Pros and Cons of Creatine Supplementation

There was a time when I took a lot of supplements – a whole lot! Over time, I’ve weaned myself off many of them in favor of better nutrition. But, when I first started lifting, I had a hard time fueling my body for the workouts and life in general. My nutrition was terrible. Now, that I’ve learned how to eat healthier to meet macros, supplements are not as necessary for me. But, there are two that continue to be staples in my pantry – whey protein and creatine.

When I first heard about creatine to help muscle growth I was very skeptical. Most of what I’d heard about it was from the bodybuilding world and it all sounded negative. When I tried to research it for females, I had a hard time finding anything about it and those who seemed to have knowledge stopped short of recommending it or not. It was like you had to figure out on your own whether you should use it. I decided to try it and the first time was not a great experience. I have never been great at staying hydrated and I wasn’t replenishing all the water my muscles were retaining with the supplement. So, I quickly became bloated and developed chronic headaches. That combined with the increase in weight that I was able to lift left me lethargic and miserable.

The next time I cycled on to it was better. I was ready for the hydration issue and had developed better eating and sleeping habits to accompany the use of the creatine. I made huge gains and was happy! I did not stay on it, however, mostly because I ended up in a place where I wasn’t really lifting heavy anymore and didn’t feel it was worth it to stay on it. I wanted to give my body a break. I’m back on it now and feeling great! But, it reminded me that perhaps it would be a good idea for me to pay it forward for other women wondering if creatine supplementation is right for them.

Pros

  1. You can lift heavier. Creatine really helps you gain the extra edge to do one more rep or lift 5 pounds more. It’s a huge confidence booster!
  2. You look more muscular. Because creatine increases the water level in your muscles you end up with a “pumped up” look, which doesn’t hurt your ego!
  3. It might boost brain power! According to a 2003 study by scientists in Australia, creatine can boost memory power! Subsequent studies have backed this up.
  4. It helps slow bone and muscle loss in seniors. In fact, it’s often recommended for older people to help with age-related loss of bone density, muscle mass and physical performance.
  5. Affordable! You will find that creatine monohydrate is a pretty inexpensive supplement, as low as $5 for a container. This is refreshing when you consider the price of so many other supplements on the market today.

Cons

  1. You may experience bloating. Particularly during the loading phase when you’re dosing higher amounts of creatine into your body, you may be bloated as your body accommodates the supplement. Sometimes even going forward, you may also feel this way, if you’re not drinking enough. Decreasing the daily dose and increasing your water intake should help mitigate it.
  2. You need to keep taking it to keep it in your system. If you’re like me, you take creatine on days you work out and on rest days you might forget to take it. You can’t forget! It needs to stay in your system, much like an antiobiotic, so make sure you mix it into a shake on your off days, too.
  3. Those with kidney issues need to beware. Always check with your doctor before taking any supplements. In particular, those who have kidney-related issues should consult with their doctor before starting creatine supplementation, according to the Mayo Clinic.

It’s best to take the purest form of creatine you can find and make sure you use the monohydrate version as it’s the most studied of all the types. Personally, I find it to be most effective, too. The brands I would recommend are Optimum Nutrition and MuscleTech. If you do decide to take creatine, pay attention to your body. You know you. If it doesn’t feel right or you have any negative side effects, just stop taking it. Make sure you give it at least a week, though, to be certain it’s loaded into your system and your body adjusts to it. Like anything, it will take time for you to get used to it. Happy lifting!

4 Healthy Shakes to Help You Meet Nutrition Goals

It’s summer and what better time to try some new shakes than when it’s extra hot and you have zero motivation to cook? Shakes are a great way to load up on nutrients or help you make up for where you may be lacking. What’s more, they’re easy to make, great on the go and tasty! Here are four recipes to try the next time you need a nutrient-dense quick meal:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bonanza

Scoop of chocolate whey protein
1 banana
1 c. almond milk
1 tbsp. cacao nibs or powder
1 tbsp. peanut butter
1/2 to 1 c. water (depending on desired consistency)

Green Monster

Scoop of vanilla whey protein
1/2 avocado
Handful of spinach or kale
1 c. almond milk
1 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 to 1 c. water (depending on desired consistency)

A Berry Good Smoothie

Scoop of vanilla whey protein
1 c. frozen berries (any kind you like!)*
1 c. almond milk
1/2 to 1 c. water (depending on desired consistency)

* You can use fresh berries. Just add a few ice cubes!

