Wait! Why You Need a Warm Up Before Your Workout

It’s great you’re so excited and eager to get started with your workout, but you should never get right into your workout without going through a warm up session first.

What is a Warm Up?

A “warm up” is just what it sounds like – a period of time spent warming your body up before a workout. This warm up helps prepare your body for the activity it’s about to do. You shouldn’t just get up from sitting down at the computer and dive into an intense HIIT session, because that puts a ton of unnecessary stress on your body. It’s like going from 0 to 100 in a matter of seconds and that is definitely not good for the bod.

It’s like going into surgery with a construction worker doing the job. Sure, it might get done, but it’s just not a good idea.

With a proper warm up, blood flow is increased, and your cardiovascular system is revved up at a gradual pace, so your body is prepped for the workout instead of just getting shocked right into it. When your body is warmed up before a workout, your muscles are looser and less likely to end up sore or injured at the end of your workout.

How Do I Warm Up?

To warm up, you can pretty much do anything you want, as long as it lasts at least 5-10 minutes and gets your body moving so your heart rate speeds up and your body is prepared for the workout ahead.

Dynamic stretches are best for a warm up session, rather than static stretches, because they help get your muscles warm and ready for the workout ahead. Save the static stretches for after your workout, helping your body relax and bring your heart rate back down. Static stretches help decrease muscle tension and increase muscle relaxation, making them the ideal choice post-workout.

The type of warm up you should do depends on the type of workout – whether cardio or strength training. Stick with similar exercises to those in your workout, but at a less intense pace. Obviously the more intense your workout, the harder workout you need, to get your body ready. For a lighter workout, such as one including only bodyweight exercises, stick with a more basic warm-up.

What if I Don’t Have Time for a Warm Up?

Look, it’s great you’re willing to devote time to working out, and everyone should, but if you’re “not able” to add an extra five or ten minutes onto the time spent here, you should get your priorities sorted out. The whole reason you’re working out in the first place is because you care about your body and want to be fit and healthy, and skipping your warm up is only going to have negative effects on your body, so it doesn’t make much sense to skip it just to save yourself a few minutes. If anything, if you really need to, take that time off the workout instead. A proper warm up and cool down is important to help you get results and to help prevent injury.

 

It doesn’t matter whether you have a cardio or strength training workout planned – you need a workout to avoid injury and maximize the results of your workout. There are absolutely no disadvantages to fitting a warm up session in pre-workout.

But, there are lots of benefits, including increased muscle temperature, increased body temperature, and improved range of motion.

It’s pretty simple – if you don’t have time to warm up, you don’t have time to work out.

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You’ve Got it All Wrong: Why You Need to Eat to Lose Weight

Most people think you have to stop eating to lose weight, but that’s not the answer at all. In fact, if you try to avoid eating in hopes of losing weight and getting in shape, you’re sadly mistaken.

By not eating the necessary amount of calories each day, you’re not only going to lose most of whatever muscle you do have, but you’re also putting yourself at risk of nutrient deficiencies as well as other serious health problems.

Your Calorie Maintenance Level

Your calorie maintenance level tells you the number of calories you need to eat each day in order to maintain your current weight. You need to eat this many calories in order to keep your body functioning properly and neither gain or lose weight. Even skipping just 100 calories can significantly affect your weight and general health, especially over time, which is why it’s so helpful for most people to monitor weight and track calories and macros. This way you know exactly how many calories you’re burning each day and how many you’re taking in, and ensuring your body is getting the nutrients it needs to strive.

What Happens When You Don’t Eat Enough

Here’s what happens – when you don’t eat enough, your body enters a state of “starvation mode”, which can actually prevent you from losing weight. It won’t end up causing you to gain weight, so long as you’re creating a caloric deficit, you will lose weight.

The issue here is that this starvation response will cause serious problems. That includes slowing down your metabolic rate, which is the last thing you want to do if your goal in the first place is losing weight. It can also result in binge eating, because it causes intense hunger cravings, which means you’ll probably end up taking in more calories overall than you should be, so you end up gaining weight and completely missing your goal on this one.

The Right Way

If your goal is to lose weight, and there are many people out there right now who have that as their goal, don’t clutter your mind with all the different diets, trends and tips out there. There’s just one piece of information you need to know – to create a caloric deficit.

The only way you can lose weight is with a caloric deficit, so you’re taking in fewer calories than you’re burning each day. Just remember not to be drastic and stop eating altogether. You should only eat 500 fewer calories than your calorie maintenance level at the most in order to safely drop those pounds over time. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. Even without any exercise at all, you would lose weight so long as you have that caloric deficit. Of course, with regular cardio and strength training exercise fit in, you are not just going to lose weight, but also get in the best shape of your life and eventually build muscle if that’s your goal. (Once you reach your desired weight, you can simply start eating those extra 500 calories a day so you’re fulfilling your daily calorie maintenance needs, and you can more effectively build muscle once you’re out of that deficit.

