Monday, December 2, 2013

Merry Fitness! The 3rd Annual Live Fit Gifts for the Fitness Junkie in Your Life!

It's that time of year again where Holly and I list our favorite fitness Christmas gifts for the fitness junkie in your life. If you have to buy for a meathead, consider one of the following Live Fit approved gifts:

1. Live Fit Bootcamps

We may be biased but we feel this is the best gift on the list :). If there is a gym rat in your life who still lives here in Cincinnati, our "4 for $44" Bootcamp holiday special is a no-brainer: 4 of our ass kicking classes for under $50...over 20% off the regular rate! We really do feel this is the best group fitness class in the city, and Holly and I put a great deal of thought into designing each class. Email us HERE if you'd like to purchase the class package.

2. The Rogue Ab Mat

This is one of our favorite additions to our new Live Fit facility. It feels great on your back and makes your ab training a heck of a lot more effective by providing more range of motion and muscle recruitment. You'll be surprised how torched your abs will be after just 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps! You can purchase the Ab Mat HERE.

3. Rogue Bands

If you've trained at our gym, you've undoubtedly seen and used these quite a bit. Bands are a very versatile training tool which you can use for upper body, lower body and core training as well as stretching. Rogue offers bands which are extremely easy and light all the way up to monster bands which will challenge even the strongest athletes in the world. Check them out HERE.

4. Valslides

These glorified furniture movers are actually great training tools. Use them for lunges, leg curls, push-up variations, core work (like the dreaded body saw), mountain climbers, etc. You can find them HERE.

5. Escali Food Scale

This is one of Holly's 13 birthday gifts this year :). All kidding aside, this is a pretty cool little food scale which allows you to log in and code individual foods from a database of over 900. It has a sleek design, measures in grams and ounces, and has the all important "zero out" option. If you are working with Holly as a nutrition client, you're gonna want this. You can find it HERE.

6. Magic Bullet 

Holly and I use this daily for protein shakes and smoothies. Super fast and easy to use and the cups and blades clean easy. This is a must have for all fitness enthusiasts. Get it HERE

7. Colonel De's Spices

We love Colonel De's at Findlay Market here in Cincinnati. It wasn't until recently we realized they have an online store, where you can order all of there terrific spices and rubs. Healthy eating doesn't have to be boring and bland, so jump on over to their online store HERE and have at it. We love the pork and poultry rub, Persian gold, garlic goodness and Ruby's red steak seasoning. 

8. Jungle Gym

We do A LOT of suspension strap training at our Live Fit gym, and we feel this is the best system on the market. It's significantly less expensive than other strap systems, adjusts much easier, and the foot cradles are designed perfectly for lower body exercises. The ability to separate the straps is also a big advantage in our opinion. Check them out HERE. 

9. Lulu for the Girls: Wunder Unders

It's no secret Holly is a Lululemon disciple and is personally responsible for driving their stock price up (kidding). Seeing that she owns well over 40 pairs of these, Wunder Unders are by far her favorite. They should be a staple in any athletic woman's fitness wardrobe. Visit Lulu's sight HERE and pick up a pair or thirty. 

10. Lulu for the Guys: Core Shorts

I, too, am a big Lulu fan, and I love these shorts. I have them in black, gray, and camouflage, and they are extremely comfortable. They are baggy enough to where you don't feel "restricted" or like a basketball player from the 1960's, but not so baggy as to look like a ridiculous modern day "baller". Get them HERE.

Well, that wraps up this years edition. We hope you enjoyed it and provided you with some great gift ideas for your fit friends and family members! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Monday, September 23, 2013

The LiveFit Fat Loss Hierarchy

As the owners and operators of LiveFit, Holly and I are constantly asked about our approach to fat loss, body transformation and generally "getting in shape". Whether it's our current clients, prospective clients, people we meet socially, or people who literally stop us in public (this happens to Holly a lot more frequently than it does me:), many folks want and ask about our fat loss recipe.

More often than not, people want to know what workout they should be doing. They usually tell us what they are currently doing, ask what we think, and then want to know what they could change about their workout to get better results. They are often perplexed when we tell them the "working out part" accounts for about 10% of their results (or lack thereof). It's not that their workouts are unimportant or that their program couldn't use some tweaks, or, more commonly, a complete overhaul, but getting a body which turns heads has little to do with whether or not they are using an elliptical trainer vs. a treadmill, doing 15 reps instead of 8, or doing seated dumbbell curls vs. standing dumbbell curls.

