How Do Personal Fitness Trackers Work, and are They Any Good?

Click here for the original InShape News article.

Fitbit®, Garmin, Apple Watch, Misfit, Jawbone®, Smartwatch?
About 20% of us are using personal fitness trackers – so what’s the skinny on these mini devices?

What is a personal fitness tracker?
A personal fitness tracker, sometimes also called a smart band, is generally a wrist-worn electronic device that contains a watch as well as various tracking sensors to measure exercise metrics such as your steps, flights of stairs, exercise sessions, calories burned, heart rate and even your sleep patterns.

How do personal fitness trackers work?
In simple terms wrist-worn devices all measure motion with the use of 3-axis accelerometer (measuring movement in each direction) and sometimes a gyroscope that measures rotation. This data is then fed into custom-written software (depending on the brand of device) that analyses and converts, to the best of its ability, the data into more meaningful statistics like steps, distance, calories and stairs climbed.

Devices that monitor heart rate also include an optical sensor (aka ‘the green light’) that shines to illuminate the capillaries under your skin, measuring the rate at which your blood is being pumped through.

Similarly sleep patterns are measured using an actimetry sensor which essentially measures wrist movement, sometimes combined with other sensor inputs, and analyses it to determine your wake, sleep and restless periods.

Some trackers (especially those designed for long distance sports like running) also have a GPS to track your actual position on the planet via satellites (much like sat Nav for your car). Others include galvanic skin response sensors to measure sweat, thermometers to measure temperature and ambient or UV light sensors or bioimpedance sensors to gain input data for analysis.

To check what’s in an individual brand check out the following Wearable and Digital Trends articles to see how various fitness trackers work.

The skinny: Various sensors in the fitness tracker provide raw user data that is then interpreted by software (that uses basic assumptions and calculations) into more meaningful data.

Are personal fitness trackers accurate?
Yes, and no. Personal trackers use varying technology to gain and analyse user data but all rely on user inputs including weight, stride length, wrist dominance and sometimes height and age to provide more precise reporting. So if you don’t change the default factory settings your readings may be incorrect.

One University of Pennsylvania study found the step count on fitness trackers could be as much as 22% out when compared with old-style pedometers and accelerometers. But the University of North Carolina’s Professor Kelly Evenson says lab and field tests revealed trackers were reasonably accurate, but tended to overestimate distance with slow speeds, and underestimate when moving fast.

In a test of 10 fitness trackers, CBNC’s Eric Chemi reported all devices were close to reporting accurately but each device did vary slightly. Fitbit® Charge HR (which also records sleep patterns) was the most accurate when it came to step counts; Apple Watch for heart rate; and Withings Pulse O2 for distance. But most of these devices record additional activities that were not subject to testing.

What is most useful about any fitness tracker is the daily comparison of results by the same user. Just like any gym routine or fitness program you’re only in competition with yourself and your results are the only ones that matter (despite many trackers having the ability to join virtual groups and compete in weekly competitions). Personal fitness trackers are a way of setting targets, and tracking and recording your gradual improvement, or the lack thereof.

And most reports like The Guardian’s Amy Fleming  and Shape’s Paige Fowler tend to agree: it’s about the user being able to monitor their own data, even if it’s just feedback or a guide to make incremental improvements.

The skinny? All fitness trackers vary in results slightly.

What are the best personal fitness trackers?
Right now the best fitness tracker, according to TechRadar, is the Fitbit® Charge 2 which connects with the GPS on your phone, particularly good for joggers and runners. Second is Samsung’s Gear Fit 2, third is Microsoft’s Band 2 and fourth is the Fitbit® Flex 2. However the TechRadar report excluded Smart Watches which are reported separately here.

Wearable on the other hand rates Garmin’s Vivosmart HR+ the best tracker with Fitbit® Charge 2 coming in second as the best general fitness tracker. They also rated the best trackers for a range of categories including simplicity, style, parents, getting in shape, tight budget, losing weight, multisports and screen quality. Check out their full report here.

PC Magazine’s assessment put’s the Fitbit® Surge at the top of their list, with the Fitbit® Charge 2 and Garmin Forerunner 735XT runners up.

The skinny? It really depends what exercises you regularly do and what you want to track.

How do I pick the right personal fitness tracker for me?
Mens Journal quizzed fitness tracker researcher, the University of Pennsylvania’s Dr Mitesh Patel, who likened fitness trackers to a gym membership – the novelty often soon wears off. What was most important, says Dr Patel, is that wearers already had a high motivation towards improving their own health and fitness. It would seem that motivation and personal responsibility for one’s own health are huge pre-requisites when it comes to fitness trackers, but these aren’t the only factors.

The ABC’s Joel Werner and Tegan Osborne report that around 50% of people stop wearing their fitness tracker within 12 months of purchasing it. So it seems that selection of the right device for the right purpose is crucial to any device’s longevity of use.

When I asked my fitness-tracking friends what they liked about theirs the responses varied. Some liked the technological features like the Fitbit® Alta which vibrates with incoming calls, receives SMS and calendar reminders on the watch face; some wanted a tracker that looks more like a conventional watch rather than a band; others talked about the importance durability like the Garmin Vivoactive being waterproof, even in sea water (which might have been helpful for me when I fell into a French canal last year).

For me it’s the sleep tracking function of the Fitbit® Charge HR that won me over. Being able to see how many times I ‘wake’ and how many times I’m ‘restless’ and my combined sleep total for the night gives me a lot of information to proactively improve my quality of sleep.

What did seem to be a common theme was to consider the comfort and look of the unit (as you generally wear them 24 hours a day), the battery life/recharge time, ease of device use as well as the user interface (via smartphone or laptop apps).

