Here’s Why You Should Invest in a Heart Rate Monitor

With colorful little step-tracker gadgets currently dominating the fitness industry, it may seem like heart rate monitors are another mere trend for those starting out in fitness. Sure, they are a good tool for those just picking up some form of exercise, especially running, but are they necessary?

The short answer is no. Obviously, you can still work out and even get fit without a heart rate monitor. However, you may not be getting the most out of each exercise session. This is where heart rate monitors can come in handy.

With a heart rate monitor, you will know your resting heart rate, and can easily discover your maximum heart rate by wearing a monitor while going all out during a workout. In between these two extremes are the numbers you want to focus on. Wearing a heart rate monitor during a less intense workout can help you determine your low intensity heart rate. Conversely, wearing a heart rate monitor during a high intensity workout will give you information on how high your heart rate should be during those more intense exercise days. Once collected, these numbers can be used to optimize your exercise schedule and each individual workout, no matter what fitness level you are at.

For example, let’s say you’re a runner. Heart rate recommendations for fitness runners can help beginners build endurance, and help more experienced runners not slack off during their run. If you’re more of a high intensity interval training type of athlete, you can make sure your heart rate goes to a recommended level during your reps, and does not drop below a recommended resting recovery level. You will find that you’re pushing yourself harder than you ever have before, because a heart rate monitor allows no excuses. Also, in the event that you’re worried about your heart rate going above a certain level, you can make sure it stays steady with a monitor.

Overall, heart rate monitors have the ability to make workouts more efficient and effective. For more information on how to decide on a heart rate monitor, and for heart rate fitness recommendations, check out this great article by REI.

Below, I’ve attached three suggestions of my favorite monitors. Go hard, athletes!

 

How To Have a Healthier Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving coming up, chances are food is on your mind. Not just any food either, food that’s high in calories, fat and, let’s face it – deliciousness. From stuffed turkey drenched in brown gravy to sweet potato casserole topped with roasted marshmallows the Thanksgiving dinner table is the best and easiest place in the world to overindulge yourself. If you’re watching your calorie intake or your waistline, Thanksgiving can be a dangerous time. However, with the right planning and willpower, you can manage to make Thanksgiving a healthy (or at least healthier) experience.

 

Before You Eat…

For one, you need to exercise some moderation. It can be tempting to scoop mountains of mashed potatoes and stuffing onto your plate, but that can be a real problem. If you serve yourself some small portions not only can you manage your calorie intake, but you get to try everything on the table!

Also keep in mind that Thanksgiving is supposed to be about indulgence. It’s okay to eat a little more than your fill during the holidays, but make sure you balance it out. On Thanksgiving for example, have some good, light meals for breakfast and lunch and try to get in some light exercise. That way you’ll feel healthier, and hungrier when the big meal rolls around.

When it does though, there are some simple ways to keep yourself from overeating. Try taking a sip of water between bites to stop from simply stuffing food in your mouth continuously. Also, wait at least 20 minutes before going in for round two. Chances are, your body doesn’t know it’s full until then. After 20 minutes you might find that you don’t have room.

If you’re the one doing the cooking, then it’s that much easier to control how healthy the meal is. Using low-fat meats and dairy products is a simple way to lower the overall calorie load of your meal. If you use them in stuffing, pies and desserts for example, your guests won’t even notice the difference.

 

Burning Thanksgiving Calories

Even with the strongest of resolves, chances are you’ll still need to do some activity to break even calorie wise. Consider even doing some exercise on Thanksgiving. If you jog for just 60 minutes you’ll burn about 500 calories. That’s a slice of pecan pie! If you do an hour of Zumba, you can manage to have an extra piece of that sweet potato casserole.

There are even some activities you can do throughout the day that don’t require putting on your running shoes. Clearing and washing the dishes can burn about 100 calories, and helping clean up the kitchen can burn another 100. Pretty good if you had a little too much green bean casserole.

If there’s kids at your party consider this: An hour of carrying or playing around with small children can burn up to 200 calories. Shopping for 30 minutes can burn up to 80 calories. That’s enough for your mashed potatoes or dinner rolls.