So in closing, remember that it is absolutely essential that you eat enough. If you don’t, you are wreaking havoc on your body and in particular, destroying your metabolism. You will not achieve your goal of weight loss simply by starving yourself of calories. Your body needs a certain number of calories to stay healthy, so make sure you meet those needs. The only way to safely lose weight is by knowing your calorie maintenance level, and then simply eating 500 or fewer calories than that number.

Even if you have struggled with your weight all your life, or have a lot of weight to lose and you’re worried it will never happen, it’s important to realize that anyone can lose weight and get in shape. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you weigh, what you do for a living; as long as you know what you’re taking in and putting out in terms of energy (calories) each day, you can drop that weight and get in the best shape of your life.

Progress Pics: Why They’re Important

zoolanderProgress pics are an important part of helping you achieve your fitness goals. You can take them whenever you want – I usually try to fit in doing it around the first of every month, just to keep the pictures evenly spaced apart, to better see the progress I`ve made from one month to the next.

Try to remember to take the pictures in the same (or a similar) outfit without a distracting background, so it`s easier to compare them and to focus on what you`re actually trying to focus on, which is the physical change in your body since you started working out. The best idea is to wear a bathing suit for this picture (you may not want to and you may want to delete that picture right away but DON`T!) so you can get the most accurate, full view of your body. If you wear capris or a hoodie, you’re obviously not going to see the major muscle groups you’ve been working so hard on. So while you may not be thrilled about that bikini photo now, think of how awesome you’ll feel when you take the same picture six months from now. If you keep working hard and keep taking care of your body, the changes you see by then will be drastic.

Properly tracking your progress is always important, so you can see how far you`ve come and give yourself more motivation to keep at it, keep working hard and continue to strengthen and grow as a person. You can track as many measurements as you want – and you should – but the saying is true that a picture says a thousand words, and looking at pictures of yourself then and now is one of the best ways to see how far you`ve come. It also helps you figure out which areas you’re doing well on and which you need to work on.

Also remember that scales don`t tell the full story. especially over those first few months. Pictures never lie. You can see almost instant changes when you start working out (along with eating properly, of course) or at least within just a couple of weeks, and you can tell if you`re seeing the changes you want in your body, especially if you have specific problem areas. Even after just a few sets of progress pictures, you will definitely be able to see how your body is transitioning.

It’s definitely a great method of motivation, so you can see how far you’ve come, and have picture proof of the amazing changes you’ve made in your body. When you start to actually see yourself losing that fat, building muscle and getting stronger, I’m telling ya, it’s a pretty incredible feeling.

Remember, you don’t have to show these pictures to anyone else if you don’t feel comfortable. This isn’t about showing off, it’s about showing yourself what you can do, how far you’ve come, and keep yourself motivated to see how far you can go. Even after getting in shape, these aren’t pictures I would just post randomly everywhere. These are pictures for me. And it’s not about vanity, just as I don’t think it is for someone who is truly interested in getting healthy and being fit. Sure, you change your body for the better and look incredible, but what it’s really about is building strength, amazing yourself with what you can do when you put your mind to it, and about transforming yourself into the brightest, most dedicated, amazing, best form of yourself you can be.

Top 5 Reasons You’re Not Getting Results in the Gym

One of the most difficult parts of getting fit is finding the motivation to do so. Whether you have never worked out before in your life, or you used to and are just getting started again now, getting your mind into the game is the first and most important step. Once you have that out of the way, it’s all about keeping up with your workouts and staying on track with your diet.

Of course what you’re most eager about is starting to see the changes in your body when you look in the mirror. But what happens when the days go by and these changes aren’t happening? You’re eating right, getting off your butt to work out every day, why aren’t you seeing results? Well, there are a few likely reasons why you’re not getting the results you were expecting.

You’ve Hit a Plateau

One of the most likely reasons you’re not seeing results is because you’ve hit a wall, or a plateau as it’s more commonly referred to in the fitness world. It’s pretty simple – you need to challenge your body if you want it to adapt and improve. If you’re using 20lb dumbbells and you’re able to complete your full 3 sets of 10 reps in your workout without exhaustion, your muscles are already strong enough to handle this weight, so you’re not challenging them anymore.

