How to get in shape – 3 styles to consider: Weight Loss

weight loss

This article is part 3 in a 4 part series. In part 1, I wrote about the 3 styles people should consider when deciding how to get in shape. Part 2 dove into what it means to put all your focus on muscle and weight gainIn this article, I will be going into greater detail about what it means to completely focus on weight loss. I will talk about the pros, cons, and what you should focus on instead. 

According to the CDC, obesity rate of adults in America is just over 35%. There are 314 million people living in America (74 million of which are under the age of 18). Do some quick math, and there’s an astounding 85,000,000 adults classified as obese.

With such a high number, losing weight has become a hot topic these days. Losing weight has many great benefits, but is there a possibility for too much of a good thing? There’s an endless supply of articles, photos, videos, and programs aimed at helping people shed a few pounds, but none of them offer any education. It’s a great idea to go into weight loss with some knowledge.

Being overweight certainly comes with a number of health-issues, but so does being too thin.

3 things to keep in mind when it comes to trying to lose weight:

  • How fast is too fast for weight loss?
  • Whats causing the weight loss?
  • The health risks associated with losing too much weight.

How fast is too fast for weight loss?

When it comes to losing weight, 1-2 pounds of weight loss is considered healthy and sustainable. On paper, one pound of body fat in the human body is equal to 3,500 calories. Theoretically then, if you eat 500 less calories than you burn a day, you will lose one pound in a week (-500 calories a day X 7 days a week = -3,500 calories a week). In the same regard, if you eat 1,000 less calories than you burn a day, you will lose 3 pounds in a week (-1,000 X 7 days a week = -7,000 calories a week). Losing exactly one or two pounds a week doesn’t play out quite as neatly in real life. It does, however, give a nice guideline to how much weight you can realistically lose while staying healthy.

If someone loses weight rapidly, it’s due to other things in addition to losing fat. Any faster than losing 2 pounds a week and it involves a combination of losing water weight, losing muscle, and the bodies metabolism slowing down.

What’s causing the weight loss?

  1. Losing water weight

    About 60% of our body weight is composed of water. When someone goes on a highly restrictive diet, the body turns to it’s own stored energy, because it’s not getting enough energy from the foods eaten day to day. The stored energy holds water with it and that water is burned up quickly when switching to a restrictive diet.

    A more scientific explanation:One type of stored energy the body turns to is a carbohydrate called glycogen. When the body uses glycogen for energy, the glycogen also releases the water stored in it. There is 4 grams of water accompanying every 1 gram of glycogen. (Read Here). When weight loss is rapid, a significant amount of it is due to this water being released.

  2. Losing muscle

    The more restrictive a diet is, the more the body has to rely on other sources of energy such as the glycogen talked about in the last paragraph. Another place the body turns to when looking for energy is the muscle itself. When the body starts to run low on available energy (glycogen), it turns to the protein in the muscles themselves. Losing muscle instead of the fat is never a good thing. Losing muscle usually leads to false hope on the scales because it’s not actually fat being lost.

  3. Metabolism slowing down

    Highly restrictive diets involve eating a lot less food than normal. When the body is deprived of the amount of food it normally gets, it slows down its metabolism. A slowing metabolism speeds up weight loss but isn’t sustainable, because the metabolism will bounce right back after the restrictive diet is over.

The health risks associated with too much weight loss

Too much fat in the body has lots of bad symptoms, but not having enough isn’t any better. A few things that end up happening when someone is too skinny are heart issues, a lowered immune system, anemia, and fertility issues.(Check Here).

Getting too skinny puts a lot of unhealthy strain on the body, so be careful!

Check back next for the final post in this series!

-Adam

How to get in shape – 3 styles to consider: Muscle and weight gain

Body builder

Last time, I wrote about the 3 styles people should consider when deciding how to get in shape. This article is part 2 in a 4 part series. In this article, I will be going into greater detail about what it means to completely focus on muscle and weight gain. I will talk about the pros, cons, and what you should focus on instead.

