Sunday, January 31, 2016

Staying Healthy and Fit is Lifetime Effort

I've been searching the web recently for credible information on exercise and fitness.  I'm amazed at the huge number of programs promising dramatic results in as little as 15 days.  I'm a certified personal trainer, fitness author, and competitive natural bodybuilder and I know better than to subscribe to one of these programs, but the general public does not.

While achieving dramatic results from your fitness program in a short period of time is possible, the probability of sustaining your results for the long-term is very unlikely.  It takes me 16 weeks of intense exercise and very strict dieting to get ready to compete in a bodybuilding competition, and I cannot sustain that peak physical condition for very long.  So, buying into those quick fix programs is a waist of your money, because you can't keep up the effort it takes to sustain the results for the long-term.

Staying healthy and fit is a lifetime effort which is most easily accomplished through a positive mental attitude, balance and moderation in your diet, and a fitness program consisting of strength training and cardiovascular exercise.  The quick fix approach is just a short-term answer to a long-term problem.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Three Keys to Staying Forever Fit and Firm

A while back, I spoke to a group of people at an Active Adult Community about the mental and physical requirements of staying healthy, fit, and firm over the age of 50.  I explained that they had to incorporate the following three things into their lives to do so: a positive mental attitude, a fitness program built on strength training, and a healthy diet designed around balance and moderation.
I feel as though I’m qualified to speak on the subject because I’m an ACE certified personal trainer with over 20 years of experience in the health and fitness industry.  Most importantly, I’m 57 years old, and as healthy and fit as I have ever been.  So, I can speak on this subject not only from scientific facts, but also from my experience (proof in the pudding).
A Positive Mental Attitude
I think a positive mental attitude about aging is the first and most important step to staying healthy, fit and firm as you age.  I believe the mental vision you have of aging is what you become.  Your body renews itself every 11 months, and that means every cell in your body is replaced.  I think that if you visualize yourself as becoming weak and frail as you age, your body conforms to this image over time.  Contrarily, if you imagine yourself as healthy and strong as you age, your body continues to renew itself according to this vision.   I always visualize myself as healthy and strong.
A Fitness Program Built On Strength Training
I believe strength training is the most important form of exercise you can do to stay healthy, fit and firm if you are over the age of 50.  Beginning in your 40s you naturally start to lose muscle mass, and if you don’t do anything to combat this process you can lose as much as a pound of muscle each year.  This is not good because muscle is that active component of your body that burns most of the calories you consume.  Also, muscle is what gives your body that fit and firm look.
Strength training has been proven to minimize and in some cases to reverse muscle loss due to aging.  Therefore, I recommend that you build your fitness program around strength training.  A good strength training program should consist of exercises that target all the major muscle groups and should be performed 2 to 3 times each week.  I’ve been weight lifting all of my adult life and I’m as strong and muscular as I’ve ever been.
A Healthy Diet Built Around Balance and Moderation
I was asked by one of the attendees if they could eat fried chicken?  I responded by saying that you can eat anything you desire if you do it in balance and moderation with everything you eat. 
I believe balance and moderation in your diet is the best solution to long-term weight management.  If you balance the amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat in your diet and practice portion control you can eat what you want.  Fad diets don’t work in the long-term because they are too restrictive as to what you can and cannot eat.
To practice balance and moderation in your diet you have to know the following two things.  First, how to classify foods into their basic source of protein, carbohydrates, and fat.  Secondly, how to calculate your serving size.  If you master these two things then you can eat healthy anywhere.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Decreasing Health Risk with Fitness

 Exercise - Penn State Hershey Medical Center

Here is a re-post by guest blogger Kishana Sainte on the benefits of regular exercise that's worth re-reading every year.

