100 simple and easy ways to stay healthy in 2018

Because I (impulsively) felt compelled…

Here’s a list of 100 small things you can do to stay healthy in 2018 –

Stay hydrated:

1. Drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up

2. Invest in a water filter

3. Add flavor to your pitcher – something without calories

4. Use an app to track how much water you’re drinking

5. Keep a gallon nearby – get your bro on

6. Consume more water-rich foods (plenty of veggies)

7. Use a marked water bottle

8. Get your La Croix on, or any type of carbonated water brand

9. Sip some water before each meal

10. Drink a glass after every bathroom break

11. Set alarms on your phone to get up and drink some water

Sleep well, and often:

12. Resist the snooze button (it’s not high quality sleep when you hit the snooze button)

13. Set an alarm to go to bed

14. Avoid drinking alcohol before bed

15. Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible, invest in blackout curtains

16. Maintain a cool temp (67-69 degrees if possible)

17. Cut off the caffeine consumption by early afternoon

18. Avoid screens for at least a half an hour before bed, eliminate the artificial light

19. Exercising regularly will help you maintain a healthy sleep schedule

20. Avoid eating right before bed

21. Cut out all of the noise, unless you sleep with a fan, in which case, white noise is your friend

22. Keep your pets out of bed, unless they’re very polite and exist in the same spot, as not to disturb your slumber time

23. Make sure your mattress and bedding aren’t abusing you

24. Keep a consistent sleep schedule – wake up at the same time, go to bed at the same time

25. Yoga and meditation before bed can prime you for restful sleep

26. Deep breathing can help prime you for sleep, as well

27. Hot showers/baths before bed

28. Take Melatonin an hour before bed

29. Invest in a comfy, non-obtrusive sleep mask

30. Journal before bed, specifically what’s bugging you

31. Avoid excessive liquid intake before bed

32. Invest in a brand new pillow

Get introspective/mindful:

33. Consider seeing a therapist as a means to talk through your life issues–it will translate and transfer itself to other facets of life, making you an overall healthier person mentally and physically

34. Consider journaling in the morning to get your thoughts out–you can practice gratitude journaling, you can “brain-dump” your thoughts out, or you can simply write down 3 things you hope to get done by the end of the day

35. Read books that challenge and empower you, as this will translate to peace of mind and ultimately, a healthier mind/body

Make exercise easy:

36. Establish some realistic, and specific goals, and attach timelines to them

37. Keep your workout clothes/shoes somewhere in your line of sight, and somewhere you can grab them easily (car, next to your bed)

38. Get a workout partner, hold them accountable and make sure they do the same

39. Hire a professional – skin in the game + expertise = accountability

40. Make a bet with a coworker

41. Walk outside whenever you get the chance.

42. Set a concrete workout time throughout the week and stick to it – set alarms in your phone if you have to – example: Mon/Wed/Fri at 7:00am-8:00 non-negotiable

43. Ask your HR department for some information regarding incentives to stay healthy and active – you could get paid to work out

44. Make some bomb-ass playlists on Spotify to work out to

45. Buy a FitBit, and count your steps

46. Gamify your workouts by using apps

47. Think of something active you can do while watching TV

48. Introduce yourself to some podcasts that you can listen to while working out – if they’re inspirational or empowering, double score

49. Keep your gym bag stocked and in your trunk

50. Don’t end the workday unless you’ve worked out – think of it like this: you don’t get paid if you don’t work out

51. Go into the gym with the expectation that you’ll just be walking for 3 minutes, everything after that is bonus – we do more once we actually make it to the gym

52. Trick your brain, it’s not that smart

53. Put a few bucks in a jar every time you exercise, at the end of the year, go on a mini-vacay or buy yourself something fancy

54. Re-examine how you view pain – pain is great in the right context – without pain, there can be no growth

55. Drink a glorious cup of coffee before working out – caffeine can be very beneficial before exercising

56. Exercise when it feels right for YOU – ask yourself, “what would this look like, if it were easy?”

57. Try yoga – free workouts on YouTube

58. Try group classes – many can be fun, and if you like the idea of working out with other people, there’s a possibility of community and accountability

59. Think of fun incentives for completing workouts

60. Think of it as self-care, because it is

61. Set alarms to get up and walk around if you have a particularly sedentary job

62. Go for a hike

63. Work out in the yard, or the garden, or play sports with your friends

64. Avoid comparing yourself to others – become a better version of yourself and cut the comparisons

65. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a workout, just get back on the horse asap

66. Take the stairs

67. Park far away from your destination

68. Remind yourself to enjoy the process – we’re all a work in progress

69. Do some active stretching/mobility work while you’re waiting for your coffee to brew in the morning

Make eating well easy:

70. Pick 5 sources of healthy protein, carbs and fats, and consume those foods 5-6 days a week

71. Prep your food for the week on the weekends

72. Prep ONLY your protein for the week on the weekends so you always have it available

73. Make a smoothie as a healthy snack: Protein powder, frozen fruit, water or almond milk, ice, a tiny bit of natural peanut butter, and pinch of oats and you’re good

74. Drinking water before and during meal time will help you feel more full and satiated

75. Keep your meals during the week as simple and easy to prepare as possible – convoluted recipes will be the death of your healthy eating

76. Avoid waiting until the end of the day to get most of your food – fast food after work needs to be a last resort

77. Incorporate mindful eating – pause before eating – pinpoint your “trigger” foods/drinks, the kinds of food and or drinks that influence you to consume more of the unhealthier food items

78. Limit alcohol – try drinking 1 day a week, or try cutting it completely

79. Use a meal prep service – many are affordable, and many are completely customizable – they can even prepare your food according to your macronutrient ratios

80. Make a grocery list and stick to it – don’t go to the grocery store hungry

81. Hire a professional to be your nutritional adviser

82. Buy in bulk – divide in portions

83. Tupperware can be your friend

84. Avoid eating out during the week

85. Use a smaller plate – science has backed this one

86. Opt for frozen over canned

87. Pace your meal time – slow down and you’ll more than likely consume less

88. Don’t buy crap in large quantities – if you’re going to have a cheat day in the week, buy crap at the gas station in single-serving portions and consume it that day – you’re much less likely to consume crap during the week if you don’t have it

89. Eat all the greens you want – massive salad adventures

90. Choose whole grains – they’ll help you feel more satiated

91. Avoid fat-free items – they add more carbs, so the calorie amount stays the same

92. Avoid sweetened drinks – avoid drinking calories

93. Prepare some healthy snacks that are easy to transport – example: apple and almond butter

94. Pack a protein bar, if you have to – Okay, so not optimal, but if the alternative is a candy bar, a protein bar is a far better option

95. Buy veggies pre-chopped and throw them in the skillet

96. Invest in an Instant Pot, or another crockpot and search the interwebs for some simple and healthy recipes

97. Eat the same thing 5-6 days a week – find out YOUR magic food amount for the ideal busy day and stick to it

98. Use MyFitnessPal to track your food intake

99. Avoid using your work’s fridge if it’s filled with crap

100. Expand your food horizons and explore some healthier items you’ve never had – you can cook with your significant other, try new things, and hopefully add to your healthy meal repertoire

If you have some more that you didn’t see on the list, I would love to see some ideas in the comments.

Cheers! Happy first month of 2018.

Movement Motivation

Do you ever have those days, where you just can’t find the motivation to do anything?

I do.  We all do.  I can’t get off the couch.  I have no energy.  I have no drive.

Sometimes, I just don’t feel it.  I don’t feel like working out.  I don’t feel like eating my pre-scheduled meal.  I don’t feel like drinking an adequate amount of water.  I don’t feel like getting off my butt.

I’m grateful for these moments.  I have worked hard to become self-aware enough to know when they’re coming on.  I have learned to challenge these thoughts, and challenge their lack of deliberate action.

It has taken time, and patience with myself while I figure out how to fight against the temptation of not doing anything.
I know that when I feel a complete lack of motivation, I must plunge into purposeful action.

I must propel myself into a state of total excitement.  I must implement effort and exertion.

This is how I have to work out, even on the days when I don’t feel like it.

I work out with purposeful action, with excitement, with effort and exertion.

It’s time to start getting real.  It’s time that you start being completely honest with yourself.   It’s time that you stop letting yourself off the hook so easily.   It’s time to start answering tough questions.

“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” – Jim Rohn

Time is going to move regardless.  Do you want to let 6 months go by without even starting?  Or do you want to look back at the 6 months behind, and be thankful you started?  You will not regret doing something healthy for yourself.

I will not regret exercising.  I will not regret choosing to not eat that piece of cake after I’m already feeling full.  I will not regret taking time to recharge and rest.  I will not regret taking a few moments to plan ahead to make it all work.

Exercising and living a healthy life is the ultimate form of self-care.

I’ll never take it for granted.

I know the power of it now.

Maybe it’s time that you start doing good things for yourself.  Maybe it’s time you implement some self-care that isn’t easy.  Learn to delay instant gratification.

Instant gratification robs us.  It cheats us.

Instant gratification leaves us feeling empty, hollow, worthless and weak.  You don’t build muscle by sucking in your gut to take a fake selfie to post online for some false compliments based on a lie.

Delaying gratification gives us control, satisfaction, and a sense of accomplishment.

Don’t cheat yourself.  Don’t cheat your goals and aspirations.

Staying motivated to keeping your health a priority is crucial.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Why am I doing this? 
Why do I want to change my body composition?

Take a moment, and really think about why it is you want to do this.

Come up with as many reasons as you possibly can.  Be very honest with yourself.  Write down the answers – in depth.  Let your thoughts spill out onto the page.

When you binge on junk food for a quick fix, do you feel good about it? 
When you neglect getting a workout in, do you feel good about it? 
When you don’t make taking care of yourself a priority, do you feel good about it?

There will be times during this process that you may lack motivation.

Procrastination will rear its ugly head and you’ll stop moving.  You may wake up in a slump.  We have all been there.  Occasionally, you’re not going to want to drag your butt to the gym.

Netflix is right there, the remote even within reach, and leftover cake is sitting in the fridge.
But no matter how good you are at binge-watching “Stranger Things”, you are going to have to find the moments where you can fight it.