Other friends use a non-band fitness tracker like Google Fit which uses advanced sensors in your smartphone to work out when you’re walking, jogging or cycling – good if you are a regular ‘wearer’ of your phone (probably better suited for men. Why don’t they put pockets in women’s clothing?).

Fact: there are a heap of different devices out there at a huge range of prices from the cost effective to the insane. Finding the right device is a personal choice and it may take you a few goes to find the device that’s right for you. Do your research and talk with your friends who use fitness trackers, find out what they like and dislike about their units and see if you can try theirs on. And if in doubt handy services like USA-based Lumoid provide devices for rental so you can ‘try before you buy’.

The skinny? Decide on what’s important for you, set a budget and do your research before you buy.

Tips for getting the most out of personal fitness trackers?
Once you’ve chosen your personal fitness tracker the first thing you’ll want to do is customise it. Add in your personal user settings (height, weight, stride, etc.) according to the app to ensure more accurate results.

Next, and most importantly, is to decide on what you want to track and set some goals, like hours of activity, heart rates and daily steps. If in doubt use your tracker for a week first to know what your baseline is, then set realistic goals that stretch you a little more each week.

To keep your motivation you might want to join a virtual group. Many brands have virtual groups in the apps that allow you to connect with others and share selected statistics (like step count). If a friend has the same brand of device then you may be able to create a group of your own, which is more fun and definitely more motivating. But remember, it’s your week on week results that count – you are your only competition.

If you’re on a weight loss mission many apps allow you to log your food and water. This can be time consuming but also a very sobering experience when you realise how little water and how many calories you’re actually consuming. Still it can be a very beneficial and educational exercise.

And when it comes to burning off those extra calories don’t believe everything you read (or track). Fitness trackers aren’t 100% accurate. In fact, a study from Iowa State University found that there’s more than a 15% margin of error in most trackers. Take the results as a guide and don’t get too over zealous.

If you’re prone to sitting or being inactive for long periods of time then set a regular reminder to move. Reminders and alarms are a great way to make sure you’re moving more, but they can also reduce your battery life requiring more regular recharges.

Consistency and routine are the keys when it comes to tracking. Make sure you wear your device for the same hours, or better still keep it on 24 hours a day – especially for devices that track your sleep patterns. Simply recharge your device when you’re not moving much, like sitting at your desk or when you’re in the shower. Most devices fully charge in around 20 minutes and last for 3 to 5 days.

The skinny? Personal fitness trackers can be a great way to monitor your health and wellbeing. But they require commitment, consistency and routine.

Is Fructose Good or Bad for You?

Click here for the original InShape News article.

I have a sweet tooth.
Oh boy do I have a sweet tooth.
It’s gotten me in trouble on more than one …ok, I confess …many occasions.
Having quit refined sugars and I’ve had to look for alternatives.
And so this got me thinking about fructose as a replacement sugar …is it good or bad?

What is fructose?
Fructose is a plant sugar, a simple carbohydrate found in fruit and vegetables. Yep, that’s right … vegetables too. In fact vegetables with the highest levels of fructose include green beans, asparagus, leek and onion …but virtually all vegetables contain some fructose.

But it’s fruit, combined with additionally high glucose, that really takes the cake. Star fruit is the worst culprit at 8% fructose and a massive 7% glucose – that’s 15% sugar! Other high-fructose fruits are those you’d suspect due to their sweetness: apples, kiwi, bananas, mangoes, oranges, pineapple and stone fruits. You can check the fructose and glucose levels of foods here.

How is fructose different to sugar?
Fructose IS a sugar …don’t be misled otherwise. Fructose only differs from refined table sugar (which is sucrose made from the sugar cane plant) in that sucrose is 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Fructose is, well, 100% fructose sugar. The difference is it’s metabolised slightly differently by the body (and we’ll get to that later).

But what’s causing outrage and concern is the refined version of fructose and other sugars found in packaged products and take away foods. Look on your ingredient label: fructose, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, high fructose corn syrup, corn sweetener, glucose, anhydrous dextrose, maltose, cane juice, dehydrated cane juice, evaporated cane juice, cane crystals… these are the culprits of ill-health and obesity. These sugars, concentrated and devoid of any nutritional counterparts (like fibre), are added unwittingly to our convenience foods to make them more ‘palatable’.

And let’s not forget flour: corn, wheat, rice, maize, tapioca, coconut, etc… which are added as fillers and binders to our packaged and processed foods, all of which contain sugar and simple carbohydrates (which convert to sugar very quickly once eaten).

This means we’re eating more sugar than ever before in the history of humanity.

Feeling sick yet?

How is fructose metabolised?
According to Wikipedia, whilst glucose is metabolised ‘widely’ in the body, fructose is almost solely metabolised in the liver. So eating high amounts of fructose not only means you’re eating high amounts of sugar, but it’s putting a serious load on your liver …often the very thing you’re trying to detox.

Fructose is also serious stuff for those suffering fructose malabsorption or FODMAP (Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides and Polyols) where the short chain carbohydrates including fructose cannot be digested properly due to deficient fructose carriers in the small intestine’s enterocytes. This results in indigestion, excessive flatulence, bloating and distension, fatigue and impaired brain function.

And it’s the volume of all sugars combined that now adds up to alarming amounts in almost all diets. So switching to a non-refined fructose diet is not the panacea. But it can be the easy and important first stepping stone to switching to a no added sugar (of any kind) diet.

How much sugar is enough?
Harvard Health Publications recently reported on studies that explain why we should limit our sugar intake to around 10% of our daily calories. More simply, men should eat no more than the equivalent of 9 teaspoons of sugar, whilst women should aim for 6. That’s 45g for men and 30g for women. Which means 200g of Star Fruit equals the daily allowance for women. No tea, no coffee, no lattes. Frightening, eh?

