Tag Archives: healthy-living

What Are Your Scales Telling You Really?

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By STEVEN MILNER IIST

I’m not advocating that you should throw out your scales but you should be aware that your scales don’t tell you what you need to know most and that is “what are your body fat percentages and distribution?” It’s not just our health we seek to improve when we aim to lose weight, let’s be honest we want to look as good as we feel. In fact the two go hand in hand, often times the better you look the better you feel. By far the best way to look fitter and be healthier is to shift the focus of your efforts from losing weight to gaining muscle and lowering your overall body fat percentage.

Measuring your body fat percentage is a great way to keep track of your progress. It’s a far more accurate indicator of your fitness level than weight alone. That’s because when you’re working out regularly, your muscle mass goes up and your fat goes down, sometimes it’s an even swap and the readout on your standard scales won’t necessarily reflect that change. Knowing your body fat levels gives you a better indicator of how well your program is working. A healthy range for women is 20 to 25 percent, but for a leaner more defined look aim for around 18 to 22 percent and for men 18 to 24 percent with an athletic look coming in at around 14 to 17 percent. N.B. everyone is different and different bodies will have different appearances even if the percentage body fat is the same, this can be attributed to bodyfat distribution. If you have reached 18% body fat or lower now is the time to switch your focus to building muscle. At this point it isn’t necessary to concentrate your efforts on losing much more bodyfat indeed it can start to become unhealthy. You need a minimum amount of fat on your body in order to perform optimally and not have symptoms such as Amenorrhea, bone loss, and low energy.

Types of Measurements
There are a number of ways to get your body fat percentage measured. Some of the more common include; hydrostatic weighing, bio-impedance scales, and skin fold callipers.

AS_344x163_BMI

Hydrostatic weighing
Hydrostatic weighing is the most accurate way to gauge body fat percentage. Unfortunately, it’s not the most practical—it involves being dunked under water in a gigantic water tank, while exhaling entirely.

Skin fold calliper
Skin fold callipers can also be accurate, but there’s a catch—you have to be measured by the same skilled person like myself, every time. This eliminates measuring differences from person to person. If you are working with a trainer who has been trained to use skin fold callipers, they should measure you once a month with callipers to get the most accurate assessments.

If you don’t have a trainer to help you out, however, your best bet is to use a bio-impedance scale. To get the most accurate measurement on a scale, always do it at the same time of day and make sure you are hydrated properly. The most common issues that will throw the scale off are varying levels of hydration, ladies if it’s that time of the month (don’t measure yourself during menstruation), or if you have food in your stomach.

Clothing indicators
Finally, my favourite tool: A pair of jeans. They don’t lie. Use a pair of jeans that you can’t button and try them on every 3-4 weeks to see if you are making progress. Whether the scale is budging or not doesn’t matter if your jeans are buttoning.

Muscular Male Torso Isolated on White

Ways to Lower Your Body Fat
There are two ways to lower your body fat: Lose fat (obviously), and build muscle. Extra muscle will rev up your metabolism to help burn off some of the fat. Plus, it’ll make you look leaner overall.

The best way to decrease your body fat percentage is to use a full body strength training program two to three times a week, using heavier weights with lower reps. This will stimulate your body to build lean body mass while burning fat. For the best fat-torching results, add in one to two days of interval-training cardio on top of your lifting routine.

And, of course, you cannot train with a bad diet so you’ll need to dial in your food by fueling your body highly nutritious protein, fruits, and veggies throughout the day.

Check out some of my other articles on diet and training or for more intense training tips visit my sibling site manicworkouts.com

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Six Fat Loss Training Mistakes

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Edited by Steven Milner IIST

It may not be ingrained in our male DNA, but when most of us start lifting weights for the first time, it sure seemed like all of our workouts (no matter what the goal) were genetically predestined to be bench press, biceps curl, and triceps pushdown marathons 4-5 times per week and not much else. I know that my own workouts sure looked like this when I first started weight training. I still visit a typical commercial gym and each time I do, I feel like I have time warped back to the 80s as I see lots of guys doing the same stuff everyone did over 20+ years ago. For whatever reason, not much has changed and it’s not their fault, they just don’t know any better. So what’s a bloke to do? I am going to show you how to do better based on several things that we have learned over the years. First, let’s be honest blokes, you could probably stand to lose some “lb’s” of body fat. A lot of guys, myself most definitely included, tend to find ourselves in a perpetual “bulking” or mass-gaining mode.

