Over the past few weeks, we have taken a quick look at the benefits of high intensity interval training (HIIT) and moderate intensity steady state cardio (MISS). Now you may be asking “Well, what should I be doing?” The answer, as it so often is in nutrition and fitness, is it depends. What does it depend on? There are several things. Your goals, the amount of time you have available, and what you enjoy all play a role. Ideally, there is a place for both in your workout routine, but if you truly are crunched for time, talk to us about your needs and we will help find the right balance for you.
Are you looking to increase your cardiovascular endurance? Look no further than moderate intensity steady state cardio (MISS). Running, rowing, or biking at a slightly elevated heart rate two to three times a week for as little as twenty minutes can make a huge difference in your cardiovascular capacity. All of these activities are also a great way to get outside, connect with nature, and have some time away from our day to day stresses. Be careful to avoid too much MISS if fat loss is your goal, however, as some research has shown a correlation between excessive MISS and stalled fat loss. Have you hit a plateau in your fat loss? We can help you identify if your workouts are helping or hurting your progress.
Are you doing high intensity interval training (HIIT)? If not, there are a lot of reasons why you should consider adding it to your workout routine, especially if your goals include fat loss or improved cardiovascular capacity. So what is HIIT anyway? It is a style of workout that includes periods of intense work with periods of recovery. One type of HIIT workout is the Tabata style workout, in which an athlete performs a certain movement for a period of time, then rests for a designated period of time. Think twenty seconds of pushups followed by ten seconds of rest, repeated for ten minutes. Studies have shown that this type of workout improves cardiovascular function and, in connection with proper nutrition, helps reduce whole body fat mass when performed consistently. HIIT workouts can be done with or without added weight, don’t require a fancy gym membership, and generally can be done in a short period of time. So if you are looking to score a fitness home run, think HIIT!
I stumbled across an opinion piece the other day advocating for a national institute of nutrition. The author makes some good points, particularly with regard to the need for nutrition science that isn’t dependent on grants from commercial entities. In light of the amount of junk studies put out there for quick headlines (see last week’s post), it sounds like a good idea to me. Take a look and let me know your thoughts in the comments! thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/410620-the-case-for-a-national-institute-of-nutrition
Every day or two, we read or hear about some new study that suggests we change the way we eat immediately to lose weight, stave off some disease, or lead a longer, more active life. Often one study directly contradicts the findings of another. The New York Times just published a great piece on the current shortcomings in nutrition research, and unfortunately, those shortcomings aren’t going away any time soon.
The takeaway? Don’t change your dietary habits with the news cycle. Take the time to find out whether a study’s findings are supported by the greater body of research, or ask someone like us who actually enjoys diving into the scientific literature and research reviews.
There are a ton of online nutrition programs these days. While unfortunately some are out and out scams, there are a lot of programs that can be transformative. One problem I see a lot is that a person may choose a program that isn’t right for them. Three examples: a) if you don’t know what macros are, you likely will struggle with a macros based program that doesn’t provide a lot of hands-on support; b) if you don’t know your way around a kitchen, a program that doesn’t help you to develop meal prep skills probably won’t be a good match; and c) if the program doesn’t take into account your preferred activities and activity level, you likely won’t get good results. It’s really important to research whether the program or programs you are looking at address each of these issues and if so, how. Nutrition coaches can be a great resource in figuring out which program may be right for you. If you are wondering how to find a program that works for you, give us a call! We’re happy to chat about your options.
Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I HATE to run, and if they are being honest instead of polite, they’ll probably tell you I am not very good at it. I have worked hard on improving this spring and summer, and while I am not going to set records of any kind any time soon, I no longer feel like I am going to die if I run for more than a mile. Part of my running program this summer involved interval work at the track where I would run a certain distance at a certain pace, then walk a set distance to bring my heart rate down, then do it over and over and over again. Over time, the distance at running pace increases and the walking time decreases. When I started, I was walking and running about the length of a football field. Now, I “get” to run as much as four football fields to walking one. It’s tedious, so during the walks, I like to people watch. A couple of weeks ago, it was over ninety degrees at eight in the morning, so there were only two other people on the track. One was walking laps when I got there, and was joined a few minutes later by another. They began to do intervals of about the same length I had been doing when I started. The person who arrived late stuck it out for about fifteen minutes, while the other kept at it even after her friend left. Watching her work brought home to me how much she must want to improve, and how far I had come on my own journey. As luck would have it, we both ended our workouts around the same time, and as we were leaving, I simply told her “Great job today.” It was - I know from recent experience just how hard it is for a non-runner to do what she had just done. The look on her face said it all - pure joy that someone believed in her as an athlete. That made my day, because I remember the first time someone called me athletic. I was forty-three, and had NEVER thought of myself as having any athletic gifts whatsoever. That moment changed the way I thought about myself (thank you, Coach Joe!) and four years later, I haven’t looked back. The moral of the story? Those few words of encouragement may just change someone’s life.
Are you over thirty? How much protein do you eat? Well, if you want to preserve your muscle as you age, unless you are already eating about a gram of protein per pound of body weight, you may want to add some extra protein at each meal. Recent research shows that as people age, there is a strong link between protein consumption and muscle wasting. Put simply, most of us don’t eat enough protein to provide our bodies with adequate building blocks to create new muscle at the rate our body breaks it down. Muscle loss begins in your 30’s and the rate of loss increases with further aging. Strength training helps, but that training won’t result in preserving or even gaining muscle unless you have adequate levels of dietary protein. Curious about whether you are eating enough protein, or how to get more into your diet? We’re happy to help!
Many people think that their trainer or nutrition coach has perfect exercise and nutrition habits. I'm here to tell you that while that's flattering, it's definitely not true. We struggle with the same things that you do, day in and day out. I'm active in a number of nutrition and exercise related Facebook groups and one of them recently had a thread on what our clients might be surprised to learn about us. Here are some of the things we confessed, grossly generalized:
We LOVE beer, wine, ice cream, pizza, burgers, bread, nut butters, cupcakes, fresh bread, cookies, chips, and donuts.
We DEAL WITH hormone cravings, sleep deprivation, and work/life balance.
We HATE meal prep and working out when we don't feel like it.
Some of us BATTLE emotional eating and eating disorders.
Our GUILTY PLEASURES include eating pints of ice cream and eating Reese's Peanut Butter Cups while binge watching Netflix when we are supposed to be working or working out.
The difference between the professionals and the clients? Most of us are comfortable with an eighty-twenty lifestyle. We have worked hard to learn to be consistent in our habits so that we can enjoy the things we love in moderation. We can help you get there, too!
Many of the clients that I work with have vacillated between watching everything they eat and exercising every day, and ignoring diet and exercise completely. They really struggle with achieving balance, particularly when it comes to exercise, but they need adequate rest and recovery to meet their goals. Inadequate rest can stall weight loss and increase the risk of injury.
After a certain point, which differs for everyone, more exercise is not better. We all need some rest and recovery to maximize our performance and our nutrition goals. If you work out every day, you likely aren't going to achieve your physical or nutrition goals as quickly as if you give yourself a day to relax and recover once or twice a week. That doesn't mean you need to be a couch potato, but try to have at least one day a week where you do not elevate your heart rate or lift weights. Yoga, gentle swimming or biking, and long walks are all great for recovery days.
How do you figure out what balance is right for you? Well, take notes! Keep a log of how you feel and recover, as well as what your weight is doing if weight loss is a goal, for a week or two with one workout schedule, then add another day of recovery in and see what happens over the next two weeks. Keep tinkering with that schedule until you feel like you are maximizing your performance and your nutrition goals, and adjust as needed over time. Remember, adequate rest and recovery will allow you to make the most out of each workout and each meal.
Amy Mariani is the owner of Fit & Fabulous LLC in Winchester, Massachusetts. She is also the nutrition coach at www.mountainstrength.com. Her mission is to help people eat healthy and love life.
Please note that you should consult with your physician prior to embarking on any major changes with regard to your nutrition. Unfortunately, absent authorization from a medical professional, we are unable to provide individualized nutrition coaching to anyone under the age of eighteen, or to persons with certain medical conditions. We are always happy to work with authorized medical professionals under these circumstances.