Living in the “microwave” society that craves instant gratification that we do today, it is more common than not to see people looking for a shortcut or an easy way to achieve their weight loss goals. It is in fact ingrained in us to take the path of least resistance with anything we do just like it is hardwired in us to seek out and consume salt, sugar and fat. Those old, cave man survival instincts are still programed in us. This article is geared toward helping the person who doesn’t have much direction, is brand new to fitness, a bit overweight and trying to understand the basics to get started in an effective way and has the willingness to put in the work.
As we have evolved, we have developed smarter and more efficient means of doing things such as microwaves, cars, cell phones, computers and the internet. These are just a few things that have wonderfully enhanced our lives for the better. I love that I have over 35 CD’s formerly known as albums, on a tiny little disc that is inserted in my glovebox and I can simply touch a button on a big screen and choose what to instantly play in my car without having tapes or CD’s all over my backseat or on my sun visor. I love that I can sit on my couch, simply touch a few buttons and pull a movie title from hundreds and hundreds available to me on Netflix where as in days past we would have to drive up to movie store on the other side of town, get a VHS tape, drive back home and play it in a VCR and then, not forget to rewind it before taking it back the next day. We can even date and intelligently find a suitable mate online that statistics show has a much higher rate of long term happiness and success than other more traditional and frustrating routes of dating which, I’m a happy statistic here I must admit. Ahh, modern times, technology and path of least resistance works very well to make life better in so many ways…
When Easier Hurts Us
Other areas that have made our lives easier have not necessarily made them better though. One of these areas is the food we eat which just happens to be the most important thing we need to be mindful of. I would even go as far to say that this is more important than anything else in our lives.
Most of us have the common sense and knowledge among the plethora of information available to us that fruits and vegetables are some of the best foods for us while soda pop, candy and fast food are not or at the very least, questionable for our health. Being subscribers to the “I need it now” modern world, most of us want a pill, drink, program or someone such as a personal trainer or doctor to somehow give us the secret answer (least path of resistance) to achieving their weight loss goals with as little effort as possible. I know I can understand this; easier is better, right?
To a degree, the path of least resistance has hurt us. Of all the areas that it hurts the most is with our waist line and health. It seems that we have become so accustomed to doing less and expecting more that this mindset has unfortunately started to hold us back. Now, many of us are our own worst enemy when it comes to trying to accomplish our goals of losing unhealthy pounds of body fat and achieving a better report card on our health and wellness.
Blame Shifting and Not Taking Responsibility for Our Own Actions
It’s the American way to feel entitled and point fingers instead of looking in the mirror and taking a solid look at your foundation. We get a trainer. We buy some pills or supplements. We buy into an HRT program. We buy a gym membership. But we then carelessly don’t apply any effort into addressing and building a solid foundation that is the cornerstone of a successful fat loss transformation and we then want to blame something or, someone else when we don’t see results. It’s time to look in the mirror and be really honest with ourselves.
Every once in a full moon I get someone who fits this description. They are the nightmare client. The one that always has an excuse why they didn’t have time to dedicate 60-90 total minutes over the course of week to working on their fitness. They haven’t followed up with me or prepared any healthy meals. They eat cheap junk food several days out of the week, simply out of convenience for their lack of planning and following direction. They have not taken their prescribed hormones, supplements or vitamins according to their coach or doctor’s outline and suggestion based off their plan to achieve success and, help them look and feel their best.
America’s Goal of Fat Loss & What a Structured Program Looks Like
The topic of fat loss which is a goal millions of Americans have but seem lost with their efforts of being successful with, has 4 basic areas to address and consistently and correctly incorporate on a regular basis in order to start seeing results.
The answer simply put, looks something like this done consistently and correctly:
- Weight/resistance training 2-5x/week. These exercise sessions should be less than 45 minutes.
- Cardiovascular training (“doing cardio”). This should be done 3-5x/week. We will cover how long, when and more in this article coming up shortly.
- Healthy eating done appropriately and correctly 90% of the time.
- Hormonal balance. This means controlling insulin, growth hormone and more. We will also highlight this a bit in this article too.
In order to do this with ease, having a few helpful tools is very helpful and even considered essential for some of the fittest, healthiest and most well organized fitness buffs out there. You can get some ideas on how to properly prepare in another article I wrote here: “Tools” To Get for Success
There is a big difference between losing weight and losing fat. Although both can be used in the same breath with referencing to the desire to be more fit and healthy, fat loss should really be the emphasis with less on the scale, although this is a tool to gauge progress. Going to extreme measures to drop some fast pounds on the scale often backfires in a very negative way leaving one to gain weight back and in a tougher spot than they were before.
Two people of the same gender and age can be the same height and weight. One weight trains, is active and has a great diet and the other is sedentary and eats horribly. But again, their weight is exactly the same. What I’m getting at here is that it’s more important what your body composition is. How much fat do you have? How much muscle do you have?
If you are on a diligent resistance training program, you most likely are shedding some body fat off while simultaneously adding muscle over time. This overall weight loss may not be fully reflected in pounds of fat lost on the scale but surely will reflect in the mirror! Losing the right kind of weight is the most important thing to strive for when wanting to look and feel our best. It is critically important to take note of this and learn how to properly go about achieving this.