With the above in mind, Holly and I wanted to share our "Fat Loss Hierarchy" with you so you can make sure you are focusing your efforts in the right areas-in order of importance-and not wasting your time spinning your wheels. In order of importance, here is the LiveFit fat loss hierarchy:

1. Nutrition

As hinted at above, nutrition is what primarily drives fat loss, and we feel it accounts for about 90% of one's results. Everyone seems to want to try to "exercise off" body weight and body fat, but this is a misguided and extremely inefficient approach which typically does nothing more than frustrate the hell out of people and leave them with a bitter taste in their mouth when it comes to exercise.

If one were to strength train for an hour 3 days/week, and perform moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise for an hour on the other 4 days, in the end, they'd burn about 3000 calories. That's a 7 hour time commitment for what equates to less than one pound of body fat burned (their are 3500 calories in a pound). It's no wonder people give up on exercise.

Contrast that to eating correctly. It doesn't take you ANY time not eat 500 calories, but it can take up to an hour to burn off 500 calories. Eating in a slight calorie deficit is the fastest way to burn body fat. Period. If I asked you to drive a nail into a board, would you use the handle of a hammer or the head of the hammer? When it comes to fat loss, exercise is the handle and nutrition is the head. You could use the handle to drive that nail, and if you banged away long enough, you might get that nail started into the board and drive it in a little bit. But why not just flip the damn thing over, use the head, and drive the nail all the way in with just a couple strong hits? Get it?

2. Nutrition

Yes, it's that important to warrant including it twice in the LiveFit hierarchy. If you are not on a meal plan which puts you in a modest calorie deficit, are not quantifying how much you are eating, and are not eating nutrient dense, unprocessed foods which support lean muscle and overall health, you are going to be very disappointed with your results. If you are not already on board, it's time to warm up to the power of proper nutrition.

At LiveFit, we believe in the power of proper nutrition and have seen the results it can produce. If you asked me 5 years ago, I would have said we were a fitness training business which gave a little bit of nutrition advice. Basically, the focus was on the exercise side of the equation (the output) and we paid little attention to the input side (nutrition). Fast forward 5 years-and Holly joining the business drove this-and now I'd say we are a fat loss nutrition/meal planning business which provides some exercise programming along with it. It used to be nutrition was an adjunct to the workouts...but now it's reversed. 

3. Strength Training

Most people not only want to lose weight and fat, but also want to look athletic, toned and contoured. For the guys out there, change those terms to muscular, "ripped" and "jacked". Unfortunately, simply dialing in your nutrition and eating in a deficit won't cut it. You also have to strength train to support and build lean muscle. Strength training is what gives your muscles shape, development and contour. If you don't have any muscle, you'll never look "fit" no matter how much weight or body fat you lose. If nutrition it 90% of the body transformation process, strength training makes up about 8% of what's left.

So, while strength training is rather insignificant when it comes to weight and fat loss, it is absolutely essential to developing and maintaining muscle tone, strength and shape. Holly and I have come across plenty of people who have lost a lot of weight by eating right and doing a ton of cardiovascular exercise, but they typically are still unhappy with how they look and honestly just look like smaller versions or their former selves: no muscle tone, shape, development or contour to their bodies.

There are a thousand ways to structure and implement a strength training program. When it comes to our clients, how we program is dictated by how much time they have to devote. If someone can train 5 days/week, we split their workouts up differently than someone who can only devote 2 days/week. Regardless of how it's organized, we stick to the principle of progressive overload, and, if you are working out on your own, so should you. Lift heavier weights or do more volume (sets and reps) over time. Perform harder exercise progressions and variations over time. Stick to mostly multiple joint exercises like squats, deadlifts, chin-ups, rows and presses. Most importantly, BE CONSISTENT. Haphazard, inconsistent training will get you no where. If you can only hit the weights 2 days/week, you can still get great results if your diet is in line...just be consistent with those 2 days.

4. "Cardio"

If diet makes up 90% of the body transformation and fat loss process, and strength training makes up 8%, then cardio type activities make up the the final 2%. As you can tell, we don't particularly value "cardio stuff" or place any real emphasis on it. It's really just the icing on the cake. If you are not eating right and lifting weights, doing bike sprints for 20 minutes or plodding along on a elliptical while watching TV for 60 minutes makes little difference.

With the above being said, I will say that if you have purely aesthetic and health goals (which 95% of our clients do), good old fashioned walking on all or most days of the week for 30-60 minutes is a good plan of attack. This is enough to enhance and/or maintain heart health, burn up a few calories, and get the circulation going. What's great about walking is that it's low intensity enough not to interfere with your recovery from weight training or increase stress hormones like cortisol. With interval training or traditional moderate intensity steady state cardio, you run into these problems. We do implement a small amount of higher intensity interval work at the end of our clients' workouts, but this is done more as a "finisher" and for conditioning purposes than it is for fat loss. Also, the type of interval work we do with our clients during their workouts has a strong muscular strength component to it, and serves as a compliment to the workout itself (body weight exercise circuits, dragging sleds, resisted bike sprints, kettlebell circuits, etc.)

