Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Use it to lose it: The three ways to create a calorie deficit

Your body requires a certain number of calories to maintain its functions and perform your activities. If you eat only the number of calories your body needs to keep you running (literally and figuratively), you maintain your weight. If you consume more calories than your body needs, you gain weight. If you eat less, you force your body to burn its stored energy (fat or muscle) for energy and you lose weight.

There are 3,500 calories in one pound of body fat. That is how many calories you have to eliminate from your life, either by not consuming them (diet) or burning them (exercise) to lose a pound of body fat. You can remove calories from your life in 3 ways:

1) Don't put them in your pie hole.

2) Burn them with exercise.

3) Increase the number of calories your body burns at rest. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first is to exercise hard enough to change your body. Building muscle is one way. High intensity cardiovascular exercise is another way. If you can still feel your workout after it's over, that is a good indicator that your body is working and changing. The second way to burn more calories at rest is to eat small, frequent meals. A steady supply of food will keep your body from overreacting to the amount of food you consume (as happens with large meals) or to the time between the meals (as happens when you skip meals). Your body's drama queen tendencies in these cases usually result in fat storage, fat retention, and decreased rate of calorie burning.

If you are currently holding steady at a given weight, any change in calories consumed or burned will cause a weight change. If you eat the same diet, but start to work out, or work out more or harder, you will lose weight. If you keep the same workout routine, but consume fewer calories, you will lose weight. If you increase your working out and reduce the calories you consume at the same time, you will lose weight faster. Here is an unpleasant reminder, though. This concept also works in reverse. Workout less or eat more and your leather pants might become an unpleasant experience for you to feel and others to see.

You can lose weight too fast. It might feel good while it is happening, but in the long run, it will make the weight harder to keep off. The ideal rate of weight loss is 1-2 pounds a week. More than that and your resting metabolic rate can fall and your muscle can bid you farewell. This means fewer calories burned while you are resting and less oomph to get through a kick-ass workout. This combo will make it difficult to maintain weight loss. Most of us know that it really sucks to have a good thing snatched away, so, avoid the heartache. Everything, including weight loss, in moderation. Keep your muscle to lose your fat and keep your fat lost.

If you are just dieting, and don't plan on working out, cutting 500-1,000 calories out of your diet per day will give you a 1-2 pound/week weight loss. If you are like me, this sounds horrible. Food is yummy and I miss it when it is not there. If you are just exercising, you have to burn 500-1,000 calories a day with exercise to lose 1-2 pounds per week. I hate to break it to you (but I will), but that is either a shitload of exercise or a short burst of excruciating, vomit-inducing exercise. If you cut calories with diet and burn calories with exercise you only need to do half as much with each. That will ease the suffering by spreading it out. Also, exercise tends to suppress your appetite so doing both together might just improve your chance of success.

There are a couple of great, free, online weight loss resources that you may find to be helpful. Both sites allow you to keep track of calories and nutrients consumed as well as calories burned through activity:


Both of these websites have similar functionality, so, ultimately, if you choose to log your efforts, choose the website that you bond with more. Ease of use will be important in you sticking with it long enough to see if it is a useful stepping stone to help propel you towards achievement of your health and hottie goals.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Well-Rounded Fitness Includes a Less-Rounded Body Shape

You can't separate fitness and weight loss. Physical fitness isn't just about being able to run forever or seeing your abs in the mirror. It's about both and then some. Physical fitness has several components including cardiovascular fitness, muscular fitness, flexibility, and body composition. Having a good level of physical fitness is about reducing your risk of illness and death, and about improving your quality of life.

So, to be the picture of health, you should:

1. Be able to get and keep your large muscles (mostly legs, but also chest, upper back, and shoulders) moving for an extended amount of time. Time actually depends on how hard you are working, but, at a level of intensity you would classify as moderately difficult/kind of uncomfortable, you should be able to sustain that activity for at least 30 minutes. During that time, you should feel your muscles, and you should notice your breathing become more labored. Sometimes, you can even feel your heart and blood start pumping faster. This is cardiovascular fitness, and this is where being able to run forever falls in the overall scheme of being fit.

2. Have muscles that can exert force and can continue to repeatedly do so. The amount of force you need to exert depends on what you have to do as well as what you like to do. The same is true of how many times you should be able to exert a force. You should have sufficient muscular strength and endurance to perform "normal" daily activities easily. If your job is active, this could mean, walking a lot, digging, or lifting. Even if you don't have a physically demanding job you should be able to climb the steps, walk from the back of a parking lot, carry in groceries, vacuum the house, and so on. The more fit you are, the more oomph your muscles have left to do active recreational activities. This is where your level of muscular fitness (and cardiovascular fitness) really start to set you apart. Rugby anyone?