The easiest way to fix this is to increase the amount of weight you’re using. Start with an increment of just 5lbs to start, to prevent putting too much strain on your muscles, so you’re now using 25lb dumbbells, challenging your muscles again and forcing them to work harder to lift the weight. There are other ways to challenge your body too, such as increasing the number of reps or set sin your workout, or by changing or even just switching around the order of some of the exercises in your workout. Variety is always key when it comes to making progress in the gym, so never get stuck in a rut.

You’re Trying to Do it All on Your Own

It’s great to be knowledgeable, to have will and determination and want to do things on your own, but if you’re just getting started, it’s usually best to get the help or advice of a professional. Instead of coming up with your own workout plan, stick with a proven workout plan that is specifically tailored to your needs as a beginner. You have no business doing certain exercises or overtraining your body, and that’s exactly what you’ll be doing if you just take a wild stab in the dark at this.

With the right program – one that includes the right exercises with sufficient frequency and recovery – you have the opportunity to make incredible progress. As you continue progressing, when you have more experience and your form is solid, you can start implementing your own changes into your routine and taking things more into your own hands. If you’re just getting started, you probably don’t have much of a clue what you’re doing and it only makes sense that you would want guaranteed results by getting help, instead of trying to do it all on your own.

You’re Eating Too Much

Eating too much food is a surefire way to prevent results in the gym. No matter how hard you push yourself with those squats and deadlifts, you simply will not get results if you’re not eating right. The phrase “you can’t out train a bad diet” is absolutely TRUE. That doesn’t mean you can’t ever eat your favourite snacks or treats, but you need to be aware of how much you’re eating. You can’t lose weight if you’re eating more than your daily calorie limit, and you can’t gain weight if you’re eating less than your daily calorie limit. You can actually eat pretty much whatever you want, as long as you’re tracking your calories and meeting your calorie needs.

If you want to see changes in your body and let the time and hard work you’re putting in at the gym show through, you need to eat the right foods. Start meal planning and tracking your macros, to ensure you’re getting lots of variety and all the lean protein, carbs, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals you need in your diet. Without this, you won’t gain muscle and lose fat like you’re trying to.

You’re Not Eating Enough

This may seem strange considering the last point, but it’s true. If you’re not eating enough food, you could be stalling your progress in the gym. Your body needs food for energy. Calories from food give your body the energy it needs to make it through those kickass workouts. If you don’t get enough protein, you can’t build muscle or hold onto the muscle you already have. Protein also helps with satiation, helping control your hunger so you can stick to your daily calorie limit.

You’re Expecting Too Much Too Soon

Or maybe patience is your issue. It would be nice if we could end up with chiseled abs and glutes-to-die-for after just a couple of workouts, but unfortunately, that just aint gonna happen. It takes time and hard work for you to see significant changes in your body, so you need to stick to it. Don’t just make health and fitness a fad in your life, make it a habit, a lifestyle choice that you’re going to keep for the rest of your life. On a positive note, think of it this way – you’ll feel so much better once you do get to that point (and it will happen if you keep it at it) because you actually had to work for it. You have to earn that body, but it will be the best reward for hard work you’ll ever get.

If you think you’re not getting the results you’re expecting, these are the most likely reasons why. Everyone is different, but we are all guaranteed to get results if we eat right and follow an appropriate workout plan suited to our fitness goals. So take time to plan ahead each week, so your meals and workouts are all set up and ready to go (this not only helps save you a ton of time and hassle through the week, especially if you live a busy, hectic life like most of us do, but because it makes it easier on you, it’s great help for staying motivated and sticking to it) and you give yourself the best chances of success.

Strength Training: How Long Until I Start Seeing Results?

strengthOne of the biggest workout mistakes people make is giving up when they don’t see results fast enough. I know it’s hard when you’re putting your all into your workout every day, and you’ve been sticking to it and doing your best, and a whole four days in you don’t see the ripped abs and plumped up booty you were hoping for.

It’s important to realize that you are simply NOT going to see dramatic results in days, no matter who you are. Think about it – it didn’t take your body days to get into bad shape, so it’s not going to take days to get it in good shape either.

Everyone is different, and you may notice someone else’s results long before your own. Working out with a friend and they’ve lost 10 pounds and look fab and you still feel like you’re getting nowhere? Remember not to compare yourself to others and to just stay focused on yourself and your own goals.

With strength training, one of the most likely reasons you’re not seeing results is because you’re not challenging yourself. Progressive overload is the key here. It’s necessary in order to build muscle. If you’re lifting weights that are too light, you’re not challenging your muscles and as a result, you won’t continue to get stronger. You won’t make any more progress. That means no consistent gains in muscle mass. It’s that simple.

