Thursday, December 31, 2015

Three Leg Exercises You Can Do at Home

For those of you who like working out in the privacy of your home, below are three exercises that  really strengthen and shape your legs.

Exercise 1: Wall Ball Squats

Start in a standing position and place a therapeutic ball at the small of your back up against a sturdy wall. Position your feet in front of you, about 2 feet from the wall, and a little wider than shoulder width. Turn your toes outward slightly. From this starting position squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor and then return to an upright position. Make sure to keep the ball pressed firmly against your back throughout the entire movement. Also, keep your chest up and your weight on your heels throughout the exercise.

Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions. You can make this exercise harder by holding a dumbbell in each hand while doing this exercise.

Areas targeted:  thighs, hamstrings, and buttocks

Exercise 2: Stationary Lunges

Start in an upright position with your feet shoulder width apart. Position your hands behind your head as illustrated. Take a giant step forward and drop your hips while bending both knees until your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Return to the starting position and alternate legs.

Keep your chest up throughout this exercise and step out to where your thigh makes a 90 degree angle with your ankle.

Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions each leg

Areas targeted: thighs, buttocks, and hamstrings

Exercise 3: Hip Lifts

Lay on your back with your legs extended and your feet on the ball as illustrated. Lift your hips off the floor and pull the ball into toward your body, then extend your legs and return to the starting position and repeat. Keep your hips up off the floor during the whole exercise

Please checkout my complete line of strength training programs by clicking on this like: Forever Fit and Firm.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Are You Eating Enough Protein?

Protein is a necessary part of every living cell in your body.  Next to water, protein comprises up the greatest portion of your body weight.  Protein substances make up your muscles, ligaments, tendons, organs, glands, nails, hair, and many vital body fluids.  It is essential for the growth, repair, and healing of your bones, tissues, and cells.  In addition, the enzymes and hormones that catalyze and regulate your body processes are comprised of protein.  So, you see the proper amount of protein in your diet is vital for your health and wellbeing.

Protein is composed of building-block chemicals called amino acids.  There are approximately 28 commonly known amino acids that your body uses to create all the various combinations of proteins needed for survival. These 28 commonly known amino acids are further classified as essential and nonessential amino acids.  Nonessential amino acids can be produced in your body, while essential amino acids cannot be produced in your body and must be obtained from the foods you eat.

The sources of protein in your diet are classified as complete or incomplete.  Complete proteins contain all the essential amino acids and are mostly from animal sources such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products.  Incomplete proteins lack one or more essential amino acids that your body cannot make itself.  Incomplete proteins usually come from plant- based sources such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts.  You must eat incomplete sources of protein in a combination that contains all the essential amino acids in order for your body to use them.

As mentioned, you must get your essential amino acids from your diet because your body cannot make them itself.  Some of the best animal sources of protein are fish, poultry, lean cuts of meat, and low-fat dairy products.  Some of the best vegetable sources are beans, nuts, and whole grains.

Protein’s Effect on Aging

Getting enough protein in your diet is crucial for building and maintaining muscle mass especially as you age.  As I mentioned earlier, losing muscle mass is very detrimental to your health.  Age related muscle loss known as sacopenia can begin in your thirties and accelerates with age if left unabated.  Sacopenia can lead to muscle weakness, fatigue, insulin resistance, body fat accumulation, injury, and many other problems we associate with aging.

Increased protein consumption, and strength training are two of the most effective ways to combat muscle loss.  While 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.36 grams per pound) has been the normal recommendation for daily protein intake, new studies show that 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.45 to 0.68 grams per pound) may be more beneficial in building, maintaining, and reducing muscle loss.

Protein quality, quantity, and timing of consumption throughout the day, in conjunction with physical activity, are all important to the building and maintenance of muscle mass.  The goal of protein consumption and lean muscle mass is to optimize muscle protein synthesis (the biological process by which muscle cells are regenerated).  Studies now show consuming 25 to 30 grams of high quality protein at each meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) is necessary to stimulate maximal protein synthesis.

Protein’s Effect on Weight Loss

Scientific research is now revealing that people who consume higher amounts of protein (20 to 30 percent of their daily caloric intake), while cutting back on their carbohydrate intake, tend to lose weight faster and stay leaner than those people on low-fat diets.

The reason higher protein, lower carbohydrates diets are more conducive to weight loss and maintenance is interesting.  First, high-protein foods slow the movement of food from the stomach to the intestines, meaning you feel full longer and don’t get hungry as often.  Second, protein has a leveling effect on your blood sugar which means you are less likely to get spikes in your blood sugar that lead to cravings for carbohydrates.  Third, your body uses more energy to digest protein than it does to digest fat or carbohydrates.

Getting the proper amount of protein at breakfast is especially important if you are trying to lose weight.  Breakfast is the first meal of the day and what you eat determines whether you start your day in fat burning or fat storage mode.

