Posts Tagged ‘weight loss’

In this week’s blog, I want to discuss one of the newest fat loss supplements from Top Secret Nutrition.  I have had the opportunity to use the new stimulant-based thermogenic Ab Igniter.  I am certainly no stranger to fat burners having sampled many in the last few years during competition prep.  I have used both stimulant-based and non-stimulant-based and they both have their advantages and disadvantages.  Anyway, back to Ab Igniter…

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First off, all the ingredients and amounts are clearly laid out on the label – I love it when I know exactly what I’m getting and how much.  This formula includes many of the most popular and researched fat loss ingredients on the market today including Garcinia Cambogia, Green Coffee Extract, Green Tea Extract, Caffeine, Raspberry Ketones, and Yohimbe to name a few.

Ok, so what did these ingredients do in “real life”?  Anyone who knows me, knows I have an appetite…if it looks good, smells good, and ain’t moving too fast, I’ll eat it…well, maybe.  But, this product really did curb my crazy appetite.  I’m usually starving by mid-morning, but after taking this product, that certainly wasn’t the case.  The energy from this product was also good.  I felt a pretty clean energy without any jitters and it lasted for a good part of the morning.  I usually took a second dose in the early afternoon to carry me through the rest of my day.  For those of you that are sensitive to caffeine, I would certainly recommend starting with only one capsule.  My end dose was 2 capsules twice a day and that was perfect for me.  Ok, confession time – my diet was not always the best while using this product and I still managed to lose some fat: win-win!  The Garcinia is supposed to slow fat accumulation so maybe that was it?!

I have seen some good results but will take a little time off before starting a second bottle 🙂  In a nutshell, if you’re looking for some clean energy and appetite suppression while trying to reach your fat loss goals, I definitely recommend Ab Igniter!

There really is no need to spend hours at the gym.  Sometimes I don’t even get to the gym…I’ve created quite the home gym over the last few years and to me, spending money on key pieces of equipment makes me much happier than spending money on shoes and handbags (don’t get me wrong, I love those too)…

Monday was a super-busy day for me (as usual) between work, family, dinner, softball games, etc.  I had just over one hour during a break in the action to squeeze a workout in at home.  I saved a few minutes afterwards for a shower…you’re welcome.. 😉

I used an adjustable dumbbell set and a few kettlebells (but you can used dumbbells for the entire workout if you want):

I performed all the exercises in the order listed, took a 1 minute break after the end of the circuit, and completed 4 total circuits.  I did a quick light aerobic warm-up for about 5 minutes:

  • Dumbbell Curl to Overhead Press x 15 reps
  • Heavy Kettlebell Swings x 20 reps
  • Dumbbell Tricep Kickbacks x 15 reps
  • Renegade Row x 10 reps each side
  • Unilateral Bent-Over Row with Kettlebell x 15 reps each
  • Burpees x 10 reps
  • Reverse Lunges x 10 reps each
  • Russian Twist x 20 reps
  • Unilateral Floor Bridge x 15 reps each
  • Plank with Alternate Leg Lifts x 10 reps each
  • Kettlebell Deadlift x 15 reps
  • Unilateral Kettlebell Thruster x 10 reps each
  • 3-way Delt Raises x 10 reps each (Front, Lateral, and Bent-Over)

That completes 1 cycle.  Rest for about a minute to grab some water and catch your breath and then go again!  This type of workout gives you the best of both worlds (as long as you use a weight that is challenging).  Not only are you stimulating each major muscle group, but your heart-rate remains elevated for the entire hour for that fat-blasting effect.  I try to do a workout like this about once per week in between my other “standard” weightlifting routines.  If you decide to try it, let me know how it goes!