In order for your muscles to grow, you need to almost constantly increase the demands you are placing on your body. You can do this in a number of different ways. The most common way is by increasing the amount of weight you’re lifting, for example switch from 40 lb dumbbells to 50 or 60 lbs when you no longer feel challenged, or adding a couple 10 lb plates to your barbell.

There are other ways you can force your body to improve and adapt, so you can continue to gain more muscle and strength. Changing the number of reps and sets in your workout is a simple way of keeping your body challenged and preventing a plateau. As long as you’re constantly making your body work harder, your muscles will need to keep up and your fitness will only continue to improve and advance as a result.

There is no exact answer to how long it will take you to start seeing results from your workouts, but typically, you should start to see small changes in your body at least within four weeks. If not, chances are there is something you’re doing wrong. Whether you’re taking in too many calories, not taking in enough calories, overtraining; there are various possible reasons you’re not getting the results you should be, but the most important thing is to ensure you are doing things right, and then stick to it. Go over your diet and fitness plan and make sure everything is planned properly, with realistic goals. The good news is – as long as you’re doing these basic things right – with an implemented effective workout routine and clean diet, you WILL see results, no ifs, ands, or butts (except a nice one of your own) about it.

If you’re not seeing results, try tracking your calories. You may be taking in more calories each day than you realized and this could be stalling your progress. Make sure you have proper form with your exercises during every workout, not just to ensure you get the results you’re after, but also to help prevent injury. Of course with strength training, make sure you’re using enough weight that you’re actually challenging yourself, a weight that is light enough for you to handle, but enough that you feel like you couldn’t do another rep at the end of your sets. Then, once you’re no longer challenged, increase the weight, and so on.

The most important thing to remember is that results will come, and you will be so glad you stuck to it. A year may seem like a far time off from now, but by the end of that year you can have your body completely transformed, and that is a pretty incredible thing. Keep challenging yourself, feed your body wholesome, nutritious foods to fuel it and give you energy to keep up with your workouts, and your strength training workouts will help you achieve your best body, inside and out.

The Importance of a Proper Fitness Plan

One of the worst things you can do if you’re trying to get fit is go into it blind. Yes, giving up the junk food and couch marathons to start eating nutritious foods and being active is a great idea no matter what, and you will feel and look better almost instantly, but for the best results there’s much more to it than that.

Putting some time into planning is really important, but it’s important because it allows you to do a few things in particular which are going to be detrimental to your success.

Get Educated

Before you can do anything, you should get more educated on the topic you’re dealing with. It’s good to listen to experts you trust, believing in what they say and choosing to let them guide you through the process, but no matter what it is you’re dealing with, it’s always immensely helpful to become more educated yourself, so it’s easier to understand. In this case, the most important issues to familiarize yourself with are food and exercise.

Don’t try to take on everything alone. As a beginner, it’s best to seek the advice of professionals so you can learn the ropes and get started right, so you’re giving yourself the best chances for success. In particular, find a proven beginner’s routine and stick to it, instead of trying to create an over-the-top routine for yourself. You need to learn perfect form for the different exercises before taking on a too advanced plan. Even if you have all the motivation and eagerness in the world, you’re not going to do yourself any favours by trying to take on too much too soon.

Set Your Goals

By taking time to plan, you can set your goals and have a much better chance of actually reaching them. It’s never easy to make progress when everything is cluttered and confusing. So make it simple. Write down what you want, and then work on it. Every single day. Make your goals clear, what it is you want to achieve and how you’re going to get there, and then stick to it. It’s really as easy as that.

Create a Schedule

We all lead busy lives, some busier than others, but no matter who you are you can always find time to do something if you’re willing. By creating a schedule, you not only ensure you can fit in your workouts according to your own timetable, when it’s most convenient for you, but it also makes it easier for you to stick to your plan and not forget about workouts or procrastinate, figuring you’ll just start your workouts next Monday or next month instead. You have your guide, you know when you’re supposed to workout, and it’s pretty simple – either you do or you don’t. Just as with anything else, from your son’s soccer games to your hubby’s band practices, you can organize things around your workouts so you can stay fit and feeling great.

I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to devote this much time and effort into something, I’m going to make damn sure I do it right. Why guess at everything and just hope for the best when you know you can get guaranteed results? It just doesn’t make any sense. Especially when it’s not even all that much time and effort you need to devote anyway.

Stay on Track

On top of all this, a proper fitness plan will also give you something to stick to, so you can stay focused and stay on track. It’s hard to monitor your fitness progress or know how much you’re eating unless you have it all planned out and you’re actually keeping track of it all. That’s why an app like My Fitness Pal (my personal fave, but there are many other similar apps and programs out there to choose from) is so great, because it allows you to write down all of your food intake and exercise through the day, so you’re accountable for everything you’re doing each day and can’t deny when you skip a workout or pig out and double your needed calories for the day.