Why is this?

Interestingly, for a lot of us blokes, the mirror often lies and you will see a much leaner person staring back at you. If you were to take an honest self-evaluation such as a body composition test or take some simple photos with only your trunks on, you may be very surprised and/or shocked with the results. It can be a real eye-opener when you learn that you are more than likely not nearly as lean as you think you are. In other words, that 14 odd % body fat that you think you are sitting at is probably much closer to 22%. If you have taken this evaluation and you have decided that it is time for you to get leaner, it is also high time that you overhaul your weight training program to make it more suited to the task at hand. I have written training programs for more than a few men who have come from the same place that you and I have come from. These guys are now typically middle aged and looking to shed some fat, stay strong, and still feel a bit athletic while holding on to their inner “bloke.” I am going to share with you what I feel are some of the biggest mistakes that I see most guys make when left to their own devices as it pertains to their weight training programs when seeking fat loss. Fixing these mistakes immediately will fast track your progress and get you to your fat loss goals. I am then going to share a snapshot of a training program that we have used with great success for blokes just like us.

1.  Blokes Organize Their Training Like a “Bodybuilder.”

I certainly mean no disrespect to the competitive bodybuilding community by the above statement, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with bodybuilding as a competitive pursuit. There is certainly a lot to learn from bodybuilders. In fact, most blokes get our first exposure to weight training through bodybuilders via muscle magazines and the Internet. The problem is that most guys think that following the routines of competitive bodybuilders is the best way for the average person to train for fat loss without really giving it enough thought. They will typically organize their training sessions in terms of the body parts or muscles trained. This is actually not very logical and not as productive as it could be since in reality your body works as an integrated unit and not as individual parts or muscles. By the way, have you ever wondered how it was decided that certain muscles get their own day while others don’t? It makes no real sense to base how we allocate our exercises to our training days by simply considering muscle groups as the main organizing factor. It makes much more sense to base the allocation in regards to what the body does as it relates to basic human movements. If you think more in terms of training basic movements and the body as a whole (the way it actually works), you will actually train muscles as a by-product and get the results you desire.

“When we just train muscles, we forget movements, when we train movements, we never forget muscles.” Nick Winkleman

The other big problem with this approach is that time is a major limiting factor for most typical blokes. We all have extremely busy lives with jobs and families. Do you really have the time to dedicate to training that a professional bodybuilder (whose job is usually his training) would have? I don’t think so. Real life experience shows that full body weight training routines done three times a week based on a split of basic human movements will work far better for most blokes, most of the time, in terms of fat loss training. This allows you to train with a higher frequency (you will actually hit muscle groups more often than typical body part split routines) and get better results. Instead of classifying exercises by muscle group or body part, try to classify them simply based on what they are – basic movements, then we allocate these movements to training days. Squat, Hinge, Push, Pull, Single Leg Stance, Lunge, Core.

2.  Blokes Think More is Better.

More than likely, because of the heavy mainstream bodybuilding influence on general training that we mentioned above, most blokes usually think they must train on that good old 5-6 times per week body part split routine with extremely high volume to get any results. They also often think they must use multiple exercises for each body part with tons of sets. You must realize that you make gains while you are recovering from training, not during the actual training itself. There is also no need for exercises that are redundant. Think about it, what the heck is the leg extension going to do for you that the squat doesn’t? The key is to focus on quality and not so much on quantity. As fitness expert Paul Chek has stated, “exercise is like a drug.” With the correct dose and the correct drug, you will get the desired response and it all works. If you overdose or take the wrong drug, you can do more harm than good and not get the desired response. One of the reasons why a three times per week full body routine works so well is that you get a high frequency of training without over doing it in terms of volume.