Quick Disclaimer: If this style of getting in shape is your true passion, then that’s awesome. I have nothing against it. I simply believe there’s a much healthier and sustainable way to get and stay in shape.

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Research is the first step people typically take when deciding how to get in shape. Whether the internet or magazines are used for research, seeing pictures of huge body builders is inevitable.

It’s easy to see pictures of these people and conclude that’s the ideal physique to shoot for. The reality is that rarely is a physique like that healthy or sustainable. Many body builders put their bodies through an immense amount of strain that can have long-lasting effects.

 The only 2 instances where it makes to focus on muscle and weight gain

There are really only two instances where it’s beneficial to put complete focus on muscle and weight gain.

  1. Training for a sport or competition that requires it.

    Example 1: Football coach tells linemen they need to put on significant muscle and weight to be competitive.
    Example 2: Some variation of a body building competition where size and “bigness” of muscles matter.

  2. Muscle and weight needs to be put on to get healthy. In this case, the person may have been told by a health professional that they’re extremely underweight and are risking permanent damage as a result.

That’s it.

I wish I was the guy to tell you how to safely and effectively accomplish those 2 things. The truth is, I’m not. I’m not that guy partly because I believe there’s not much point in living solely for muscle and weight gain, and partly because I’ve never had a need to.

Risks unique to this style

There’s risks with everything in life. Even if you lock yourself in a padded room so you never get hurt, you run the risk of mental illness. However, focusing completely on muscle and weight gain has a few unique risks to be aware of

The Risks

  • The first and most obvious risk is any performance enhancing supplement that does lasting damage to the body. The pressures of always trying to gain more muscle sometimes pushes people to use supplements that aren’t the best for them long-term.

  • The second risk is the eating aspect of this style. Focusing on muscle and weight gain requires eating a lot of food. There’s no way to avoid that. The risk isn’t eating a lot of food. The risk here is that many people use this as an excuse to eat a lot of bad food. All that bad food does more damage internally than simply adding a few pounds.

  • The last risk is the strain that extra weight puts on the body. The body doesn’t care that the extra weight is muscle. All the body knows is that it’s joints are now experiencing more stress.

What should I focus on instead?

I will be posting an article about this in a week, but the short answer is that you should focus on a mix between muscle gain and weight loss. Complete focus on muscle and weight gain is one extreme. The other extreme is losing weight at all costs, which will be talked about next. Somewhere between those two is where the ideal style of getting in shape is

Stick around for the next article about losing weight at all costs!

-Adam

How to get in shape – 3 different styles to consider

get-in-shape-1

I love seeing people get excited about learning how to get in shape. The more people take steps towards improving their fitness and health, the better. I’m a firm believer that any exercise is better than no exercise, but I’m also a believer that knowing your exercise goals greatly increases your chance of succeeding.

In an effort to help people better figure out what it is they want to achieve, I’ve split it up into three broad styles. Obviously there’s a lot of differences within each style, but each one defines a distinctly different mindset when approaching exercise.

The first 2 styles to consider when deciding how to get in shape:

  • Style 1 is a complete focus on muscle and weight gain. 

    This style consists of people who believe the only reason to lift weights is to gain muscle. With this style, all energy is put into consistently gaining weight and muscle. There’s nothing wrong with deciding to focus 100% on this, but it’s a decision that needs to made consciously. Complete focus on weight and muscle gain means losing the benefits of cardiovascular exercise. 

  • Style 2 is a complete focus on losing weight. 

    You can visit pretty much any gym and see this style in action. These people walk straight past the weights and hang out in the cardio room for a bit, and then leave. Cardio and losing weight are both awesome, but you’d miss out on the awesome benefits of lifting weight if you focus on them 100%.

These two styles represent complete opposite ends of the spectrum. The first one represents the end where you’re completely focused on building muscle, while the second one represents the end where you’re completely focused on losing weight.

