Tag Archives: former college athlete

Be a Bombshell in a Bikini: Part 2 – Eat More to Slim Down

Food.  Ah food.  How I love it.  I love to cook it.  I love to share it.

I especially love to eat it.

I love trying new restaurants and recipes.  I like giving new ingredients a chance and old favorites new flavors.  For me, food is a source of pleasure.  And it plays a big part of my life and I’m guessing it might in yours too.

Food is also an incredibly powerful tool for body change.  Why?  Because it can drastically affect the body’s hormonal environment.  And the hormonal environment is key to determining the body’s composition (how much of your body weight is fat or muscle).

One Meal Away from Fat Loss

Do you know what this means??  This means that just by changing up what we eat, we can change how much fat we carry on our body.  We can change how we look.

We can get our athletic body back (or get beach ready) if we eat MORE of the RIGHT foods to turn on our fat burning metabolism.

Yep you heard me right – to change your body and lean out, you probably need to eat MORE food.

[The food lover in me is doing a happy dance right now]

This shocks most people because in our society the eat less, exercise more mantra is the foundation of most weight loss programs.  But notice above I said more of the RIGHT foods.

This is key because not all calories are created equal.   Here’s an example that really cleared this up for me….

Say you have a generic donut and a medium-sized chicken breast.  They both have approximately the same number of calories (around 200).  So if calories are all that matters, then it doesn’t matter whether you choose the chicken breast or the donut.

BUT let’s think about this a little more…

If calories really were the only important thing, then the donut and the chicken breast should keep you satisfied for the same amount of time, give you the same energy levels in the hours that follow and have the same impact on cravings later in the day.   (Is anyone else giggling a little at the thought of NOT crashing after a donut???)

Calories aren't created equal

If you’re completely honest with yourself, you’ll probably see that the donut and the chicken breast affect you in very different ways.

For me, about 45 min after I eat a donut (assuming I’m able to eat only one), my head starts feeling fuzzy and my energy tanks.  If I’m tracking cravings, then I’d probably notice that later that day, I’m wanting more sugary or fatty foods.  Also, if by some miracle I managed to eat only 1 donut, I probably never stopped being hungry.

Now let’s pretend I ate the chicken breast instead (a delicious one of course).  After eating the chicken breast, I don’t have any noticeable drop in energy 45 min later.  Also, I’m not hungry for another few hours, and there are no noticeable cravings later on in the day.  Plus, I don’t really see myself eating more than 1 or maybe 1 1/2 chicken breasts in one sitting…

But how is this possible if they both have the same number of calories?  Something about them has to be different because their effects on me are different.

The answer?  They are influencing my hormones in unique ways.  It’s the only way to explain differences in satiety, energy levels, cravings and hunger.

Why are they affecting hormones differently?  Because the macronutrient profiles of the foods that are different.

[Don't freak out on me... All I mean by macronutrient profile is what the food is made of - what percent of the food is fat, carbohydrates, and protein?]

In the chicken, it’s mostly protein, whereas the donut is mostly carbohydrates.  The donut signals hormones that say “Store fat!!” where the chicken breast signals “Burn fat!!”

See how just by changing what we eat, we can tell the body to do different things via our hormones?  We won’t get into the nitty gritty of the hormone world today, but it’s important to realize that body change just isn’t about calories.

Yes, you do need a caloric deficit to lose weight, but you need the right hormonal environment to make sure that weight is fat, not muscle.  (We talked last week about why we want to save our muscle.  You can read about that here.)  Plus, with the right hormonal environment, you won’t constantly be hungry, exhausted and craving junk food.

This is actually the way Metabolic Effect suggests monitoring whether or not you’re priming your body to burn fat — monitor your HEC (pronounced “heck”).
Hunger, Energy, Cravings.

If these are balanced (meaning you’re not hungry, you have high energy and you’re not craving crap food) and you’re losing fat, you’re in a longterm, fat-burning zone.  If they’re not balanced, you’re likely NOT burning fat.  Or if you are, it’s probably not sustainable for longer than a few weeks.