3.  Blokes Do Too Many Single Joint Exercises.

Is it a crime to do biceps curls or triceps pushdowns? No, but when the volume/number of these types of exercises dominate your program, you will greatly diminish the effectiveness of your workouts, particularly when it comes to fat loss. If you focus your training on heavy, multi-joint (compound) exercises such as squats, deadlifts, various presses, push ups, rows, chins/pull-ups, etc., you will train much greater amounts of muscle overall, and this will lead to more calories burned during and after your workouts. As a general rule, the more muscle involved in an exercise the better. But what if a bloke’s goal is to also get bigger guns? Realize that spending the majority of your time and effort on getting stronger on chin-ups/pull-ups, various rows, and various types of presses will get your arms bigger faster than anything else. If you are unable to only do a single unassisted chin-up, what do you think will do more for your bicep size, those 25-30lb curls or focusing all your time and energy on working on that chin-up and getting to the point where you are doing multiple reps with an extra 25-50lbs hooked up around your waist?

4.  Blokes Neglect Lower Body Training.

Squats aren’t simply a leg exercise and deadlifts aren’t simply a back exercise. They are full body exercises that involve just about every muscle in the entire body.  If you have a 315lb. bar on your shoulders or upper back and you are getting ready to bang out a set of squats for 8 reps, realize that not just your legs are involved in the exercise. Your shoulders, upper back, core, etc., are all very heavily involved. They need to be big enough and strong enough to support and move that load. A lot of blokes think, “I get enough “leg” work from running and playing football/rugby, so I don’t need to do squats, deadlifts, lunges, step ups, etc.” Sorry, but that’s just not the same thing! Understand that approximately 70% of your muscle mass is in your back, hips and legs. If you omit these exercises, you are severely limiting your results. Dare to be different and dare to get better results.  At some gyms you will see “informed” trainers doing deadlifts, squats, lunges, and various single leg exercises, thereby training “legs.” It is part of their culture and one of the reasons that they get the results that they do.

5. Blokes Rest Way Too Long Between Sets.

You know the scene at the local gym – guys taking 5-10 minutes between sets of the same exercise chatting with their mates while discussing any number of topics and paying no attention to time. This is not very effective at all if your goal is fat loss! Research and practical experience has shown us that shorter rest periods lead to maximal metabolic disturbance possibly due to the hormonal influence that is set off by these shorter rest periods. It also allows us to increase overall caloric burn and total work performed in the time allotted for the training session. The key is being able to combine shorter rests without compromising the use of heavier loads in our compound exercises. How do we do this? Quite simply, we pair non-competing exercises with short rests (30-60 seconds) between them. As an example we might use the following pairing in a program:
1A: Push Ups             2-3 sets                      12 reps                       60 sec. rest
1B: Reverse Lunges  2-3 sets                      12 reps each              60 sec. rest This allows us to increase the actual amount of work density done in a specified time period, as opposed to doing each exercise one at a time with longer rests, which leads again to better fat loss results.

6.  Blokes Think, “The Bench Press is More Than Just an Exercise, it is a Way of Life!”

I don’t think that there is any doubt that the bench press is the most overused exercise of all time. But, let me state this up front, there is nothing wrong with the bench press! I love the bench press (as most blokes do). The problem is when the bench press becomes your entire workout each time, rather than simply a part of your training program. In other words, most blokes simply bench press way too often and with way too much volume. This creates massive imbalances about the shoulder girdle. You need to strive for some sort of balance in the amount of pushing and pulling movements that you perform. Since most guys have been doing way more pushing for such a long time, it is a wise plan to purposely imbalance your training in the other direction in performing more pulls than pushes. You need to include lots of inverted rows, face pulls, dumbbell rows, and cable rows. Remember the fact that 70% of muscle mass is in the back and legs? This will do your shoulders a lot of good and help out with the fat loss process all at the same time. By the way, in looking at the push pattern from a fat loss standpoint, the good old-fashioned push up is probably a better choice than the bench press actually, as it involves a greater amount of muscle mass and integrates the core to a greater extent at the same time.

