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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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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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Play - The Forgotten Asset

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Play - The Forgotten Asset

Let’s be honest here: sometimes adult life’s routines and responsibilities can get a little boring, sometimes to the point of driving us a little crazy. I’m not just saying this because I just became a dad - I’ve always felt invigorated, alive, and present when I’m deeply engaged in play. The definition of playing is “to engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose”. It’s the freedom to connect mind, body, and spirit together in either an organized or unorganized fashion - with physical activity usually involved. Adults may have a hard time balancing work, parenting, networking, etc., and thus have a hard time achieving a state of balance. Thus, we may actually need structure when we partake in physical activity, such as a personal training session. This allows us to be as efficient as possible with our use of time, on top of getting professional coaching recommendations. I firmly believe that attending a class or session is necessary as a part of our weekly physical activity/exercise routines, or else I wouldn’t be in this business. Exercise is done to improve health and fitness, and should be structured in a way such that it works toward a goal. Now, that’s something you should do two to five times per week, depending on your availability and goals. But - how about just being physically active via play just one to two times per week? I don’t want to hear that you don’t have time to play! In fact, I believe it’s a vital aspect of life. If you can’t engage in play during the week other than your time at Perform For Life (or any other fitness facility you attend), then your coaches/instructors should damn well incorporate it into the programming.

“What are some examples of play? Isn’t that what we did as children?”

Examples include joining a rec league, learning how to throw a football for the first time, or just getting your friends or family together to play kickball (or sloshball - easy on the beer, of course). These are some examples, but it can really be anything to you. My passion for play started early in childhood - I remember my parents telling me to go to outside and play and return in time for dinner. I’m not embarrassed to say that I have vivid memories of going to my backyard and playing an imaginary game of baseball, emulating my favorite players batting styles for sometimes hours at a time. In adulthood, when I begin to feel in a rut, I usually turn to play and find that part of the reason that I’m feeling the way I am is because I’m not making the time to do something in which I truly enjoy myself. If I really reflect on why it’s such a powerful resource, I believe it was always an outlet for me during stressful times from childhood and into my adult life. In some ways, there can be a powerful meditation component to it in the sense that we can be fully present and forget all of our worries. I can let loose, have fun, and truly enjoy myself. My recommendation to you is to figure out a way to do something weekly that you will not think twice about cancelling on - something you’ll stick to. As a starter, try something that involves improving a skill, whatever that may be. Just go out there and play!

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Tips For Consistency In The Gym

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Tips For Consistency In The Gym

For virtually any fitness goal, the two most influential determinants of success are hard work and consistency over time. I’d much rather see a client adhere strictly to a suboptimal program than inconsistently follow the “perfect” program for their goals. Hard work and dedication trump science-based programming every time. This blog is going to focus on tools you can use to be consistent, as I think that consistency is the single biggest obstacle for most people.

Make It A Habit

You should be exercising daily. I'm not saying this because the fact that this frequency of exercise is necessarily the best, but because it's the best way to build a habit. You need exercise to be a part of your routine - just like eating, brushing your teeth, or watching that trashy reality TV show no one knows you like.

Put It In Your Calendar

People need to respect your workouts, and this includes you. I used to do this when I trained at a box gym where membership advisors and managers would add sessions to my calendar: I blocked off the time and simply listed it as unavailable. They don't need to know what I'm doing; they just need to be aware that it's something I prioritize. As well, I found making the declaration to myself was similarly important.

Variety is Key

If you're going to follow my first suggestion, then variety is important. You shouldn't do long runs or lift weights exclusively - you need to vary the type of stress imposed upon various biological systems (most notably, but not limited to, the musculoskeletal system). You can emphasize certain types of exercise to address your goals, but unless you're a high-level athlete that has to be narrowly focused, save yourself from the overuse injuries. Most folks will also find exercise more enjoyable when variation is used appropriately.

Workout When You Travel

Travel is not an excuse to avoid exercise. You can and should do some exercise, even if it is less intense and less structured than what you do at home. This is especially true if you travel for work. If you truly want to make it a habit, then you need to really prioritize exercise, no matter where you are - that way you won't be totally ruined when emergencies like illness really do get in the way.

