Tips to Keep Your Weight Under Control - How to Stay in Shape

Keep your Weight Under Control

Never let down on your fitness goals

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One of the biggest issues for a lot of people is how to maintain their weight throughout the year. This is just as big a problem for bodybuilders and fitness athletes, so don't feel bad when you struggle with it. Just because bodybuilding and fitness celebrities look good in photos, that doesn't mean they don't have their moments of being bloated and out of shape. They do! No one's perfect - even those who do this for a living.

They may have a leg up on you in the area of knowledge. They may not always practice what they preach, but they do know how to get the job done in the first place. Motivation puts knowledge into practice, but a lack of knowledge renders all the motivation in the world useless. This is where I think I can help.

If you're like most sports enthusiasts, you read a lot of articles on diet and exercise, but how much do you actually take away from reading this material? Do you get enough information to put a plan into action? Do articles in today's magazines explain how to carry out the suggestions given? A lot of the letters I get in response to my column deal with this problem. While many admit that articles focus on sound solutions, many feel they fail to specify what action to take to reach the solution stage. I hope to provide for you this month some suggestions for success and tips that will help you to carry them out.

I think people assume those of us who are lucky enough to live in southern California are just naturally able to keep our weight under control because the temperature rarely dips below 60 degrees in LA. The truth is, that's just geography. Perhaps we are more body conscious on the left coast, but only because we wear fewer clothes year round and live among other body-conscious souls. Ski parkas have a way of liberating people from their vanity, and 5 or 10 extra pounds practically go unnoticed in colder climates -that is, until, the coats come off and the ice melts. But that's another story.

Keeping weight under control is hard no matter where you live. Forget that we might be more motivated here in Venice while training next to the top bodies in the country. Avoiding weight gain is difficult for everyone regardless of who you may be or where you call home. Still, for those who live in colder winter climates, the urge is to eat more to keep the internal furnace burning. So what can body-conscious men and women do to keep their physiques in A-1 condition despite climate?

Check out this list of tips to ensure success in keeping your body in top shape all year long. I've broken it down into diet, training and cardio so you can make rapid references and find the help you need by section.

DIET

Without a doubt diet is responsible for 85 percent of all the successes we experience in bodybuilding and fitness. Knowing how to work this aspect of fitness for your own body is the key to really transforming it. Articles that offer diet tips without explaining how to implement them only frustrate people. The methods may be obvious to someone who is experienced in the art of dieting, but they aren't always obvious to those who are just starting to nail down a routine.

For example, in one recent article the author recommended packing all your food for the day into a small cooler and taking it on the road. Sound advice. In fact, that's what I do six days a week out of pure necessity. However, that suggestion on its own doesn't tell the novice how to go about putting nutrients together for a day away from home. The logistics are much more involved and require trial-and-error experience to get them just right.

The article didn't mention that chicken is a better choice than steak to eat cold. Why? Because chicken holds onto its nutrients whether cold or warm and steak loses practically all its creatine when cold or reheated. Nor did the recommendation include the fact that there are plenty of dipping and cooking sauces that can spice up bland chicken, rice or plain pasta to make eating at the office, gym or in your car more enjoyable. These are tips that may seem minuscule but greatly contribute to success. Without these tidbits of knowledge one might easily become frustrated and quit practicing eating habits that could make or break your physique.

Here are some diet tips that will help you realize your goals and enable you to stick to a plan:

Cook chicken breasts, pasta, rice or sweet/ regular potatoes the night before. Cook veggies, such as broccoli, carrots or squash each morning to preserve freshness. Pack sauces for dipping or mixing with protein, starch and vegetable.

The advantages of packing starch, protein, veggies and oils/sauces separately are many. You can mix them for a noontime meal, or eat them separately according to your energy level, schedule, workouts and macronutrient needs. For instance, if you stop eating carbs after 2 p.m. on your diet, you can finish all the starch in your cooler by 1:30 p.m. and save some protein and veggies for later in the day. If you go to the gym after work, you can save some carbs in your cooler and eat them immediately following a workout when your body really needs them to replenish glycogen and enhance growth.

Always pack nuts in your car's glovebox. This is a great way to have sustenance and energy when and where you need it. I have done this for many years, and the plan has served me well because it helps my blood sugar remain stable if I've run out of food and am driving someplace to get it. If you've ever been on a restrictive diet, you know stability of blood sugar is crucial.

