Weight loss is a numbers game, pure and simple. It’s a function of calories in versus calories out, and the sooner you wrap your head around this concept the sooner you’ll be on your way to leaner, meaner you. Most every diet plan talks about calories; pretty much every packaged food item in the grocery store has a nutritional profile that details the number of calories per How to count calories.serving, and calories figure prominently on every piece of cardiovascular equipment at the gym that keep track of your workout on an electronic display. When it comes to weight loss and the fitness industry, calories are ubiquitous to say the least and rightfully so. This is because they are a concrete way of measuring the energy we consume against the energy we burn, of controlling energy intake and energy expenditure. Grasping the connection between calories and losing weight is half the battle. But first comes the question, what exactly is a calorie anyway?

In simplest terms a calorie is the energy value of any given food. In more complex terms it’s defined as “a unit for measuring a quantity of heat; the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of a gram of water by one degree Celsius”, according to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. For our purposes though, let’s keep it simple and remember that every food has a certain value that is expressed in how much energy it provides us.

So, now we know what calories are and that they provide us with energy. I think most of you will already understand instinctively that it’s this energy that allows us to walk, run, do the dishes, drive to work and do pretty much any type of activity that we do in our daily lives. We consume energy through food and we expend energy through activity. This basic idea should start giving you an idea of the balancing act that goes on with the number the number of calories you take in versus the number that you burn. This is known as caloric balance and is a useful way of determining whether your food intake and activity level will lead to weight loss, weight gain or maintaining the status quo.

Losing Weight

Understanding your caloric balance is the key when it comes to losing weight. Once you can assign the food you eat a number, and once you can assign the activity you do a number, figuring out how many calories you need for losing weight becomes a matter of simple math. Here are some examples to clear things up;

Maintenance (No change is body weight)

  • Calories consumed during the day = 1700
  • Calories expended during the day = 1700

Everything is balanced so there won’t be any change in your overall weight.

Weight Gain

  • Calories consumed during the day = 1700
  • Calories expended during the day = 1400

You’ve eaten more calories than you actually burned during the day, therefore those excess calories will be stored as fat. Although the difference between the number of calories eaten and burned may be quite small, over time they do add up, generally to about 10 pounds per decade past the age of 30 if things aren’t kept in check.

Weight Loss

Calories consumed during the day = 1700

Calories expended during the day = 2000

Here, the number of calories you’ve taken in is slightly less than your overall energy expenditure. This means that you’ve used up all of the energy you’ve taken in for the day, plus a little bit extra (from stored body fat). This is where you want to be.

The How of Calculating Calories

Calculating your daily caloric needs need not be complicated. Health Canada provides an easily readable chart here; http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/basics-base/1_1_1-eng.php#fn3 to help you figure out an estimate of how many calories you need daily. The issue with these type of charts is that there is room for interpretation regarding what constitutes being “sedentary”, “low active” or “active”. So I would suggest taking these types of readings with a grain of salt.

On the other end of the spectrum is the equation for calculating Basal Metabolic Rate (how many calories your body burns in a day). It can be found here; http://www.livestrong.com/article/34697-formula-calculate-daily-caloric-intake/. Taking the time do this equation is worthwhile as it is a more accurate indicator of your overall activity levels and the number of calories needed to fuel your particular activity level.

So, now you know what a calorie is, the importance of caloric balance in promoting weight loss and how to calculate the number of calories you need daily. The next step is to understand how many calories are found in the foods that you eat every day. A good start is at http://caloriecount.about.com/foods. Chart out your daily eating habits for a couple of weeks or a month so you can get a feel for your average consumption rates. From there you can look at the charts and see how many calories you’re taking in versus what the ideal is for someone with your activity level. You can then adjust the number of calories you’re eating based on what the numbers say.

The trick here is to maintain high nutrition levels while cutting back on some calories at the same time. The easiest thing to do at the beginning of the process is to purge your diet of junk food, fast food and highly processed food. This doesn’t necessarily have to happen all at once, but eliminating each of these types of food systematically will bring down the calorie numbers substantially. Training yourself to choose lower fat, less processed foods is a bit of an art and takes some practice. Check out the following link to learn how to read nutritional profiles http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/label-etiquet/nutrition/cons/fact-fiche-eng.php. You’ll soon discover that the muffin you just bought or the granola bars you were eyeing are not quite the healthy alternatives you thought they might be.

Once you’ve removed the “offending” foods from your diet and gotten a handle on how many calories you need daily, you can then look at your activity levels as a means of burning more calories over and above those that have been eliminated through cleaning up your diet. This combination cleaner diet, an accurate idea of how many calories you require and higher activity levels will lead very quickly to a new and healthier you. There’s no time like the present to change your life forever.