There are some things that you’ll want to remember and think about during these times:

It’s all about perspective.

Shift your thinking from someone who exercises occasionally to someone exercises regularly.  If people were to ask you to describe yourself, you could honestly tell them that you exercise and take care of yourself.

It’s what you do.  You don’t love it or hate it.  You do it.  Period.

This idea needs to become part of your identity, if it’s going to stick.  You are letting yourself down if you choose to skip a workout. You are slowing progress when you choose chips and dip instead of some healthy form of protein.  You are losing momentum when you don’t keep fighting to care for yourself.

Perhaps you have children.  Think about the example you’re setting for them.  Do you want them to be physically active and healthy?  Do you want them to grow up thinking it’s okay to avoid doing something, just because it may not be easy?  These thoughts should drive your behavior and motivate you to set a good example.

You have value to the people around you.  You are worth the effort of showing up for yourself.

Schedule a Regular Workout Time

Some of the most committed exercisers have a routine that they stick to – every day.  Some people do it as soon as they wake up.  Some people do it immediately after work.  It’s worth noting that people who exercise in the morning have more energy, and are much more alert for the duration of the day.  When you have a specific time of day that you exercise, it becomes a part of you.  It becomes as routine as brushing your teeth.

Psych Yourself Up

Watch a motivational video on YouTube.com.  Listen to inspirational music.  Listen to heavy music.  Jump up and down.  Splash cold water in your face.  Scream your mantra!

Do whatever you have to do to psych yourself up, and then get out the door.

Reach Out To Someone

Consider asking a friend to be your workout partner on certain days.  Having someone waiting for you at the gym is one of the most motivating ways you can positively change your environment.

You may engage in friendly competition with your workout partner.  It’s more fun if you’re trying to beat each other during sprints, get in more reps, or have better form with a deeper squat.  Push each other forward.

Plus, you get a spotter!  Just be sure to stay off of your cell phone when your buddy has 200 lbs over his/her face.

Remind Yourself Why You’re Doing It

Think about why you started.  Look at your goals.

Think about how not having the body you desire makes you feel.  Imagine how it will feel to create the body you desire.  Think of all the people who are rooting for you.

Think about all the people who told you that you couldn’t do it.  Think about all the times you told yourself you couldn’t do it.  Let the need to prove them, and yourself, wrong become a positive motivator.

Remind yourself why you started and then re-commit to keep going.  And then get the hell after it.

Time Well Spent – In the Gym

Time is the one non-renewable resource we have. This makes it the most valuable thing we have at our disposal!

Because time is limited – it’s very important we spend it wisely.  The gym is no different.  We want to get the most out of the extremely valuable and precious time we spend working out.

Be effective and not just efficient

Make a to-do list. Find a way to make it your own. Whether it’s a journal, a checklist on your phone, or several sticky notes strewn across your wall.

to-do-listLists can be a great time management tool, as having all of your tasks written down can keep you focused. For me, checking things off of my to-do list is one of the most satisfying and cathartic parts of my day!

When I make a list of things to do, I’m going to prioritize the list, putting the most important things at the top. I’d rather avoid doing a ton of unnecessary busy work just to prove I can get a lot of things done.

I see a lot of people doing excessive isolation movements in the gym.  Bicep curls, tricep extensions, leg extensions, abdominal crunches for days! Isolation movements have their time and place, but you want to prioritize your workouts and focus on compound movements first.

Compound exercises involve working many different muscle groups throughout the lift. Compound Movements include Deadlifts, Squats, Bench Press, Overhead Press, Pull Ups, Rows, Lunges, and Planks.

Prioritizing ensures that I’m tackling the most important and necessary lifts first.

Example:  Instead of performing 12 sets of varied bicep curls, do 6 sets of strict chin ups.  You won’t just be isolating the bicep muscles.  You’ll be hitting the biceps, the forearms, the back, and the core.  Compound movements are going to make you stronger, faster.

If I don’t prioritize, everything seems urgent and important.  It’s easy to fall in the efficiency trap.

I can do 10 small things that may or may not be critical in the grand scheme of my day/week. Or, I can prioritize and do a few very important things that I may be avoiding. In one of his many brilliant blogs regarding time management, Tim Ferriss says “What you do is more important than how you do everything else, and doing something well doesn’t necessarily make it important.”

Plan your day in advance

Consider writing out a list at the beginning of each day, or right before you begin your workout.  Ask yourself a couple of questions:

• “If I only perform these exercises today, will I get a great workout?”

• “Will performing these exercises help me reach my desired outcome?”

I like to literally plan out each hour of my day, if I can.  This is where my neurotic qualities really shine. For me, sticking to a plan helps me stay focused and feel a great sense of accomplishment.

At the very least, starting to do this with your workout time will help make those moments the most effective possible! It doesn’t have to be complicated.  Keep it simple.  It could be something as simple as:  Monday is leg day.  You might have a specific body part (or parts) that you work on specific days of the week. Don’t to go into the gym and say you’re going to play it by ear.  Don’t guess.  Have a plan.skipped leg dayYou want to follow an appropriately balanced training program.  This requires a little forethought.  A balanced program will ensure that you’re not neglecting certain body parts/muscle groups.  This will also ensure you’re not favoring any body parts/muscle groups, which we all have a tendency to do.

We all know that guy who only does arms and chest.  He’s going to have a major problem down the line, if he keeps it up.  Internal rotation of the shoulders, tight pectoral muscles, and chronic back pain are only a few of the symptoms of favoring “mirror muscles.” Plus, he’s the guy on the meme that forgot about leg day.

Avoid “multi-tasking”

Occasionally, while training a client, I’ll overhear someone conducting a meeting out on the floor of the gym.  They pace back and forth as they shout in to their headphones. Having a conversation on the phone while simultaneously performing some not-so-intense cardio work.

Don’t be this guy.

Are you working out, or are you securing a new client? Pick one.  If you’re in the gym, you should be working out.

Divided attention leads to poor progress.  You can’t build and sustain muscle while blabbing to your best friend about how much you hate your boss. Not to mention, it’s poor gym etiquette to hog a machine, accomplishing nothing but liking the last 30 Instagram posts or Facebook stalking your ex.

Multitasking is less productive than doing a single task at a time.  We’re never actually doing 2 things at once, just bouncing back and forth.  Our brain is only capable of focusing on one thing at a time.  Research has shown that multitasking reduces efficiency and performance.  Research also shows that, in addition to slowing you down, trying to do many things at once lowers your IQ.  Instead, it’s better to practice singular focus, and do one task at a time.

If you’re going to work out, then work out.  Get in there, work hard, get it done, and go home. Make it worth your time.

Avoid distractions

If you’re like me, and you’re hypnotized by any television screen within your line of sight, try to avoid it.  Even at the bank, I find myself looking at the television while waiting in line.  I hate it. Most gyms are filled with tv screens.

It may be cable news screaming sensational headlines in the hopes of distracting you every 5 minutes, or it may be ESPN recapping all the latest sports drama.  Resist the urge to watch, resist the temptation. They will cause you to take incredibly long and unnecessary rest periods, and this will destroy your progress.workout clothes readyMusic is great because it’s not a distraction.  The right music might help drive and motivate you. I only listen to music while working out.  It keeps my workouts intense.  I like it loud, and heavy. Sometimes, music in your headphones can simply drown out all of the environmental noise that you’re going to hear in any busy gym (weight’s clanging, big dudes grunting, etc.).

You need your time, and you have a limited supply. Don’t waste it. Be conscientious about how you spend your time in the gym. In fact, these principles can be applied to any worthwhile endeavor in life.  Quality time with your family, how you spend your time in the office, what you do with the little free time you have.

Your time is a valuable and precious commodity. Use it well.

Prepping Your Plate

I thrive on rituals.

My habit loops are powerful.

Daily, weekly, monthly – My habits ensure I live a healthy, productive life.

Without them, my life would be, and has been, chaotic at best.

It is necessary for me to form eating rituals.  It is necessary for me to create a daily meal plan.

I’m taking preventative measures.  I’m being proactive. I’m being strategic and intentional.

Healthy moments create healthy habits.

Make this easy on yourself. I don’t want you to stress out over this.

Create short-cuts with the food you’re eating. 

Figure out a meal plan, and then prep your meals for the week.  You don’t have to prep everything ahead of time, but you can prep certain things.  Make 2 or 3 protein shakes and keep them in your fridge.

Always have a piece of fruit with you.

Buy things that you can throw on the stove together, and that don’t require a lot of cook time.  Prepare a majority of your protein at one time, so you have some available.

Once you get the routine of your meal plan down, it’s going to take the thought process and stress out of it.  Come up with multiple meal plans that fit your macronutrient profile and cycle through them, so you’re not eating the same thing every day.

The price I pay as I mull over the endless options of what to eat, and where to eat, or what to cook (and do I have the ingredients necessary), are not weighing on my already overtaxed mind.

I just know.

Grocery Store

shopping basket of healthy things

Trust me when I say, this saves me time in the grocery store; I’m in and out in less than 5 minutes.  This also saves me money, as I don’t buy unnecessary food items.  I won’t purchase fruits and vegetables that will ultimately go bad.  I won’t buy junk that I’ll eat in times of desperate hunger and craving.

I buy exactly what I need.  It’s all according to the plan.  My control freak mind is satiated every time every time I walk up to the checkout counter.

Personally, I eat the same thing 5 or 6 days a week.  You don’t have to do it that way; you can plan for variety in your meal planning (I’d recommend it).  Eating the same thing all the time works for me, I realize it may not work for everyone else.  But, I don’t have to worry about food anymore.  Food is in the control column of my life, and that’s a liberating feeling.

Regardless of what meal plan you venture into the isles with, keep these things in mind:

Go with a list.

It keeps you on track and makes sure you don’t buy unnecessary crap.

Don’t go hungry.

That’s when the bag of marshmallow cereal actually looks appetizing.

Avoid the middle isles.

This is where you find the most prepackaged food

There are no magic food items for weight loss.