3. Exhibit flexibility. You got it. Stretching. I'm bad at it too, but I can see why it is important. Flexibility is the ability to move a joint through its full range of motion without excruciating pain. Someone who is flexible could use their joints' full range of motion to generate more power. They might also have better balance and fewer aches and pains resulting from improper form due to a restricted range of motion that doesn't allow them to perform a movement correctly.

4. Have an ideal body composition. Here is where weight loss fits in. A high level of body fat is associated with increased risk of health-related problems or death. Generally speaking, women should aim to have less than 30% body fat, and men less than 25%. There are numerous measurements that can give you an idea of whether you are carrying around enough body fat to put you in an increased risk category, but, chances are, you have a pretty good idea if you could afford to lose some fat even without those measurements. And, there are other reasons to lose weight besides your health. Losing weight, if you are doing it right (losing mostly body fat and not muscle), will allow you to see what is hiding under the extra fat. Hello six pack abs. Losing weight can also improve athletic performance. If you have less weight to move, more of the force your body is exerting is going towards speed and power generation. Once again, this is far more true if you are holding on to the muscle while you are losing the weight.

So why the explanation of the components of physical fitness? I wanted to provide a little bit of information to back the statement that "You can't separate weight loss and fitness." So if you are trying to lose weight, or if you are trying to get more fit, or improve athletic performance, be tolerant. It is likely that any article about weight loss, fitness, or athletic performance has some information that will help you in your endeavor. If not, go for a run and check back tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Basics of Weight Loss - It's Not Just How Much, But Also What You Lose

Just because these are the basics, doesn't mean they are easy. Facts? Yes. Simple? No. Just a warning, what it takes to lose weight and gain fitness are work and sacrifice.

So here it is:

If you are currently maintaining a steady weight, to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you take in. This will force you to dig into your energy stores.

1 pound of body fat contains stored energy in the amount of 3,500 calories.

1 pound of muscle contains stored energy in the amount of 600 calories per pound.

Creating a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories in one week doesn't necessarily mean you will lose a pound of body fat. What percentage of the calories burned are fat versus muscle will depend on what you are eating and if and how you are working out.

Muscle burns calories, so when you lose weight, you want that weight to be fat. If it is muscle, you are far more likely to plateau before you reach your goal and far more likely to put the weight back on as your diet becomes less calorie restricted.

You can be more assured to hold on to your muscle if you are getting your slightly-to-moderately (but not drastically) reduced calories by eating a wide variety of foods including carbohydrates, protein, and fats over the course of small, frequent meals AND by doing some muscle-building strength training 2-3 times a week.

It sucks to hear (and to say) but, the faster you lose weight, the more of that weight is likely muscle. Week after week of weight loss in excess of 2 pounds per week probably indicates the loss of muscle as well as fat.

Next post, we'll cover the three ways to create the calorie deficit to lose the weight.

Monday, January 19, 2009

It's Been Awhile

Wow, it has been a really long time. From time to time I take a break from my hardcore fitness lifestyle and try something new. This break, I moved from Albany, NY to Phoenix, AZ and started a business, Lust & Gore Hardwear, with my girlfriend, Lusty Crush. If you want to read more about that business, check out our blog, .

Now that the business is up and running, my mind is a little more free. It is no surprise to me that sports, fitness, and diet are the bulk of what I am thinking about now that I feel I can finally think again. At my core, I am obsessed with physicality. I know that appearance, health, and fitness are so big a part of my perceived happiness. I know that is the case for a lot of people. I want to spend my life being happy. While this is a good life goal, an even better goal is to spend my life making other people happy. So, I am going to get this blog back up and running. Starting at the very basics and moving forward, I am going to try to offer every type of person and personality something that they can try to improve their health, fitness, and athletic performance, something that might actually work for them. We are not all the same person. What works for me may not work for you. You need options, not what I force on you as a "solution." And while the basics might be a constant (energy out must exceed energy in to lose body fat), the approach to embracing and implementing those basics can be as different as you and I are. Variety will help keep it interesting. While "interesting" is not as good as "fun", it is far more likely to get you where you are going than boredom and monotony. Getting fitter, thinner, and better is hard. At times, it sucks. No delusions here. I can not say getting the body you want, that looks the way you want, and performs the way you want is going to be fun. It won't be. Hey, if it was fun, everybody would be a rock hard olympian. That means you wouldn't be so special if you achieved your goal. And we all want to be special. So, while it won't be fun, I will try to give you some options to incorporate variety so it won't be insufferable. Hopefully, the results you will see will turn tolerable workouts into a special you.

