Three Components to Weight Management

All the diet fads, all the lose weight quick workout routines, all the magic pills, are simple…but unhelpful to most people in losing weight. The real truth is also simple: If you take in more calories than you expend, your body will store it as fat and you will gain weight. If you expend more calories than you take in, your body will burn fat, and you will lose weight. This is so simple and true that it is a fundamental law of physics: the First Law of Thermodynamics, also known as the Law of Conservation of Energy. Energy can never be created or destroyed—it just changes forms. Incidentally, a “calorie” on a food label is nothing more than a metric unit of energy. It’s the amount of energy it takes to raise one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius. Because it’s a measure of energy, therefore, calories don’t go away. They get converted to energy when you move, or get stored in fat to be used later. (This is why fat has 9 calories per gram, as opposed to proteins and carbohydrates which have 4 calories per gram. Fats are much more efficient energy stores. That’s why the body creates fat to store its extra calories).

        So why does it seem so complicated?  Well, for a number of reasons.  We all manage our caloric intake differently, and we all have different activity levels. So let’s look at some basics.

       You might have heard that someone has a “fast” metabolism, or that your metabolism “slows down” as you age. Metabolism refers to the efficiency with which your body uses energy. Someone with a “fast” metabolism burns more energy (or uses up more calories) than someone with a slower metabolism. Their body runs “fast” (think of it like an engine on a car that’s always idling). Those people continue to burn calories even in their resting state. Because they are burning more calories, they don’t gain weight as quickly, even with the same caloric intake as someone whose metabolism runs more slowly. So, obviously, if you can burn calories—even when you aren’t “doing” anything—you’re going to drastically improve your weight management.

      There are a few proven ways to do it. First, exercise increases your metabolic rate. Here’s something you probably didn’t realize though—exercise increases your metabolism for a period even AFTER you finish exercising. And more, weight training to the hard, burning limit you can tolerate (also known as the “lactate threshold,” a topic I’ve written on before), will extend that ramped up metabolism for DAYS after your session! Even long cardio work will only keep your metabolism ramped up for a few hours. I have worked with diabetics who have to monitor their blood glucose levels for days after a session to avoid having their blood glucose levels drop too low—their metabolism is still working overtime long after our session has ended. (If you are a diabetic working with a trainer who doesn’t know the metabolic effects of weight training versus other types of exercise, you might be putting yourself at risk).

Weight training to build muscle also increases your metabolism in permanent ways because muscle is a heavy tissue (heavier than fat), and it takes your body more energy to sustain muscle than to sustain fat. Just building muscle will increase your metabolism (although, it’s important to note, it may not cause you to lose weight because, as noted above, muscle weighs more than fat).

Beyond the right exercise, eating properly kick-starts your metabolism. It’s a topic for another article, but just know that starving yourself to lose weight is not a long term, or healthy, solution. The less you eat, the slower your metabolism acts. It goes into survival mode and burns fewer calories so as not to use up the nourishment that you are depriving your body of. Steady small meals, not skipped meals, help boost your metabolism. Eating a smarter, balanced diet, without added calories and without starving yourself, is history’s most reliable diet “fad.”

        Finally, working out creates a rush of hormones and chemicals (such as insulin and HGH) that cause fat to break down or that cause muscle to build up. These hormones are part of the complicated equilibrium that makes up your metabolism.

        So remember, weight management has three components:

1)  Calories (energy) in – this is the diet component

2)  Calories (energy) used – this is the exercise component

3)  How efficiently the calories in are used – this is the metabolism component

The good thing is, you can affect all three. 

I bring awareness of all three components to my clients. To learn more about making positive changes in your life with a personal trainer who will boost your metabolism, boost your activity levels, and work with you on proper nutrition, contact Hadley Allen at hadleytraining@gmail.com, visit www.hadleyallenfitness.comwww.facebook.com/hadleyallenfitness, or call me at (312) 550-7033.