 

It’s about that time again…I don’t have one specific topic that I’m going to talk about in this blog, but rather some random thoughts/answers to questions that I get quite often.  There is so much information available out there, it’s hard to sort through it all.  There are many factors that go into the biggest question of all – How do I obtain the best possible physique?  Diet, training, cardio, carbs, rest, supplements, and the list goes on…

First off, and this is no surprise, everyone is different and you MUST find what works for you.  But, how the heck do you do that and where do you even start?  If you’ve been training for awhile and have done some homework, you may already know the answer to some of these questions.  Here are my thoughts on some of the biggies (especially if you are just starting out):

  • Stay away from the “Extremes” – If there is a “No” or a “Super Low/High” in front of it, I’ll move on.  I’ve probably tried every diet and training scheme there is and I always find my way back to balance.  I can’t do low carb/no carb for any length of time, forget intermittent fasting, and if the rep range on any exercise is over 25 I’ll pass on that too.  I’m not saying I never do any of these things, I just don’t base any long-term nutrition or training program on them.  Again, these things may work for some, but I wouldn’t recommend them if you’re just starting out.  And unless you have an allergy or intolerance, don’t eliminate food groups (fruit, dairy, etc.).
  • Carbs are NOT the enemy – Carbs are anabolic, carbs provide energy/fiber/valuable nutrients, and a whole host of other benefits.  And frankly, they can taste pretty darn good.  Keeping fruits, vegetables, and whole/unprocessed carbohydrates in your diet is a good thing.  Heck, even the occasional “bad” carbohydrate, if timed correctly, can add some benefit.  Oh, and by the way, eating carbs at night won’t kill you either!  An easy rule of thumb I follow is this:  I generally consume slower digesting carbohydrates about an hour or two before my workout (and will have these at other mealtimes too depending on whether I’m cutting or building), and faster digesting/other carbs post-workout – these have even included cold cereal, pretzels, low-fat/baked chips, and even candy.  I keep carbs in my diet all the way up to contest time – I just vary the type and amount depending on my progress.  Keeps my body happy and my mind sane!
  • Cardio – I know I’ve touched on this topic before, but I find that too many mistakes are made when it comes to cardio.  Think of cardio as a “supplement” to proper diet (# 1) and proper resistance training (# 2).  Just because you CAN do more, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.  Less is generally more, and HIIT is definitely the way to go:  sprints, intervals on the bike, elliptical, or anything else.  HIIT should definitely not be done everyday as it is very taxing and 20-30 minutes at a time is all you’ll need.  What about fasted cardio?  My thoughts; go ahead and do it if you like, but it is not necessary (especially if you are doing HIIT).
  • Rest – One of those dreaded 4 letter words, right?  Yes and no.  I may be a little crazy, but I LOVE to train.  Rest days are tough for some but completely necessary.  Without proper rest, no gains will be made and injuries can happen.  This also includes the proper amount of sleep at night (without it you have reduced growth hormone activity and a decline in performance).  Just getting an extra hour of sleep can make a huge difference.  I have personal experience with this one:  at certain points in the year, the only time I have to get to the gym is 5 a.m.  This puts me at a loss of about 1.5 hours of sleep if I continue to go to bed at the same time.  I am much weaker, have less endurance, my recovery slows down, and I tend to get nagging aches/pains.
  • Eat enough but not too much!  Calories in vs. calories out – yes, it matters!  If you want to lose fat, you must be in a deficit.  If you want to gain muscle, you must be in a surplus.  Unless you are extremely genetically gifted or pharmaceutically enhanced, you will fare much better if you focus on one goal.  There are other important factors that I believe make a difference like timing of nutrients (carbs/protein pre- and post-workout, fats at other times) and supplements, but get the foundation right first!  Don’t forget if you eat too much of a surplus, you will get fat!  Eat in too much of a deficit, and you’ll lose your precious muscle.
  • Long-term fitness/motivation – Do what you enjoy and do it for you!  Although I feel that at least some resistance training is necessary, if you absolutely hate it, find something that you will enjoy:  yoga, cycling, team sports, races, the options are endless.  But I’ll bet the ranch – if you stick with weight-training long enough to see and feel the benefits, I think you’ll love it as much as I do!

In next week’s blog, I’ll return to some more of my training-specific information so stay tuned!

