Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Meal Plan & Prep 101

   Getting healthy can be difficult, sometimes you have to turn your whole life upside down to do it. Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Does it get easier? Yes. One way to make it a little easier is to meal plan, and prep! 
   Planning meals out in advance allows you to make sure you are getting variety but also not wasting food. You don't want to get to Friday and realize you have eaten chicken every single day and now you have to toss out that steak or fish. There's a hundred ways to meal plan and prep and you have to find what works for you. But, here's what works for me.
   First, some background. I work 2 jobs, many days I leave my house by 7am and get home around 9pm. My lunchbox is bulging (the zipper is broken. Now accepting lunchbox donations). I have also been a student with limited access to a fridge or microwave. You get creative. I also only cook for myself, not a whole family. I eat a lot of leftovers which is why I switch things up each week. 
   Sunday is my day off. This is meal prep day! 
   Step 1: PLAN! Go buy the food. Create a grocery list. Stick to the store perimeter. Read labels. Do not go hungry. I like to create variety from week to week. For example, one week I might have chicken and salmon for my protein, broccoli and eggplant for my veggies, peaches and plums for my fruit but the following week mix it up; tilapia and pork, asparagus and squash, apples and bananas, etc. 
   You don't want an overwhelming number of choices. You also don't want to spend ALL day in the kitchen. So, plan it out! These days I wake up at 4am so thinking of "what to eat" is the last thing I want to do. 

    Now step 2: PREP! Get your Tupperware and cooking gadgets ready! While yes, most food tastes better fresh, it's not always realistic to cook every meal fresh. Otherwise, I want your life. Here is a list of things I often prep in advance: 

-quinoa: complete protein and high in healthy carbs. Great mixed into salads, or with veggies and meat for a quick meal. 
-steel cut oats: I cook them with water, portion them into mason jars, and then use Slap Nutrition Protein (> LTIPFIT gets you 10% off) to change up flavors. Think cinnamon swirl slap with fresh berries, or chocolate slap and whipped peanut butter. 
-chicken: cook it up! Weigh it, bag it, throw it on salads or with veggies. 
-veggies: I steam up broccoli or bake up asparagus to make sure I have veggies through the week. 
-salad: I put my toppings in a mason jar so the lettuce doesn't get soggy, dressing goes in a small container also. Then just throw it in and shake it up at meal time!
-hard boiled eggs: easy snack! 

I also have staple foods I eat each week; bagels, turkey, eggs, things like that. Pb&j is a staple in my life when I'm starving or haven't grocery shopped. Not to mention protein bars are never too far away! Don't buy junk, and you won't eat it! Prepare in advance and you won't fail! 

The Slap Line! Now they also have slappy birthday whey, pumpkin pie preworkout, and flavorless BCAAs. And with the exception of the pumpkin pie preworkout, I own EVERYTHING they offer. It's clean, delicious, and bakes really well!! 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Understanding weight loss: BMR

   Weight loss is a scientific process. People attempt to simplify it with various fad diets and exercise schemes. Unfortunately what it comes down to is knowledge and putting in work. There is no magic pill. Fortunately, once you can understand the science, it's not all that hard. Ladies and gentleman... I present you, science: 
    Your body is constantly burning calories keeping you alive. It takes energy to keep your heart beating and your lungs breathing. Digesting food, driving to work, sleeping; you are burning calories. This is called your basal metabolic rate (BMR). You may call them slacker calories if you would like. 
   This is the MINIMUM calories necessary for life. Going below these will not benefit you or your weight loss goals in the long run. Going below this will simply drop your metabolism into starvation mode. Starvation mode screws up hormone production, energy levels, mood, and general homeostasis. Your body is in crisis mode so it holds on to everything it can to keep you alive. Humans are wired to survive.
   With that being said, begin to think of food as fuel instead of the enemy. All of your energy comes from food! Feed your body well! I'm convinced you cannot have science without math... So, get out a calculator, pen and paper- here's the equations! 

   Hate math more than me? There's an app and online calculators that will do it for you. Ok, so we have your BMR. You now know how many minimum calories to eat each day to sustain life. But you want to lose weight, so we must do more math. See the equations "target daily calorie needs"? You will now multiply your BMR by one of those numbers, which are associated with your activity level. Be brutally honest, lying about it hurts no one but yourself! Here you get to create wiggle room! If some days are killer two-a-days and others are rest days, you can either create different calorie goals based on the day or you can take an average. 
   This new number is how many calories you need each day to maintain your current weight. Ready for more numbers? There are 3,500 calories in 1 pound! Want to lose 1 pound a week? 3,500 cal/ 7 days= 500 cal/ day deficit. You may reach this deficit by nutrition or exercise, or a mix. I like to create a 500 calorie deficit in my meal plans and then 1-2 days a week really ramp up my exercise intensity to burn a few extra hundred calories for good measure. Find what works for you, is realistic, and sustainable. 
   These days there are various tools to help you. My fitness pal is a favorite food logging app of mine, and my polar heart rate monitor and fit but charge help too. Weight loss will always require a calorie deficit of some kind; whether it is from food or exercise. Now, you have probably heard of IIFYM/ macro meal plans. Eat whatever you want within your macros and still lose weight! Well these macro calculators take into account your BMR and your goals, so you are still going into a deficit. I have a blog on IIFYM if you are more interested in learning how to calculate specific carbohydrate, protein, and fat needs. 

    I hope this has helped. As a certified personal trainer and a certified fitness nutrition specialist, I have a passion to help people. Please don't hesitate to email me at with any questions! 

My calculated BMR: from an app! 
I personally usually shoot for 1,560-1,620 calories per day, with 35% carbs, 35% protein, and 30% fat. Keep in mind, every person is different so what works for me may not work for you. It takes patience and practice! One thing I will tell you though is that I always try to make healthy food choices, I never feel guilty about my food choices, and even after days where I ate over my calorie allotment, I still wake up looking good. If you are physically hungry; eat! Starving yourself does no good. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Spot Reduction: The Myth

   Everyone wants to look good naked. End of story. So they decide what needs work, and they attack that area. Rawr; be gone saddlebags and love handles and bingo arms! Except, no. No, that isn't how it works. 
   You want a muscle to get stronger and hypertrophy (get bigger), by all means, target it. Fat doesn't work quite the same though. Imagine your body as an incinerator. You can't put something in it and decide what will burn first or fastest. With that being said, doing 100 crunches isn't only going to burn fat off your midsection. That simply isn't how metabolism works. 

    Still not understanding? Last time I checked you couldn't decide where the fat went to begin with. You must lose body fat overall through resistance training, cardio, and nutrition. 
  But, why? It's easy. The higher you get your heart rate, the harder your body is working and therefore, burning calories. Spot reduction exercises; crunches, leg lifts, triceps dips, etc simply don't get the heart pumping and therefore they don't burn many calories. You would benefit more from a 10 minute run than 10 minutes of crunches any day. Then there is also the whole not being able to choose where the fat burns from problem. 

   Bummed out? Just think, now you can stop doing 100 sit ups or leg lifts a day. Hooray! Find balance, lose weight, and then start building muscle to get the physique you want. Creating a plan that incorporates cardio, large and small muscle resistance training, and healthy eating habits are your best bet. So do your squats, don't skip a run, never neglect your supporting muscles, and don't eat crap.