Decreasing Health Risks with Fitness

Great guest post by Kishana Sainte

Aging is something that happens to us all. As we grow older our organs, muscles, bones and ligaments lose their vibrancy, but there is one thing we can do for ourselves to combat the negative effects of aging. Exercise!
Especially for people in society that are over the age of 40, staying true to an effective fitness regime is mandatory for improving and keeping a high quality of life. There are a variety of different ways that exercising and staying fit can help a person. Here are a few examples.
Reducing the chances of cancer: A definite concern as we age is the risk of cancer. It is a devastating disease that no one wants to face. Studies have proven that working out and staying fit are your best bet in fighting the evil C. For example, experts say that a committed fitness plan can reduce the chances of colon, breast and prostate cancer, some as much as 50%. In addition, a regular fitness routine has shown to be effective in lowering the rate of pre and post-menopausal women developing cancer by nearly 30%. According to studies done by both the American Cancer Society and the Nurse’s Health Study, exercise done at a mellow level can reduce the possibility of cancer reoccurrence. Not only is exercise showing to be beneficial for people avoiding cancer, but it is also positively affective for patients undergoing chemotherapy as it assists with fatigue.
Increasing the capacity of the aging mind: Another issue that becomes evident with age is the slowing down of the mental capabilities and memory loss. Exercise has proven to be beneficial for both increased retention of energy as well as reaction time. Being fit and active has also proven to be beneficial in fighting Alzheimer’s. Experts and doctors agree that low intensity exercise for patients of Alzheimer’s helps with patient depression as well as better mobility. Sticking to a fitness plan has also been shown to be positive for patients of Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and other neurological diseases. Not only does it help in lubricating the joints and avoiding becoming stiff, but it also helps with muscle loss.
Keeping a positive attitude: Aging can be depressing at times. It is proven in a variety of studies that staying fit and exercising is mandatory for staying happy as we age. Doing activities such as yoga, meditation, running, and bike riding have all shown themselves to be beneficial in reducing stress, depression, and anxiety. Especially for aging people, staying fit is demonstrating a healing ability where antidepressants have failed.
Kishana Sainte writes on health & fitness topics, including weight loss, diet and lifestyle articles on behalf of, a trusted online patient recommendation and medical information website.
If you've read any of my posts you know I'm a big advocate of strength training to build, and maintain your muscle mass especially as you age.  Some of the strength training programs I use with  my clients are now available in the iBook bookstore,  just click on the links above to download.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Are You Getting Enough Protein to Build and Maintain Healthy Muscle?

Image result for strong musclesImage result for strong muscles

Getting enough protein in your diet is crucial for building and maintaining muscle mass especially as you age. Losing muscle mass is very detrimental to your health. Age-related muscle loss known as sacopenia can begin in your thirties and accelerate 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.

Strength training combined with proper protein intake is the most effective way to build and maintain healthy muscle.  Checkout my complete line of strength training routines available in the iBook library by clicking on the links above.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Do You Know the Type of Fat in Your Diet?

For decades, the mantra for healthy eating has been “eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet.” Touted as a way to lose weight and prevent heart disease and other chronic conditions, millions of people have followed this advice. Seeing a tremendous marketing opportunity, food companies re-engineered thousands of foods to be low-fat or fat-free. The low-fat approach to eating may have made a difference for the occasional individual, but as a nation, it has nether helped us control our weight nor become healthier. In the 1960s, fats and oils supplied Americans with about 45 percent of their calories. About 13 percent of the population was obese and less than one percent had type 2 diabetes. Today, Americans take in less fat, getting about 33 percent of calories from fats and oils; yet 34 percent of the population is obese, and eight percent has diabetes (mostly type 2). (Source: Harvard School of Public Health).

Research has shown that the total amount of fat in your diet isn’t linked with weight or disease. What actually matters is the type of fat in your diet. Trans fats and saturated fats increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, while monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats do just the opposite. But then you ask, “what about cholesterol in food?” The answer is, for most people the mix of fats in their diets influences cholesterol in their bloodstreams far more than cholesterol in food.

Almost all foods contain some fat. Even foods like carrots and lettuce contain small amounts of fat. That’s a testament to how important fats are for your health and well-being. Fat provides a terrific source of energy for your body as well as a great depot for storing it. It is an important part of cell membranes, helping govern what gets into and out of your cells. Your body uses cholesterol as the starting point to make estrogen, testosterone, vitamin D, and other vital compounds. Fats are also biologically active molecules that can influence how your muscles respond to insulin. Also, different types of fats can fire-up or cool down inflammation in your body.

Your body packages fat and cholesterol into tiny protein-covered particles called lipoproteins in order to get them into your blood stream. Some of these lipoproteins are big and fluffy, and others are small and dense. However, the most important ones to remember for your health and well-being are low-density lipoproteins, high-density lipoproteins, and triglycerides as explained below.

Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) carry cholesterol from your liver to the rest of your body. Your cells latch onto these particles and extract fat and cholesterol from them. When there is too much LDL cholesterol in your blood, these particles can form deposits in the walls of your coronary arteries and other arteries throughout your body. These deposits, called plaque can cause your arteries to narrow and limit blood flow, resulting in a heart attack or stroke. Thus, LDL cholesterol is called your bad cholesterol.

High-density lipoproteins (HDL) scavenge cholesterol from your bloodstream, your LDL, and your artery walls and ferry it back to your liver for disposal. Thus, HDL cholesterol is referred to as your good cholesterol.

Triglycerides comprise most of the fat that you eat and that travels through your bloodstream. Because triglycerides are your body’s main vehicle for transporting fats to your cells, they are essential for good health. However, an excess of triglycerides can be unhealthy.

The type of fat in your diet determines to a large extent the amount of total and LDL cholesterol in your bloodstream. Cholesterol in food matters too, but not nearly as much. You can basically break the fats in your diet into three categories; good, bad, and very bad.

Good Fats

Unsaturated fats are called good fats because they can improve blood cholesterol levels, ease inflammation, stabilize heart rhythms, and play a number of other beneficial roles.
Unsaturated fats are predominantly found in foods derived from plants, such as vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds. They are liquid at room temperature.

Furthermore, there are two types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Monounsaturated fats are found in high concentrations in canola, peanut, and olive oil, in avocados, nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans, and seeds such as pumpkin and sesame. Polyunsaturated fats are found in high concentrations in sunflower, corn, soybean and flaxseed oil. They also are found in foods such as walnuts, flaxseeds and fish.

Research has shown that replacing carbohydrates in your diet with good fats reduces harmful levels of LDL and increases protective HDL in your bloodstream. A randomized trial called the Optimal Macronutrient Intake Trial for Heart Health showed that replacing a carbohydrate-rich diet with one rich in unsaturated fat - predominantly monounsaturated fats - lowers blood pressure, improves lipid levels, and reduces the estimated cardiovascular risk.

Bad Fats

Saturated fats are called bad fats because they increase your total cholesterol level by elevating harmful LDL. Your body can produce all the saturated fat that it needs, so you don’t have to get any from your diet. In the US and other developed countries, saturated fats come mainly from meat, seafood, poultry with skin, and whole-milk dairy products. A few plant sources, such as coconuts and coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil, also are high in saturated fats.

As general rule it’s good to keep your intake of saturated fats as low as possible. Saturated fats are found in many foods, including vegetable oils that are mainly unsaturated fats, so you can’t completely eliminate them from your diet. Because red meat and dairy fat are the main sources of saturated fats for most people, minimizing them in your diet is the primary way to reduce your intake of saturated fat.

Very Bad Fats

Trans fatty acids, more commonly known as trans fats, are made by heating liquid vegetable oils in the presence of hydrogen gas, - a process called hydrogenation. Partially hydrogenating vegetable oils makes them more stable and less likely to spoil. It also converts the oil into a solid which makes transportation easier. Partially hydrogenated oils can also withstand repeated heating without breaking down, making them ideal for frying fast foods. This is reason partially hydrogenated oils have been a mainstay in restaurants and the food industry.

Trans fats are worse for cholesterol levels than saturated fats because they raise bad LDL and lower good HDL. They also increase inflammation, an over-activity of the immune system that is associated with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. Even small amounts of trans fats in your diet can have harmful health effects. For every extra two percent of daily calories from trans fat (the amount in a medium order of fast food French fries) the risk of coronary heart disease increases by 23 percent. It is estimated that eliminating trans fats from the US food supply would prevent between six and 19 percent of heart attacks and heart attack-related deaths (more than 200,000) each year.

Recommendations for Fat in Your Diet

Are you confused at this point about the type of fats and their varied effects on your health? If so remember the basic message to replace the bad fats in your diet with the good fats. Here are some suggestions to help you limit the bad fats in your diet.