 
You don’t need to spend weeks putting planning time in. All it takes is a few minutes a day, or get it all done in one day (I usually use Sunday afternoons to do this, instead of sitting around watching Batman cartoons and chillaxing, I sit around watching Batman cartoons and chillaxing while writing out my meal plans and workouts for the week) if you want so you don’t have to worry about it for the rest of the week. When you keep track and know exactly how much calories you’re burning each day and how many you’re taking in, you are GUARANTEED to lose weight, stay at your current weight, or gain weight, depending on your fitness goals and daily calorie consumption.

Of course, if you do stay on track with calories, you’re eating right and getting your exercise in, and you’re still not seeing the results you want, the only answer is that either you’re not tracking properly and there is something you’re not factoring in (maybe you’re forgetting to add in certain foods through the day like the olive oil you’re using to fry your veggies, or the 5 tablespoons of Frank’s hot sauce you add to your everything) or you’re overestimating your calories burned during exercise, or there may be a health condition at play. Certain health issues such as hypothyroidism can affect weight and stall fitness progress. Although this usually isn’t the case, if you think there may be a condition like this at play, it’s always important to talk with your doctor.

Remember, the most important thing is that you’ve finally decided to get started. You’ve taken that first step, and you should feel great about yourself, even if you’re nowhere near the finish line. The first step is always the hardest and you’ve already accomplished that. Now you just need persistence to reach your goals, and consistence to stay there.

Learn the Truth At Last! How to Lose Weight and Keep it Off

loseweightActually the answer has been here all along. It’s a cocktail of two simple ingredients: diet and exercise.

This may not be what a lot of people want to hear, but I’ll take honesty over fabrication any day of the week, thank you very much.

The world has become so different over time; these days we all want that quick-fix, an instant way of getting the results we’re after. We want to be able to eat whatever we want, but still stay in great shape. Sorry, that just aint gonna happen. There is no technologically advanced or scientifically proven method of getting in shape in a safe and healthy way other than by following a healthy lifestyle – eating nutritious food and staying active. Sure, there are lots of different procedures that can alter the way you look, many different “magic” pills you can try that may appear to help temporarily, but if you really want to be fit and healthy, there’s no other option than to make diet and exercise a priority in your life.

How to Lose Weight

The first thing many people do when they want to lose weight is stop eating. Sure, you’d think this would work. After all, food makes you fat, so if you stop eating, you’re bound to lose weight, right? Not exactly. Your body actually needs food in order to survive it. Without enough food, you have no energy, and not only will you feel fatigued and lethargic, but your body actually stops functioning properly and this can lead to a number of serious health issues.

Not only that, but when you’re not getting enough food, your body goes into starvation mode in order to conserve energy, and in most cases this means it’s basically forced to start using up the muscle in your body as a result. So you may be getting smaller in size when you’re eating one meal a day, but you’re actually keeping most of that stubborn fat you want to get rid of, losing all the muscle you want, and wreaking havoc on your body on top of all that.

No, skipping meals is NOT the way to lose weight. Instead it’s a matter of a simple mathematical calculation and once you have that figured out, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to reach your fitness goals.

You may be trying to bulk up, or you’re happy at your current weight, but if you’re part of the majority of people out there, you’re trying to lose weight. Whether you want to lose five or fifty pounds, the same answer is true – you need a caloric deficit.

What the Heck is a Caloric Deficit?

A caloric deficit means you’re consuming fewer calories each day than you’re burning. If you’re taking in 2000 calories a day, but only burning 1500 a day, you’re going to put on weight. With these numbers you’d be gaining about a pound a week. And that really adds up. Fast.

To lose weight safely, you should aim to only lose about 1 pound a week. You can take a more aggressive approach and aim for 2 or more a week, but not only is this usually a more difficult plan to stick to, it also means you’re at greater risk of losing more muscle in the process, and that’s definitely not something you want.

About 3,500 calories equals 1 pound, so let’s do the math. If you want to lose 1 pound of fat in a week, you need a caloric deficit of around 500 calories a day. Subtract 500 from your daily calorie limit and you’ll know exactly how many calories you need to eat. Don’t go over and don’t go under, and by the end of the week you will lose around 1 pound. Don’t forget to keep your protein intake high through the week, to help prevent as much muscle loss as possible.

Also, try to avoid drastic weight loss by dropping more than 3,500 calories from each week, not only because you’re risking losing major muscle mass, but also because you’ll be putting yourself at risk of nutrient deficiencies and other serious health problems.

