Rev Up Your Metabolism

February 19th, 2019 by Debbie Martilotta

A recent article by Health.com (Jan/Feb 2019) has some great advice that I agree with as a personal trainer, here are the highlights.

Your muscles are in charge

A pound of muscle burns 7-10 calories/day compared to 1 lb of fat which burns only 2-3 calories/day. We all know that after you hit your 20’s, you lose muscle as you age. That muscle loss can slow your metabolism by 15% (your calorie burning power). While building new muscle can help counteract this trend, it is even more important to engage the muscle you already have. Every time you challenge your muscles by strength training, you burn calories by working out and continue to burn calories after you put your weights away.

Do 2 30-minute sessions of resistance training each week and in 3 months, your resting metabolism will be about 6% faster. When you exercise, focus on major muscle groups and do not shy away from heavy weights (60 – 75% of your maximum lift).

A lack of Protein can slow your metabolism

If you are not already on the protein bandwagon, get on board! Your body needs amino acids to stay functional. Without enough protein, your body will be forced to tap your muscles. When you lose valuable muscle, your resting metabolism slows.

Make sure you are putting protein in every meal and snack – starting your day with 15 grams (about 2 eggs) is a great idea. Don’t overlook whey, one of two proteins found in milk. Whey protein is rich in the amino acids muscles thirst for and can aid in recovery after workouts.

Dieting is the enemy

Any weight loss diet can leave your metabolism slower than when you started. We highly recommend a lifestyle diet of plants and proteins (no grains, sugar, highly processed foods or processed starches) and eat enough calories to satisfy your resting metabolism. The easiest way to do that is to multiply your body weight in lbs by 10.

Your metabolism likes sleep

Lack of sleep tends to slow your metabolism, in part because that’s when your body repairs itself (which burns calories). Sleep well, eat well and exercise hard for 2 30-minute sessions each week and your metabolism will thank you.


What I Learned During 13 Years Of Strength Training

February 5th, 2019 by Debbie Martilotta

It all started when I was 18. At the time, I was slowly recovering from an eating disorder known as anorexia nervosa, and my dad was trying to help me get healthy again.

“You know, there’s a way you can eat a lot more and still be skinny!” he said. “Come to the gym and workout with me.”

It’s funny how different my ideal body was back then, 13 years ago. I was judging myself by what I saw online and in magazines. I wanted to be emaciated-looking. I wanted to be small and petite. I wanted to be “less.”

My first trip to the gym was immensely unproductive. My “hardcore workout” consisted of some abdominal machine work, some crunches, and…wait for it…sleeping on the mat. Yup, I fell asleep on a mat about 15 minutes after walking into a gym for the first time in my life.

Despite what happened during that first visit, I’ve been steadily going to the gym for more than 13 years now. In that time, I’ve completed countless numbers of lifting sessions. But it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the process of strength training and how it made me feel. I soon became passionate, determined, and dedicated to making gains, both physically and mentally.

Today, I’d like to share with you 13 lessons I’ve learned along the road to becoming a stronger, more fit, and more confident me.

Lesson 1: Women, You Will Not Look Like Men
No matter how hard you work out at the gym, you will not—I repeat—not look like a man. Women simply do not have enough testosterone in their bodies to increase their muscle mass to the point where they look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. The women you see pictured online with huge muscles use steroids.

Without these dangerous drugs, you can still see amazing changes in your body shape and tone. You get there by following a healthy diet and by lifting weights—real weights. Don’t be afraid to go beyond the colored-plastic 5-pounders and grab some iron. It won’t make you bulky, but it will make you strong and lean.

Lesson 2: Strength Training Shapes Your Body Much More Than Cardio Does
There are two components to physique: muscle and the visibility of that muscle. We increase muscle mass when we strength train. We increase muscle visibility when we lower our body fat percentage. To increase muscle visibility, you must strength train. In other words, in order to display your muscles, you have to have them! In contrast, cardio is great for heart and overall health, but won’t do anything for your muscle tone.

Lesson 3: Strength Train The Major Muscle Groups
When most people decide they want to change their physique and improve their health, they tend to focus on the body parts that bother them the most. For women, often this means lower body and stomach. For their part, men often focus on biceps and chest. To improve muscular balance, prevent injuries, improve overall appearance and strength, and increase caloric burn, you must train all the major muscle groups—the ones you see in the mirror and the ones you don’t.

Focus on compound exercises that use large muscle groups—exercises such as squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, and rows. Then add accessory, or isolation, exercises that target smaller muscle groups. Such exercises include leg curls, triceps extensions, and rear-delt raises.

Lesson 4: Going For Spot Reduction? If Only!
Newsflash: There is no such thing as spot reduction, meaning no exercise can burn fat in a specific area. Your genetics, not your workouts, determine the areas where you can gain and lose fat. A good diet combined with intensive strength training is what creates an aesthetically pleasing physique.

