Monthly Archives for March 2011

Archives for March 2011

Does Chewing Gum Cause Weight Gain – Or Weight Loss?

Does male model Bernardo Velasco need to worry about gaining weight from his bubble gum? Probably not, research says.

I’ll admit that I had a secret agenda when penning this post. One of my biggest pet peeves is loud gum-chewers, especially when that chewing is done at the gym. For some reason, I really let it annoy me. Perhaps I need a hobby.

Long ago, I heard something of an urban legend: If you chew gum, it signals to your brain (and then stomach), that you are eating. When no food enters the stomach, the brain thinks that starvation is occurring – and as a result, the metabolism is lowered and weight gain becomes imminent when food is finally ingested. In fact, I’ve used this theory against the loud gum-chewers in my life, as I often find myself saying, “You know that stick of gum will make you gain weight, right?” It almost always works to disarm the chewer.

Turns out, I haven’t been able to find any support for this urban legend – though some folks tangentially claim that chewing gum does increase hunger. And since sugary sweetness is addictive, it’s possible that chewing gum can make you crave other sweet and potentially unhealthy foods.

Unfortunately for me, most of the research points to chewing gum as a weight loss or weight management tool. In fact, a UK study from 2007 showed that chewing gum:

  • Reduced caloric intake. Gum chewers reduced sweet snack intake by 39 calories and salty snacks were decreased by 11 calories.
  • Suppresses hunger.
  • Decreases stress, elevates moods and increases relaxation.

Other studies confirm the calorie-reduction findings of the UK study, most reporting that caloric intake for gum chewers was reduced by 30 – 50 calories. Moreover, chewing gum burns an extra 11 calories an hour. Woot, woot.

Of course, all of this needs to be taken into perspective; 30 – 50 calories is about a bite of cake, or a few minutes on a treadmill. And most people can make much bigger weight loss strides through an improved diet and exercise program.

It’s also worth noting that excessively chewing sugar-free gums made with sorbitol have been linked to extreme weight loss and diarrhea. A pack of gum a day isn’t a good idea. My mom always says, “Everything in moderation.”

If moderate gum chewing does have an impact on your weight, it appears to be fairly small and possibly negligible. Looks like it’s time to retire the gum-chewing weight gain urban legend once and for all. Damn it.

The 2-for-2 Rule: How to Know When You Should Increase The Weight.

Building muscles requires increasing resistance. Following the 2-for-2 Rule helps you identify when it's time to up the weight.

We know that progression is necessary to build bigger and stronger muscles. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten; our muscles won’t increase in size or strength unless we push them to do so. And that “pushing” is done through incremental increases in the amount of resistance.

Just yesterday, while exercising with my boyfriend, he asked a common question: When should I increase the amount of weight that I’m lifting? To answer that question, most people expect an answer that’s attached to a time-frame, like “every three weeks” or “every fifth workout.” But that’s not really how it works, and all of our bodies work, adjust and develop differently.

Graves and Baechle created a more practical formula to determine when it’s time to increase the amount of resistance. It’s called the 2-for-2 Rule:

If you can successfully complete two or more repetitions in the last set in two consecutive workouts for any given exercise, then the load should be increased.

For example, I perform 4 sets of 8 reps of dumbbell bicep curls. If I can perform 10 reps on my final set of bicep curls for two weeks in a row, then it’s time to increase the weight. Remember, if you are looking to build muscle, you’ll want to target a low number of repetitions – but you should be fully fatigued on your last rep. The 2-for-2 Rule helps identify when fatigue is no longer happening!

If you are new to working out, you may be able to increase resistance by 5% – 10%. If you are more advanced, 2% – 5% may be more appropriate. This usually amounts to 2.5 – 5 pounds for smaller muscle groups and 5 – 10 pounds for larger muscle groups.

Is the Cholesterol in Eggs Bad for You?

We know that eggs are a great source of protein, but have you ever looked at the nutrition information printed on the cartoon? In addition to 6.5 grams of protein, eggs contain a sobering 213 mg of cholesterol. That’s about 71% of the recommended daily cholesterol intake for a healthy individual.