Make lists of foods you can eat. But don't stop there. Think of menu combinations that take the ingredients you love and incorporate them into meals that will keep you feeling as though you aren't dieting at all.

The biggest deterrent to success is usually boredom. Always keep a list of menus handy for each meal - breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks - that you can exchange each day to keep nutrition fresh. Eating egg whites and oatmeal for breakfast is great, but every day? Have a list of day-starters, such as egg whites on toast, protein shake with fruit, or steak and eggs, that suit each day, no matter what type of diet you call your own, and change them to create completely new menus every day. The possibilities are limitless.

Most articles tell you to have protein shakes between meals to keep the metabolic rate elevated and keep you sated, but they don't give you suggestions on how to carry protein and what to have. I suggest saving your empty water bottles (16 oz. size). Clean them, let them dry, and then put a double serving of protein into a bottle. You can add water anytime during the day. Alternatively, a lot of my clients have been buying the ready-made shakes, such as EAS Carb Control drinks or Carb Solutions. These products are good if you're on a low-carb diet, but also if you're on a regular diet and don't want to take in carbs with your protein supplementation.

TRAINING

Many of the top magazines advocate continuous movement during workouts but fail to paint you a picture to help you understand just what that means. I say, if you have a set of stairs in your gym, walk stairs between sets, accentuating the glutes and calves. Or try squat jumps as a pliometric/explosive exercise to keep the heart pumping. Anything that isn't directly associated with the muscle group you're training, and which can elevate heart rate, will be an excellent addition to a fat-burning plan.

Try slow training as a change of pace. Slow training isn't just taking your time through your workouts. It means focusing on every repetition and making it feel like a full set. You can use SST (super slow training) to isolate and help train you to understand the feeling of isolating a muscle, but you can also use it to get your muscles into the kind on condition you may not experience through conventional training. SST is ideal when you're dieting.

Have a partner push you through your workouts. Partner training is a powerful practice to add another person to the equation, but not just for moral support or for helping you clean up weights. A partner can also help you eke out extra reps and sets, as well as negative reps after you've pre-exhausted the muscle.

Most people recommend supersets when you're trying to get your body in shape or keep it there.

Train bodyparts more often than once or twice per week to get to the fat stores between muscles and at insertion points. I recommend this approach very highly for women in deal-ing with problem areas like the legs and glutes. I have them train legs and glutes Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Mondays and Fridays are heavier days, but they still include an abundance of sets and high reps. Wednesdays are lighter and include only exercises such as lunges, walking lunges, cable extensions, hamstring curls, sissy squats and stairs. Overtraining, as many would call it, can really define muscles - especially for those who are looking for definition, not mass.

CARDIO

Do cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. This is just a kickstart and should be used in this way only. Don't do your full hour of cardio in the morning. Instead, do 20 minutes in the morning, as intensely and high in the target zone as possible, and then finish in the late afternoon or early evening with 40 minutes of lower-intensity work to burn off what you've eaten throughout the day and continue to boost the metabolism.

If you know you're going to have a full-hour session, make sure to break up the cardio into two or three sections so that you can switch equipment. I like to start on the treadmill, do 10 minutes, then elevate the belt for a final 10 before moving to another piece of equipment. From there I usually go to the elliptical trainer or the stair stepper. I complete the session with cycling to work the lactic acid out of the muscles. Occasionally I also use a rowing machine. The point is, varying your cardio works areas you don't normally get to work while sticking with the same equipment day in and day out.

Walk stairs as a part of your cardio program at least once a week. Most cities and towns have a large set of stairs somewhere. This is an effective way to get glutes and legs in shape and keep weight off. Sometimes taking the work outside creates more intensity and enjoyment. Take your time and walk stairs for a longer period, accentuating the glutes by squeezing at the top of each step.

Use an abdominal routine as a miniature cardio program for a midday metabolic boost. Alternate between lower-ab work and upper-ab work, as well as serratus/intercos-tal exercise, to keep from becoming exhausted in one area and to enable yourself to keep moving. While there is no such thing as true "spot-reducing," 20 minutes of this program will help you keep fat at bay in the midsection and beyond.

Knowing not only what to do but also how to do it is key in creating a successful outcome. I hope this month's installment has helped you clue into how you can control weight in winter months ... or anytime.




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