most important factor is making it sustainable and making it sensible and reasonable in the long-term.

To wrap it up…

Right now, even though there’s not enough research to say that intermittent fasting definitely improves gut health, there is some promising body of knowledge arising on the topic.

Ultimately, research is still in the works. If in the future, we see that people following an IF pattern show improved healthy bacteria in their microbiome, we’ll know for sure that IF is a great strategy. But for now, intermittent fasting, or more specifically, the lifestyle that comes with intermittent fasting, has shown to be promising in improving your overall health.

This is because people who practice IF end up practicing other healthy habits as well. You could attribute these habits to fasting, sure, but lifestyle changes that result in positive health outcomes are always welcome. The bottom line? Whatever eating pattern ends up helping you improve your health is an eating pattern worth sticking with.

When Is The Best Time to Take Your Vitamin Supplements?

What to take, and when?

Most people over-complicated vitamin supplementation, because they don’t know when they should take them. Luckily for you, you’ll have this post to fall back on.
 
Today, you’ll learn when is the best time to take essential nutrients such as:

  • Multivitamins 
  • Vitamin B 
  • Vitamin D 
  • Iron 
  • Magnesium 
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acid 

The Best Time to Take Your Multivitamins

People that benefit the most from taking multivitamins are:

a.    Adults – because vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D absorption decreases with age.

b.    Vegans and vegetarians, because they are more prone to lack vitamin B12, iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin D and omega-3.

c.    Pregnant and breastfeeding women because they can lack some essential nutrients. However, they should only take a supplement after talking to their doctor because some vitamins can harm them. The same goes if you’re on medication.

Before you go out and buy the latest multivitamins, you should research which vitamins you actually need. That would largely affect when you should take it.

You should always take your multivitamins in the morning with a meal to absorb them better. However, if that causes you stomach pain, try taking them in the afternoon before you go to bed. Remember, the most important thing is to take them daily.

If you are lacking a specific nutrient, it would be best to supplement with that nutrient only. Multivitamins have a lot of vitamins in them, but you don’t necessarily need all of them. There are even some people that get a negative reaction from them, so they are certainly not for everybody.

Multivitamins are not a substitute for your diet. They are something you take if you find out that you can’t get certain nutrients from your diet.

The Best Time to Take Vitamin B

Vitamin B complex is essential to maintain your health and wellness. It impacts everything from your energy levels, your brain functions to how well your metabolism works. B vitamins also promote the growth of new red blood cells, good eyesight, hormones and cholesterol production as well as cardiovascular health.

Generally speaking, it’s safe to take several B vitamins all in once. 

We can conclude from this that the best time to take B vitamins is after you wake up due to their energy-boosting abilities. There’s also some data that suggests that taking vitamin B in the afternoon can affect your sleep.

If you want to avoid this effect, you should take your B vitamins in the morning. Preferably with a meal so you can maximise their absorption.

The Best Time to Take Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency causes children to develop soft and weak bones, and adults misshapen bones. Also, a lack of vitamin D is linked to several diseases, such as breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer and heart problems.

There’s no proof that vitamin D deficiency can cause certain conditions but people with high levels of vitamin D face lower risk of disease.

To properly absorb calcium and also promote bone growth, your body must have enough vitamin D. Supplementing should be an effective way to get the vitamins your body needs. To maximize the absorption of vitamin D, you should take it with some fat, because it’s fat-soluble.

There’s no definitive answer when you should take it. It doesn’t interfere with your sleep patterns, so you should take it whatever time you want. Just don’t forget to eat some fat calories along.

The Best Time to Take Iron

Iron affects your body tremendously. It reduces tiredness and fatigue in your body, supports your immune system and helps the production of haemoglobin, a protein that carries the oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.
Taking an iron supplement can be tricky because several foods actually reduce its absorption. Some of them are:

  • Whole grains
  •  Milk
  • Cheese
  • Coffee 
  • Tea

 When you take iron, you have about 3 options:

  • You can take it in the morning with vitamin C to boost its absorption.
  • Take it right after a meal.
  • Take Active Iron whatever you want, because it revolutionises absorption and it won’t cause any irritations.

The Best Time to Take Your Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential nutrient and it affects many functions such as regulating your blood pressure, supporting your immune system and helping muscle function. It plays a vital role in more than 300 enzyme reactions in your body.

A magnesium deficiency can cause tons of health problems, so you should strive to take the required levels daily.
Great sources of magnesium are foods such as:

  • Almonds
  •  Spinach
  •  Cashew nuts
 If you can’t get your magnesium through your diet, you should take a magnesium supplement. For better absorption, take magnesium with a meal. However, if you’re taking medications like antibiotics, you should first consult with your doctor, because magnesium may interfere with them.
 

The Best Time to Take Your Omega-3 Fatty Acids 

Omega-3, also known as fish oil is a vital nutrient for your body, because it reduces inflammation, improves heart health, protects your brain function, and supports proper growth. It doesn’t really matter when you take fish oil – because you’ll only experience its benefits if you’re consistent with it. You should just find a time that works for you.

Omega-3 also has some side effects such as acid reflux. In order to prevent it, you can split your daily dose into two smaller ones and then take one in the morning and one in the afternoon. 

You should keep in mind that to maximise the absorption of omega-3, you should take it with a meal that has a good source of fat. This can help you reduce the side effects as well as enhance the effectiveness of the supplement.

To wrap it up…

Vitamin supplements won’t work unless you take them daily, so the most important thing you should do is to be consistent with them. You should also talk to your doctor and see if some supplements interfere with your medications. Depending on which vitamins you take, you should get them in the morning or the afternoon.

The best thing you can do is to develop the habit of taking them. Make them a part of your morning or bedtime routine. That way, you’ll ensure that you’re consistent with your supplementation.

Everything You Need to Know About Metabolism

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Did you know that the majority of your calorie burn doesn’t come from the puddles of sweat after a tough workout? The majority of your calorie burn is actually driven by your metabolism.

The metabolism is the body’s natural process of converting calories into energy for you to use. It’s not just about burning calories. It’s also about storing and managing calories. Your metabolism creates the basis for how many calories you need daily to maintain a healthy weight, as well as how many calories you need to lose and gain weight.

It’s a vital part of the entire process of reaching your fitness goals and staying healthy, so today, I hope to clear a lot of the misinformation around the topic of metabolism so you can make smarter, more informed choices in the future!

Let’s get right into it…

What are the different types of metabolism?

There are many ways calories leave your body, as opposed to the means in which they can enter your body.

The three biggest factors that affect your metabolism and overall calorie burn are your basal metabolic rate, your food thermogenesis, and the calories you expend while moving. Let’s talk about each in a little more detail.

1. Your Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR)

This amounts to around 65 percent of the calories you burn daily.

This rate is the number of calories your body needs while resting – to support the vital functions keeping you alive. Your BMR doesn’t include calories you burn through exercising or daily activities.

Here’s how your BMR is determined:

  • Body Composition: Muscle is naturally more metabolically active than fat, meaning that more calories are burned to maintain a pound of muscle than a pound of fat. Since women, on average, have more fat mass compared to men, they usually have lower BMR when compared to men of the same height and weight.
  • Body Size: The bigger the individual, the more calories it takes to sustain their body – even at rest.
  • Hormones: Hormones are basically chemical dials, turning your metabolism up and down depending on your body’s needs. Hormones like thyroxine and triiodothyronine have the direct purpose of raising BMR.
  • Age: Your BMR is usually higher when you’re younger! Especially considering that calories are necessary for your body’s optimal growth.
  • Genetics: Some people are just born with a lower BMR than others. It’s not something you can fix, but it’s usually something you can work with.
  • Health: If your body is trying to fight off an infection or heal from a wound, your BMR is going to be higher – naturally, because your body needs more calories to accomplish these tasks.

There are just so many factors! And because there are so many, calculating someone’s specific BMR is extremely difficult (without high-tech equipment.) Instead, most people use an approximation based on the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation. However, there are just speculations, and they’re not an accurate predictor of your daily calorie goals – that’s why usually, online calculators aren’t as effective as seeking help from a professional.

