Category Archives: Rest Based

Be a Bombshell in a Bikini: Part 1 – Save your Muscle!

There are a few times each year when people get especially motivated to lose weight or lean out a little (New Year’s resolutions, anyone?).  Well with temperatures rising, the official start of spring, and vacation plans in the works, another one of those times is upon us. 

Brace yourself.  Swimsuit season is just around the corner. 

If you are like me, as the details of your beach vacation are starting to come together (I’ll be off to Gulf Shores in May!  yay!), you realize with slight panic that, um, you aren’t necessarily feeling ready to peel off your cover-up at the beach and reveal your somewhat soft and pale self (ok maybe pale is just me).  If you’re hoping to rock a bombshell-esque bod in that bikini, what can you do?

Well as I see it, there are a couple different options.  You can choose a crash diet that, if you really stick to it, will likely work to get you basically beach ready.  But guuurl, trust me!!  You do NOT want to do that. 

Crash diets are an eat less/exercise more approach that are unstainable longterm, meaning you eventually quit the diet, and the worst part – they result in INDISCRIMINATE weight loss.  This means that the weight lost can be water, fat or muscle, and if you’re eating less and doing lots of steady state cardio it’s likely the lost weight is mostly muscle.  Not good.

Why save your muscle?

First, muscle is responsible for giving you those shapely, goddess-like curves that many gals crave.  When you starve away your muscle, you significantly decrease the potential of sculpting a tight tush or shapely shoulders precisely because there is no muscle to sculpt

Remember, you can’t “tone” muscle that you don’t have.

Second, muscle is metabolically active tissue – this just means that it uses resources (calories) even when it’s at rest – like when you’re watching TV or sleeping. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn without doing a thing.  Uh, sounds like a pretty good deal to me!

Third, when you inevitably come off the diet that probably had you exercising exorbadent amounts of willpower in order to stay on track, binging and rebound weight gain is in your future.  You will likely eat everything “bad” that you craved while on the diet and probably lots of it.  Couple this with LESS metabolically active muscle tissue and it’s a recipe for disaster.  In fact, research shows that a large percentage of people who go on crash diets are fatter than when they started 2 years after the diet ends.

[Are you starting to understand why I want you to avoid crash diets like the plague??] 

Fourth, indiscriminate weight loss will not change your body shape.  You will become a smaller version of your current shape.  But if you want to decrease the width of your hips in relation to the rest of your body, crash diets won’t do it. 

Take a look at the photo below from Metabolic Effect that illustrates just this.  If you’re a pear and lose “weight” on a crash diet you will only shrink to be a smaller pear (green to green).  This is why you can train for a half marathon hoping to make your saddlebags disappear and all you do is shrink everything – so proportionally, the saddlebags look no smaller.  But if your focus is on fat loss, you can change your body’s shape (green to red).

Weight Loss vs Fat Loss

Alright, now that we are clear on why it’s good to keep muscle around (and dare I say, build some??), we still need to figure out how to get rid of excess fat while holding onto our muscle so we look friggin’ hot in our bikinis this summer, and the next, and the next…

Fat loss with muscle retention happens when you approach body change with a “hormones first, calories second” perspective.  And there are 4 big themes to think about here – nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress.

You might wonder -  How many calories do stress or sleep have??  As you’d expect, they don’t “contain” any number of calories BUT the hormones associated with sleep and stress can drastically affect whether your body decides to store fat or burn it.  The same goes for the types of foods you eat (and how much and when) and the type of exercise you engage in.

The next few posts, I want to take the time to dive deeper into each of these 4 aspects.  But since we’re on the subject of muscle right now, I want to share some ideas for what you can do to hold onto your muscle as you prep for summer.

How to save your muscle

1.  Eat plenty of lean protein.  It keeps you full and satisfied much longer than say donuts would (not to mention you won’t have the same type of sugar crash!). 

Also, the energy required to process lean proteins is pretty high too (this is known as the thermic effect of food).  The thermic effect is why something like celery is essentially negative calories – it takes more calories to break it down than the celery contains. 

Another thing is that when you’re in a lower caloric state, you don’t want your body to break down your muscles for energy.  If you make sure you’re eating enough protein, the amount of muscle chewed up will be minimal. 