  • Eliminate trans fats from partially hydrogenated oils. Check food labels for the presence of trans fats and avoid fried fast foods.
  • Limit your intake of saturated fats by cutting back on red meat and full-fat dairy products. When possible replace red meat with poultry, fish, beans, and nuts. Also, try switching from whole milk and other full-fat dairy foods to lower-fat versions.
  • Use liquid vegetable oils rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in place of butter in your cooking and at the table.
  • Eat one or more sources of omega-3 fats every day. Excellent sources are fish, walnuts, canola or soybean oil, ground flax seeds and flax seed oil.
If you like this post, please checkout my fitness publications at: Forever Fit and Firm

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Best Strength Training Exercises For Women Over 50 | Prevention


I'm a personal trainer with over 20 years of experience in the health and fitness industry.  All my career I have been an advocate of strength training, especially for women.  Below is a link to one of the best articles I've recently read by Prevention Magazine about the benefits of strength training for women over the age of 50.

 Best Strength Training Exercises For Women Over 50 | Prevention

Please checkout my favorite strength training routines for those of you over 50 at: Forever Fit and Firm.

Friday, January 22, 2016

If You Want to Look Fit and Firm, You Have to Lift Weights

This is that time of the year in which gyms swell to fill their capacity as people sign-up in record numbers in hopes of losing weight and getting fit.  There's a wait to get on any piece of cardio equipment while the weight lifting area is almost empty.  I'm always amazed at the significant amount of time people send in the cardio area, and the little time they spend lifting weights.

While cardiovascular exercise is an important part of any exercise program, strength training should be your the foundation of your fitness routine as you age.  Strength training is the most effective activity you can do to build and maintain your muscle mass.  Muscle is that active component of your body that burns the most calories and keeps you looking lean and fit no matter your age.

Muscle is the engine that keeps your metabolism running high.  Unfortunately, as a part of the aging process you naturally start to lose muscle mass around the age of 40.  That's the age when people come to me and say something like this; "I'm starting to get his spare tire around my waist, or I've got these saddle bags on my hips that I can't get rid of.  I'm not eating anymore than I normally do, what's happening to my body?"

Well, what's happening to your body is you are starting to lose muscle mass and your ability to burn all those calories you are consuming.  In other words, the engine in your car is shrinking.  Starting in your 40s you can naturally lose a pound to a pound and a half of muscle each year and that process accelerates with age if left unabated.  Now follow this; each pound of muscle burns approximately 6 calories daily at rest and more when you exercise.  So, each year you decrease your calorie burning capability by (6 x 1.5 lb x 365 days in a year), 3,285 calories. Now, there's approximately 3500 calories in one pound of fat so, if you neglect to decrease your caloric intake accordingly, you get fatter by approximately one pound each year.

The above scenario is pretty depressing huh?  However, the good news is you can avoid this path by building and maintaining  your muscle mass, and the most effective way to do this is through regular strength training. And equally as exciting is it's never too late to start building muscle and increasing your metabolism.  Studies have shown that people in their 90s can still build muscle.

Basically strength training is doing exercises that adds resistance to your body weight such as weight lifting.  A good strength training program should be performed 2 to 3 times each week in which all the major muscle groups are exercised. I suggest you get with a certified fitness professional and let them design a strength training program for you.

If you are ready to start your strength training program right away, download my weight lifting routines (beginners through advanced) by following this link: Forever Fit and Firm.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

You Can Be Stronger Next Year

Lately I've noticed a lot of fitness videos and programs aimed at those of us over the age of 50.  It seems that these programs have good intentions, however the exercises and fitness routines they recommend are more geared toward people in the rest home.  Just because you are over 50, you don't have to decrease your exercise intensity to the point of working out with resistance bands and light weight dumbbells.

If you are in poor physical condition, using resistance bands, and light weights is a place to start your journey to improve your health and fitness level, but it isn't a place for you to stay for very long.  The ripe young age of 50 is where you really need to concentrate on building and maintaining your muscle mass and the best way to do this is with strength training.

Building muscle is important because you naturally start to lose your muscle mass at a rate of about 1 lb per year beginning in your 40s and this process accelerates with time if left unabated.   Muscle is that component of your body that makes your joints strong, keeps your metabolism high (which makes losing weight easier), and helps you remain youthful and strong.

Regular strength training can slow and even reverse muscle loss.  Studies have shown that people in their 80s and 90s can build muscle and get stronger by weight lifting.  I'm a firm believer in regular weight lifting. I'm in my fifties and I've been weight lifting for over 30 years.  I'm stronger and more fit than I was in my 20s

If you are over 50, starting a regular strength training program is one of the most important things you can do for your fitness.  If you start now, you can be stronger by next year. Wouldn't that be awesome?