Alright let’s get practical now.  How can you eat to get your HEC in check?
Follow these tips below…

1.  Eat 4-6 small meals per day — Eating several smaller meals allows you to eat more frequently and never get ravenously hungry between meals since that often leads to overeating junk food.  If you choose the right foods for these meals, you can help keep your energy balanced throughout the day, too.  But a big part of frequent meals is to keep yourself from getting crazy hungry.

2.  Eat lean proteins and fibrous veggies — We want to increase our food volume without increasing the number of calories we consume (this helps keep our hunger down).  To do that choose foods high in water, fiber and protein content.  These will help you stay satisfied for longer, so include these at each small meal.  (see this post for approximate protein serving sizes)

A good way to think of it?  Eat your protein at the meal plus as many fibrous veggies as you want.

3.  Drink LOTS of water — Being dehydrated can negatively effect your energy and brain function, and by the time you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.  Keep a water bottle with you and drink as much as possible…. even up to 3-4L a day.  Don’t worry, your body WILL adapt to the increased fluid intake and the number of trips to the bathroom will decrease, I promise! :)

4.  Limit foods that tend to trigger cravings and hunger — I love my coffee but my early morning 2-3 cup habit tends to trigger cravings in the evening for me.  So I’ve had to reduce that a little…  Other culprits?  Artificial sweeteners and sweet snacks can do the same thing.  Limit these guys as much as possible.

5.  Get your healthy fats in — Certain dietary fats are actually required to burn fat!  So don’t be afraid of the good ones like Omega-3 fats (6 and 9 are good too!) :) Have a few servings each day of healthy fats – 1/4c nuts, 1/2 an avocado, 6oz fish,  or 2 Tbs olive oil or coconut oil are each 1 serving.  Also, consider a fish oil supplement.

{This next one is a big one….}

6.  Limit starchy carbohydrates — Things like pasta, potatoes, cookies, bread, rice, crackers, etc (while very delicious) are considered starchy carbs and should be consumed in limited amounts.  Starchy carbs in general can wreak havoc on your body in the hormonal sense if you eat too many too often. Carbs aren’t to be avoided at all cost because you do need them, but you gotta be aware of how much of them you’re eating.

In general, I personally like to avoid the ones I just listed above and stick to mostly starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, corn, all different kinds of squash (spaghetti squash is my fav), and eggplant.  If you want, you can also do oat bran, oatmeal, brown rice or quinoa.

Oh, because of how fruit breaks down in the body, I also consider fruit as starchy carbs in my diet.  They usually make an appearance in my breakfasts and “desserts”.

Anyway how much to eat?  I like to measure starchy carbs by bites.  It’s far better than weighing or measuring out your food.

Most people do well with 5-10 bites of starchy carbs at each meal.  However, everyone is different so you may do better with more at each meal or less.  This amount of carbs where your energy is high enough for a good workout and you’re burning fat is called your carbohydrate tipping point.  It takes a while to find this usually, but it’s important for shedding body fat.  You can learn more about it here (a Metabolic Effect blog on the subject).

Alright that’s probably enough for now :) As with anything, implement changes in small steps first.

It might be way too much to change your eating frequency AND what you’re eating all at once.  So consider changing 1 meal this week.  Then change up another meal next week.  Then add in a 4th to your typical 3 meals and decrease the size of all the meals slightly.

Example – maybe this week instead of cereal and orange juice, go for scrambled eggs with onions/peppers/spinach in it and your 5-10 bites of oatmeal at breakfast.  Then next week, keep those changes and change up your lunch to a big old salad with chicken breast and balsamic vinaigrette dressing.  Get the idea?

Keep an eye on your HEC as you make changes, and if you have questions let me know!  Ask away here in the comments or find me on Facebook or Twitter :)

How will you get your HEC in check this week to get bikini ready?

<3 Lauren

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!