Losing weight is a difficult proposition at the best of times. It’s often an uphill battle, especially if it’s your first time trying to make sense of the multitude of fad diets and trying to wrap your mind around the hundreds of workout routines and weight loss programs out there. You can be forgiven for feeling a little overwhelmed sometimes. Luckily, as gravity or E=MC2 are fundamental unarguable truths about our physical universe, there are fundamental unarguable truths about losing weight that when taken into consideration can make the battle much easier to win.

As you’ve no doubt already noticed the fitness industry is booming and the marketing machine is working overtime. You can’t turn on the TV without seeing the latest infomercials touting the newest and best workout routines, weight loss programs, or health products. Stop by your local chain bookstore and browse the fitness section and you’ll find hundreds of titles dedicated to making you stronger, slimmer, bigger and leaner, among dozens of other physical attributes ending in “e-r” that the fitness industry thinks you should find important.

The truth behind the hundreds of millions of dollars spent annually on coaxing, prodding and guilting you to part with large sums of your hard earned money in exchange for a hard earned body is that most diet books, infomercials and weight loss articles are actually saying the same thing. Strip away the marketing veneer and what you’re left with are a few unarguable, fundamental truths about weight loss that apply to everyone, all the time. They aren’t complicated and they aren’t earth shattering, but they are true. Unfortunately, the fitness industry in its zeal to continue making millions, has tricked people into believing that the secret code to physical perfection lies only with a few gifted individuals. Let’s debunk this myth right now. Understand and follow the weight loss do’s and don’ts below and you’ll know a least 70% of what you have to in order to beat the bulge and lose that belly fat forever.

Do’s

Drink water – Water keeps your metabolism, namely your kidneys and liver, working efficiently to break down and remove waste from the body. This allows more efficient fat burning. Water also plays a role in thermogenesis, a process that increases body temperature, therefore increasing your metabolic rate and finally burning more calories at rest.

Eat your vegetables – Fibre is the key with vegetables. A high fibre intake will leave you feeling full longer therefore reducing your overall caloric intake. Eating a high veggie diet will also keep your metabolism revved up longer therefore allowing calories to be burned for a longer period of time. So don’t be shy and make leafy green and multi coloured cruciferous vegetables a big part of your daily diet.

Eat fat – To beat fat you have to eat fat. The fats found in cold water fish (salmon, mackerel), avocados, almonds and olive oil all play a beneficial role in regulating your appetite. There is some discussion that these type of “fatty” foods help increase thermogenesis, therefore forcing the body to burn more calories at rest. The heart healthy and anti-inflammatory benefits of such foods can’t be ignored either as a sick or injured athlete isn’t going to be spending their time hitting the gym or going for a run.

Take your time – Be the turtle, slow and steady wins the race. Impatience can be a killer when it comes to staying consistent on a diet and achieving your goals. The key is to work in manageable chunks with defined goals attached to each one so that you never get overwhelmed and you know ahead of time that the timeline is reasonable. Choosing to lose 6-8 pounds through diet and exercise over the course of one month is a reasonable and attainable goal. Physically and mentally a goal of this size shouldn’t be overly taxing which means you would stand a good chance of achieving it. On the other hand, working to lose 30 pounds in one month would undoubtedly leave you feeling physically and mentally exhausted, with no reasonable chance of achieving your goal. Patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to weight loss programs.

Eliminate processed foods and sugary drinks – There is perhaps no easier way of improving your odds of success while following a diet plan than eliminating processed foods and sugar-laden drinks from your daily diet. Highly processed foods such as cakes and sweets, luncheon meats, sugary cereals and all fast foods (except the salads) do nothing but ravage your body with high levels of high fructose corn syrup, sodium and countless unpronounceable ingredients added for taste, colour and preservation. Scale these items way back and you’ve already done yourself a huge favour. Also, be wary of fruit juices and “energy” drinks that promote fluid replacement during exercise. Basically, they are the same thing, sugar water. A fruit juice like orange juice would even be the better choice, especially if it has the pulp. The bottom line is stick to water to remain hydrated. One final weight loss tip, imagine your grocery story like a doughnut (ironically enough), spend 90% of your time on the perimeter because that’s where the fruits and veggies, milk products, meat, fish and grains are usually found. Virtually all the processed foods are located in the doughnut’s hole, in the isles, so cruise there sparingly.

Don’ts

Skip the protein – Eating the right combination and an abundance of amino acids builds muscle. Since amino acids are the building blocks of protein you have to get enough. There is a lot of talk about protein amounts regarding muscle growth, fat loss and fat gain. Some say athletes should consume 2-3 times their body-weight in grams of protein in order to build mass (i.e. eating 300 grams of protein for a 150 lb. individual). Others say extra protein isn’t necessary, so don’t worry about it too much. In the end, keep it around the middle, consume about your body-weight in grams of protein and you’ll avoid muscle loss while dieting ad will build some muscle as well.

