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Friday, January 24, 2014

More, More, More: 3 Things to Add for Fat Loss & Muscle Building

...and you thought fat loss was about "taking away"...
“There goes another New Year’s resolution,” my friend said, diving into a big plate of banana pecan French toast over a recent Sunday brunch. I sighed and politely motioned for our server to bring more coffee.
I needed the caffeine to deal with my high-maintenance friend, an actress susceptible to dramatic proclamations even if her intentions are pure. I always admire her big ideas and lofty resolutions. One New Year’s Eve she drunkenly but dead seriously declared she would land a modeling career. Like I said, the girl’s got plans.
Unfortunately, she has
no strategy to back up those plans, so like her dietary debacle at brunch, they collapse with a massive thud.
You guessed it: Fat loss was my friend’s big 2014 resolution. Oh, and she wanted me to train her to get a “tight beach body,” as she called it. Her ultimate goal was to become lean, toned, and 20 pounds lighter by month’s end for an upcoming show in San Diego, and she had a very low-carb plan to make that happen.
One big problem: My friend loves carbs.
I mean, she calls me up and says “I’m going to commit carbocide tonight!” I’ve seen her devour half a chocolate cake in one sitting. So when she declared her resolution, I wanted to scream, You need a miracle and a reality check to make all this happen, but for once I bit my tongue.
Turn Your Resolution into Reality
In my two decades coaching clients, I’ve learned rather than the hyperbolic Lose 10 pounds by this weekend! mentality so prevalent in today’s culture, successful people create small, manageable strategies that carry them every day to their goal.
You don’t need New Year’s resolutions to make these small changes. Change starts right now, and let me tell you, deciding when you’ll start – rather than allow a particular date to determine your destiny – can be pretty darn self-empowering.
I use these three simple, effective strategies with my clients who want to become lean and toned without extreme dieting or exercise, which as we all know, can backfire pretty rapidly.
Even if you do nothing else, these strategies will help you become leaner and fitter. You won’t get overnight results, but employ them and you’ll steadily see a newer, better body in the mirror. And unlike my friend, you can save the drama for your night out at the theatre.
Strategy 1: Sleep More
I’ve discussed the hormonal hell of even one night’s crappy sleep. You know well the practical consequences. You snap at coworkers, coffee becomes your best friend, and every minor inconvenience triggers dramatic tension.
As I sometimes joke with my clients, you build muscle in the gym, but your best efforts happen in the bedroom. Recovery is a vastly undervalued aspect of building muscle and becoming lean. Simply put: You become fit not by working harder but by sleeping more.
Growth hormone is one example. You make this fountain-of-youth hormone that keeps you lean and strong during deep sleep. If you’re a light sleeper or someone who frequently gets up to pee during the night, you’re probably not getting sufficient growth hormone.
Insulin is another biggie. Insulin is a storage hormone: Around a workout, it stores sugar as glycogen in your muscle cells (good). Unfortunately, insulin also stores fat when it stays elevated when you’re sitting on the couch watching Friends reruns (not good).
The key is to optimize this hormone, and sleep plays a major role in that process. One study showed just one night of crappy sleep can make you more insulin resistant, setting the stage for obesity and diabetes. I’ll tell you the right foods to optimize insulin in strategy three.
One more hormone and I’ll be quiet. Cortisol should be highest during morning hours and gradually taper throughout the day. Too little sleep can keep this stress hormone revved up, keeping you wired when you should be powering down. Ironically, your all-day caffeine jolt just elevates cortisol even more.
So, let’s see, you’re hungry, stressed out, wired on caffeine, and your blood sugar levels are all over the map. Maybe you have some red wine to chill out with dinner, so you’re adding alcohol to an ever-crashing mix. I don’t need to tell you too little sleep makes nose-diving into the chocolate glazed donuts incredibly easy.
We agree then that starting tonight, you’re going to get eight hours of high quality, uninterrupted sleep every night. Stop it with the I’m so busy excuses. We’re all busy. Make time for sleep, because when you sleep well you’re far more productive the next day.