 

5 Foods To Eat After Your Workout

What do you do after an intense sweat session? Post-workout, athletes tend to shower, change, then grab a bite to eat. This is a good thing, since it is beneficial to eat 30-60 minutes after a workout in order to efficiently recover. However, not every food optimizes recovery. Grabbing a candy bar after a lifting session, for example, will not do much to help your body.

So what should you be eating after a workout? The fact is, recovery all comes down to protein and carbohydrates. Both give your body helpful nutrients to absorb, and replace all that was broken down during exercise. Here are five examples of food you should be eating as post-workout snacks:

Pineapple

Pineapple

I know what you’re thinking. Pineapple? Really? The truth is, we do not normally think of fruit as being loaded with carbohydrates but they are carbohydrate-packed. They also have specific enzymes that help the body transfer nutrients from food to muscles. Pineapple in particular is a good post-workout snack because it has all the benefits of fruit with the addition of anti-inflammatory effects to help your muscles recover more quickly.

Eggs

eggs

This may go without saying, but eggs are packed with protein. Hard-boiled or in omelette or scrambled form, they are a perfect way to help your muscles recover. If you want to go the extra mile for your body, consider eating the eggs with vegetables. You will not only get a necessary protein kick, you’ll also introduce extra vitamins into your recovering body.

Greek Yogurt

GreekYogurt_main

Greek yogurt is a perfect post-workout snack because it has both protein and carbohydrates. It is superior to regular yogurt in that it contains twice the protein that your muscles need. For some extra nutrients, and a taste kick, add some fruit to your yogurt for a double-whammy recovery snack.

Whole Grain Cereal

bowlcereal

Can you say carbohydrates? Whole grain cereal and milk after a workout will give you a little bit of protein and a lot of necessary carbohydrates. Try to eat a type of cereal without a lot of sugar, because the sugar will delay your progress. Your muscles will thank you.

Quinoa

tricolor-quinoa-1024x683
A more unconventional grain, quinoa contains a ton of vitamins and nutrients, and also a fair amount of protein. It will give you the carbohydrate and protein kick your body needs, and only takes a few minutes to prepare. Remember to add in some vegetables for extra vitamins!

A Lower-Body Workout in Under 30 Minutes

Finding the time to exercise is a challenge for everyone. Sometimes you just need a quick, straight to the point exercise routine to get through, that doesn’t sacrifice effectiveness. Here’s a great lower body workout to tackle your entire lower body in an efficient way.

For the exercises that use free weights, you should aim for a weight where you can ideally complete 10-15 reps total (or on each side for movements that work one side at a time) before exhausting the muscle. You should try to repeat this sequence three times total.

Exercise #1: Lunges

Target Muscles: Thighs and glutes

Instructions: Stand straight with a dumbbell in each hand, arms at your sides. Without sacrificing your posture, step back with one foot while lowering your knee to the ground. Your front knee should bend without that front knee going over your toes. Once your back knee barely touches the ground (but does NOT rest on the ground), step your back leg back up to standing in your starting position.
Lunges

Exercise #2: Squats

Target Muscles: Thighs and butt

Instructions: Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, toes pointed forward. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and slowly bend your knees, keeping your back straight until you reach a position where your thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold for a second before squeezing your legs and glutes to return to standing in your starting position. You should essentially feel like you are sitting down in an invisible chair (with great posture) and standing back up. Do not roll your shoulders or hunch over. Keep your head in a neutral position looking straight forward the entire time.
Squats

Exercise #3: Calf Raises

Target Muscles: Calves

Instructions: Stand on the edge of a stair with your feet about hip-width apart and the heels of your feet hanging off the edge so they are unsupported. If you can, try to keep balance as you do this exercise, but if not, grip a nearby rail or place your hand on the wall. Lower your heels as far as you can comfortably stretch them and then slowly push up on your toes until you are on your tip toes. Pause at the top and fully contract your calf muscles. Then slowly lower down again until you return to that comfortable stretch in the back of your calves and ankles.
 Standing Heel Raises

