I've been getting a little bored with my usual workout routine, so I decided it was time to change it up! I'm training for two half marathons coming up in October, and as important as it is to get miles in (obviously), resistance training is probably a bigger factor than many realize. The only reason I finished the first half marathon I did was because of my cross training. I wasn't really prepared to run 13.1 miles. The most I had run up to that point was 8 miles. It was a last minute decision to run the race (2 weeks out) and I was filling in for my sister (Maddie) who was supposed to run it, but didn't exactly train... She ran a mile, was pretty winded, and called that enough training! If you know my sister, you wouldn't be surprised! She is very adventurous and wants to try everything! She has such a great, positive attitude about everything, except when it comes to working out with me. Apparently, I'm mean...
My new weight training workouts:
Barbell Curl: 4x10
Alternating Hammer Curls: 4x10
Dumbell Curls: 4x10
Skull Crushers: 4x10
Tricep Kickbacks: 4x10
Tricep Extensions: 4x10
BACK & SHOULDERS:
Alternating Deltoid Raises: 4x10
Barbell Rear Delt Row: 4x10
Dumbell One-Arm Shoulder Press: 4x10
Reverse Flies: 4x10
Dumbell Shrug: 4x10
Lat Pulldown (wide grip): 4x10
Barbell Deadlift: 4x10
Dumbell Lunges: 4x20 (10 each leg)
Dumbell Step-Ups: 4x10
Front Squats: 3x8
Leg Extensions: 4x10
Leg Press: 4x10
Leg Curls: 4x10
Chest Press: 4x10
Cable Flies: 4x10
Dumbell Bench Press: 4x10
Dumbell Flies: 4x10
Pushups - as many as I can!
Leg Lifts: 20
Pull-ins (on stability ball): 20
Oblique Crunches: 30
Russian Twists: 40 (with plate)
Another thing I've been doing is creating new playlists. I get so bored listening to the same songs over and over. It all depends on my mood as to what I want to listen to. I like a very wide variety of music, but one of my favorites to listen to while running is blues music!
With all sorts of energy bars on the market, which one should you choose? The main thing to consider when choosing an energy bar is what is in it and what type of energy is it going to give you. Are you using it to fuel your body right before your workout or an hour or more before your workout? In my opinion, it's best to choose an energy bar that is going to give you long-lasting energy to maintain endurance. It's best to eat these bars (I'm going to list some brands in a second!) about an hour or so before you workout. This way you will limit any intestinal distress and avoid getting sick! This is all going to vary individually too. Not everyone can do eat an hour before a workout... maybe it has to be 2 hours. It's all about experimenting and learning what works best for your body. There is no one-diet-fits-all!
Some things to consider when choosing an energy bar... low sugar (unless you need quick releasing carbs), minimal ingredients, and balance between carbs, protein, and fat. So many people are afraid that eating carbs is fattening and will cause weight gain. NO. Not the case. Excess CALORIES are fattening and what causes weight gain. So get that thought out of your head. When exercising, especially moderate to high intensity exercises, your body runs on carbs, so if it doesn't have enough, it's going to tap into your protein stores for energy. Not fat. Thus, this causes muscle loss. The reason your body uses protein as the next source of energy, rather than fat, is because it is easier to breakdown. You muscles have glycogen (sugar) stores so it uses those stores for energy to help you power through your workouts! That's why it is important to replenish those stores shortly after working out! Your body burns fat better during low intensity exercises... example: walking. Fat breaks down a slower rate, so your body has more time to break down fat during a low intensity workout as opposed to jumping rope, where your body needs that energy immediately.... This is why having a balanced diet is so important!!
Back to energy bars... they make great on-the-go pre-workout snacks. They provide the energy you need and are very convenient (that's why you may find them to be kind of expensive... but you can always make your own (more on that later!). I try to go for lower sugar bars because I do eat them about an hour before my workout, so it has plenty time to breakdown and give me the energy I need. I like the ThinkThink bars. They are high in protein, don't have added sugar, and are gluten-free! The area where you need to watch for sugar is usually the outer coating because it's typically chocolate. I also like Quest bars and Power Crunch bars for similar reasons. Many people complain about the texture of protein bars... I do too. That's why I like both of these brands because they aren't chalky. Another good energy bar is Larabar. They are minimally processed and contain natural ingredients... they taste really good too! These don't provide as much protein as the other two, but you don't always need that much protein. Depends what you have eaten already throughout the day and what type of exercise you are doing. These also make good afternoon snacks, even if you aren't planning on working out soon after.