You can download some of the strength training programs I use with my clients by clicking on this link: Forever Fit and Firm.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Choose Carbohydrates That Help Stabilize Your Blood Sugar

Maintaining a steady blood sugar level is not only important for your health, it's also a critical component in your effort to lose weight. While your body breaks down all digestible carbohydrates into blood sugar, some are converted into blood sugar faster than others. Thus, some carbohydrates cause a spike in your blood sugar level causing you to feel hungry faster and to crave more sugary foods. Other carbohydrates are converted into blood sugar more slowly, leveling out your blood sugar and resulting in less hunger and food cravings.

For this reason, the Glycemic Index (GI) was developed to classify how quickly
your body converts carbohydrates into blood sugar as opposed to pure glucose. Glucose has a GI of 100, and all other carbohydrate-based foods are ranked against it. Foods with a score of 70 or more are considered to as have a high GI, while those with a score of 55 or less are considered low.

Eating lots of food with a high GI causes spikes in your blood sugar level, which can lead to many health issues, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Eating low GI foods causes your blood sugar level to stay steady thus keeping your energy level balanced and causing you to feel fuller longer between meals. The following are some additional benefits of eating low GI carbohydrates.

  • Helps you to lose and manage weight your weight.
  • Increases your body's sensitivity to insulin.
  • Decreases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Reduces your risk of heart disease.
  • Improves your blood cholesterol levels
  • Reduces hunger and keeps you fuller longer.
  • Helps you to refuel your carbohydrate stores after exercise.
You can get the GI rating of hundreds of carbohydrate-based foods from the Glycemic Index Foundation, sponsored by the University of Sydney in Australia. It maintains a searchable database of more than 1600 entries at

The GI is interesting because some of the foods that you think would have a high rating actually do not. For instance, fructose, or fruit sugar has a minimal effect on blood sugar, while white bread and French-fried potatoes are converted to blood sugar nearly as fast as pure glucose. In other words, you can’t classify foods as having a high or low GI based on the sweetness of taste. Many factors affect a foods GI such as:

  • Processing: Grains that have been milled and refined have a higher GI
  • Type of starch: Starches come in many different configurations. Some are easier to break into sugar molecules than others. For example, starch in potatoes is digested and absorbed into the bloodstream relatively quickly.
  • Fiber content: The sugars in fiber are linked in a way that is hard for your body to break down. Thus, the more fiber a food has, the less digestible carbohydrate, and consequently, the less sugar it can deliver into your blood stream.
  • Fat and acid content: The more fat or acid a food contains, the slower its carbohydrates are converted to sugar and absorbed into your bloodstream.
  • Physical form: Finely ground grain is more rapidly digested, and so has a higher GI than more coarsely ground grain.

The basic technique for eating the low GI way is simply a "this-for-that" approach:., swapping high GI carbohydrates for low GI carbohydrates. You don't need to count numbers or do any mental arithmetic to make sure you are eating a healthy, low GI diet. Follow these easy to implement suggestions.
  • Use breakfast cereals based on oats, barley and bran
  • Use breads with whole-grains, stone-ground flour, or sour dough
  • Reduce the amount of potatoes you eat
  • Enjoy all types of fruit and vegetables
  • Use brown rice
  • Enjoy whole-wheat pasta and noodles
  • Eat plenty of salad vegetables with a vinaigrette dressing
As you see, it’s important to include the right kind of carbohydrates as part of your daily intake. I generally get about 40 percent of my daily caloric intake from low to medium glycemic index carbohydrates. I find that this amount gives me plenty of energy for all my daily activities. You’ll find that eating low to medium GI carbohydrates levels out your energy and keeps you from those high and low points throughout the day.

Building and maintaining your muscle mass is one of the most important things you can do for your health as you age, and regular strength training (weight lifting) is the most effective way to accomplish this.  If you are over the age of 40 I recommend that you begin weight lifting 2 to 3 times each week.  You can download some of my favorite strength training programs by clicking on this link: Forever Fit and Firm.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

You are as Old as You Think

Daily I hear people attributing some ache or pain to "getting older", or I hear people saying such things as; "I'm beginning to look just like me parents". The mental image of aging they have is one of declining mental and physical health. So, they surely come to realize declining health and fitness in their lives as they age.

