December 14, 2011

Wellness Wednesday: Banish holiday weight gain with tips from Sports Club/LA

Want to know how to survive that office holiday party, endless happy hours and more without gaining the average five to seven pounds this holiday season? Fear no more -  Maggie Carter of Sports Club/LA was kind enough to devise a plan just for us ladies on how to stay fit and lean this hoilday season ... and all year round!

Holiday Nutrition Commandments:

  • Eat breakfast
Yes, yes – you’ve all heard this before. Breakfast kick starts the metabolism for the day and helps you stay consistent in caloric consumption. Skipping breakfast or adequate nutrition earlier in the day can lead to cravings and a crash in diet regulation later. We are more active (typically) earlier in the day and have the best energy so fuel your body for these hours and taper calories as you get more sedentary in the evening. Avoid snacking after dinner time so that your body is 1) tired and ready for sleep and 2) more prepped for fat burning while asleep.
  • Eat like an athlete, not a dieter
Think about fueling your activities properly and getting adequate carbohydrate loads on days that you are working out your hardest. On days you are sitting at a desk or relatively inactive, select more proteins for your meals and eat plenty of veggies. Athletes need sound nutrition to fuel their muscles for recovery and performance energy – you’re no different!
  • Keep a food log
As grueling and annoying as it can feel at first, this gets easier and can really help you enhance diet awareness. You might be surprised at how all the little snacks/foods add up or you may notice that all of your foods are in one category or perhaps lacking in nutrient density. If you have to think about whether or not you should write down a snack or “grazing” in your food log, there’s a strong chance you didn’t need it in the first place. Be mindful in your eating. Start now.
  • Don’t eat late night snacks!
The body doesn’t need this energy at night – oftentimes this is a mental craving or lack of adequate portioning throughout the rest of the day. If you’re hungry try one of the following: drink water, eat fruit or vow to wait 20 minutes to see if you still really need that food. A great tip from nutritionists: If you are craving something specific oftentimes you don’t need it. If you are craving food in general, you’re probably getting a true hunger signal.
  • Plan ahead/avoid eating out
As we all know, portions at restaurants are CRAZY! Oftentimes restaurant diners underestimate their caloric consumption in a meal by 90%!!!! This is SUPER scary for those trying to lose weight – play the safe route and assume you are ignorant to how many calories you are putting in your mouth…in other words, eat a balanced planned out meal at home or brought from home. Wouldn’t you rather know the caloric cost of what you’re eating?? Imagine how long it can take to burn 1500 calories… do you really want to risk consuming that in one meal? If you find yourself at a restaurant, try to opt for a dish that doesn’t contain a lot of calorie “unknowns” like a creamy sauce or reduction or a crust or crispy/fried layer.
  • Give into cravings once a week
Okay, so we talked earlier about avoiding eating foods you crave…do that for 90-95% of the time. Make sure though that you have a little something here and there that you absolutely love but know isn’t great for you. You might find that by letting yourself enjoy that food you’re less prone to other mindless eating in attempt to avoid that food. It’s better to just let yourself have some of what you want rather than try 5-6 other foods or snacks in effort to put something else in your system and rid the craving. Ironically, you’ll probably consume a lot more munching those other items than if you just quit with the mind games and practiced restraint with indulgence of your treat.
  • Try front loading your calories
As we discussed earlier, try enjoying your foods (and even dessert!) earlier in the day when you need the food for fuel. Avoiding food earlier in the day can lead to low energy, decreased productivity at work, cravings, crash binges, etc. Follow the saying “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” – Adelle Davis 
  • Avoid the holiday sugar yo-yos
If you munch on holiday sugary goodies, you’re sure to find you’re 1) craving them more often 2) less likely to refrain from eating them 3) a little grouchy/moody 4) fluctuating in energy 5) playing mind games and feeling guilty and 6) maybe experiencing problems with sleep, complexion and even digestion. Sugar is like caffeine; it raises the energy of the body up and then crashes it, tricking the body into feeling like more sugar is the solution. Be wary of falling into the “yo-yo” sugar intake – not only is it a “no-no” for weight loss but it makes even the average person more susceptible to diabetes, cortisol (stress hormone) surges (bad with regard to weight in the tummy), and metabolic syndrome.
  • Enjoy foods you don’t usually have the rest of the year when at parties
When you’re at a holiday party with a smorgasbord of delectable treats within arm’s reach, pause and reconsider what you put on your plate. If you’re a chocolate lover who usually enjoys a little piece or scoop of ice cream on a regular basis, why not try something different? Go for the gingerbread! If you’re an Italian food lover why not skip out on the meatballs and nibble shrimp cocktail?
  • Try not to hover by the food at holiday parties
If you’re self-aware enough to admit that you’re not great at controlling your chompers, use your mouth to enjoy talking and just make a silent rule with yourself to keep away from the temptation. I promise, self-restraint is possible but it has to be backed by willpower. Keep your goals in the back of your mind.
Remember though, this is your current caloric requirement. In order to lose a pound a week one would need to burn 3500 calories from exercise and nutrition combined. Keep in mind moderation is key – too many of the calories being cut from food could strip the body of important nutrients and too many calories coming from exercise could result in overtraining, inadequate muscle recovery and/or physical injury.