Why do we crave sugar?
It’s been well reported that sugar is actually more addictive than heroin or cocaine? In fact studies, including those by Dr Mark Hymon, have shown it’s up to eight times as addictive. So it’s no wonder western affluent countries are turning into obese nations …it’s a true epidemic and it’s happening right now without any sign of reversal.

Just like any drug, cravings for sugar (insert your favourite ‘ose’ here) require more and more of it to sate our appetite for this modern day heroin. And it’s contributing to a plethora of diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

What happens if we have too much sugar?
OK here it is …bottom line …first you’re going to get fat. Really fat. There’s no avoiding this one. No amount of exercise or dieting is gonna fix it. And then you’re going to get sick. Really sick. And here’s why.

When the body metabolises glucose it releases insulin to control the chemical reaction induced by eating high amounts of glucose. Insulin tells the body to ‘store’ the glucose rather than burn it. So though metabolism glucose is converted to fat and stored in the body …and usually in those places you don’t want it.

Sadly, when it comes to diet, we’ve been lied to for many years. Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, debunks the last 30 years of nutritional information and explains the damage caused by a high sugar (including fructose) / low fibre diet in “Sugar: The Bitter Truth”.

And even I Quit Sugar’s Sarah Wilson agrees ….whilst fructose isn’t metabolised in the same way, and doesn’t cause the same sort of spike in blood sugar and insulin production, it still contributes to your overall calorie count. So remember that Star Fruit you gorged out on that contains 50% glucose? Guess what …your fat reserves just got added to. And they’re gonna keep getting added to until you make a choice.

What can I do to reduce the effects of fructose and sugar?
So you’ve decided to reduce your sugar intake … start slowly and track your sugar consumption and aim for it to be 10% of less of your calories a day. When sweet cravings hit choose low-fructose naturally occurring sweet foods like berries. Remember sugar is present in almost all foods including dairy. Read food labels and ingredient lists.

The optimal solution is to quit all added sugars, processed foods and sweet beverages, but this isn’t always practical. So minimise fresh fruit consumption and avoid all dried fruits where possible. Eat complex carbohydrates (e.g. quinoa, teff, amaranth) and ditch simple carbs (e.g. potatoes, rice, wheat, flours, bread). Eat mostly fresh vegetables, 50% raw, and some lean protein. Drink plenty of filtered water … boring I know but your gotta drink 45mls per kilogram of body weight …that’s 0.69 ounces per pound of body weight. It’s how I lost 70kg (150lbs) so I can vouch that it works.

Even though I’ve quit refined sugar, over the years my sweet tooth has gotten the better of me and I’ve let too much alternative sugars and this addiction creep back into my life. Tired of the illness and added girth it has caused me, I’ve decided it’s now time to take a stand and quit …this time for good.

For some, including me, this is gonna be rough…

What sugar replacements are safe to use?
If you need to sate your sweet tooth (and I still do) then don’t go for the maple syrup, rice malt syrup, agave, honey, molasses or coconut sugar or nectar. The truth is all of these substitutes are virtually the same from a sugar-perspective and will ultimately add to the girth of your backside. And even worse are the artificial non-calorie chemical sugar substitutes like SplendaTM which mimic sugar and trigger the same chemical responses from the body even though they have no calories.

Instead try getting used to the liquorice-like flavour of Stevia. It’s a natural plant product rich in steviosides, which have a negligible effect on blood glucose, but are up to 150 time as sweet as sugar. It’s more recently been combined with a benign sugar alcohol called erythritol and granulated into a more palatable product under labels like NativiaTM and SteviaSlimTM.

It doesn’t taste the same, I don’t get the same ‘sugar’ high, but it’s gonna help me kick this habit …and fructose …for good.

Do I Need To Take Supplements?

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If you’re asking this then you’re probably asking the wrong question ….the real question here is “why do you think you need to take supplements?”

I’ve sure done a lot of research over the years, and my book goes into a lot of depth about every vitamin, mineral and trace element your body needs to stay healthy, the recommended dietary intake of each, what happens if you have too little (or too much), the best natural sources and what effects their uptake by the body. But the truth is it’s difficult to comprehend holistically …and even if you can make sense of the complex web of vitamin-mineral relationships it’s a lot to put into practice.

You know the warning …that dietary supplements may only be of benefit if your dietary intake is insufficient or lacking. But there is more to the jigsaw puzzle of dietary supplements than meets the eye. Manufacturers are well aware that this complex topic can yield them big bucks. In fact, the global dietary supplements market is expected to reach USD 278.02 billion by 2024, according to a recent report by Grand View Research, Inc. So with everyone trying to grab their piece of this health-driven pie you can understand why companies are spending huge wads of cash to tell you why you need their product …and why theirs is better than their competitor’s.

The sad truth of our time is that most people spend more money on pharmaceutical medicines than herbal remedies or supplements. People would rather use a manufactured pharmaceutical ‘pill’ to treat their symptoms, than find a natural cure to treat the root cause. And therein lies the issue …it’s the biggest health care scam of our generation. (You can Google it later, and trust me you’re going to want to.)

Think about it. How many times have you grabbed a paracetamol or aspirin to treat a headache? An anti-inflammatory to treat a body ache? When have you instead aimed to decipher and treat the cause, rather than the symptom?

Life has sped up; it throws us daily curve balls, pumping our bodies with adrenalin to which we use a cocktail of substances, including coffee and alcohol, to manage our daily highs and lows. We’re on a road to somewhere, but it’s not the utopia of health and longevity we’re all hoping for. Almost each new study that comes out shows we’re getting sicker. We might be living longer than our ancestors, but not healthier. Our bodies are massively deficient …lacking in nutrients but more importantly lacking in water. We are chronically dehydrated and malnourished.