2. Food Thermogenisis

Food thermogenesis accounts for 10 percent of the calories you burn, and it’s a measure of the calories your body needs to process food.

Different macronutrients require different workloads from your body.

For example, 1-3 percent of the calories from the fat you eat will support its digestion, whereas that number is 5-10 percent for carbs and 25-30 percent for protein.

That’s why high-protein, low-carb diets usually try to leverage this phenomenon to burn calories. But since food thermogenesis only accounts for 10 percent of the calories you burn, an increased protein intake might have an insignificant effect on your metabolic rate.

3. Exercise and Physical Activity

Physical activity will result in about 20 percent of the calories you burn daily – on average. That number will usually be higher on your intense workout days.

Keep in mind, this also includes the calories you’ll lose through daily activities such as picking up things, walking around the office, or going for a jog in the morning.

Understanding how your body fuels itself

Now that you know how your body loses calories, let’s talk more about how it gains them.

Our bodies extract energy from the three big macronutrient fuels in every meal – carbs, proteins, and fats. But depending on what we’re doing and what type of stress we’re under, your body will determine which kind of fuel it prefers to use.

For example…

If you’re doing an overnight fast, your metabolism slows down during your sleep. However, calories are still required to repair cells and maintain body functions. In this scenario, your body will use fat to fuel its tissues, and carbs to fuel the brain. More specifically, glucose fuels your brain, and it’s usually stored as glycogen in the cells. If you don’t happen to have enough, your blood sugar drops and protein starts being used for fuel. That’s because you can convert protein into glucose to bring your blood sugar back up to adequate norms.

If you’re exercising ABOVE 70 percent of your max heart rate, your body turns to carbs for fuel – because carbs can be burned quickly and can be used even when your body is deprived of oxygen. Usually, at this intensity, your body is going to be focused on breathing to deliver oxygen to your working muscles.

If you’re exercising BELOW 70 percent of your max heart rate, your body will prefer fat for fuel – especially if you have excess. At this intensity, you’ll be able to get enough oxygen and even talk to someone while you’re jogging along.

If you’re starving your body, your metabolism plummets! This makes you tired, moody, and edgy. Protein and fat become the primary sources of fuel for the body, and after around 48 hours of staying hungry, your body runs out of glycogen. Therefore, it can’t fuel the two organs that it *really* wants to fuel – your brain and your blood cells.

And while glucose is the only fuel your blood cells can run on, the brain will adapt and start powering itself with fat – in the form of ketone bodies.

How do we boost our metabolism?

There’s a lot to learn out there about metabolism, but most people just want to learn how to increase it. Here are three science-backed ways to do precisely that.

Meet Your Protein Goal – Eating food increases your metabolism for a few hours, and this is known as the thermic effect of food. It’s caused by the extra calories you usually need to digest, absorb, and process the nutrients you take in. But protein causes the largest boost in TEF! It increases your metabolic rate by 20-30 percent, compared to 2 percent for fats and 7 percent for carbs.

Include Resistance Training In Your Routine – Building muscle mass increases your BMR, the most significant contributor to your total metabolism. This will naturally allow you to burn more calories while you’re in a resting state – what a deal!

Increase Exercise Intensity – If you’re doing cardio or aerobic exercise, try gradually switching to HIIT for a week. Adding intervals of high intensity to your cardio will help you benefit from the “afterburn” effect, meaning you’ll be burning extra calories for the rest of the day after you exercise.

Drink Cold Water – Yes, you read that right. Studies have shown that drinking half a liter of water increases your resting metabolism by 10-30% for the next hour. The calorie-burning effect is higher when you’re drinking cold water because your body uses energy to bring it to your body temperature.

Putting it all together

Learning more about your metabolism is perhaps one of the best things you can do to understand how diet and nutrition work. That’s because it’s all about the management of calories and energy inside your body – a topic crucial for anyone from casual fitness readers to pro athletes.

If you want to start adapting your diet and lifestyle so you can lose weight and have a “faster” metabolism, the first step you need to take is to begin journaling about it.

Start writing down your meal macros, your weight, your exercises, and other factors that go into tracking and measuring the results of weight-loss. But in general, the real hardcore, down-to-the-number measurement of metabolism is usually only available to experts and professionals.

The good news is – you don’t need all of that. All you need to do to reap the benefits is have a basic understanding of how your metabolism works, what speeds it up, and how it affects the body in certain situations – all of which you just happened to learn in this article!

 

The Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning

Hey Angels and Alphas,

You all probably know that meal planning is essentially the best way to control your diet. Scheduling and pre-cooking your meals is an approach that both gym-goers and professional athletes use so they can set themselves up for fitness success.

But did you know that meal planning is also the easiest thing *you* can do to set *yourself* up for a healthy diet and lifestyle?

Whether you plan a few days ahead or a week ahead, you can’t deny meal planning’s biggest benefit – you make all your eating decisions in “bulk”, and you do it in a strategic and focused way. This “closes the door” to a lot of random cravings and gaps in your diet you could otherwise fill with unhealthy food.

Today, we’re going to talk about meal planning – the how, the why, the what, and how to best approach it based on your goal.

If you’re someone who:

  1. Has trouble adapting a systematic approach to dieting, yet wants to eat healthy…
  2. Doesn’t know how meal planning works, but has thought about it before…

Then this article is for you.

Let’s get started!

STEP 1 – What’s your goal?

Now, there’s no need to be very “deep” about this. The easiest way to acknowledge your goal is to ask yourself why you want to start meal planning.

Here are a couple of questions you can ask yourself to best identify what you’re looking for (and what you want to get out of your meal planning efforts:)

  • Are you looking to lose weight/gain muscle?
  • Are you looking for more dietary variety?
  • Do you want to stop wasting food?
  • Do you want to start saving money?
  • Do you want to limit your sugar consumption?
  • Are you looking to save time?

Or maybe, you just want to *not* have to bother with the process of cooking a delicious meal every day. Perhaps you work long days in the office and don’t have the time to maintain a healthy diet.

Whatever your reasons are, you need to find them and acknowledge them. Meal planning is, indeed, a great solution to all of these problems, so knowing they exist (and that meal planning fixes them) is a great way to get yourself through that initial push.

STEP 2 – Planning!

First of all, where do I find recipes?!

Finding and choosing your recipes is where the real fun begins. However, this is perhaps the hardest part of the entire meal planning process, precisely because it can be so difficult and time-consuming.

It sets the whole meal planning process in motion, so you have to be really careful – you can’t just choose a bunch of recipes and hope for the best. You’re going to go through a process of constant learning and adapting your recipes to your tastes, and best believe, it’s going to feel great.

Start writing down possible recipes at least three days before you start the meal planning process so you can make an effective. Don’t forget to Google, Yahoo, Bing, look at everything *before* you start meal planning.

Next, how many meals do you need?

Take a moment and think about what you would like to have in the upcoming week. Take into account your work schedule, your gym schedule, and make a quick inventory of your plans to get an idea of how many meals you’ll need.

Example: seven breakfasts per family member, seven family-sized dinners, five solo work lunches, seven family-sized lunches.

How much time do you have to cook?

This is where meal planning gets serious. Making the most out of your time is the very reason a lot of people do this, so you need to have a practical approach.

If you plan out everything, but you don’t have (or make) the time to cook, it’s all pointless. The next step of your process is to expand the previous list of meals you did and calculate how much time it’s going to take to cook and prepare all servings.

This is more an “information gathering” process than it is anything else, so you have to be both specific and realistic when you’re determining your “time per cooked meal” ratio.

Imagine you have a really busy week coming, or the babysitter calls and says she won’t make it. You have to be prepared for these situations so your focus should be on meals that are cooked slow but served quickly.

Connect recipes to your meal schedule.

You have a list, so it’s time to put it to action. It’s time to go back to your potential recipes list and find the meals that fit the bills (hey, that rhymes.)

Naturally, you’re going to be looking for family favorites, meals that you have experience cooking, and those that are just outright delicious. There’s also a very important aspect of food you have to remember – shelf life. You should make dishes within a day/two of shipping and leave those with shelf-stable and frozen ingredients for later.