Holiday Cardio Commandments:

  • Minutes Add Up
Not taking into account diet, on average, individuals who do 150 minutes/week of cardio based exercise at or above a moderate intensity level maintain their weight. Individuals who lose weight do an average of 275 minutes. Now you have your baseline goals of cardio to strive for assuming you’re currently below those levels or fluctuate in them. If you do more than this, take your baseline of minutes for cardio and divide by three. Add that third back into your total. This is your baseline per week from here on out.
  • Aerobic Cardio Exercise is The Foundation for Success
Keep 3/5 of your workouts aerobic – in other words, hit a state of moderately challenging exertion and attempt to maintain your pace and exertion at the level for the remainder of your workout. The body wants oxygen and demands it for optimal function hence this kind of cardio exercise is the foundation of success for burning energy.
  • Anaerobic Cardio – Dig Deep to Really Push Yourself For Once
One of your workouts each week should be extremely challenging, bringing you up to a near maximum heart rate and then allowing for recovery. You should feel like you are working hard enough that you would require a break in no more than 2-3 minutes. Ideally, you will get comfortable pushing yourself to a peak of exertion wherein you need a break after as little as 45 seconds. I will provide these anaerobic cardio workouts each week. If you’re already doing a workout like this each week and want to lose weight, add one more anaerobic workout each week but no more – too much of this exercise can stunt your recovery and therefore your results.
  • Competition Time!!
Assuming you are breaking your cardio workouts into 5 segments, use one of the days to act like an athlete. For example: If you love running, hop on the treadmill and see just how fast you can complete a 5K or 10K. Pretend you’re at a race and give it your all. If you have always wanted to do a triathlon, hop on the bike for 15 minutes and then make your way to the treadmill for 15 minutes. End with a swim in the pool for 15 minutes. With each exercise modality, get yourself into the competition mentality and really see what your personal best looks and feels like. Now is the time to try things that are both creative and challenging to push yourself beyond your current level of fitness.

This Week’s Cardio Challenge Workout:

The 8-6-8

Okay, time to be honest with yourself….pick the piece of cardio equipment you hate the most in the gym.

Get on the machine and warm-up for a solid 4-5 minutes. Get yourself mentally ready and in gear during your warm-up. Try popping some good music on your electronic device. It has been proven that people who listen to music while working out tend to work out a little longer and harder.
Next push yourself for a solid 8 minutes to approximately 80-90% of your maximum heart rate. You should feel like you could give just a little bit more if asked to but otherwise are truly challenged and unable to sustain such exertion for longer than 10 minutes or so before recovering.
Pick your favorite piece of cardio equipment after this and enjoy a recovery bout at a light to moderate intensity level for 6 minutes.
Quickly get back on your first piece of equipment and push yourself again for 8 minutes.
Repeat the 8 minute intervals 4 times with the 6 minutes in between on the alternate piece of machinery.

Your 30-45 minute “Go Hard or Go Home” Give-it-your-all Weekly Workout!

Ideally you are pushing yourself through this lifting workout and one other (maybe two if well trained) lifting/strength training workout a week. The workout below is intended to train the entire body for both strength and quick aerobic recovery from heart rate boosts. If you have not been pushing yourself very hard in exercise and three tough workouts feels like too much (this, the anaerobic cardio and the competition day cardio), choose this and one of the cardio workouts. Be sure to allow for recovery time between each. Recovery days are an ideal time to do your aerobic/moderate intensity cardio or to take a break from the gym (not a break from being generally active).
Here’s the rule: attempt to repeat these exercises back to back with 30-60 second interval breaks in between exercises. Attempt for a full 30 or 45 minutes – pick a time before you start and stick to it! It won’t be easy…

Exercise: Lunge with Dumbbell Twist and Balance
How-To: Hold a dumbbell straight overhead securely with both hands (select a moderate resistance weight). Step forward and bend the knees into ninety degree angles with the back knee bending towards the ground. As you come low in the lunge swing the arms down across the body and the front bent knee. Exhale and keep your abdomen engaged for balance and to work the oblique. Swing the weight back from low to high and simultaneously step backwards out of the lunge. Repeat on the opposite side. Do 20 repetitions each leg.
Benefits: This exercise works your lower body, shoulders and core. The stepping in and out of the lunge and the twisting of the torso both create a challenge for balance. The core muscles and overall proprioception are tested while the legs get a great workout and the shoulders work to stabilize the weight overhead.