Your body is designed to be healthy and fit all of your life if given a positive mental outlook, proper nutrition, and regular exercise.  Do you know your body completely rebuilds itself every 11 months? That's right, each year every worn out cell is replaced by a new healthy cell. I believe your body gets it's plans for rebuilding from the mental image you hold of what "getting old" looks like to you.

By constantly holding an image of health and vitality in your mind your body will be rebuilt and maintained in a healthy and energetic pattern. I know this to be true for me. I'm in my 50s and I am as healthy, strong, and fit as I was in my 20s.  I hold an image of healthy aging in my mind and that's what I get.

I've been in the health and fitness industry for over 22 years now, and I know that the right mental attitude, regular exercise, and proper nutrition are the keys to staying healthy and fit as the years pass by.  And I also know "you are as old as you think you are" to be true.

 But the real secret to lifelong good health is actually the opposite: Let your body take care of you.
  -- Deepak Chopra

A regular strength training program is the most effective and proven way of building, and maintaining your muscle mass, and strength as you age.  Download my favorite strength training programs that I use with my clients by following this link: Forever Fit and Firm


Monday, January 18, 2016

Is the Source of Your Protein Complete or Incomplete?

When it comes to protein in your diet you should know the difference between a complete and an incomplete source.  Protein is a necessary part of every living cell in your body. Next to water, protein comprises 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 growth, repair, and healing of your bones, tissues, and cells. So, you can see the proper amount of protein in your diet is vital for your health and well-being.

Protein is comprised of building-blocks called amino acids. There are approximately twenty-eight commonly know amino acids that your body uses to create all the various combinations of proteins needed for survival. These 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 protein 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 I mentioned, you must get your essential amino acids from your diet because body cannot make them itself. Some of the best animal sources are fish, poultry, lean cuts of meat, and low-fat dairy products. Some of the best vegetable sources are beans, nuts, and whole grains.

Strength training combined with getting the proper amount of protein in your diet is the most effective way of building and maintaining your muscle and strength throughout your life. Checkout my favorite strength training programs by following this link: Forever Fit and Firm.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Basic Knowledge of Carbohydrates is Important When Trying to Lose Weight

This is the time of the year when it seems that everyone in the world is trying to lose weight.  The popularity of the high-protein, and  low-carbohydrate diets has probably led you to believe that carbohydrates are “bad” for you. Just reading the hype in the media would make you think that carbohydrates are the cause of the obesity epidemic throughout the world.  However, carbohydrates are an essential part of your diet and as with all things balance and moderation is key.

Eating a lot of easily- digested carbohydrates from white bread, white rice, pastries, sugared sodas, and other highly processed foods may contribute to your weight gain, and therefore, interfere with your efforts to lose weight. On the contrary, consuming whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, and other intact carbohydrates promotes good health. As I mentioned before, a healthy diet is about balance and moderation. A basic knowledge of what carbohydrates are and how you body uses them is essential to understanding how to balance them in your diet.

Carbohydrates are essential nutrients that are excellent sources of energy (measured as calories) for your body; they are the preferred fuel for your brain and nervous system. Carbohydrates are found in an array of foods such as bread, beans, milk, popcorn, potatoes, cookies, spaghetti, soft drinks, corn, and desserts. The most common and abundant forms are classified as sugars, fibers, and starches.

The basic building block of every carbohydrate is a sugar molecule, a simple union of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Starches and fibers forms of carbohydrates are essentially chains of sugar molecules, some containing hundreds.

As mentioned above, most carbohydrates come from plant sources and are in the form of sugars, starches, and fibers. Sugars, also called simple carbohydrates, include fruit sugar (fructose), corn or grape sugar (dextrose or glucose), and table sugar (sucrose). Starches, also known as complex carbohydrates, include everything made of three or more linked sugars. Starches include foods such as breads, cereals, grains, pasta, rice, and flour. Fibers are technically classified as a starch because they are complex carbohydrates that your body cannot breakdown into sugar molecules. Fibers are more abundant in whole grains, legumes, and vegetables.

Your body breaks down all carbohydrates, except for fibers, into single sugar molecules regardless of their source. These simple sugars are further converted into glucose, also known as blood sugar. Your body is designed to use blood sugar as a universal source of fuel for energy.