It’s amazing what we can accomplish just by putting some serious thought into something.  This applies to just about anything, but in this blog I am going to relate it to fitness.  Recently, I just got back from a family vacation and I am now full-swing into my contest prep for my fall show.  During my vacation, I trained a couple of times and stuck to my normal eating plan for the most part, but I did give myself a little bit of a break (both physical and mental).  Anyone who has been on a diet, prepared for a fitness/physique contest, or just trained for a race or other sport knows how much is required to fully prepare for these events.  There is a meal plan to stick to, a training schedule, food prep, and many other variables that must be considered.  One of the most overlooked components (in my opinion) is getting the mind prepared.  If that element is not in order, the rest is going to be a huge struggle.  How do I know this?  Well, I’ve prepared for several competitions now and some preps have been easy and some have been tough.  A lot of it had to do with my mindset.  There was one contest that I trained for “just to do it” and I struggled A LOT!  You see, since my mental focus was not 100%, it made everything else a lot more difficult;  I still trained hard but had trouble sticking to my diet on a few occasions.

This contest is a completely different story.  I chose not to compete in the Spring this year because I didn’t feel that I was ready.  I did a few short cutting and maintenance/gaining cycles to work on some lagging bodyparts but now, I’m feeling more than ready!  The huge thing that I noticed is that my mental focus is 110%.  I have become aware of some great things this week because of this.  I realized I had much greater control over my hunger and fatigue.  I made it a point to analyze what was going on when I felt “hungry” even though I had just eaten.  When you’re dieting, it is so easy for food to become the focus of your day; even to the point of becoming obsessive about it.  What am I going to eat today?  When can I have my next meal?  Etc. Etc.  After analyzing why I thought I was hungry (and often coming up with a variety of reasons other than hunger) I realized I wasn’t hungry at all.  Even if I was truly hungry, distracting my thoughts away from hunger and food always works great to pass the time (and it can make for quite the productive day!)  My adherence to my meal plan this week was 100% and I can say that there wasn’t any particular time where I felt deprived, starving, etc.

Another area where the power of the mind is huge is during training.  Training is hard if you do it right.  It hurts and it can make you tired.  Maybe you don’t feel like going to the gym because you had a long day at work, the kids exhausted you, or you didn’t get a good night’s sleep.  There are many legitimate reasons to skip the gym (i.e. you need a rest day, you’re injured, or you’re sick), but these other “excuses” just won’t do!  Getting psyched up for the gym starts in the mind.  Think about what you want to accomplish during your next workout; do you want to add more weight/reps to an exercise, do you want to be able to sprint faster/longer?  Use these goals as a starting point.  Most of you know, once you actually get to the gym and start working out, you realize you’re really not that tired or unmotivated.

Don’t underestimate the power of your mind:  everything starts with a thought, is planned and put through a process, and eventually becomes your new reality…so, train your brain people! 🙂

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Why is losing fat so darn hard?  The concept seems easy enough…to lose fat we must consume less calories than we are expending, right?  Well, yes and no.  Unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy.  I know some people who would argue that it is, but we must consider many things when trying to attain our best physique.  Will we lose weight on a steady diet of donuts as long as our calories are low enough.  I guess we would but our bodies would be poorly nourished wouldn’t they?  And could we lose weight without exercise…sure, but what would we look like?  My point here is that there needs to be a balance between nutrition, exercise, and rest.  There’s not too much we can do about our genetics, but we can certainly control the other three factors.  I’m going to list a few important things to consider when embarking on a weight-loss journey:

  • If you have a great deal of weight to lose and are relatively untrained, it IS possible to gain lean mass and lose fat at the same time.  If you have a good amount of weight training under your belt, it’s not going to be the same.  Here is where I suggest picking a primary goal.  Too many people bounce back and forth between “bulking” and “cutting” to make any real changes in their physique.  If your goal is fat loss, structure your training and nutrition accordingly.  What I mean is, you are going to need to be in a caloric deficit to lose fat and your training should be geared towards maintaining the lean mass you already have.  And when thinking about lengths of cutting/bulking cycles, think months, not weeks.
  • Please, please, please…don’t overdo the cardio!  Cardio should be used as a supplement to a sound nutrition and resistance training plan.  I’m not saying ‘don’t do cardio’, I’m just saying don’t do 2 hours of cardio a day!  Enough said.
  • Another common mistake is dropping calories too low.  Less is NOT more especially if you are training intensely.  You need enough calories to support your metabolism and training.  Not only that, it can set you up for binge-eating.
  • Don’t quit if you’re not seeing the scale move.  Too many people put too much emphasis on the numbers of the scale.  If the numbers aren’t going down (or God forbid they go up!), they get frustrated or depressed and give up.  Throw out your scale if you must!  Many factors can change your weight over the course of a week or even the course of a day!  Water weight from an increase in carb or sodium intake, hormonal changes, and yes, even your bathroom habits can alter that number!  My advice? Look in the mirror, take progress pictures, and take measurements.  We can all usually tell when our clothes are fitting better.  These are MUCH more important than a silly number.
  • Be patient!  Healthy and long-lasting weight/fat loss is going to take time!  Don’t fall for any ridiculous plans that promise a 10 pound loss in 2 weeks (unless of course you’re truly obese).  It IS possible to drop weight too fast:  it can be unhealthy and you can lose your hard-earned lean mass. Rapid fat-loss plans are impossible to sustain and once you stop the plan, you can actually become fatter (if you did lose lean mass and then gain more weight back).  An average person should aim to lose no more than 1-2 pounds per week.  A person who is already fairly lean, 1/2 to 1 pound per week.
  • Modify your training/nutrition AS NEEDED.  Don’t make changes to your program if it’s still working!  Plateaus are inevitable…nutrition and/or training will need to be modified at some point.  Don’t change just for the sake of change and don’t make too many adjustments at once.
  • Use refeeds for your body and your mind if you are following a low-carb program!  Dieting is tough.  We may feel deprived, tired, cranky or all of the above.  Refeeds (or increasing your calories and carbohydrates but maintaining lower fat) can help replenish muscle glycogen (and performance), may help restore leptin levels (a hormone that helps control hunger), and can certainly have a positive effect on our mood!  Refeeds are more important as your bodyfat levels become lower (think:  losing those last 5-10 pounds).
  • Write it down:  studies show that keeping a food journal can greatly increase your chance of success.  It keeps you accountable and can be a real eye-opener if you’ve never tracked your food intake before.  This also goes for watching portion size!  Too much healthy food is still too much!

I could probably babble on, but I’ll sum it up really quickly!  Be patient, train hard, eat right, sleep well, and you’ll be sure to lose…um, win.  I mean… you’re gonna look great!

Your stomach is growling, you’re starting to get a little cranky, and you’re having a hard time concentrating…Ok, so restricting calories to lose weight/fat is not fun.  That is definitely not news!  Over the last few years, I’d like to think that I’ve gotten pretty good at it.  It certainly is a “necessary evil” when preparing for physique contests, photo shoots, or even a special occasion or vacation.  The worst part for me…HUNGER!  I don’t mind eating the same thing over and over; I don’t even mind eating my veggies.  What I do hate is being hungry.  So, I’m going to share some of my tips for controlling hunger when you’re dieting.