Exercise #4: Core Extensions

Target Muscles: Abdominals
Instructions: Lie on your back and pull your knees in towards your chest as you tuck your chin. As you inhale, reach your arms behind your head as your legs extend in front of you, both at about a 45 degree angle. Hold for 3 seconds before exhaling and returning to your starting position. Repeat until you can’t hold with proper form.
Double-Leg Stretch

Exercise #5: Bicycles

Target Muscles: Abdominals
Instructions: Lie on your back with hands behind your head, feet extended. Lift your head off the ground as well as your legs, brining one knee to meet the opposite elbow. Exhale and bring the opposite elbow to reach the other knee.
The Bicycle

Remember to warm up before and stretch afterwords to prevent soreness. Complete this sequence 3 times, and you’ll get a great lower body workout in about 30 minutes.

A Great Arm-Workout in Just 5 Exercises

Looking for a simple arm workout you can do at home or at the gym? I’ve got just what you need. All you need is access to some free weights and either a workout bench, exercise ball, or chair.

Only complete each rep as fast as you can keep the movement controlled and with perfect form. Don’t power through it and sacrifice your form because you’re trying to finish as quickly as possible. You’re essentially sacrificing the full benefit of the movement for a bit of speed.

You should aim for a weight where you can ideally complete 10-15 reps on each side (or total for movements that don’t have sides) before exhausting the muscle. You should try to repeat this sequence three times total.

Exercise #1: Chest Press

Target Muscles: Chest

Instructions: Lie on your back on either an exercise bench or ball. Grip a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing forward with the dumbbells close to your chest and your feet flat on the floor. As you exhale, push the dumbbells up (palms still facing forward) until the dumbbells barely touch. Pause for a second. Then slowly lower the dumbbells toward the starting position, stopping when your upper arms are just beyond parallel with the floor.

Chest Press

Exercise #2: One-Arm Rows

Target Muscles: Upper and middle back

Instructions: Begin with your same hand and knee kneeling on a flat bench with the opposite foot on the floor, knee slightly bent. While gripping a dumbbell in your hanging hand, keep your back flat and your head in a neutral position. Pull the dumbbell upward, your elbow rising straight up to the ceiling. Hold for a second before releasing back to the starting position.

One arm rows

Exercise #3: Seated Overhead Press

Target Muscles: Shoulders

Instructions: Sit on a bench or exercise ball with your back straight and a dumbbell in each hand. Place your arms shoulder level, bent to 90 degrees towards the ceiling. Your palms should remain facing forward as you slowly press the dumbbells up and together above your head until they barely touch. Hold for a second before slowly lowering your arms until you return to the starting position.

Seated overhead press

Exercise #4: Triceps Kickbacks

Target Muscles: Triceps (backs of upper arms)

Instructions: Begin with your same hand and knee kneeling on a flat bench with the opposite foot on the floor, knee slightly bent. Bend your elbow to a 90 degree angle so it sits by your side. Slowly lift the dumbbell behind you, straightening your arm until it is parallel with the floor. Hold for a second, and return to the starting position..

Triceps kickbacks

Exercise #5: Seated Biceps Curls

Target Muscles: Biceps (fronts of upper arms)

Instructions: Sit on a bench or an exercise ball and hold one dumbbell in each hand, palms facing inward. Slowly rotate your palms up as you lift the dumbbells toward your shoulders. Contract your biceps at the top, then slowly lower the dumbbells back to your sides until you reach the starting position again.

Seated Biceps Curls

Remember to warm up and stretch afterwords to prevent soreness. With these simple moves, you’ll be looking at more toned arms before you know it.

How You Are Doing Your Weekly Weigh-In Wrong…and How To Fix It

weight loss scaleTracking weight loss is a crucial part of ensuring that your hard work to improve your lifestyle is more than just an empty exercise in discipline, but actually yielding results. However, you may be surprised to learn that the information the scale volunteers is far from stagnant! A recent study by the Public Library of Science concluded that some days are statistically proven to be more reliable indicators of your progress than others. Sound crazy? Just read on to learn the very reasonable truth behind this shocking discovery.