And all the entries won't be this cheesy either. Thank goodness.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Punching and Kicking: The Ultimate Workout

I recently wrote a how-to guide for putting together a punching and kicking workout. It is too long to post here, but if you are looking for a fun and engaging workout that'll leave your lungs and muscles burning, click on the link below.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Workouts: Medicine Ball Workouts

Recently I decided to change a couple of my workouts per week to medicine ball workouts.  My fitness routine had become heavy on the cardio and lacking on the muscle focus.  As my mind picked up on this, my workouts started to leave me unsatisfied.  I didn't feel healthy even though I worked out daily.  The thought of working out with barbells and dumbbells was not appealing to me.  There is something so organized, and militant about a set number of reps with a certain amount of weight and a set amount of rest. I am just not in that structured place right now.  I want free-flowing, and spontaneous.  I don't want to have to worry about figuring out what amount of weight I should be doing for each exercise and what order those exercises should be done in.  I want to start working out, and decide on the fly what exercise I am going to do next just by thinking about where my body feels weak, where I have extra energy to burn, where I want to look better, or just what I am moved by the universe to do.  A medicine ball is the perfect accessory for this mindset.  

A medicine ball is perfect for a circuit type workout.  A medicine ball is liberating.  It takes out the question of, "What weight should I use?" Just use the ball.  I can throw a medicine ball, or lift a medicine ball.  I can do big sweeping motions, or small concentrated motions.  Using the ball engages stabilizing muscles so I build strength in a more well balanced way.  It feels different than weights.  It just feels more graceful, even peaceful. It is not easy though.  I use the ball in a circuit.  I do 22-minutes of exercises.  For the most part, I do a different exercise each minute.  But, if I finish a minute of exercise and the involved body parts do not feel adequately worked, I do another minute of that exercise, or I do a different exercise that engages the same muscle.  I do all that decision making on the fly.  All specific exercise decisions are made in the minute before the exercise is performed.  That allows me to take into consideration my state of mind, my energy, and how my body feels. 

In my mind I have a pool of exercises that I draw from.  For each body part, I have a list of exercises that I can do to strengthen that part.  I also have a pool of cardiovascular exercises I can tap if I feel like upping my heart rate even more than a circuit of strength exercises already does.  If you don't have this brain bank of exercises, write the exercises down.  Tape your exercise list on the wall in the area where you work out and, once you decide what body part you want to work next, reference the list to make your choice. And, if you are like me and you suffer from anal-retentiveness from time to time, you may worry about your body getting a well balanced workout if you put it together completely spontaneously.  An easy solution to this is to go into the workout with a circuit building block in mind.  My fallback circuit building block is legs-core-upper body.  I choose exercises to work each of these areas in this order.  Once I have done exercises for all three areas, I repeat.  I do this until I have worked out for as long as I am motivated to, which, with the medicine ball circuit, tends to be longer than with other activities.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Training and Fitness: Running with Balls

Not just a fun play on words, but also a way to make your workouts and training sessions more fun and more challenging.  We've all talked to someone who, when running is brought up, says, "I only run if someone is chasing me." Well, that's a great idea. And, it's along the same lines as incorporating balls into a running-based workout.  Playing tag or playing catch while running adds motivation and, to some extent, distraction.  Motivation will make you work harder. Why is distraction good?  It can keep your brain from focusing on pain, and it can prevent boredom.  Distractions can add an element of surprise, excitement, even fun.  If you are distracted you may work harder or longer without even necessarily knowing that you are doing so. Trail running is another running option chock full of distractions in the form of natural obstacles. Roots and rocks will keep you on your toes or on the ground.

Maybe you like running and you don't need to be distracted from its monotony.  Another benefit of these ideas is that they will make your workouts more well-rounded.  All of these ideas add elements other than forward movement into your running regimen.  You can start to work new muscles with lateral motion, and jumping.  You also start to work in bursts of speed.  Speed work can make you a faster runner and raise your anaerobic threshold (meaning you can work harder for longer). The bottom line is that the variety these workouts offer can make you more fit.

So, next time you head out for a jog, take a ball: a rugby ball, a basketball, a tennis ball.  Toss it up to yourself.  Better yet, take a partner and pass the ball back and forth.  If balls aren't your thing (ha ha), play tag or race.  Go back to your childhood.  Regress to advance. Have fun, and get better.  Sounds win-win to me.