So does that mean we should avoid eating eggs? Probably not.

The impact of dietary cholesterol (i.e., the cholesterol we eat) has a fairly small impact on the cholesterol in our blood. Some people with high cholesterol diets have low blood cholesterol, and some people with low cholesterol diets have high blood cholesterol.

In a study by cholesterol researcher Dr. Maria Luz Fernandez of the University of Connecticut’s Department of Nutritional Sciences, the consumption of 2-3 eggs per day was found to have little or no impact on blood cholesterol levels in 2/3 of participants.

For the other 1/3 of participants, blood cholesterol levels did rise. But the levels of so-called “good” cholesterol increased in proportion to the levels of “bad” cholesterol, so the ratio of good to bad cholesterol stayed the same. This ratio of good to bad cholesterol is considered a better indicator of the risk of heart disease than overall cholesterol concentrations.

Moreover, it seems that in the 1/3 of participants with an increase in cholesterol levels, the cholesterol particles became more bigger and not more numerous. When measuring cholesterol levels in laboratories, it’s done by weight. The researchers from this study believe that the increase in weight wasn’t because there were more cholesterol particles, but just that the existing particles became larger. And larger cholesterol particles are less likely to get stuck in arteries and cause heart disease.

So what does it all mean?

If you already have cardiovascular disease, a poor diet that is high in saturated fat, diabetes or high blood cholesterol levels, it’s probably a good idea to avoid eggs or to consume them sparingly. For healthy individuals, consuming eggs as part of a balanced diet is perfectly acceptable – just don’t go overboard. And, since the cholesterol and saturated fat from eggs is contained primarily in the yolk, egg whites are a great alternative – and they still provide just over half of the egg’s protein.

That should be egg-cellent news for egg lovers.

Answered: Should I Eat the Same Amount of Protein on Off-Days?

Dear Davey,

I work out 5 days a week and take Sundays and Wednesdays off. On the days that I exercise, I make a protein shake with whey powder. Should I also be drinking a protein shake on my days off?

From,
Bryan

Dear Bryan,

While you might take Sundays and Wednesdays off, your body does not! On your days off, your body is busy recovering and rebuilding new muscle. As such, it needs a constant supply of protein.

First things first, you’ll need to calculate your protein needs. I like to use this handy formula. For some people, protein supplements aren’t needed – they can get their required protein from a well-balanced diet. But many weight lifters and exercise enthusiasts will require additional protein, and protein shakes are an easy and effective way to get it.

If you require 130 grams of protein, for example, this amount doesn’t change on your off-days. You’ll need to continue fueling your body 7 days a week, and if your diet isn’t providing the required amount of protein, taking your shakes will certainly help get you there!

Bottom line: We might rest but our bodies do not – protein requirements don’t decrease on days off from the gym.

Love,
Davey

Six-Pack Tip: Faster Crunches for Ripped Abs.

Tall, dark and delicious! Can I get an amen?!

I’m about to rock your world with some new research. Sit down for this one.

You’ve probably heard that, when it comes to the speed at which you perform strength training exercises, slower is better. The idea behind slow training seems logical. By going slow, you remove all the momentum from your movements – and so all the tension is directly on your muscles. It seems to make sense, but new research is proving otherwise.

It turns out that super slow training is significantly less effective than traditional training. One study showed slow training strength gains of 15% compared to gains of 39% for traditional training.

But wait, there’s more.

Additional research has been done on the variable of speed in abdominal exercises – and crunches, in particular. Researchers divided participants into 4 groups, and had those groups perform crunches at different speeds (1 crunch per 4 seconds, 1 crunch per 2 seconds, 1 crunch per 1.5 seconds, 1 crunch per 1 second). Turns out, the participants in the fastest group – 1 crunch per 1 second – had the highest amount of muscle activation.

In actuality, the results shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Compare the legs of a marathon runner to the legs of a sprinter. Sprinters, who engage in fast bursts of rapid movement, have very muscular legs.