However, there are certainly details to consider about weight data collection overall, first. One truth to always remember is that weight will always naturally fluctuate day-to-day. As a result, most experts will agree that weekly check-ins are more than just enough, they are actually preferable to checking your weight daily. Weighing yourself just once a week is much more illustrative of trends in the right (or wrong) direction. Doing so daily may just serve to discourage you, as you obsess over the natural ebb and flow of progress.

Checking your weight once a week, ideally first thing in the morning before you eat or drink anything, will provide a much truer sense of your results and better consistency. The surprising additional finding in this study was that, when weighing yourself once every seven days, the day you pick actually matters.

The best day to weigh yourself is Wednesday.

The Public Library of Science discovered a few things. First ,when maintaining weight, Wednesday revealed the least weekly fluctuation, creating the most reliable readings. Wednesday also proved to be the day when study participants happened to weight the least week over week, which does make sense. People tend to indulge slightly more over the weekend, so weighing in right in the middle of the stretch between Sunday and Saturday give your the most time to get back into your body’s best form.

Weigh yourself and log your progress just once a week, on Wednesday morning, before doing anything else. This will paint the most accurate picture of your progress towards your best body ever.

Miracle Veggies

We all know that eating vegetables is one of the best ways to stay healthy. Packed with vitamins and nutrients, free of processed chemicals and sugars, veggies are the cornerstone of any healthy meal. But did you know that there is a family in the vegetable world that offers more than your average benefits? Filled with fat-fighting power, the cruciferous family of vegetables offer a wide variety of choices brimming with healthy potential. From kale to cauliflower, your choices are varied enough that you can include a member of this veggie family in each meal, and never eat the same dish for weeks. But what are some of the powerful benefits of joining the cruciferous family?

Body Health: This healthy delicacy promotes the production of healthy cells and immune boosting enzymes. A protein inside the cruciferous vegetables not only help to fight off harmful bacterial infections, but they combat bowel cancer, chronic inflammation, and a host of other gut-related ailments

Anti-Aging: The benefits of this miracle veggie continue on from mere healthy living. A study conducted on this veggie family illustrated that after just three weeks of eating 1 to 2 cups of cruciferous vegetables, their oxidative stress dropped nearly 22%. The antioxidant power of these miracle greens is proof positive of its power.

Josh BezoniBattle Your Belly: Environmental estrogen is everywhere. Produced from soy, plastics, and pesticides, this chemical is capable of grabbing hold of our belly fat and keeping it there. This miracle veggie helps to fight its build-up and keep that fat off your midsection.

Bodily Function: The cruciferous family is clearly an excellent source of many things, but perhaps their strongest contribution is their heaping helping of fiber. This fiber-rich miracle food will keep you full after a large meal, maintain regularity, and promote a healthy digestive tract. Without regular fiber, you can suffer some staggering ill-effects later in life, potential even bowel cancer.

The Secret Ingredient To Guaranteed Weight-Loss Success

In Joel Osteen’s best-selling book Your Best Life Now he recounts the tale of a man on a cruise across the Atlantic Ocean. This individual was having a wonderful time with his fellow seafaring company but, every time meal time rolled around, he would excuse himself and go back to his room to eat cheese and crackers he brought with him rather than partake in the dining hall’s fancy culinary offerings. This behavior was consistent day after day, so finally another passenger worked up the nerve to ask about it towards the end of the trip. “Why don’t you join us in the dining hall tonight for dinner?” the passenger inquired.

The man responded, seemingly embarrassed, “Well, to tell you the truth, I only had enough money to purchase my ticket.  I don’t have any extra money to purchase fancy meals.”

At this, the other passenger startled and responded, ““Sir, don’t you realize the meals are already included in the price of the ticket?  Your meals have already been paid for!”

Upon hearing about this anecdote, it is easy to jump into a position of judgement and condescension. However, in life, many of us often display the exact same thinking patterns that caused this man to miss out on so many delightful meals and such a huge portion of what his trip experience should have been.

