Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"His & Hers" Should male and female workouts be that different? © 2015

When it comes to workouts, something I have always noticed is that many females would very often shy away from certain exercises, particularly free weights and resistance machines, and instead spend all their gym time doing cardiovascular and aerobic exercise. There's obviously nothing wrong with doing either or the two, however, there's been a misconception for as long as I can remember, that weight training and resistance machines are just for building muscle, and therefore appeal more to a male audience, while cardiovascular machines and aerobic exercises are for losing weight and toning up, and so they are mostly used by females. So the theory is that those people who are simply looking to shed some weight and add some muscle tone should just stick to the treadmill, cross-trainer or spinning classes, while those who want to build muscle need to lift weights. 

It's totally understandable that many females do not want to look muscular, and therefore they believe that their workout should be different in some way to that of a male who is looking to improve his physique, but just how different is the question. 
So understanding the basics of exercise is fundamental. Now, building muscle takes much more effort and dedication than accidentally lifting a dumbbell or barbell for more than one time.  Yes, it involves lifting weights and using resistance machines, however it is the extent to which those weights are lifted that determines whether or not, and how much muscle growth stimulation takes place. 

The outcome of a workout is completely dependent on the weight you lift, the range of motion and the amount of repetitions and sets you do. Furthermore, your nutrition and the amount of rest you get will also have an impact, but let's just talk about the workouts for the time being. 

The male and female muscular anatomy may appear similar in many ways, however females have a much harder time trying to increase muscle mass. This is primarily due to much lower amounts of testosterone present in their body. What this means is that even if a female lifted heavy weights for a number of sets and repetitions, the outcome, in terms of muscle growth is going to be far less than that of a male lifting the exact same weight for an equal number of sets and repetitions. When it comes to burning calories, trimming body fat, and achieving that much desired muscle tone, the workout is almost just as effective for both. Again, the hormonal differences between a male and female still make it a little harder, even when it comes to losing body fat and achieving muscle tone.

The bottom line is that the purpose of a workout is to exercise and strengthen every muscle in the body, as well as burn excess calories and improve the cardiovascular system.  Now, whilst half an hour on a treadmill, cross-trainer or in a spinning class is a great way to get the blood flowing and burn calories, there is only one way to properly exercise each muscle, and that is by applying isolated resistance using your own body weight, dumbbells, barbells or resistance machines. So having said that, there really shouldn't be that much difference between a male and female's workout in terms of the exercises performed. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The "before and after" myth © 2014

As the new year approaches I'm sure thousands of people are making their resolution to embark on a healthier lifestyle and get themselves back in shape. So before you begin looking for that quick fix I suggest you consider a few things. 

Many nutritional supplement companies and fitness professionals know that in this highly competitive world few people have the patience and discipline to sustain months of hard work in the gym and eat a well balanced diet everyday, so of course they take advantage of that. The way they do it is by marketing their tablets, capsules, powders, drinks, diet plans and short term workouts as the fast lane to fitness. One of the more popular ways of selling a product or service in the fitness industry is by attaching the infamous "before and after" pictures of  supposedly satisfied clients.

I don't like to be the one to burst your bubble, but honestly they don't work! In fitness, one lesson worth learning is that if it sounds too good to be true, then that's exactly what it is. Some supplements, in conjunction with a rigorous exercise regime can help shed a few pounds, and yes a quick workout is better than no workout at all, but I assure you nothing can replace long hours of proper exercise and a good daily nutrition. 

This is not an assumption, it's pure science... Calories are only burnt through exercise, muscle tone and growth is only stimulated by applying resistance for several repetitions. Although it may sound logical that a proportionate physique, male or female can only be achieved by making sure every muscle group is targeted individually from a variety of angles and exercised adequately, it's incredible how many of these highly marketed workouts are lacking in detail.  

Just take a moment to understand these three points before you go spending that hard earned cash at your local health store, online or wherever.

1. The same way you didn't accumulate bodyfat overnight it's just not going to disappear in a few days. The body has its own way of managing energy stores and you need to respect that.

2. Health and fitness is not a phase, it's a lifestyle. So unless you're willing to make some changes in your everyday life you will not see substantial changes in your body.   

3. The basic principles have always worked for everyone, and always will. So learn the basics and be consistent, that is the key.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Keep it simple, go for complex © 2014

What I'm referring to in this post is the type of carbohydrates you opt for. I'm asked very often whether carbohydrates should be eliminated from one's diet in order to lose weight, and my answer is always the same. No, you shouldn't cut out carbohydrates completely for various health reasons. Instead you should switch to what are known as complex carbohydrates. 

The major difference between simple and complex carbohydrates is the sugar content. Simple carbohydrates are absorbed quicker and hence provide an almost instant supply of energy. Complex carbohydrates on the other hand take longer to digest due to the added fiber, and therefore enter the bloodstream gradually. This creates a constant and somewhat even supply of energy, which allows for more stable insulin levels, and that is the optimum environment for stripping bodyfat.

Here's a list of complex carbohydrates which I recommend. 