The food that’s grown for us by big conglomerates clamouring for profit in a competition rich environment where genetic modification and low-cost-high-yield growth techniques are designed to produce the cheapest prettiest products, means our fruit and vegetables are now only half as nutritious as they were 100 years ago. And as a bonus they are jam packed with an array of toxins to prevent pests and blemishes, toxins that our bodies just aren’t designed to handle. Further with the ever expanding waistline of fast food and manufactured snacks (the processing of which destroys almost all nutritional value in food) we’re now eating as little as 8% of the fresh produce that our parents ate.

Our convenient ‘big gulp’ drinks and soy lattes are packed with sodium, sugars, colours, caffeine and flavours in insurmountable quantities and we’re drinking less water than ever before. Who do you know that drinks half a gallon or 2 litres of water a day? And even that amount is grossly insufficient for the average person. It’s no wonder we’re all dying of ‘lifestyle’ diseases.

So I ask you again “why do you think you need to take supplements?”

Looking for a panacea? The solution really is very simple. Rather than spending your hard-earned cash on the majority of supplements that have very little chance of making any real impact on your health, start with the basics. Eat a diet of 70% whole fresh fruit and vegetables. Keep them as raw as possible. Juice daily. Thoroughly wash your produce before consuming, or better still, buy organic where possible to reduce the amount of toxins your body ingests. Get yourself tested to check your vitamin levels, or buy a Vitastiq and test them yourself.

Read all ingredient labels. Avoid all processed food (anything that can sit on a shelf unrefrigerated for days, weeks or months, or any ingredient you can’t pronounce). Reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake to one shot or two standard drinks a day. Eliminate all added sugars, simple carbohydrates and unhealthy fats. Drink 45mls of water per kilogram (0.7floz per pound) of body weight, per day …minimum.

If after doing that for 2 weeks you still feel like you need a supplement then start taking a natural super greens supplement made from dehydrated and powdered fruit and vegetables. The most you should need above that is a good quality multi-vitamin from a GMP Certified manufacturer – remember it’s quality not quantity.

Food is medicine – millennia of evolution have designed our bodies that way. In fact there’s a growing amount of evidence, including one recent study led by Dr. David Suskind published in the December 2016 Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, that a change in diet alone can cure many ailments and diseases, including Crohn’s.

Whilst a change in diet will work for the majority, there are some natural herbal supplements that can be good for individual conditions (especially hormone-related conditions and detoxification). And it’s best to see a qualified Naturopath or Herbalist to ensure you get the right compounds in their most natural state in the right quantities for your particular circumstances. Remember, everyone’s ‘body’ is different and responds to different treatments and diets.

So if you think you need a supplement because of some advert, a friend told you, or it just seemed like a good idea, then think again. Get back to basics and give your body all it needs, naturally.

#inshapenews #goodadvice #dontbefooled #spendmoneywisely #backtobasics #healthylife #healthydiet #foodasmedicine #supergreens #vitamnins #minerals #traceelements #macronutrients #micronutrients #water #drinkmorewater #eattolive #naturalfood #lovelife #behappy #doinedtotakesupplements

If I lift weights will I get bigger muscles?

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It depends … the answer is not simple and the truth is lifting weights (or resistance training) produces vastly different results in men and women. True that the amount of muscle is mostly linked to your testosterone levels – 200-1200 ng/dl in men while 15-70 ng/dl is pretty typical in women. So naturally for men resistance training yields much more muscle mass than it will for women, who have lower amounts of testosterone.

But muscle mass is not only influenced by testosterone levels, but also the amount you eat, what you eat, how often you work out, how hard you push your workout, the type of resistance training you undertake, the amount of rest between sessions, and your age.

So how do you unwind this complex web of variables and achieve the results you’re seeking? Let me break this down into separate answers for women and for men.

bigger-muscles

Women

Unless you have an unusually high level of testosterone, eat massive amounts of protein and work out using the Arnold Schwarzenegger method of resistance training there’s just no way on this earth that you’re going to build any sort of over-bulked muscle. What you’re going to achieve, at best, is great and toned definition – which is what most women are seeking.

The benefits of resistance training are well known but are worth repeating: a reduced risk of illness (including chronic illness especially osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes and obesity); improved functional strength and balance, enabling you to achieve more in you day with much less effort; a higher metabolism because of the muscle fibre repair process and the fact that muscle uses more energy than fat; and finally greater muscle definition … yes that tighter butt is at reach if you’ll just get off the couch.

And if you want to know how to get that tighter butt with a minimum of effort all you need to do is follow this simple 11-point plan:

  1. Daily Calories need to be your bodyweight (kg) x 22 to 26. Example: 70kg = 1540 to 1820 calories.
  2. Your pre-workout meal at least 2 hours prior should consist of low fat low fibre foods that are easily digestible, e.g. low fat yoghurt and berries.
  3. Eat 2.2 to 3.3 grams of pure protein per kg of body weight each day, with 25g consumed after a workout and the balance spread over the rest of the day. Example 70kg = 154 to 231g of pure protein (note: lean meat is about 50% protein).
  4. Eat low GI (complex) carbohydrates (max 25 to 30% of calorie intake) except after a workout which should include 30-50 grams of higher GI carbs to replenish your energy and jump-start recovery.
  5. Warm up adequately for 5 to 10 minutes (e.g. bike or orbital trainer) to get your body prepared for the workout whilst preventing the very real possibility of injury.
  6. Fatigue your muscles in every workout by using the heaviest weight you can lift and perform your reps (slowly in both directions) until failure (also known as dropsets). Then immediately continue with a lighter weight and repeat to failure for your second and third sets.
  7. Include 15-20 minutes of high-intensity interval training cardio in each workout to keep your fat levels down and your fitness up.
  8. Don’t follow the same routine every workout. It’s important to keep your body guessing (and keep it stimulated) by changing your weight, rep scheme, exercises or even simply flipping your grip on the weights or doing your workout in reverse.
  9. Stretch and cooldown after every workout – never miss this part.
  10. Rest in between workouts for at least 48 hours (no cardio or weights) to allow the muscle tears to start to regenerate and build even more muscle.
  11. Stay hydrated by drinking at least 45mls of pure filtered water per kilogram of body weight, more when working out. Example 70kg = 3.15 litres plus workout water.