Fiber is the form of carbohydrate that your body cannot break down into simple sugar molecules. It passes through your body undigested. Fiber comes in two varieties: soluble, which dissolves in water, and insoluble, which does not. Although neither type provides energy for your body, they both promote health in many ways. Soluble fiber binds to fatty substances in your intestines and carries them out as waste, thus lowering your low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or bad cholesterol). It also helps regulate your body’s use of sugars, helping you to keep your hunger and blood sugar in check. Insoluble fiber helps push food through your intestinal tract, promoting regularity and helping to prevent constipation.

Here’s what happens when you eat a food containing carbohydrates. Your digestive system breaks down the digestible ones into sugar, which then enters your blood. As your blood sugar level rises, specials cells in your pancreas churn out insulin, a hormone that signals your cells to absorb the blood sugar for energy or for storage. As your cells soak-up the blood sugar, its level in your bloodstream begins to fall. Now, your pancreas starts making another hormone called glucagon, which signals your liver to start releasing stored blood sugar. This interplay of insulin and glucagon ensures that cells throughout your body have a steady supply of blood sugar. 

So, you see carbohydrates are a very important source of energy for your body. The key to long-term weight loss is to balance the carbohydrates, protein, and fat in your diet to promote optimal lean muscle tissue which in turn, increases your metabolism causing you to burn more calories 24 hours a day.

Checkout my downloadable strength training routines at Forever Fit and Firm.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Keeping Healthy Muscle is as Important as Losing Weight

I want you to realize the importance of developing and maintaining muscle mass as you age.  Many of the degenerative conditions once thought to be a result of growing old can be directly associated with inactivity and the loss of muscle mass.  Below is a very informative excerpt on this subject by Dr. Donald K. Layman, one of the most respected experts on nutrition and human metabolism of our day.

Muscle size and strength are usually associated with body builders and athletes, but the latest research is proving that healthy muscles are critical for adult health. Average life expectancy continues to increase, but along with the blessing of longer life comes the risk of age-related diseases. The risks for obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancers increase with advancing age. Excluding individuals who die early in life from an accident, injury or acute illness, we all expect to live healthy and robust lives well into our 80’s or beyond. For adults over the age of 65, the real risks for loss of health relate to muscle function and mobility. The measure of functional mobility is defined as the ability to perform activities of daily living or ADL. ADL is a measure of independent living and directly predicts morbidity and mortality – how healthy will you be? … and how long will you live?

A few years ago, a colleague, Dr. Robert Wolfe, wrote an article entitled The Underappreciate Role of Muscle in Health and Disease. The article highlighted the importance of skeletal muscle in adult health. Dr. Wolfe looked at healthy aging, acute illnesses, chronic diseases, and recovery from surgery or falls and the common factor for recovery and even survival from each of these conditions was skeletal muscle health. If your muscles are healthy, then your odds of avoiding or recovering from illnesses improve greatly. Dr. Wolfe reported some eye-opening facts – women over the age of 65 who fall and break a hip, over 50% never walk again; recovery from cancer and chemotherapy is directly related to muscle mass at initial diagnosis; and risk of developing diabetes is inversely related to muscle metabolic health. Dr. Steve Blair at the Cooper Institute coined the concept of Fit and Fat to reflect that many people can be overweight and still healthy – as long as they have good muscle health. The list of examples goes on but the point is clear, healthy muscles equal healthy adults.

The importance of muscle health highlights a critical difference among weight loss diets. There are many fad diets and so-called nutrition companies that make claims about rapid weight loss or cures for obesity, but the secret they want to hide is they also cause muscle loss. That’s a critical factor when you evaluate a weight loss program. People tend to ask “how much weight can I lose in the shortest period of time?” These quick fix fad diets may work for spring break when you’re 18 to 22, but it’s a dangerous practice for any adult over 30. The correct questions are “is it a proven weight loss program, and what are the proportions of fat and muscle lost?” Be sure that the so-called miracle diet PROVES that it only causes loss of body fat and not muscle. Loss of muscle means you have damaged your metabolic flexibility and your functional mobility and virtually guaranteed the weight will return (note: research shows 93% of weight is regained within one year with these fad diets); and even worse the weight that returns will be all body fat increasing the risk for diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis. If you lose muscle during weight loss, the muscle loss will be permanent increasing your metabolic risks and accelerating aging.