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  • Food timing:  I’m a firm believer in finding what works for you in terms of meal frequency.  The two most important times that you are going to want to eat is before and after training (with post-training being the most important).  With that aside, choose what will be the best for you, 3-4 larger meals spaced throughout the day or 5-6 smaller meals.  For me, I like to eat every 2-3 hours so the smaller, more frequent meal scheme works best.  It does not work for everyone though…some people find that smaller meals are not satisfying enough and are hungry all day long.  IF (intermittent fasting) has also gained popularity…so if that’s what works for you, go for it (as long as you’re getting enough nutrition during your feeding window).
  • Fiber:  Choosing foods that are higher in fiber will help fill you up faster and keep you feeling full longer.
  • Water:  Drink plenty of water always!  Aim for at least 1 gallon/day especially if you train hard.  Sometimes you may feel “hungry” but you are actually dehydrated.  A tip for helping you eat less at mealtime is to drink a large glass of water before you eat or eat foods that are high in water content (low sodium/calorie broth based soups, fruits, leafy greens, etc.).  I like to make my own soups with a quality low sodium broth.
  • Protein:  Lean protein may help prolong satiety.  Make sure you are getting some protein with each of your meals.
  • Fat:  This important macronutrient takes a bit longer to digest and can add some great flavor and texture to your foods.  Stick to the healthy ones like avocado, nuts, and nut butters (without added sugar!).  Just be sure to watch your portion sizes with fats.
  • Distraction:  Go for a walk, work on a project, clean your house…whatever it takes to get your mind off of food.  A little distraction can go a long way!
  • Gum:  One of my favorites for helping with the sweet tooth is gum.  I think I have the entire line of “dessert gums” in my cabinet.  Nothing like a stick of apple pie for dessert!
  • Tea:  Night-time can be the hardest for a lot of people on a weight-loss journey.  After dinner, a lot of folks sit down in front of the TV and start eating out of boredom.  This is the best time to sit with a nice cup of tea.  Get a variety of decaffeinated teas:  green tea, fruit teas, chamomile, or whatever else you like.  These are great to make in advance and refrigerate when you want something cold to drink other than water.  You can even mix some of the flavors with a great protein powder for a snack!  I like to use Top Secret Nutrition’s 100% Whey in Vanilla and mix it with a fruit tea.
  • Supplements:  A lot of fat-burning supplements are very popular but equally as great are the ones that help you feel full and eat less.  Top Secret Nutrition has a great line of supplements to aid in fat loss.  Some of my favorites are:  L-Carnitine with Raspberry Ketones, L-Carnitine with Green Coffee Bean Extract, Extreme Jitter Free Fat Burner, and the New Garcinia Cambogia Extract.  All of these supplements aid in appetite control.  Another one worth mentioning is the Super F.A.S Lean.  This is great for a number of reasons:  it contains glucomannan – it is a soluble fiber that can absorb large quantities of water forming “bulk” in the stomach and making you feel more full.  It contains green tea and caffeine:  two well-studied compounds that aid in fat loss and energy.  I don’t know about you, but when my calories are restricted, my energy levels drop!  You can also try sipping some BCAAs between meals.  I love TSN’s BCAA Hyperblend Energy!  It has an amazing watermelon flavor when my water is getting boring!

Being hungry is no fun for you and usually no fun for those around you!  But, when you are properly prepared and have the right attitude, you CAN accomplish anything!

The vast majority of us have been on a so-called “diet” or restrictive eating plan at some point in our lives. Whether you’re obese, just a little overweight, or planning for a vacation, physique contest, photo-shoot, or anything else, “dieting” can be, well, hard!

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For me, I go through several phases in the course of a year when either trying to build muscle, lose fat, or really cut-up for a show so the word “diet” is definitely not foreign to me. I can’t say I necessarily like the words dieting or bulking, I prefer “eating for a goal”.

Now, with summer around the corner I (like many others) am trying to trim off a few extra pounds. I do my best to stay within a reasonable weight even in the off-season, never straying too far from stage weight. With that said, this winter I decided to work on a few areas (gain muscle) and inevitably, a few extra unwanted pounds comes with that. At the beginning of this year, I completed the first phase of my fat loss successfully. I am now onto the second phase (after a short maintenance period) and beginning to restrict calories once again. I will admit, I do a lot of funny things when dieting, so I thought I’d share a short list: “I know I’m on a diet when…”

    • I become a terrible mom and won’t share my food with my kids because I’ve carefully measured every gram
    • I scrape the pan of cooked egg whites to get EVERY LAST crusty piece
    • I scramble as fast as I can to retrieve a piece of dropped food…there is NO WAY I’m throwing that out!  I’ll either blow off the dust or give it a quick rinse…
    • I stick my finger into my shaker cup to get every last drop of my Top Secret Nutrition 100% Whey shake
    • I become the queen of smelling everyone else’s food…my kids’ oreos, their bowl of pasta…you name it, I’ve sniffed it!
    • When it’s time to stir the natural peanut butter, I’ll volunteer…that means I get to lick the spoon!  Mmmm…peanut butter…
    • A cold plate of chicken and green beans actually looks appetizing
    • I start buying different flavors of “dessert gum”
    • I go to bed early because I ran out of food for the day