I want you to get away from the idea that there are “good” foods, and “bad” foods.  There really aren’t any “weight loss” foods, just food items that have high calories, and low calories.  They may be more nutrient dense, or lower in nutrient value.

You do not need to eat “fat-free” food items 

Reduced fat, or “fat-free” food items might have less calories than their counterpart items with the “fat-full” amount.  But many of these items have just as many calories, if not more so.  These “fat-free” or “low-fat” food items may have added sugar, starch or flour thickeners that are meant to improve flavor after the fat has been removed.

 Don’t worry about purchasing “organic” items exclusively.

Inspect any packaged food items before you purchase.  If they contain extra preservatives, additives, sugars, or unhealthy fats/carbs, reconsider buying.

Consider digestion. 

A healthy digestive track is important. Get at least 1 or 2 fruits in your daily dietary pattern (in between meals, and not with meals), as well as at least one green vegetable with your biggest meal.  Eat food items with insoluble and soluble fiber.

Condiments

A healthy, low calorie meal can turn into a calorically dense meal quickly depending on the amount of stuff you drizzle on top of it.

Ketchup, barbeque sauce, honey mustard, buffalo sauce, and many salad dressings are loaded with calories and sugar.

Swap mayonnaise for mustard, guacamole, hummus, or salsa.  You’ll conserve daily calories, and you might even discover that you enjoy the healthy alternative more than what you were previously eating.

Some other condiments that are very low in calories are:  Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, Horseradish Sauce, Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing, Tabasco, Worcestershire Sauce, Wasabi, and Sriracha.

Spice it Up.

Experiment with an array of herbs and spices that will make your food taste delicious.  Spices also have thermogenic effects associated with them, which will help you burn more fat.

Re-feed/Cheat Days

It’s also worth noting that I haven’t taken out the spontaneity of eating altogether, either.  Once or twice a week, I’ll go to a restaurant, or I’ll get some take out.  I’ll eat some “sleazy” food, as I like to call it.  And I enjoy THE HELL OUT OF IT.  No guilt, no shame, no crippling self-hatred.  NOT ONE BIT!  I eat it, and love it.

I appreciate food more than I ever have.

Periodically, during any type of meal plan that requires a caloric deficit, you’re going to need to increase your leptin levels and balance out your hormonal profile. Leptin is a very important and influential hormone that is produced by fat cells.  Along with many other functions, leptin plays a significant role in regulating food intake, hunger and energy expenditure.

Any time you go on a “diet” or meal plan, you will be restricting yourself of foods that you once ate on a regular basis; this will cause your leptin levels to decrease.  This is going to cause you to crave the foods that you once ate.

Keep in mind that this is your body responding to a physiological trigger, and not just a struggle of willpower. You aren’t broken or failing. Your brain is wired to react this way and you will have to retrain it. That takes time.

Something you must take into account if you’re going to start any type of meal plan is that you when leptin levels go down, so will your metabolism. Whenever you are on a calorie restricted diet – even a small caloric deficit – for an extended period of time, your leptin levels will decrease, and your metabolism will slow down in an effort to make due with the food that you’re feeding it.

This is your body compensating when you give it fewer calories than it is used to having.  Unfortunately, this compensation effect can slow fat loss.  So what can you do to raise your leptin levels?

Some people chose to have a “cheat meal” or even a “cheat day” once or twice a week.  This can become an easy way to binge on everything in sight, as a “cheat day” can become a “cheat week” very easily.

Refeed.

Refeeding refers to a strategic increase of calories on certain days while engaging in a meal plan that calls for restricting a conservative decrease of daily calories. This is a specific way to cheat with guidelines so you can not hate life and still make your goals!

The main goal of a refeed is to eliminate the negative effects of dieting for long periods of time.  This is how you will normalize your leptin levels.

It’s important to note that leptin is highly responsive to glucose metabolism.  Because of this, you’re going to want to consume a surplus of carbohydrates that will turn into glucose.

You do not want to consume more protein and/or fat sources.  You will benefit most if the majority of your excess calories are carbohydrates on refeed days. This will normalize your leptin levels and increase your metabolism without the addition of excess body fat.

So how often should you have a refeed day?  How many extra carbs should you eat?

This depends on many factors such as:  how long you’ve been dieting, how big the caloric deficit is, and your body fat percentage. If your body fat percentage is lower, you’re going to have refeed more often.

A refeed day should consist of 20 – 50% more calories than you would normally be eating during your calorie restricted diet.  So when you determine your basal metabolic rate or your “calorie maintenance level” – this is the amount of calories you should be eating on your refeed day.

You should include some of your more desired foods on refeed days, as this will help improve the psychological restraints you experience during the dieting process.  It’s important that you don’t go overboard on junky carbs, and try to get a majority of your food from nutrient dense foods.

Below is what your macronutrient ration should look like on refeed days:

·        Reduce protein to 1g per 1lb bodyweight

·        Decrease your fat intake by 50%

·        Increase your carbohydrate intake by 50 – 100%

As you become leaner, you’re going to want to increase the frequency of refeed days.

Men over 10% body fat:  Refeed every 7 – 10 days

Men under 10% body fat:  Refeed every 3 – 4 days

Women over 12 – 15% body fat:  Refeed every 7 – 10 days

Women under 12 – 15% body fat:  Refeed every 3 – 7 days

You’re going to want to monitor your progress closely while refeeding.  If you notice a decrease in performance, or you feel bloated and fatigued after a refeed day, consider lowering your overall calorie consumption on refeed days.  I would not recommend you implement refeed days until you are under 20% body fat.  If you are already there, limit your refeed days until you get a handle of making regular, healthy eating habits!

Shortcuts and Quick Tips

·        Drink plenty of water each day

·        Surround your workouts with meals – pre workout meal, and post workout meal) that contain a nice amount of protein (20 to 50 grams) and carbohydrates

·        Get the majority of your calories from higher quality, nutrient-dense sources – some junky stuff is fine – but make it a very small part of your overall diet (think 80% “clean” – 20% “not so clean”) – make sure it fits your macros

·        Whey protein powder can be a very convenient and quick source of protein

·        Adopt a healthy lifestyle – “diets” are (for the most part) not a sustainable – ask yourself:  “Can I continue eating this way for 5 years?” – if the answer is no, then the meal plan will not work

·        Limit the processed crap – eat more fruits and vegetables instead

·        Avoid margarine and canola oil – you’re better off using regular butter in moderation – butter contains some of the good fats

·        Use coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil

·        Limit processed meat – If you eat meat, purchase the meat and cook it yourself (grass fed is best)

·        Avoid drinking any calories – try to drink water exclusively – calorie free drinks are okay in moderation, but water is king

·        White rice is fine – it’s not necessary to only eat brown rice

·        Avoid pre-packaged microwavable meals – they are very processed, and because you’re microwaving them, you’re losing some of the nutrient density

·        Avoid candy, chewing gum, and excess sweets – they may contain high fructose corn syrup, and you want to avoid those

·        Limit artificial sweeteners – alters our sweetness sensitivity – honey can be an appropriate substitute in small doses

·        You can eat eggs – you don’t have to exclusively eat the egg white – the yolk contains many essential nutrients like omega 3 fats – eggs have a lot of protein in them as well – hard boiled eggs are a great snack that are easy to prepare

·        Whey protein shakes are convenient when you’re on the go – you can take them with you wherever you go

·        Berries are super foods – tons of antioxidants – great in oats or in protein shakes

·        Avocados are a great source of “good fats” – the fat that your body needs to remain healthy – avocados also contain over a dozen essential minerals – and they’re very filling (be aware of high calorie content)

·        A wide variety of beans are great to incorporate into your diet – they contain a lot of fiber – they contain many vitamins – they also contain a lot of proteins

·        Nut butters such as peanut butter and almond butter contain a lot of fiber and protein – natural peanut butter is optimal – regular peanut butter in moderation

·        Herbal tea, and black tea contain tons of antioxidants

·        Leafy greens are nutrient dense – kale is the most nutrient dense food in existence

·        Sweet potatoes are a great source of healthy carbohydrates that your body will utilize efficiently

·        Eat a variety of lean protein – grass fed is optimal – chicken,  fish, turkey, ground beef, any other type of beef – keep in mind that you can be a vegetarian/vegan and get a sufficient amount of lean protein (avoid consuming excess soy)

·        Limit alcohol consumption (you may want to nix it all together) – many alcoholic beverages are loaded with nutrient free calories – our bodies aren’t designed to store alcohol (unfortunately), and our bodies will work to expel it immediately, this process can get in the way of absorbing nutrients and burning fat

·        Fast food is no longer an option – should be viewed as poison

·        Balance is key – a balanced diet contains plenty of healthy fats, proteins, carbohydrates and fiber

·        Prepping meals for the week on the weekends is a good idea – it can help you avoid eating convenient junk when you’re starving

·        Only eat when you’re hungry – stop eating when you are full – avoid eating due to boredom

Once you have implemented these practices, you can focus more on the intensity that you’ll be bringing to your workouts.  

My hope is that these blogs regarding food have helped you see the bigger picture of how your daily eating habits contribute to your overall fitness and health.  Implement some of these practices and mold them as you see fit.  All advice is like a shirt, try it on and make sure it fits well before you keep it.  And if you want to tailor it to make it work for you, contact me!

Balance, and consistency – keep these elements in mind, and you’ll be sure to reach any goal you set!

Creating a Daily Meal Plan

I made the decision to figure out exactly how much food I needed in order to get lean, because I was sick and tired of guessing.

My goal was to get lean.  Lean and mean.

When I calculated my daily calorie number, and my daily macronutrient ratio, I still wasn’t sure what the hell I was going to be putting into my body.  I didn’t know where to start.

What was it going to look like?  How many times a day did I need to eat?  Did it matter when I ate certain foods?  Were there any foods that I absolutely had to incorporate into my meal plan?

In this blog, I’ll be giving some tips on how to create your own custom meal plan – One that you’ll be enjoying for years.  With time, you’ll see how easy it is to change and adapt your meal plan to fit your lifestyle.

Creating a Daily Meal Plan

Once you have determined the amount of calories you will be consuming daily, and you’ve determined your macronutrient ratio, it’s time to start developing a meal plan.