The problem with these two styles are that they’re extreme. It’s hard work to achieve anything with exercise, regardless of what direction you go. The difference is, when you go to the extremes on either end, you put unnecessary stress on you’re body. Finding the mid-point between these two styles is ideal.

The 3rd (and best) style to consider when deciding how to get in shape:

  • Style 3 represents what I call an “athletic” build. 

    Using this strategy involves splitting your time between lifting weights and cardiovascular exercise. It’s a happy medium between the other two. You might not end up competing in any body-building competitions, or walking down any runways with this style. You’ll be better off for it though because your body won’t be subjected to those extremes. The problem with shooting for an athletic build, is it’s difficult to find information on.

Why break it down into 3 styles? Doesn’t that over simplify fitness?

Most people simply want to get in shape; not gain mass amounts of muscle, or lose every ounce of fat on their body. Most people just want to become healthier and simplifying fitness into 3 styles makes it much easier to define what the goal really is.

All that’s needed to really make a difference in your health is a simple grasp of what you’re trying to accomplish.

Stay tuned. The next 3 posts will be going into these three styles in more detail.

-Adam Conway

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Check out my new site!: Simplify Adam

Photo Cred:http://www.top-dating-coach.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/get-in-shape-1.gif

Lose Stomach Fat Easily

measuretape

Being able to lose fat from specific body parts sounds intuitive, right? Doing a curl should cause me to lose fat on my arm, while exercising my stomach should torch stomach fat, right?

In a perfect world, losing fat in all the right places (also known as targeted fat loss or spot reduction) would be the norm. 50 crunches a day for a month would reveal our abs, while 50 sets with that one pound dumbbell would tone our arms right up. Unfortunately for all of us, losing fat in the place of your choosing is a myth. This myth needs to die and It’s death needs to be swift.

To find the solution the quick way, skip right down to the section labeled “The Solution.”

The Problem

Sadly, losing fat doesn’t work the same way as gaining muscle. Here are the distinct differences between gaining muscle and losing fat:

  • When it comes to gaining muscle, you gain muscle when you use it. Working out the lower body doesn’t increase muscle in the upper body, and visa versa. You can’t do bicep curls with the hope that your calves will get stronger.
  • Fat loss, on the other hand, gets decided by uncontrollable factors such as genetics, hormones, and age. When you use more calories  then you eat in a day, your body uses stored fat to cover that imbalance. The difference here is that the body chooses. We don’t get to decide where it pulls that fat from by working out specific areas.

Summary of those two bullets: You get to choose which muscles to work out, You don’t get to choose where you lose fat from.

For some people, fat gets stored easier in the stomach, while others store fat easier in the hips and thighs. The result of this is that those areas are the last to get lean.

The irony in believing in this myth, is that if you’re not focused on the right thing, you may end up achieving the opposite of what you’re aiming to accomplish. Building up muscle underneath the fat without getting rid of the fat, only makes your stomach bigger.

[note: Getting rid of stomach fat seems to be widely sought after, so that’s why I’m focusing on it. This same principle can be applied to any other part of the body though.]

The Science

The subject of targeted fat loss has been tested through scientific studies many times since it was first unveiled. Both of these were found at Yalescientific.org:

  • Back in 1971, UC Irvine did a study on tennis players that have been playing for a while. Those that play tennis hold the racquet with one arm, and therefore use that arm much more often. In a nutshell, they found there was no difference at all between the left and right arms of these tennis players. This was regardless of whether they were right or left handed. You would think if targeted fat loss was real, there would be at least some difference in amounts of fat between the arms.
  • In 2007, the University of Connecticut conducted a little more involved study. They put over 100 people through a 12 week-long weight lifting program. In the program, the participant’s non-dominant arm was focused on. After the program was over, the people were put through the MRI machine. The scientists in charge of the study found that fat loss was generalized and not focused on the arm worked out.

Targeted fat loss simply doesn’t work.

