Simple Fat Loss Thoughts

I had a very interesting conversation with a client last week. This client loves the exercise and progress he makes in the gym. However, he has been caught in an unfortunate cycle recently. He will make great progress doing a combination of our mobility, strength, and metabolic circuits, he then starts running again. Unfortunately, running throws his hips out of alignment, and this typically leads to stiffness and pain after a couple weeks, followed by some time off...spin, rinse, repeat.

Because of his background (cross country runner), and the fact that he always talks about running and endurance sports, I had always assumed (you know what this does) that running was the ultimate goal. However, I briefly asked last week, at the beginning of another one of these negative cycles, what he enjoyed so much about running.

His response, “I just do it because I've always heard it was the best way to lose fat”.

The solution was simple, get rid of jogging. As I explained to him, while long steady state cardio (i.e. jogging/running) has lots of benefits (I'll explain these in another post), there are more efficient ways for fat loss.


Here is what you need to know if your primary goal is fat loss:

1) Caloric Deficit. Eat less calories than you need to survive. Science, Biology, and Physics win here. If you eat more than you need to maintain your weight, you get bigger. If you eat less, you get smaller. But don't do this for more than six weeks in a row (otherwise your body goes into “starvation mode”). That's what the experts tell me at least.

2) Eating well is the most important thing. You should eat some good proteins, these fill you up and build your muscles. You should eat moderate amounts of fat (yes fat!) because it is essential for several important biological processes (including efficient function of the brain). These fats should be of the healthy variety, not of the fat of fried oil variety. Then you should fill up the rest of your plate (probably at least half of it) with fruits and veggies. What about carbs you ask? You can have some, they are just last on the list. Also, fruits break down to sugars, just the same as carbs break down to sugars. Also, those indulgent foods don't help. I'm all about enjoying what you eat, but if you can focus for 6 weeks, you can lose anywhere from 3 to 12 pounds safely and easily. Then you can go back to your treats.

3) Workout with Weights. “Metabolic Training” is a fancy way of saying I'm going to get your heart rate up while you are picking up heavy things, and learning how to move better. The overwhelming amount of research says that weight training is the most efficient way to do fat loss. Don't believe me? Come try it out for six weeks. Your first 3 hours of workout per week should be spent doing weight/resistance training. Anything beyond that, have as much fun as you want with traditional cardio.

4) Sleep. Remember last blog? Sleep is important. It helps you recover from your workouts. It helps balance out your hormones. And it helps you maintain that waistline you want. Can't get 7 to 8 hours per night? Right down everything you do for 3 days, and then come see me, we can work on setting some goals, and focusing on what is really essential in your schedule.

5) Drink a lot of water. Hungry? Drink a glass of water 15 minutes before you eat. Your body doesn't distinguish well between hunger and thirst. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Water can help fill up your stomach, and reduce the hunger urge. This means less calories in, which means more weight loss.

Tips for Better Sleep

In honor of "springing forward" your clock last weekend, and losing that hour of sleep, here is a reminder that you’ve got to make sleep a priority.  

While you’re asleep, a number of important things happen.  Studies have suggested a lack of sleep does a number of negative things to your general well being such as decreased testosterone, an increase in cortisol (a stress hormone), and results in a greater tendency to be overweight or obese, etc.

For optimal results, you need to get between 8 and 9 hours of sleep, but you definitely need at least 7.   Particularly while trying to burn body fat and/or put on muscle.  Because there is some debate as to how much variety there is in individual sleep needs, let’s just focus on how to maximize sleep quality!

Photo by View Stock/View Stock / Getty Images
Photo by View Stock/View Stock / Getty Images


1) Get into a consistent sleep routine and stick with it.  Try to have the same process every night, this will train your body, and make it more effective about sleeping.  Circadian rhythms and natural cycles are a real thing.  Being consistent in your sleep schedule will help your body develop a pattern and start to expect bedtime at the appropriate time.

2) Think about what you put in your body.  If you’re sensitive to stimulants, you may want to cut your caffeine intake a long ways out before bed (if I drink a cup of coffee after lunch-time, I can't fall asleep until significantly later).  If you drink too much water right before bed, your bladder might wake you up halfway through the night.  There is much variation between individuals here, but know what works for you and what doesn't.

Side-note here:  Most people process alcohol in a way that is disruptive to sleep.  It may help you doze off, but in the long run you are going to make your body more weary because your sleep quality will be lower.  Read more here.

3) Beds are for sleeping.  Start to unwind an hour before bed.  Remember, we’re shooting for 7 to 9 hours of SLEEP, not 2 to 3 hours in your bed on Social Media/Email/watching your 50 inch plasma TV (remember light causes you to wake up, not wind down) and 5 to 6 hours of sleep.  If you want to get 8 hours, maybe get in bed 9 hours before you have to be up and read a book.  Don't work in bed, as that will trigger your brain to stay awake as well.  If you want to unwind in bed for 30 minutes to an hour, read a book (preferably an enjoyable or a boring one), and then doze off.