When you take into account the nutritional profile of each dish, you can easily calculate how many servings a recipe you should make and how much nutrients you’re going to draw from each dish.

Pro tip: use overlapping ingredients! This way, you’ll minimize waste, and you’ll maximize your budget’s effectiveness.

Put it all on the calendar.

It doesn’t matter where you choose to put it – a calendar, notes, a template, or an app. Just know that you have to keep this schedule near yourself at all times. You know how some people hang their meal plans on the fridge? There’s a reason for that. By making the schedule easy to access, you reinforce its importance and hold yourself accountable. Plus, you won’t be thinking “what should I eat?” all the time. 

Create your master recipe list.

If you want to make the meal planning process easy and straightforward, create a list of go-to meals that you *know* you and your family love.

Every time you find a new ingredient or meal you love, put it on the list. Next to every meal, write down the ingredients you need to cook and prepare them.

This way, you’re going to find and remember all your favorite foods (and make re-visiting old meals a tradition.)

*This is not a grocery list, but it does lead to a very good one. Keeping an inventory of your favorite new meals and ingredients will help you identify the things you’re going to need for the week. The final step before making a grocery list is going through your kitchen and writing down what ingredients you already have.

When you do that… you’re finally ready!

Make the grocery list!

Next, go through your calendar and jot down the quantities for each meal and ingredient you’re going to need for your cooking-spree. Buying them in bulk more or less guarantees you’re going to save money, so you have this going for you right off the bat.

A great way to save (even more) time is to group your ingredients in a similar fashion:

  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Breads, Grains
  • Spices
  • Oils
  • Beverages
  • Meat & Eggs
  • Dairy (if that’s your thing)

Finally, cook and prep!

Chop, boil, and roast the veggies, make the sauces, grate the cheese, do your thing!

When you cook all the food, put it in neat portions – you can even fill food boxes for your convenience!

Put it all in a freezer, and take it out whenever it’s time for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or when you’re just feeling hungry!

Putting it all together…

When you finally go through the process successfully, you’ll make a realization – meal planning is a continuous process of “you did it, now did it again.”

But once you start consistently implementing a meal plan strategy, you won’t want to go without it – it’s a simple, effective, and productive habit. It saves you time, it’s convenient, and it keeps you healthy. What more could you ask for?

It’s not difficult, but learning to stick to the process is not a walk in the park. It’s all the more stressful when you’re just starting out! But every time you go through the planning, shopping, and cooking process, you’ll get one step closer to turning meal planning into a habit for yourself. And that’s what your real goal should be.

The 4 Different Approaches To Weight Loss – And how to pick the right one for you.

Hey Angels, it’s Ally!

Today, we’re taking a journey into the promised land – a topic that’s so widely talked about, yet so few people in the fitness community seem to understand it.

When talking about weight loss, the first word that comes to the mind of most women is “diet”.

And men in the fitness community usually try to stay away from the term “weight loss” as much as humanly possible.

But today, we’re not going to talk about the dieting most women think of…

We’re going to look at the facts – the only actual ways one (man or woman) can go about losing weight.

That being said, I know surgical options always exist, but for the sake of giving you valuable, practical, applicable information, we’re going to skip right past them.

Without further ado, let’s get right into it.

When you get down to the bottom of it, I mean the real bottom, the core of what your body is capable of, you can narrow down weight loss to 4 specific approaches.

Each of these approaches is somewhat related to the others and combining them in a way that is most sustainable for your lifestyle is definitely the way to go.

Let’s take a look at each one individually so you can make the best decision about which will work best for you, your goals, and your lifestyle.

Approach Number 1 – Exercise

Exercise?! How shocking!

All jokes aside, regular exercise, or at the very least, physical activity should be a part of everyone’s life. Literally everyone.

Adding an exercise routine to your daily activities isn’t only a great way to reduce and maintain healthy weight – oh, no, no.

It promotes an overall healthy lifestyle.

The United States Department of Agriculture suggests that adults should exercise at least thirty minutes a day in order to lead a healthy life – and that’s not even talking about weight loss as a goal.

Turning exercise into a habit will without a doubt improve your cardiovascular endurance, your flexibility, your joint range of motion, your balance, coordination, not to mention improving muscle tissue and strength.

We also know that people who regularly exercise report a sense of better mental well-being.

Okay, but what does that have to do with weight?

Well, everything, really.

In order for your exercise regime to become a part of your life, a habit that you can’t go without, you can’t just go about it as “a way to lose weight”.

You have to know all the positives – how it makes you look better, feel better, how it helps your body fight disease, and how it gives you a true sense of accomplishment after every workout.

For the sake of simplification, I’ll say that any form of exercise will help you lose weight as it will not only increase the number of calories your body burns on a daily basis but also your body’s rate of metabolism.

Keep in mind, almost every diet that you come across is destined to fail if a training regimen does not accompany it.

I’m not going to go in-depth about the different types of training and which one is better for promoting weight loss, but just know this – the more you move throughout the day, the more energy and motivation you will have to keep moving and be active throughout the day.

So if you’re currently jumping from diet to diet and from treadmill to treadmill without seeing a consistent result that you can be happy with…

Maybe it’s time you take a closer look at your weight loss goals and try to incorporate a workout regimen that includes resistance training alongside all your cardio efforts.

Approach Number 2 – Nutrition/Food Intake

When talking about the proper “food intake” or IIFYM, there are many factors to take into consideration – such as your weight, your age, your activity level, and so on. They’re all crucial variables that you need to have in mind.

Luckily, there are a quintillion online calculators, that can at least give you an idea of the numbers you should be chasing.

But they’re not good at predicting your activity level – only you are. If you’re running errands all day or your job involves you being active and on your feet – your expenditure of energy increases.

That being said, we know one thing for sure – if your goal is to lose weight, then you must burn more calories than you consume on a daily basis.

When your energy consumption and energy expenditure are balanced, your weight will remain the same.

Calorie surplus – weight gain.

Calorie deficit – weight loss!

It’s really that simple.

Right now, our goal is to lose weight, so let’s look at the two to decrease the amounts of calories you intake.

  1. Consume Less Food
    That sounds harsh, but let’s elaborate.
    If you want to lose weight, you have to decrease the total number of calories you consume below your BMR (the average number of calories your body burns throughout the day).
    So this can be as easy as skipping a snack, skipping a meal, or consuming a little bit less food in every meal. This means you can still eat what you’ve always eaten but in smaller amounts.
    Even though it’s “an approach”, it’s not a healthy one.
    If you’re usually eating foods that are nutrient-deficient, your body isn’t going to get all the resources it needs to maintain your physical and mental well-being.
    This is the approach of many “diets” that end up wasting people’s time and leaving them worse off than before in regards to their weight and health…
  2. Change The Foods You Eat
    In comparison to the last approach, this one is heaven-sent. Let me give you an example.
    Say that someone is used to eating lunch that is high in fats like the food served in most fast food restaurants.
    That person decides to change their routine for a week – they start having lunch every day that is packed with healthy nutrients, low in calories, and doesn’t involve any processed foods.
    This person will not only decrease their calorie intake by a large number (on a week by week scale) but will also improve the quality of food they’re consuming!
    They will not only begin to lose weight but improve their overall health as well.
    Just by giving their body access to new nutritionally-balanced foods, their body will thank them by functioning optimally.
    This is where the concept of IIFYM comes in, but we’ll leave that for another time…

Out of the two options, the second is obviously preferred.

However, it’s not as easy to implement dietary changes as some people might think.

The reason for that is that it involves a lifestyle change that a lot of individuals just can’t deal with.

But if you decide that the food intake approach is your approach to lose weight, you’re making an effort to cut off foods that are highly processed, high in fat, and low in nutritional value.

Is this the approach you’re taking?

Approach Number 3 – Stimulate Your Metabolism

In my opinion, a very undermined and often skipped approach, stimulating your metabolism essentially means increasing the number of calories your body burns on a daily basis.

Meaning that if that you increase your metabolism to a level where your body burns more calories than you consume, voila, you’re losing weight.