How to Track Your Calories

Obviously, in order to keep track and make sure you’re not taking in more calories than you’re supposed to each day, you need to track calories. Keep track of how many calories you’re burning each day (your BMR along with any exercise you do each day) as well as how many calories you’re consuming, and you can ensure you’re maintaining a caloric deficit. Continue with the deficit until you have reached your weight loss goals, and then in order to maintain your weight, you need to lose the deficit and start meeting your full daily calorie needs.

 
Possibly the worst thing about this is that many people still think of “diet and exercise” as bad things. That’s not the case at all. Eating right and staying physically active both offer instant gratification, literally mood boosters that help increase energy and alertness, not to mention the long-term benefits of a fit body, improved confidence and self-esteem, and prevention of a myriad of health conditions, from arthritis and diabetes to high blood pressure and cancer.

There is no magic pill you can pop that will make you wake up the next day with lower blood pressure and a six-pack, so if you want the easy way out, you don’t have that option when it comes to your health. You can live the life you want, feel healthy and happy and more, but you have to be willing to devote some time and effort to the cause. You’re willing to spend 3 hours a day using your cellphone or checking Facebook messages on the computer, so why not put the same amount of time towards something that really matters?

Calories: What They Are and Everything You Need to Know About Them

numbersThe amount of calories you eat in a day, along with the amount of calories you burn, directly relates to the shape you’re in.

The word “calories” is one you need to know more about if you want to get in and stay in shape. A calorie is a unit of energy. Calories are consumed by eating, and are used or burned through physical activity. The more you eat, the more calories you take in. The more active you are, the more calories you use up. Pretty simple, right? Well, there are some other important things about calories you need to know.

Why Do I Need Calories?

Many people mistakenly give calories a bad rap as being “bad for you”, because calories are what make you put on weight – but that’s only when you’re taking in excess calories. In fact, your body needs calories in order to survive. Calories give your body energy and without them, you wouldn’t be able to live. So, learn to appreciate calories.

So How Many Calories Am I Supposed to Eat?

Once you understand that the number of calories (along with those burned) account significantly for your weight, your first question is probably “Well, how many calories am I supposed to eat then?” The answer to this is not a simple one, because it can be different for everyone. Each person is different, your fitness goal may be different from someone else’s, and you may be more or less physically active than someone else. These factors mean the number of calories you should be taking in through the day is greatly varied from your brother’s or friend’s. When you don’t track your calories is when you will end up losing or gaining weight, so you can either skip it and keep getting frustrated, or you can track your calories and meet your fitness goals.

The first step to determining your number is figuring out your BMR or Basal Metabolic Rate. In the simplest terms, this is the rate of energy expenditure of your body at rest. In other words, it’s how fast your body burns fat when you’re not working out. Many factors affect this calculation, including your sex, age, height, and weight.

Once you know your BMR, you can determine your calorie maintenance level (how many calories a day you need to consume in order to stay at your current weight) by multiplying your BMR by the appropriate activity factor, which is dependent on how active you are through the week:

    Sedentary (little to no exercise through week) – 1.2

    Lightly Active (1-3 days of exercise through week) – 1.375

    Moderately Active (3-5 days of exercise through week) – 1.55

    Very Active (6-7 days of exercise through week) – 1.725

    Extra Active (2x training 6-7 days of exercise through week) – 1.9

You can also use a TDEE calculator to help you easily determine your calorie maintenance level.

If you want to lose weight (you should aim to lose about 1 pound a week in order to lose weight safely) you need to consume 3500 fewer calories than you burn through the week. So if your daily calorie limit is 2000 calories (just for example), you need to consume no more than 1500 calories each day in order to lose 1 pound per week (500 fewer calories per day x 7 days in the week = 3500). Of course this is only a calculation, but it’s the ONLY surefire way of losing weight.

On the other hand, if you want to gain weight, you need a caloric surplus instead, so you’re taking in more calories than you’re burning each day. The aim of a caloric surplus is to maximize muscle gains and minimize fat gains. You want to take in enough extra calories to build muscle effectively, but not take in so many calories that you’re putting on extra fat as well. Although again, the exact calculation can vary based on your own personal factors, the ideal caloric surplus for men is around 250 calories per day, and for women only 125 per day. With a daily calorie limit of 2000 calories (remember, just for example) you would need to consume 2250 calories per day if you’re a man, and 2125 calories per day if you’re a woman. And if you’re happy with the weight you’re at, you simply consume your daily calorie limit without going under or over. The easiest math you’ve ever done, right?