It’s important to remember that it’s okay if you are not following these calorie numbers exactly, but you want to remain close.  Stay close to the numbers, and you will succeed in gaining lean muscle tissue, while minimizing fat gains.

Healthy diet

Don’t be afraid to measure your food.  Buy a food scale, they’re relatively inexpensive.  A lot of people hate the idea of measuring out their food, but once you get in the habit of it, it becomes second nature.  You’ll love the control you feel once you know that you’re not spilling over, and eating too many calories.

There will come a time, when you may not need to measure your food exactly.  I usually suggest that my clients begin measuring their food as an awareness tool more than anything.  It’s important to be aware of how much 4 ounces of rice is, or 6 ounces of sweet potato.  Most Americans aren’t aware of how large their food portions are.  Measuring your food is eye-opening.  It’s a game changer.

Pick foods you love, damn it!  Don’t torture yourself. 

For some, a meal plan means eating the same small meal 7 times a day.  You’ll see people lining up their perfectly portioned Tupperware containers on Instagram with the same thing in every container.

Tilapia, brown rice, and broccoli.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO EAT THE SAME SMALL MEAL 7 TIMES A DAY.

You can change it up!  It’s better if you have a wide variety of macronutrients.  Eat different types of protein, carbohydrates and fats.  There’s no honor in eating the exact same food you hate for an extended period of time.

It’s also important to note that you want to pick foods that you enjoy so that you won’t feel like you’re on a diet.  This is not a diet.  We’re being intentional about the food we’re putting into our bodies, in order to get the most out of it.  We’re being flexible with our food choices, and that’s why it works.

A lot of so-called “trainers” and “fitness gurus” might tell you that you need to eat 7 small meals a day.  They might tell you that 6 of those 7 meals must include grilled tilapia, broccoli, and brown rice.  This is a very archaic approach to losing weight, and if you follow a plan like this… you will be miserable, and you will quit.

Food is meant to be enjoyed!  We want the food we eat to fill us up, give us energy, and fuel our busy lives.  You should be enjoying the food you eat every day.  No exceptions.

The best meal plan is the one that doesn’t feel like one. Be flexible. If you can’t see yourself eating in a similar manner in 5 years, you need a different meal plan.

Tools

There are a few tools you can use to keep track of your food intake.  It’s always a good idea to start tracking the food you eat with a daily food journal.

Write down absolutely everything you eat and drink throughout the day, even if it’s something small.  The act of logging everything you put in your mouth will give you a sense of awareness and clarity to what you’re consuming.

You can determine very quickly what your eating habits look like, and at what times of the day you eat or crave certain foods.  You may come to find that you crave junk at specific times of the day, and just being aware of these times can help you avoid the continuation of unhealthy habits.

myfitnesspal screenshot

A very useful tool in creating a meal plan quickly and easily is the MyFitnessPal App.

This application on your phone gives you the ability to track the food you eat daily.  It’s very easy to use, it has a lot of great features, and it’s free!  It gives you the macronutrient breakdown of the food you’re consuming, so you know exactly how many grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fats are in the food you’re eating.

You can scan the bar-code of most items in your local supermarket, and it will pull up the macronutrient profile immediately.  This app also allows you the ability to track your water intake, and your workout times and activities.  You can even set up a profile on the app that will allow you to follow and track your friends eating habits, and they can follow yours as well.  This is a fantastic tool which can aide in the motivation and accountability of healthy eating.

When you are aware of the unhealthy things you’re putting into your body, it will be much more difficult to continue on with unhealthy and sabotaging habits.  You may avoid eating junk simply because you don’t want to log it!

Track the food you eat, and become aware of the nutritional value of the foods you consume.

Sample Meal Plans

Below I have listed a few meal plans that you can use as examples to help you write up your own meal plan:

** Keep in mind; I am not a registered dietitian/nutritionist.  I’m giving very general guidelines and practices that have worked for me, and my clients.  My hope is to give you a few examples to help guide you.

Meal Plan #1:

  • Meal # 1:
  • Instant oatmeal – fat: 2g, carbs: 33g, protein: 4g
  • Medium sized honey crisp apple – fat: 0.2g, carbs: 17.2g, protein: 0.3g
  • Meal # 2:
  • 1 and ½ scoops of natural peanut butter – fat: 12g, carbs: 6g, protein: 5.2g
  • ½ whole grain bagel – fat: 1g, carbs: 26g, protein: 5g
  • Meal # 3 (Protein Shake blended w/ ice and water):
  • Whey protein powder (2 scoops) – fat: 4g, carbs: 16g, protein: 40g
  • ½ banana – fat: 0g, carbs: 15g, protein: 0.5g
  • ½ cup of frozen strawberries: fat: 0g, carbs: 6.5g, protein: 0g
  • Meal # 4:
  • 6 ounces of grilled chicken breast: fat: 3g, carbs: 1.5g, protein: 33g
  • 5 ounces of steamed broccoli: fat: 9g, carbs: 9g, protein 5g
  • 4 ounces of white rice: fat: 3.5g, carbs: 45g, protein: 5g
  • Meal # 5 (Protein Shake blended w/ ice and water):
  • Whey protein powder (2 scoops) – fat: 4g, carbs: 16g, protein: 40g
  • ½ banana – fat: 0g, carbs: 15g, protein: 0.5g
  • ½ cup of strawberries: fat: 0g, carbs: 6.5g, protein: 0g
  • Meal # 6 (Protein Shake blended w/ ice and water):
  • Whey protein Powder (2 scoops): fats: 4g, carbs: 26g, protein: 40g

Macronutrient Breakdown:

  • Fats: 42.7g, carbs: 223.7g, protein: 178.5g
  • Fats: 384.3cal, carbs: 894.8cal, protein: 714cal = 1,993.1 calories consumed

Meal Plan #2:

  • Meal # 1:
  • 5 egg whites – fat: 0.5g, carbs: 1.2g, protein: 20g
  • Instant oatmeal – fat: 2g, carbs: 33g, protein: 4g
  • Meal # 2:
  • Whey protein powder (1 scoop) – fat: 2g, carbs: 8g, protein: 20g
  • Medium sized honey crisp apple – fat: 0.2g, carbs: 17.2g, protein: 0.3g
  • 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter – fat: 8g, carbs: 4g, protein: 3.5g
  • Meal # 3:
  • 7 ounces of grilled chicken – fat: 3.5g, carbs: 1.8g, protein: 38.5g
  • 4 ounces of sweet potato – fat: 0.1g, carbs: 22.8g, protein: 1.8g
  • Meal # 4 (Protein Shake blended w/ ice and water):
  • Whey protein Powder (2 scoops): fats: 4g, carbs: 26g, protein: 40g
  • ½ banana – fat: 0g, carbs: 15g, protein: 0.5g
  • ½ cup of strawberries: fat: 0g, carbs: 6.5g, protein: 0g
  • Meal # 5:
  • 5 ounces of beef (95% lean) – fat: 15.2g, carbs: 0g, protein: 22g
  • 4 ounces of whole wheat pasta – fat: 3g, carbs: 82g, protein: 14g
  • ½ cup of marinara sauce – fat: 1g, carbs: 5g, protein: 1g
  • 4 ounces of broccoli – fat: 7.2g, carbs: 7.2g, protein: 4g
  • Meal # 6 (before bed):
  • Casein protein powder (1 scoop) – fat: 1.5g, carbs: 11g, protein: 25g

 Macronutrient Breakdown:

  • Fats: 48.2g, carbs: 240.7g, protein: 194.6g
  • Fats: 433.8cal, carbs: 962.8cal, protein: 778.4cal = 2,175 calories consumed

Meal Plan #3:

  • Meal # 1:
  • 1 English muffin – fat: 1g, carbs: 25g, protein: 4g
  • 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter – fat: 8g, carbs: 4g, protein: 3.5g
  • 4 egg whites – fat: 0.4g, carbs 1g, protein: 16g
  • 3 tablespoons of salsa – fat: 0g, carbs: 1.5, protein: 0g
  • Meal # 2:
  • 5 ounces of grilled chicken breast – fat: 2.5g, carbs: 1.2g, protein: 27.5g
  • 4 ounces of white rice: fat: 3.5g, carbs: 45g, protein: 5g
  • 5 ounces of steamed broccoli: fat: 9g, carbs: 9g, protein 5g
  • Meal # 3:
  • 5 ounces of beef (95% lean) – fat: 15.2g, carbs: 0g, protein: 22g
  • 5 ounces of fajita peppers (green, red, yellow) – fat: 0.3g, carbs: 8.5g, protein: 1.3g
  • 3 ounces of onions – fat: 0.1g, carbs: 7.7g, protein: 0.9g
  • Meal # 4 (Protein Shake blended w/ ice and water):
  • Whey protein Powder (2 scoops): fats: 4g, carbs: 26g, protein: 40g
  • Meal # 5:
  • 5 ounces of grilled chicken breast – fat: 2.5g, carbs: 1.2g, protein: 27.5g
  • 4 ounces of white rice: fat: 3.5g, carbs: 45g, protein: 5g
  • 5 ounces of steamed broccoli: fat: 9g, carbs: 9g, protein 5g

 Macronutrient Breakdown:

  • Fats: 59g, carbs: 184.1g, protein: 162.7g
  • Fats: 531cal, carbs: 736.4cal, protein: 650.8cal = 1,918.2 calories consumed

Again, It doesn’t really matter when you eat the food items

Based on current research, the concept of “nutrient timing” isn’t particularly important for people trying to look and feel better.

The total amount of protein, fats and carbohydrates you eat, over the course of the day, is more important for body composition and performance than nutrient timing strategies. 

We’ve been told lies regarding this for a very long time:

“Don’t eat carbs after 6 PM.”

“Don’t eat carbs after 4 PM.”

“Don’t eat carbs after (insert any hour in the afternoon here).”

“You only have a half an hour anabolic window after training to get your protein and carbs in!”

The fact of the matter is that your body will absorb and utilize the food in the same way regardless of the time of day that you eat it.  You can eat carbs before bed, as long as it fits your macronutrient ratio.