Lesson 5: Continuous Progress Requires Progressive Overload
The SAID principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands) is simple: Your body adapts to stress (in the form of exercise) by gaining muscle mass and strength. To continue building your physique, you must constantly increase what you demand of your body through a concept called progressive overload. One way to achieve this is by adding more weight to the bar. But you can also do it through any combination of increasing your reps per set, increasing your range of motion for a certain exercise, improving your technique, or reducing the rest time between sets. All these techniques give you the freedom to change, monitor, and adjust your program so you can keep challenging yourself.

Lesson 6: Diet Schmiet—Mind Your Calories!
I’ve attempted all kinds of diets—low fat, high fat, zero sugar, only “specific foods” diet, and on and on. None of them worked. About three years into my weight-lifting career, I decided to dive deeper into the science behind body composition changes. I hoped to answer several questions: Why do we get fat? How do we lose fat? Are certain foods fattening? Do some foods burn calories just by digesting them?

Along the way, I realized there are three possible scenarios for an individual’s body weight and caloric intake:

  • The number of calories you consume each day is equivalent to the number of calories your body burns per day. In this scenario, you maintain your weight.
  • The number of calories you consume per day is greater than the number of calories your body burns. In this scenario, you gain weight.
  • The number of calories you consume daily is less than the number of calories your body burns per day. In this scenario, you lose weight.

Simply put, we gain fat when we eat too many damn calories, not because we eat or avoid specific foods. I’m a big proponent of the 80/20 rule, whereby 80 percent of your diet consists of highly nutritious, minimally processed foods, and 20 percent consists of low-nutrient, processed foods. The good news is you can still eat those foods you love. Just eat less of them. Maybe a lot less.

Lesson 7: Food Has No Moral Code
Have these thoughts ever crossed your mind?

A cookie is bad for you, while a salad is good for you.
I was bad because I had a piece of chocolate cake. I’d be good if I had broccoli and chicken.
Thinking of foods as “good” and “bad” is called orthorexia, “an obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy.” Orthorexia sounds great but, in reality, it undermines your long-term success, both physically and emotionally.

Labeling foods as good or bad only encourage a negative relationship with them. In reality, food is neutral; it’s meant to be used as fuel for the body—and to be enjoyed! A healthy diet isn’t all black or all white—it comes in shades of grey. Yes, it’s rich in nutrients, but if you want your diet to last the long haul, it also needs to include foods that give you pleasure.

Lesson 8: Be Realistic About Your Expectations
You’ve finally decided to start your fitness journey. You’re excited. You’re motivated. You think to yourself, “I’m going to have my dream body in 3-6 months!”

Good for you—but not so fast. For most mortals, it takes way more than three months to achieve that dream body, whatever it may be. With consistency in your exercise and diet program, you will see measurable and noticeable changes in three months—just maybe not the kind of before/after transformation you see so often on social media.

Getting a fit body and adding quality muscle can take years. Get into it for the long term.

Lesson 9: Consistency And Patience Are Keys
Motivation can get you started, but habits keep you going. It won’t always be sunshine and rainbows, but putting in a not-so-great workout beats no workout at all every time. Keep at it and don’t give up. Being consistent will bring you closer to your goals while also helping you develop the grit and work ethic needed to continue despite obstacles. Treat every day as an opportunity to grow and improve, and rely on your discipline—not your motivation—to get you to the gym. If you miss a workout, don’t get down on yourself. Just get right back into it!

Lesson 10: Don’t Be Obsessed With Scale Weight
For years I’ve been attached to a magical number on the scale, a number that would make my life so much easier, fuller, and happier. In reality, there is no such number. Your weight comprises fat mass and fat-free mass (bones, muscles, connective tissue, organs, and water), and it’s a dynamic measurement, one that fluctuates in response to stress, hydration, carb intake, fiber intake, types of foods, time of the day, and sleep.

Lesson 11: Mental And Emotional Strength Gains Are Coming Your Way
Just as muscles grow by repeatedly overcoming resistance, we grow as people the same way. Sometimes life can seem like a daily resistance workout you never signed up for. If you’re lucky, strength training can help you learn how to show up and do the work.

I fell in love with strength training because it has better prepared me for life. Strength training tests your will power. It challenges your patience and dedication as you progress, regress, plateau, and progress again. There’s something empowering about that, especially for us women.

Lesson 12: You Won’t Always Have The Support Of Others
Some people—even those closest to you—may not understand your new fit lifestyle. That’s OK. Not everyone has to agree with you, because the most important person in your life, you, will understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. Take care of your own health and well-being first. Focus on getting stronger, healthier, and fitter. The rest will follow.

Lesson 13: Remember, You’re Much More Than Your Body
Strength training doesn’t guarantee you’ll find happiness once you’re lean. Or that your life will be any more meaningful than it was before. Or that your friends and family will love you more. It doesn’t guarantee you’ll get wiser or become a better person. All your troubles and hardships may not vanish into thin air, but you will feel healthier, stronger, and, hopefully, more confident. And that is huge!

