Thursday, November 25, 2010

How to Keep the Calories Down For Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving only comes around once a year and for the most part, I give myself a little slack when it comes to my eating habits. This being said, there are still a few things you can do to avoid over indulging:

  • Go for seconds! Take a little bit of each dish keeping in mind there's lots to go around and you can always go for seconds if your still hungry. 
  • Avoid putting unnecessary amounts of gravy on your plate. Gravy accounts for more calories than most people think. 
  • Drink water or juice as opposed to Egg Nog. Egg Nog has a ridiculous amount of calories (Around 200 per cup) and is best to be avoided or replaced.
  • Portion Control: Take a little of each food dish avoiding too much dressing, gravy and pie. 
  • Don't starve yourself before dinner, instead eat what you would in a normal day and enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner slowly.
  • If your having turkey/chicken avoid the skin if you can to lower the fat and cholesterol intake.
  • When eating desert take a small piece and consciously slow down when eating it and enjoy it as much as possible. Avoid adding ice cream to your pie as well.
Don't be too hard on yourself, Thanksgiving only comes once a year!

Thanks for reading, Joe

Monday, November 22, 2010

Workout Smarter, Not Longer

Too often I see people inefficiently using their time in the gym, whether it's waiting too long between sets, watching the football game, texting or changing the song on their iPod. Focus is a major factor in seeing results in your workout routine. Wasting time in the gym not only hinders your results but also ads a negative aspect to exercising (the fact it takes so long). When you go to the gym have a plan, set a goal and work to achieve it in as little time as possible. Take 15-30 seconds between sets to stretch the muscle your working and that's it, go right back at it. Leave your phone in your locker! Stay focused on the task at hand and get it done. Music is a great motivator but don't let it impede your workout, make a playlist with your favorite songs and just let it play.

Thanks for reading, Joe

Monday, November 8, 2010

My Leg Workout

Basic Info: This workout is really great all-around workout for the entire area of your legs and glutes. For quads and calves, the target rep area is 20-25. I find doing higher reps in these areas promotes greater muscle growth and gives a better pump. The exercises are simple but effective if done correctly.

1.Squats-3 Sets of 20: Keep your legs a bit wider than shoulder width with your feet pointed a bit outward. Make sure to keep you back as straight as possible throughout the entire exercise avoiding the danger of arching your back. Push through your heels and try to go down until your knees are at a 90 degree angle. Keep your knees above your toes.

2.Calf Raises-3 Sets of 20: With this exercise I like to change the direction my feet are pointing for each set, starting first with them facing perfectly straight then turned outward as far as I can and then inward for the last set. Take a 30-60 second break between each set. There are usually several calf raise machines in a gym, any of these can be used for this.

3.Hack Squat-3 Sets of 8-10: There are many ways to do this exercise such as certain machines and equipment specifically designed for the Hack Squat but I will show how to do it simply with a barbell just in case your gym doesn't have the right equipment or your working out at home. Lay the barbell on the ground and step in front of it so that the bar is at your heels. Bending your knees, descend until your thighs are parallel with the ground and bar. Grab the bar behind you with an overhand grip and while keeping your arms and back straight, shoulders high, hips low ascend until your legs are straight. Do not let your knees lock as this will cause damage over time.

4.Leg Curls-3 Sets of 8-10: This exercise is extremely basic, just make sure you keep your feet pointed up and curl your heels into your butt.

5.Single Leg Curls-3 Sets of 8-10: There are several machines that can be used to do this exercise so just find the one you prefer. You can use the same machine as the regular leg curl but it's a bit awkward as the picture shows.

6.Leg Extensions-3 Sets of 8-10: Another basic exercise, make sure your knees are in the same line with the pivot point of the machine.

7.Single Leg Extensions-3 Sets of 8-10: I use the same basic leg extension machine to do these with one foot on the seat to keep it out of the way.

Thanks for reading, Joe.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Muscle Soreness

When I was first starting to lift weights, I would gage how effective my workout was by how sore my muscles were the next day. After a while, no matter how hard I worked my muscles were not getting very sore at all and this is when I realized that muscle soreness has nothing to do with how hard you work or the effectiveness of your workout. This is a common misconception with people beginning to workout. Muscle soreness occurs when the body is forced to do something that it is not used to. A good example of this is when, a couple weeks ago, I was going through a cutting phase where I was mostly doing cardio and I hadn't worked out my legs for a month or so. When I finally did do a leg workout, I went as hard as I could and had an extremely good workout. The next day I could hardly walk and was extremely sore for the next 4 or 5 days. If you workout each major muscle group once a week, you may find that the muscles your working are not sore the following day. Don't be discouraged, it simply means that your body is growing accustomed to the movements as well as the repairs to the muscle fiber. When the muscles grow TOO accustomed to a certain set of movements or exercises the Plateau Effect comes into play, which is where your muscle growth is stunted because the muscles are too used to the exercise and the fibers are not being ripped at the most effective rate. Change up your workout every 3-4 weeks to avoid the Plateau Effect, muscle soreness can tell you if the change was effective in working your muscles a different way. I will be posting my Leg Workout in the next few days.

