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

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tips For Muscle Gain

One of the most popular goals for most people is muscle gain whether it is a couple pounds to look lean and fit or twenty pounds to look massive and ripped. The biggest obstacle standing in the way of steady muscle gain is poor form and bad nutrition. In order to gain muscle, the body needs enough protein and nutrients to build the muscle. The best way to achieve proper nutrition is to eat six separate times a a day. If you have trouble planning a 6 meal day, stick to your 3 meal plan adding a protein bar or some other healthy snack a couple hours after each meal. Proper form accounts for the efficiency of your muscle gain, without proper form it will take much longer to gain the muscle you desire. If you're a complete beginner, the best way to start out is to either plan out a routine with a trainer, follow a program such as the P90X or a free programs that a quick Google search can provide. I will go into more detail later on but here are a few general tips for building muscle:


Improper form: Without proper form you may damage your muscles and bone structure. It is also extremely inefficient for muscle building.

Rushing: In order to maximize muscle building, you must take your time with the exercises. Another aspect of rushing your workout is stopping short of your max; always push yourself to the point of failure, this will ensure you are working your muscles to their complete capacity.

Muscle Cannibalization: Muscle cannibalization is the deteriorating of the muscle tissue used to fuel your body when it is not receiving proper protein. To avoid this, eat plenty of protein-rich foods and look up your daily protein intake by using a protein calculator such as: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/calpro.htm

Over Training: If you train your muscles too hard, your muscles will continue to be sore for longer as well as get fatigued faster when you work them the next time. Over training also leads to raised resting heart rate and delayed recovery of the muscles.

Excessive Supplement Intake: I've seen time and time again people who have 3 or 4 different tubs of protein supplements, recovery powders, creatine etc.. which is extremely bad for your liver and stomach. One protein supplement and one recovery drink is all anyone should need.


Proper Hydration: Muscles need water to repair, strengthen and grow. Make sure you drink ample water throughout the day and not just when you work out. The daily recommended amount of water is 8-10 glasses.

Warm-up: Warming up before any workout is important because it heats up the muscles and gets the blood flowing which prevents injury and damage. A good warm up is running on the treadmill for 10-15 minutes and stretching the muscle group your working on that day.

High Intensity: Whenever you workout get motivated to try your hardest and push your hardest. It makes no sense to go through all the trouble of getting ready to workout and not even try once you start. Keep a log and keep pushing your maximum reps higher and higher.

Muscle Confusion: Change up your routine every few weeks to avoid the plateau effect caused from your muscles getting used to the exercises resulting in less muscle gain.

Buddy System: Working out with a friend is great for motivation, if you can both push each other further than you think each other can go and challenge one another to do a few more reps you will see awesome results to your lifts and physique. Another advantage to working out with someone is you can spot each other on various exercises that require it.

Thanks for reading, discuss your strategies to muscle gain in the comments below.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Alcohol and Fitness

As I write this post I feel a pang of guilt because alcohol is one of my greatest weaknesses when it comes to proper nutrition. Knowing your weakness is important in order to keep them in check; for me it means not having that beer I crave with my dinner. A big part for me was avoiding parties, at first I cut it down to going to half the parties I usually do and am currently down to a third. It's alright to take it in moderation but know that binge drinking does negatively affect your fitness routine in the following ways:

  • Alcohol is a major dehydrator which makes it difficult to gain muscle since no muscle can be formed without water.
  • Beer as well as hard alcohol contain empty calories which cannot be burned as easily because of the dehydration caused and instead, the muscle fibre is used.
  • Alcohol suppresses testosterone which decreases drive. 
  • Slows down muscle repair.
  • Reduces strength.
  • Slows your metabolism.
Needless to say, drinking alcohol is disastrous to your body and is best to avoid completely. This is harder for some than others. If you find it hard to avoid alcohol just keep in mind that in moderation it won't affect you too terribly especially if you drink lots of water before and afterwards. 

Thanks for reading, 


Friday, October 8, 2010

The Truth About Six Pack Abs

The single most important factor in getting the abs you desire is proper eating. You can have the most ripped abs in the world but if you have excess fat, no one is going to be able to see it. This observation supports the statement: Cardio makes up 85% of the work required in getting six-pack abs. Read my earlier post about cardiovascular health for some tips on your cardio routine. Here are some extra tips to burning fat:

  • Fat-loss is obtained by exercising at 75-85% of your maximum heart rate which is usually 150-175 beats per minute. Doing this for 30-70 minutes a day will provide steady weight loss given a proper diet.
  • A baseline measurement of how much fat to lose per week is about 1 pound (454 g). In order to lose this amount a calorie calculator is extremely helpful, it bases your calorie intake off your weight. Here is an effective calorie calculator: http://www.freedieting.com/tools/calorie_calculator.htm
  • Now for the other 15% of the work: An excellent ab routine is the "Ab Ripper X" from the P90X: Extreme Home Fitness program, it is available on youtube. If you do not have access to this program, there are many other free ab workouts on the web that will work just as well.  
In today's markets, there are thousands of machines that are sold under the guise of false promises of six pack abs. The truth behind these machines is they simply don't work and are an unnecessary purchase, these machines are targeted to the sucker who knows nothing of fitness. You don't need a single thing other than your own body to get the six pack abs you crave. Always keep in mind that it is dedication and hard work that gets the results, not expensive machines and gadgets. 