The Caffeinater

Scoop of vanilla whey protein
1 tbsp. cacao nibs or powder
1 tbsp. organic coffee
1 c. almond milk
1/2 to 1 c. water (depending on desired consistency)

(Want more healthy fats in any of these shakes? Add 1 tbsp of any or all of the following: MCT oil, flaxseed, chia seeds, hemp hearts)

Perils of Too Much Protein

Is there such a thing as too much protein? It’s a good question especially at a time when it seems like everyone is talking about protein. It’s touted as essential for building muscle, and it is, but also as a weight loss strategy due to its ability to make you feel full. But, as with any good thing, there IS a such thing as too much. 

According to WebMD.com, females only need about 46g per day while men require a bit more at 56g per day. If you workout regularly and are trying to build or maintain muscle, those numbers may seem low — it’s because they are! Those who lift regularly require a bit more protein to build mass but not much more. It’s recommended that resistance trainers take in .8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. That’s often higher than the recommended daily allowance. Anything more than that and you aren’t reaping any more benefits; in fact, you may be hurting yourself, if you’re trying to build mass. 

Protein is satiating, meaning it makes you feel full. This is why people who are trying to lose weight can benefit from loading up on protein. But, if you’re full, then you might not have the capacity to eat enough healthy carbohydrates and fats, two essential macronutrients needed for your body to function at optimum levels. If you’re trying to gain weight/muscle, you absolutely need to consume enough carbohydrates and healthy fats. Limiting protein to 1g per pound of body weight will absolutely help in this regard.

If you’re like me, you’re used to taking in a ton of protein. I enjoy those foods and find them easy to consume. I tend to feel bloated when eating carbs and fats are sometimes hard to keep in my diet without being really focused on it. It is a struggle for me to maintain balance! But, it’s super important if I want to gain. Carbs will provide the energy I need to power through the lifts and fats are essential to maintain hormonal balance, something peri-menopausal women need to stay healthy! 

The best way to make sure you’re in right relationship with your three key macronutrients is to track what you’re taking in each day and adjust accordingly. I use Cronometer but MyFitnessPal is a good choice, as well. If you’re short on carbs or fats, try a healthy shake to load up and level off. I have a jug of Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass for those days I fall short on carbs. As for healthy fats, shakes are my go to. You can add chia seeds, flaxseed, hemp hearts, MCT oil, almond butter or avocado to load up on healthy fats. If you’re only a tiny bit short at the end of the day, try a whole grain toast with avocado or almond butter. That’s a good top off that should gain healthy carbs and fats and still let you fall asleep!

A note about tracking… at first it will seem like a chore but after a while it will become habit. It’s essential to ensuring you are meeting your goals. Very few of us can go with our instincts in this area – we will either eat more than we think or less and it’s even harder to make sure our protein/carb/fat ratios are correct. So, if you’re trying to gain muscle, here’s a formula to consider as a starting point for your own dietary needs:

Protein = 1g per pound: For me, that’s 93g but I have rounded it up to 100g to make it easy for me, plus it’s my goal to get back to 100 pounds (I’m down since quarantine without the heavy weights at home.)

Carbohydrates = 40 to 45% of total calories: For me, that’s 262g since my total calories are at 2,494 (my daily requirement according to my size and activity level is 1,994 but I am trying to gain so I’ve added 500 to that number). This level is 42% specifically for those who are counting!

Fats = 25 to 30% of total calories: For me, I’ve gone higher on fats because my body does better with higher fat. I’m not sure why and I continue to research to see if I can figure it out! So, I’m at 38% or 105g. Fats are 9g per calorie so for those who are watching their weight, you may want to go on the lower end of the fat percentage and go higher on carbs. But, try not to go over your bodyweight goal for protein. 

This is just a start and my formula is specifically for gaining weight and mass. For those who are trying to lose, you can go a little higher on protein but not more than 25% of your overall caloric intake. You need the healthy carbs and fats, trust me! Your body will thank you!