Bars to stay away from are ones that provide lots of energy, but few nutrients... Example: Cliff bars and PowerBars. They are loaded with calories and sugar, so if that's what you need and you know you will be burning that energy, then it's not a bad choice. Another things to look for is chicory root fiber. This is a common ingredient in bars that provide fiber. Chicory root fiber is a synthetic blend, so if you eat too much or eat it too often, it may cause intestinal distress. Chicory root fiber is added to a lot of food... I've even seen it added to Greek yogurt before. It's not bad, but should be consumed on moderation... For endurance athletes, you may want to really limit this ingredient especially a week or more before a race! This is why it's important to read not only the nutrition facts, but the ingredient list too. You should know exactly what you're putting in your body!
When people as me what I studied in school, their first reaction is usually something along the lines of "Oh, you can help me with a meal plan!" or "I need to lose some weight, what should I eat?" Truth is, it varies person to person. Each person's nutritional needs may be a little different from the next. While there are so many reliable resources at our fingertips, like MyPlate and other USDA resources, they provide generalized recommendations to cover a large population. They provide a great outline of a healthy diet, but some people may need something more individualized, hence the job of a dietitian! A lot of things have to be taken into consideration when working with an individual and his/her nutritional needs.
Another thing I am frequently asked is if a certain diet supplements/diets work... Honestly, most of them are going to just help you take off water weight. There are countless diet products on the market... Don't waste your time or money. One, you are more than likely depriving your body of the nutrients it needs because you aren't eating enough due to a curbed appetite. Two, many people want the easy, quick fix, so they purchase products that are going to allow them to do this... Many of these products will say you don't have to change your diet or exercise. NOT TRUE! They are usually just taking off water weight, and as soon as you stop taking them, the weight will be right back to where it was! In order to lose weight, maintain weight, or whatever your goal may be... changing your lifestyle is what you have to do... This includes altering the way you eat and incorporating exercise. This doesn't mean you have restrictions or that you can't enjoy food... If you don't enjoy what you're eating, then why eat it?
Since I get questioned a lot, I decided to come up with my top 5 tips to living a healthy lifestyle! These are very generalized tips that can be part of anyone's routine. Apply it to your life and do what works best for you... Like I mentioned, everyone has different needs and goals!
1. Eat a wholesome, healthy diet
Eating wholesome, healthy foods will give you the energy you need to be your best! Nutrition should be of concern to everyone, even if you consider yourself to be healthy, because it is our foundation. Nourishing ourselves with the nutrients we need is crucial to living a healthy lifestyle. Quick fixes like diet pills and fad diets will only get you so far. When you think of nutrition, think long-term, not just right now! And remember, everything in moderation. Don't limit yourself from eating something you enjoy, even if it's not the healthiest thing! It's perfectly fine to enjoy a greasy burger, slice of cake, or any of your favorite treats from time to time. There is no reason to deprive yourself!
2. Drink lots of water
Drinking water not only keeps us hydrated, but has so many other benefits as well. It's needed for many reactions and processes that go on in our bodies. If we are dehydrated, our body is not functioning at its max potential. This can further cause problems, like injuries during exercise. A little secret.... It keeps us looking younger too! If you're dehydrated, you are more likely to look older and show more signs of aging; if you're drinking the appropriate amount of water, then your skin will look well hydrated and keep you looking younger!
3. Be active... and enjoy it
Find an activity you truly enjoy. Exercising/workouts should not be dreadful. Sure, we all have our days where we don't feel like working out, but if we push through that mental block, we will only become stronger. For the most part, your workout should be something you really enjoy, but of course, we all have those parts of workouts that we don't always care for... like for me, I LOVE leg day, but don't particularly like chest day, but I push through it because I know I will not get any better at it, or improve in anyway if I don't do it. Trying new things is the only way to find out what you like... I never thought I would be a runner. I'm a severe chronic asthmatic. I never would have imagined myself crossing the finish line of a half marathon, but I did. Twice, so far. And now I'm working towards a full. When you do find what you like, don't stop there! Keep trying new things to keep your workouts fun... Paddleboarding (great core workout!), dancing, kickboxing, swimming, hiking... the options are limitless!