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cardiovascular Activity

Many people struggle to lose their excess fat because they do not put in the time to do daily cardiovascular activities. Cardio is extremely important to fitness because it not only burns fat but also increases your lung capacity and its ability to absorb oxygen which supplies your muscles more oxygen leading to increased strength and muscle gain. Depending on what activities you are doing, regular cardio can be extremely boring. Here are a few tips to make your cardio routine more enjoyable:

  • Music: Load up your iPod or mp3 player with your favorite tunes and focus on the music. If your jogging or running listen to upbeat music and try to match your running rhythm  to the music.
  • Sports: If you have trouble just running mindlessly on a treadmill or using the cardio machines at the gym, joining a sport can be a fun way to change up your cardio routine. Sports like soccer, basketball, lacrosse, boxing and swimming are extremely good cardio and they're fun too! If you're unsure of your athletic ability, join programs that are for fun and exercise and not so competitive. 
  • Variety: No matter what cardio activity you are doing for the day, change up the pace and intensity; this is more effective in burning fat and makes the routine more interesting. Another way to vary your cardio is to switch machines/exercises e.g. Run hard on a treadmill for 20 min then switch to a bike for 10 min and finally skip rope for another 15 min.   
  • Grab A Partner: Again the importance of working out with a friend comes in to play. When doing any routine there is no greater motivation than working out with a buddy who is pushing you to run longer, push harder and go faster. 
  • Set A Goal: Keep track of how long/how intense your cardio routine was for the day and beat it the next time. A good way to journal your cardio is to purchase a heart rate monitor and record the peak heart rate, time, and calories burned.
The benefits of cardio far outweigh the temporary drudgery that you may experience, these include: Weightloss, increased lung capacity and strength, relief of stress, reduced risk of heart disease, better sleep and more energy. 

If all the above tips fail, just push through it and know that it will be worth it in the end. 

Thanks for reading!


Friday, October 1, 2010

10 Healthy Eating Points

Eating proper nutrition and avoiding bad eating habits are essential to fitness. Nutrition is just as important, if not more, than working out regularly. Without a solid nutritional base, the body stores the unwanted fat gained from poor food and does not have the nutrients to build muscle fibre. Here are some tips to eating a clean, healthy diet:

  1. Keep a log: Keeping track of the foods you eat not only helps you regulate your fat, calorie, protein and carbs but it also shows how harmful junk food is. There are websites that have data bases of pretty much any food you can think of and all you have to do is select the portion of the food that you ate and it calculates every nutrient that is in that particular food. Here is the one I use: www.myfitnesspal.com
  2. Don't eat out: Try to eat at home as much as possible; eating out often makes us want to order the most tasty thing on the menu since we're paying the price to eat good food. Rarely does someone go out to a fancy restaurant and only order a salad. Also, the restaurant isn't worried about how much fat or calories you eat, they just want to make it taste as good as they possibly can.
  3. Get rid of junk food: Go through your whole house and get rid of any chips, candy, soda and any other processed garbage. Keeping these things out of your house will force you to find a healthier alternative when you crave a snack. 
  4. Eat regular meals: Eating regular meals at the same time each day is a good habit to get into because your body gets used to receiving nutrients at the same time each day therefore making it easier on the digestive system. Also, eating regularly is an excellent way to avoid over-eating. Remember, snacking is good! The more meals you eat in a day the better, this increases your metabolism and increases your fat burning ability exponentially. A good way to start eating more meals is to stick to your three meal a day schedule but eat a little bit less than normal in each meal and in between grab a protein bar, or fix yourself some other healthy light snack. 
  5. Know your weakness: Everyone has a weakness when it comes to eating healthily, it's that one food that you justify eating just because you crave it so badly. For me it's the Mcdonalds Big Mac, after working out at the gym I pass by at least two Mcdonalds on the way home and it seems like there's nothing in the world I want other than that delicious, heavenly sandwich. Yet I have to get your priorities in order and think to myself; I could either temporarily enjoy that highly processed, fatty, high-calorie, cholesterol-filled burger or I can maintain my clean diet and permanently benefit from it. When you find out what YOUR weakness is, always keep in mind that is it indeed a weakness and should be kept in check. Once in a while you can treat yourself to this food but try to keep it as rare as possible so that it becomes a reward for having kept a good diet.
  6. Gradual change: If you have trouble eating healthy foods, start slow by adding in healthy food to your regular diet and getting rid of the harmful foods.
  7. Eat slow: Eating slowly and enjoying your food does two things: For one, it tricks your brain into thinking you're eating more than you actually are. Second, it takes a full 20 minutes for your satiety signal to activate in your brain which tells your brain that your full, eating slowly gives your brain time to process that your full.
  8. Breakfast: You've heard your mother tell you this since you were a kid, but believe it or not it's true! Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. An excellent habit to get into is making breakfast your biggest meal of the day and gradually eating less and less throughout the day. 
  9. Maintain hydration: Drinking water is extremely important to bodily functions, especially when involved in regular exercise. Keeping hydrated also helps satiate any hunger you may have throughout the day. When you're thirsty avoid drinking sodas, milk, coffee, etc.. try your hardest to stick to water.
  10. Don't be a nutrition Nazi: If you're looking to improve your diet but reading all the tips on how to do it seems a little too complicated with all this "portion control, carb cycling, etc.." Just keep it simple! Don't be discouraged if you get lost in all the technical ramble of nutrition; As long as your exercising regularly and eating healthy foods without over indulging yourself you're going to see results. Fat burning= calories burned>calories consumed. Muscle building= eat protein. That's about as simple as it gets.
Thanks for reading!