Is the Fat Burning Zone a Mythical Creature?

My husband I were recently discussing a similar topic so I thought I would re-share this blog post from 2017.

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Is the Fat Burning Zone a mythical creature?

It must be! Otherwise, all those people plodding along on the treadmills at the gym would be in great shape. Like a beautiful, sparkly unicorn, we want to believe that it exists but the concept of the fat burning zone has been regularly misinterpreted and misunderstood.

The fat burning zone theory is that lower intensity exercise, at about 55% – 70% of maximum heart rate, burns more fat. Basically, your body burns more fat at a lower intensity of aerobic exercise than it does at a higher intensity. This sounds good in theory. After all why work harder if you don’t have to, right?

The misinterpretation of this theory happens because there is a difference between percentage of fat burned vs. actual fat burned. In reality, you burn a higher percentage of fat at lower intensities but generally more fat overall at higher intensities. Your body draws energy from two sources, fat and glycogen or stored carbohydrates. The percentages of these two fuel sources vary depending on the intensity of your exercise.

At a lower intensity, you may burn 60% of total calories from fat. And at a higher intensity only 45% of total calories from fat. On the surface, that seems like lower intensity would be better. But at a higher intensity you burn more calories OVERALL which bumps your actual fat calories up even though the percentage is lower.

For example:

 

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The numbers above are just for example purposes but hopefully, you get the point. Percentage vs. actual are very different. Lower intensity exercise has its place in a workout program but if you’re relying on it to help you burn fat, it’s not the best idea. Circuit or interval workouts are efficient and help you burn more calories in less time.

Click here to get a FREE PDF download of high intensity workouts you can do right in your living room!

Stop searching for the mythical creature! To truly burn maximum fat, focus on building muscle with a comprehensive strength training program and healthy eating habits. These will do far more to help you reach your goals then chasing the unicorn at the end of the treadmill!

Happy Exercising!

P.S. If you want help creating an effective exercise program, check out my monthly coaching services here.

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4 Tips for Dealing with Back Pain

If you’re anything like me (almost 46) your low back doesn’t always cooperate with how old you think you are, or feel you are, or wish you were!

I injured my low back in college (tip: don’t jump off a bunkbed) and that combined with my abysmal hip and hamstring flexibility makes me feel like I’m 100 years old when I wake up in the morning. Some days it takes me a good 20 minutes to be able to move fluidly and not look like I should be living in a bell tower.

Since I’ve lived with a creaky back for a really long time I’ve learned what works to keep my back as functional as possible. If you have a specific injury, please follow your doctor’s recommendations.

  1. Bed rest rarely works. Staying active is the best thing you can do. Regular movement improves mobility and blood flow. Stretching will keep you moving and strength training will build your back muscles to help you be able to do more. Building up your core strength will also keep your back from hurting as much in the future. When I take time off from my regular workouts, I definitely feel it.
  2. Stretching. I stretch my back every day. I’m not talking about a lengthy flexibility program (although maybe I should!). Just 30 seconds when I stand up out of bed in the morning. I bend side to side, lean over and reach for my toes, and twist right to left. It isn’t much but it helps me loosen up enough to get to the coffee. When my back gets especially bad, laying prone over an exercise ball so my body is fully supported, helps me stretch and relieves pressure on my back.
  3. Practicing proper posture. I know this is hard sometimes. Especially when you’re tired but sitting and standing straight will help protect your back and the more you practice it, the easier it will become.
  4. Not staying in one spot for too long. I spend a lot of time at my desk writing things like this blog and I have a comfortable chair but sitting in one spot all day makes my back tired and achy. I stand up every so often and stretch and move around. Sometimes I use the dictation feature so I can stand at my desk and still work.

I hate that my back injury makes me feel so old but I know I would feel so much worse if I didn’t actively care for it. Check out this page on my site for more specific stretching and strengthening exercises.

Happy Exercising!

P.S. I can help you with a specific program to strengthen your back if you deal with daily pain. Contact me so we can chat.

3 Signs You’re Not Lifting Enough Weight

fitness-594143_1280Your fitness plan is (or should be) an ongoing process, not a deadline and strength training in particular is meant to be progressive. The way to build strength is to overload your muscles so they are forced to adapt and get stronger. Sometimes, though we get complacent with our routine. It’s easier to stick with what you know and what you’re comfortable with than to change up what you’re doing. But….if you’re not seeing results or if your strength training plan is stagnant, something needs to change.