How much is enough?  A generally accepted amount for women is 0.8-1g of protein per pound of bodyweight.  So if you weigh 150lb, your goal should be to consume 150g of protein throughout the day.  Now, I know this seems like a TON of protein, and compared to the standard Western diet (and even to what you ate in your college athlete days), IT IS a lot of protein.  But don’t fret.  When you break up that amount over several small meals through the day, it’s definitely doable. 

We’ll talk more about the why/how of meal frequency next time, but for now, think of it this way. 

All of these things have 20-30g protein per serving – 5 egg whites, 1 scoop protein powder, 1 medium chicken breast, 6oz white fish, 4oz lean beef cut.  If you have egg whites at breakfast, a salad with chicken at lunch, a protein shake in the afternoon and fish or steak for dinner, you’ve EASILY consumed at least 100g protein and probably more. 

At the minimum, include a serving of lean protein at each meal.

2.  Lift heavy weights.  And try it rest-based style.  I talked about the importance of efficeint exercise already, but it’s important enough to repeat.  As you may have experienced since you finished your college career, if you don’t use muscle you will lose it.  Thus the importance of consistently lifting heavy weights. 

In all honesty, getting to the gym regularly is something I struggle with.  It’s an easy routine for me to get out of and a tough one to get back in to, but I notice huge differences in my strength, lung capacity, and general feelings of self-confidence when I have been at the gym regularly.  

If you struggle with getting to the gym, try this Jedi mind trick that I use on myself…

Tell yourself you just have to walk into the gym and do 5 minutes of a circuit then you can leave.  Usually by the time I get myself there, warm up and get going, I’m mentally ready to do a whole 20 minute workout.  Voila!  I just worked out!

3.  Lower cortisol.  This is key because cortisol can signal to your body to eat up stored muscle for energy.  And yeah… we don’t want that.  So we need to make sure that we are not constantly in a high cortisol state. But a constant environment in the body of high cortisol can drastically impair your fat loss results, and one of those reasons is because you can end up losing muscle. 

How to control cortisol? 

Walk – leisurely (no power walking). 

Take a hot bath with delicious smelling bath soak (I love the Sleep Lavendar Vanilla scent from Bath and BodyWorks) and light some candles around the tub.  This is my go-to stress relief option.  I take at least 1 bath a week, more when I’m really stressed by work stuff (like now). 

You could also spend quality time with friends who make you laugh, get it on with your partner, read a good book, do a restorative yoga class, or journal.  Find something that relaxes you then engage in it consistently.

My Favorite Addition to a Hot Bath

4.  Sleep more!  More on this later but it is SO critically important that you sleep enough (8-10 is ideal but even 7-9 hrs is better than what most people get).  I know it’s difficult to make time for this, but sleep is prime recover/rebuild time for your muscles.  Getting enough sack time is critical to keeping your muscle around.

So this week please please PLEASE avoid the temptation to drastically cut your calories and do hours of steady state cardio.  It is bad for your muscles, your physique and your health in the long run.  Instead, show your muscles some love.  A role model of mine is bodybuilder Tom Venuto and I love his approach to body change.  He says that you want to “burn the fat” and “feed the muscle”.  LOVE that visual.   So let’s all ditch the crash diets and feed our sexy muscles!  Who’s with me??

5 Fat Loss Lessons from “The Croods”

This weekend I went to see the most recent DreamWorks spectacular called “The Croods.”  Yeah, I’m 9 years old at heart :)  It got a 65% on Rottentomatoes.com, and I (generally) tend to agree with the reviews on there.

5 Fat Loss Lessons from The Croods

I’m glad I went because I enjoyed it!  It was funny (think Ice Age type humor) for kids and adults. Even though there wasn’t as much adult humor as say Shrek had, the cast did a great job (Nicholas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds :) ), and there were some really sweet parts – especially father/daughter stuff — I might have shed a tear or two in my popcorn….

Anyway….

I realized later that “The Croods” also had a few lessons for me about fat loss and living a lifestyle that supports fat loss (known by many as the “fat loss lifestyle” or FLL).  Huh?!  I know, right?! I’m just as surprised as you are!