If you are interested in performance, obviously, the cardio prescription changes. If you are competing in a field sport, want to run a 10 K, finish a triathlon, etc, then the type and amount of conditioning must prepare you for the demands of your sport or event and develop the appropriate energy systems. In these scenarios, doing cardio is unavoidable because, without it, you won't be able to compete or complete. However, again, if the goal is body transformation and general health, the type and amount or cardio is largely insignificant. If you want proof of this, check out the before and after pictures of our friend (and fellow fitness trainer) Matt Kasse:

Matt lost 30 lbs. and got down to single digit body fat in 4 months doing nothing more than adhering to a meal plan Holly put him on and continuing with his normal weight training regimen. Matt is a life long lifter, so he already had the muscle you see was just "covered up" (which goes back to the point I made earlier about strength training giving shape, tone and contour to the body). He did probably what amounted to less than hour of "cardio" over the 4 month transformation.

That about wraps things up. We hope you put this information to good use and use it to help re-prioritize and tweak your current approach. If you are interested in our body transformation and meal planning service, please visit the link below and fill out the form at the bottom of the page to receive more information on how we can help you reach your goals:

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fat Loss: Tips, Tricks and Tools of the Trade

At LiveFit, Holly and I spend a lot of time writing fat loss meal plans for our clients. Once we've assessed them, taken into account their food likes and dislikes, set their calories and macro nutrients, and laid out each meal in great detail (down to the gram), they are usually very excited when they receive their meal plan and can't wait to get started on their fat loss journey. 

Holly and I understand that meal plans are very unfamiliar for most people. While we have been living and eating a certain way for a long time, as Holly is an IFBB PRO FIGURE competitor, and our "eating style" has become 2nd nature, as well as a necessity for her to compete at a high level, we know it can be a bit of an adjustment for others.

While it all looks great on paper, implementing the plan we lay out takes planning, preparation, and, most importantly, a certain mindset and a lot of "trench time". Furthermore, it takes developing and implementing actionable strategies and habits, and also having the right tools in your toolbox to make the fat loss process more efficient.

Keeping all of the above in mind, Holly and I wanted to share with you our top fat loss tips and tricks. This is the little "behind the scenes" stuff which can make or break you, and is equally as important as the specifics of a meal plan itself. So, without further ado, in no particular order, here ya' go:

1. Get to the Grocery

This may seem like a "Capt Obvious" point, but you'd be surprised how many people we've worked with who don't get to the store frequently enough. If you are going to take your meal plan on paper and put it into action (or in your mouth), it starts with going to the grocery and having the necessary food on hand.

Figure on going to the store 1 or 2 days each week (maybe more). Going on a weekend day to get you to mid week is a good plan of attack. Take your meal plan with you and try to buy as much in bulk as you possibly can to get you through the week. You can buy meat, fish and poultry in bulk and it all freezes just fine. If you are going to buy FRESH produce in bulk, be careful: it goes bad quickly. Maybe buy enough fresh produce for 3 days and then head back to the store. Alternatively, buy as much as you can frozen and cook as needed, but the last thing you want is a bunch of rotting fruits and veggies. No fun.

Once you get familiar with your meal plan, you'll get into a routine and you'll become very familiar with what and how much you need at the store. You'll also become more familiar with the store itself, and all of this means grocery shopping becomes far more efficient. I'm usually in and out of there in less than 25 minutes because I know exactly what I need and where everything is.

2. Buy a Food Scale

When we write meal plans for people, we are as precise as possible. That means our clients have to be precise as possible or the plan won't work optimally. YOU NEED A FOOD SCALE IF YOU ARE SERIOUS ABOUT FAST FAT LOSS. The more precise you are, the better your results will be, and that's true in any area of your life. If we tell you you need to eat 100 grams of cooked bison, we mean 100 grams of cooked bison. Eye balling it won't cut it.

A nice food scale can be purchased for under $30. You'll want to get one which offers both gram and ounce measurement options, and which you can also zero out (this is key). When weighing your food, place whatever container, utensil or plate you plan on using on the scale first and then zero out the weight of that item. If you take the item off of the scale, the scale will remember what it weighed. Then it's simply a matter of adding the amount of food called for.

Finally, food scales usually require a special battery. When you purchase a scale, it normally comes with a battery, but you'll want to buy a couple of additional batteries because you'll only get a month or two out of a battery.