I’ve provided some strategies here about how to meet your sleep goals. 
Strategy 2: Drink More
Put this into perspective. Your muscles are 75% water while your body is about 70% water. Chronic dehydration can drop that number down to 40 – 50%. Among its many roles, filtered water keeps your cellular machinery flowing nicely and flushes toxins from your body.
I could give you many more fun facts about water but I’ll let you Google them. Or we can agree water is that important for fat loss and lots more and be done. (As I always tell my boyfriend, it’s just so much easier to just agree with me!)
Dry skin, fatigue, and cramping are signs of dehydration. Unfortunately, your brain doesn’t always get the signal to drink more liquid, and by time it does you’re seriously dehydrated.
Hunger is another sign you might be dehydrated. I tell clients if they’re craving a mid-afternoon snack, have a big glass of water instead. Yeah, not as much fun, but you’ll also save a few hundred calories and some potential dietary damage.
One study even found drinking eight ounces of water before bed can completely zap midnight hunger pangs. Translation: You’re less likely to grab a spoonful of Chunky Monkey that suddenly turns into the whole pint.
Listen, I’m not one of those people who think drinking enough water will solve every problem on the planet, but I do think most of us could benefit from getting more water. My rule is half your body weight in water ounces. Get a BPA-free bottle, keep it filled, and sip throughout your day. Make it a habit and it really becomes that easy.
Strategy 3: Eat More Protein
I had a friend in high school who knew all the right people. You’ve known one of those folks, right? We secretly envy them. Her mom’s best friend helped her get into a really good college, and her dad’s best friend was the owner of an Italian restaurant where my friend waited tables. We were all jealous she could afford designer jeans with the tips she earned.
Eating protein is sort of like knowing all the right people and having the deck stacked in your metabolic favor. Protein at every meal helps balance your hormones so you stay full, focused, burning fat, and building muscle.
I mentioned insulin earlier. I want to be very clear: If you’re a lifter or otherwise hit the gym, raising insulin around your workout to store sugar (glucose) as glycogen can work in your favor. But keeping insulin ramped up all day will seriously stall fat loss. That’s why we call insulin a Jekyll-and-Hyde hormone.
While protein can raise insulin, it also elevates insulin’s sister hormone glucagon that releases fat that your body then burns. Carbohydrates, on the other hand, totally ramp up insulin, which stores fat and also keeps that fat locked up.
One study found that, compared with a high-carbohydrate breakfast, a higher-protein breakfast keeps you fuller longer. You see, sufficient protein dials down ghrelin, your hunger hormone that tells your brain to eat. Unlike carbs, protein also signals a hormone called cholecystokinin (CCK), which tells your brain to stop eating. It’s a win-win.
I always start my day with a protein shake. It’s so easy, fast, filling, and fat burning. I blend MediClear SGS Chocolate (delicious taste, by the way) with unsweetened coconut milk and frozen berries. If I’m on the road, I just skip the berries and use a shaker cup. 
Optimal protein food choices include grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish, free-range poultry, and barnyard eggs. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you’ll get protein from plant foods like legumes, quinoa, and nuts and seeds. You can definitely do it, but it’s far easier if you incorporate high-quality animal-protein sources.
Your Turn
I sincerely believe if you implement these three simple but effective strategies right now, you will become leaner and more toned. Not overnight, and not without some serious hard work, but these strategies will effectively move you towards your goal faster than you might think.
If you could add one more crucial strategy to this list for fat loss and muscle gain, what would it be? Share your answer below or on my Facebook fan page. 
Additional References
University of Washington Study. 2002. Reported in Integrated and Alternative Medicine Clinical Highlights. 4:1(16).
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Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!  Take Jini's "Are you Ready?" Quiz at © 2011 Jinifit, Inc.

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