Of course, this isn’t a green light to rush through all your exercises. But it does mean that increasing the speed at which you crunch can be a good thing. But increase the speed slowly; progressively build up to a faster pace over time. And remember that form shouldn’t be sacrificed for speed!

Why You Should Do More of The Exercises You Hate the Most.

All of us have certain exercises that we don’t like. For me, it’s doing squats. Take a minutes or two to think of your most dreaded exercises.

Why don’t you like them?

For most of us, it’s because we’re not naturally good at them. As someone that is trying to build the musculature of his legs, my lower half is definitely my weaker half. So, when I do squats, I struggle to keep the bar level and to maintain proper form. And I get frustrated when the gym-goers around me are able to use heavier resistance.

Let’s face it: We don’t like doing things that we’re not good at.

We don’t like those challenging exercises that make us struggle. But those exercises that make us struggle are precisely the exercises we need to do the most; they’re targeting areas in which we need improvement. And the only way that we can hope to improve is by doing more of it.

The bottom line: If you don’t like it, it’s usually a sign that you need to be doing more of it. Don’t give up, and don’t be tempted to skip over it. Stick with it, and as you become better at it, you’ll probably start to like it more, too. 🙂

What is Osteopathy?

When Luc Vaillancourt, Osteopathic Manual Practitioner, invited me in for an osteopathy session at Toronto’s Inspired Life Health Care Center, my first reaction was to Google “osteopathy.”

So what is osteopathy? According to Luc:

Osteopathy is a manual medicine, using soft manipulations and techniques to re-balance the body… Osteopathy believes that a well balanced body has the inherent capacity of healing itself. If the blood flows freely and nourishes the cells with new oxygen and nutriments, it helps clean the body of dead cells, the nerves work properly, muscles are used at their maximum capability, etc.

I was curious, and took up Luc on his offer. Being in very good health, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to gain anything from the visit. I was wrong.

Luc used a number of techniques to manipulate my body. None of them were painful, and it was actually quite relaxing. Most interestingly, I learned that I have a very slight spinal curvature, known as scoliosis. It’s a very mild case of scoliosis, but something of which I was entirely unaware. Moreover, Luc shared that I have flat feet, and that my right leg is slightly longer than the left. Who knew? Turns out, the shortness of my left leg isn’t structural – it’s simply because of muscle tightness. Luc was able to use a series of very deep stretches and manipulations to return my left leg to its proper length.

So what’s the big deal about a slightly shorter leg? As a runner, I’m on my feet a lot. And although a slightly shorter leg might seem trivial, years of running with uneven impact could translate to an injury down the road. In my case, a visit to the osteopath – and the lengthening of my shortened leg – may have helped prevent that future injury.

Though many of Luc’s patients have existing conditions, he recommends that everyone pays a visit to their local osteopath. “You bring your car in for a tune up,” Luc says, “And you should do the same with your body.” Osteopath visits are sometimes covered by more progressive insurance plans, and generally run from $75 – $150 for a one-hour session.

Have you ever been to osteopath? Let me know about your experience in the comments below!

Gay Men & Steroids: A Love Story?

The other day, I was showing a picture of a sexy, muscular guy on Grindr to a friend. My friend pointed out that the guy had gynecomastia (the development of abnormally large mammary glands in males), and was likely a user of steroids. I was surprised and shocked, but my friend told me that steroid use – especially among gay men – is fairly common. Even his roommate does steroids, he shared.

I was ignorantly unaware of what is seemingly an epidemic among gay men. In fact, a recent study revealed that 1 in 7 gay gym-going men admitted to steroid use. Some estimate that the actual number may be closer to 50%.

There is no no doubt that many people associate being gay with a certain gym and muscle culture. And while that gym culture doesn’t define a community as diverse as the gay community, it certainly is present and pervasive. Gay muscle culture is often traced back to another epidemic: AIDS. Physicians often prescribed steroids to people living with AIDS as a way to increase muscle mass on their otherwise frail frames. Moreover, pumped-up bodies became a symbol of healthiness.