Train Around Injuries

You shouldn't do things that aggravate an injury, but that doesn't mean the alternative is to regress to a completely sedentary lifestyle. If you injure your knee, do exercises with the healthy leg, do more upper body exercises, or try low-impact stuff like swimming. Don't focus on what you can't do, but rather focus on what you can do. Injuries are a part of life; you just need to adapt.

Include Recreational exercise

Exercise doesn't have to mean going to the gym. At least once every few days, do something less structured. Go for a hike up to Twin Peaks, cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge, play tennis, etc. This is great way to incorporate variety, but also helps to make sure you think of exercise as fun and enjoyable.

Limit Alcohol Intake

Drinking is one of the biggest obstacles to a healthy lifestyle, and it's true on so many levels. In addition to it having direct health consequences, it also indirectly affects consistency in the gym. I bet those of you reading this have missed workouts because of hangovers or poor sleep from drinking the night before. Don't add these things to the long list of stuff that can really disrupt your gym consistency.

It's Not All Or Nothing

No one is perfect. You will miss days of exercise, even if it's a fairly ingrained habit. It happens, and it's okay. If you've ever found yourself thinking something along the lines of “well, I missed the first couple of days this week; I'll start again on Monday,” then you know what I mean by the title of this section. Something is a lot better than nothing, and mistakes do happen. Don't let something small progress into full-blown case of falling off the wagon. Don't start again Monday, start again now.

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5 Tips for A Healthy Relationship With Food

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5 Tips for A Healthy Relationship With Food

1. Less Restrictions!

Magazine headlines constantly promise that cutting a specific food or food groups out of your diet will lead to weight loss. The most important factor in weight and fat loss is caloric intake. When calories are kept in check at a slight deficit, weight loss will come. Restricting certain foods may make it easier to keep calories well beneath a surplus, but this method sparks a flood of restrictive thoughts. The ‘I can’t have that’ thought bombards your mind and fosters an unhealthy relationship with food. This can be avoided through a healthy relationship with food, keeping calories at a slight deficit, and enjoying in moderation!

2. Calibrate Your Plate

A little portion size calibration in meals can go a long way in regards to hitting your macronutrient (carbs, fats, proteins) and micronutrient (vitamins, minerals) goals! Veggies should dominate half of any given plate because they’re the most nutrient-dense foods. Protein is up next at about a quarter of your plate, with fats and starches splitting the last quarter of the plate. This rough set-up can help guide meal planning and prepping, making it easy to hit your daily macro- and micronutrient goals.

3. The 80/20 Rule

Although this is used as a business principle, the 80/20 rule also applies to nutrition. Restrictive diets lead to unhealthy relationships with food, so the 80/20 rule exists to help those who don’t want to - or can’t - put too much time into their nutrition, but still want to stay on a path to a leaner build. The 80/20 rule suggests that 80% of the foods you eat are whole, healthy, and clean foods, while the other 20% may be ‘fun’ foods. So, if you eat five portioned meals, 4 out of 5 of them should be comprised of whole foods, while the other meal can be a small splurge. For someone who doesn’t want to constantly worry about the foods they’re eating, this simple tip may be a very helpful reminder!

4. Eat Half, Take Half

The large portions of many restaurants are usually around two servings, so why not save one?These servings make it more than easy to overshoot calorie goals. The ‘eat half, take half’ tip helps with portion control by suggesting that if the serving size from the restaurant is too large (usually more than 1.5 servings), eat half of the meal - then take the other half home. This tip can be extremely helpful if your favorite restaurant loves to serve up large meals, or if you need a little extra help with portion control in general.

5. Track Liquid Calories

While nutrition trackers are great at keeping calories in check, we can’t forget to track liquid calories when we log food! Drinks like tea and black coffee have less than five calories per serving, so these don’t need to be tracked nearly as closely as other drinks. However, blended coffee drinks, creamer, milk teas, soft drinks, and juices may have a significant effect on calorie consumption. Blended coffee drinks can have upwards of 300 calories, so if you get one three times a week, you could be 3,600 calories in surplus by the end of the month. These drinks don’t need to completely avoided, but should be tracked as a part of your daily nutrition - or counted toward the 20% of your 80/20 split.

Try any one or a combination of these tips, and see which one is best suited to you and your lifestyle. Make sure its sustainable, and if it is, stick to it!

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