Exercise: Plank with Arm and Leg Raises
How-To: Start with your palms and toes on the ground. The entire body should be lifted away from the ground in a straight line, the core engaged. This will look like the start of a push-up. From here, lift one arm at a time overhead or away from your body. Next, lift one leg at a time up in the air. Remember to keep the hips low. Set a timer and attempt to alternate the “limb lifts” for a full minute.
Benefits: The plank position is a great posture from which to work all muscles of the body in an isometric fashion. In other words, the muscles all have to stabilize and support the body from collapsing to the ground with gravity. By lifting the limbs one at a time, the challenge is enhanced and the abdominal muscles must contract even harder.

Exercise: Alternating Squats with Plank Jump
How-To: From a standing position bring the feet about hip distance apart. Squat low with the hips like you are sitting in a chair. Once your knees are bent at almost a ninety degree angle, jump up in the air as high as you can, using your arms in a swinging motion from behind you to overhead in order to create upward lift. When you land, move your hips back behind you again smoothly assuming the squat and bent knee position again. Next, bend over and place the hands on the ground and jump the feet simultaneously back behind you into a full plank position (described in exercise above). Jump the feet back in together, knees towards the chest and stand up. Bend straight into your squat jump again and repeat. To further enhance the challenge, try alternating which direction you are facing by rotating the body around a full 180 degrees during the squat jump. Do 20 repetitions.
Benefits: You get a great heart rate boost in this exercise and get a full body workout. The gluts are targeted during the squat jumps and the jump back of the plank. The abs are really challenged to dynamically load and explode in a powerful way when you jump up in the air and when you jump the knees back in towards the chest during the plank jump tuck.

Exercise: Bent Knee Leg Push to Sit-up and Russian Twist
How-To: Lying face up on a mat, bring your knees to a bent ninety degree angle in the air above the hips. Hold onto a medicine ball (4-8 lbs) and keep it at the chest. Push the legs away from the body straightening the knee and then bend them back. Do your best to keep your lower back flat towards the mat and your hips steady. Once the knees have tucked back in, push the medicine ball away from your chest and leverage yourself through a sit-up motion with the legs raised. Once the lower spine rolls up from the mat, balance on your hip bones and gluts. Try to keep the feet raised from the ground and the back flat so that you are in a “V’ position with the torso and thighs. Lower the medicine ball to one side of the body and then the other, exhaling with each twist to engage the obliques. Roll back down to the starting position by rounding the spine and keeping the medicine ball at your chest. Do 12-15 repetitions.
Benefit: This is a very dynamic way to work the core muscles. The rectus abdominus (aka, your six pack) is working in the leg press out and the sit up and the obliques and transverse abdominus (the muscle that helps keep your stomach looking flat!) are working throughout the V-sit and Russian Twist. The muscles in the back are also utilized here as they work synergistically with the abdomen to stabilize and support.

Exercise: Bar Shoulder Press to Bosu Push-ups and Leg Tucks
How-To: Stand in front of a bosu with a moderately heavy body bar weight. Shoulder press for 10 repetitions extending the elbows straight overhead with each repetition. After the last rep place the bar on top of the round part of the bosu and step back into a plank position (detailed above). From the plank position lower the body down into a full ninety degree angle in the elbow. Keep the hips in line with the shoulders and the abs engaged to protect the lower back and maintain posture. Push back up through the upper body into a straight arm position (note: this will be harder than a normal push-up because of the instability of the bosu). Repeat 10 push-ups or until fatigue. Once you’ve reached fatigue try to hold the plank position just a little longer while tucking one knee diagonally across the body, engaging the abs as you tuck it in. Do these knee tucks until fatigue or arm/core failure. This is a fun one to dig down and challenge yourself on!
Benefit: A strong upper body helps support posture and the spine. The shoulders are crucial to posture and are an area more susceptible to instability and osteoporosis. By maintaining and improving on strength now we will have great long term gains and good tone and definition today!

Seasonal Treats Calorie Counter:

  • 10 Hershey kisses or 25 Peanut M&Ms contains 250 calories
  • One six ounce cup of eggnog contains 230 calories
  • One small .5-ounce candy cane contains 60 calories. A larger candy cane has about 110.
  • There are 97 calories in a one-ounce serving of peppermint bark. One piece is nice; five pieces is not so nice.
  • There are only 43 calories in one popcorn ball. Nice!
  • Two potato 3 inch diameter latkes contain 289 calories. That doesn't include toppings such as sour cream or applesauce.
  • One peanut butter cookie with a chocolate kiss contains 93 calories.

A Good Quick Read:

Courtesy of Runner’s World Magazine – This article is about how to burn off heavy meals (was written referencing Thanksgiving dinner but it is applicable to any large feast!).

Thank you so much to Maggie Carter of Sports Club/LA for providing this great way to stay healthy during the holidays!

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