Over the years, I’ve witnessed so many people (mainly women) attaching their self-worth to the number on the scale or the size they wear. Know that you’re so much more than that. No matter what your body is up to on any given day, learn to love it all and treat your body well. After 13 years of strength training, today I am healthy, energized, and strong. I am a capable human being, and I’m much more than just my body. And so are you.

by Sivan Fagan


8 Health Benefits of Lifting Weights

March 12th, 2018 by Debbie Martilotta

Lifting lighter weights for more reps is great for building muscle endurance, but if you want to increase your strength, increasing your weight load is key.

Add compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and rows to your heavy weights and you’ll be amazed at how fast you’ll build strength.

Love the lean, defined muscles on super-fit ladies? “If women want more definition, they should lift heavier since they cannot get bigger muscles because of low testosterone levels,” says Dr. Jason Karp, an exercise physiologist, and author. “So, lifting heavier has the potential to make women more defined.”

The key to this one is consistency, as research has shown that lifting heavy weights over time not only maintains bone mass but can even build new bone, especially in the high-risk group of post-menopausal women (Women and Weight Training for Osteoporosis).

You may burn more calories during your 1-hour cardio class than you would lifting weights for an hour, but a study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that women who did weight training burned an average of 100 more calories during the 24 hours after their training session ended.

The effect is magnified when you increase the weight, as explained in a study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Women who lifted more weight for fewer reps (85 percent of their max load for 8 reps) burned nearly twice as many calories during the two hours after their workout than when they did more reps with a lighter weight (45 percent of their max load for 15 reps).

 

Article courtesy of Shape Magazine


Why lowering weights slowly is so important!

February 19th, 2018 by Debbie Martilotta

It is not only about how you LIFT those weights, its about how you LOWER them, too! Slow, controlled lowerings help build muscle and strength faster.

I found this article from Self Magazine interesting and you may too. I’ve hit the highlights below.

An eccentric movement is the lowering part of a move. It’s when your muscle works as it’s lengthened like your glutes do when you’re lowering into a squat, or like your biceps do as you’re lowering a dumbbell after a curl. And, it turns out, every muscle fiber in your body is the strongest as it moves eccentrically.

It’s not just because of gravity. When muscles work eccentrically, more of the parts of the muscle used for contracting remain attached to each other at any given time, so together they can produce more force. There may also be increased tightness in some proteins within the muscle fiber during eccentric actions, which make the muscle tauter (aka strong). Hence why lowering into a squat feels a heck of a lot easier than getting back to standing.

Through eccentric training, you turn the focus of every rep away from the concentric (contracting) portion to the eccentric (lengthening) portion. Why should you do such a thing? Check out these five body-rocking benefits of eccentric training:

1. Faster muscle gains

Rep per rep, eccentric training is superior to concentric training at building both muscle size and strength, research shows. After all, since your muscles are strongest as they move eccentrically if you want to push your limits, you’ve got to work eccentrically. Warning: Eccentric exercises increase delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), that soreness you feel up to 72 hours after a tough workout, in a big way. That’s because, in eccentric actions, the weight is greater than the amount of force produced by the muscle, so it creates more microscopic damage to the muscle.

2. Greater metabolic boosts

To recover from your sweat sessions, especially those that leave you riddled with DOMS for days, your body has to work super hard to recover. Although the studies are small (fewer than 20 subjects), some research shows that found that slowing down the eccentric phase of your lifts can significantly increase your resting metabolic rate (RMR)—the number of calories you burn at rest binge-watching Kimmy Schmidt. One study of 16 participants in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that eccentric training boosts RMR for up to 72 hours post-exercise. In the study, subjects performed the concentric phase quickly over one second and slowed down the eccentric over three seconds. Another study of 16 male participants published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found significant increases in RMR for up to 48 hours after leg presses that stressed the eccentric movement. Even though the research is limited, the mechanisms make sense: Eccentric exercise does more muscle damage, which then requires more energy to repair it.

3. More flexibility

Perform eccentric exercises, and you may reduce the need for performing dedicated “flexibility” workouts. After all, in one North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy study of 75 athletes with tight hamstrings, those who performed eccentric hamstring exercises improved their flexibility twice as well as those who stuck with static (bend-and-hold) stretching. The trick is to move through your entire range of motion as you perform the eccentric phase of your exercise. Over time, that range of motion will get bigger and bigger. A research review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine confirmed that eccentric training is an effective way to increase flexibility, although it noted that more research is needed to determine how eccentric strength training compares to static stretching or other types of exercise.

4. Lower risk of injury

Eccentric exercises strengthen not just your muscles, but also your body’s connective tissues, helping to both rehab any aches and pains as well as prevent injuries ranging from tendinitis to ACL strains, per one comprehensive review in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. It notes that eccentric exercises are vital in sports rehab settings and are great even for people sidelined with exercise injuries.

5. Better sports performance

Eccentric actions aren’t just something you do in the weight room. They are a given in any workout—from beach volleyball to 10K races. (Eccentric actions are why your quads feel destroyed after a long run downhill.) So, by performing strength training routines and focusing not just on concentric or isometric, but also eccentric moves, you better prepare your body for any challenges to come. Plus, a 2015 review in BioMed Research International shows that eccentric moves are critical to increasing your body’s ability to produce power, which is critical to delivering hard-hitting volleyball serves and setting new race PRs.