What are these lessons?  Here are the tidbits I picked up…

1.  The cavemen knew what they were doing when it comes to physical activity and balance in energy expenditure.  These people alternated between times of HIGH intensity energy expenditure (you know, running for their lives from some sort of prehistoric tiger OR chasing down their own dinner) and times of LOW or NO energy expenditure.

It was either a dead sprint or a leisure pace.

[I'm also pretty sure cavemen never decided to go do an hour of steady state cardio. :) ]

So, the caveman’s favorite “cardio” would have probably been HIIT (high intensity interval  training), and it’s also my favorite way to approach cardio equipment.  On the elliptical, I go all out for a minute and rest till I’m ready to go again for 15-20 min and wow! I am dripping sweat and feel all sorts of muscles burning!  

2.  Cavemen did a LOT of walking, and walking is a big part of living the FLL.  I don’t mean power-walking either.  The walking I’m talking about is slow, leisurely, and RELAXING.

If you’re on a treadmill, I mean a pace of 2-3 mph.

Walking is a great way to lower cortisol while still moving your body (most exercise actually   releases cortisol which is a good thing when you’re working out!  but chronically high cortisol is not good, so we gotta find things that help us relax and lower cortisol when we’re not working out).

Incorporating 30-60 minutes of leisure walking a day can be a huge benefit for anyone!

3.  Don’t let yourself get ridiculously hungry- cause then you overeat!  There’s a scene where the family hasn’t eaten in a while, then they finally catch some huge bird thing and they devour it all in about 30 seconds.

I know if I don’t eat enough during the day, I become the incredible eating woman when I get home from work.

Eating meals/snacks high in lean protein and fibrous veggies at regular intervals throughout the day often helps many people to control their hunger, energy and cravings (HEC) <– When these get out of whack (i.e. low energy, high cravings, high hunger) it’s easy to over-indulge.

4.  Caveman Guy says to girl, “You’re SO heavy.”  Girl says, “Thank you!!!”  Remember ladies, muscle weighs more than fat.  I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but don’t forget it when you step on the scale.

As a former athlete, there’s a good chance that you still have quite a bit of muscle on your frame, so don’t fret if you and your girlfriend are both a size 8 but you’ve got a good 15 lbs on her – that’s the muscle!

Avoid the scale. I vote pictures and circumference measurements for keeping track of progress!

5.  Don’t “never not be afraid.”  This is the opposite of what Father Caveman taught his
family in the movie initially (I think his name was Grug but whatevs).  He told his family “Never not be afraid.”

Well, I’m saying to do the opposite.  DON’T be afraid.

How does this relate to FLL?  Cause living a FLL requires changing up how you live your life if you want fat loss results to stick.

And change can be scary.  But don’t be afraid.

Make one manageable change at a time, and these little changes will add up to the FLL over time.

So there they are!  The 5 Lessons I got from The Croods :)  Leave a little love (<3) in the
comments if you’re like me and are psyched when you find lessons in unexpected places!

 

 

How to Get in Shape by Working Out Less

I was never the best player on the team.  Ever.  I usually wasn’t even in the top 3 best on the team.  Someone was always quicker, faster, more aggressive or had a better first touch than I did.  But what I lacked in skills I made up for in my work ethic.

My work ethic was always something I took pride in, and I wasn’t about to let anyone out-work me.  Plus, I learned over the years that my work ethic got me noticed even if I wasn’t awesome, so that was all the more incentive to work my ass off. (yeah, I’ve got issues… but who doesn’t? ;) )

And on top of that, as athletes we were constantly judged by whether or not we were slacking off. Didn’t go up for the rebound or dive for that ball?  Slowed up during that sprint?  Well then we weren’t working hard enough and must not really want it. (um, NOT true!!)

Now hear me before I go on – I DO think that there is a time and a place when going all out is needed, however….

The problem comes when we think the ONLY way to get something is to
WORK REALLY HARD FOR IT.

Hard work is great.  It’s important.  But it’s not the only thing you need to succeed in whatever it is you’re doing.

And it’s definitely NOT the only way to get back into shape.