Today, muscle culture is alive and well – and many gay men feel intense pressure to obtain lean, muscular builds. Under such pressure, taking steroids can seem like an easier shortcut than hard work and exercise. And there’s no doubt that steroids yield results. Unfortunately, steroids are plagued by tremendously dangerous and/or undesirable side-effects including:

  • Acne
  • Shrunken testicles – which leads to temporary (and possibly permanent) sterility
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Liver malfunction
  • Enlarged prostate and prostate cancer
  • Balding
  • Aggression
  • Liver failure
  • Stunted growth
  • Weight problems
  • Neurological issues

Of course, not all steroid users will experience all of the above side effects – but the list is long and daunting. If gay men and steroids are a love story, it’s certainly one that won’t end happily ever after.

If you (or someone you know) uses steroids, it’s important to talk to a professional. Most drug addiction treatment centers are equipped to deal with all kinds of drug addictions ranging from prescription drug abuse to steroid abuse.

But I want to know what you think. Are you – or someone you know – a steroid user? Why, despite the enormous risks, do people find steroids to be a viable option? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Today Only: Special Spring Savings on Davey Wavey Fitness Videos!

Spring is hereLast night at 7:21PM EDT, something very special happened: Spring arrived!

In many ways, Spring is symbolic of new life and rebirth. It’s a fresh start and a new beginning. Today, let’s make it a new beginning for you, too.

Today only, I invite you to create a new, healthier life with a very special discount on my Davey Wavey Fitness videos and programs. Use the below discount codes during checkout to receive exclusive savings on all of my programs. The discount is for 24-hours only, so you’ll need to act today!

  • Save $10 on Davey Wavey’s Ultimate Guide to Working Out: This powerful program will give you everything you need to get the results you’ve always wanted. Together, we create a fully customized workout routine that targets your goals with laser precision. Includes 2 ebooks, 9 instructional videos, my 30-minute ab workout, and much, much more. Use discount code “spring1” during checkout.
  • Save $10 on Underwear Yoga: Strip down to your skivvies with me for two 20-minute muscle building and energy boosting yoga videos. This is not your mother’s yoga class. Comes with 2 e-books, a guided meditation, soundtrack and more! Use discount code “spring2” during checkout.
  • Save $5 on Eating for Fitness: Learn how to conquer nutrition, build muscle and fight fat using extensive expert guidance. Includes bonuses and more! Use discount code “spring3” during checkout.
  • Want all three programs? Double your discount and save $50 if you buy all three programs by clicking here. Use discount code “spring4” during checkout to receive the savings.

The energy and enthusiasm of Spring is in the air, and today, you can put it to work with you in a very special way. I look forward to helping you achieve your fitness goals, and am truly inspired by your commitment to a healthier lifestyle.
Much love,

Davey Wavey
Certified Personal Trainer, Davey Wavey Fitness

P.S. As if you needed a reminder… with beach season just around the corner, today is the perfect day to get started!

P.P.S. For those blog buddies in the southern hemisphere, fret not! Though Autumn has arrived for you, my spring discounts still apply!

The Secret to Losing Weight. [Video]

This exercise is a powerful and effective way to help you release weight. It’s simple, easy and doesn’t even require that you leave your computer check. Click below to watch the video.

A huge thank you to my friend and spiritual weight loss coach, Diane Petrella, for sharing this exercise with us.

Product Review: Lululemon Ultimate Running Socks.

I’m not a sock person. Some people wear their socks inside, and still others even wear them to bed. Personally, I think the feeling of warm fabric around my feet and toes feels suffocating. I much prefer going au naturel.

So when someone told me that Lululemon’s Ultimate Running Sock would change my life, I was skeptical. Since I get numerous emails about what I wear to the gym (and being something of a Lululemon whore), I bought a pair and decided to do a product review.

At $US 14.00 per pair, like most things at Lululemon, the socks aren’t cheap. With that sort of price tag, I remember thinking that they better pleasure me sexually. Turns out, they kinda do. They’re nothing short of amazing.

There isn’t any one thing that’s especially compelling about the sock. Instead, I think their amazingness is the result of a whole bunch of things that just come together in a way that works. Unlike normal socks, these socks are marked right and left – as the socks are anatomically constructed (what a great idea!). The fabric wisks moisture away from the foot, and provides a great amount of ventilation. They don’t slip, and have extra padding where needed to prevent blisters and to provide impact cushioning.