 

Edited for a UK audience from an original article by Craig Rasmussen “Fat Loss for Dudes”

HOW DO OUR ARMS GROW?

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article reviewed and edited by STEVEN MILNER IIST

Most people tend to look at their arms as an indicator of the amount of muscle they are gaining, muscle growth in the arms is typically the same as elsewhere in the body except that the arms are known as our show muscles, so how do they grow? This article is a bit technical but I have deliberately avoided throwing numbers and study citations at you because they don’t really help you in the real world of physical results. Sometimes it’s helpful to know which atoms and molecules are broken off, replaced or reordered but that’s the science behind it all and I’m more concerned with the practise of self improvement.

Muscle growth typically occurs at the structural and chemical levels. Further, strength increases are highly related to changes in muscle fibre size. Increase in muscle size is typically referred to as hypertrophy. The National Strength and Conditioning Association (USA) reports that hypertrophy in the arms can be observed after about 16 workout sessions.
HYPERTROPHY
The NSCA purports that increases in muscle size, or hypertrophy, result from an increase in the cross-sectional area of muscle fibres after resistance training in the arms. Resistance training induces increased synthesis of the proteins, actin and myosin. Additional proteins accumulate on the perimeter of each fibre, which increases its diameter. Further, the number of myofibrils within the muscle has been shown to increase, thus adding to increases in muscle size.

FIBRE SIZE
Two types of muscle fibres exist. Type I fibres are associated with longer-duration activities such as cycling, while type II fibres are engaged during short-duration, explosive activities such as power lifting. Both muscle fibre types are stimulated during resistance training in the arms, although type II fibres are engaged to a greater degree. Therefore, type II muscle fibres tend to increase cross-sectional area to a greater extent than type I fibres.

FIBRE CONVERSION
Muscle fibre types have been shown to change as a result of training, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Resistance training results in muscle fibres taking on type II characteristics. Type II fibres are more prone to size increases, and fibre-type conversion may contribute to overall muscle growth in the arms after exercise.

STRUCTURAL CHANGES
Resistance training in the arms increases density and volume of many of the structures that form a muscle fibre, such as the myofibrils, sarcoplasmic reticulum and T-tubules. These changes also contribute to muscle fibre growth and thus increases in muscle cross-sectional area.

OTHER MUSCULAR CHANGES
Resistance training results in cellular changes in the arms as well. Increases in mitochondrial density, capillary density and improved acid-buffering capacity have all been associated with increased muscle size. Wilmore and Costill report that hyperplasia, the splitting of fibres into daughter fibres, may also occur, though research on this topic is equivocal.

A LITTLE REMINDER FOR THE LADIES
In the absence of testosterone production ladies will tone and firm their muscles and NOT grow them to man-size proportions.
DON’T WORRY LADIES YOU WILL BECOME MORE BEAUTIFUL, NOT BUTCH.

ladies arms

FELLERS? GO FOR IT! GROW HUGE…

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Edited from an original article by Graham Ulmer

 

A Construction Workers Weight Loss Plan

That’s not me by the way!

by STEVEN MILNER IIST VTCT Qualified

I recently received a request from my friend Dave who asked for a simple diet for losing weight and I think he meant for me to write out which particular foods/meals to eat (I’ve given an example of a meal plan that would suit active people like Dave at the end of this article). Thing is, it’s not that simple because peoples tastes are different and their minimum calorific needs can vary hugely. In my friends case he is a hard working man in the labour intensive construction industry. Regardless of what some websites may try to tell you you can’t decide on you calorific needs just based on your activity levels as those levels will invariably change from day to day. I have however included (near the end of this article) a rough guide for working out your daily needs. With some changes in your eating habits and exercising habits you may be surprised at the amount of weight that you can lose over a month’s time period. You can average losing about 2 pounds each week safely so it won’t take long to lose the weight.