Remember, carbohydrates are not the reason you will become overweight – the surplus of calories will be.  You need to discover what works best for you.  Do your own research, and do your own experimentation.

Eat the food items that make up your macronutrient ratio on your own terms.  If you don’t like eating breakfast, then don’t eat breakfast.  If you want to eat 5-6 small meals spread out evenly over the course of your day – by all means – do it.

Something to consider: 

There have been studies indicating that people who skip breakfast and eat fewer times throughout the day tend to be heavier than those who eat a healthy breakfast and eat four or five times a day. This may be due to the fact that people who skip meals tend to feel hungrier later in the day, causing them to eat more than they normally would.  It may also be that eating many small meals throughout the day helps certain people curb their appetites.

Stay tuned!  In the next blog I’ll give you some more tips and tricks that will help you create an easy,  sustainable meal plan.  We’re setting ourselves up to win!

 

The Weight of Your Plate

My personality has always led to “all or nothing” thinking.

When the crazy, relentless work week comes to a close, I get Sunday off.  One day.  On that one day off, I want to do literally nothing.  I want to stay in bed all day.  I want to watch mindless TV all day.  I want to wear sweatpants ALL DAY.  I make it my mission to see just how lazy I can be.

When I work, I work.  I give it my all.

When I want to be lazy.  I want to give laziness my all.  I want to win an award for laziness.  On my day off, that is.

So, when it comes to food, I want to know exactly how much I get.  Otherwise I start reverting back to my “all or nothing” thinking.

I remember when I used to try and “eat clean,” I would eat next to nothing.  I would starve myself to the point of dizzy spells.  But then I would do the exact opposite once my oh so finite willpower ran out.  I’d go for month long stretches of eating crap.  I would think to myself, “Well, Kyle, you already screwed yourself by eating 4 pop tarts for breakfast.  I guess you’re having pizza for dinner!  May as well go out with a bang.  I’ll start the diet tomorrow.”

But of course I would continue eating junk.

Now, when I have the opportunity to have some “sleazy” food, I want to know exactly how much.  I don’t want to eyeball it and hope for the best, and I certainly don’t want to undercut it and eat one tiny bite of pecan pie.

I want to enjoy it, and more importantly, I don’t want to feel tons of self-defeating guilt and shame afterwards.

This is why I like knowing exactly how much food I can eat to reach my fitness related goals.  I like knowing how much I need to eat in order to maintain my weight.  It’s liberating.

I don’t have to guess.  I don’t have to starve myself.  In fact, knowing exactly how much I get to eat, allows me to eat more, then when I was guessing.

 

In the next section of this blog, I’m going to make some big separations via the text.  I want this to be as easy to read and understand as possible.

 

Determining How Many Calories You Need to Eat

 

Before we can determine how many grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fats we must consume daily to maintain muscle mass and burn fat, we must determine how many calories we need to consume daily.

 

Every one of us has a magic calorie number. The caloric base line.

 

In order to determine our caloric base line, we need to figure out your basal metabolic rate. As we discussed earlier, your basal metabolic rate can be described as your calorie maintenance level.

 

Your basal metabolic rate can also be viewed as the amount of energy (in the form of calories) that your body needs to function while resting for 24 hours.

 

There are many ways you can find out your basal metabolic rate. There are many websites that have BMR calculators in which you will enter in your height, age, and weight, and it will give you a calorie number.

 

You can also use the Harris-Benedict Formula below:

 

Men: 66 + (6.23 X Weight) + (12.7 X Height in inches) – (6.8 X Age) = Basal Metabolic Rate

 

Women: 655 + (4.35 X Weight) + (4.7 X Height in inches) – (4.7 X Age) = Basal Metabolic Rate

 

Stay with me here! I’m about to throw some numbers at you, I apologize if math makes your head explode.  I’m right there with you.

 

numbers subtitle graphic

 

Let’s say hypothetically, a man weighs 200 pounds –

 

This man is 5’11 (71 inches) – This man is 25 years old. He is trying to determine how many calories he needs to maintain his weight.

 

Below, we will enter his information into the formula:

 

Read through this carefully, and then plug in your own numbers.

 

BMR: 66 + (6.23 X 200) + (12.7 X 71) – (6.8 X 25) =2,044 Calories

 

Now we need to factor in his activity level. Without any daily exercise, we will multiply his basal metabolic rate by 1.2

 

This number represents a fairly sedentary lifestyle, one with activity that consists of: daily life activities (walking around, driving, sitting at work, sleeping, etc.), bodily functions, and no exercise.

 

2,044 X 1.2 (Daily life activity, bodily functions, without exercising) = 2,453 Calories can be consumed – daily – to maintain weight.

 

As this man becomes more physically active, he will need to increase the number of calories he consumes as well. This man begins working out 3 – 5 times per week.  His activity level number will increase, along with his calorie number.

 

We will multiply his basal metabolic rate by 1.375

 

Remember: Basal Metabolic Rate = Calorie Maintenance Number

 

2,044 X 1.375 (Moderately active – 3 to 5 days of exercise) = 2,811 Calories can be consumed – daily – to maintain weight.

 

If he were to increase his daily physical activity and start working out 6 -7 times per week (which is a hell of a lot of physical activity), his daily calories will need to increase again. He has also taken on a fairly active job; this will affect his basal metabolic rate too.

 

2,044 X 1.55 (Very Active – 6 to 7 days of exercise + active job) = 3,168 Calories can be consumed – daily – to maintain weight.

 

Now, these numbers indicate how many calories he can consume, in order to maintain his weight – meaning his weight never goes up or down. But let’s say his goal is to get lean. The goal is to keep the muscle he will acquire working out, while getting rid of his body fat. In order for him to get a leaner and more defined physique, he’s going to have to lose weight. So in order to lose weight he needs to create a caloric deficit – he must subtract some calories from his maintenance number.

 

This is very important – In order to lose weight (fat) and sustain lean muscle mass, you want to be fairly conservative with your subtraction of calories.

 

It is recommended to have a caloric deficit of 500 calories per day. If you subtract more than 500 calories from your daily calorie maintenance level, you will start to lose muscle and slow down your metabolism. Your body will begin eating your muscle and it will go into starvation mode.

 

3500 calories = pound of fat

 

A caloric deficit of 500 calories per day = 3500 calories a week

 

When this hypothetical man subtracts 500 calories from his daily calorie maintenance/intake level, he will begin losing roughly 1-1.5 pounds of fat per week.

 

It’s possible for some people to lose more than 1-1.5 pounds of fat per week in the beginning of this process if they have an excessive amount of body fat to lose. By implementing this caloric deficit of 500 calories per day, this hypothetical man will maintain all of his lean body muscle mass in the process.

 

Be aware of the fact that this is a process, and it should be a slow one. You don’t want to lose weight or lean down too fast, because you’ll get rid of a lot of muscle in the process. Your body will get rid of muscle before it gets rid of fat if you dramatically cut your caloric intake – AND THIS IS WHAT EVERYONE DOES.

 

You don’t want to be in a caloric deficit indefinitely, either. In fact, you only want to be in a caloric deficit for 12 – 16 weeks max. After a certain amount of time, your body will enter a catabolic state, and it will start ridding itself of muscle mass, regardless of how conservative the caloric deficit is. Depending on your goals, you may want to eat at a caloric deficit for 12 weeks and then maintenance for 12 weeks.  If you’re trying to put on size, you may eat at a caloric surplus of 500 calories a day for 12 weeks.

 

This is how we can determine how many calories we need to eat.

 

If this hypothetical man were going to be working out 3-5 times a week, while implementing a caloric deficit of 500 calories per day, he would be consuming 2,311 calories a day (2,811 – 500 = 2,311 calories per day).

 

Enter your information into the Harris-Benedict Formula, and determine how many calories you will need to maintain your weight, and then create a deficit of 500 calories. You’ll be ecstatic when you begin to see the change in your body composition.

 

Macronutrient Split

 

We’ve discussed the three main macronutrients that we consume every day (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats). Now we must discuss where we will be finding these macronutrients in the food we eat.

 

Below is a comprehensive food list that will include healthy sources of protein, carbohydrates, and fats:

 

 

Determining Protein, Fats, and Carb Numbers

 

Now we must determine how much of our daily calories should be protein, fats, and carbohydrates.

 

There are many factors that play a role when determining this macronutrient split. We must first take into account the amount of calories in each macronutrient:

 

Protein: 4 calories per gram

Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram

Fats: 9 calories per gram

 

You want to make sure that your diet has a balanced macronutrient ratio. Because fats are 9 calories per gram, and protein and carbs only have 4 calories per gram, we’re going to be consuming fewer fats to maintain a balanced ratio.

 

Your goal is to build muscle so that your body will efficiently burn fat.

 

35 45 20 subtitle graphic

 

A good macronutrient ratio for gaining lean muscle mass is going to be a 35/45/20 split daily:

 

35% of calories from proteins 45% of calories from carbohydrates 20% of calories from fats

 

Food ratios are going to be a bit of an experiment at first. Everyone is different. There are many factors that play a role in how we utilize, absorb, and digest food. These factors include: sleep, hydration, stress levels, hormone levels, physical activity, supplementation, meal frequency, etc.

 

As a general rule, know that your protein intake should not change, and should stay the same, but you can play with the carbs and fats. If 35% – 40% of your daily calories are protein sources, adding more protein will not help you gain additional muscle mass.

 

Some people will respond better to higher amounts of carbs in their diets, and some will respond better to more fats, and less carbs. Try not to have a “set in stone” mindset.

 

Use this information as a guide and experiment. Again, everyone is different, and there is not a single “best” macronutrient ratio for building lean muscle mass. You’re going to want to find a “meal plan” that works best for you.

 

There are a few other macronutrient ratios associated with adding lean muscle, but generally they follow the same formula, give or take 5 – 10% either way. Some people might suggest that you need to adopt a 40/40/20 macronutrient split in order to truly maximize lean muscle gain (40% protein, 40% carbs, 20% fats).

 

Some people might suggest that you need to adopt a 40/30/30 macronutrient split in order to truly maximize lean muscle gain (40% protein, 30% carbs, 30% fats).