Everyone has, as I mentioned above, a little something called a Basal Metabolic Rate (or BMR).

Your BMR refers to the amount of energy that your body uses when at rest in an environment with neutral temperature. To determine your BMR value, you need your digestive system to be inactive which usually means fasting for half a day.

The part of your system that’s responsible for the “fight or flight” also has to be inactive.

When those two elements are in place, you can determine your BMR – the number of calories your body burns just for using its necessary mechanisms.

There are a ton of metabolism stimulants, supplements, and herbs you can try that focus on increasing an individual’s BMR, so let’s take a look at a few different approaches.

First of all, we have to mention prescription metabolism stimulants – as the name suggests, you need a prescription from your doctor to get these because they’re often accompanied by side effects and nasty drug interactions.

Second, there are a bunch of synthetic and herbal alternatives that you don’t need a prescription for that aim to increase your BMR, but the FDA does not approve the majority of them.

When taking into consideration all the headaches, abdominal pain, bloating, and other side effects, and the fact that the FDA rigorously researches them and does not approve any of them for long-term use…

We can see why these probably aren’t an option for us.

Of course, you can go ahead and try that option, only after you consult your doctor.

But leaving all these suspicious and untested drugs behind, let’s look at some completely natural ways to increase your metabolism!

  1. Magnesium – Magnesium is a mineral that every cell in your body needs to function. It’s used in over 300 biochemical reactions such as the optimal function of your muscles, nervous system, even your heart. Foods high in magnesium that you can try are nuts such as almonds, cashews, peanuts, oatmeal, legumes, whole-grain cereals, and nearly all green vegetables!
  2. B Vitamins – these are the vitamins responsible for DNA synthesis, the function of the central nervous system, as well as energy production in the body. Foods high in vitamin B include spinach, beans, melon, eggs, broccoli, and poultry.
  3. Healthy Snacks – consuming small but healthy snacks as you’re going about your day is a great way to boost your metabolism. It can minimize food cravings and reduce overeating tendencies that most often lead to weight gain. These snacks should include foods that are low in fat and high in protein as well as complex carbohydrates. Just to name a few, you can go with peanut butter, fruits, cottage cheese, soups, salads, and so on.
  4. Eating Breakfast – if you’ve not read my post about the importance of breakfast, you’re missing out. Clinical studies show that eating breakfast may increase your resting metabolism by up to 10% while reducing the risk of obesity! Believe me, having breakfast is always a good idea.

And last but not least…

Approach Number 4 – Appetite Suppression

Believe it or not, appetite suppressors are becoming a big part of weight loss plans nowadays for their ability to reduce food cravings.

How do they do that?

I’m glad you asked.

Appetite suppressants decrease the body’s food cravings by increasing the levels of serotonin in your brain. Clinical studies have concluded that when an individual’s serotonin levels are low, they are more likely to develop overeating tendencies.

But I can tell you this – if you’re going to commit yourself to losing weight (and losing it for good), you’re going to need to make a few small lifestyle changes that, over time, will help you achieve that goal.

Sure, exercise is an excellent way to lose weight, but if you’re constantly giving in to your food cravings and not watching your nutrition, it’s not going to be of much help when it comes to weight loss specifically.

I hope this post gave you some clear pointers as to how you can approach your weight loss plan – and if you need a professional’s help, feel free to reach out.

So tell me – which of these approaches do you think is the best for you and your lifestyle?

Talk to you soon,

Ally

 

Everything You Need to Know About High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Hey Angels & Alphas!

Today, I want to talk about a topic very dear to every athlete’s heart.

In recent years, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been one of the most talked about topics in the fitness community!

More and more people are starting to add forms of HIIT to their weightlifting and cardio sessions, because of the various fitness benefits it has.

From fitness gurus to runway models, it seems that everyone is talking about how powerful and practical it is. And with good reason!

It helps you burn fat rapidly, makes noticeable changes to your body in a short amount of time, and completely shatters the “I don’t have time” excuse, allowing even the busiest people to squeeze in a productive, effective workout.

But remember – it’s no shortcut to fat loss. Instead, a powerful component will let you get there faster.

Today, we are going to learn all about the definition, benefits, and application of HIIT – from the perspective of both professional athletes and everyday gym-goers.

By the end, you’ll be fully equipped with the knowledge necessary to create your own HIIT program and jump right into it, even if you’re just a beginner.

So if you’ve ever wondered if high-intensity training is worth your time…

You’ve come to the right place!

(Short answer: it is.)

Without further ado, let’s dive in.

Defining High Intensity

To begin, we need to understand one thing: High-intensity interval training is not just a form of cardio. It’s the act of working your body to a near-maximum heart rate, be it with cardiovascular exercise or strength/resistance training.

This means working out at an intensity that gets your heart beating at around 80-85% of your maximum heart rate. Many doctors and experts say you can calculate your maximum heart rate really easily – just subtract your age from the number 220.

If you’re 25, your MHR would be 195.

To do HIIT, you should aim for a workout intensity that gets your heart rate at around 160 – 170.

This is performed in short, quick, explosive bursts that strive for maximum energy and power output followed by optimal recovery periods.

I saw this study a while back in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that concluded that the best working out/resting ratio for HIIT is 2:1, but that really varies. Your fitness level, the type of workout, and even the weather around you could play a massive role in your work-rest ratio.

But to put it short, you’re aiming for a quick workout that really pushes you to your limits in the shortest amount of time possible – be it cardio, strength training, or your favorite sport.

Safety Note

One of the best things about HIIT is that even beginners can see tremendous results really quickly.

However, this comes at a price. Working out at a higher intensity always means a higher risk of injury, and seeing how attractive HIIT is to beginners, I have to give a few safety warnings!

Low leg injuries and back pain are among the most common-reported HIIT-related injuries, but there are things we can do to prevent them.

It’s true – you don’t need to be an expert to start with high intensity. But if you’re new to HIIT, choose a couple of basic exercises and do them with weights that are more than comfortable. Keep doing this for a few weeks, until you have the confidence to step up to moderate loads.

That, along with an engaging pre-workout warmup and post-workout cooldown, will minimize your risk of injury and set the right foundation for your high-intensity training.

But keep in mind – the level of intensity takes some time to get used to.

THE Five Components of the HIIT Workout

We can’t possibly define all the various HIIT workouts that people are doing nowadays, but we can set a few ground rules you can follow when creating your own high-intensity regime.

Let’s take a look at the five must-know components of the high-intensity workout!

  1. Intensity Level

As we already said before, exercise intensity should aim to reach 80-85% of your maximum heart rate.

  1. Work:Rest ratio 

The general rule of thumb given by experts is 2:1. That means 30 seconds of rest for every 1 minute of top-intensity exercise. HIIT methods like the Tabata also suggest a 40 second – 15-second ratio, so you can play around with the 2:1 ratio and pick a sweet spot for your method of training.

  1. Duration

Your exercises shouldn’t last more than 60 seconds. And your whole workout should be up to 40 minutes long. Any longer than that, and you wouldn’t be able to keep up with the intensity.

Remember – you can train long, or you can train hard, but you can’t train both.

  1. Recovery

HIIT is performed at work and rest rounds, and your rest periods are just as critical as their counterpart.

During your rest rounds, you work on actively preparing yourself for the next, you don’t just sit around waiting for a timer.

Allow your heart rate to drop to a resting state, then attack the next round with the energy you collected.

  1. Volume

How many times should you HIIT per week?

Depending on your fitness level and physical activity, the answer can vary.

If you’re looking to get the most out of HIIT and you’re not engaging in other forms of training, you can do it up to 5 times a week. A group class is also an excellent option for the people who want to get started with HIIT, as you’ll be able to learn and get a feel for your body way more quickly.

However, if you are, for example, a gym-goer who wants to use HIIT to build more endurance and burn more fat, you should do 2 or 3 sessions a week on low-intensity days.

That being said, you now have the perfect foundation for creating your HIIT regime.

Whether it’s your first training method ever or just the latest addition to your program, these five components are everything you need to keep in mind when choosing the best HIIT method for your goals.