Your potential is limitless! That is true for every single person. Unfortunately, the perspective to realize and embrace this truth is not very common. We all make decisions every day – some of these prevent us from leveraging the excellence that is already within us. Just by virtue of being alive, we have already purchased so many metaphorical meals. But instead of walk confidently into the dining hall, we can sometimes fall into the bad habit of presuming the worst and missing out on opportunities in favor of settling for our own version of cheese and crackers. Choose to believe in yourself, instead.

The most important thing you can do, and the secret ingredient to succeeding when it comes to losing weight (or, truly, anything else) is the courage to commit to it. Do not get comfortable in complacency. Life is much too short to stagnate. Take action. Stop walking away from the amazing things your life could be and start making it happen. You can do or accomplish anything you put your mind to. Act like it!

The 3 Letters To Look Out For On Food Labels

Woman checking food labellingAnyone looking to create a balanced, healthy diet for weight loss, weight maintenance, or simple health needs to know how to properly read a food label. Food labels are there for a reason, and too many people ignore them when they’re making their choices at the supermarket. The problem is, a lot of the time people aren’t sure what they’re supposed to be looking for, especially when ingredient names start getting too long to even pronounce.

Luckily there are a few quick tricks you can learn to make this whole process a little easier. One of my favorite tips is this:

Keep an eye out for ingredients that end with the letters “o-s-e.”

You see, spotting sugar on food labels isn’t quite as easy as it once was. Food manufacturers started noticing that consumers were becoming more discerning than those of even 10 years ago, so they starting doing everything they could to disguise sugar on their lists of ingredients.

So what do they call “sugar” instead?

fructose
maltose
glucose
sucrose

The worst of the worst is high-fructose corn syrup. Seeing a pattern?

All of the above -ose words are code words for sugar. If you see them listed on the label, especially in the first 3 or 4 ingredients, guaranteed that product is probably LOADED with sugar. And you should be avoiding it. If a product contains any high-fructose corn syrup, you should just put it back and walk away. The invention of high fructose corn syrup is one of the leading causes of obesity today.

Understanding food labels can seem tricky at first, but the more you do it, the more you’ll begin recognizing ingredients, average percentages, and more, so you can spot when something is particularly high or low in a nutritional factor. In time, you’ll begin realizing just how much you were overlooking before, and you’ll be glad you’re able to make smarter choices.

For more help on reading labels, the FDA actually has some great info to help build your label-reading skills.

What You Should Be Counting Instead of Calories

calorie-countingWhile counting calories in, calories out can be a great way to help manage your meal choices, the results you achieve are much more related to the types of foods you choose than the calories alone. To this end, I’ve developed a better “counting” method for accurately determining the amount of food you should eat each day to support your body transformation goals.

It’s called the 1-100-1/2 method:

 

  • 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight
  • Less than 100 grams of carbs per day (less than 60 grams for women)
  • 1/2 gram of fat per pound of body weight

 

This is a much simpler and alarmingly more effective way of keeping track of your day to day food intake, and it’s a heck of a lot easier than writing down and adding up every ingredient you eat in a day and subtracting calories burned. This is called macronutrient counting, and it works for just about anyone looking to lose weight.

Why is it so effective? Because it’s relative to your body size, it ensures that you’re getting enough metabolism-boosting protein each day, it keeps your carbohydrate intake moderate, and it doesn’t discount healthy fats (which actually promote weight loss and muscle gain.)

By using this method, you’ll end up controlling your calorie intake simultaneously, but with a more balanced, nutrient-rich diet. A calorie from a Philly cheesesteak and a calorie from a greek salad are measured the same when you’re counting calories alone, but you’re getting very different nutritional make ups from these two meals, so you’re not getting the full picture. When you look at calories alone, your diet can actually end up really imbalanced.

If you’re looking at this and thinking.. but I’ll miss my carbs too much! Don’t worry. I still advocate a “cheat” day where you can lax on the counting for a day after you’ve put in your weeks worth of hard work, just make sure not to go overboard. Everything in moderation, including moderation.