Dieting Is Budgeting

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Dieting Is Budgeting

I was recently discussing the topic of nutrition and fat loss with a client and came up with a simple analogy to explain the process: dieting is budgeting. Since budgeting is a skill that a lot of us have already, I thought that this would be a valuable analogy to allow for the reappropriation of that existing skillset. A good analogy is a great way to reframe the way you think about something, and being in the right mindset to approach a process is important to set yourself up for success. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this analogy holds up well when explaining a number of important dieting concepts - let’s explore this a bit further.

First, let's start with the basics. Your calorie expenditure is like your income, and your calorie consumption is like your is like your monetary expenditures. What happens when you spend more money than you make? You accumulate debt; in this analogy, debt’s the same thing as body fat. It also tends to accumulate slowly over time, eventually becoming an insidious problem. One day your debt can suddenly feel insurmountable, just like one day realizing how much fat you’ve gained. Debt is hard to pay off all at once - you need to make sure you’re still allocating enough money for bills, food, and other basic needs. Similarly, it’s not a good idea to crash diet too hard. You need to make sure you’re ingesting enough food to meet your micronutritional needs (vitamins, minerals, etc). Ultimately though, you need to create a surplus and start paying down your debt - that is, you still have to eat at a caloric deficit to drop fat.

With that idea in place, how can you reframe your approach to dieting to actually kick start a successful fat loss diet? Think of it like this: with budgeting, you can’t make money magically appear out of thin air. So, when you increased expenditures in one area, you have to reduce expenditures in another area; you can take this same approach to eating. If you have a really heavy meal (aka splurge on a big expense), then that’s okay, but you’ll have to cut your budget elsewhere. Otherwise you’re going to “overspend” and go into “debt,” which, again, means that you’re going to add fat. Most people choose to balance this out on a daily basis, but you could certainly also do it over the course of a few days or a week. So, if your overeat one day, you can cut extra calories the next day, or something of the sort.

Alternatively, as a means of budgeting, you can increase your income with some other revenue stream like a second job - this job is exercise. If you want to be able to spend more money, you need make more money. If you want to be able to eat more, you need to expend more. However, I caution taking this to an extreme; it’s much easier (from a time investment standpoint) to cut spending than it is to get a second job. It’s also much easier to eat less food than it is to try and exercise away a bad diet. As I’ve said many times before, you accomplish the same thing by running three miles as you do by skipping out on eating a plain bagel.

Another component of this analogy is the idea of a passive revenue stream. Everyone loves making money with an upfront investment that really pays off in the long run. This equates to building muscle mass, and is why I advocate prioritizing resistance training over other forms of exercise for fat loss. When you build muscle mass, it increases the amount of calories you expend both at rest and during exercise - it’s like a multiplier to energy expenditure for everything you do. Ideally, you layer exercise that mostly just accomplishes energy expenditure on top of this, but the muscle mass itself will do quite a bit on its own.

So, let’s summarize:

  • Calorie intake is like money you spend

  • Energy expenditure is like your income

  • Debt accumulation is like fat accumulation

    • To pay down debt, you need to make more money than you spend; to lose body fat, you need to expend more calories than you consume

  • You can cut expenditures or you can increase income (balance your budget from either or a combination of both); you can reduce calorie intake or you can exercise more (balance your energy budget from either or a combination of both)

  • Passive revenue is like muscle mass

Try to take these concepts and use them the next time you’re making decisions about what to eat, how much to exercise, and how to balance these aspects of your health and well-being. Good luck!

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How Often Should I Lift?

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How Often Should I Lift?

An extremely common goal of people that exercise seriously and consistently is to increase their muscle size and strength. There’s a number of factors that help determine how well someone may be able to achieve this, including genetics, intensity of exercise, training status, testosterone levels, and nutritional supplementation. All of these factors play a part in muscular adaptation, but one of the most important variables is the frequency of the stimulus - that is, how often you exercise a muscle group.

Generally, our muscles adapt to the stimulus that is imposed during the workout. The graph below demonstrates the General Adaptation Syndrome and provides a visual of how our muscles adapt to exercise.

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After an intense workout, there’s first an alarm phase, which happens one to two hours after the exercise. In this phase, the muscle decreases in performance because of fatigue and the muscular damage caused by a workout. The alarm stage is followed by the resistance phase and the subsequent supercompensation. This supercompensation - an increase in muscular performance from baseline - occurs given adequate rest and nutrition (yet another reason to eat healthy and get enough sleep). The last phase of the cycle is the exhaustion phase, in which performance begins to drop due to a lack of further stimulation. So, the key to building muscle and maintaining this increased muscle mass is to stimulate the muscle group again (via working out) after the supercompensation phase, but before the drop-off of the exhaustion phase. If this is done consistently, the performance of the muscle will increase, resulting in the muscle becoming stronger and larger. If we fail to stimulate a specific muscle group quickly enough, though, after the supercompensation phase, we’ll miss out on the performance improvements.

