The Daily "Weigh-In"
 Here is something I see at least FIVE TIMES  every day in the gym:  someone walks in, weighs themselves, works out, then weighs themselves again before walking out the door.   Every chance I get, I ask people why they do that and they all give me the same answer, “I am trying to see how much weight I am losing”.  They puff their chest out as they tell me how they lost 3 pounds on the elliptical in an hour and hurry off to get a bite to eat.     ( …pause for effect… )  I thought I’d write a few words about this common yet unfailingly inaccurate practice. 

As I’ve mentioned in previous postings, it is an undeniable fact that a pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories.  There is no pill, shake, or diet that can get around this simple truth.  In order for you to lose a pound of fat, your body must burn 3,500 more calories than it consumes.  When you factor that little tidbit of information into the practice of weighing yourself before and after a workout, it becomes clear that any difference in weight during your workout is attributed to something other than fat.  Let us return to the example in the first paragraph.  Three pounds of fat is equal to 10,500 calories.  Anyone who has ever worn a heart rate monitor or similar device to calculate caloric expenditure can attest to the fact that it is physically impossible to burn 10,500 calories (i.e., 3 pounds of fat) in an hour.  The vast majority of those three pounds is water – you know, the stuff people leak all over the elliptical when they’re working out (yuk!).  The human body is 60% water and believe me when I tell you that it is going to need that water back.  Operating in a dehydrated state for an extended period of time can lead to serious health issues, and so the human body triggers thirst within itself to return to a hydrated state after a workout. 

In closing, weighing yourself constantly (including before and after a workout) is only going to frustrate you.  Those minute fluctuations in weight that are bound to occur from day to day is simply your body’s level of hydration doing its thing.  It is perfectly normal for these fluctuations to occur.  You REALLY want to measure your progress?  Measure your body fat every 2-3 months! 

Good luck!

Carbohydrates 101

There used to be a TV commercial where the spokesperson would always end with, “An educated consumer is our best customer.” I wholeheartedly believe such an approach is key to helping a client reach his/her fitness goals. After all, the average client works with me between 2 and 4 hours per week. That leaves about 164 hours where it is up to the client to do the right thing. An important part of that education lies in recognizing how carbohydrates affect the human body.

The principle purpose of carbohydrates is to provide the body with energy. This is accomplished in the body by turning all carbohydrates into a substance called glucose (or blood sugar). Once converted, glucose begins to accumulate in the bloodstream. The problem is that one cannot have either too much or too little glucose in the blood at one time. When the level of glucose in the blood becomes too high, the body secretes a substance called insulin to remove the excess glucose. Now there are three places insulin transports this excess glucose to for storage: the liver, the working muscles of the body, and fat cells. Imagine these three places as storage rooms. The liver and the working muscles are storage rooms that only have one door - they can only receive glucose at a slow and steady pace. This is not a problem when the level of glucose in your blood is within normal range. However, when your blood sugar is high, insulin is trying to jam it all in through this one door – and it cannot! Consequently, your body is forced to skip the liver and the muscles and move onto the third option: fat cells. Now the fat storage room has thousands of doors – easily receiving the excess glucose.

How can you make this information work for you? Well, not all carbohydrates are converted to glucose at the same speed. Obviously, we want to try to eat carbohydrates that are converted slowly so you can easily accommodate them in the liver and working muscles. Carbohydrates that turn to glucose too quickly invariably wind up as fat. The Glycemic Index is a system of classifying carbohydrates based on how quickly they are converted to glucose. Foods are rated from one to 100 – the higher the rating, the quicker it is converted to glucose. If you Google “glycemic index,” you will find many websites that list foods and their corresponding ratings. Use the index to make educated choices about what to eat.

Many mitigating factors are involved in living a wellness lifestyle. The role carbohydrates play is but one component. However, the more you try to learn about your body the better prepared you will be to realize the goals you are trying to reach. Good luck and good health.

- Jeff

Keeping your workouts effective

One of the main reasons the human race has endured on this planet for so long is our innate ability to adapt to our environment. Be it cold, hot, floods or droughts, we have always found a way to survive in an ever changing world. The same holds true for exercise. After exercising regularly for as little as two weeks, our bodies begin to adapt to the stimuli and eventually what made you sore just doesn't do it anymore. Adaptation breeds complacency and boredom and oftentimes people fall off the exercise wagon as a result. Here are a few tips to keep your workouts effective.

VARIETY: I know a lot of people tear a page out of their favorite fitness magazine and head straight to the gym. There's nothing wrong with doing so, but know that pretty soon your body will adapt to anything you do repeatedly. I guess what I'm trying to say is tear A LOT of pages from your favorite magazines and constantly mix it up. Never allow yourself to get hung up on a particular exercise or group of exercises simply because they felt good. Variation will keep those exercises effective over the long haul.

TEMPO: An often neglected variable in exercise is tempo or the speed with which you perform each repetition. Taking 5 seconds to complete a single repetition has a much different effect on your body than taking one second to complete it. Changing the tempo of your repetitions adds another dimension of change to your routines.

INTERVALS: Incorporating a cardiovascular activity between sets is a great way to strengthen the most important muscle in your body - your heart. Instead of sitting on the bench to recuperate after a set of shoulder presses, try jumping rope for a minute or perhaps some jumping jacks. This allows your shoulders to recuperate, but still jacks the heart rate up for a short interval of time.

BODY WEIGHT: You don't always need external resistance like dumbbells or elastic bands to have a great workout. Anyone who has trained with me can tell you that there exist MANY exercises that are VERY hard and use only your own body weight. Applying body weight exercises to your routine is yet another way to keep your body from getting used to what you do.

