Fitness Tips: Exercising on an Empty Stomach

August 23, 2011 By: office 2 Comments

Hitting the gym before you eat may seem like conventional wisdom, but should you try to deliberately go to the gym on an empty stomach in order to burn more fat?

The idea, advocated in popular fitness books for decades, is that exercising on an empty stomach forces the body to dip into fat stores instead of burning the carbohydrates quickly available from a pre-workout snack or meal. Seems to make sense, doesn’t it? In actuality, research shows that working out in this way offers no additional bodily benefit, and may actually stunt your workout and affect your weight loss efforts.

Exercising on an Empty Stomach

It is more beneficial to your body to eat a pre-workout snack than to go on an empty stomach.

After years of studying and research, a report from the Strength and Conditioning Journal concluded that you burn the same amount of fat regardless of any pre-workout carbohydrates. On the contrary, you are likely to lose muscle by exercising in a depleted state. Also, without fuel to exercise, intensity and overall calories burned will be reduced.

When working out on an empty stomach, up to 10 percent of your calories burned can come from protein. This includes muscle loss. Also, separate studies show that if you consume as little as 45 grams of carbohydrates prior to working out, you will consume later throughout the day. This can lead to over-eating, which can contribute to weight gain. Consuming a little bit before working out instead of trying to work out on an empty stomach seems to be a win-win situation!

If you want to burn more fat and less carbohydrates, try changing up what you do in the gym instead of when you eat. Doing a cardio workout for a longer time at a lower intensity burns more fat. Working out at a high intensity for a short amount of time will burn more carbohydrates. Try ditching the sprints for a long, slow jog in order to shed some pounds. Just remember not to be too low on energy, or your weight loss workout will suffer overall.

Stop Looking at the Scale, Part 2: Other ways to Tell if you are Progressing

August 13, 2011 By: afeldman 3 Comments

In my last article, I explained why looking at the scale constantly is not a true indicator of weight room and weight loss progress and also, how to properly weigh yourself. In this article I will go further and explain some other ways in which you can measure progress in exercise. The good thing about these is that if one measurement seems to plateau, there are several others which may be improving. This means that just because one part of your  fitness program isn’t excelling as quickly, does not mean that the whole machine is broke. Listed below are a variety of things to measure when looking at fitness progress as a whole.

How much weight you are using

It is very important to keep records of the weights you use during exercise. Not only will writing help you remember what weight to use, it will also push you to increase those weights. To measure progress with a weight room journal,  record weight room numbers (weight used, repetitions done and sets of each exercise) and once some time has passed, look back to past workouts and compare the numbers on various exercises from past to present. You will immediately be able to tell if you have gotten stronger and on which exercises.

How quickly you are moving

Running

Test yourself to see how quickly you can move during cardio exercise.

This refers to how quickly you move while doing cardio vascular exercises. This can be assessed by looking at distances covered on each piece of equipment you use or from how far you go outside. To measure progress, give yourself a 1 Mile test every 2 weeks. In a 1 mile test, you walk/run a mile as quickly as possible taking minimal breaks. The idea is to compare how long your mile takes with how long it took before. This mile test should be done at the beginning of a workout when you are fresh. It can be done on a track, treadmill, elliptical or even a bike. If you are training for longer distance exercise, then the 1 mile test can be turned into a 2 mile test or a 3 mile test.

How much energy you have in the tank

When first starting an exercise program, most people lack the energy to cruise through an exercise session. Pay close attention to how you feel after various activities such as exercise and day to day stuff. As you move through an exercise program from week to week, progress will manifest it self in your energy levels. You will soon notice that walking up 3 flights of stairs with a book bag doesn’t get you out of breath as much as it used to or that running for 20 minutes no longer makes you feel sick afterwards. Increased energy levels both during exercise and during the day will show up sooner than some of the other indicators of progress.

How clothes fit

Even when scale numbers do not change, your body is changing. It may be building muscle at the same time as burning fat. Pants will start to feel loose if you are doing something right. This may take a while depending how quickly other things are progressing.

How much you like exercising

Most people that start exercising do so because they are trying to correct something with their physical status. Usually, when we have to work for something, the process is not as enjoyable as the outcome. Exercise is no exception. It is hard, time consuming and can take much discipline. However, if you stick with it long enough, it will become much more bearable. Pay attention to how you feel as you’re getting ready for each exercise session. Becoming more positive about physical activity is a huge indicator of progress.

How long your breaks are

How long of breaks do you take between sets of an exercise or between different exercises? Most general fitness exercisers wait until they catch their breath or until they feel physical ready. If you are exercising the right way, these breaks will get shorter as you get into better shape. What used to be a 1-2 minute break has now shortened itself to 30 seconds. If fatigue isn’t forcing you to take breaks anymore, then it is time to look at the first progress indicator I mentioned. In other words, increase your weights.

How sore you are the next day

Generally speaking, the start of an exercise program brings much muscular soreness the day after exercise. As we get into better shape this will taper off. Sure, even the most advanced exercisers get sore after workouts, but it is much more bearable than those first 2 weeks of exercise. Training for general fitness will see soreness taper off as individuals get into better shape. Compare how sore you are after the first day back from a break to how you feel 5 weeks into a program.