They are life changing. And no, Lululemon isn’t paying me for this review or giving me free samples (but they should!). In fact, these socks are so amazing that I may even wear them to bed.

Part II: Frustrated By Lack of Results? Create a Better Game Plan.

If you are frustrated by a lack of results, it’s probably one of two things. Either it’s an issue with your goals, or you need a better game plan. Yesterday, in part I, we discussed the importance of creating S.M.A.R.T. goals. Today, in part II, I’ll show you how to connect your workout routine to your fitness goals.

How to Create a Workout Plan that Achieves Your Goals

You have a goal or set of goals. It seems intuitive, but virtually everything that you do at the gym must be connected to those goals. Some people think that going to the gym and doing whatever is a means to achieving their fitness goals – but it’s not.

If your goals involve bigger muscles, for example, your workout must be intentionally structured around that. To get bigger muscles, you’ll want to stick with free weight exercises that involve either dumbbells or barbells. Moreover, you’ll be doing a low number of repetitions (probably between 4 – 8 reps) at a heavy amount of weight. You’ll want your muscles to be fatigued when you perform your last set, and you’ll need to constantly be progressing to heavier and heavier amounts of resistance. Most likely you’ll do different muscle groups on different days, and your cardio will probably come in the form of jogging, running or sprinting in intervals on the treadmill.

If you’re looking to maintain muscles, then your workout must be structured around that, too. When it comes to strength training, don’t increase the amount of resistance for those muscles you are looking to maintain. And, you’ll probably perform 10 or more reps since the weight will be only moderately heavy.

If you’re looking to lose weight, it’s important to build a well-balanced workout schedule that includes cardio and strength training (many people forget about the importance of strength training when trying to lose weight). Intervals are also great for releasing weight, and you’ll probably spend a higher percentage of your time doing cardio than your muscle-building counterparts.

Everyone’s goals are specific, and it’s beyond the scope of this blog post to create a personal workout routine for you (that’s what my Ultimate Guide to Working Out is for), but the point is this: Going to the gym and just doing whatever is not enough – each rep of each set of each exercise of each day at the gym must be intentionally connected to your goal or goals. Know what it takes to get where you want to go – and then do it!

How to Create SMART Goals.

If you’re frustrated by your lack of progress or results, setting SMART goals could help get you there!

Spring is in the air, and the energy and enthusiasm of the season is palpable. As it turns out, Spring is a great time to re-evaluate your fitness progress, and to take a critical look at yourself and how far you’ve come. Or, in some cases, how far you haven’t come.

For those people that are struggling to reach their goals, the issue is likely one of two things. It’s either an issue with the goal itself, or with the plan for achieving it.

Evaluate Your Goal

Today, let’s start by looking at your goal (and tomorrow, in part II, we’ll look at your plan). I help my clients develop SMART goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.

  • Specific: We can’t create a map if you don’t know where you want to go. Saying, “I want to look better” is abstract. Saying, “I want my waist to be 2 inches smaller” is more specific. Make your goals as specific and concise as humanly possible.
  • Measurable: To track progress, you need to be able to measure it. We can measure fitness success in inches, pounds, increases in energy, clothes fitting differently, the mirror, before and after pictures, pant/dress sizes, etc. As you think about your goals, keep “measurablity” in mind – see if you can build the measurements right into the goal. Instead of saying, “I want to increase my biceps,” you could say, “I want to increase my biceps by two inches.”
  • Attainable: If you only make 30 minutes of time available for exercise in your busy schedule, don’t expect to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. The goals that you set need to be “reality checked” by the amount of time you’re willing to put into working out, the resources available to you, what’s healthy (i.e., losing 20 lbs a week is not healthy), age, what’s humanly possible, etc. Save yourself the frustration by picking realistic, attainable goals. On the other hand, don’t make them too attainable, either.
  • Relevant: The goals you select should be relevant to your life and your wants. The more relevant the goal, the easier it is to put time and effort into achieving it. The goals that you select should add real value to your life.
  • Timely: Set your goals to a specific date. You want a six pack stomach by what date? Beach season? Your birthday? Put it in writing – but remember, be realistic!

