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?

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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.

Delicious Kiwi Mango Fruit Smoothie

I usually focus on veggies for my morning post-workout drink, but I like to make fruit smoothies sometimes too. This one is a new personal favourite, and it actually turned out perfect on the first try (usually it takes at least a couple of adjustments before I get a recipe just right and am willing to share it with you guys).

Delicious Kiwi Mango Fruit Smoothie

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients:

1/2 cup almond milk
1 mango, peeled and pitted
1 kiwi, peeled
1 green apple, peeled and cored
1 frozen banana

Directions:

1. Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

This super yummy smoothie only takes 5 ingredients to make. Try it and let me know what you think!

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.

Kale Cucumber Shake

kaleshakepicAs one of the healthiest foods you`ll ever eat, I always make sure I fit kale into my weekly meal planning at least a few times. Often it`s with this delicious kale cucumber shake, usually right after a killer cardio session in the AM. It only takes 5 ingredients to make this shake and it will help you start your day feeling energized and healthy.

Kale Cucumber Shake

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients:

1 cup water
2 cups destemmed kale
1/3 English cucumber, peeled and sliced
1 apple, peeled and cored (any kind will do)
1 tablespoon honey

Directions:

1. Mix ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

This shake is so tasty, and you can even add a couple tablespoons of flax seed if you want for a boost of fiber.

Welcome to 2015: Don’t Be Fooled by Lame Marketing Scams

shoppingOK, so this started happening LONG before 2015, but it’s worse now than ever before. And no, I’m not talking about a spammer writing you pretending to be from PayPal asking you to confirm your account information.

What I’m referring to is the awful, annoying, horrible marketing and advertising tactics certain (many) companies use to get you to buy their products. There is seriously NO decency when it comes to these businesses and what they are willing to do to trick you, the consumer, and make their money. All they’re concerned with is making as much money as possible and it doesn’t matter if it’s you, your parents, your children – they don’t care.

There are a few examples in particular I can use to showcase more clearly what I’m talking about here. Low-fat items, for one. These “low-fat” items actually aren’t lower in fat at all in most cases, and even when they are, they’re usually so full of additives and preservatives that you’d be better off buying the original product and getting more nutrition from that than you’re getting from this “low-fat” version. The main reason these foods are so bad for you is because once the fat has been removed, there usually isn’t much flavour left, so companies know you’re not going to want to eat it. What they do to make up for the lack of flavour is shove a bunch of added sugar and unnatural chemicals into the mix, so they can claim the fat is gone, and now there’s lots of flavour there, but what you don’t realize is that “flavour” is worse for you than the fat that was there to begin with.

Another example is with whole grains. Yes, whole grains do offer nutrition, but unfortunately in the world we live in today, it’s very hard to find grains that are in fact “whole”. Instead, most food products listed as “whole grain” are pretty much just as bad for you as refined grain products.

If you try to be smart and buy food products that are low in sugar, you have to be extremely careful these days. Anything at all with a label on it for that matter is probably full of sugar. Even if you read on the front of the package “low in sugar” or “sugar fee”, that’s right, it may not be the case. Companies are pretty much free to write whatever they want on their packaging – but you can get the truth by actually examining the nutrition label for yourself. Keep in mind that if you see sugar listed as one of the first few ingredients, you know there is a ton of sugar in there, because the ingredients are listed in descending order of predominance by weight.

So remember, even if you think you’re being smart and making all the right choices, trying to be the best person you can be and keep yourself and your family healthy and happy, you need to be more cautious than ever before. Always read over any labelled food products, and even more, take time to do your research. Find out as much as you can about a company before buying its products. Fresh, whole foods are always best – you know, the ones that don’t need a label, and whenever you can take fresh ingredients and make your own food at home, you’re making one of the best decisions you can for your health and your body.

Almond Sticks

almondsticks2We know how important healthy snacking through the day is. Well, this is a quick, easy snack that`s perfect for keeping you feeling full between meals, so you can eat a proper portion size instead of feeling like you want to gorge at dinner.

Almond Sticks

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients:

2 celery stalks, each chopped into 2 pieces
1 tablespoon peanut butter
12 raw almonds

Directions:

1. Fill the celery pieces with peanut butter, then add the almonds on top.

Next time you’re trying to think of an easy, nutritious snack, you should definitely give these a try.

Keep Going: Don’t Turn a Falter Into a Failure

moveforwardOne of the most difficult parts of getting and staying healthy is keeping up the motivation. Sure it’s easy for the first month of January after making it your New Year’s resolution, or for the couple of months before summer when you decide you want to shape up before hitting the beach to stick to your exercise plan and eat healthy, but what happens after that? Well, what happens after that is up to you and you alone.

It can definitely be hard to stay focused and stay on track, but when it comes to getting rewarded for your efforts, there is nothing in life you will ever reap more benefits for than being healthy. You feel better, look better, feel less stressed and more focused; the list just goes on and on.

One of the most common issues people have when it comes to getting healthy, especially if they are a long way from their goal to start, is giving up after making a mistake. “Well, I missed my Tuesday workout, I may as well just skip the rest of the week and start getting serious on Monday…” or “I went on holiday and didn’t eat healthy for a couple of days, I’ll just start next month and then I’ll really stick to it…” I mean, there are a million and one excuses we can use to validate our behaviour and put off what we should be getting done today. You know I love my quotes, and one of my favourites fits in so perfectly here:

If it is important to you, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.