 

Over time, you will know how your body is effected by the food you eat.

 

If you have more carbs in your diet, but you feel bloated and sluggish, you might try eating less carbs and replacing the calories with more fat. If you’re experiencing days where you have zero energy while on your meal plan, you might increase the carbs.

 

In order to lose weight, you must be in a negative energy balance. This means that you must burn more calories than you consume.

 

Remember, the type of calories that you are consuming daily is very important.

 

If you are plateauing and not losing any weight – re-evaluate your meal plan, because you may be consuming too many calories. You may not be exercising enough, or you may be eating too little. Your metabolism will compensate accordingly. You want your metabolism to work for you, and not against you.

 

How to Determine Your Macronutrient Ratio

 

Let’s assume you have decided that in order to lose 1-1.5 pounds (burning fat specifically, and sustaining lean muscle mass) you need to eat 2,500 calories per day.

 

So, out of 2,500 calories, 35% of your daily calories will be protein sources, 45% of your daily calories will be carbohydrates, and 20% of your daily calories will be fats. You must determine how many calories of each you’ll need to eat each day. With these numbers you can determine what food to eat and when.

 

2,500 calories X 35% (0.35) = 875 calories – Now we must determine how many grams of protein we’ll need to consume

 

Remember, 4 calories = 1 gram of protein

 

So our next step is to divide our calorie # by 4, because there are 4 calories in each gram of protein

 

875 calories ÷ 4 calories per gram of protein = 219 grams of protein

 

2,500 cal X 35% (0.35) = 875 cal ÷ 4 cal = 219 grams of protein

 

We will do this for carbohydrates and fats as well.

 

2,500 calories X 45% carbs (0.45) = 1,125 calories – Now we must determine how many grams of carbohydrates we’ll need to consume

 

4 calories = 1 gram of carbohydrates

 

So our next step is to divide our calorie number by 4, because there are 4 calories in each gram of carbohydrates

 

1,125 calories ÷ 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates = 281 grams of carbohydrates

 

2,500 cal X 45% (0.45) = 1,125 cal ÷ 4 cal = 281 grams of carbohydrates

 

2,500 calories X 20% fats (0.20) = 500 calories – Now we must determine how many grams of fat we’ll need to consume

 

9 calories = 1 gram of fat

 

So our next step is to divide our calorie number by 9, because there are 9 calories in each gram of fat

 

500 calories ÷ 9 calories per gram of fat = 56 grams of fat

 

2,500 cal X 20% (0.2) = 500 cal ÷ 9 cal = 56 grams of fat

 

This is a simpler version of the macronutrient split:

 

Protein: 35% of 2500

875 calories ÷ 4 = 219g per day

 

Carbs: 45% of 2500

1125 calories ÷ 4 = 281g per day

 

Fat: 20% of 2500

500 calories ÷ 9 = 56g per day

 

So there you have it! 219 grams of protein – 281 grams of carbs – 56 grams of fat

 

Phew… I hope your head didn’t explode.  I hope this was helpful.  If you read all of this carefully, I want to thank you.  If you’re confused, email me @ kyledevlinfitness@gmail.com

 

In the next blog, I’ll show you some tricks to developing and implementing your own customized meal plan.

 

Stay tuned!

Holy Macronutrients!

Macronutrients

Let me tell you a little story…

I have a very close friend who began exercising a few years back. He lost a lot of weight, and added a decent amount of lean tissue to his frame in the process.  He decided that he wanted to compete in his first bodybuilding show.  He got a coach.  And so began the process…

Now, typically, when one decides they’re going to compete in a bodybuilding show, there are a series of steps one must take in order to become “show ready.” Some of these steps involve carefully, and methodically creating a meal plan that will ensure the competitor gets as lean as they possibly can (extremely low body fat %) while hanging on to as much muscle as they possibly can in the process.

The meal plan is a major factor when competing and it can differ in length depending on how lean the person is before they start dieting for the show. These diets can last anywhere from 12 to 20 weeks.  My friend and his coach set in motion a diet plan that would last for 20 weeks.

Traditionally, bodybuilders would undergo a diet that consisted of 6 – 7 small meals throughout the day in order to “keep the metabolism working as efficiently as possible.” Luckily, we now know that there is no evidence to support the idea that nutrient timing or meal frequency enhances metabolic efficiency.  It doesn’t matter if you eat 7 small meals a day, or 2 giant ones.  It’s a matter of personal preference.  Your body will use the food either way.

Regardless of this fact, my friend was still adhering to the traditional style of dieting down for a show, and this meant that he would eat 6 – 7 small meals every day, with an occasional “cheat meal” thrown in. He would literally wake up at 3:30AM (on the dot) to have his first meal.  Talk about dedication.

20 grueling weeks later, he was the leanest he had ever been. He was ready.  He looked somewhat emaciated, but he was as show ready as he was going to be.  He competed in the show, and ultimately proved to himself that he could do it.  I was really proud of him.

That night, after the show, he ate Mexican food until he was sick.

3 weeks later, he had gained 20 pounds. Soon after that, an additional 10 – 15.

I had listened to other competitors discuss the rebound effects associated with competing in bodybuilding shows. The mass amounts of weight gained once they started eating normal food again.  Once the diet had stopped, it was time to eat like mad.  No holds barred.  Anything goes.  Most people found themselves eating tons of junk, because they had spent months depriving themselves of it.

I thought to myself, “Wow, is this the only way to get in the best shape of your life?”

“Was I going to have starve myself for 20 weeks, only to gain it all back (and then some) a few weeks later?”

“Is there no way to stay lean all year round in a healthy sustainable way?”

I started doing some independent research, and that’s when I discovered the idea of counting macronutrients. Once I started implementing the practice of counting all of my macronutrients, and “flexibly dieting,” I knew that I had a system of eating that was sustainable for the long haul.

A meal plan for life. A meal plan for a busy life.

Meal planning for health, and vitality.

Mindful eating with purpose and intent.

We all need a meal plan that is going to help us look our best, and feel our best.

The best part – you don’t have to deprive yourself of the occasional “not-so-clean” food you love. You can fit it in and not gain a ton of weight.  You don’t have to feel shame or guilt because you want to eat a bowl of ice cream once in a while.  Food is meant to be enjoyed.  Life is meant to be enjoyed.

I’ll explain how…

Don’t count calories – Count macronutrients

When thinking about losing weight, the old adage “calories in VS calories out” is a little misleading.

It’s a common phrase that most of us have heard before. Unfortunately it doesn’t explain how to truly lose weight safely, and effectively.  If we just attempt to eat fewer calories then we burn, without understanding the basic concept of tracking macronutrients, we’re destined to gain back any weight we might lose.

Yes, it’s true… If you eat fewer calories than your body “burns” daily, over time you will lose weight.  But you will lose a lot of muscle in the process (this is BAD).   You might lose very little body fat in the process (this is also very BAD).

We all have a baseline of calories we can consume that will prevent us from either gaining weight, or losing weight.

When we eat fewer calories than our baseline – we lose weight. Easy enough.

When we eat more calories than our daily baseline allows – we gain weight.

But a calorie isn’t just a calorie. There are different types.

What are macronutrients? Macronutrients can be defined as a type of food (proteins, fats and carbohydrates) required in large amounts in the human diet.

Everything we eat contains macronutrients.

The word “macro” means large, and the body needs these nutrients in large quantities for energy, growth, tissue repair, immune function, metabolism and other essential functions in the body.

Types of macronutrients:

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Protein

Protein consumption is extremely important. You must consume enough in order to adequately build and repair lean muscle tissue.  Protein facilitates a fat-burning metabolism.  Having enough protein in your diet can reduce feelings of hunger pangs throughout the day.  It also slows down the release of carbohydrates into your bloodstream.  This process prevents spikes in blood sugar that are thought to increase fat storage, and deplete you of energy.  It is worth noting that protein will not energize you in the same way that carbohydrates and fats will.

Consuming enough protein daily is why we have the ability to acquire and sustain lean muscle mass. If you are not consuming an adequate amount of protein, your body will not produce nor sustain enough lean tissue to ensure a healthy metabolism.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are your most important source of energy, as they provide your body with glucose. Carbohydrates also play a role in the functioning of the immune system, blood clotting, human development and fertilization.  They are critical for anyone participating in a strength and resistance routine.  Carbohydrates come in a variety of forms – the most common being fibers, starches and sugars.

An excessive consumption of unhealthy carbohydrates, such as refined carbohydrates like corn syrup or sugar, can cause obesity, type II diabetes, and cancer. Throughout the years, there have been many “low-carb” diets that promote dramatically reducing the amount of carbohydrates in your diet.  Some have gone as far as promoting the idea that you need to cut out carbohydrates completely.

This is not something I would recommend.

Carbohydrates are going to provide your body the necessary energy to exercise efficiently – cut out the carbs, say goodbye to all your energy. You’ll feel slow, weak, and fatigued.

Of course there are exceptions to this.  Everyone is different.  There are some people who can function just fine on meal plans that call for higher fat content and less carbs.

Fat

Fats, like carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap over the years. The name “fats” has the power to elicit a negative reaction within people.  We don’t want to be fat, so we assume we need to get rid of the fats in our diets.

But the truth is we need fats in our diets, just like we need an appropriate amount of protein and carbohydrates.

Dietary fats are essential. They give your body energy and they support cell growth.  They also help protect your organs and help keep your body warm.  Fats help your body to absorb nutrients and produce important hormones, too.  Just like carbohydrates, there are healthy fats, and unhealthy fats.  Choose foods that provide good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats), and avoid foods that provide bad fats (saturated fats, and trans fats).  Keep in mind that fats have more calories per gram than proteins and carbohydrates do.  There are nine calories in every gram of fat, regardless of what type of fat it is.  Fats are more energy-dense than carbohydrates and proteins, which provide four calories per gram.

——————-

1 gram of protein: 4 calories

1 gram of carbohydrates: 4 calories

1 gram of fat: 9 calories

——————-

You can see now why a calorie isn’t just a calorie.

