New Year’s is quickly fading away. As we sit here today, 8% of our year is already gone. Most people who set resolutions this year are scratching their heads, struggling or have already abandoned the goal.
Feb 1, 2017
Jan 4, 2017
Is a weight loss program part of your 2017 New Year’s resolution? A regular exercise program that includes cardio, strength training, and flexibility will improve your health and fitness levels and may result in weight loss as well. Yes, fitting into a great swimsuit at the beach might be your ultimate goal, but the health benefits gained by regular work outs are far more important.
Topics: Weight Loss
When you're at home, it might be easy to focus on preparing healthy meals, heading to the gym for a workout and otherwise working toward your health and weight loss goals. However, chances are good that you spend a good part of your week in the office, which can make it tough for you to really stay serious about losing weight. To stay on the right track, remember these three important weight loss tips, even when you're at the office. Doing so can make a big difference in how quickly you achieve your goals and can have an impact on your overall health.
I think we’re all guilty of "falling" into the uphill battle of life during winter, or getting sucked into making our own health a second priority. And with more than 68% of Americans being classified as obese or overweight (with those diets we started, 95% regained lost weight after just one year), it’s becoming more obvious our attempts of weight loss/management need to change directions in order to see long term success.
Oct 15, 2015
If you want to realize the full potential of metabolic weight loss, you need to protect yourself from metabolic syndrome. This cluster of conditions has been growing at an alarming rate. Fortunately, most people can prevent or manage the symptoms by making simple lifestyle changes including regular exercise.
A couple months of holiday weight gain can set back your metabolic weight loss for the rest of your life. That’s because most people never shed those extra pounds, and so they build up year after year. Eating mindfully will help you to have your cake and lose weight too. These are a few techniques to take with you to Grandma’s house or the office Christmas party.
Last night was our last free Women & Weights seminar. We ended our six week seminar with a discussion on nutrition. I wanted it to be a positive discussion. So many people, women in particular, struggle with their body image and have negative feelings toward the word diet. Your diet is what you regularly eat, not just something you do to lose a few pounds. Your diet is not temporary. I didn’t want it to be another disheartening talk about all the things we shouldn’t be eating. My take home message was this: Focus on adding a wide variety of nutrient dense foods to your diet, not on everything you should avoid. Here’s why:
In the United States, we universally over-consume sugar and sodium, while simultaneously under consuming Vitamin D, Vitamin E, potassium, Calcium and fiber. It’s the obese and malnourished paradox. When focusing on all the things we’re supposed to avoid (cholesterol, saturated fat, etc.), we forget about a lot of things we should be eating - like adequate protein, vitamins and minerals. We eat far too many processed foods stripped of nutrients and far too few whole foods and home-made meals. The average American woman is protein, iron and calcium deficient. This has serious impacts on strength training and was the focus of my seminar.
Protein supports training and recovery. Without sufficient protein we cannot build the body sculpting muscle that we so desire. Muscle gives us shape. When you say you want to tone up, it means you want to build muscle and likely lose some fat. Women who strength train should be consuming the same relative amount of protein as men for optimal results: 0.75 to 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight each day. Yep, that means over 100 grams of protein each day for most women.
Low iron affects metabolism and oxygen transport, as well as causes chronic fatigue. All of which, negatively impact strength training. By including red meat, seafood, lots of leafy greens and veggies in your diet you can increase your iron levels. Simultaneously, avoid pairing foods with high amounts of tannins, like coffee or tea, with your meals. They can block absorption of iron. Instead, pair foods rich in iron with other foods high in Vitamin C which helps with absorption of iron. For example, a spinach salad topped with mandarin oranges or red bell peppers. Cooking with cast iron cookware can increase the iron content of your meals, and taking iron supplements can also help. In general, the only supplements I recommend are fish oil, quality multivitamins and Vitamin D or Iron, as needed.
Adequate calcium is imperative for bone health. Strength training improves bone density at any age, however if you do not consume enough calcium in your diet, you will miss out on this major benefit of strength training. Dairy isn’t the only, or even the best source of calcium either. Fish, tofu and veggies in the cabbage family (broccoli, kale, bok choy, mustard and turnip greens, etc.) have very large amounts of bioavailable calcium. Also, bone broth is a great way to get more essential vitamins and minerals in your diet. Save your chicken carcasses, and your pork or beef bones in the freezer until you have enough to make a stock (about 2 pounds). Drinking a warm mug of bone broth in the morning during the winter months could improve your health and take off the chill.
Lastly, a note about treats. Treats, in small amounts, have a place in a healthy diet. Beyond our health, there are many reasons we eat food; pleasure, social community, identity, and tradition are all reasons why we might eat certain foods. We need to have a healthy relationship with the food we eat. The problem isn’t indulging occasionally; it’s when we treat ourselves daily, or most days of the week. Then it’s no longer a “treat”, but a part of our diet: what we habitually eat. Stay mindful of the undeniable emotional aspect of eating. There is no need to berate yourself for an occasional indulgence. Don't turn these indulgences into negative self talk that fuels an underlying self loathing. That’s not healthy either. If you are not in maintenance or strength building state, you should limit yourself to 1-2 small treats each week. Once you’ve reached your goal, you should allow no more than 2-3 small treats each week. Notice I didn’t say cheat meals, or cheat days. You can still stay on track when you indulge by balancing the rest of your macronutrients and daily calorie allotment around your treat.