Just remember that no matter which calculator you use, the only truly accurate way of determining your calorie maintenance level is by figuring it out for yourself. Use this information and a TDEE calculator to give yourself the best guess of what your number is, and then track your weight for the next couple of weeks, following with your fitness goals in mind. So if according to the calculators and your personal information you think your calorie maintenance level (how many calories you need in a day to maintain your current weight) is 2200 (just as an example) and you know you are eating 2200 calories a day, but you monitor your weight and see that you are losing weight each week, you know that your calorie maintenance level is actually higher than 2200. So all you need to do is add 100 calories each day, so you’re now taking in 2300 calories a day, and keep at it for a couple of weeks. If you’re still losing weight, you know to add another 100, and if you’re staying at the same weight, you know you’ve found your true calorie maintenance level. This works the other way around too, if you’re gaining weight, just knock 100 calories off your daily total, and continue until you’re staying at the same weight.

Keep in mind that as you lose or gain weight, your calorie maintenance level may change as well. It may sound a bit tricky, but this is probably the most valuable information you need to know, regardless of whether you’re trying to lose weight, gain weight, or maintain your current weight.

The Importance of Counting Calories

It’s important to realize just how easy calories add up. When I first started eating healthy, I figured as long as I was eating healthy foods, I could pretty much eat whatever I want. WRONG. Even just two of my favourite whole wheat protein pancakes (even though there are only fabulous, nutritious ingredients in them) have a whopping 440 calories, which is way more than I expected. That’s when I started counting calories and realized how important it was. Calories add up so fast, even when you’re sticking with healthy, wholesome foods like you should be, and especially if you’re trying to lose weight, you’re not going to have much luck if you’re taking in too many calories through the day.

If you don’t want to keep track yourself, I recommend My Fitness Pal. It only takes a couple of seconds to sign up – they just need your basic information including your email, height, weight, etc. – and you’re ready to go. It makes it so simple to keep track of the calories you’re burning each day, as well as your calorie intake, so you can make progress and get the results you want. With one of the largest food databases in the world, it’s easy to find pretty much any food and find out the amount of calories per serving. Instead of trying to do the measurements yourself, My Fitness Pal helps take the work out of counting calories for you, so you always get the most accurate measurements and can spend that extra time you have on planning your meals and keeping up with your workouts. I also like it because it keeps everything really organized for you, and it’s proof of everything you’re doing through the day. Be honest, use it properly, and it will help you get the results you want.Plus, if there are things you eat every day, like me and my trusty protein powder, it’s easy to copy it from one day to the next, saving you even more time and hassle.

Keep track of everything you eat and drink. (Water has no calories, but you can still keep track of it if you want to ensure you’re staying hydrated by drinking enough water each day). That includes any dips, toppings, and sides you eat through the day. Even the smallest, most seemingly harmless foods can pack a real punch in terms of calorie in take, so do it right and track everything if you want results. Don’t cheat, because you’ll only be cheating yourself. It’s amazing how quickly calories add up, and if you want to stay on track and make progress, you need to be aware of how much you’re eating through the day (and not just recording what you feel like recording – just so you know, even if you don’t write it down, if you ate it, you ate it, which means adding on to calorie intake for the day, so no matter how hard you may not want it to be, that’s a fact.

Not only is tracking your macros the best way of ensuring you make the fitness progress you want, but it also helps make you more educated and informed. You learn more about the different types of foods, the macros in them, what they give your body, and how to plan out your days so you’re getting enough of everything you need. You really start to appreciate food more than ever, and understand how amazing and incredible the human body really is. You will likely be amazed at just how much food you can eat when you take time to plan and track everything. It’s not a pain, it’s actually a blessing. Don’t ever think even when you’re on a caloric deficit that you’re going to be stuck eating crumbs through the day because it won’t be like that at all. Also remember the more active you are, the more exercise you get in each day, the higher your calorie maintenance level ends up being, and therefore the more calories you need each day (or in other words, the more you get to eat).

The idea of “counting calories” is one that is certainly nothing new. You don’t have to do this, everyone has their own methods and ideas, but in my opinion it’s one of the most important things to do if you want to get in shape.

The Paleo Diet, the South Beach Diet, the Weight Watchers Diet – there are so many different “diets” out there you could try. The thing is – if you’re taking in too many calories through the day, you WON’T lose weight. It’s as simple as that. Once you realize that, it’s easy to see how pointless following any of these diets really is. Save yourself the money, time and hassle, (not to mention the disappointment you feel when it doesn’t work) and do it the simple way. The right way. Keep track of the calories you’re consuming and using through the day, and adjust your daily calorie intake as needed.