Eating a breakfast rich in carbohydrates and low in protein (the typical American breakfast) starts your day in fat storage mode.  The cereal, bread, fruit, and juice you have for breakfast are all carbohydrate based and are converted into sugar by your body, thus causing a spike in your blood sugar.  Then your body produces insulin to take that blood sugar and store it in your body mostly as body fat.  Then soon after your blood sugar drops and you feel famished, and crave more carbohydrate based foods which starts a cycle of blood sugar spikes and crashes and its insuring sugar cravings.

On the contrary, having a breakfast that contains the proper amount of high quality protein such as eggs, lean meat, and low fat dairy starts your day in a fat burning mode.  As mentioned earlier, consuming 25 to 30 grams of protein is necessary for maximal protein synthesis.  This building and repair of muscle cells is very energy intensive and it burns body fat mainly as fuel for this process.  Thus, having 25 to 30 grams of protein at breakfast activates muscle cell regeneration and also alleviates blood sugar spikes which lead to cravings.

Now that you know how important protein is for you, here are some good sources of protein listed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help you get the proper amount in your daily diet.

1 ounce meat, fish, poultry equals 7 grams of protein
1 large egg equals 6 grams of protein
4 ounces milk equal 4 grams of protein
4 ounces low-fat yogurt equals 6 grams of protein
4 ounces soy milk equals 5 grams of protein
3 ounces tofu, firm equals 13 grams of protein
1 ounce cheese equals 7 grams of protein
1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese equals 14 grams of protein
1/2 cup cooked kidney beans equals 7 grams of protein
1/2 cup lentils equals 9 grams of protein
1 ounce nuts equals 7 grams of protein
2 tablespoons peanut butter equals 8 grams of protein
1/2 cup vegetables equals 2 grams of protein
1 slice bread equals 2 grams of protein
1/2 cup of most grains/pastas equals 2 grams of protein

Regular strength training along with proper protein consumption are two of the best ways to build strength, and maintain your muscle mass as you age.  You can download my favorite strength training programs by clicking on this link: Forever Fit and Firm.

Monday, December 28, 2015

You Need More Than Running to Strengthen Your Legs

I hear this statement all the time from guys "I don't need to work my legs because I run".  Well, I'm sorry to inform all you guys who think that way, running is not the same as strength training your legs.  While running improves your cardiovascular fitness, it does very little in the way of building muscle mass and strength in your legs as weight lifting does.

Just as a house is only as strong as its' foundation, your legs are the foundation for a strong body.  In addition, your legs are the largest muscle group in your body and that means they are major calorie burners, thus the more muscle mass you build in your legs the more calories you burn all day.

Now that you see how important it is to strength train your legs, below is one of my favorite exercises for building muscle mass and strength.  It's called the Plate Loaded Leg Press.

Have a seat in the leg press.  Make sure that your lower back and butt are firmly press against the seat (and do so throughout the whole range of motion in this exercise).  Place your feet shoulder width apart about 4 inches from the top of the foot rest.  Now, press the weight up, unlock the safety catch, and lower the weight down toward your chest until your thighs are parallel to the foot rest (inhale on this part of the exercise), then press upward until your legs are fully extended, being careful not to lock your knees (exhale through this part of the exercise).  Perform this exercise one to two times per week for 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions at a resistance with which the last 3 repetitions are hard to complete.

Strength training is the best form of exercise to increase your muscle mass, and strength which is very important as you age.  You can download my favorite strength training programs by clicking on this link: Forever Fit and Firm.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Message to the Baby Boomers

I'm a personal trainer and member of the Baby Boomers and it's my mission to to help each one of you to stay healthy and fit as you age. Your body is designed for movement and the worst thing you can do for your health is to become inactive. "Use it or lose it" is especially true when it comes to maintaining your muscle mass, strength, and independence as you age.

Research has proven that strength training is the best thing you can do to preserve your muscle mass, increase your strength, and stay independent as you age. Strength training is important because as early as your 30s you can begin to experience age related muscle loss know as sarcopenia, and this process accelerates with time is left unabated. If you are inactive, you can lose up to 10 pounds of muscle each decade starting at age 40.

Loosing muscle is detrimental to your fitness because muscle is the component of your body that burns the majority of the calories you consume each day. Therefore, when you lose muscle your body requires less calories to function. Consequently, those extra calories you consume are stored as fat around your waist, hips, and other places.

Your body constantly burn calories, even when we’re doing nothing. This resting metabolic rate is much higher in people with more muscle. Every pound of muscle uses about six calories a day to sustain itself, while each pound of fat burns only two calories daily. This small difference can add up over time. In addition, after a bout of strength training, muscles are activated all over your body, increasing your average daily metabolic rate.

Fortunately, strength training can mitigate, and even reverse the loss of muscle at any age. Studies have shown that people in 90s gain muscle, and increase their strength level when they start weight lifting on a regular basis.