The UK Food Standards Agency recently commissioned a report into the diets of construction workers and among its key findings were the terrible lack of adequate catering for construction workers and the misconception amongst construction workers that a high fat diet is better for giving them the sustainable energy levels their jobs demand.

You can make some adjustments in the foods you are eating but don’t try too hard to diet. Just try to make different food choices.

Don’t skip meals. Eat three meals a day and even allow yourself to have snacks. Just choose your foods wisely. Eat plenty of fruit and veg. Don’t try to eliminate all fat. Your body needs some fat, or it will start to make more.

Be sure you get enough calcium by drinking skimmed milk or calcium-fortified orange juice. Drink at least 2 litres of water each day. This helps to decrease your appetite and is good for your skin and hair.

Also, be careful not to lose weight too quickly. Don’t lose more than one maybe two pounds per week, and don’t be discouraged if you don’t see results quickly.

1. Stretch your meals to, at least, 20 minutes or longer. Your stomach, mouth and brain are all connected and it takes 20 minutes of chewing before your stomach signals your brain that you are full. To successfully lose weight, you need to eat slowly for 20 minutes or longer.

2. Drinking 2 litres of water a day is important to your health, your normal diet and to help lose weight. Water is necessary for the metabolism of your stored fat.

3. Make good food choices such as roasted chicken, turkey, fish, tuna fish, lean ham, steak, lean beef or lean hamburger, vegetables prepared without butter, brown rice, white rice, fruits–fresh or canned without extra sugar, low calorie fruit jelly, fat free yogurts, salads with low calorie and low fat dressings, air-popped popcorn, fat free twiglets, fruit smoothies made with yogurt and pasta in 2 oz servings.

4. Use snack foods wisely. Here are some suggestions for low calorie snacks. Fat free pretzels, fat free yogurt, air popped popcorn, low calorie jelly with fat free squirty cream, fruit smoothies made with fresh fruit and frozen yogurt, sugar free ice lollies and ice cream.

5. When you go fat free or low fat, you also cut out much of the taste of the foods you eat. Add the flavour back with herbs and spices, but not salt.

6. Increase your metabolism by including some of the fat burning foods and breaking your meals into 4 or 5 smaller meals during the day. Include as many single ingredient foods as you can.

7. Negative emotions will also interfere with your weight loss program. It’s difficult to stay motivated to lose weight when you feel bad, and believe me processed foods will make you feel bad.

8. To lose weight faster, reduce your intake of caffeine. Caffeine leads to an increase of insulin in your body that retards the burning of your stored fat. This is a simple chemical reaction in your body that you can change. Reduce your caffeine intake by 50% and see what happens. Here is a rough guide to use when looking at the amount of caffeine you currently take in: Brewed coffee  – 100mg; Instant coffee  – 70mg; Tea  – 50mg; Soft drink cans – (Coke, Dr. Pepper,) – 50mg; Dark chocolate (1 oz.) – 20mg and Milk chocolate (1 oz.) – 6mg.

9. Increase your intake of fibre rich foods. They will help fill you up faster and will help all the food you eat pass through your digestive system more easily.

10. Exercise is probably the most important key to increasing your metabolism and burning off excess fat.

11. To lose weight quickly, never skip a meal. Your first meal after waking starts your metabolism. Your metabolism then speeds up for about eight hours and then starts slowing down until you go to sleep when it goes to low until you wake and eat and start the cycle again. Skip breakfast and your metabolism won’t get started until lunch time. You’ve just missed three or four hours of fat burning time. When you skip meals during the day, your metabolism also slows down.

12. There are certain things that should be avoided when trying to lose weight such as–all fried foods–have them baked, broiled, grilled or pan fried using a non fat spray. Avoid rich gravies, sauces, rich desserts and pop because of the sodium content.

13. Try including some fibre in the diet as it is very healthy for you and also expands in your stomach and gives you a full feeling.

14. Make sure that you have your caloric needs figured out and also keep the fat grams down to only 20 percent of the daily food total.