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Above is a graph that shows subsequent stimuli after supercompensation phases. Before the decrease in performance during the exhaustion phase, another stimulus is provided, followed by another supercompensation phase. Keeping this cycle consistent will lead to an increase in performance, strength, and size of a muscle.

So, how often should we exercise a specific muscle group? The research says that we should have around 48-72 hours between stimuli. This time period allows for recovery, but not too much recovery to the point of performance decreasing. A good strategy, and perhaps one of the most attainable for the busy professional, is to do full-body workouts three times per week. During these workouts, a squat pattern, a lower-body hinge pattern (deadlift), a push pattern, and a pull (a row or pulldown) should be done with the proper intensity, rest intervals, and amount of repetitions - and don’t forget to finish off with a core exercise!

Remember, performance (and a continued increase in performance) is the key indicator to looking better, maintaining good health through exercise, and to continued improvement and progress both in and outside of the gym.

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Dieting and Weight Loss

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Dieting and Weight Loss

One of the first things that people ask me when I tell them that I’m a strength and conditioning coach is “what diet should I do to lose weight?” Recent social media trends have made people more aware of the different diets out there, ranging from vegan, to paleo, to keto. All of this emerging information on dietary restrictions and regimens is good because the prolific posts tend to help people become much more informed about nutrition in general. However, they also leave a large majority of consumers confused about which diet reigns supreme.

The diet that’ll lead to your weight loss is the one that works for you. A diet shouldn’t be looked at as purely a constraint used to lose weight - diet is defined as the foods that a person or community habitually eats. Simply put, a diet that works for you may differ greatly from the person next to you.

A successful diet or nutrition plan is one that puts you at a slight caloric deficit and maintains enough protein intake so as to maintain as much muscle mass as possible. A slight caloric deficit should be around a 15-20% reduction in calories from the caloric intake needed to maintain your current weight. Your goal calories for maintenance can be found via our InBody body composition analysis or a DEXA scan - both of these tests will show your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is how many calories your body burns at total rest. An example: if my BMR was 2000 calories, my body would burn 2000 calories in 24 hours if I laid in bed and didn’t move an inch for said 24 hours. To get your maintenance calories, add in how many calories you burn daily from walking around, working out, and doing other day-to-day tasks. An Apple Watch or FitBit can estimate how many extra calories you burn daily. If you don’t have some type of watch or device to track this, 300-400 calories is a decent enough estimate for the typical San Franciscan for ‘active’ calories. Normally, protein intake is recommended to be at around 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight, fats at ~30% of total calories, with carbs filling in the gap in calories. To begin planning your macros, weigh yourself and divide that number by 2.2 to get your weight in kilograms. Then, multiply that number by 1.5 to determine how many grams of protein you’ll need. To find your calories that come from fat, multiply your goal calories by 0.3. To convert calories of fat to grams of fat, divide that number by nine since there are nine calories per one gram of fat.

Study upon study has shown that when dieting for weight loss, a slight caloric deficit and sufficient protein intake elicit the best results. Multiple studies have altered the number of calories which come from fats and carbs - while maintaining protein intake and a slight caloric deficit - and the comparison between groups determined that the ratios of carbs to fat doesn’t play a significant role in weight loss. This isn’t to say that you can only eat fats and protein or carbs and protein to bring about weight loss, though. Carbs serve as our body’s main fuel source for the various energy systems in the body, and fats work to regulate hormone balances and neuronal activity in the body. So, it’s very important that when planning your macronutrient breakdown, you don’t leave one or the other out of your daily intake.

To put this all more simply, dieting for weight loss is like a cup of water. If you pour too much water in the cup, it overflows and spills. Think of the water spillage as extra calories that get stored as fat. If you fill the cup to the brim, you’ll be at maintenance. If you leave a couple of inches of space of the cup unfilled, you’ll be at a slight deficit.

With an efficient and correctly prescribed exercise program, attention to your macros, and consistency, the odds are very much in your favor that you will lose weight. Make sure to make small sustainable changes to your daily routine so that these changes aren’t lost after a couple of weeks. Throwing yourself into the deep end of dieting will not be sustainable in the long-term, so go with small behavioral changes for the best results!