Too many people beat themselves up when they don’t lose weight because they think they aren’t exercising enough.  So they tack on another 30 min to their already 40 min long cardio sessions.  They end up on the elliptical in the so-called “fat burning zone” for over an hour in the mornings and a spin class after work.  And what do they get?  They’re starving with wild cravings later.  Their body starts chomping on the muscle they already have, and eventually they have to add MORE cardio because the body is smart and has adapted to what they’ve been doing. Not to mention that they don’t really have time for 2 hrs at the gym every day.  [I speak from experience here - been there.  Done that.]

The “just work harder” approach usually fixed the problems we faced as athletes (or so we thought…)  But it actually works against us – in fat loss and in life.  So what do we change if we want results?

Start working SMARTER.

Seriously, that’s the key.

Instead of working harder, i.e. spending 2 hours of your day at the gym, change your workouts so that they’re more effective, more efficient.

Dumbbells

What do effective and efficient workouts look like?  They incorporate weight lifting and intense cardio and they don’t last very long at all (think, 20 min of actual work).

They also incorporate Rest-Based Training (RBT) – the brainchild of the folks at Metabolic Effect.  The idea of these workouts is to “Push until you can’t, Rest until you can”

Basically, you work as intensely as possibly until you can’t do another rep or until the weight is too heavy or you can’t get your breath.  Then you STOP and REST!  You rest as long as you need until you can go all out again.  Then you pick up where you left off and continue the workout.

Honestly, at first I thought there was no way something like this would work.  Bc, duh, stopping for a breather is for wimps and slacker-faces.  …Oh how little I knew :D  Trust me, you pick up a set of dumbbells and run through the workout below WITHOUT PACING YOURSELF and you will get why RBT works.  You’ll be sweating like crazy, breathing heavy, your muscles will be burning and you’re using heavy weights (ladies, please avoid the 3lb set… remember your lifting sessions in college where you were piling the plates on the squat rack or leg press??  you can lift more than you think!).

The workout below is based on something Metabolic Effect designed called the “Spark” workout.  The movements are simple but effective.  It’s my go-to workout when I want an efficient and effective full-body workout that takes under 30 minutes.  (To learn more about what happens with your hormones in these kinds of workouts, read this ME article – especially the section on EPOC.  Awesome stuff!)  Here’s how it goes:

1.  Choose your dumbbells.  Start by taking the weight that you can perfectly curl 3 times, and 3 times only.  Then cut that # in half.  Use a set of dumbbells that weight.  If you’re between sets, I’d round up.  Example – I can do 3 perfect form bicep curls with a 30lb dumbbell (I break form if I try to do a 4th curl).  So then I cut 30 in half and use 15lb set for this workout.

2. Warm-up for ~5 minutes.  Get the heart pumping and blood flowing – jumping jacks, high knees, butt kicks, whatevs.

3.  Start a timer for 20 minutes.  Do 12 reps of each of the 4 exercises below in order.  Then repeat.  So –> 12 of A, 12 of B, 12 of C, 12 of D, then 12 of A, 12 of B…. you get the picture.  You should probably get through at least 3 rounds in 20 minutes.  If you get more than 5 rounds in 20 min, you’re not resting enough and should choose heavier weights next time.

4.  During the workout, DO NOT PACE.  Stop to rest as needed, then pick up right where you left off.  Remember-

PUSH UNTIL YOU CAN’T, REST UNTIL YOU CAN.

5.  Stop after 20 minutes.  Please cool down and stretch.  Go for a slow walk.  You’re not as young as you used to be ;)  JK, but seriously… stretch and walk.

6.  Enjoy the endorphins :)

Exercises
**Don’t forget, it’s time to rest if you can’t do the movement with proper form**

A – Squat into a shoulder press
B – On the floor – Chest press into a crunch
C – R leg Lunge – curl – L leg lunge – curl
D – Bent over row into a tricep kickback

That’s it!  If you have questions, ask away here or on my FB page (Once An Athlete, Always an Athlete).

Just leave a “Yup!” in the comments if you’re gonna give RBT a try this week and see how amazing it feels to stop working so damn hard and start working smarter!