Monthly Archives for June 2013

Archives for June 2013

7 Tips for Better Crunches!

perfect six pack2Crunches are the staple of most ab workouts, but they’re rarely executed to their full potential. To really make make your crunches count, here are 7 tips:

  1. Keep your head and neck in alignment with your spin to avoid strain and discomfort. This means that there should always be space between your chin and your upper chest. A simple trick is to pretend you’re holding an apple under your chin… don’t crush it!
  2. Resist gravity. Crunching up is important, but most people forget about the lowering portion of the exercise. By resisting gravity as your shoulders lower back to the floor, you’ll get more punch out of each crunch.
  3. Use mind-muscle control. Mind-muscle control refers to the feeling of connection between your mind and the muscles that are being worked. By mentally focusing on your abdominal muscles while performing a crunch, you can can greatly increase the level of intensity.
  4. Avoid interlocking fingers behind your head. Interlocking fingers is more likely to result in your head being pulled forward (remember to keep that apple under your chin!). Instead, place your fingers by your ears or cross arms over your chest.
  5. Magnify your crunch with modifications. If you want to take your crunches to the next level, try elevating your heels so that they’re a foot off of the floor – essentially bringing your legs into tabletop position. Alternatively, try reaching your arms straight up, as though your palms were reaching through the ceiling.
  6. Don’t anchor your feet. Forget what you learned in elementary school. Anchoring your feet under something heavy shifts the focus from your abs to your hips. It’s also more likely to cause strain by overextending and/or arching your back.
  7. Breathe. Don’t hold your breath! Instead, incorporate rhythmic breathing into your ab work. Exhale on the way up and inhale on the way down.

If you’re looking to spice up your ab workout, then check out my Davey Wavey Six Pack Program. You’ll get five, 12-minute ab workouts to perform each day of the workweek and a slew of great materials. And use discount code “blog” to save 25% during checkout.

Enjoy!

Almond Milk Vs. Rice Milk: Which is Healthier?

Hey Davey,

I recently switched from cow’s milk to non-dairy alternatives, but I was wondering: Is rice milk or almond milk a healthier option?

Thanks,
Luke

rice milkHey Luke,

There are some pretty big differences between rice milk and almond milk – not the least of which is taste. Personally, I much prefer the rich and creamy taste/texture of almond milk.

Aside from taste, almond milk tends to be lower in calories, carbohydrates and sugar – but often richer in nutrients. As a point of comparison, the unsweetened almond milk that I buy contains only 30 calories, zero grams of sugar and 2 carbohydrates. A serving of rice milk, on the other hand, contains 120 calories, 10 grams of sugar and 23 carbohydrates. That’s a fairly large difference.

When it comes to nutrients, keep in mind that most commercial non-dairy milks are fortified with added calcium, vitamin D, vitamin E, etc. But if you’re making your almond or rice milk at home, almond milk is richer in naturally occurring nutrients.

Speaking of making milk at home, did you know that almond milk is actually very simple to make – and that it only has two ingredients? It’s super easy.

You’ll need one cup of raw almonds for every two cups of water.

Start by soaking almonds overnight, and then rinse them off. Add the cup of almonds (which will have expanded overnight) to the two cups of water in a blender. Blend on high speed for a few minutes and then strain the mixture with cheesecloth. Press out any of the extra liquid from the cheesecloth and then store in the refrigerator. It should keep for a few days.

Making your own almond milk is cheap, easy and you’ll know exactly what went into it.

Enjoy!

Failure Isn’t an Option – It’s a Step.

tumblr_m6jcsbPvst1r3v6qfo1_500Let’s talk about failure.

When it comes to fitness, the gym, losing weight – or really, life in general – many of us are afraid of failure. As I’ve said before, I don’t believe in failure. I believe in results. When we do something, we produce results. In the absence of judgment, those results are neither bad nor good.

There’s a famous story about success and failure that goes something like this: Thomas Edison failed more than 1,000 times when trying to invent the light bulb. When asked about it, Edison allegedly said, “I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb.”

Whether or not it’s true, the story points to a very real truth. When we set out to transform our bodies, we sometimes experience setbacks and challenges. But these obstacles aren’t failures; in fact, they’re an important part of our fitness journey. And sometimes these so-called failures are really just important steps over which we must climb to get where we want to be.

When I first decided to run a five minute mile, I threw up trying. Was this failure? No, it was part of the process. In fact, I failed for nearly two months. On day 58, I finished my mile run in 4:58. You could say that I failed 57 times, but looking back, it’s much more accurate to say that these failed attempts were an integral part of my progress.You won’t fail at the gym. Sure, you’ll experience challenges – we all do. But you’ll pick yourself up, learn from your experiences, and drive yourself forward harder and smarter than before.Free yourself from the fear of failure. Let. It. Go.