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Set The Tone With Your Music Playlist

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Set The Tone With Your Music Playlist

Whether you’re in your favorite restaurant or in the elevator at the office, music always sets the tone. Today we can access millions of songs from our electronic devices. Songs are so easily accessible that I don’t believe we put enough thought into how the type of music that we listen to can affect our mindset. With this in mind, I want to speak on the important factors to consider before choosing the playlist you’ll need to kill your workout.

The Optimal Functioning Theory states that different people perform best with differing levels of arousal. When applying this to music and working out, we’ve got to figure out the beats per minute (bpm) we need to hear during a workout, as our bodies synchronously adjust to tempo. If your day’s been dull and you’ve been going through the motions, almost robotically, I’d recommend an uptempo playlist with every song north of 150 bpm. Conversely, if your day’s been stressful and you’re one email away from losing your mind, leave the office for the day and put on a more mellow playlist to soothe your nerves and adjust your focus (I recommend acoustics or any instrumental beats).

How can we self-motivate to lift heavier and run faster? You may be able to trick yourself into making a difficult task much more tolerable, and the answer may be in the music. On a scale of 1-10, lower your hardest workout from a perceived score of 9-10 to a 7-8 simply by allowing the music to set the tone. Embrace the hard work - doing so will improve your body in multiple facets. Adaptations in the body are specific to the intensity of the training session. Higher exercise intensity will increase skeletal muscle adaptations, cardiovascular function, and improve respiratory function, which will optimize oxygen delivery to working muscles.

Now that you’ve optimized your arousal and reduced your perceived exertion level, it’s time to create your own music playlist. Don’t choose songs that’ll get you through the workout; select the songs that will help you break your personal record. Choose a song, genre, or sound you believe resonates best with you. Studies have shown that when listening to music, your brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain linked to reward and motivation. Try choosing the songs that are more relevant to your upbringing, culture, or current state of mind. If rhythm and beats aren’t enough, lyrics can act as a catalyst, as well. Get lost in your favorite wordsmith’s rap lyrics or emotionally connect with the words of your favorite singer... it’s really all up to you.

Leave with this: take a little more time to think about the music you choose to listen to, and make a soundtrack for workouts and for life.  Don’t let my playlist rant be an end all, be all scenario - just have fun with it and find out what works best for you. Try adding a new song to the playlist before every workout and count how many songs you’ve added throughout the year.

#Pro-tip: The people you surround yourself with will more than likely have similar views and life experiences. For this reason, tell your trainer, friends, coworkers, and associates to share their playlists and steal their music. Thank me later.



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The Principles of Training - and Why Consistency Is Key

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The Principles of Training - and Why Consistency Is Key

Our bodies, as with all organisms, adapt specifically to the demands which we impose. Within all forms of training, we cannot expect to see results without proper stimulus. A training stimulus to the body is perceived as stress, and how we adapt to that stress will define our capacity to improve and become more physically fit. It is critical for all of us to understand the governing principles of training so that we can optimize our sessions and reach our fitness goals.  Here are the fundamental principles to be considered:

Individuality

Each and every one of us will respond differently to training. Some of us will adapt better to higher volumes of training, whereas others may respond better to higher intensities. This is based mostly on physiological characteristics, including genetic ability, predominance of muscle fiber types, and stress.

Specificity

Improving your capacity for strength or overall fitness can become very specific. For example, if an athlete wants to improve sprint speed, they must sprint about 98% of their maximum to eventually enhance speed. Furthermore, if your fitness goal is to improve strength, at least 85% of your maximum capacity must be lifted to recruit the muscle fibers responsible for strength gains.

Progression / Overload

In order to facilitate progression, an athlete must continuously overload the body to impose greater demands than before. To increase strength or endurance, an increase in intensity or volume is necessary to maintain muscular adaptations.

Reversibility

The worst principle of them all…if you don’t use it, you lose it. When we take vacations or breaks from training, we are unfortunately subjected to this principle.  On a good note, strength can be maintained for 7-9 days with 1 intense training session.

The principles of specificity, overload, adaptation, and reversibility are why training frequently and consistently are critical to reach your fitness goals - missed sessions are lost opportunities for improvement. Based on these principles and the human body’s ability to adapt to exercise (general adaptation syndrome), reaching your goals is product of consistency. Understanding the principles of training will allow you to optimize your training, along with giving a better understanding of how to achieve success. Life is all about progress, and progress is made through consistency. Day by day, let’s all strive to get better, until the day comes that our goals have been achieved.

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