Here are 3 signs you need to increase the weight your lifting.

  1. You could lift your current weight forever. If you count your reps to 10 and stop just because you reached 10, you might need to increase the weight. You don’t need to push your muscles to complete failure with every single set but if you get to 10 reps and could probably do 10 more without even blinking, you need to up the weight. Your strength training routine should be challenging and that means you should be lifting a weight that you can only lift 8-12 times with good form.
  2. Your fitness progress has stalled. A plateau in your progress could be due to a variety of reasons so examine your overall routine carefully but one of the possibilities is not enough weight. Your muscles will eventually adapt to whatever stress you put on them and then it will no longer be a stress. If you’re not lifting heavy enough to tax the muscles then they have no reason to grow. 
  3. If you’re just going through the motions. If you’re moving through your workout mindlessly with no need to concentrate on what you’re doing then you may need to increase your weights. If you’re lifting heavy you have to concentrate to use good form and not drop the weight on your foot. So if you make your mental grocery list while squatting, it’s time to reevaluate.

Don’t be afraid of weight people! Jump start your routine with a weight increase.

If you need a strength training plan to get you started, try these.

Happy Exercising!

Let Go of Food Rules

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“Don’t eat after 8pm.” 

“Eliminate carbs to lose weight.”

“Eat every 2-3 hours.”

There are so many food rules that I’m sure you’ve heard and guess what…most of them you don’t need to follow. The moment we impose rules and restrictions on our food intake, we stop listening to our bodies. I’m not saying you should turn your nutrition plan into a free for all (there are still some recommendations to follow) but you can definitely relax a little and not stress about it so much.

Let’s discuss some of those “rules”…

“Don’t eat after 8pm.” I think a better recommendation would be “Don’t eat within 2-3 hours of bedtime.” If you go to bed at 10pm then, yeah, don’t eat after 8pm. But if your bedtime is midnight then your regular dinner time might be 8pm. We’ll talk about your sleeping habits in another post! Eating too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep by causing heartburn or interrupting the chemical process that helps you feel sleepy so adjust your last meal of the day to accommodate your normal bedtime rather than a set time on the clock.

“You have to eat every 2-3 hours.” You’ve heard the idea that eating every few hours keeps your metabolism running and your blood sugar stable and for many people this might be the right thing for them. For others, it might be too much. You may overeat just trying to fit all your meals in to your day and you could possibly develop insulin sensitivity over time. Three meals a day plus a snack before or after a workout works great for most people. If you like eating every few hours and it’s working for you, then stick with it. But if you feel like you’re forcing yourself to eat all the time, then let it go and just focus on your three squares a day.

“Eliminate carbs to lose weight.” Eliminating entire food groups is a really bad idea. Most people who lose weight on a low-carb or no-carb diet have really lost weight because they’ve cut down on calories and refined foods. I suggest replacing rather than eliminating. Replace refined, “white” foods with complex carbs like brown rice, quinoa and whole grain breads. Fruits and vegetables are also sources of complex carbs, vitamins, minerals and fiber.

“You have to drink 8 glasses of water a day.” This is a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. You might need more or less depending on what you have planned for the day. Intense workout in heat and humidity? More water! Rest day on the couch? You probably don’t need 8 glasses. Sipping water throughout the day to stay hydrated is a smart idea rather than guzzling a bottle all at once. If you are drinking water all day then you’re getting enough.

“Don’t eat a lot of fruit because it has too much sugar.” This one makes my head hurt! If you’re worried about too much sugar in your diet, fruit is not what you need to cut out. Work on reducing your simple carbs first. White bread and rice. Cookies, brownies and other pastries. Most breakfast cereals and sweet yogurts and fruit juices. Fruit in whole form has unprocessed sugar along with nutrients and fiber that you don’t get if you eat a candy bar with the same amount of sugar in it.

“You need animal products for protein.” This is another one that makes my head hurt! Protein can be found in many plant foods including vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and some grains like quinoa. Sure, animal products are a more concentrated source of protein but they are not the only source of protein. Many large animals like gorillas are herbivores. They didn’t get to be large because of their LACK of protein. Think about that for a minute. If you don’t want to consume animal products, don’t worry, you’ll get plenty of protein. If you do choose to eat animal products, just choose wisely.

Create a healthy eating plan that suits your tastes, needs and schedule and will help you reach your wellness goals but let go of “rules” that don’t work for you.