Getting rid of fat has much more to do with calories in versus calories out. It’s a numbers game, and when it comes to numbers, these exercises that promise to “melt love handles” or “torch stomach fat” just don’t add up. 50 crunches don’t burn that many calories compared to running.

To illustrate the fact that certain exercises are better for losing fat, take a look at some interesting comparisons I found using a table at nutristrategy.com:

  • A light weight lifting session burns exactly the same amount of calories as….drum roll please….walking the dog. Please, if you’re looking to lose fat, just go walk the dog and enjoy yourself more.
  • Conversely, doing a vigorous, body building workout (how many of us can actually describe our workouts like that?) burns less calories than….walking at a 4.5 mph pace. Yeah, that’s over a 13 minute mile. If you’re looking to lose fat, just go for a walk at a decent pace.

The Solution

This solution is pretty easy and key to getting into shape. I kept it nice and short so it’s easy to digest.

There’s really only one efficient solution to getting rid of fat: diet. Eat a clean and healthy diet and you will start to see results. Period.

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This will be talked about and explained further pretty often as diet is one of the things I’m most passionate about. Till next time!

-Adam Conway

Feel free to comment with your thoughts about targeted fat loss!

Cycling Against the Wind

windy-cyclists

After a weekend rest, I’m mentally preparing myself for another weeks worth of riding. Four days just doesn’t feel long enough to recover from the accumulation of miles that comes with biking 30 miles to school and back three days in a row. On the verge of the next three day stint, it’s all I can do to get pedaling. Wait, I should check to make sure I have everything again. School supplies, check. Water, check. Food, check. School supplies, no I already made sure of that. Well let me re-adjust my backpack and tighten the straps for the 17th time. Ok, well if I have everything, I guess that means it’s time to go…

The jarring caused by the transition from curb to street is the cyclists’ starting gun. I take the first of many breaths of fresh air this crisp winter morning has to offer. Fumbling to attach my shoes to the pedals is the final ingredient in the cycling stew. A quarter of a mile down the road and I’m certain somebody injected cement into my tires and they must have left some bricks in my backpack for good measure. My muscles start to warm up and things are starting to get slightly better. Traffic is whizzing past me, taunting me to go faster and push harder. With a competitive spirit, I answer their taunt with speed and agility of my own. The wind is my friend as I whiz down the road, navigating the obstacles of the street. Every light I pass is green and my energy seems endless. The world seems perfect; what could go wrong? After making it through town and into the country, the joy continues. A chirping bird flies next to me for a brief second (literally), followed moments later by sounds coming from a hawk gliding above. After arriving at my destination I check the time and to my delight, it’s taken 50 minutes, a new record! What a wonderful adventure life is! How could anybody ever not be happy?

Optimism is practically oozing out of my ears as I mount the speed demon otherwise known as my bike. Can I break my record twice in one day? Maybe successfully navigate the 15 mile ride home without ever touching the handlebars? Suddenly stumble upon the cure for cancer? These all seem like real possibilities. I joyfully attach my shoes to the pedals and ride off, sprinting at top speed. One mile down and I feel the fatigue that comes with not pacing myself. I’ll just set a decent pace and I’ll be home in no time. Keeping the pace I settled upon seems a lot harder than it should be, but I chalk it up to tired muscles from the quick ride to school. That should go away once I get loosened up. A couple more miles and I’m completely spent. Why is this so difficult? An American flag on the roadside gives me an answer to that question I don’t want to hear. The flag frantically waves directly in my direction so violently that it looks as if it might rip off it’s pole, symbolizing the cyclists’ mortal enemy: wind. This ride just got a lot tougher than anticipated. The wind speed only increases once I make it out into the country. At the halfway point I struggle to hit 10 MPH and after checking the time, realize it’s already been 45 minutes. Traffic speeds by, rubbing their superiority in my face. It doesn’t seem fair that they get to avoid the effects of the wind, while I feel the full force of it. Every light I come to is red which gives me a little break from the wind, but kills any hope of gaining momentum. After expending so much effort with little to show for it, I feel empty of any energy. At least an empty stomach means less weight to carry, right? Checking the time as my journey concludes reveals a disappointing record time of an hour and 40 minutes. I did set a new record on my way home, it just wasn’t the one I was aiming for. The jarring caused by the transition from street to curb is the well-welcomed finish line. Why would anybody ever be happy to do this to themselves, knowing they’ll be back again tomorrow?