Top 3 Most Effective Chest Exercises!

shirtless chest pressStrong and developed chest muscles don’t just look sexy, they’re essential to a wide-range of everyday activities and can help boost athletic performance. If building chest muscles is in line with your fitness goals, it begs the question: Which exercises are the most effective?

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) enlisted the help of researchers from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse to study the effectiveness of various chest exercises including the barbell bench press, pec deck machine, bent-forward cable crossovers, chest press machine, inclined dumbbell flys, dips, suspended push-ups, stability ball push-ups and standard push-ups.

For the study, participants included fourteen healthy men between the ages of 18 and 30 for which baselines were established. Electromyography (EMG) electrodes were placed on the pectoralis major muscle of each subject to analyze motor-unit recruitment, firing rate and synchronization. Using this data, researchers were able to determine which exercises resulted in the highest levels of muscle activation.

Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 9.52.10 AMAfter pouring through the data, researchers concluded that the barbell bench press was the most effective exercise. The pec deck machine and bent-forward cable crossovers came in as a close second and third, respectively. (See chart at right for the full listing of exercises.)

If your goal is hypertrophy (muscle size) and if you’re able to commit a to several days of exercise per week, then the barbell bench press can’t be beat.

However, if you’re more interested in overall health, functional strength or don’t go to the gym daily, then don’t write off some of the lower-performing exercises altogether. Though push-ups, for example, don’t result in the highest levels of chest muscle activation, they’re a great exercise that works several different muscle groups and that results in real-world strength.

All of these chest exercises can play a useful role in your workout routine; it’s just a matter of customizing your regimen based on your goals and time commitments.

 

 

 

I Want 8% Body Fat.

Hey Davey,

I am a 27 year old male who is 6’3” and 240 pounds. Ideally, I’d like to slim down and get a body like yours with 8% – 9% body fat. My question is: What does your typical day’s diet and gym plan look like?

Sincerely,
Derrick

different-body-fat-percentageHey Derrick,

It’s great that you’d like to slim down, but comparing your body to the results of someone else can be a very dangerous game. In your fitness journey, you’ll need to discover what works best for you – and not what works best for someone else, like me.

Moreover, I my gym commitment is significant; if you’re just starting out, it’s unrealistic to sustain nine hours a week at the gym (6x a week at 90 minutes per session). You’ll burn yourself out. It’s much better to start small and then slowly build up over time. After all, I’ve been working out regularly for 13 years.

Having said all of that, I will share my typical gym and diet plan with the understanding that it’s probably not the best or most realistic plan for everyone.

  • 6AM: Wake-up – Half whey protein shake and banana
  • 7AM: Gym – 90 minutes total (25 minutes cardio / 65 minutes strength training)
  • 9AM: Breakfast – Whey protein shake and cereal with almond milk
  • Noon: Lunch – Typically chicken or turkey sandwich on wheat bread with steamed vegetables
  • Evening activity – A few times per week, I’ll increase my physical activity with an afternoon hike, rock climbing, Pilates class or gymnastics.
  • 6:30 PM: Dinner – Typically salad, steamed vegetables and lean meat
  • 9PM: Snack – Varies, apples with peanut butter or casein protein smoothie or fresh berries, etc.

That’s it. In a nutshell, my motto is move more and eat smarter – and that’s exactly what I do. Of course, I still give myself a day off from the gym each week, and there certainly are days where my diet deviates from the above outline. You need to live – but, by and large, I do right by my body.

 

Is Boiling Vegetables Bad?

steamed-vegetablesThough the government recommends 2 1/2 cups of vegetables per day, most of us get less than half that. So any effort to eat more vegetables is a good thing.

But not all cooking methods are created equal. Certainly, deep frying isn’t advisable. Neither is sauteing vegetables in copious amounts of butter. But how does boiling stack up?

Though an obvious improvement over grease or butter, boiling vegetables isn’t always the best route. If you place veggies that are high in water-soluble vitamins (like vitamin B, vitamin C or folate) into hot water, the vitamins will leach out. If you’re making a soup, then it’s no big deal; you’ll be consuming the vitamin-rich broth. But if you’re draining the water and then eating the vegetables, you’re losing much of the benefit.

In fact, a Danish study looked a the effect of boiling on broccoli. Because it’s high in water-soluble vitamin C, researchers discovered that boiled broccoli retains only 45% – 64% of it’s initial vitamin C content. Though the numbers will vary from vegetable to vegetable, it’s clear that boiling can have a significant negative impact on the foods we eat.