Perfect, right? It’s so true. We are all busy, we all have our own issues, our own things going on in life, things that could prevent us from fitting in time for things we want, but it’s up to us whether we choose to find a way or an excuse.

Just because you give in to that chocolate craving or have a bowl of chips, does that mean you should feel bad and just give it all up? Should you just go back to eating whatever you want without thinking of the consequences of your health, forget about exercise and get back into the worst shape of your life? NO.

Just because you falter, and we all do at times, that does NOT mean you should just give up. If we all gave up when we made a mistake, no one would ever be successful. You think Edison just invented the lightbulb on a whim? Pretty sure that didn’t happen. The most talented people in the world who have come up with some of the most incredible ideas, have all had to try and try again. The question is – will you give up and let this become part of your failures in life, or will you stay motivated, stay determined, keep at it, and let this become part of your successes in life?

Just because you slip up here or there, it’s important to remember that it’s “two steps forward, one step back”, so don’t give up or it’s like taking “two steps forward, one hundred steps back” and that is not the place you want to be.

Oven-Baked Tofu Sticks

Filled with protein, calcium and iron, these tofu sticks are a great addition to your collection of favourite recipes, especially if you’re a vegetarian or vegan. In many cases, when you choose to not eat meat (although this does make you a super awesome person) your body ends up lacking in essential minerals, such as iron. Just 100 grams of tofu gives you 30% of your total daily requirement for iron, which is really quite impressive.

Oven-Baked Tofu Sticks

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients:

1/2 package firm tofu
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Cut the tofu into sticks, about 1/2-inch wide each.

3. Line your counter with a couple layers of paper towel, place the tofu sticks evenly across the top, then add paper towel over the tofu sticks as well.

4. Press down on the paper towel so you’re pushing down on the tofu, with any excess liquid being soaked up by the paper towel.

5. Lightly brush a baking sheet with the olive oil, then line the baking sheet with the tofu sticks.

6. Sprinkle the salt over the sticks and cook for 15 minutes on one side, before flipping them carefully and cooking for another 10-15 minutes, until the tofu is lightly browned and crispy on the outside. Serve immediately.

They taste extra delicious with a bit of tomato sauce on the side, for dipping. Because of the need to drain the tofu before baking, it’s good to make these puppies ahead of time – throw them in before a workout at home and they’ll be the perfect post-weights meal, full of protein AND carbs, both which are vital to the body’s recovery process after an intense training session.

TIPTIME: Snacks are Your Friend, Not Your Enemy

When most people think of snacking, they think it’s something you should avoid at all costs if you want to get fit and healthy. The reality is, snacking is your friend, not your enemy. The key here is what exactly it is you’re snacking on.

Obviously if you’re using fried or sugary foods like donuts or chocolate bars to keep yourself satiated through the day, you’re doing it wrong.

It’s important to snack through the day, to keep your energy levels high and also prevent yourself from gorging on oversized meals later on, out of hunger. Portion control is so important for proper health and for getting in shape, so you don’t ever want to have that “I’m starving” feeling, because then you’ll just end up gorging at your next meal, which leads to an excess of calories, not to mention bloating and over time, makes your body accustomed to eating more than necessary which is going to cause nothing but trouble. Snacking between meals means you will eat less at meal time, helps ensure you get optimum daily nutrition each day, and it also helps keep your metabolism burning at a consistent level. This is really important, because messing up your metabolic rate is definitely not a good thing, especially when you’re trying to lose weight and get in shape.

Just choose healthy snacks. That’s all there is to it. It’s really that simple. A handful of raw almonds, a couple of rice cakes (I like mine with a bit of Frank’s hot sauce drizzled on top; I really do put it on everything), or even a small scoop of some natural peanut butter. Here are just a few other ideas for healthy, well-proportioned snacks you can nosh on through the day:

    1 cup cottage cheese with 1/2 cup blueberries
    1/2 Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup berries
    1 peach
    2 cups plain popcorn
    1 cup chocolate milk with 5 strawberries
    2 stalks celery, chopped, with peanut butter and raisins
    1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
    10 tofu sticks
    20 sweet potato fries
    1 protein bar (some can be just as high in sugar and fat as a regular candy bar, so ALWAYS read over the label and find a quality, high-protein bar that is good for you)

Especially when it comes to snacks, meal planning is a great idea. This helps you plan ahead so you don’t waste valuable time searching through your cupboards for something to eat every day, and also helps you stay on track with your nutrition and fitness goals. It’s also great if you’re someone who counts their macros, because you can plan everything ahead of time and not always feel so stressed out with so much on your plate. You have 15 or 20 minutes to spare on a Sunday afternoon? Or maybe you got off work early one Tuesday? Take a bit of time to do some meal planning and trust me, you’ll be so glad you did.

Once you realize how important snacking is, you can take that next step and start ensuring you are giving your body the fuel it needs, not just 3 times a day for the typical breakfast, lunch and dinner meals, but in between those meals as well.