The Benefits of HIIT Training

  1. Burn more calories.

Activities that raise your heart rate up to the fat-burning zone will trigger a lot of calorie burn. That zone equals around ~70 of your max heart rate.

By working out at 80, or even 90 percent of your max heart rate, you’re tapping into your body’s maximum fat burning potential.

You’re not going to bore your body with low-intensity, slow cardio. You’re going to reach the peak amount of intensity possible, simply blowing the results of traditional cardio out of the water.

The studies show it – when it comes to fat loss, HIIT is better than running, biking, spinning, you name it!

By reaching this amount of intensity, HIIT also provides you with the “afterburn” effect that it’s so famous for. It substantially raises your metabolic rate post-workout, so you’re going to burn calories for the rest of the day after your workout is finished. Now that’s a benefit.

  1. Gain muscle?!

In addition to aiding fat loss, HIIT has also been shown to help some beginners quickly develop muscle mass.

Especially in individuals who haven’t been very physically active recently, the change is often visible and pretty drastic.

HIIT is also generally known for its ability to change your body composition quickly, and help you develop a strong foundation in the body parts you use most often (usually the legs).

However, some research in active individuals shows no significant increase in muscle mass. So although this is a major benefit, it’s more guided toward beginners.

If your goal is to build muscle, you know nothing beats weight training. However, HIIT will definitely support that goal by helping you burn more fat and push your muscles to the limit.

  1. Develop physical and mental resilience.

It’s no secret to anyone – HIIT is NOT easy.

The whole idea is to take your body to its maximum healthy intensity, so obviously, it takes more out of you than regular resistance training sessions or low-intensity cardio.

HIIT helps you develop the physical resilience to stay at that intensity for more extended periods of time, adding to your endurance, willpower, and consequently, the rewarding feeling you get when you’re finished.

And it’s not just physical!

A study published in the Neuroscience Letters journal concluded that HIIT also helps you release stress and develop better memory and mood.

After all, there’s nothing more physically and mentally fulfilling than reaching your body’s limits and then slowly seeing yourself surpass them.

  1. It’s super time efficient!

This is a big one for all the busy peeps!

Honestly, you can reap all the benefits of HIIT in a super short amount of time – technically, that’s the whole point of it.

There’s a study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology that gives us some remarkable insights!

They revealed that even one minute of HIIT performed a couple of times a week for 5-6 weeks massively improved the aerobic capacity and blood sugar levels of the study participants.

People achieve visible results with HIIT in a matter of a couple short sessions, so it straight up shatters the ”I don’t have time for training” excuse.

If you’re an athlete that’s already used to high-intensity training, you know that’s the beauty of it – short, explosive bursts that push you to the max and leave you crawling out the gym in less than 30 minutes. 

  1. Reduces blood sugar and blood pressure levels!

A couple of studies have also pointed out that high-intensity training helps people balance their blood sugar and blood pressure levels faster than traditional training methods.

One study, in particular, gives us a few interesting insights.

The first group included physically active people who were put on a training regimen of four 30-minute long workouts every week.

The second group had inactive people put on a training regimen of three 20-minute HIIT workouts every week.

Both groups had high blood pressure. Both groups achieved the same result – reduced levels of blood sugar and blood pressure, and improved insulin resistance.

To conclude…

High-Intensity Interval Training is a staple in your training regimen.

Whether you’re a weightlifter, a bodybuilder, a marathon runner, or a ballet dancer, HIIT is going to impact your performance massively.

It’s already in the workout programs of most professional athletes, and it can even help those who live a very sedentary lifestyle very quickly develop more energy, better endurance, and better muscle tone.

It can be done at home. At the gym. In the park. Anywhere.

So whether you’re a top athlete or a busy gym-loving mum, don’t miss the chance to find out more about this super-effective training method and learn how to HIIT the gym the right way!

10 Fitness Myths that Slow Your Progress in the Gym

Hey Angels, it’s Ally!

Recently, a friend of mine asked me a question that has really stuck with me since.

She asked; “Why is there so much misinformation in the fitness world?

I focus a lot of my time toward helping people achieve their fitness goals, and through the years I’ve noticed that a lot of people don’t make an effort to differentiate between the truth and the misconceptions. They just let all the false information slide, not knowing that it does affect them in one way or another.

We’ve all done the things that are proven to work – barbell training for strength, a caloric deficit for weight loss, cardio for endurance, etc.

But somehow, fitness remains mostly misunderstood.

I believe that misinformation spreads fast because it’s easier for people to accept. In fitness, and life in general, people love shortcuts. Our brains love following simple rules and instructions, and resisting change when it happens.

All these “boot camp” and “CrossFit” trends have become incredibly popular nowadays.

The problem again lies in the “no pain, no gain” attitude.

People, especially those who are new to the gym, tend to burn themselves out quick by doing advanced workout routines and drastically changing their diet in a short amount of time, leaving themselves under the impression that being fit and working toward your goals is something painfully difficult.

This behavior perpetuates the short-cut chasing.

It paints a picture of the health and diet world that doesn’t encourage people to make small, consistent changes, but instead go all-in toward what they’re doing, only to make their journey unpleasant and unproductive.

Today, I want to bust the most well-known myths about working out so you can get a clear perspective on what advice to avoid in the future.

When I say myth, I’m referring to information that is widely available and shared throughout the fitness community, and does nothing but give people the wrong impression about fitness, slowing them down from achieving their real goal.

That’s why busting these myths will be so sweet!

Let’s get into it.

Myth 1: The “Lean Muscle” phenomena.

Around the fitness and diet community, the term “lean muscle” comes in the opposite of the term “bulky.”

We all know that person who’s on a “lean muscle” gaining diet…

Well, let me tell you this – there’s no such thing as lean muscle. When people say this, they’re most likely referring to “lean body mass.” Technically, all muscle is lean muscle.

So when someone’s talking about building lean muscle, this is the absolute same as burning fat and building muscle. An increase in lean body mass is essentially the weight you gained minus the fat you gained.

So forget about the “no-carb lean muscle diets,” and focus on what works for you!

Myth 2: Strength training is all about machines and heavy weights.

The fact is, “heavy” is an extremely subjective term.

What strength training truly means is adding resistance when working your muscles. This resistance doesn’t need to come from the heavy weight on the bar.

Strength can also be built and maintained through bodyweight exercises, resistance bands, medicine balls, everything that essentially causes your muscles to contract against an external resistance.

What the increase in strength indeed refers to is your ability to continuously increase that load and improve your tone, mass, and endurance.

Once again, focus on what works for you! You can severely injure yourself by putting too much weight on a bar just so you can “build strength”!

Don’t do it, promise?

Myth 3: If you aren’t sore, you didn’t work out hard enough.

This myth is a big one for the “no pain, no gain” people.

The truth is, soreness is essentially your body’s response to inflammation. You can’t measure your progress based on one of the many chemical reactions going on inside your body.

You don’t need soreness to gain strength or mass. If you have a killer workout and you’re sore the next day, the only thing that means is that you expended a little bit more energy than you had to.

If you, however, have an unusually intense workout and wake up the next day sore-free, that means you expended just the right amount of energy.

High-five!

Myth 4: You need to stretch before you start working out.

Although true to some extent, it’s mostly misunderstood. Everyone can agree that jumping right into your one rep max can cause more harm than good, but the static stretches should be left for after you’re done with your workout!

Replace the word “stretching” with a dynamic warm-up, and you’re going to achieve the desired result – improving the mobility and elasticity of your muscles, preparing them for higher intensity.

Foam rolling is a great option here, as it keeps your body moving and helps you improve your range of motion. This allows you to go deeper into your exercises and put the stress of the entirety of your muscle tissue.

Myth 5: Crunches will give you rock-hard abs!

Nope, nope, nope. Crunches surely will help you develop your abs and strengthen your core, but they definitely aren’t the most efficient exercise for the job.

Some people, especially newbies, tend to look at sit-ups and crunches as the holy grail of ab workouts! But why not try something that doesn’t involve lying on your back and straining your neck?