Consequences of Not Sleeping

Sleeping

With a new college semester looming, I thought it was appropriate to look at the love/hate relationship we all have with sleep. When life gets busy, sleep is often the first activity on the chopping block. There always feels as if there’s so many other more important activities than laying in bed doing nothing. Phrases such as “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” frequently cross our minds when other activities take precedence.

The problem with this mindset is that getting less sleep than your body needs has a long list of unfortunate consequences that include:

  • Less energy (obviously).
  • Problems with remembering things.
  • Weight gain.
  • More susceptible to illness.
  • Body doesn’t repair itself as effectively (including muscles after working out).
  • Higher risk for heart complications, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes.

Obviously we want to avoid those things as much as possible. The problem with sleep is, without knowledge of what’s “too much” or “too little,” it’s hard to avoid these consequences. In an effort to help people understand sleep a little more, here are a few questions I’m going to answer.

The Questions

Why is getting enough sleep good for my health?

What happens if I don’t get enough sleep?

What constitutes “enough” sleep?

I have troubles falling asleep, so how can I possibly get enough of it?

 Why is getting enough sleep good for my health?

For many people, enjoying the act of sleeping is a good enough reason to sleep as much as possible. Luckily for those that would rather be productive than “waste” time, there’s many other benefits as well that may change your mind. These benefits range from simply having energy, to getting stronger and staying healthy.

The most obvious benefit of sleep is that you have energy. This is pretty obvious so I don’t really feel like wasting a ton of time talking about it. Getting a full nights rest gives you energy, focus, and happiness. Who doesn’t want that?

A benefit most don’t think about is the repair your body does during your sleep. While your awake the body is repairing itself, but it has a lot more information to process and things to worry about. When sleeping, a lot of these distractions are gone and the body uses the down time to repair itself. The body is constantly replacing dead cells with new ones and keeping itself running smooth. When there’s an injury, illness, or internal problem the repair process goes into overdrive while sleeping. Without this it’d take a lot longer to get healthy again.

When it comes to working out and exercising, getting enough sleep is a really important part that many people ignore. Whether it be lifting weights or running; whenever muscles are used, microscopic rips happen. When the muscle repairs itself, the space in those rips is filled in and the muscle comes back bigger and stronger. Sleeping is the period of time when the majority of that repair occurs.

What happens if I don’t get enough sleep?

It’s easy to forget how crucial to our health sleep is. In addition to not gaining the above benefits fully, quite a few negative consequences happen. Lack of sleep contributes to memory or focus issues, weight gain, and serious health complications.

Getting a new memory to stick in the brain and being able to remember it involves 3 phases. The first phase, called acquisition, is when you actually learn the memory or skill. The second phase, called consolidation, is when the memory or skill gets implanted in the brain. The third phase, called recall, involves having the ability to remember the information later on when you need it. Of these three phases, acquisition and recall happen when you’re awake. Consolidation, however, happens while your sleeping. Gaining new information and skills to stick in the brain require an adequate amount of sleep. Without enough sleep, we would have a much harder time remembering the things we learn. (Sleep 2013.)

Lack of sleep can also have a huge effect on our weight. When we don’t get enough sleep our hormones get all out of whack (even more than just hating all human beings and life in general). Two hormones in particular, named Leptin and Ghrelin, get affected. Leptin is the hormone that sends the signal to your brain that you’re full and satisfied. When sleep is lacking, leptin levels drop, which means you don’t feel satisfied after eating. Ghrelin is the hormone that stimulates appetite. Ghrelin levels rise when sleep levels are low and this results in an increased appetite. These two things combine to set the stage for overeating. (Colette 2013.)