3. Become a Tupperware Hoarder

If you've ever been to a bodybuilding competition (and if you have not, I'd highly suggest it from a people watching perspective), you'll see more Tupperware per square foot than any other place in the world. Tupperware is an essential tool of the trade in getting the body you want. Holly and I buy very large Tupperware containers to store bulk amounts of chicken, flank, rice, quinoa, sweet potato and hard boiled eggs, and then we portion it out into smaller Tupperware containers so we can take it with us when we go to work or are out "doing life". See the pic below:

In addition to Tupperware, you'll want to have plenty of plastic utensils on hand, as well as a set of measuring spoons and a measuring cup. A Magic Bullet blender for protein shakes and a couple of blender/shaker bottles are also must haves. Finally, it's essential you invest in an insulated cooler bag and ice packs so you can take your food with you during the day while at work or on the go. 

4. Bulk Up

I'm not talking about gorging yourself with food and trying to get all "meathead". I'm talking about preparing your food in bulk. As noted above, preparing chicken, flank, sweet potatoes, rice, quinoa and eggs in bulk quantities-and storing it all in large Tupperware-will save you a great deal of time and make meal prep a lot easier.

One of the best investments we've ever made, and one we encourage our clients to make, is a slow cooker/crock pot. It makes cooking chicken and flank steak in bulk a breeze. We usually put a large amount of either in the cooker on low for 6 hours over night and then transfer it to large Tupperware in the morning when we wake up. Grilling meat and poultry every night is a royal pain in the ass, so this is a nice solution.

Similarly, we cook up bulk amounts of quinoa, rice and eggs a couple of times per week and also store this in the aforementioned large Tupperware. We then just portion it out as needed. The rice and quinoa can be cooked in 15 minutes or less. Hard boiled eggs are a bit of a pain in the ass, but it's just part of the having to make an omelet or scramble every day.

5. It Doesn't Have to Be Boring

When most people think of fat loss diets, they think bland or boring. Well, it doesn't have to be that way. If you arm yourself with an array of spices and condiments, you can really jazz up "clean" food. Here are some of our suggestions:

  • If you live in Cincinnati, make sure you check out Colonel De's at Findlay Market (they also have an online store). We frequent this place a few times a month and load up on spices and rubs. Some of our favorites are the pork and poultry for (obvious) poultry (we don't dig on swine), ruby red steak rub for any beef product, and garlic goodness for just about anything. 
  • Any Mrs. Dash product (salt free)
  • Bolthouse Farms salad dressing (this is the best tasting low calorie, low sugar dressing we have ever tried). This is great for salads, but you can also use it on meat or poultry, or mix it in with rice or quinoa.
  • Kelly's BBQ sauce...great tasting and low in sugar
  • Mustard (we use brown spicy mustard for tuna quite a bit)
6. Suck It Up or Stay The Same

This is not a tip, trick or tool, but more of a reminder about mindset. When people read about the amount of preparation, planning, precision and overall effort required for fat loss success above, they may say to themselves, "There has to be an easier way!" There isn't. If there was one, trust me, we would be going down that route, our clients would be going down that route, and 60+ percent  of the population wouldn't be overweight or obese.

Some people we share our nutrition advice and philosophy with roll their eyes and insist you don't have to go to the lengths we do or advise to get a better body (these are the same people, mind you, who usually ask to pick our brain about the topic because they are unhappy about the way they look but I digress). Everyone wants an easy way out or a quick fix magic bullet, but, the reality is, like it or not, eating to get the body you want is basically a part time job. 

Everyone wants it to be "one thing" which cracks the fat loss conundrum for them. I have news for you: it's not one thing. It isn't eating gluten free. It isn't eating all organic. It's not avoiding carbs after 7:00 at night. It's not a 100 calorie snack pack. It's not avoiding dairy or bread. It's certainly not just "trying to make better food choices" or "only eating half my meal at a restaurant." That "one thing" isn't a supplement or the magical acai berry drink you saw on Dr. Oz. It sure as hell isn't exercise. 

No, instead, fat loss success is the sum and synergy of a bunch of different parts. Like I said, eating for fat loss and weight loss and maintaining that loss is a part time job and a commitment to a lifestyle. If you accept this and suck it up, you'll get the body you want. If you don't, and insist there is a simpler solution, you'll stay the same. Period. It's your choice.

That wraps things up. We hope you found this post helpful, and we hope you take some of these tips, tricks and tools and put them into action. 

If you'd like to know more about our meal planning service, and have all of the guesswork taken out of the equation, please visit the link below and fill out the form at the bottom of the page:

Until next time, Live Fit!