Different variations of the plank, the squat, the leg raise, and the reverse press up are all better alternatives that will help you build stability and strength in your midsection.

Myth 6: Sweating means intensity!

Then there’s the sweating misconception. A lot of people tend to believe that how much you sweat is directly related to how much calories you burn, and it’s really not that simple!

The reason you sweat in the first place is that your core temperature increases. When you exercise, your muscles release heat. So naturally, when you’re going through a tough workout, you tend to raise your internal temperature more, and in turn, sweat more.

But this isn’t the only variable!

The temperature you work out in also plays a significant role.

So does the humidity in the air.

In an area that’s particularly humid, you’ll feel like you’re sweating more. That’s because it’s not the release of sweat that cools your body down, but its evaporation. If your gym is really humid, chances are sweat can’t evaporate as easily, giving you the impression that you’re sweating more than usual.

Myth 7: Doing a lot of cardio is the best way to shed fat.

Sadly, no. Spending a few hours on the treadmill won’t mean anything if your diet (and the rest of your workout regime) don’t follow the same goal.

To be entirely accurate, to shed a pound of fat you need to burn around 3,500 calories.

Translate that to cardio, and that’s a pretty crazy number!

Just look at this chart created by the American Council on Exercise. The average person will burn around 14 calories a minute while running. So if you’re running a 10-minute mile, you’ll be burning about 140 calories (of course, other variables are included in your personal equation).

To achieve real weight loss, cardio just won’t suffice. You need to adopt a healthy diet and participate in activities that trigger EPOC – exercise post-oxygen consumption. EPOC means your body will be burning calories during the time after you completed your workout. You can achieve EPOC through high-intensity interval training (known as HIIT) and different types of resistance training.

Myth 8: Too much protein is bad for your kidneys!

This myth is valid only for a tiny percentage of people, and shouldn’t be considered general advice.

Researches show that a surplus of protein may stress the kidneys and further complicate the condition of people who have an existing kidney disease.

No evidence suggests that high protein intake has any effect on renal and hepatic function.

If your kidneys are healthy, you will have no problem handling high-protein diets, as long as you stay hydrated!

Myth 9: Don’t eat carbs before bed, you’ll get fat!

We’ve all heard this sentence at some point.

The fact is that, even when you’re asleep, your body needs energy. After a hard day (or a hard workout), your body will digest carbs and replenish the glycogen stores in your muscles while you’re sleeping. Sure, an excess of carbs will promote storing fat, but… so will an excess of anything, really.

*A lot of carb-rich foods can help your body release the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin enables your body to achieve more profound relaxation and better sleep!

And finally, the crème de la crème of fitness misconceptions…

Myth 10: Spot reduction.

If you ever hear someone tell you that you can “target fat loss” to certain areas of your body, you have the God-given right to remove yourself from that conversation!

If that were true, everyone would be walking around rocking a 6-pack, just because they did a gazillion crunches.

Not a single study has proven this. The scientific consensus points to the fact that when you’re losing fat, you’re losing it all around your body.

I feel like nine was enough, but I really couldn’t make a fitness misconceptions list without this!

Where does that leave us…

In a world full of false information, the people are always talking about the “right way” to do things – and that’s where the problem lies. For the brain, the “right way” is most often the “easy way.” For you, however, that’s not the case.

I hope I managed to debunk a few misapprehensions for you, and from what I see and hear in the community, these are the ones that have the most damaging effect on your long-term gains and mind frame toward fitness.

So if you’re new to the gym, always order the information you receive in the following way;

  1. What you feel like is best for you.
  2. What science (or your coach) says.
  3. Everything else you hear (from friends, and on the Internet).

By only allowing the right type of things to influence you, you’ll be on your way to a positive and productive fitness journey, and in time, you’ll learn more about yourself and what works best for you.

Once you have that experience, all the myths and misconceptions about fitness will slide right off you, I promise.

The Science Behind High and Low Rep Ranges

Hey Angels and Alphas!

Whether you’re a powerlifter that’s never even done more than 6 reps, or a bodybuilder that’s always chasing the “hypertrophy zone,” you can’t deny one thing. The goal you’re pursuing requires that you strive toward a particular training methodology.

That’s because working hard with no specific strategy rarely gets you anywhere. And if you’re one of the people that’s always chasing the “middle ground” of 10 reps on every exercise, chances are you haven’t really thought about the effect that rep ranges have on your results.

Lucky for you, today we’re going to learn how to find the right rep range for our goal.

By doing this, you’ll gain an invaluable tool that will help you multiply the results you’re currently getting – all by maximizing and targeting your effort the right way.

The Differences Between High Range and Low Range Training

To best explain the differences between high and low rep ranges, we’re going to take a look at a few studies.

Even though making conclusions based on a few studies is rarely a great idea, we have a chance to look at the scientifically-proven benefits of the two main rep ranges.

We’ll define the low rep range as anything between 1 and 6 reps.

We’ll define the high rep range as anything between 12 and 20 reps.

And we’ll define the moderate rep range as anything between 7 and 11 reps, even though we’re not going to talk much about it today.

First, I want you to check out this study. Researches took two training groups and exposed them to different types of training. One group had to lift 55% of their 1RM for a high number of reps and had 3 seconds to perform each rep. The second group had to lift on average 85% of their 1RM for low reps, and had one second to perform each rep.

The two groups achieved an almost identical result when it came to muscle mass and strength gain.

Here’s another similar study. Two groups were exposed to arm training for eight weeks. One group performed 20 reps a set with 30 second rest periods. The other performed up to 8 reps and had 3 minute rest periods.

Again, both groups achieved similar (if not the same) result. Here’s another similar study that proves the same thing.

And finally, check this study out. They found out that low-weight, high-rep training stimulates protein synthesis no different than heavy training, essentially proving the usefulness of low-weight, high-rep training during injury rehabilitation.

So far, we’ve found out that, when it comes to muscle strength and size, both low rep ranges and high rep ranges can do wonders for you.

Contrary to what a lot of fitness “experts” say, 6 reps and over isn’t considered cardio. You can still improve strength and muscle mass with higher rep ranges – doing 1-6 reps every set isn’t detrimental to your gains.

That being said, high rep training and low rep training do have their benefits, and now, we’re going to take a closer look at their ups and downs. Finally, we’ll tie that together with what goal you have, making it super easy to choose a rep range that will help you get there faster!

The Benefits of High Rep Training

A common misconception is that training with higher reps (15-20+) and lower weights (30-50% of your 1RM) means that you won’t be training to failure and you won’t be providing the muscle with enough metabolic stress in order to grow it.

On the contrary! Imagine an exercise like the lateral raise. Such an exercise is just better suited for high rep ranges and low weights. By doing it that way, it’s much easier to develop the mind-muscle connection you need in order to put the right type of pressure on your muscle (and minimize the stress on your joints).

Higher rep ranges also allow you to push through metabolic fatigue during your sets. That’s why drop sets were invented! You can some extra “burn” going during your set just by dropping the weight and continuing onward, and that goes a long way to stimulate more muscle growth.

High rep training is an excellent option for those who are usually chasing the “hypertrophy range” in their exercises. It’s great for building muscle size and endurance, as well as giving your joints a break from the heavier weights.

The Downsides of High Rep Training

Training in the high rep range does have its downsides.

In general, I believe high rep training should be utilized mostly in isolation exercises.

If you were to try the high rep, low weight method by doing squats and deadlifts, that would be extremely exhausting and taxing on your muscles.

And if you try to train to failure using a high rep range, chances are it’s going to be highly unpleasant – a lot harder than lower reps and heavier weights.

As a rule of thumb, the 6-12 range is where weights are heavy enough for you to provide enough tension to your major muscle groups.

That’s why it’s usually preferred when the goal is strength and muscle gains because it allows you to generate a lot of metabolic tension without overtaxing yourself and accumulating fatigue.

Which leads us to our next point…

The Benefits of Low Rep Training

We know for a fact that lower rep ranges are more beneficial when it comes to gaining raw strength.

This study done in 2016 made clear that after 8 weeks of training, lower rep ranges (in this case, 2-4) resulted in more strength gains than higher rep ranges.