Focus on the scale – For far too long the scale has been the “go to” device when it came to dieting. Fortunately, times have changed and the scale has pretty much gone the way of the dodo. Your diet plan should have you get a skin fold test to determine your ratio of lean mass to fat mass. Other than weighing yourself in a tub of water, this is the most accurate method of determining how much muscle and fat you have. Focus on your body’s ratio of lean to fat mass and simply looking in the mirror, those two ways are pretty good indicators. Scales distort the fact and give inaccurate information. They don’t take into account the differences between muscle weight, bone weight and fat weight. Stop using one and move on.

Skip meals – Never skip meals, period. You may think you’re doing yourself a favour, but you’re not. You’re body is very smart. It can tell when there’s a lack of calories coming in and it’s first response to this assumed calorie deficit is to hold on to any body fat you have in order to ensure that there is enough energy for it to function correctly. Did you get that? Your body will keep your body so that it doesn’t starve. The only way it will release this fat is by feeling that there are enough calories coming in. This is why yo-yo dieting doesn’t work. Your body feels like there are going to be lean times ahead so it protects itself by keeping all the energy stores it has. Therefore it becomes nearly impossible for you burn this fat as you’re fighting against your body’s own survival mechanism. Just eat 4-5 small, well-balanced snacks and meals a day and maybe a small protein shake after your workout and this shouldn’t be an issue.

Eliminate carbohydrates – Not entirely true, eliminate simple, processed carbs and you’re getting the picture. Cakes, cookies, pies, candy; anything made with a lot of white sugar is a no-no 95% of the time. You actually want to keep some carbs in your diet, but make sure they are of the complex variety; oatmeal, whole grain breads, whole grain rice, whole grain pasta’s sweet potatoes, etc. The key with complex carbs is portion size. Remember, just because it’s healthy doesn’t mean it can’t help you gain fat. Moderate portion sizes are important here, although I know the temptation of heading back for a second helping of spaghetti and meatballs. Complex carbs are important because of the fiber they bring to your diet plan. So don’t eliminate them, just control them.

Listen to Fad diets – Fad diets are a dime a dozen. Some may work, some may not. The fact of the matter is that nothing will beat intense exercise coupled with a balanced diet containing complex carbs, healthy fats and lean proteins. Stick to this equation and you’ll be fine. Whether it’s the Grapefruit Diet, Atkins, The Zone Diet or the South Beach Diet, stick to the basic principles listed in this article and they become irrelevant.

Eat well, but eat smart and losing weight is easy as one, two, three.

 

 

There’s a scam afoot my friends, and if you’re currently a card carrying gym member I have some bad news for you, you’ve already been had. But really, are you to blame? The North American commercial gym industry spends millions yearly to entice earnest, well-meaning people such as yourself through their doors. How could anyone
Home gym personal trainerrightly refuse? Just a quick glance through any gym brochure will yield numerous offers which are just too enticing to ignore; free personal training sessions, supplement discounts in the official gym store, free smoothies at the official gym smoothie bar, free tanning sessions, spa discounts, free gym towels and bags, discounted rates for referring a friend, body transformation challenges for prize money, the list goes on and on! It’s little wonder that collectively commercial gyms make hundreds of millions of dollars yearly, and all on the backs of regular people just trying to improve their overall health.

If you’ve been “swindled” by one of these franchised, commercial enterprises, please don’t be hard on yourself, just know there are alternatives. Alternatives that provide more bang for the buck than any gym ever could. Alternatives that allow you to be strong, healthy and fit, without becoming a hostage to commercial enterprise. Alternatives that require little or no time, money or space, and allow you to live your life free from perpetual bondage. Alternatives that can actually be found in the comfort of your own home. Yes, it’s true; everything that you could ever ask for from a commercial gym is available in your own home. Let’s skip the gym tonight and look at why you should consider dumping the membership and start flying solo as your own personal trainer. I promise you’ll be happy you did.

Money

I have yet to meet anyone who wouldn’t like to save a few dollars, especially considering the economy over the last few years. I’m going to strongly suggest that money handed over to commercial gyms is a waste of your hard-earned money. At first glance costs may not seem that high, but let’s break it down and see how much you could be saving.

Depending on the type of facility you attend prices will vary, but a good average is probably about $1000.00/year. That’s not to mention gas if you have to drive there, maybe another $200.00 per year. What about the fancy workout gear and sneakers you bought? Let’s add another $200.00 for the year, and this isn’t even taking into account any supplements you might decide to indulge in. So, our grand total for the year is $1400.00. Now, $1400.00 isn’t necessarily a bank-breaking amount, but here’s the thing, what if you maintain your membership for 5 years? You’re looking at a minimum of $7000.00! As far as investments go a retirement savings plan would probably yield better returns.