Men

Whilst I have studied personal training and lifted weights for many years I’m not a guy, so I can’t give you my personal experience. But what I can tell you is for men who want to build big Arnie-style muscles please know that it’s going to take a HUGE amount of commitment to your training program despite your testosterone advantage. And, as we women know you guys aren’t great at commitment to anything over a long period of time, you’re also going to be relieved to learn that the completely ripped look actually turns very few women on. Sure it’s nice to look at from time to time, but the truth is hugely muscled men often have anger issues due to elevated testosterone. Plus if you look too ripped we might a little feel inadequate and ashamed of our own bodies in the bedroom. Really all women really want is some nice definition in their man. Truly.

Look the way to successful body building is pretty much the same as I outlined for women, except men can lift much heavier weights for more reps and sets. So first up I recommend you spend a bit of time working out a good plan that’s easy for you to follow. Look for some drug-free role models and check their workout routines for something that piques your interest (although I can admit that Arnie’s workout books are a good read and very informative).

Again your plan should include a mix of high-intensity interval training for cardiovascular fitness, and a balanced workout of arms, chest, back, abs, thighs and calves, focussing on any areas that need resizing to balance your overall look. For example you can rectify a common lack of natural V-taper by emphasizing your upper back and middle deltoids to a greater degree in your workouts, if that’s your thing.

Now it can help to keep your motivation in check with a workout buddy. But bottom line is you’re going to need to set your expectations accordingly and not expect results overnight. It’s going to take time. In fact a 2kg to 5kg increase in muscle mass over a year would be an outstanding result.

My final advice for men? If you’re building muscle to ‘pull the chicks’ or improve your chances in ‘dorkville’ just don’t prioritise your workout over your lady’s needs … we’d rather have a weedy dork who treats us right, than a Arnie-sized muscle man who puts us second.

#inshapenews #goodadvice #resistancetraining #workoutright #buildmuscle #muslesformen #musclesforwomen #trainingtips #getfitnaturally #diet #ripped #fattofit #fatlossjourney #losingweight #weightloss #weight #gym #shape #workout #training #muscle #routine #gettherightadvice #11pointplan #calories #preworkoutmeal #protein #lowgi #complexcarbs #warm up #fatiguemuscles #hit #highintensitycardio #mixitup #stretch #cooldown #rest #hydrate

What exercises make for the best quickie workout?

Click here for the original InShape News article.

In this fast-paced busy world in which we live it seems the world is spinning faster and faster. Those 24 hours in a day now feel like much less as we struggle to fit ‘life’ in. So it’s no wonder we’re focussing less and less on the things that improve our health. Fast food and convenience meals have become the staple and “a lack of time” is the number one excuse for not exercising.

It’s long been promoted that adults need to partake in around 150 minutes of exercise each and every week to maintain flexibility, health and muscle tone. But recent research is now busting this myth wide open with startling results. Science may just be coming to our rescue.

Can you get “Fit in 6 Minutes a Week?” Catalyst’s Anja Taylor tells.

In 2013 Chris Jordan, Director of Exercise Physiology at the Human Performance Institute Division of Wellness & Prevention, Inc., designed a practical body weight circuit workout that became known as the “7 Minute Workout”. Published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal, it revolutionised and reinvigorated the fitness craze.

It works by employing the High Intensity interval Training (HIIT) methodology, getting your heart rate up and you sweating through the mix of 12 strength and cardio exercises. There are literally hundreds of testimonials and dozens of free Apps to guide you using only a wall and a chair. But if you delve into the research you’ll discover Chris actually recommends doing the workout three times in a row two to three times a week to achieve great fitness. So it’s really a 21 minute workout, or 63 minutes a week.

HIIT training seems to now be popping up everywhere. It’s the new buzz word. But HIIT originated informally in the 1970s, used by track and field athlete Sebastian Coe and has since morphed into the Tabatha regimen (1996), the Gibila regimen (2009), Zuniga regimen (2011) and finally the Timmons regimen (2012) used by Dr Michael Mosely in his BBC documentary the “Truth about Exercise”.

HIIT, also known as interval sprints, is basically a form of interval training – a series of high-intensity exercise workouts (anywhere from 8 seconds up to 20 minutes) interspersed with a rest or relief period before repeating. HIIT provides a good cardiovascular workout and can be coupled with strength exercise for circuit training if desired. But it’s the “sprint’ component of HIIT that has the greatest impact for minimal effort.

In 2015 the ABC Catalyst report “Fit in 6 Minutes a Week” reporter Anja Taylor shows us her personal test of “sprints”, training for two-minutes three times a week over 16 weeks. Her approach involved a 30-second sprint followed by a 4.5 minute rest, repeated 4 times, although Anja admits that sprinting up a hill was not a good idea and that a stationary bike would have been a better choice. But after 16 weeks the results were startling: Anja shed 1.5kg of body fat reducing her BMI dramatically whilst improving her VO2Max by more than 10% and moving her from the “unfit” into the “fit” category.