Creating SMART goals for yourself will save you a ton of frustration down the road. But what if a SMART goal isn’t enough? Sometimes, the issue isn’t with the goal itself, but rather with the game plan for getting there. Tomorrow, in part II of this series, we’ll help better connect your fitness routine to the goals you are looking to achieve! Stay tuned!

Cardio or Strength Training to Lose Weight?

Hi Davey,

I have a lot of body fat and know that cardio is the only way to lose it. I spend 45 minutes 5 days a week doing interval training on the elliptical. I also want to appear toned and know that I need to add weights to my routine. I only have an hour a day to spend at the gym, so if I add weights, then it will be cutting down on my cardio time big time. What should I do to get ready to hit the beach this June? Stick with cardio and just do pushups and such, or cut back on the cardio and start with free weights?

Thanks,
Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

You’ve just touched upon one of the biggest fitness misconceptions that the world has ever known. In fact, in some ways, I feel like it’s my personal mission to set things straight. Just doing cardio isn’t – I repeat, is not – the best way to lose weight.

Weight loss is most effectively achieved through a combination of BOTH cardiovascular exercise (i.e., treadmill, biking, swimming) and strength training. While the cardio will get your heart rate up and burn calories, strength training brings great weight loss benefits, too. Strength training adds muscle mass to your body, and increased muscle mass means a dramatically increased metabolism. Adding even a few pounds of muscle will increase the number of calories your body burns each and every day.

Focusing only on cardio and skipping strength training could actually make it harder for you to lose weight. In fact, you may even gain weight – especially if your cardio workouts exceed 45 minutes. If you do cardio too long, your body consumes muscle for energy. For most people, that “too long” mark is at about 45 minutes. Done over and over again, day after day, this excess cardio could have a substantial impact on your body – and the muscle loss could decrease your metabolism and result in weight gain.

If you have 60 minutes of gym time, here’s what I’d recommend for a client looking to lose weight:

  • 25 minutes of cardio (5 minutes of warming up, 15 minutes of intervals, 5 minutes of cooling down)
  • 30 minutes of strength training
  • 5 minutes of post-workout stretching

I hope this helps, and let’s forever put to rest that cardio-only workouts are a good idea for people looking to lose weight.

Love,
Davey

How Much Weight Can You Lose Per Week?

I get a lot of questions about weight loss – and more specifically, about how much weight a person can (safely) lose per week.

The general recommendation is that you can lose up to 1% of your weight per week. So, if you’re 200 lbs, then that’s 2 pounds the first week. Note that as you release weight, the per week amount changes. If you’re down to 150 lbs, then you wouldn’t want to release more than a pound and a half per week. Following this guideline, most of us wouldn’t want to lose more than a few pounds per week.

The recommend amount may sound low, but remember that losing weight slowly is more sustainable. In addition, in minimizes the sometimes harmful effects of rapid weight loss like loose skin.

But remember – losing weight is one thing, and losing fat is another. Fat is just part of our body’s variable weight. On top of our skeletons are layers of muscle, too. And our bodies contain a tremendous amount of water weight. Losing weight doesn’t tell the whole story.

For example, a dehydrated person will weigh less than when they are hydrated. But obviously, that’s not a good thing. And a person that is exercising and lifting weights may actually gain weight – though the weight gain is good, and the result of increased muscle mass. Clearly, weight is fairly limited as an indicator of body fat or as a measure of overall health.

Moving beyond the scale, I recommend using alternatives like inches lost (from the waist), inches gained (from the biceps, chest, etc.), increases in energy, health changes, body fat percentages and more.

Davey Wavey Fitness Podcast on “Making a Splash”.

On this Sunday morning, feel free to listen in on my 27-minute fitness-themed interview with the fine folks of Making a Splash! Click here or through the player below to check it out. Enjoy!