Preseason Doesn’t Work in the Real World

As athletes, our tendency is to take on the preseason, or training camp, mindset.  And why not?  It’s been the only thing we’ve really been taught about body change.  It’s a jumpstart, sure… but it’s not sustainable.

Preseason Doesn't Work in the Real World

Preseason told us,

“If you wanna take your body to the next level, then you have to eat, breathe and LIVE your sport for the next 2-3 weeks.  Basically, uproot your life and put your body through hell by training for hours a day and HOPING you get adequate nutrition.  You can recover later.”

And hey, this approach can work… when you’re 20 and have nothing but your sport and classes to worry about!!  

But what about when it’s all over?

It’s no wonder that after we “retire” from our sport, we think that if we want to tighten up our body or shed that extra 15 we’ve put on, we have to change everything at once – a massive diet and/or exercise overhaul.

But with everything else going on in your life now, massive lifestyle overhaul is NOT gonna stick.  I can promise you that.  Unless you’re friggin’ superman or something…

So what’s our other option?

We make ONE change at a time.

Resist the urge to do a ton of things at once.  The more changes you add to your plate at once, the LESS likely you are to implement ANY of them permanently.

Change one thing.  Work on that for a couple weeks.  When you’re comfortable with that, add another thing.  Get comfortable with that one AND the first.  Then add another.

So what one change can you make?  And does it matter what you change first?

I agree with the folks at Metabolic Effect who say there are 4 main components to body change:

  • Sleep – get at least 7-8 hrs
  • Stress – do something relaxing every day (no, TV watching/internet surfing doesn’t count)
  • Nutrition – what you eat tells your body to burn or store fat
  • Workouts – short and intense is the way to go

For me, when making small changes it was easiest to start with nutrition stuff.  So here are some changes to consider making first in the nutrition world.

REMEMBER – ONE CHANGE AT A TIME

1.  Keep a food journal  –  write down everything you put in your mouth and quantities – yes, food eaten in the car DOES count… I mean, not that I EVER believed that car food was calorie-free food…. ;)  A journal brings you some awareness about your food.  You gotta know what you’re doing that’s NOT working in order to change it later.

–use a small notebook (Moleskine notebooks like this one are my fav!)
OR
–use an app like MyFitnessPal

2.  Drink more water  –  by the time you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.  With more H2O you’ll likely end up with LESS hunger and MORE energy!

–aim for 3L a day… you’ll be peeing a LOT at first but after a week or two your body will
adapt… trust me :)

–join the Nalgene water bottle club.  Just do it already… and get one of those water filters that
attaches to your sink faucet (~$25)- way easier than constantly refilling a pitcher

3.  Eat as many fibrous veggies as you can  –  SO many health benefits in these babies!  They’re full of vitamins and minerals and best of all?  They help you feel fuller longer.

–try spinach, kale, cucumbers, asparagus, arugula, swiss chard, celery…

–Saute them, eat some of them raw, or blend into a greens drink/smoothie – fair warning
check your teeth after… you don’t want a piece of spinach hanging around on your smile for
the rest of the day

[Side note--> I HATE it when I've got something in my teeth or on my face and no one tells me!  I'm more embarrassed when you don't say anything than when you do!  LOL Anyone else with me?!]

4.  Nix the starchy carbs at lunch  –  Starchy carbs = breads, pasta, potatoes, pizza crust, rice, oats, cereals, etc.  Note that you probably won’t have the same energy slump around 2 or 3pm either…..which means you won’t be heading to the admin assistant’s desk at that time for your daily m&m’s fix……and you won’t be falling asleep at your desk and therefore not getting fired – see I’m saving your job AND getting you into smaller pants!!

–Instead of sandwich, have a BIG salad with some chicken on top

–If you eat those microwaveable frozen meals, pick the ones without pasta or rice – just
protein and veggies

–If you go out, pick salads, a burger without the bun and a side salad, your fav curry dish
with extra steamed veggies on the side instead of rice

 

Which of these will you try this week?  Give ONE THING a go and report back!

<3 Lauren