Incorporate all of these indicators of progress into how you assess your fitness levels from month to month. Just because a scale number isn’t constantly changing is not a reason to lose all hope. However, if progress isn’t indicated by any of the above, then it is time to reassess your fitness program.

Stop Looking at the Scale, Part 1: Why Weight Changes more than the Weather

August 3, 2011 By: afeldman 1 Comment

With an increased focus on weight management due to the rise of obesity, frequent exercisers have picked up the habit of constant weighing. While the measurement that comes from a scale can be one way to see if exercise is working, there are better things to do then checking weight every 5 minutes. When constantly stepping on the scale, frustration follows since the number does not keep up with expectations. Ideally, weight would only go down on a weight loss program but it is actually normal for weight to fluctuate in both directions on a consistent basis. In this two part article, I would like to go over the reasons for weight fluctuation and also, some alternative ways to measure your progress.

Time of day fluctuation = weight fluctuation

When taking weight, some people check their weight at various times of the day. Throughout the day, bodyweight will fluctuate based off of the reasons I have listed below. An individual could see a 3-7 pound difference from a morning weigh in to an evening weigh in, so keep that in mind next time you see a “night time weight” and start panicking.

Meal fluctuation = weight fluctuation

One of the reasons for the “time of day fluctuation” is a meal schedule. As you eat, obviously you will gain weight from the food immediately. It is digesting in your stomach and being processed, so until your body has gotten rid of waste and water contents of food, the scale will show a noticeably higher amount. Meal fluctuations also include differences in day to day food choices. If your meals are not the exact same thing every day, then your weight will be different from one day to the next. Foods like beans will take much longer to digest then something like a banana. This does not mean that you need to eat the same thing every day; it just means that you shouldn’t expect the scale to be a reliable measurement every single day.

Activity fluctuation = weight fluctuation

During the day, the human body is constantly sweating. Sometimes it is noticeable such as in exercise or hard labor and other times it evaporates so quickly we don’t even know. All sweat that leaves the body is water leaving our system. During a half hour of exercise in the summer sun, one could see an incredible loss of water weight from sweating. Weight losses from sweating do not relate to fat loss and they are also unhealthy if not corrected after working out. If you lose 3 pounds of water during an exercise session, this fluid needs to be replaced as soon as possible for your body to function at its normal levels.

Water fluctuation = weight fluctuation

If I weigh myself at this moment and somebody wants me to show them how quickly I can gain weight, I will start chugging down water. The same thing applies to a normal scale weigh in. If you weight yourself after drinking a large amount of water, that will obviously increase the number you see on the scale. Also, there are times when we drink water and our body will hold on to it much longer than normal; this is called water retention. Water retention is caused by things like extreme diet changes, alcohol, dehydration and stress.

Sodium fluctuation = weight fluctuation

Sodium fluctuation and water fluctuation counteract with each other. Extreme changes in the diet usually mean extreme changes in how much salt one is consuming. While sodium is vital to the body, an excess amount of it can cause water retention. When starting a diet or taking a day off from one, the bouncing from a low sodium level to a high one or vice versa may throw off your weight because of water retention.

Clothing fluctuation = weight fluctuation

This one is pretty simple but we sometimes forget this. Clothes can add on weight. If you weigh yourself fully clothed one day compared to just a t-shirt the next, there will be a difference in weight.

Location fluctuation = weight fluctuation

There are a couple of factors that go into this. One is the use of a different scale. Some scales are not calibrated leaving them to give you wrong measurements. The floor that a scale rests on may also be uneven. When I was doing weekly weigh ins last year for fitness competitions, I experimented around with the scale. I moved it around to different locations in the house to see if the numbers changed. I saw fluctuations of 5 pounds!

The bottom line is that there are many factors that go into how much you weigh besides how much fat you carry. These become especially apparent when weight is taken at a variety of times and situations. To use weight as a measurement, your body should be in a consistent state for each weighing.

How to properly weigh your self

1.Weigh yourself at the same time each weighing.

2. Weigh yourself right after waking up and using the restroom.

3. Weigh yourself no more often than once a week.

4.To make a weigh in reliable try to keep your eating the afternoon/evening before consistent from week to week.

5.Always rehydrate yourself right after a workout to avoid confusion that comes from lost water weight/water retention and more importantly, because your body needs water!

6. Clean up the diet of excess salt.

Let me run a scenario by everyone. On Monday, Cindy weighs herself at 170 pounds. During that day, she exercises for an hour without rehydrating and she sticks to easily digested foods. Tuesday morning, Cindy weighs herself at 165 pounds, 5 pounds in one day! After weighing herself, Cindy has a busy day at work in which she is seated all day, she eats high salt foods and decides to weigh herself again on Wednesday morning. Now Cindy’s weight is reading 172. This can’t be right; she has gained 7 pounds in one day. The truth is that Cindy’s weight difference has nothing to do with her body fat level changing. We now know the proper way for her to step on a scale but what else can she do to check her progress? The solution to this problem will be shown in part 2 of my series.

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