Bear in mind that even if you do the same thing every time you exercise, it's not a "bad" thing. But eventually your body will get accustomed to it and it will certainly not have the same effect on you. Keeping your routines changing is going to help you move forward on your quest to get stronger and healthier.

- Jeff

Finding the right trainer for YOU

Hiring a personal fitness trainer is an important investment of both time and money. You are seeking out someone with expertise in overall wellness to help you reach your fitness goals faster and safer than you would alone. Like any other investment, you want to make sure you are getting the best value for your money. The following are but a few guidelines to ensure the trainer you hire is the best person suited to help you get where you want to go with your health:

CERTIFICATION: Unfortunately, few state and local governments require trainers to be certified in order to do business. Whether you are training in a gym or in the privacy of your own home, make sure your trainer is certified by an accredited fitness organization. Although a trainer is ALWAYS learning with every client they work with, a quality education from a respected school ensures they have a good foundation of exercise knowledge on which to build upon. Here is a listing of some of the most respected certifying bodies in the industry:
• American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
• American Council on Exercise (ACE)
• International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)
• National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
• National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT)
• National Strength Conditioning Association (NSCA)
All of the aforementioned certifying bodies require Continuing Education Credits in order to renew their certification each year. Ensure your trainer’s certification is current.

INSURANCE: Clients are always telling me, “You’re killing me, Jeff!” Truth is, clients cannot train when they are injured (or dead), and so I work hard to keep them healthy and safe. However, exercise carries inherent risks and being protected is in the best interest of all parties involved. Your trainer should have current personal training insurance in the event an injury occurs. Even if you are working with a trainer in a gym, be sure to ask for proof of insurance.

REFERENCES: No one is going to give you better feedback on a trainer’s performance than someone else who is paying for the same service. Asking for references is not only going to provide insight on a trainer’s knowledge and abilities, it will also educate you on their work ethic, empathy, and punctuality – important qualities in a trainer.

CLEAR BUSINESS POLICIES: A professional trainer should clearly outline his/her policies in writing so there is no misunderstanding between trainer and client. Everything from requiring informed consent to a written agreement on fees avoids any misunderstandings. Additionally, the use of forms such as a Health Assessment Questionnaire and (where applicable) a Physician’s Release ensure your trainer has all the information he/she needs to make your exercise experience a safe one.

COMPATIBILITY: Not every trainer is a good fit for every client. Finding a trainer you “click” with can make a world of difference. Be sure to meet in person at least once with a trainer BEFORE you begin working out with him/her. If possible, take the time to observe him/her working with another client. This will give you an idea whether you will feel comfortable trusting that person to keep you safe while pushing you to exercise.

In closing, the hiring of a personal trainer is a big step on the road to a fitter, healthier you. As such, you should take the time to find the right person for the job. Doing so will end up saving you time and money in the long run.

Jeff Mendoza, CPT, HFS

Proper gym etiquette

The gym is a place where many people come together for a common purpose: to get or stay in shape. Although we are all there trying to do the same thing, unfortunately not everyone practices proper gym etiquette. With so many people in one area trying to work, it is vitally important to understand basic rules in order to ensure the comfort and safety of all involved. Most of this is common sense, but here are but a few basic guidelines to make sure everyone’s gym experience is a safe and pleasant one:

STAY SANITARY– Apparently, it is lost upon some people that one actually tends to sweat while working out. Naturally, your sweat doesn’t bother you much, but it certainly bothers everyone else. It is a breeding ground for bacteria (most notably MRSA, which is REALLY bad) and just plain gross! All gyms should offer antiseptic sprays, foams, or wipes in an effort maintain a bacteria-free environment for you. Please take a moment to wipe down each and every piece of equipment you use and do not hesitate to politely ask someone do so if it happens to slip his or her mind.

CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF – Some workout routines require a sequence of exercises requiring you to utilize an array of dumbbells, plates, and/or other gym equipment. This is all fine and well, but please put everything back when you use it. Leaving stuff lying around is not only a potential injury waiting to happen, but it’s just plain rude. I have actually seen a 63 year-old woman trying to unload 875 pounds that some knucklehead left on the leg press machine. Totally not cool.

DON’T BE AN EQUIPMENT HOG – As I mentioned in the last point, many routines require successive use of multiple pieces of equipment. This can get problematic during peak gym hours. Trying to “lock down” multiple machines when the gym is full is not only selfish, it’s a good way to get yourself in a fight! Please allow others to work in with you if the gym is crowded and try your best to accommodate others. After all, we are all in there trying to do something good for ourselves. Working together only serves to add to humanitarian ambiance of the exercises experience (wow, that was deep).

NOBODY LIKES A KNOW-IT-ALL – I see many people doing exercises improperly. However, I only say something to someone when I believe they stand a good chance of injuring themselves. Even then, I try to be as politically correct as I possibly can and I never interrupt someone in the middle of a set. Offering unsolicited advice tends to bruise egos and cause friction in the gym.

DON’T ABUSE THE GYM – A lot of adrenaline is produced in a gym setting. People get amped up moving iron around. They get so excited working out that sometimes people slam weights and machines in a reckless manner. This is a safety hazard for those in the immediate area and shortens the life of the equipment. Sure the gym will buy new stuff, but believe me when I tell you the cost will be passed on to all members.

In closing, please make note of all the annoying things that people do in the gym and make a mental not to avoid similar behavior. Doing so will make that exercise just a little less uncomfortable for all.

- Jeff

Chizeled Physiques, one-on-one personal training in South Florida