So, explain a Structured Program to Look and Feel My Best
For most, this should take priority FIRST and it is how most should look to start their workout. Unless you are training for an endurance event or a marathon, weight training needs to come first and be prioritized. A common mistake made by many is doing 30 minutes of cardio first and then attempting a weight training workout of sorts after. 30-45 minutes is all that is needed with your weight training, 2-5 times per week. Yes, you heard that correctly. Many new to working out have a false belief that in order to see results from exercise, they must spend countless amounts of hours every week in the gym. The truth couldn’t be farther from that. One can spend as little as 2- 3 hours a week and if their approach is correct and done with a bit of intensity, it can be very effective in getting results to look and feel one’s best ever!
Most beginners should be looking at incorporating some circuit training or super-setting approach. Circuit training is where you can have 3-6 exercise stations that you rotate through (3-7 exercises) and repeat several times. Super-setting is putting two opposing muscle groups together and doing them back to back with minimal to no rest in between. For example, squats immediately followed by push-ups, then back to squats and repeat. This allows one muscle group to rest while the other is being worked all while getting your heart rate up and working your cardiovascular system at the same time. This approach also prevents overloading of weight on one’s tendons, ligaments and joints in the beginning assuming their body is not quite acclimated to heavy resistance yet. In a short period of time the body will adapt, become stronger and be ready for a more challenging phase of working out though. But for most beginners, this is an easy and effective way to get started with things.
This is where you can “kill two birds with one stone” and get not only your strength training in, but also your cardio. So if you do just three or four of these 40-minute weight training workouts a week in this fashion and even throw in a short 10 to 15-minute bout of straight cardio at the end of it, you will be accomplishing both weight training and cardio together! If you’re advanced and capable of doing so, a H.I.I.T. (High Intensity Interval Training) or a Tabata approach to cardio is most effective, especially for fat loss.
- An example of “HIIT” is doing a one-minute all out spring followed by a one-minute walk and repeat 8 times.
- An example of Tabata is doing a 20 second sprint followed by a 10 second rest and repeat 8 times.
If you are not ready for this form of higher intensity cardio YET, that is ok and you can start with a brisk walk, jog or bike. However, you should not stay only walking or doing slow, rhythmic moving for too long if you want the most effective results to come. This is the goal to work up to if you are not ready yet.
Appropriate Nutrition 90% of The Time
Nutrition is critical when it comes to maximizing your efforts to look and feel your best. As the old saying goes, abs are not made in the kitchen but they can be lost there! This doesn’t mean we have to gnaw on broccoli and eat dry chicken everyday either. Healthy and nutritious foods can taste delicious if we learn how to put them together correctly and they fit our lifestyle and schedule. When it comes to eating correctly, think to eat greens and colorful sources of carbohydrates, lean sources of protein and healthy sources of fats all while LIMITING starchy carbs and boxed foods. I like to simply say “eat the rainbow”! Having a cheat meal or two each week isn’t going to ruin things either. It is all about what we are eating 90% of the time that primarily predicts success or failure with our diet.
Does Optimizing My Hormones Really Matter?
The short answer here is, hell yes!!! This can be a lengthy topic of discussion in and of itself but we are going to keep it as short and simple as possible here. There are a few hormones that encourage fat accumulation on the body including insulin, cortisol, estrogen, and also leptin and ghrelin if out of balance. There are also a few that help and encourage fat loss. In short, it is important to have a grip on controllable things that influence hormones and the way they influence our health, well-being and body composition.
Controlling insulin by being mindful of sugar and excessive starchy/high glycemic carbohydrate intake is crucial here as this hormone is released by our pancreas in response to excessive amounts of glucose (the most-simple, broken down form of a carbohydrate) in our circulatory system. Insulin acts as a vehicle of sorts that will drive and store this excess glucose somewhere when there is too much of it. As you might guess, too often this gets stowed away as fat on the body.
Excessive levels of estrogen are attributed to many ailments and complaints today. Commonly referred to as estrogen dominance, this is associated with painful menstruations, cramps and endometriosis in women. High levels of estrogen are also associated with gynecomastia (“man boobs”) and low testosterone in men. Estrogen is often associated with excessive levels of body fat, certain processed foods we eat on a regular basis and even external lotions we apply on our skin loaded with parabens that act as “weak estrogens” in body, just to name a few. We can help keep estrogen in check and in optimal zones by getting plenty of DIM and endol-3-carbinol from cruciferous vegetables and sufficient amounts of zinc from either supplementation or by consuming seafood, beef, spinach or cashews. You can read a bit more on this topic in a blog I wrote here: Man Boobs Blog & Insight
Although sometimes easier said than done for many, reducing our levels of stress, if high, is important for not only any fat loss efforts but also for our health and well-being. Excessive levels of cortisol from too much stress is known to encourage weight gain. High levels of stress for prolonged periods of time is also associated with heart disease and many other big health concerns. Yoga, meditation or simply getting a pet may be the ticket to help us in this department here. Oh yeah, and exercise works very well too!
If you are over the age of 30 and suspect a hormone imbalance or simply feel that yours may not be optimized in all the areas, a highly qualified team at Youth-Rx can assist and discuss with you options on how to investigate and help you look and feel your best. Or, you can simply email me personally to set up a consultation here.
So there we have it, this is what a snapshot of a successful program should be covering, addressing and incorporating. We may not have every fine detail here, but we can’t succeed without each of these being major areas being addressed. There are no shortcuts when it comes to being your best. However, achieving your best body and feeling as vibrant as you deserve to feel is probably easier than you think. It is simply a matter of learning a little, applying and incorporating your new found knowledge into your daily regimen to make your habits new, healthy ones!
Tomorrow is a new beginning and we all have choices to make every day. Make the right one for your body, your health, your family and most importantly for you!
Roger Bowman, CPT