Thanks for reading, Joe

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Early Morning Cardio

I just got back from the gym on my cardio day and I thought I'd do a short review the pros and cons of early morning cardio. With this topic, it's all about how much your willing to sacrifice to gain results. Early morning cardio is the best way for fatloss therefore, the cons do not have to do with the effectiveness but rather the inconvenience.


  • In the morning, your glycogen (carbohydrate) levels are depleted from being used for various bodily functions while you sleep. This low level of carbohydrates promotes fat loss and since it's the only thing left to burn, you end up burning 300% more fat than working out at any other time of the day.
  • The feeling of satisfaction you get after an early morning workout sticks with you for the entire day filling you with energy, brightening everything you do and overall making for a better day.
  • Since the stomach is empty, there are no nutrients (glycogens and fat) to burn which forces the body to burn away the older fat that is stored which is usually the hardest to get rid of.

  • Waking up early can be daunting if your not used to it and to get up out of your nice warm bed at 5:00 in the morning takes ample willpower.
  • When working out in the morning, you are slightly more prone to injury since your body has been inactive for 8-12 hours. It is imperative to stretch and warm-up to avoid damage to your muscles.
  • You may feel weak or lethargic due to the lack of glycogen(source of energy) in your system, this is actually an advantage but if you feel like you are too tired to properly perform your cardio routine, a small amount of carbohydrates in the morning can give you a boost granted. Only do this if you feel extremely tired or weak since the best state for cardio is when your glycogen levels are depleted. 
Tips for Waking Up Early: 

  1. Go to bed early, the easiest way to get up in the morning is when you feel like you've had a good night sleep.
  2. Don't think, just do. When you get up in the morning don't think of how tired you are or what time it is, just put your brain on autopilot and get up without thinking too much about it.
  3. Avoid late night snacks, caffeine, alcohol and nicotine (these are all things you should avoid regardless).
  4. Use multiple alarms. If your like me and you find the snooze button sometimes too tempting to avoid, use a second alarm that is out of your reach.
  5. Take a nap. A nap is an excellent way to stay energized throughout the day and also makes it much easier to go to bed early and wake up early
  6. Make a routine. Try to go to bed and wake up at the exact same time every day.
  7. Wake up violently. When I wake up, a technique I often use is to kick off my covers and jump out of bed as soon as I wake up and this jars me into a more wakeful state and I'm ready to start my day.
  8. At night think about your plans for the next day, this will give you incentive as well as tell your brain how important it is to wake up in the morning. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Killer Chest Workout

I recently updated my chest workout and I thought I'd share it. This routine mainly involves dumbbells because I've personally found these the most effective to shaping the Pectoral muscles which is mainly what I'm focusing on as opposed to strength. This is a great all-around chest workout for beginners as well as for the advanced, if you have anything you would like to add please leave a comment.

1. Dumbbell Bench Press: This maneuver requires two equally-weighted dumbbells and a bench. We're going to do 4 sets of this exercise with a minutes rest in between. Use a weight in which you fail at 10-12 reps, this is the goal for all these exercises. Some tips for this exercise would be to make sure both your arms are symmetrical throughout the entire up and down movements. The diagram shows him pushing straight up but what I do is twist my arms on the upward push so that at the top, the dumbbells end up parallel with my body which gives the chest more range of motion.

2. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press: Much like the previous exercise, the Incline Dumbbell Bench Press involves the use of an incline bench in which you want to set the incline bench at about a 30 degree angle and push straight up to the roof. The same tips apply to this version except with this one we're going to keep the dumbbells perpendicular to the body just as this diagram shows. We're going to do 3 sets of this one making sure your failures are anywhere from 10-12 reps. ***TIP: If your doing more than 12 reps, increase the weight. If your doing less than 10 reps, decrease the weight. 

3. Decline Smith(Bench) Press: This is basically a bench press with your body at a negative angle with your head lower than your legs. We're going to push straight up and work the bottom part of the pectorals breathing out on the push and breathing in on the release. Again, this exercise is 3 sets to failure with a minutes rest in between. NOTE: If using a bench press make sure to have a spotter since these exercises are to failure. 