And even though the differences weren’t dramatic per se, you can see a clear trend toward strength gains. But if the research was longer than 8 weeks, I believe we’d see a dramatic result in the long-term.

The Downsides of Low Rep Training

The obvious downside of lower rep training is that you would need more sets to reach an adequate amount of training volume.

If you only do low rep training, chances are you aren’t putting the maximum amount of metabolic tension on your muscles. And, you’re putting an unnecessary amount of damage to your joints.

That’s why it’s easy to get yourself burned out on a low-rep regimen. These methods often involve a lot of physical and mental fatigue that negatively affect your workouts in the long-term.

How do I choose the right mix?

Although there isn’t a definitive answer to “what’s the best type of rep range to use,” you can get pretty close to a solution that fits your fitness goals.

If you’re just trying to gain strength, always choose low rep ranges and heavy weights.

If you’re trying to lose weight, you’re generally going to be doing mostly endurance/high rep training with some strength training sprinkled about.

When you’re trying to build muscle and endurance, choose a combination of low and high rep ranges. Low rep ranges for compound exercises, and high rep ranges for isolation exercises.

Conclusion

To conclude, we can say that it’s possible to gain muscle, lose weight, and improve your strength and endurance, regardless of what method you choose.

Nevertheless, what’s important is that you pick a method and stick with it because the real dramatic difference between them will only be visible in the long-term.

Both rep ranges can be used to build muscle. But you need to remember to push yourself and progressively challenge yourself as you go on. If you do this, you’ll achieve muscle growth regardless of what method you are leaning toward.

High reps and low reps aren’t individually better, but differentiating them allows you to treat them differently.

Don’t treat them as the “one thing” you have to do.

Treat them as the newest tools in your training skillset – and use them wisely.

 

7 Science-Backed Ways to Improve your Gut Health!

Hey Angels & Alphas!

A while ago, we talked about the importance of keeping your gut healthy.

We learned what the gut microbiome is, as well as all the benefits that come with taking good care of it.

Hopefully, by now, you understand that taking this extra step toward improving your health brings incredible benefits to your overall fitness and wellbeing.

By keeping the bacteria in your gut healthy and productive, you’re going to see an increase in your energy levels, a strengthening of your immune system, as well as better memory and brain health.

And who doesn’t want that?!

Today, I want to give you some practical tips on keeping the bacteria in your gut working for you instead of against you!

Without further ado, let’s get into the 7 most popular science-backed ways to improve your gut health and achieve a balanced and productive microbiome!

Reduce Stress

When it comes to health, stress is always a crucial factor. Managing it is vital for your overall health, and not just your gut health.

Nevertheless, the connection between your gut microbiome and your brain has long been proven, and we know that the two communicate all the time!

Through gut hormone signaling, tryptophan signaling, microbial metabolites, and other similar pathways, the composition of your gut microbiome gets majorly altered.

This works both ways – if you’re experiencing inflammation or you have a leaky gut, this can contribute to developing stress-related disorders.

Studies on animals such as this one have concluded that even short-term psychological stress ultimately damages the microorganisms that “live” in your intestines.

That’s why I put stress first on this list – I believe that one of the best ways you can improve your gut health is to reduce daily stress with mindfulness, rest, and meditation.

That being said, there are two different “types” of stress that impact your gut health negatively, and they are:

  1. Psychological Stress
  2. Stressing the Senses (with deafening noises, very hot/cold weather, even unpleasant visual stimulus).

You can deal with these by using meditation, muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, foam rolling, or just a day at the spa.

One thing’s for sure – the world is at no shortage of ways to reduce stress. Make sure to use them!

Avoid Smoking

Perhaps one of the most obvious ways people damage their gut health daily is by smoking.

Smoking not only affects your gut health but also dramatically increases the risk of cancer and has a negative impact on your heart and lungs.

In 2018, research was published that studied smokers over a span of 16 years! It found that smoking directly impacts the intestinal flora and increases the number of harmful microorganisms in your gut. You can check out the study here.

An even more recent study found out that smoking increases the chance of developing IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), as well as other systemic and intestinal conditions.

Avoid Sugar & Artificial Sweeteners

Let’s look at a couple of animal studies.

First, this 2015 research on diet and cognition concluded that animals on a Western diet (meaning a diet high in sugar and fat) had imbalanced gut bacteria levels, leading to worse nervous system performance and a variety of cognitive and behavioral changes.

Later on, another study on animals found out that aspartame (an artificial sweetener found in most store foods) increased the number of bacteria strains related to metabolic diseases. Metabolic diseases are conditions that increase the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. Yikes!

Does any of this come as a surprise? If you’ve done some research on gut health, you most probably realize that sugar and artificial sweeteners wreak havoc on your microbiome. (Partly because of dysbiosis, a condition that imbalances gut microbes).

Moving on to a more human study, check this one out. It concluded that artificial sweeteners may be causing an increase in blood sugar, even though they’re not actually sugar. This means that they negatively impact blood glucose levels, which can lead to a variety of health complications.

It’s a fact – high-sugar diets alter the function and composition of your gut microbiome. Harmful bacteria loves sugar, so if you reduce your sugar intake, you’re substantially limiting your bad bacteria’s food supply!

So try to stay away from the western diets that are high in refined sugar and highly processed foods. Make sure you keep the sauces, sweet beverages, and candy to a minimum.

Speaking of bad foods…

Avoid GMO

I don’t know what you’ve heard about GMO, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t really on the positive side of the spectrum.

Technically, a genetically modified organism shouldn’t be all bad. But for the most part, these foods get modified in a way that lets them resist and withstand the harsh chemicals that get sprayed on them.

Every time you’re eating GMO food, you’re risking consuming a chemical known as glyphosate – a major contributor to dysbiosis and leaky guts.

Exercising on a Schedule

If you’re here, you’re probably someone who exercises regularly.

But did you know how much you’re doing for your health just by doing this?!

Everyone knows exercise is healthy and awesome, we’ve all heard this a billion times, but did you know that exercise is one of the most significant contributors to healthy gut microbiome composition? Not to mention, exercising regularly helps keep your heart healthy and your weight balanced.

Here’s a great study outlining the impacts of exercising on gut health and managing excess weight.

And here’s a great study from a couple years back that shows that athletes generally hold a wider variety of gut bacteria than nonathletes. (Their diets weren’t the same either, so take this with a grain of salt. No pun intended.)

From this, we learn that exercise increases the number of “good” species of bacteria in our body’s biome. Athletes were also reported to have a larger number of commensal bacteria – bacteria which we derive valuable nutrients from.

To make sure you’re getting the adequate amount of exercise to keep your gut healthy and balanced, the golden rule is at least 3 hours of moderate-intensity training every week.

Probiotics and Fermented Foods

Now we know that we should avoid sweets, processed foods, and GMO if we want to keep our gut biome healthy.

But are there any foods that benefit our gut bacteria?

Well, of course!

Some people just choose to use probiotic supplements that you can pretty much get at most food stores and drug stores. (Research has shown that they work and that they help prevent inflammation.)

But there are a couple of foods out there, classified as fermented foods.

They are a natural, chock-full source of probiotics, and consuming them has shown to improve gut health!

Some of them include:

Kefir – a delicious fermented probiotic milk drink.

Sauerkraut – a finely shredded cabbage that has been fermented by lactic acid.

Pickles – if they’re not made with vinegar, they’re really healthy, and they aid blood clotting.

Kombucha – delicious tea full of healthy probiotic properties.

Natto – a fermented soybean product. A Japanese staple dish that contains the healthy Bacillus subtilis bacteria.

Kimchi – a tasty (but spicy) Korean side dish. Contains bacteria that aid digestive health.

Getting Enough Sleep

I sort of wanted to talk about this in the “stress” section, but I believe it deserves its own.

Honestly, getting enough sleep (and that being good-quality sleep) is probably one of the biggest contributors to long-term microbiome balance.

But by improving both your mood and your cognition, it essentially works wonders for managing stress and aiding healthy bacteria.