- Brown rice
- Wholewheat pasta
- Wholewheat bread
- Oats
- Barley
- Wheat  

Of course there are more sources of complex carbohydrates, but personally I like to keep it simple and stick with what definitely works for me. Lately there's been quite a hype on Quinoa, which in theory is also a very good alternative, however since I haven't tried it myself I prefer not to add it to my list as yet.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Honey, No Sugar Sugar...

Do you feel like you have to add sugar to your coffee, tea or cereal? Well, you should try replacing it with honey, which although is 30% glucose and 40% fructose, it has less of an effect on spiking insulin levels in the body and is a much healthier option. © 2014

It's important to maintain a stable insulin level, particularly if you're looking to shred a few pounds. One of the biggest misconceptions about weight loss is that you just need to avoid eating food which is high in fat. Where in actual fact it's mainly sugar that you need to stay away from, and I'll explain why. 

A single gram of fat contains 9 calories, whereas a gram of protein and carbohydrates each carry 4 calories. So that puts thing into perspective as to why food which is high in fat is considered "fattening" by many people. 

Now, although sugar is a carbohydrate, and therefore contains only 4 calories per gram, it is classified as a "simple carbohydrate" which means it gets absorbed very quickly and thereby creates a spike in insulin. This results is elevated blood sugar levels, which unless consumed in a relatively short span of time ends up being stored as bodyfat. Now we don't like that, do we?    

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sky is the limit

Photo by James Weber in Manhattan, New York

When it comes to physical fitness, I genuinely believe sky is the limit. You can pretty much achieve anything your heart desires. Whether it's adding pounds of muscle, getting lean, or a combination of both. 

I'm sure you've heard the expression "whatever the mind can perceive, you can achieve" several times, however this couldn't be more evident than with a physical transformation.

It boils down to basic science, and if you can comprehend how it works then you're half way there. So before you dive headfirst into a regular exercise regime and nutrition plan you must understand the reason for doing it. You need to be conscious of the choices you make, and not just rely on labels which say "fat free" or a magazine article you read. 

As complex as the body may be, everything is controlled by the mind. So if you really want to see a change in your physical appearance that's where you need to begin! 

Learning about nutrition and why the body reacts a certain way to different methods of exercise and food is essential, unless of course you can afford to have a full time health and fitness guru by your side. 

Yes, there may be quite a bit to learn, but it's extremely beneficial, for life. This is what I set out to do by creating this blog, that is to provide the knowledge you need to make the right decisions for yourself. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

it's the way rather than the weight you lift

Although weight training is about applying resistance to your skeletal muscles in order to stimulate more tone and hypertrophy of the cells, what's often overlooked is the attention to detail in the way an exercise is performed.

Photo by Raymond Cassar in Zebbug, Malta

Several popular exercises, such as bench press involve multiple joints, which means that more than one muscle group is working simultaneously.  Having said that, it's crucial to perform each exercise in a strict manner to ensure you're working the muscle group being targeted. 

So even though certain gym equipment may be labelled as a "back machine" for example, that doesn't mean it will solely work your back muscles no matter how you perform the exercise. Even leaning a little too far back on something as specific as a lat pull-down machine, which is intended primarily for the latissimus dorsi muscle, can shift the tension onto your biceps and rear shoulders. Here's another example, if lets say you incline the bench a little bit too much on a dumbbell chest press exercise you could easily end up working more your front shoulders and triceps, resulting in an underdeveloped upper chest.  You get the gist of it, right?

Therefore to achieve the best possible results in the shortest amount of time, you need to use what we call an isolation technique, whereby you target and work each muscle group individually, or at least ensure most of the resistance is in fact being applied to the correct muscle group. 

Next time you're in the gym try to pay close attention to the way each exercise is performed, and activate that mind to muscle connection to help you feel when it's right. If you're still unsure or somewhat inexperienced about certain exercises, then ask for advice or perhaps hire a personal trainer for a while, because you could be saving a lot of time by doing right in the first place. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

high intensity vs high volume training

Whatever you goals are, the gym is really not a place to hang out. The idea is simple, you go in, get your workout done, and get out, fast! Now, whether you're looking to build a muscular physique or just lose bodyfat, high intensity training is the key. 

Photo by Bob Meyer in Las Vegas, Nevada

So what exactly is high intensity training?

Here's an analogy I like to use to explain the concept. Imagine you're cruising in your car, at a speed of around 40 mph and keeping engine revs at no more than 3000. Cars with an ecometer will display a rather low fuel consumption driving this way. Now, if you had suddenly kick the revs up to 6000 and reach a speed of 80 mph, the ecometer would show a completely different scenario. The fuel consumption often skyrockets the second you exceed the 3000 rpm mark.  

High intensity training is just like that. So for example, rather than going to the gym and spending an hour just pacing on a treadmill which would keep your heart rate somewhere between 40 - 50% of it's maximum capacity, you target to spend 25 - 35 minutes of fast walking, whereby you elevate your rate heart to around 70 or 80% of it's maximum capacity. You will certainly experience much better results training this way, if your goal is weight loss.

However, the same applies with weight training. Compressing all your energy into a 45 minute intense workout rather than trying to make use of every single machine in the gym over the period of an hour and a half will stimulate much more fat loss and and of course muscle tone.