Mirror Mirror On The Wall, Who is the Fittest Of Them All?

magicThis post isn’t about vanity (although it’s OK, you can do that cheesy kiss-your-bicep move, you worked hard to earn it after all). Instead, it’s about using a mirror to your advantage during your workout to help make it your best workout, each and every time.

It doesn’t matter if you prefer cardio or strength training, or a bit of both. Proper form is everything. Do it properly or don’t do it at all. Not only will improper form stall your progress, but it’s also a leading cause of injury during exercise. When you have access to a mirror you can see your form during each exercise, and adjust your position as needed.

This is especially important if you plan on lifting heavy weights. Try bench pressing 300 pounds with improper form and see how you feel the next day. Not so good. You probably won’t be able to lift weights for a long time after that either. Proper form prevents strains, helps you focus on the targeted muscles of each exercise, and helps you focus on proper breathing as well, which is vital to any workout.

No, a mirror isn’t necessary for every exercise and yes, you should be able to figure out proper form without having to see your every move. But, and especially as a beginner, a mirror workout can help you form important habits, getting used to maintaining proper form through each and every one of your workouts, so you feel more confident, train at a faster pace, and get the results you’re after, while minimizing the risk of injury at the same time.

So find a mirror to hang up in your home gym, or wherever you find time to workout. It’s great to use, especially when you’re just getting started and are working on perfecting your form.

Newbie Talk: Tips for Getting Started at the Gym

gym picThe good news? Everyone was a newbie at some point. Whenever you’re getting started with something, that’s just the thing – you’re getting started. Everyone has to start somewhere, so there’s no need to feel nervous, worried, or anxious, no matter what it is you’re getting started with (although of course we all experience those feelings sometimes).

If you’ve decided to make health and fitness a priority in your life (good for you!) you want to get in shape and maybe your plan is to do so at the local gym. There are certainly many advantages to working out at a gym, especially for a beginner. That includes saving you money for one thing; the gym is fully equipped with everything you need to improve your fitness level. You don’t have to go out and spend a ton of money on free weights, a barbell and plates, a squat rack – these things are already at the gym just waiting for you to use to get into killer shape.

The gym is also a very motivating place – it’s pretty awesome to see a bunch of people around you with the same interest as you, working hard to get fit and healthy. It’s also nice quite frankly just to have a place to go. Most people are at home so often dealing with kids, planning out bills, cooking some delicious smoothies and salads, and it’s nice to get out and get away for a while, even if it’s only for an hour to push out that kickass workout.

Whether you’ve signed up for a gym membership or you’re just testing out the waters, you’re probably going to love it. Just make sure you keep a few things in mind before stepping through the gym door, to make the experience as awesome as possible for you and everyone else there.

Put Your Toys Away

Just like you remind your kids every night before bed, it’s nice to put your things away when you’re done with them. There’s no worse way to welcome yourself to the gym than by being a slob. Respect others in the gym and make sure all the weights go back to their proper racks when you’re done. This seems pretty obvious, but it’s something that may slip your mind after you’ve just finished your last rep of squats and your ass is on fire.

Don’t Give Unwanted Advice

Even if you feel like you’re already pretty experienced at this whole fitness thing, it’s really not proper etiquette to approach someone at the gym and offer your critique. Even if you have the credentials to back you up to do so, just don’t. Don’t be that guy. It’s one thing to share tips and ideas with others online, or when you’re hired by someone to do so, but taking it upon yourself to comment to that girl in the gym letting her know her squat form isn’t perfection – that’s just not OK.

Don’t be a Nuisance

You should always feel free to do your own thing, to be the rock star you know you are, but when you’re in the gym and others are trying to focus on making those gains, the last thing you want to do is make yourself a distraction and mess up their workout. Avoid leaving your cellphone turned on, so everyone else in the room doesn’t have to listen to the Flashdance song you switched your ringtone to when you were out having drinks with your friends the other night. Don’t talk on your phone either, please. Most people there want to focus on their workout, not listen to you and your best friend chit-chat for a half hour. Don’t use this time to take a selfie every 3 seconds or check the latest posts on Facebook or Twitter. Get in, do your thing, and get out. That way there’s more space and more equipment available for others, plus this way you know you’re focusing on your workout and you can take care of everything else after. Wear headphones if you want to listen to music while you workout. Don’t practice your Thriller dance moves in the mirror (unless you get requests, of course, then go ahead and rock it). In general, just try to be polite and let others do their thing.

You shouldn’t feel like you’re walking into an army boot camp when you head into the gym, but it is good to know at least basic gym etiquette so you and everyone else there can avoid hassle and drama and keep your concentration on what really matters – kicking ass and making some fat cry.