Whilst the approaches vary, they all show that HIIT is a highly effective strategy to improve your fitness whilst dramatically reducing the risk of illness, disease and human aging. But the interesting thing about Anja’s Catalyst report is that she explains the science behind why this works – and it’s fascinating (and well worth a watch).

Put simply “sprints” boost your mitochondrial DNA function by triggering your flight or fight mode, producing adrenalin and improving your VO2Max. Sprinting improves not only the way your body operates at a cellular level but also your fat burning capability. Sprinting reduces your visceral fat, counteracts diabetes, helps to prevent diseases, reduces the effects of menopause, improves your sleep and reduces most of the signs of aging. So “interval sprinting” could just be the fountain of youth we’ve all been seeking.

And at only 6 minutes a week, this could be the time effective quickie workout you’ve been seeking.

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What are the best foods to eat before working out

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Essentially WHAT you should eat depends on the aim of your workout – are you building muscle or improving your fitness through cardio? Also, WHEN you eat is just as crucial; it’s timing dependent on what foods you’ve chosen to use to fuel-up.

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BUILDING MUSCLE

If building muscle is your game, as well as losing fat and increasing your metabolism at the same time, then you’ll want a pre-workout meal which focuses on lean proteins. Some of the best lean proteins are grilled meats, eggs (or egg whites), low-fat Greek yoghurt or cottage cheese – anything low in fat and high in protein.  These foods contain Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) which help increase the rate of protein synthesis and decrease protein breakdown during and after your workout, minimising muscle wastage and maximising muscle-building opportunities.

CARDIO WORKOUT

If you’re going for a high-energy cardio workout, then you’ll need to consume items that are higher in complex carbohydrates, to give you enough slow released energy to push yourself through an energetic workout. Low Glycaemic Index (GI) carbohydrates like quinoa, mushrooms, eggplant, tomatoes, cauliflower, zucchini and green leafy vegetables help to fill up your glycogen stores and also create a more anabolic effect.  Avoid carbohydrates like processed foods, grains, wheat, sugar and high-starch root vegetables (no potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potato, carrot or beetroot) which convert to sugar and negatively impact on the results of your workout.

INTERVAL TRAINING

If you’re doing a combined workout, like interval training, then simply eat a balance of the two – protein and carbohydrates – focus on fibre, this will fill you up so you don’t get hungry. Don’t over-eat and keep your calories to between 200 and 350 depending on your weight and workout plan.

WHEN TO EAT

Also, remember that WHEN to eat is just as crucial. Eating on an empty stomach (unless it’s first thing in the morning to kick start your metabolism with a post-work out breakfast) is generally not recommended, although it does work for some people. Knowing how long to eat before your workout helps is the key to maximising your results and minimising any pre or post workout fatigue.

FOOD DIGESTION TIME

Different types of foods take different times to digest, from the stomach to the small intestine, which is when its nutrition is available for absorption and use by the body in your workout.

PROTEINS

Proteins take around 3-4 hours to digest, muscle-building workouts benefit from eating a high-protein low-fat meal containing 100 to 250g of raw protein weight (size depends on your body weight) 3-4 hours before working out. Mix your high protein up with some non-starchy vegetables for a boost of low GI energy.

CARBOHYDRATES

Carbohydrates take around 2-3 hours to digest but simple carbohydrates like sugar, grains, flours and starchy vegetables convert quickly and, while they release energy, it’s a short burst that can also throw your insulin balance out. Low-GI complex carbohydrates give you sustained slow release energy that lets you power through your workout.

DIETARY FAT

Dietary fat takes 6-8 hours to digest, so it’s best to consume high-fat (good-fat) foods like nuts, avocados, and salmon in the meals following your workout.

If it’s been longer than 3-hours since your last meal and you’re soon to hit the gym consider adding a pre-workout snack, such as an orange or an apple, or strawberries, raspberries or blueberries with a little low-fat Greek yoghurt a couple of hours beforehand. Most fruits, including convenient bananas, are too high in simple fructose sugar which reduces the benefits of your workout; slows your metabolism and raises your body’s natural weight set point.

WORKOUT FOODS
Work Out Type Foods to Eat Eat Before Workout
High Energy Cardio Complex Low-GI carbohydratesIncluding green leafy veggies 2-3 Hours
Resistance or Weight Training Lean Protein 100g-250gGreen leafy veggies 3-4 Hours
Combination Workout Mix of the two above 3-4 Hours
Emergency Fuel Apple, Orange, Berries and/or low-fat Greek yoghurt 2 Hours

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When’s the Best Time to Workout

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Many people swear by morning workouts, but is there a ‘best’ time of day to maximise your exercise efforts? Science says there is, but is science right?

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Yes, science apparently has the answer, but it’s not the same for everyone. Studies reveal that to get the most out of your workout means you have to be at your ‘best’ – both physically and mentally – to be able to put as much into your workout as possible, as consistently as you can.

Your Biological Rhythm

But what time of day are you at your ‘best’? Well science says this entirely depends on your biological rhythm, and it’s not the same for everyone. Rhythms are influenced by your sleeping and waking habits, so your peak exercise time will vary usually in-line with the time of day you are at your most alert.

However, when it comes to working out there are many other factors to consider other than how alert you are. These include:

  • The consistency of your workouts.
  • How effective you sleep at night.
  • Your stress levels.
  • The environmental conditions of exercise.
  • The convenience.
  • Location and availability of your workout.
  • How your workout influences your day-long performance.
  • Your workout’s relative safety.

Any one of these factors, or a combination of them, can seriously reduce the effectiveness of your chosen workout, not to mention the impact of the type of workout you choose to do.