Happy Exercising!

P.S.  Did I miss any rules? Let me know some things you’ve always thought you were supposed to follow.

Using a Jump Rope for a Good Workout

There’s nothing so humble as a simple piece of rope. 

But it can do wonders for your fitness if you give it a chance. It’s an efficient, versatile and portable piece of equipment that everyone should have. You can use it at home or when you’re with your kids at the park. Take it with you when you travel and you have no more excuses to skip a workout.

 

Don’t use your kids jumprope out of the toy box. You’ll likely trip and face plant…or worse. But you also don’t have to buy an expensive rope with all kinds of bells and whistles. A simple rope with comfortable handles will do the trick. Plastic or beaded ropes are durable and add a little weight making it easier to turn. A rope with bearings in the handles will make the rope turn more smoothly. To make sure the rope is the correct size, step on the middle of it and with handles pulled up taught, they should reach your armpits.

Consider where you jump as well. Hard concrete or tile surfaces will pound your legs and joints so try to jump on carpet, grass or wood floors. Asphalt is ok but definitely better than a concrete sidewalk.

Simply jumping for 10-20 minutes will give you a great workout if you’re new to jumping rope for exercise. You can work up to longer jumping if you want or do intervals of 1 minute jumping, 1 minute rest. That alone is an excellent cardio workout and can be done almost anywhere.

If you want to get more creative you can add other types of jumping into the mix, such as backward jumps, side to side jumps and single foot jumps.

Jumping rope is commonly a conditioning workout or warmup for many athletes and can be for fitness enthusiasts as well. It’ll get your heart rate up fast and leave you breathless and sweaty in no time.

If you’re in the market for a jump rope, you can find some here.  (This is an affiliate link which means if you buy through the link, I earn money.)

Happy Exercising!

 

When to Skip the Workout

hammock-1031363_1280I’m an advocate for pushing through a lot of stuff to get a workout done. We’re all busy. We’re all tired. We’re all stressed. We’re all unmotivated sometimes. Especially at this time of year. My usual response to that is “suck it up”, even if I don’t say it out loud. Exercise (even a little bit), healthy food and knowing you’re setting a good example for the people around you will make you feel better. I promise.

That being said, there are definite times when skipping the workout is better for you than forcing it.

1. Like if you’re sick. If you’re running a fever or fighting an infection then give your body the rest it needs. If you’re at the beginning or end of a simple head cold, you can do some light exercise but still take it easy. Being sick means your body is rundown and it needs rest. If you exercise for general health and fitness, there’s no reason to push it. If you’re training for a specific event, then use your own judgement but again, if you’re sick, your body needs rest. Not more stress. Even good stress.

2. If you’re injured. Generally speaking, injuries require you to stop or at least modify your usual routine. It depends on your injury, of course, but if you feel pain or if you have to alter your good form then you need to consider skipping your workout. If the injury is serious enough then please see a doctor and follow their advice.

3. If you just finished a big event. Maybe you ran a marathon. Or did a CrossFit event or obstacle course race. Take a few days off. You earned it. There’s nothing wrong with active rest like yoga or walking but its absolutely ok to veg out on the couch for a couple of days too. Stretching and foam rolling sore, tight muscles can also make you feel better without overtaxing your body.

4. If you’re chronically sore. If you’re sore or achy all the time with regard exercise then you may be overtraining. You need a few days rest. On the other hand, if you’re sore and achy for days because you only exercise once every two weeks…more exercise is the answer. Trust me!

5. If you are absolutely, completely exhausted. This is a tricky one. Many times we convince ourselves that we’re too tired to workout and lounging in the recliner with a bag of chips sounds like a better option. A light workout can perk you up when you’re tired. However, if you are truly worn down, then you need to skip the workout. Being that tired will lead to poor form which could lead to injury.

We all have rough days when we’re busy, tired or unmotivated. Sometimes all three at once! I get it and its easy to talk yourself out of a workout but more often than not, you really will feel better by doing something. If you’re contemplating a workout, pause and take an assessment of your situation. If any of the above apply then consider skipping a day or two.

Happy Exercising!

30 Day Family Fitness Challenge

Keep your family fit and active during the holiday season. A little bit of physical activity can relieve holiday stress and refresh your spirit. This challenge starts on November 24th and goes all the way to Christmas Eve. Do all the activities with your family or just do what you can. Enjoy!

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Happy Exercising and Happy Holidays!