Increasing your metabolism isn’t the only benefit of strength training. It also helps:

Develop strong bones. By stressing your bones, strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.

Control your weight. As you gain muscle, your body burns more calories more efficiently which can result in weight loss. The more toned your muscles, the easier it is to control your weight.

Reduce your risk of injury. Building muscle protects your joints from injury. It also helps maintain flexibility and balance which are crucial to remaining independent as you age.

Boost your stamina. Building muscle helps to increase your energy level.

Improve your sense of well-being. Strength training can boost your self-confidence, improve your body image, and reduce the risk of depression.

Sleep better. People who strength train on a regular basis are less likely to have insomnia.

Manage chronic conditions. Strength training can reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, including arthritis, back pain, depression, diabetes, obesity, and osteoporosis.

It's my hope that 2016 is the year you take control of your health and fitness by starting to strength train on a regular basis.  Start by finding a certified fitness professional to design a safe and effective exercise program for you.

A good strength training program should consist of exercises that target all the major muscle groups and should be performed two to three times each week.  You can download my favorite strength training programs by clicking on this link: Forever Fit and Firm.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Design Your Cardio Around Frequency, Intensity, and Duration to Burn Fat

Your body has two basic ways of generating energy for your muscles in response to exercise.  One involves your body using oxygen to burn calories to provide fuel to exercising muscles.  In this method, your body is most efficient in burning stored body fat because fat must have oxygen present to be converted into energy to fuel your muscles.  Activities that cause your body to use this method to generate energy are called aerobic.  Examples are brisk walking and slow running.  When you are doing activities such as these, you are exercising in the aerobic zone.

The other method that your body provides fuel to muscles does not require the use of oxygen.  In this method your body primarily uses carbohydrates that are stored in the muscle to generate energy.  Activities that require a quick burst of energy such as heavy weight lifting and sprinting require your body to use this method.  Activities that cause your body to use this energy production system are called anaerobic exercises.

Knowing which energy system you are using when you exercise is important if you want to maximize fat burning.  In my fitness program, I do strength training in the anaerobic zone to build and maintain muscle; I do cardio in the aerobic zone to burn fat.

When planning your cardio exercise program design it around the following three concepts:

  • Frequency – I recommend you do at least three sessions of cardio each week but no more than six.  This is ample exercise to achieve the health benefit, and burn body fat, while also giving your body maximum recovery time to build and maintain your hard earned muscle mass.  I personally do four to five cardio sessions per week as a part of my fitness program.

  • Intensity – I suggest you do your cardio exercise in the range of 60 to 80 percent of your estimated maximum heart rate.  This is called your aerobic zone and is where your body is most efficient at burning fat as fuel.  Anything above 80 percent of your estimated maximum heart rate will tap into your anaerobic energy production system meaning you will stop using stored body fat to feed your muscles.

Use the following method to calculate your estimated maximum heart rate and your aerobic exercise zone.  Take the number 220 and subtract your age.  This is your estimated maximum heart rate.  Now take 60 percent of this number to get the lower end of the range of your aerobic zone and 80 percent of this number to get the upper end.

For example, I am 57 years old, so my estimated maximum heart rate is 220 – 57 = 163 beats per minute (bpm).  Therefore, the lower end of the range of my aerobic zone is 163 bpm x 60% = 98 bpm, and the upper end of my aerobic zone is 169 bpm x 80% = 130 bpm.  So when I do my cardio exercise, I work out at a heart rate between 98 to 130 bpm.

The easiest the way to see if you are staying in your aerobic zone is with a heart rate monitor.  If you do not have access to a heart rate monitor, you can use the following method to check your heart rate and stay in your aerobic zone.  Take the lower and upper range numbers you calculated above and divide them by four.  This is your 15 second heart rate count.  Then during your work out periodically stop and check your pulse for 15 seconds to see if your heart rate falls between the two numbers you just calculated.

I’ll use my example again.  The lower and upper ends of the range of my aerobic zone is 98 and 130 bpm, respectively.  Therefore, my 15 second heart rate count is 98 bpm / 4 = 25 for the lower end of the range and 130 / 4 = 33 for the upper end.  Thus, when I’m doing cardio, I stop to check my pulse for 15 seconds making sure the number I get is between 25 and 33, so I’m in my aerobic exercise zone.  This is the intensity range that my body is most efficient at burning fat for fuel to provide my muscles the energy to exercise.

Duration – It is my observation that you get the most benefit from your cardio program if you combine it with strength training and do between 30 and 45 minutes three to six days each week.  Do the 30 minute sessions after strength training and the 45 minute sessions on the days that you do not weight lift.

Design your cardio exercise program around the three principles above and you’ll notice a real difference in the way you look and feel.

A strength training program combined with regular cardio is the most effective way of maintaining your health and fitness level.  You can download my strength training programs by clicking on this link: Forever Fit and Firm.