Morning Workouts

Many report that the morning workout is high-effective, especially before eating a healthy breakfast, as it encourages an all-day fat burn. Others proclaim that an evening workout will help you to continue to burn calories while you sleep.

And science again reveals some more influencers. Generally speaking morning workouts can assist with fat loss or fat storage prevention as well as increased serotonin levels improving your mood and fighting depression all day long. Plus once your morning work’s done, it’s done for the day.

Evening Workouts

Evening workouts can be best for high strength work, help tire you out for a better night’s sleep as well as be part of a convenient after-work schedule. But end-of-day lethargy may cause your enthusiasm to wane and for you to skip your workout.

Midday Workouts

And, like you would expect, day-time or afternoon workouts sit somewhere in the middle. It’s a bit like Goldilocks and the three bears. Everyone is different.

Workout When You Feel Your Best

Look, there’s no ‘one fits all’ answer to this complex question. The simple answer is if you feel better working out in the morning, then do that. If you’d rather use exercise to de-stress during or just after a long day in the office then by all means, go for it. And if you’re a night-owl and hunger for that pre or post-dinner surge then why not take advantage of all those new 24-hour gyms opening up.

In the end it’s all about personal choice. Do what works for you best. If you’re not sure then alternate the time of your workout and see what feels best. In the end, the most important bit of any workout is that you do it.

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Can I Do Exercises at My Desk that Burn Calories?

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It’s no secret in this age of information that we are sitting more, and moving less. If you spend 9 or more hours sitting each day then it could be literally shortening your life – even a 60 minute workout won’t counteract the effects of a long day of sitting.

Your body was designed for regular movement. Sitting for extended periods of time causes a reduction in blood flow, leading to organ damage, sluggish digestion, brain damage and a reduction in muscle and bone density – and that’s not to mention the postural issues and reduced calorie burn that comes hand in hand with long stints of inactivity, and increased stress levels leading to overeating. Yes your ‘desk job’ is actually making you fat and shortening your life.

However there are several ways to counteract the desk job, and burn valuable calories in the process.

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1. Get Up Often

Whether it’s to the photocopier, meeting room, kitchen or even the rest room, set a timer on your computer to ensure you get up and move around for 10 minutes of every hour. Walking around burns 3-5 times the calories that sitting does, so take every opportunity you can to get up and move. This might sound like you’ll get less done, but actually you’ll be refreshed by regular short breaks, think more clearly and be more energised to power through your work more effortlessly. Odds are you’ll be even more productive.

2. Drink Lots

We should be consuming 45mls of fresh filtered water for every kilogram of weight – more if we’re exercising or drinking dehydrating beverages like coffee and alcohol. This may seem like a lot of water to get through in a day but it will counteract the drying effects of office air conditioning and will get you more active with frequent trips to the restroom.

3. Ergonomics

Ergonomics used to be limited to ensuring your screen height and chair height were correct and using tools like a foot rest or wrist rest to aid correct posture. More alternative options include using a kneeling chair or a ‘bounce’ ball instead of a regular chair. But research shows that the best ergonomic option is a standing workstation with an ergonomic mat, and these are slowly becoming more popular. And new innovations are continually being developed like a movable height desk and a ‘hamster wheel’ desk that keeps you on the move.

4. Posture

Ensuring your posture at your desk is correct is key. But what does this mean? When sitting you should ensure your spine is ‘stacked’ by sticking your bottom out behind you to form a ‘J’ shape – simply wiggle your ‘big booty’ back in the chair and push your coccyx back. It can feel a bit awkward at first and takes a bit of practice and constant self-monitoring, but it’s a much less stressful position, more comfortable and also helps prevent you from slouching or hunching over.

5. Regular Movement

There are literally dozens of exercises you can do at your desk to ensure better blood flow and combat the harsh effects long periods that sitting has on our bodies. These are my top 10 to do hourly, relatively undetected.

  1. Deep Breathing – Start with 5 deep breaths, exhaling as much air as possible to void the build-up of carbon dioxide in your lungs
  1. Foot Twirl – rotate your feet clockwise for 5 twirls, then anti-clockwise for 5 twirls
  1. Full Calf Flex – white seated roll each foot onto your heel, then onto your toe. Repeat 5 times for each leg.
  1. Thigh Pump – Simulate a ‘football-style’ run by rapidly tapping your feet on the floor for 30 seconds while seated.
  1. Thigh-High – While sitting in your chair, lift your right foot a few inches off of the floor. Keep your knee bent at a 90 degree angle and hold the position for 5-10 seconds each site. Repeat 5 times for each leg.
  1. Chair Shrug – Sit upright, grab side of the chair and try to lift yourself off the seat. Pausing at the top of the movement for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
  1. Desk Biceps Curl – Sit close to the desk, place your open palm under the desk and ensure your elbows are bent at 90 degrees. Push up against the desk pausing at the top of the movement for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
  1. Desk Triceps Pushdown – Sit close to the desk, place your open palm on top of the desk and ensure your elbows are bent at 90 degrees. Push down against the desk pausing at the top of the movement for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
  1. Hand Stretch – Tense and relax the muscles in your hands by first making a fist, then opening it and spreading your fingers. Repeat 5 times.
  1. Plié Squat – Stand up and point your toes outwards and take a wide stance. Slowly bend your knees in the direction of your toes as far as it comfortable, hold for 5-10 seconds and stand up. Repeat 5 times. While plié squats are more graceful than regular squats, give them a miss if your work attire includes a fitted skirt.

And lastly, get a pedometer or FitbitTM on to ensure you reach at least 10,000 steps a day.

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What are the Biggest Mistakes People Make When They Start Exercising?

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Avoiding mistakes isn’t hard – here’s my top eight to watch out for.