So what’s the smarter alternative?

The same study found that steamed broccoli, on the other hand, kept 83% – 100% of it’s vitamin C content. Rather than leaching out into the water, steamed vegetables retain the majority of their vitamin content. And if you don’t have a steamer, I once learned a simple trick. Fill a pot with an inch of water, and then place two inches worth of old forks at the bottom. Place the veggies atop the forks and let the water boil! Alternatively, you can always steam veggies in the microwave.

The bottom line: Almost all of us need to eat more vegetables. And steamed veggies are the best option for maximized health benefits.

Are Protein Bars Good for Building Muscle?

pure-protein-barsYou’ve probably seen countless rows, boxes and packages of protein bars at your neighborhood gym or health food store. They’re convenient, easy and loaded with as much as 50 grams of protein. As such, they’re a popular choice for gym-goers and exercise enthusiasts – especially after a hard workout. But are they really healthy? Are they good for building muscle? And is there a better alternative?

First things first, it’s important not to paint all protein bars with the same broad brush. Indeed, there’s a full spectrum of options available – and the nutritional content varies greatly from product to product. BUT, for the most part, protein bars are highly processed and loaded with added sugar, unhealthy fats and several hundred calories. Whether stuffed with nougat or dipped in chocolate, eating a protein bar isn’t that unlike consuming a high-protein candy bar. It’s like a Snickers bar on steroids. Which is probably why they taste so good.

Though most Americans get more than enough protein, additional protein supplementation is sometimes necessary for individuals that lift often and hard. Especially after a good workout, ingesting protein is important so that your body can rebuild and repair the damaged muscles. In fact, it is by this process that our muscles grow larger. The quicker this post-workout protein is absorbed into your body, the better. Added ingredients – and fats, in particular – can really slow down the body’s absorption of protein. Because many protein bars are rich in fats and thus slow to absorb, they’re not the best post-workout protein option.

So what’s a better alternative?

Most exercisers opt for a shake made of powdered whey protein mixed with water. Pure whey protein, especially in the absence of other nutrients, gets absorbed quickly and gives the body exactly what it needs. Though a whey protein shake isn’t as delicious as a chewy, gooey protein bar, it’s a definite nutritional upgrade—and has less than half the calories. And from a cost perspective, protein powders are significantly cheaper.

The bottom line: Save those protein bars for the occasional treat—and resist the temptation to make them a regular part of your diet.

Get Yours Today: Davey Wavey’s Six Pack Program!

abs1I have big news!

For the last few weeks, I’ve been hinting at my brand-new workout program. And today, I’m excited to finally launch it! Introducing Davey Wavey’s Six Pack Program.

If you’ve ever wanted a lean and defined core, then you’re not alone. The problem is, most people don’t understand how to make it happen. That’s why I created Davey Wavey’s Six Pack Program. This program and the accompanying workout videos take all the guesswork away!

This program includes:

  • 5 professionally-filmed ab workout videos starring Davey Wavey. You’ll have a different jam-packed, core-carving workout video for each day of the workweek. In fact, you can even watch a free preview below.
  • An e-Book titled Davey Wavey’s Guide to Six Pack Success. Written by Davey Wavey, this guide explains all the six pack secrets – from nutrition and exercises to strategies for success.
  • A slew of bonuses including motivation tips, six pack-friendly meal recipes, tips to stay lean while traveling and healthy smoothie recipes.

As a thank you for being a part of my work, I have a very special discount for you. Use discount code “blog” during checkout to save 25%. This coupon expires June 26 at midnight, so don’t delay. AND, if you order before June 26, you’ll also receive Size Matters: Davey Wavey’s Foolproof Guide to Building Muscle (a $59 value) for free!

(Already have Size Matters and don’t need another copy? Send me an email at davey@daveywaveyfitness.com to get a 50% discount on Davey Wavey’s Six Pack Program.)

It’s time to create the flat, defined stomach and rock-hard abs that you’ve always wanted. Together, let’s do this!

Thanks for including me as part of your fitness journey.

Love,
Davey Wavey

P.S. Remember to use discount code “blog” during checkout to save 25%.  But you better hurry! This special offer ends midnight on June 26.

What Makes Someone Physically Fit?

Dear Davey,

Everyone talks about getting ‘fit’ but what exactly is ‘fit’ and how do you know when you have become ‘fit’? Is fitness a good BMI, fantastic looking body (like yours), low weight, being able to cycle for miles non stop or something else?

Thanks,
Jonathan

Hey Jonathan,

I love your question! And it speaks to the importance of structuring your program around a solid goal.