Muscle health is so important that medical experts in gerontology are debating whether adults over 60 should EVER lose weight. Skeletal muscles have obvious importance for posture and mobility. When we’re young our muscles are strong and flexible. The same is true for metabolism. Young muscles have high metabolic flexibility. Teenagers seldom get muscle soreness and usually recover rapidly after an exercise challenge. As we get older, we observe changes in physical strength and flexibility, and there are changes in metabolic flexibility that we can’t see. As we get older, muscle health and metabolic flexibility requires more attention.

Strength training and getting the proper amount of protein in your diet are the two most effective ways of developing and maintaining muscle mass as you age.  Checkout my favorite strength training programs from Beginners to Advanced levels at Forever Fit and Firm.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Importance of a Balanced Breakfast

The importance of eating a properly balanced breakfast cannot be over-stated when it comes to building muscle and burning body fat.  Studies show that consuming 25 to 30 grams of high quality protein at each meal is necessary to stimulate protein synthesis (the repair and building of muscle tissue), and this is especially true at breakfast.  Below is an excerpt on the importance of a balanced breakfast from Dr. Donald K. Layman, one of the top nutritional experts of today.

The importance of breakfast is a principle of nutrition taught to children. If you want to perform well in school you need a good breakfast, and children who skip breakfast often have low energy, poor attention, and reduced performance. The problem was low blood sugar. Nutritionists thought the solution was eating carbohydrates. This led to breakfasts that were high carbohydrate and low protein such as cereal and OJ or even donuts and pastries. Carbs became a staple for the American breakfast.

As the science of nutrition evolved we learned more about how the body uses protein, carbohydrates and fats, and our concepts about meals changed. We now know that the best way to stabilize blood sugar for children – and adults – is eating fewer carbs and more protein. Carbohydrates can give you a quick burst of energy, they but also lead to a big insulin response that causes a drop in blood sugar in about two hours. This drop in blood sugar saps your energy and leads to snacking. If you’re young, exercise daily, and have normal body weight, you may be able to tolerate a higher carbohydrate diet and snacks, but for most adults, high-carb breakfasts and snacks lead to weight gain and unwanted body fat.It’s time for a new breakfast.

When you wake up, it’s likely you have been without food for about 12 hours. Your body is burning fat – which is great – but also breaking down your lean tissues including muscle and bone. What you eat at the first meal determines how your body burns fat and protects itself for the rest of the day. Breakfast determines your metabolic pattern. If the first meal is high in carbs and low in protein, the rush of insulin shifts your body from burning fats to storing fat and even converting the carbs you eat into new fat. Lack of adequate protein at breakfast also leaves your body breaking down lean tissues. The ideal breakfast contains protein, carbohydrate, and fat with the balance of protein and carbs being the critical parts.

Getting the proper amount of protein in your diet combined with strength training is the most effective approach to staying strong and fit as you age.  Checkout my complete line of strength training programs at Forever Fit and Firm.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Squats, One of the Best Exercises for Overall Strength

If you've read any of my posts you know how passionate I am about strength training.  It is the most effective form of exercise for maintaining your muscle mass and strength as you age. In that light, I want to share some of my favorite exercises with you that I do to stay fit and strong as I age.

A properly executed squat is one of the best exercises you can do for overall strength and conditioning.  Using the Smith Machine is a big aid in helping you perform squats correctly.  First, place the bar a little lower than shoulder height.  Next, position yourself under the bar, twist to unlock it and place the bar on top of your shoulders.  Now, place your feet in front of you about six inches, a little wider than shoulder width apart. This is your start position.  Lift your chest, and keep your chin high.  Now, squat by leading with your butt until your thighs are parallel to the floor, then return to the start position.  Be careful not to round your lower back and that your knees do not extend over your toes anytime doing this exercise. (For the first few times, it’s best to have someone observe you from the side to make sure you are doing this exercise correctly).  Your breathing pattern is to inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up on this exercise.  Use a resistance with which you can do 10 to 12 repetitions of which the last 3 repetitions are difficult to complete with proper form.

You can download my complete strength training routines by clicking on this link: Forever Fit and Firm.