Exercise Mistakes

1. Not warming up. If it’s been a while since you exercised or you’re planning on an increased level of activity, then why not give your body every chance at not being sore the next day? Start by warming-up rather than jumping straight into high intensity activity. There’s no need to go all techo with warm-up routines, just a bit of walking, a few star jumps and some stretches to get the muscles warmed-up and ready to go will reduce your risk of injury and pain the following day.

2. Going like a bat outta hell, like you’re 16 again. Often when the decision is made to embark on a higher intensity exercise regime there’s a lot of vigour involved … gotta get it done …. gotta do it now. Day one – made it! But the subsequent days can be a challenge as the zest for your new program wanes and you find the motivation (and sometimes even the energy) hard to muster. Over-exercising is just as bad as not doing any at all. So start slowly, and gradually build on each day. Maintaining balanced workouts for the long haul is your key to success.

3. Not choosing the right exercise activity. Does running make you thin? Or do thin people run? If you hate running but think this is the only cardio exercise you can do to get results, then think again. Choosing a cardio exercise that continues to motivate you, or holds you accountable (like a team sport or a buddy system) is going to get you much better results in the long run. In fact doing something that you find un-fun will quickly lead to boredom or loathing and you’ll ending up hating every minute of your work out.

4. Focusing on cardio or resistance training. If you want real results, real fast, you need to combine cardio fitness with weight training – the two work synergistically to get you much faster results than either would alone. Cardio can be done in as little as a 20-minute workout three times a week – even if this workout is three times that 7-minute work-out at a full on pace. A well-designed resistance training (RT) program can be effective with just two 30-minute sessions in a week – your muscles need rest in-between RT workouts to recover and grow. That’s five days a week, leaving you the weekend off.

5. Choosing load-bearing rather than non-load-bearing. Performing load bearing exercise when overweight or obese can cause injury and joint issues later in life, especially to your hips and knees, putting you in the queue for a walking stick and replacement surgery. Instead, select non-impact activities like yoga, Pilates, swimming, orbital trainer, stationary or recliner bike or water aerobics to get your cardio in, and, as you reduce your weight, gradually add more load bearing activities if you like.

6. Not properly stretching afterwards. Failing to adequately stretch after working out is the biggest cause of injury and body pain. Spend some time developing a good comprehensive stretching routine (should take about 10-15 minutes) that covers every muscle group and ensure you hold each stretch for a minimum of 40-seconds.

7. Not drinking enough water. Or worse still, drinking sports drinks. In the normal course of existence we lose about 45mls per kilogram of body weight a day – more if we’re exercising. So work out you base level of pure H2O that you need, then add more if you’re exercising or sweating excessively. And those sports drinks? They’re made for elite athletes who push their bodies to the limit every day. I don’t care how hard you think you’re working, you’re not in that category, and you don’t need the added nasties, colours, salt, and sugar which are going to undo all your hard work. Tap or filtered water – no additives – is all you need. And if you hate the taste of water, add fresh lemon.

8. Not mixing things up. Research has shown that after performing the exact same routine for three weeks your body switches off and the effects of doing the same program start to diminish. So if you’re doing the same cardio exercise at the same intensity for the same period of time, and/or performing the same number of reps and sets for the exact same resistance training program then those results you get over the first three weeks won’t continue indefinitely.

Instead change your program every 3-weeks by selecting a different cardio exercise (rowing instead of bike), changing the work out time (15 or 25-minutes instead of 20) or the intensity (use interval programs and change out the interval duration). When it comes to resistance training simply change out your sets and reps – instead of 3 sets x 10 reps, do 2 sets by 15 reps. The possibilities are endless, and so are your results!

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Is Yoga or Pilates Better for Your Body than Weights?

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Having practiced yoga for several years, lately I’ve found it essential to do so more regularly. I’ve tried core-strengthening Pilates, preferring Reformer, but it’s just not my bag, baby. Instead my 35-minute Hatha yoga routine provides me with all I need – resistance training, stretching and meditation all-in-one-session. And having recently being diagnosed with adrenal fatigue, this complete mind-body discipline is now at the core of my recovery program.

So is yoga, or Pilates for that matter, more important than weights? Pumping iron, as it used to be called, has seen quite a revolution over the years. No longer an exclusive club for Arnie wannabe’s, resistance training (RT) is seen as a vital way to maintain a high quality of life, particularly in the elderly.

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The truth is I also incorporate some RT into my exercise routine. Studies have shown that as we grow older our bodies become less efficient at building muscle mass and our muscles tend to shrink. Less muscle mass means not only a loss of strength, but it also dramatically increases the likelihood of injuries from falling. RT is the best way to prevent muscle waste and maintain life-long strength.

Remember that tight young butt or perky chest you had when you were young? Odds are unless you’ve been pushing weights they’ve become a little saggy over time. But the good news is that much of this sag is reversible with three 20-minute sessions a week. See your local personal trainer to develop a safe and tailored resistance training program for the best results.

But, if you could only choose one, which is more important?

For me it’s yoga – a physical, mental, and spiritual practice dating back thousands of years which incorporates the benefits of resistance training. But it’s not for the feint hearted. Anyone who’s done an intensive yoga session knows that you can generate a full-on sweat.

The benefits of yoga are well advertised – improves flexibility, builds muscle strength, corrects posture, maintains your nervous system, boosts your immune system, keeps sickness at bay, boosts sexual performance, improves sleep – and the long list goes on.

Resistance training is great, in fact, I’d recommend you include it in your weekly routine along with some high-intensity cardio or interval training. But if you can only choose one, then go with the flow and embrace yoga.

Sigrid de Castella – weight loss achiever, paleoish intermittent faster, adrenal fatigue recoverer, foodie, cook, writer, globetrotter & dog lover