Listen to internet radio with Symphony Of Peace on Blog Talk Radio

Gym Tip: Can Counting Up Make a Difference?

When performing repetitions of an exercise – like a bicep curl – do you count up, or do you count down? Share your answer in the poll below:

I tend to count up, but I hadn’t really given it much thought. Counting is counting, right? Wrong.

Turns out, counting up could have some substantial psychological benefits. Some research has been done on the subject, and it seems that counting down is anti-climactic, while counting up builds a sense of accomplishment in some exercisers. Moreover, counting up makes you more likely to go for that extra repetition.

Let’s go back to the bicep curls. Say your goal is to do six repetitions. If you count down, you’ll stop at 1. It’s the end of the set, and you’re probably not going to continue counting into the negative numbers (…0, -1, -2). But if you’re counting up, it’s more intuitive to build on your success and go for that seventh or even eighth rep.

What do you think? Is this theory enough to get you to switch? Or is it a crock? Let me know in the comments.

5 Tricks: How to Lose 5 Pounds & Lean Up for Summer.

How to lean up for summer...

Not everyone is looking to drop a significant amount of weight. With summer just around the corner, a lot of people are looking to just drop a few pounds and increase their definition. And for other people who have already lost weight, those last few pounds can be particularly pesky and stubborn.

If you’re looking to lose 5, 10 or 15 pounds, know that it’s best done through a combination of both increased exercise and modified diet. No surprise there, but here are a few helpful tricks:

  1. Evaluate your goal. Do you really need to lose those 5 pounds? For people that have already lost weight, maybe the quality of your life has already improved. Is another 5 pounds really necessary? Leaning up – even if it’s just a few pounds – requires changes in lifestyle. It’s not always worth the effort, and is often only temporarily sustainable. If you really do want to drop those extra pounds, keep reading.
  2. Increase your workout oomph. Pumping up the fitness side of the equation is important, and it can be done by increasing the frequency of your workouts (i.e., go to the gym 5x a week instead of 3 or 4), boosting the intensity of your exercise (i.e., running faster, steeper inclines, etc.), changing the type of exercise (i.e., swapping out biking for running intervals), or increasing the time spent exercising. A small change in your workout’s frequency, intensity, type, or duration will add up over the course of several weeks.
  3. Pick a diet plan, and stick to it. Basically, you can either reduce your carbohydrate intake or decrease your overall caloric intake. Both work. It’s just a matter of finding which works for you. If you love your burgers and steaks, a low-carb diet may make more sense. If you’re unwilling to give up bread and pasta, a low calorie diet is probably a better fit.
  4. Eliminate hidden carb/calorie sources. If you are decreasing your overall caloric intake, be mindful of portion sizes. Plates can be deceiving (big plates make portions look smaller!), and so measuring your food is a safe and fool-proof bet. Both carb and calorie counters must both pay special attention to beverages, as they’re often a hidden source of empty calories and carbohydrates. Yes, that means no soda, sweetened iced tea or lemonade. Cheeses, dips, spreads and salad dressings can also be hidden calorie bombs. But remember – there are plenty of delicious healthy choices for you to eat, and it makes a lot more sense to focus on what you can consume rather than what you can’t.
  5. Drink lots of water. I sound like a broken record player when I espouse the benefits of hydration. But drink, drink, drink your daily allotment of water. It will keep your metabolism racing, and a glass or two before a meal will help curb your appetite.

There really isn’t any secret to losing 5, 10 or 15 pounds of stubborn body fat. It just requires some time (give yourself 4 weeks for every 5-ish pounds) and dedication. For some extra help, download my Ultimate Guide to Working Out. Use promo code “summer” during checkout to save $10 before March 12.

Are you trying to lose a small amount of stubborn body fat? What’s your current approach to releasing the weight? Tell me about it in the comments below.

So You Want to Make Your Ex Jealous With a Sexy New Body, Eh?

Dear Davey,

I was en route to work this morning and I bumped into my ex. He cheated on me every week for a year and I was dumped over the phone just before Christmas last year.

Anyway, where you come in… Looking at myself in the mirror, I think I have all the makings to have a fantastic body. I want to gain some muscle (but not too much!) and get as close as I can to a body like yours.