The rest of our talk concentrated on calculating a daily caloric and macronutrient intake to support a strength training program. I had a great time chatting with a spectacular group of women and I’m looking forward to making Women and Weights a regular occurrence. Attending a women’s college, I learned the vital importance of relationships among women. I plan to offer a 12 week women only strength training program starting in March. The goal would be to introduce women to strength training, as well as to other like-minded women. I’ve experienced first hand the transformative power and inspiration that accompanies women working together, not against each other, as well as that of strength training. Combining the two can only spell success! Stay tuned for more information.
Joanna Meade (view bio) is an NSCA Certified Personal Trainer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer at the Downtown Athletic Club. She is also a proud graduate of Sweet Briar College, a women's college in Virginia, as well as Johns Hopkins University. She can be reached at Merritt Athletic Clubs Downtown Club at 410-332-0906.
Topics: Personal Training, health fitness tips, women strength training, Merritt blog, Weight Loss, women and weights, women only, weight loss and exercise, Fitness Tips, best way to lose weight, fitness, women nutrition, Personal trainer, Baltimore fitness, diet lifestyle change, nutrition
Feb 12, 2015
Topics: recipes to get more vegetables, Healthy Recipes, Personal Training, health fitness tips, Merritt blog, Weight Loss, healthy lifestyle, Fitness Tips, best way to lose weight, recipes for healthy snacks, Broccoli, Personal trainer, Baltimore fitness, diet lifestyle change, healthy weight loss, healthy diets
Jan 29, 2015
Despite the snow last week, we still had intrepid ladies turn out for the Women and Weights upper body seminar. This week we hammered squat mechanics and practiced many progressions and variations of the squat. However, we didn’t have quite enough time to cover all the reasons ladies need to squat. Yes, that’s right, we need to squat. Coincidentally, on the same day we reviewed squats, this blog post showed up in my news feed and I felt inspired to make my own list. So, without further ado, here is my list of reasons why squatting is so important:
Jan 20, 2015
Week one of Women and Weights is in the books. Last week we discussed the core, it’s importance in injury prevention and exactly what it feels like to engage your core. Then we went over several different exercises that test one’s ability to engage and maintain their core. This week we are discussing upper body movements. This is where we start seeing some major differences in the sexes. In general, men and women respond to resistance training in similar ways. However, differences exist between the sexes in overall muscle mass, strength and hormone levels. The upper body movements are where this becomes most obvious. Upper body movements are much more difficult for women. Why is that, you ask?
Men tend to be larger, have more muscle, they are leaner and have higher levels of the sex hormone, testosterone. These sex hormone related strength differences are mostly found in the upper body. Women possess lower body strength levels similar to men relative to their body weight, but men have greater upper body strength relative to their body weight when compared to women. According to top trainer and researcher Brett Contreras, women possess 40-60% of a man’s upper body strength. That being said, when comparing strength per-pound of fat free mass (i.e. bones and muscle) the differences become less apparent. Women’s muscles are capable of producing the same amount of force as men’s muscles.
In our women and weights seminar this week we will be discussing proper form and will practice a few movements to help ladies increase their upper body strength. Here are a few women specific strength training tips to get you excited:
Learn how to engage your core and maintain it while exercising. Many women starting a strength training program initially posses poor levels of core stability; they utilize an array of lumbar-pelvic strategies when lifting and often end up overarching (excessive hyperextension) the spine during planks, push ups, pull ups and deadlift movements. If you lose your stable core during an exercise, stop the movement and re-engage before continuing.
Work your weaknesses. If you are already really flexible, focus less on stretching and more on building strength and stability. Women tend to have greater mobility in the shoulders, hips, upper back and pelvis and are more likely than men to possess hypermobility.This hypermobility results in less stability and a greater risk of injury. Women are also more likely to over-prioritize cardio. If your cardio is already sufficient, work on building some strength.
Utilize eccentric movements in your training. Women have good reactive or elastic strength, but poor starting strength compared to men. This means it is easier for a woman to lower herself down from the pull up bar (i.e. muscles are lengthening, eccentric movement), than it is to pull herself up (i.e. muscles are contracting, concentric movement). Use caution with eccentric training, as this can cause greater microtrauma to tissues, resulting in greater muscle soreness. Additionally, don’t short movements. Keep working throughout the entire range of motion; don’t just drop off the pull up bar, or drop the bar on a deadlift. Concentrate on lowering all the way down.
Do several total body workouts each week. Women have an advantage in recovery time. They tend to fatigue less and recover faster, meaning they can train the same muscles frequently throughout the week. There is no need to spend one day each week on a specific body part (i.e. chest on Monday, back on Tuesday, glutes on Wednesday, quads on Thursday, etc.) like many of the men in your life may be doing. One day each week on certain body parts might not be enough to produce the changes you desire. However, please remember, there is no such thing as spot reduction. There is no amount of tricep extensions that will get rid of ‘granny arms’ if you aren’t fueling yourself properly and engaging in other strengthening movements.
For more training tips and some hands on advice come to Women and Weights Wednesday nights at 6pm at the Downtown Athletic Club. Even better, schedule a one-on-one appointment with me, or email me to join my newsletter. Women and weights will only last until February 11th. Also, much of the information here can be found in Strong Curves: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Better Butt and Body by Brett Contreras.