4)  Set up your Environment.  Make sure your curtains block out the light so the room is as pitch black as possible (light triggers the body to want to begin it's wake up time).  Invest in quality sleeping accoutrements (good mattress, sheets, pillows, etc.) because you spend about 1/3 of your life in bed.  Consider using white noise if you live in a noisy area (or if you have two screaming babies at home, like yours truly).  Try to make sure your room is a comfortable temperature for sleeping (studies like this one recommend somewhere between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit).  

5) Clear your mind before bed.  Life can be stressful, I often find myself reminiscing on childhood, when my biggest worries were getting my homework done, and how long mom was going to let me play outside.  Nowadays I feel like everything and the kitchen sink is thrown my way every single day.  Here are a few solutions: jot down what is pre-occupying your mind in a journal, meditate to clear the thoughts, do some gentle and relaxing stretches, calmly process what you accomplished today and what you will get done tomorrow, etc.

On Commitment

Mardi Gras was just a couple days ago. Every year, Christians will spend a day in celebration, right before spending 40 days refocusing and rededicating themselves. Many make Lenten Resolutions (giving up candy, television, swearing) to help spend time improving themselves. After the 40 days are over, there is another celebration, Easter, and then it's back to life and routines as usual.

Mainstream Media often leads people to criticizing those who indulge in seasonal fitness events such as the New Years Resolutions crowd, yo-yo dieters, the beach season crowd, and on and on. However, they also miss the power of the opportunities for people. Sometimes we need an event to jar us out of our everyday routine, we need a goal to reach for, something to help us dedicate ourselves for 6 to 8 weeks. And when we reach that goal, we feel better about ourselves.

It is a very difficult feat to be constantly pushing and improving all of the time. All the way through college, we have breaks throughout the year (fall break, winter break, spring break, summer break). Seasons change, we take vacations or long weekends to re-charge our lives.

Physically most athletes go through the same cycles. Professional athletes train differently in-season and out. They often have fatigue from an intense season, that sometimes takes weeks or months to recover from. These rest and recovery periods are just as important to well-being as the periods of hard work.

It is important not to go over the edge during these rest periods either. They also need to be done with a goal of "recovery" rather than a goal of "doing absolutely nothing". For much of the year, you can focus your workout on having fun, learning something new, and recharging your life.

However, once or twice a year, it is a good thing to set a goal and go after it intensely. You can return your training back to a more leisurely pace at the end. But for 6 to 8 weeks, it's good to dedicate towards your self improvement, and go after it.

Flu Season

It's been a classic Louisville weather week so far. We started off with a huge temperature drop and some snow. It settled in to some unseasonably cold weather in the 20's. Now this weekend it is expected to be in the 50's and raining. Among other things, these constantly changing temperatures are a recipe for an early onset of flu season.

This raises tons of questions every year about how to prevent the flu, and then what to do once you have it.

Here is the cliff notes version, for those of you who want the quick answers:

1. Should I get a flu shot? It won't cause you to get the flu (although the spray might). It also might not prevent you from getting the flu, but it does stand a good chance of helping. If I could tell you right now that for a little stick of a needle and $10 you wouldn't get sick this year, you would probably take me up on it.

2. Cover up your face when you cough and sneeze. Nobody wants to be around the person that is projectile launching virus's from their nose and mouth. It's common courtesy. Just cough/sneeze into the elbow of your shirt, a kleenex, or a handkerchief (yes people do still carry these around...and yes I am one of them).

3. How do I get the virus?  When scientists infect test subjects, they normally introduce the flu virus to the nose. Make sure to wash your hands before you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.

4. What should I eat? Your body needs good nutrients to withstand, and then fight, sickness. Keep up your intake of protein, fats, vegetables, and multivitamins. Lower your carbs slightly. Avoid comfort foods.

Here is a good blog article that elaborates on this further:

5. Should you train? Probably not. Your body is fighting something and trying to repair itself. Intense strength training or cardio training that usually require recovery time will set you back.

6. So I should sit on the couch and do nothing until I'm well? I wouldn't take it to that extreme either. For cardio, use your heart rate as a guide. Some light, low intensity cardio (pulse under 120 bpm the first couple days, and work up to under 140 bpm until completely well) could do some good. As for resistance training, dial it back, do some bodyweight training, some stuff that will help you move good and feel good, but not require recovery.

Here is a good blog for further details on this:

7. I'm still confused? This is perfectly normal. There is so much information about this topic, some of it good, some of it bad. Either email me, or come visit me and I'll help you sift through your questions.

photo credit: <a href="">samanthacelera</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <ahref="">cc</a>