I promised myself I would look amazing if I ever bumped into him again and, well I failed. I am now giving myself untill the summer (not expecting miracles but a definite improvement) to look great.

What is the best way for me to gain muscle mass fast… and which exercises will give the best and quickest results?

I cannot bare to feel like I did this morning again. He looked great, and I looked… well, not.

Sincerely,
Man-On-A-Mission

Dear Man-On-A-Mission,

On one hand, I want to tell you that exercising to make another person jealous or envious isn’t a sustainable motivator. And it’s not coming from a place of true power. I want to tell you to spend your energy looking at today and moving forward, rather than looking back an a relationship that lacked fulfillment. I want to tell you that the time you spend in the gym should be an investment in yourself and an improvement to the quality of your life.

But on the other hand, who am I to talk? When I first started working out, my motivations weren’t the purest. I wanted to look like the Abercrombie & Fitch models that I saw at the mall. I wanted a hard stomach and bulging muscles. It was only months (or perhaps even years) into my exercising that I came to appreciate the much larger, non-superficial benefits of an active lifestyle. Today, it is those benefits (like better health, increased energy, improved sleep, etc.) that are my primary motivators. The muscular physique, is still nice, too. 🙂

Now that I am done preaching, I’ll tackle your question. Building muscle mass quickly involves lifting free weights (dumbbells and barbells) in the low-rep range (usually 4 – 8 repetitions of each exercise). The weights should be heavy, and your muscles should be completely fatigued on your last repetition. Moreover, you’ll need to push yourself to constantly progress to higher amounts of resistance in order to increase the size of your muscles. Keep your sessions short – generally 45 minutes or less of lifting – and never train a muscle that is still sore from your previous workout (it makes sense to do different muscle groups on different days). Combine your strength training with a moderate amount of cardiovascular exercise.

Squat, barbell bicep curls, dead lifts, chest presses or other exercises that make use of free weights are where you’ll want to spend the bulk of your time. I generally do 4 sets of each exercise, but you’ll get most of the benefits from just one or two sets. So do what works best for your schedule and time commitments.

Know that you’ll need to increase the amount of food you consume, and especially increase your protein intake. Whey protein isolate is the best for muscle growth.

Since it’s the start of a new routine for you, you’ll probably want to limit yourself to 3 or 4 workouts per week. Over time, you can increase that – but don’t overdo it or else you may burnout.

For additional reading and details, check out my 8 tips for gaining muscle fast.

I’d say good luck but it’s really more science than luck!

Love,
Davey

YES: Spicy Food Really Does Help You Lose Weight!

Yesterday, I was talking with my good friend Jessica. She’s teaching English in Korea, and we were professing our shared love for a Korean food called kimchi. It’s basically a spicy pickled cabbage – and though it doesn’t sound great to most westerners, it’s delicious!

Jessica mentioned that some Koreans believe kimchi possesses special powers. We both laughed, but then she mentioned that those special powers include weight loss. I told Jessica that there’s probably some truth to this belief, as numerous studies have connected spiciness to weight loss.

According to the research, spicy foods do play a small but relatively significant role in losing weight. One study divided obese dieters into two groups. One group consumed spicy and flavored foods while the other group did not. The spicy dieters lost 30 pounds in 6 months, while the control group lost 2 pounds. Another study that was published in Physiology and Behavior looked at the effects of spices such as red chili pepper, capsaicin, black pepper, and ginger on metabolism and weight loss. Turns out, the spices boosted the metabolism of the dieters and increased the rate at which fat was burned.

Beyond the metabolism-boosting benefits of spicy foods, researchers speculate that adding spices to otherwise healthy but often bland foods (like veggies) may make those foods more appealing. It’s also speculated that dieters consume less of a spicy food, and that smaller portions are more satisfying for our taste buds.

The bottom line: Adding some cayenne pepper, Tabasco sauce, black pepper, chilies, hot peppers, etc. can be a great compliment to your diet or nutrition program. And if you haven’t tried kimchi, you gotta.