It just doesn’t make sense to give away that much of your money for the “privilege” of using exercise equipment and showers. For me, the choice is easy; spend a smaller amount upfront, maybe $1500.00, and create a small home gym. Take a look at some of the economically smart home gym alternatives below:

Cardiovascular Training

There’s a ton of variety when it comes to choosing a cardio machine, and it really just comes down to preference and price. Treadmills, Recumbent Stationary Bikes, Elliptical Machines, Stairclimbers, Stepmills, Versa Climbers, Treadclimbers, Stationary Bikes and Rowing Machines, the list goes on. I might suggest just going for a brisk walk or run instead, you’ll save the money and the fresh air does wonders. Losing weight doesn’t have to be complicated.

Strength Training – For home gym purposes, I strongly believe there is no better choice than the kettlebell. It is the MacGyver of the strength training world. It’s versatile, relatively inexpensive and takes up less than a square foot of space when stored. As a matter of fact, you could easily build a complete home gym centered on the kettlebell for under $300.00. Not to mention that cardio done with a kettlebell can easily rival any benefits offered from a cardio machine.

Flexibility Training

If stretching plays a regular part in your routine then just having a basic yoga mat will be fine. If you’re looking at stretching under tension you could pick up some elastic tubing to create the tension for you. Also, a stability ball of some size can be a benefit if you incorporate those types of movements into your workout routines.

Exercise Videos – Both the benefit and problem with exercise videos is variety. There are literally hundreds on the market, from videos made by laypersons all the way up the fitness food chain to celebrity trainers. It’s a tough call as TV marketing would have you think each one is the next best thing.

My advice here is simple; look for videos that require hard work, offer a variety of exercises and programs, with a specified time commitment required. A video that meets these requirements will force you out of your comfort zone and push you to excel, keep you from getting bored or stagnant, and give you a “finish line” to aim for so you can keep motivated. But the beauty is that for a very small investment of under $100.00 you can literally transform yourself in a relatively short period, without ever leaving the comfort of your TV room.

Time

The beauty of having a home gym is that you’re in control of your schedule. It never closes and is always there when you need it. It provides the ultimate in flexibility and convenience. This is especially true if your life is busy and you have a lot of commitments. For working parents who find it difficult to take the time to get out to a commercial facility, a home gym makes perfect sense.

Sometimes, it’s really just a matter of grabbing a quick 20 minute workout while the kids are napping, or getting home from work and doing a few kettlebell exercises in between supper and the kids’ soccer practice. The point is that it’s there when you need it. Whether it’s after work, at four in the morning or at midnight, with a home gym the excuses for not being able to find the time really do melt away.

Productivity

Unfortunately, there are a large number of gym-goers out there that believe that a home gym won’t provide them with the results they’re looking for. What everyone needs to realize is that there are only a small number of factors that actually lead to progress; hard work, progressive resistance on an intelligent workout routine, a proper diet plan and a regular time commitment. It’s very basic stuff, but let’s dig a little deeper:

Hard Work

If you want to succeed you’ll need to break a sweat and put it some effort, accept and embrace this fact. But the beauty is that hard work isn’t location dependent  If you’re motivated then giving 100% in your training will happen regardless of where it’s taking place.

Progressive Resistance

No matter your goals; strength, endurance, flexibility, they all require that you push yourself a little bit more each time you train. Resistance can be manipulated several ways including weight lifted, speed of lift, time under tension, rest periods, etc. Again, all these factors are simply dependent on a smart workout routine, perfectly doable in your own home gym.

Proper Diet Plan

This one’s a no-brainer and is also goal dependent. Suffice it to say you do the majority of your eating at home, not at the gym, so this has no bearing on where you train, but a solid diet plan is a must.

Regular Time Commitment

You’ve got to exercise regularly, “use it or lose it” as the expression goes. Three to four times per week works for most, but there’s room for variation here again dependent on your goals. The benefits of a home gym are obvious when you figure that you might have to leave the house three, four or five times a week to hit the gym. When also you consider the time it takes to change, pack your stuff, drive there, grab your towel, show your membership, dump your stuff in a locker, workout, shower, drive home, unpack, the idea of throwing on a pair of sweats and grabbing a workout in your own home gym becomes pretty appealing, especially if you’re doing it periodically throughout the week.

The beauty with these factors is that they can be implemented anywhere with the most basic equipment. They’re not specific to commercial gyms or fitness facilities. A home gym can provide all of these factors without all the added fluff that comes along with costly memberships. Not to mention you know have the keys that any personal trainer working in a commercial facility would have.

When it comes to efficiency, effective use of time and money saving, home gyms really are the ticket. They’re inexpensive to set up, don’t have to take up much space and can provide all the benefits of a commercial gym without all the distractions. I hope you’ll consider working out at home and becoming your own personal trainer.