If you were to consume carbs exclusively, or only consume foods with high fat content, your body fat % would increase dramatically. Without a healthy balance of protein, carbs, and fat, your body will more than likely be soft, weak, and fragile.

It’s possible to be very thin, and have a high bodyfat %, that’s why protein is so important.

One macronutrient to rule them all, if you will.

If you get a healthy balance of protein in your diet (and you lift all the weights), your body will be firm, strong, and resilient.

In the next blog, I’ll discuss how to figure out how many macronutrients you should be consuming each day.

Food: An Introduction

This is going to sound harsh…  But I’m going to type it anyways.

 

Don’t waste your time in the gym if you’re attempting to out-train a crappy diet.

It doesn’t work. You’re going to get very frustrated and it may cause you to quit.  A lot of people say that the significance of diet is 70% whereas training is 30%, when talking about changing your body composition.  I would say there is some validity to these claims.

Training and nutrition work synergistically with one another when you are trying to lose weight and add lean muscle mass.

Adapting to, and maintaining a healthy diet should never be viewed as something temporary.

You need to implement healthy practices for life.

This needs to become a part of your lifestyle.

In doing so, you will reap the rewards of long-term mental and physical benefits. One could argue that nutrition really is the most important component when it comes to altering your body composition for better or worse.  You must fill your engine with the proper fuel.  In order for you to perform at your best, you’re going to have to feed your body accordingly.

No growth can occur without the proper raw materials. Make a decision today to begin filling your body with low calorie, nutrient-dense food.

Nutrients are the reason we eat!

How Food Fuels Us

Our bodies are very efficient at converting the food we eat into useable energy. Every part of the body needs this energy to function properly.

In order to exercise efficiently, and in a manner that will help us achieve our fitness related goals, we must take into account how food fuels us inside and outside of the gym.

Digesting food occurs when we eat by mixing the food with fluids in our stomachs. After the stomach digests the food, carbohydrates (sugars and starches) in the food break down and form another type of sugar.

This sugar is known as glucose. Glucose is then released into the bloodstream after it is absorbed by the stomach and small intestines. Once glucose enters the bloodstream, it can be used immediately for energy or stored in our bodies, to be used at a later time.  Keep in mind that our bodies need insulin in order to use or store glucose for energy.  Without insulin, glucose stays in the bloodstream, keeping blood sugar levels high.  Ultimately, your body’s goal is to digest food and use it to keep your body alive and functioning.

What Types of Food We Should Eat More Of

You should strive to eat more nutrient-dense foods that are abundant in vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Foods that are abundant in essential micro and macro nutrients will keep you feeling more satiated than lower nutrient, processed foods.

You’re also going to want to examine how much protein you’re consuming per day. Most people do not get enough good sources of protein in their diets.

Most people consume a larger number of foods loaded with carbohydrates, and fat.  At the same time, you do not want to avoid eating carbohydrates, or fats.  You need both – in balanced amounts to efficiently perform and maintain a healthy weight, lose weight, or even gain weight.

What Types of Food to Avoid

There are many of foods that should be avoided. Processed foods, otherwise known as “convenience foods” should be avoided and will likely diminish your progress if regularly consumed.

Foods that are processed, pre-prepared, commercialized, refined and manufactured are generally not so great.

Some of these food items have very clever and misleading advertisements that make you believe they are healthy.

There are also many beverages on the market that are easily consumed, and packed with dense calories. These calories can add up very quickly.

If you take the time to look at the ingredients list on processed food packages, you will often see some form of wheat, corn, sugar or soy combined with polyunsaturated oils. You will also see a list of additives designed to preserve, texturize, and color the food.

Fast food restaurants and all fried foods should be avoided at all costs.

It can no longer be an option. Stop eating it immediately.  In your eyes, it should be viewed as poison.

In my next blog, I’ll go into more detail about what types of macronutrients are in the food we consume, along with their benefits.

Gaining Muscle

Growing Muscle

The ultimate goal. Elusive in nature.

Excuse me while I get a little corny, but muscle is magic. Those magical little protein filaments are responsible for giving us the ability to do, well… everything.

What else is going to keep you durable for the long haul?

We’re fragile without muscle. Handle with care-worthy.

So how exactly do we get more of it?

Hypertrophy and Protein Synthesis

Hypertrophy can be described as the enlargement of a muscle belly, and this occurs when muscle cells, specifically muscle fibers, grow in size.   Our fast twitch muscle fibers become larger and thicker when we implement strength and resistance training.  Long term hypertrophy, the growth of our muscles over time is known as chronic hypertrophy.

When we train, we experience transient hypertrophy.

This is the “pumped up” feeling we experience when we lift weights.  After weight training, your muscles will undergo a very important biological process known as protein synthesis.

This is the process of increasing the protein content of muscle cells.  Without protein synthesis, our muscles won’t grow.

Protein synthesis is the process of repairing or even removal of proteins in the body that are damaged.  New proteins are then formed.  These new proteins will be more dense, and stronger than the ones before.

When you work out, protein synthesis tends to decrease.  During rest and recovery periods – after lifting – is when protein synthesis begins to increase.

This is just one of the many ways our body adapts and responds to stress.

Our bodies are incredibly efficient at adapting to, and handling stress.  When your body is repairing, it’s in an anabolic state.  Your muscles will grow in size during your rest periods.

Growing Muscle

Below is a list of practices that will help promote muscle growth:

Get enough calories – We’ve discussed the importance of calorie consumption. It’s vital for the growth of muscle tissue. It is absolutely essential. Do not disregard this in the hopes that you will magically grow your muscles without the proper raw materials needed to build them. Keep track of your daily calories. If you see that you are low, and bedtime is approaching – start eating. At the same time, don’t overeat. Don’t allow yourself to go over, and justify it by eating less the next day. That isn’t how this works. Don’t give yourself unnecessary wiggle room, because you don’t have wiggle room. If you want to look a certain way, you need to eat accordingly.

Get enough of the right calories –  All calories are not created equal.  The foods we eat are made up of macronutrients.  the 3 major macronutrients are: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.  It’s important to know what type of calories you’re consuming.  You need to be getting the right amount of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. This is also vital for the growth of muscle tissue, and the burning of body fat. If you’re not getting the proper ratio of macronutrients daily, you will need to adjust the type of food you are eating, or the amount of food that you are eating.

Lift with intensity – Resolve to lift with intensity (every workout).

Again, I want to make sure we know the distinction between lifting with intensity, and killing yourself. We’re not killing ourselves in the gym, we’re pushing ourselves. It’s not necessary for a workout to cause pain. If you are experiencing pain, you might consider having someone examine your form, because you may be doing something wrong or even dangerous. Lifting with intensity is important. Push yourself! Maintain an intense mindset when you lift. Listen to music that inspires you, and pumps you up during your workouts. Keep your rest periods short between sets. Lift with purpose and intent. Don’t half-ass it. If you’re dragging, you’ll need to be the one responsible for psyching yourself up to get maximum benefit.

Overload your muscles – When we impose stress upon our muscles, our body will adapt and respond accordingly, in an effort to adapt and respond to that stress more efficiently in the future. This is the only thing we are doing inside of the gym. Imposing stress, so that your body will adapt and respond the way we want it to. If you are lifting the same weight for months, your body will adapt and learn to lift that particular amount of weight. This is why it’s so important to push yourself. Once your body has adapted to the stress you impose upon it, it will require additional stress to continually make progress. You want to carefully and appropriately go up in weight and/or volume over time. By appropriate, I mean, it’s not necessary to go up in weight every week. Your body won’t adjust or respond that quickly. You’ll sacrifice form just to move the weight. Go slow. Make sure you’re lifting with proper form, and then when you feel like you have mastered a set weight for a particular exercise – bump up the weight. When you increase the weight, make sure you’re making small, incremental weight increases. It’s counterproductive to make a 50 pound jump – it’s much more appropriate to make 5 to 10 pound increases – at most. It’s during these “push yourself” sets that you should utilize the help of a spotter who can assist you if you get stuck.

Get plenty of rest/sleep – Rest and recovery periods are essential to any balanced and effective training program. Rest periods are when the magic happens. Micro trauma of the muscle fibers will occur when you lift. Your body repairs itself afterwards, during rest periods. This is where the real training effect takes place. When we’re physically active, we deplete our energy storages, and during recovery periods, we replenish them. Without sufficient time to rest and recover, your body can actually prolong the effects of tissue damage and the lowering of energy storages.

Sleep is very important recovery time.

Adequate sleep will not only help you stay mentally healthy; it will ensure you maintain a balanced hormonal profile, and it will aide in muscular recovery.  There are many studies that indicate sleep deprivation can lead to increased levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone.  You will not metabolize glucose efficiently if you do not get a sufficient amount of sleep.  The body cannot function properly unless it is well rested.  Aim to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Another thing to keep in mind is the central nervous system. The central nervous system is involved in the training of all of the muscle groups, so even if you rest one muscle group and focus on lifting another, the central nervous system might still need time to rest and recover.  Our joints could use a break occasionally, too.  My hope is that you fall in love with strength and resistance, but it’s not necessary to lift 7 days a week, and it could be detrimental to do so.

Get plenty of water – First of all, your body is dependent on water to survive, so it’s kind of important. Like rest and recovery, our bodies will not function efficiently without enough water consumption. The average person loses up to 6 pints of water daily (under average conditions). Dehydration can lead to a decrease in physical activity and performance. It’s imperative that you drink enough water; 65 – 75% of our muscle is composed of water. You need to stay hydrated to fully tap your potential. You need to keep your muscles hydrated. You’re going to want to drink water throughout the day, and especially before, during and after your workouts. You’re going to be losing a considerable amount of water during the workouts through perspiration, so you’ll need to replace it.