Ok, so I’m poking fun at myself and no, not every day is horrible.  Just like anything else, when you commit to a goal, there will be good days and bad days.  For me, remembering why I’m doing what I’m doing and the sense of accomplishment (not to mention the physique!) I gain from “eating for fat loss” helps on the days where I’m not feeling that great.  I also have some top-notch supplements in my corner from Top Secret Nutrition.  During my 1st phase of fat loss, I took the Extreme Jitter Free Fat Burner and it worked great; it gave me a little boost in energy and helped suppress my appetite without making me jittery.  This time around, I’m taking the XAT-7 for an even greater energy and metabolism boost while helping me spare my hard-earned muscle.

See you on the beach! 🙂

April is finally here and we are really getting into the swing of Spring!  The first signs of warm weather are an undeniable reminder that Summer is right around the corner.  New Year’s resolutions that may have dropped off are renewed and the “let’s get in shape for summer” mantras begin again.

I try to be pretty consistent with my diet and training throughout the year but I am also human!  I definitely allow some wiggle-room for get-togethers, holidays, and other unexpected events.  A big dinner out for mom’s birthday, all those Valentine’s chocolates and candies lying around, another dinner for my brother’s birthday, and of course the latest visit from the Easter bunny have all been temptations to fall off the wagon.  Of course I allowed myself to enjoy these opportunities with my family, but I didn’t let them get in the way of my goals.  I have now gotten a little taste of sunshine, a few of the layers of clothing are slowly coming off, and it’s full speed ahead for reaching my summer goals.

I would like to share a few things that help keep me on track with my fitness goals.  I call them my 4 P’s for SuccessPlan, Prepare, be Patient, and don’t strive for Perfection.

  • PLAN:  Here is a great place to start.  Whenever I’m asked for advice on how I stay on track, I always say you have to Plan!  Plan your meals, plan your workouts, and plan for a change of plans!   Schedule yourself a workout “appointment” and stick to it.  Realize that occasionally life gets in the way – a child gets sick, you’re stuck late at work, or whatever the potential “excuse” is for the day.  I say create a back-up plan!  There are times I’ll do my workout at 5 in the morning or 9 at night and it might not be the one I had originally scheduled, but I get it done!
  • PREPARE:  Keep your gym bag packed and ready to go at all times (either by the door or in your car) and pre-cook several meals and have them portioned out in your refrigerator.  This way you’ll have easy grab-and-go meals or something quick/healthy to eat when hunger strikes.  Keep a few healthy snacks with you when you are out so you never have to miss a meal or resort to unhealthy choices.  Sort out your supplements for the week and keep them in one of those pill boxes.  I have 2 containers; one for the morning and another for the afternoon.  All I have to do is grab the right day/time, open it up, and all of my favorite Top Secret Nutrition supplements are ready to go!  Keep a journal of your workouts:  write down all your workouts for the upcoming week so that you know exactly what you’re going to do when you hit the gym and there’s no wasted time or guesswork.
  • Be PATIENT:  Here is the tough one!  It’s easy to be gung-ho about a new plan.  The motivation is there and you’re ready to make a change.  But as the weeks go by, you may be feeling a little discouraged because you haven’t seen many changes.  Be patient, stick with your plan.  A great physique is not built in a day, a week, or even a month.  Too many people give up too soon and constantly have to “start over”.  Put a stop to that vicious cycle and just be patient!

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  • Don’t strive for PERFECTION:  There is no such thing!  There is no perfect diet, perfect training, or perfect physique.  We all have strengths and weakness and we all certainly have good and bad days.  Make the best of what you have when you have it!  It doesn’t matter if your workout got cut short or you just couldn’t resist that cupcake; put that behind you, let go of the guilt, and continue on with your PLAN!  Don’t let one or two little “slip-ups” ruin all of your hard work.  Remember, this is a lifestyle not a diet or temporary fix.

There are always bumps in the road; just keep sticking to your plan, stay prepared, be patient with yourself, accept that you are not perfect and you will be sure to see PROGRESS!