In the past, I’ve written about the necessity of S.M.A.R.T. goals. That is, goals that are:

  1. Specific: Goals should be laser-focused.
  2. Measurable: Whenever possible, attach real-world numbers to your goals. This could mean pounds, kilos, inches or clothing sizes.
  3. Attainable: A good goal should be achievable with hard work and dedication – but rooted in reason. Don’t make it too difficult. Conversely, don’t make it too easy.
  4. Relevant: The goal needs to be important to you. If it’s not important, you won’t stick with it.
  5. Timely: Attach a date to your goal. Rather than wanting to lose 10 pounds of fat, say that you want to lose 10 pounds of fat in 60 days.

With S.M.A.R.T. goals in mind, your question illustrates the problem of saying you’d like to become fit. For starters, it’s not specific, measurable or timely. So let’s turn “fit” into a smart goal.

body fat percentagesThough true physical fitness takes many complicated factors into consideration (such as cardiorespiratory endurance, muscle strength, muscle endurance, flexibility, balance, etc.), there is an easier way to cut to the point. It involves body fat percentages.

Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Essential fat: 10% – 13% for women, 2% – 5% for men
  • Athletes: 14% – 20% for women, 6% – 13% for men
  • Fitness: 21% – 24% for women, 14 – 17% for men
  • Average: 25% – 31% for women, 18 – 24% for men
  • Obese: 32+% for women, 25+% for men

Though body fat percentages don’t consider every aspect of physical fitness, they’re a great place to start. And it’s easy to create a smart goal around body fat percentages. For example, you could say,  “I want to achieve 15% body fat by December 31.”

With that S.M.A.R.T. goal in mind, you can certainly structure a fitness program to make it happen!

I hope that helps!

Love,
Davey

 

But when most people use the word fit, they’re referring to an in-shape individual with a low percentage of body fat.

 

Which Foods Burn the Most Calories?

Foods rich in protein - like the fish pictured here - tend to burn more calories than carbohydrates.

Foods rich in protein – like the fish pictured here – tend to burn more calories than foods rich in carbohydrates or fats.

I get a lot of questions asking which foods burn the most calories. What these questions are really asking about is the thermic effect of food and how it can be manipulated to help achieve fat loss goals.

The thermic effect of food refers to the amount of energy (i.e. calories) that the body expends to process, use and store the foods we eat. In general, it’s estimated that most people will burn about 10% of their daily caloric intake through this process. In other words, a person eating 2,000 calories per day will probably burn off about 200 of them through the thermic effect of food.

But, as it turns out, this number can be manipulated simply by shifting the composition of the foods we eat.

For fats and carbohydrates, somewhere between 5% and 15% of the calories are burned off due to the thermic effect of food. For proteins, that number is somewhere between 20% and 35%. Using this math, you might expect to burn 25 – 75 calories from a hypothetical 500 calorie meal of pure fat or carbs. But for a pure protein meal of 500 calories, the number could be as high as 175.

Simply by shifting to foods richer in protein, dieters can expect to benefit from an increased calorie burn due to the thermic effect of food. Of course, the benefit is still relatively small – but every calorie counts!

In general, I’d encourage dieters to spend more time and energy on creating a calorie deficit (more calories out than in) through a smarter diet (more plants, less fatty meats, appropriate portions, whole grains, etc.) and increased physical activity… and not getting too caught up in consuming foods that burn more calories.

Does Yoga Make You Smarter?

044ASP361528It’s no secret that I love yoga. And for good reason. Yoga has been associated with a number of health benefits including flexibility, strength, posture, decreased stress and more.

But a new study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health is giving us new insight into the impact of yoga on brain performance. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign subjected 30 female students to 20-minute bouts of either yoga or aerobic exercise. For the aerobic exercise, participants performed at 60% – 70% of the their maximum; this range, according to previous studies, has been associated with improved cognitive performance.

The result? The yoga was far more effective than the aerobic exercise. According to one researcher:

It appears that following yoga practice, the participants were better able to focus their mental resources, process information quickly, more accurately and also learn, hold and update pieces of information more effectively than after performing an aerobic exercise bout.

But why? Researchers aren’t quite sure, but it’s easy to speculate. Because yoga is meditative, it tends to quite the mind. And a quiet mind free from distractions means an improved ability to focus.

When I was in school, I remember my yoga professor using the analogy of dropping a stone into a pond. If the pond is turbulent, the stone will fall in unnoticed. But if the pond is still, the stone will create waves that ripple all the way across the surface. In the same way, quiet minds are more aware and function more effectively than what she called “monkey minds.”

Though more research is clearly needed to fully explore this correlation, it just might make sense to kick off your next study session with a little bit of yoga. And I think that my Underwear Yoga program is perfect for the job. 🙂