4. Incline Flyes: Using the same bench as #2 above, we're going to start with the dumbbells above us with arms straight. slowly part your arms keeping them as straight as possible and lowering them until you feel a stretch on your chest which should be around your head level. The biggest thing to remember about this exercise is to make sure you're not moving your arms in the horizontal axis, it should be straight up and straight down. Any movement in the horizontal axis creates strain on your shoulders which can lead to injury. As usual, 3 sets to failure.

5. Cable Crossovers: This is a simple but effective exercise, the focus is on the inner part of the chest on the breastbone area. Position your feet so that you are exactly in the middle with your arms holding the two handles. Take one step forward and lean a bit forward to keep from pushing yourself backwards. Converge your hands together in front of you while keeping your arms as straight as possible. Your hands should end up at the level of your crotch. Again, 3 sets to failure.

Workout Time: 40-50 minutes

I find this a great workout and by the end I feel an excellent pump throughout my entire chest, I definitely recommend trying it out and let me know what you think of it!

If you have any questions about any of these exercises, leave a comment.

Thanks, Joe

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Top 5 Foods to Avoid

Everyone has a general sense of which foods are "bad" for them ie. fast food, pastries, candies etc.. What many people don't realize is that there are foods they eat daily that are hazardous to their health. In no particular order, here are some surprising foods that are extremely unhealthy:

  1. Soda: This is one of the hardest sacrifices one has to make in order to clean up their diet. A standard 355 ml can of soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar, 30-60 mg of caffeine and 150 calories. In order to target the health-conscious consumers, the big names in the beverage industry created "diet soda" which claims to have very few or no calories. There has been much conflict about whether or not it is worth it so drink diet sodas because in general they are full of aspartame, saccharin, and other artificial sweeteners. For the calorie-conscious health enthusiast, diet sodas are acceptable occasionally. For overall health DRINK WATER, nothing is better for you than water. If you have trouble replacing your usual soda with water at first, try adding a bit of lemon to your water to make the taste more pleasurable and after a while you will get used to drinking plenty of water daily. Some replacements for soda that are still tasty include: Almond milk (better than soy), tea, natural fruit juices (NOT processed) and fruit or vegetable smoothies.
  2. French Fries and Potato Chips: Potatoes themselves are not the best choice of food when watching what you eat since they are high in calories, carbohydrates and starches while low in protein and vitamins. When a potato is processed and cooked into either fries or chips, a chemical toxin called Acrylamide is formed because of the high level of starches. Acrylamide has been known to cause cancer and it is generally best to avoid it as much as possible. Keep in mind this is before the addition of flavorings, salt, fat and seasonings that are put on the potato products afterwards. After all is said and done processed potato products are extremely detrimental to your health and are best to avoid all together. An excellent replacement for French Fries is Sweet Potato Fries. Sweet potato has been known to have anti oxidant properties as well as being high in protein, vitamins and dietary fiber.  
  3. Canned Soups: Believe it or not, canned soups are not as healthy as one might think. Canned soups contain high levels of sodium, trans fats, and artificial preservatives. The average canned soup has 10 grams of salt which is almost half the recommended daily intake. There are some brands of soup that are all natural and boast low levels of sodium, fats and salt. If your a soup lover keep an eye out for natural canned soups or make your own soup, nothing beats a good homemade soup.
  4. Doughnuts: We all know that doughnuts are not healthy for us but the magnitude of how unhealthy they actually are is a mystery to the majority of people. There is literally NO nutritional value to a traditional pastry doughnut; loaded in hydrogenated oil, refined sugar and flour the doughnut is one of the most unhealthy pastries out there. Although it is best to avoid doughnuts in any situation, the occasion may arise when you desire one. The least unhealthy of doughnuts is the plain, toasted doughnut which makes it the best choice.
  5. Hot Dogs: I must admit, hot dogs are extremely tasty but when you take a look at the nutritional information they become a bit less appetizing. Hot dogs are extremely high in cholesterol, fat, sodium and nitrates. Nitrates are used to preserve the hot dogs for longer shelf life as well as an artificial flavor agent. Once digested, nitrates transform into nitrites which have been found to have cancer causing properties and increase the chance of heart disease. Many people believe that hot dogs are made from pork, while this is true for some hot dog brands most use the ground up heart and liver from a combination of beef, pork, chicken and turkey. 
Always keep in mind that no one is perfect and once in a while you will give in to junk food and unhealthy eating. Acknowledge that the food you are eating is unhealthy for you and strive to fight the temptation next time. 

If you have some items you'd like to add to the list, leave a comment below :)

Thanks, Joe