February 28, 2011

Three more reasons why you are not losing weight:

1.You do not get enough sleep. According to several studies, overweight individuals lost LESS fat when they slept about 5.5 hours a night compared to 8.5 hours a night.  Researchers are not sure why, but most believe feelings of fatigue contribute to hunger, causing the sleep deprived to eat more.   Whatever the reason, it is clear that inadequate sleep will interfere with weigh loss, so turn off the computer (after you finish reading this post) and get to bed!

2. You do not drink enough water.  A recent study found dieters who drank two cups of water right before a meal lost about five pounds more (over a twelve-week period) than dieters who did not increase their water intake.  It may just be that water makes you feel full, but whatever the reason it is an easy way to speed your weight loss.

3. You do not lift (or lift heavy enough) weights.  I have covered this before (, but it seems women still believe the myth that they will get bulky if they lift weights.  Most women do not have enough of the male hormone testosterone to build huge muscles.  They can however strengthen and tighten their muscles for a toned sleek look.  Lifting weights will help you burn more calories even while you rest, and will help speed your fat loss.

February 21, 2011

Why You Can't Lose Weight

While I would love to believe most people exercise for the health benefits, or simply because they enjoy it, the truth is most people exercise for weight control.  Yet, one of the most common questions I hear is “I exercise regularly, so why can’t I lose weight?” 
There are several answers to this, but the truth is despite metabolism, genetics, gluten, high carbs or low carbs, etc..., you can only lose weight by burning more calories than you consume.  Probably the most significant thing you can do is to keep a food diary (and an honest one).  Write down absolutely everything and how much you eat, and I am sure you will be surprised.  Most of us are unaware of how much we really take in.  I do not think my clients are liars, but if they really ate as little as they tell me, they would be skinny or bedridden.  Serving size is crucial.  Read packages and recipes; you will be shocked at how little a serving really is.  Write down everything, including “tasting bites” and drinks.  And yes, food eaten while standing up still counts.  Liquid calories such as juice, wine and soda really add up.  It is time consuming to write a food diary, but there are free apps and websites that make it easier:
This schematic gives an illustration of some common serving sizes:

Exercise intensity is another key factor for weight control.  If you can comfortably sing or read through your entire workout, you are probably not working hard enough.   See the posts from Feb. 13, 2011 and Sept. 20, 2010 on how and why to amp up your intensity. You will burn more calories during, and more importantly after your workout. 
The last factor which I discussed in my post of Dec. 18, 2010 is NEAT (non-exercise thermogenesis); burning more calories when you are NOT exercising. 
Monitor your nutrition, increase your exercise intensity, and boost your NEAT.  Then you can watch the scale head in the direction you want.

February 13, 2011

Time saving workouts

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 30 minutes a day of moderate to high intensity exercise.  Yeah right.  Who has time for that?  If you are lucky enough to squeeze out three sessions a week here is a plan to get the most out of those sessions:
Make one workout long and slow.  This will help you build endurance and burn calories.  Aim for at least 45 minutes on any type of cardio equipment.  Remember perceived exertion?  (See post from September 30)   On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the hardest), stay at level 5 for the duration.
Workout two will be short and hard.  (You should get a physician’s clearance for workouts two and three).  Try to get to and maintain an intensity of 7-8 for at least 15 minutes.  This intensity will burn calories and increase your fitness level.
Workout three is an interval workout.  Once you have warmed up, bring your intensity to between 8 and 9 for 30 seconds, drop down to level 4 or 5 for one minute, then repeat for at least 10 cycles.  This type of workout is great for increasing your fitness level, and will help you burn more calories AFTER the workout.
If you do not have time for cardio every day, try these variations to ensure that you get better results.

February 6, 2011

Cheating pushups

Think you are good at pushups?  If you are like the majority of the people I see at the gym, there is a good chance you are doing them wrong.  The pushup is one of the best exercises around; it is great for your arms, chest, shoulders and abdominals, but most people do not seem to realize that form is more important than the number of pushups you can do.
Correct form for a full pushup is to start on your stomach, with your hands under your shoulders, legs straight and hip width apart.  Keep your gaze at the floor slightly ahead of your hands.  Maintain the normal arch in your back and straighten your arms without letting your hips or neck sag.  If your wrists hurt, you can try placing your hands on 8-pound octagonal dumbbells; this helps maintain wrist alignment.   Keep your abdominals tight and exhale as you straighten your arms, inhale as you lower.

Below are some common errors:

Scapular winging; this is where the shoulder blades protrude from the back.  This commonly occurs when fatigue causes the shoulder muscles to “give up”, and will cause shoulder and back problems over time.  In this picture his neck is also dropped.

Neck drop; this is where the head leads the way down.   It is a great way to cheat the pushup, as lowering the head makes it feel much easier.  Neck problems are the inevitable conclusion to this form. 

Hip lift; this is where the hips are higher than the shoulders.  This can be a safe modification to make the pushup easier as long as everything else is in alignment. This picture shows good alignment with the hips raised slightly.  The stick across the back is an excellent way to check alignment. 

Speed pushups.  If you can do 100 pushups in one minute chances are you are using momentum more than your muscles.  Try doing them slowly; you will be amazed at how much harder and more effective they are.