Before workout:  17 – 20 ounces at least 2 hours prior to working out

During workout:  7 – 10 ounces for every 10-20 minutes of working out

After workout:  20 – 30 ounces within 2 hours of working out

Drinking water helps expedite the fat-loss process as well. It flushes out toxins, and natural bi-products of fat.  Water also helps keep our stomachs feeling full.  Many people mistake being hungry with thirst.  Having an adequate amount of water will help boost your energy levels, and it will improve your mood.  Drinking enough water helps regulate body temperature, and it also aids the digestive system.  If you are having trouble getting enough water in throughout the day, consider drinking on a schedule.  Perhaps every 2 hours, drink 20 ounces.  Set an alarm on your phone if you have to.  You can also try to drink 20-40 ounces of water every time you eat to ensure you’re getting enough water throughout the day.  Be sure to drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up as well, to help aide the digestion process after breakfast.  Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink, by then it’s too late, and you’re already dehydrated.  There’s a very simple way to determine how much water you should be drinking daily:

Take your weight and multiply it by 75% – the answer to that – in ounces – will be the amount of water you should be consuming daily. Let’s take a hypothetical man who weighs 200 pounds and determine how much water he will need to drink daily:

200 X .75 (75%) = 150 ounces

It’s worth noting that 128 ounces = 1 gallon of water

Lift heavy – Metabolism plays a vital role in terms of weight loss – fat loss, specifically. We’ve discussed the importance of adding muscle tissue to your body, which will speed up your metabolism. In order to properly stimulate muscle growth, you must choose weights that push your muscles to their limits. This is going to require you to lift heavy weights occasionally. Your muscles will grow as a result. You need to pick weights that will stimulate your growth hormones, and lifting heavier weights will release more of these hormones. Lifting heavy means a 3-8 rep range is where you need to be – if you can lift the weight more than 8 times – and your goal is to be lifting “heavy,” you should go up in weight. Push yourself! Lifting heavy is the best way to jump-start the fat loss process. Lift to the point of pure muscle exhaustion. Your muscles are made of 2 types of muscle fibers – fast twitch muscle fibers, and slow twitch muscle fibers. Fast twitch muscle fibers are recruited when we lift heavy (3-8 rep range), and they give us explosive power. Slow twitch muscle fibers are recruited in volume training, and they give us muscular endurance. A balanced, periodized training program will require a mix of recruiting fast twitch, and slow twitch muscle fibers.

Keep in mind, the heavier you lift, the more recovery time you will need.

 

I’ll take this time to debunk another misconception that refuses to die:

Woman and gaining muscle

I still encounter women who are hesitant to try weight training because they assume it will make them appear bulky or masculine. There are some who assume that lifting heavy will result in huge muscles, and they’ll be stuck with them forever.  There simply is no validity to this myth, and yet it’s still being touted as fact – often.  Women do not – and cannot – naturally produce as much testosterone as men.  Women will develop muscle mass, if they lift appropriately, but it will not be an absurd amount.  Women who use anabolic steroids (synthetic testosterone), along with other drugs, are the ones who are adding the massive amounts of lean muscle mass on to their bodies.

Women who conduct an appropriate weight training regimen – without the use of anabolic steroids – will achieve a toned and fit physique. One that is strong, yet still feminine.  Properly performed, lifting heavy can provide significant functional benefits and improvement in overall health and well-being including increased bone, muscle, tendon and ligament strength, improved joint function, and reduced potential for injury out in the real world.

Weight training is for everyone – men and women.

 

Setting Goals – (Achieving them, too)

We all have goals.

We may not realize it, but striving for something is in our nature. It is within us all to want, or crave something.

But it takes more than just wanting. In order to attain what you strive for, you must put thoughts into action.  The difference in wanting/striving and getting/achieving is purposeful, meaningful action.

You can’t wish for a better body. Changing your physique for the better requires consistent dedication and hard work.  There are no shortcuts to getting the body of your dreams, and that’s the point.

The work is the payoff.

But, we still need an endgame.  We still have a desired result in mind.

Learning to set measurable, realistic and attainable goals may be the most important thing you ever do in your entire life. Fitness goals are no different.

Write them down!

I know it’s cliché, but it’s true – a goal that isn’t in writing may as well be a wish.

Documentation will be a critical part in determining your success. You’ll want to see quantified results.

Below is a list of things that can help you achieve your fitness goals (whatever they may be):

LOOK AT IT – Once you’ve written down your goals, I want you to keep that piece of paper somewhere you’re going to be forced to see it. Put it on your refrigerator.  Put it on your bulletin board above your desk at work.  Tape it on your bedroom wall.  Put it on your bathroom mirror.  Put it anywhere – just make sure it’s visible – every day!  If you can’t see your goals every day, you will forget about them.  Keep them in the forefront of your mind, and you will gravitate towards them daily.  Write down sticky notes with motivational sayings on them and put them on your computer at work and at home.  It may seem cheesy to write all of this down, but it will keep you from slacking and giving up.

Be Specific – It’s very easy to say we want to get in shape. Most people have that as a goal at some point in their lives.  But it’s not specific.  There are too many variables in sayings like “I want to lose weight,” or “I want to get skinny.”  Now, if I say something more specific, like “I want to lose 15 pounds in 2 months” – I have a much higher chance of success because my goal is very specific.  You set yourself up for success when your goals are specific.

Make Sure Your Goals Are Something You Can Measure – You cannot change what you do not measure. It’s important to measure your progress.  But, it’s worth noting that the more you measure your progress, the more you can continue setting goals.  You should never stop setting new goals for yourself.  As a species, we are meant to challenge ourselves, and create things.  We are purposeful beings that thrive when we aspire towards something every day.  The only way to truly progress in life, and in living, is to set measurable goals for yourself, and then work daily to achieve them.  Keep a notebook with you during the workouts.  Track how much weight you are lifting.  When you find yourself lifting the weights easily, and you want to challenge yourself, you can gradually go up in weight.  It’s also a good idea to keep a food journal with you to keep track of what you are consuming.  One of the great things about technological advancements in the fitness industry is that there are many tools and applications that can help us keep track of our progress.  Today, we can measure our heart rates during exercise, our workout duration times, calories burned, water consumption, and food intake.  Utilize these resources in measuring and quantifying your progress.

Make Sure Your Goals Are Realistic and Attainable – Generally speaking, we can only achieve goals that we believe we can realistically achieve.  It is unrealistic to set a goal of making 1 million dollars in a year when you’re current annual income is 15,000 dollars.  Our minds aren’t capable of making such a leap.  Setting goals that pertain to changing our body composition are no different.  Make sure your goals are realistic.  Once you achieve your goal – set a new one.  Celebrate the small victory, and then set a new small goal.  Eventually, little by little, you will be in the best shape of your life – and even then – you will want to continue setting new goals to achieve.

Make Sure Your Goal Is Attached To a Deadline – Attaching a deadline to your goal is something that will make the attainment of that particular goal much more likely.  If you have a timeline associated with something you want to achieve, then you will progressively work towards it.  You will have a sense of urgency.  It is much more likely that you will not reach your goal if you do not set a deadline in which to reach it.  Make sure your deadline is short enough to see results, yet it is not daunting or intimidating.  If you give yourself too much time, it is very easy to lose focus and to not stay dedicated to what it is you hope to achieve.

Example: I’m going to lose 15 pounds in 12 weeks, as well as reduce my body fat % from 22% to 20%.

Once you have clearly defined a specific goal you’d like to achieve, follow these 4 steps:

Step one:  Write down your weight.

I want to make sure you understand something first. You should not be obsessing over the number on the scale.  The number means very little.  You are not a number on a scale.  The number doesn’t define you.  That number doesn’t even really tell you a whole lot.  It doesn’t tell you how much body fat you have on your frame, and it doesn’t tell you how much lean muscle mass you have on your frame.  I’m asking you to document it in the beginning, but please, don’t obsess over the number.  If you have a considerable amount of body fat to lose, then you know you’re headed in the right direction if the number goes down.  If you don’t have a lot of body fat to lose (and you’re trying to gain more muscle mass), the number going down week to week may not be a good thing.  The number might even go up!  Gasp!  Keep that in perspective when measuring your weight.

Step two:  Have someone determine your body fat.

It’s important to know what type of weight you’re carrying. Determining your body fat percentage will tell you a much more interesting story than a scale will.  You can determine how much fat you have on your body, but you can also keep track how much lean muscle tissue you have as well.  It’s important to increase the amount of muscle we have on our bodies for numerous reasons.  One of the many benefits to strength and resistance training is that we will decrease body fat, and increase lean tissue.

Step three:  Have someone take your measurements.

Anyone at your gym should have the ability to take your body fat, and measurements. If the front desk attendant can’t do it, they can at least find someone who can.  Generally, a friendly personal trainer would be happy to help you – and you can use them as a resource as well.  Keep in mind that some of our measurements may decrease, while others may increase, and that’s okay.  You may lose inches on your waist and gain an inch on your biceps!  This particular scenario could potentially be a win-win scenario.  Also keep in mind that the differences in your body fat percentage and the differences in your body measurements will be the most dramatic in the beginning.  As your body acclimates to strength and resistance training, the differences will become less and less dramatic.

Step four:  Take a picture of yourself. I know, I know… this might be the last thing you want to do.

Take a picture with your body facing the camera, your profile, and your back. Make sure to include your entire body.  You’re going to want to measure the progress of your upper body, as well as your lower body.  Don’t be afraid to take these photos.  These photos will be invaluable when looking back on your fit journey.  They are documented proof of your transformation.  Day to day, you’re going to be examining your body in the mirror.  We all do it, especially when we first start exercising.  It will be very difficult to see your body changing day to day.  Measuring your progress with photos will be the proof you need to ensure you’re headed in the right direction.  Pictures can often be a driving, motivating force that helps keep people on the right track.  We need to see our transformation to really believe in it.  Once you believe in the transformation that is taking place in your body, it will inspire you to keep going.

Every 4 Weeks

Follow these four steps every 4 weeks. If you can, try to document your weight, body fat percentage, and your body measurements at the same time of day that you did previously.  Preferably, you want to do this as soon as you wake up, before you eat breakfast.  Aim to do them before your work out.  Aim to have the same person take your body fat, and your body measurements each time.  Use the same scale.  This will help maintain consistency, which will give you a more accurate representation of your results.  Try to take a picture of yourself in the same way you did previously, and wear the same outfit if possible.

Apply these ideas, and you’ll be smashing your fitness goals in no time.