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Up, Up and Away! The Best Upper Body Exercise You Can Do

I may sound like a broken record, but I can’t emphasize enough how important a healthy back is to your overall health.  Besides the constant discomfort, a bad back can lead to a cascade of pain and injuries in your hips, knees, feet and limbs as a result of compensation.  That’s why I cringe when I walk into a gym and see people compromising their form when they’re lifting.  The desire to build that strong chest, broad shoulders and bulging biceps often leads people to attempt too much weight, or break down their form as they try to lift that one last rep.  The next time I see someone doing a standing biceps curl with a barbell and arch his back way back to finish off a rep will be one time too many.  

The fact is, there is an exercise you can, and should, be doing that will work out that entire upper body: chest, shoulders, biceps, triceps—and back!  It’s the good old fashioned chin-up, and its cousin, the pull-up.  Properly done, the chin-up and pull-up exercise more muscle groups than isolated presses, curls or lifts.  And, importantly, the chin-up and pull-up are the best exercises you can do to strengthen your upper back.

Your upper torso involves many muscle groups.  Chin-ups and Pull-ups recruit just about all of them.  And, the more muscle groups you can recruit, the more balanced and more effective your particular exercise will be.  That major muscle system recruitment is one of the reasons why chin-ups and pull-ups give so much bang for your buck.

So, let’s dig in a little deeper.  First, terminology: the chin-up is done with palms facing you, and a pull-up is done with palms facing out.  Both are excellent upper body workouts, but each will stress slightly different muscle groups a little more.  Chin-ups work the chest a little more, while pull-ups recruit more heavily in the lower trapezius and shoulder muscles.  Second, let’s not fool ourselves.  Both chin-ups and pull-ups are HARD!  For most of us, especially beginners, we don’t have enough upper body strength to lift ourselves over the bar from a dead hang.  That’s ok though.  The chin-up and pull-up can be effective exercises by working our muscles on the way DOWN, rather than focusing on the way up.

If you have access to a machine that can take some of the weight off to help you, you may be able to do the traditional chin-ups and pull-ups from a dead hang because the machine can be set to take off some of your body weight.  If you are going to use this method, you are going to still want to use the right tempo.  From a dead hang, explode up until your chin is over the bar, the hold for a count while you squeeze your shoulders together, then lower yourself SLOWLY back to a dead hang.  Remember to lower yourself slowly.  When you hit the dead hang, explode up again and repeat.  Try to do three sets of ten.  The dead hang is critical.  That explosion up from the dead hang and slow descent to full extension is what will recruit those upper back muscles.  

If you don’t have a machine and are just using a traditional bar, no worries.  Instead of lifting from a dead hang, position yourself under the bar, perhaps with a step or stool beneath you.  While holding the bar, jump up to a starting position with your chin over the bar.  Hold for a count, then lower yourself to a dead hang as SLOWLY as you can.  You may want to bend your knees so you can get all the way to a complete extension without landing on the floor.  Take a LONG time to go down.  Try to take at least eight seconds going down.  As you progress, slow it down even further.  Do three sets of five reps.  If you are able to master the slow descent, you will build enough strength to eventually do a traditional chin-up or pull-up from a dead hang.  But it will take time!

You can alternate the chin-up or pull-up in different workouts since both provide slightly different benefits.  But both will do what those isolated curls and presses will do—strengthen the arms, shoulders, and chest—while at the same time providing needed strengthening of critical back muscles.  If you can only do one upper body exercise, these are the ones you should be doing.

For more information and to schedule a training session with a personal trainer who will bring out your best and promises to alleviate your back pain PERMANENTLY, call me at (312) 550-7033 or e-mail me at hadleyallenfitness@gmail.com.  Check out my web site at www.hadleyallenfitness.com for special offers, and keep liking and especially SHARING my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/hadleyallenfitness.  And if you think this kind of content is valuable enough to share more broadly, go to my GoFundMe page, www.gofundme.com/hadleyallenfitness and help me grow the Hadley Allen Fitness brand and reach more people like you!

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