15. Daily calorie intake. We all need a minimum number of calories simply to survive, but we can also set a calorie limit to maintain a healthy weight. You can calculate the total numbers of calories you need for your type of lifestyle, then use this figure to decide on a range of calories to consume each day – it’s not an absolute figure.

Steps:
1. Calculate the minimum number of calories you need by multiplying your current or desired weight in pounds by 10 if you’re a woman, 11 if you’re a man. This number represents your basic calorie needs.

2. Calculate the number of calories required for your activity level (see tips, below) by multiplying your basic calorie needs (the calculation from step 1) by your activity level – 20 percent or 0.2, 30 percent or 0.3, 40 percent or 0.4, or 50 percent or 0.5. The resulting number represents your activity-based calorie needs.

3. Calculate the number of calories your body needs for food digestion and absorption by adding your basic calorie needs and your activity-based calorie needs (the answers from steps 1 and 2) and multiplying this sum by 0.10. These are the calories you need for digestion.

4. Add the three calculations from steps 1, 2 and 3: This is your total daily calorie need to maintain your desired weight.

Tips:
Use the following as a guideline for determining your activity level:
20 percent if you sit or lie still for most of the day, with little or no exercise;
30 percent if you walk less than two miles per day;
40 percent if you are somewhat active, doing activities such as dancing, doing a lot of work in the house or garden, or taking exercise classes;
50 percent if you’re actively involved in a sport or you have job that requires a great deal of physical labour, such as construction work.

There are 3,500 calories in a pound, so to lose one pound per week, you need to decrease your calorie intake by 3,500 calories a week, or 500 calories a day.

* This is an example of an American football player’s daily meal plan to lose weight, courtesy of Leslie Bonci, R.D., Pittsburgh Steelers’ team nutrition consultant. (I’ve translated as best I can)

BREAKFAST CHOICES
A sandwich on;
Whole grain bread or muffin
A scrambled egg
2 thin slices Ham or thin smoked bacon
Lettuce/tomato
Very thin spread of mayonnaise (light mayo)
OR
A yogurt (150-200 calorie type) with muesli added
A cereal bowl of fruit salad
And a slice of whole grain toast with a thin spread of peanut butter
OR
2 Scrambled egg savoury pancake
4 eggs, scrambled with cheddar cheese
spread into 2 corn tortillas with salsa
and a banana

LUNCH:
Turkey and Mayo sub:
6-inch torpedo roll
mustard, ketchup, thin spread of mayo ( light)
one-quarter pound of turkey and 2 slices of cheese
WITH
A cup of low fat coleslaw ( can buy the coleslaw mix from the super market)
AND
Dish of cut up fruit
OR
Grilled chicken sandwich:
Grilled chicken breast
BBQ sauce
On a whole grain bun
With
Bowl of vegetable soup
OR
Tuna salad sandwich:
175g can of tuna ( water-packed) with light mayo, relish
spread on 2 muffin halves,
top with 2 slices of cheese
grill until cheese melts
With
sliced tomatoes
OR
Pasta- 3 cups with sauce
With
A salad with a grilled chicken breast and go light on the dressing, 2-3 tablespoons at the most

AFTERNOON SNACK:
An 250g  yogurt with muesli
OR
A small bowl of cereal
OR
A smoothie with
250g yogurt
250g skimmed milk
one cup of frozen or fresh berries or a small banana
Blend together

DINNER
Meat of some kind:
Steak, Pork, Venison, Fish, Chicken; 12 ounces ( three quarters of a pound) raw weight
Grilled, Boiled or Baked
With
2 portions of pasta or rice or potatoes- about one-third of the plate
and 2 portions of vegetables, rest of the plate- steamed, grilled.
If you have seconds, vegetables only!

EVENING SNACK:
One of the following:
Popcorn- microwave snack sized bag
Yogurt with muesli.
Small bowl of cereal, like Raisin Bran, or Nutri Grain type

This would suit rugby or real football player or indeed my mate Dave who works in construction and has already lost two stone, well done Dave!