Check this out – a study did on the irregular sleep habits of animals! It concluded that disturbed sleep is directly linked to high risks of inflammatory conditions, which in turn are directly connected to the gut microbiome!

This is big! A regular sleep schedule, going to bed at the same time every day, and focusing on the quality of your sleep are all things that will positively impact your gut health!

The truth is, poor sleep changes the composition of that microbiome in a bad way.

The golden rule of thumb is at least 7 hours of sleep every night. The focus shouldn’t really be on length but on sleep quality. Think about your breathing patterns, your pet disturbing your sleep, snoring, etc. Fixing these things goes a long way toward improving your sleep quality.

Conclusion

Keeping your gut healthy has a variety of benefits for your body and your mind.

By taking these actionable steps toward keeping your gut microbiome balanced and healthy, you’re doing more for your health than you believe.

Honestly, with all the benefits that a healthy gut brings, you can’t not work toward it.

If you’re here, you probably want to improve your health, your physique, and your cognition (among other things).

And every method I’ve shared with you today will help you do just that.

Basically, you can use this as your “healthy lifestyle checklist,” but always remember to consult your doctor/physician before making any drastic changes to your diet/lifestyle.

Everything You Need to Know About Taking a Break from Strength Training

Hey Angels & Alphas,

You know it, I know it, the world knows it. Many lifters nowadays are super concerned that if they go on a vacation or take a little bit more time away from the gym, their muscles will evaporate and their mass will drop like *snap* that.

Today, we’re here to talk about this concern and see how much validity there is to it.

Now, if you’ve been training for a couple of years, you’re probably aware of the fact that muscles have to be maintained, not just built. 

So what happens if you stop lifting weights?

Well, researches call it detraining, but simply put, when you stop lifting weights, you’re naturally going to lose both muscle size and your current maximum strength.

Imagine today is the day you stop strength training.

In the next couple of days, you’re most likely going to experience a small increase in maximum strength. This is because muscles are being repaired, and the built-up stress in your nervous system starts easing and disappearing. 

A few days after this, you’ll start seeing small drops in maximum strength. This could technically be as a result of lower motor unit recruitment and losses of coordination (from not doing certain exercises for a while). 

However, over the next month or so after that, you’re going to see continuous reductions in strength most likely due to losses in muscle fiber size. It’s a slow and steady process, but muscle size is usually the first to go.

After these 4 weeks, when muscle size stabilizes, you’re probably not going to lose much more size.

Why do we lose size first and strength second? 

Your muscles are made up of dozens of thousands of muscle fibers, grouped in a couple hundred motor units. 

When your body needs to perform a task, motor units are recruited by the central nervous system. This is done in a specific order related to the muscle recruitment threshold. 

Low-threshold motor units are always recruited before high-threshold motor units. In addition, when high-threshold motor units are recruited, low-threshold motor units remain recruited.

Low-threshold motor units control a couple dozen muscle fibers, and high-threshold motor units control thousands, even tens of thousands, of motor units.

Do you follow me so far?

The heavier and more intense the task is, the more motor units are needed for the completion of the movement. That being said, if the action also involves a slow muscle fiber contraction velocity, then the muscle fibers will experience time under tension. This mechanical loading stimulus triggers increases in muscle-protein synthesis.

And technically, when you’re on a strength training regime, you’re providing this mechanical loading stimulus to the muscle fibers of your high-threshold motor units.

When you stop doing this, the muscle fibers stop receiving this regular stimulus. Therefore, they begin to atrophy. This is only natural.

However, low-threshold motor units experience enough “time under tension” to remain a constant size even when you’re just going about your life. (Mostly because of gravity.)

This explains why you experience rapid decreases in muscle size after you stop lifting. 

Muscle fibers controlled by high-threshold motor units lose the usual stimulus they experience, while the muscle fibers stimulated by your daily life activities are unaffected.

Did you know? If you have a job that’s rather physical, you’ll experience less muscle atrophy then someone who sits at a desk all day. This is because the number of muscle fibers that will remain unaffected will depend on the type of activities you do in your daily life.

What happens if we take a break from strength training, but then decide to start lifting again?

When you stop lifting for short periods of time, you’ll lose muscle size because you’ve removed the regular stimulus your high-threshold units need to remain at their current size.

This means that, if you take a break from strength training for a week, high-threshold motor units will still atrophy, reducing overall muscle size.

But here’s the kicker! When you start lifting again, hypertrophy occurs way faster than it did the first time you trained.

This might happen because of two reasons.

First – epigenetic memory. This is information about a muscle’s maximum size in the past that is stored inside your muscles. Some people believe that this memory is related to a higher number of myonuclei. Myonuclei are not lost while detraining despite the losses in muscle size, and they permit an increasing resting rate of muscle protein synthesis. Therefore, it’s much easier for muscles to return to a size they previously had. 

Second – motor unit recruitment decreases way slower than muscle fiber size. When you return to lifting weights after a few weeks of detraining, you’re able to recruit more motor units than you could the first time you started lifting. Because of this, you can load more muscle fibers, therefore increasing their combined size super quickly.

Once you know all of this, there are probably a couple of questions that arise in your head.

What about deloading? What about short breaks from strength training?

Will they help us enhance hypertrophy? Or are they actually counterproductive when you’re trying to build size?

Can we improve hypertrophy by taking these short breaks from lifting?

Over the last few years, a lot of researchers have proposed that accelerating muscle growth might be possible by deliberately taking short breaks from strength training.

However, I feel like this is unlikely. Muscle growth is quicker during a period of training *after* a period of detraining. Compare that to when you first started lifting weights, when your muscles were rapidly adapting to the new stimulus and growing as fast as they naturally could.

That being said, while the rate of muscle growth will definitely be faster after a period of detraining, this will only be present to the point where the lost muscle is regained. After you reach your past top form, the same slow rate of gaining will come back.

(This means we *cannot* artificially bring about increases in the number of myonuclei by taking short breaks off the weights.)

While it’s a fact that taking time off training will lead to more muscle damage in the first workout after coming back, it doesn’t lead to any *new* muscle gains. Myonuclei are closely related to the rate of repair of your muscles instead of increases in muscle size.

When you start lifting again after a break, myonuclei will be put to work. But this doesn’t indicate that any new myonuclear addition is happening. It’s more or less a measure of how cells are working to repair the damage.

If this is true, why do we deload?

Deloads remain incredibly crucial for all athletes, not just those focusing on strength.

Sometimes, we just have to take breaks off strength training to allow our central nervous system fatigue to evaporate. 

However, it’s also true that merely decreasing volume will be better, since this will allow fatigue to evaporate without any losses in muscle mass.

Then what are the downsides to taking breaks off the gym?

Besides the obvious decrease in mass and strength, there might be another reason why you would want to stay away from regular breaks off the gym. 

Until recently, it was thought that there are absolutely no downsides to taking a break. Moreover, with you being able to return to your past top shape relatively quickly, breaks seemed rather incentivized. 

But as I said, this was only true until recently.

Latest research points to some new insights.

The study I linked to basically concludes that repeated periods of loading and unloading may lead to collagen accumulating in your muscles. This, in its own right, makes them stiffer and more prone to injury.

However, the fact remains – you’re much better off with a deload than you are with a full break from the weight room. 

To conclude…

We now know that muscle growth occurs in the 48 hours after a muscle is stimulated by heavy weights.

In addition, deliberately putting your strength training to a halt for more than a week *cannot* help you enhance muscle growth. That being said, this *will* help you get rid of accumulated central nervous system fatigue, which essentially means you will be removing a huge roadblock to your future growth.

If you stop lifting weights, muscle loss will happen. You will experience rapid losses in both strength and size for up to 4 weeks after you stop strength training, or at least to the point of equilibrium with the mechanical loading you experience through other activities in your daily life. 

But fortunately, when you start strength training again after a period of “detraining,” you will experience just as rapid muscle size and strength increases! 

This means that, for you, the lifter, taking a break is not as scary as it looks. 

Don’t worry – even if you take a few months off the gym, you can get back to where you left off pretty quickly. 

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.

Our Affiliates