Serious health complications can also creep up when there’s a reoccurring theme of not sleeping enough. Through lots of studies, scientists have shown that people who don’t sleep enough are more susceptible to serious health issues that include heart complications, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes. These are all things the body works against while sleeping. Not getting enough sleep opens the door to these serious health issues.

What Constitutes “Enough” Sleep?

Just like everything else in life, “enough” sleep varies widely from person to person. One person may be completely healthy with six and a half hours of sleep a night and another my need to get eight to stay totally healthy. The interesting thing about sleep, is that negative health issues arise both when you get too little sleep and too much sleep.

Some places such as sleepfoundation recommend adults getting between seven and nine hours of sleep a night, while others such as time, recommend six and half to seven and a half hours of sleep a night. Having such a wide range can confuse people. Why are they so different? Whenever you read about any amount of sleep being recommended it’s usually tied to some kind of research study or experiment. These studies are typically testing to see what effect the amount of sleep has on different consequences (heart disease, diabetes, etc.). Each different consequence has had it’s own study done and because of that, you will see a wide range of “optimal” sleep ranges.

When you look at each recommendation as a whole though, you start to get a feel for what’s a good target to shoot for. Taking all the different sources I researched, anywhere from 6.5-8 hours of sleep a night seems to be the best. Anything under 6.5 hours and you open yourself up to health problems. Similarly, anything over 8 hours and the possibility for problems also arises.

I have troubles falling asleep, so how can I possibly get enough of it?

Many people experience problems falling asleep. I’ve often sat there worrying about not being able to fall asleep, which causes me to not fall asleep. It’s a vicious cycle. The following are a few things I’ve either used or read studies on to help falling asleep get easier.

Don’t read, watch, TV, or eat in your bed. Basically, don’t use it for anything other than it’s intended purposes. Personally, I even try to avoid spending long periods of time in my room throughout the day. Doing those things while in bed associates the bed with things other than sleeping which makes it hard to fall asleep at the end of the day.

Take an hour or two without electronics before bed. Just relax. If you’re staring into a screen moments before hopping into bed, your brain isn’t going to be in the ideal state to go to sleep. Take some time before jumping in bed to just relax. I like to read a bit (just not in bed) before going to sleep.

I saved the best for last. Exercise! Everyone knows the feeling of being exhausted from running around and being active all day. Make sure you get some exercise in during the day and you’ll fall asleep much easier. Personally, I find that only the days where I have trouble falling asleep are when I don’t exercise at all. If I’ve done any exercise throughout the day, I fall asleep within minutes.

What are your favorite ways to fall asleep easier?

-Adam Conway

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http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-deprivation-effects-on-memory

http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/lose-weight-while-sleeping

http://lifehacker.com/5802650/how-many-hours-sleep-do-you-really-need

http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

Simple Workout

Simple

Keep workouts simple

When looking for information on working out, it’s easy to feel completely buried in a mountain of information. Every place you look says something different. Lift this way or eat that way. There are millions of free and paid exercise programs to follow, so where should you start? The options become too many and varied so you end up getting overwhelmed and giving up. Why should you even start something when you don’t know if it’s right?

Here’s the easiest way to get in shape:

Start with none of them. Start simple.

The simpler something is, the easier it is to understand. The easier it is to understand, the easier it is to follow.

Doing something is better than doing nothing at all. Do something you actually like doing, even if you hear its not as good as X (whatever workout everyone else says is better).

Here’s a list simple things you can do. I’m not writing down a “program” that should be followed. This is simply a list of simple ideas to get moving:

  • Walk.
  • Run.
  • Jump over/on stuff.
  • Climb up things.
  • Bike.
  • Your favorite sport.

Here’s a list of some simple workouts that can be done anywhere:

  • Push-ups.
  • Pull-ups.
  • Planks.
  • Bodyweight squats.
  • Lunges.
  • Wall sits.

Please comment with your favorite simple workouts!

-Adam Conway