4. Listen to your body
Don't over-do it. If your body is sending you signals that it's tired or needs a break, then give it a break. If you are in the middle of a workout and you become tired and/or mentally drained, stop. You will not be doing much for yourself by continuing at that point, and you increase your risk for injury. Getting plenty of sleep is a very important part of living a healthy lifestyle. Going to bed at 2AM and getting up at 6AM is going to reduce your productivity and not allow you to function at your potential. You will be left feeling drained and lack motivation to workout, and be more tempted to stop and grab a burger on the way home (partly because you know it will make you feel better) and you can use the excuse that you're too tired to cook or do anything else. By listening to your body, eating a healthy diet, keeping a consistent sleep schedule, and resting when your body needs a break are necessary for staying healthy. One of the most important things to keep in mind here, is knowing the difference from when you're actually tired and when you're just being lazy!
5. Do what you love
Find what you are passionate about and do it. I love nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle, so I use my interests and knowledge to help others. I find so much reward in what I do, and I know it's just beginning! When someone asks me for advise or my opinion on something, and they later tell me it worked for them or they feel better because they started changing the way they eat, I feel good knowing I helped someone make those changes (big or small) to improve his/her lifestyle! Part of living healthy includes being happy!
I can't stress enough how important it is to stay hydrated, especially in this heat! I always have a bottle of water with me, but was running some errands today and forgot it at home. I was Whole Foods and picked up a bottle of infused water with strawberries, lemon, and basil... So good and refreshing! Definitely going to be drinking this more often! Plus, there are many great benefits besides staying hydrated!
For one, it's natural and is made with fruit, so no added sugars! It also contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. It's a great way to improve your water and nutrient intake without lots calories. There really is no limit to this either... There are so many different fruits/vegetables/herbs that you can add to create whatever flavor you like. I've added oranges, strawberries, and lemon to my water before, but never thought about combining them. This is better than adding water enhancers because of the extra nutrients and no artificial flavoring. Plus, it's inexpensive and much cheaper than buying water enhancers!! Definitely worth a try if you've never had it!
If someone were to ask me my best piece of advise for dieting/weight loss... It would have to be not to restrict yourself of the foods you love. I've seen people make lists of foods they aren't going to eat to lose weight, and I don't advise that. In some situations, that may be necessary for various reasons, such as medical conditions or medications, but for general weight loss, it's only going to make it more difficult knowing you are restricting yourself from those those foods. It's perfectly fine to allow yourself a cheat MEAL... not necessarily a cheat DAY (that can really put you off track). If you are at a birthday party, it's fine to eat a piece of cake... not a HUGE piece, but a small slice to satisfy that sweet tooth! Or at holiday parties or Thanksgiving when there are so many food choices and you want to eat them all, you can! Just take one small serving from each dish! If you go to a restaurant and you want to splurge a little bit, then do it. Just plan ahead and monitor what else you eat throughout the day!
If you restrict yourself too much, eating will seem more like a chore than something enjoyable. Eating should be an enjoyable experience and your food should taste good. If you don't like it, don't eat it! If you are sticking to your diet on a regular basis, then it's alright to have a little treat. I did this yesterday... my little sister turned 13 (hard to believe!) and she wanted po-boys, so I ate one, even though I shouldn't have had the French bread since it has gluten in it. But they were homemade, so they were a little healthier than if I were getting one from a po-boy shop! I also had a piece of cake (Chantilly cake from Whole Foods! YUM!). I don't eat those foods often, but I really enjoy them.
Treating yourself and having a cheat meal should be something enjoyable. You can have a cheat meal (treat) once or twice a week, it's still easy to stay on track. Remember it's all about moderation! If you have a cheat day or two, that might make you stray from your diet too often, and next thing you know, you know you are telling yourself "Oh I'll get back to my diet tomorrow" or "My diet starts Monday, so I need to eat as much good food as I can." No... It should never end. As long as you maintain an overall healthy diet on a regular basis, you are less likely to do that. The more you put it off and make excuses, the longer it will take you to reach your goals. Another little tip... Don't refer to it as a diet. Refer to it as a lifestyle. Living a healthy lifestyle should include a healthy diet, regular exercise, and occasional treats!