 

Creating a Home Gym

I never liked working out at home. Part of the draw for me has always been actually driving someplace to workout and “getting away from it all!” I also require so many different types of equipment for all the various types of lifting I like to do. All that aside, I never had room for a home gym either. Everything has changed in the last several weeks. For one thing, COVID-19 closed the gyms in my state and they have yet to reopen. When they do, it’s likely it will be difficult to get into them with all the restrictions on numbers of people and spacing, etc. My family also relocated and our home is much larger. There actually is a place to build a home gym! Now that I’ve gotten kind of used to workout at home I can totally see myself building something amazing. But, it’s been a challenge to figure out what equipment I truly need and finding it!

Home equipment isn’t cheap. It can be thousands of dollars, if you’re trying to get major pieces. Not only that, most of what I am interested in is out of stock or backordered. Seems I’m not the only one with the idea to build a home workout setup. So, I’ve had to really think about what items are necessary. Below is my list so far and the reason behind each choice:

  1. Stair climber, elliptical, treadmill or exercise bicycle – at least one piece of cardio equipment is necessary. The weather won’t always be great for my daily walks. This is the order in which I would like them. Stair climber is my absolute fave but it’s also most pricey!
  2. Bench (incline/decline) – a bench is super important for so many exercises but it must be able to incline and decline, as well. Pairing a bench with a squat rack is an easy way to create a bench press without having to buy a special set-up.
  3. Barbell – I have a ez curl bar but not a straight one, which is necessary for squats, deadlifts, bench press and more.
  4. Bumper plates – these are safer on the floor then the traditional weights plus the size helps me with deadlifts. I’ve narrowed down to the following weight increments: 10lbs (4); 25lbs (2) and 45lbs (2). This gives me up to 180lbs which is nowhere near my max. I can always order more if I ever get stronger!
  5. Adjustable dumbbells – to save space and money I have my eye on the adjustable version of dumbbells, which allow you to change the weight using the same set, rather than needing an entire rack of dumbbells. Plus, I already have 5lbs, 8lbs and 10lbs. These were pricier than I thought and I may have to settle for lower weights at first.
  6. Stability ball – this would be super helpful for crunches, stability work, back extensions and more. I totally had one of these and sold it in a garage sale because I never used it!
  7. Rubber flooring – my space will need rubber flooring for all the deadlifts I’ll do. Plus it will save my feet from pounding on concrete.
  8. Squat rack – this is key for all the lower body work but also to create a bench press. Plus, I would order one with arms to create a deadlift rack, too.
  9. Pull up bar – I have already ordered one of these but it’s coming from Europe! It was the only one I could find in stock. But, it’s important for upper body work for sure. I got the kind that goes in the doorway.
  10. Resistance bands – I have a set but I ordered an additional set with handles. I am finding I need handles for some of the exercises I am doing, plus I was in need of a band that was a bit lighter. Mine start at 15lbs and I could use a 10lb one for some of my work.

These are all the items I need to get or are in the process of getting. I already have ankle weights, booty bands, hip thruster, one set of resistance bands, the dumbbells I mentioned earlier, an 8lb and 10lb kettlebell, a light barbell and a barbell curl bar with a few plates on it. I feel like I could easily do everything I need to do.

Estimating the Cost 

As I mentioned earlier, the cost of a home gym is pretty steep. I was paying $15 a month for a gym membership before, which is only $180 a year. It’s going to take me a while to recoup the startup costs from this home setup. But, it’s worth it for me to get back to the heavy lifting I’m used to. Below is the cost for each of the items on my list above based on what I found and/or ordered online:

$3,000 – Stair climber, elliptical, treadmill or exercise bicycle

$190 – Bench (incline/decline) (purchased)

$80 – Barbell (purchased)

$275 – Bumper plates (purchased)

$110 – Adjustable dumbbells (purchased)

$20 – Stability ball (purchased)

$75 – Rubber flooring (purchased)

$200 – Squat rack – with arms for deadlift rack, too (purchased)

$40 – Pull up bar (purchased)

$30 – Resistance bands (purchased)

$350 – Wall mirror

Grand total – $4,370 ($960 without the cardio and mirror)

The good news is this is doable within the next three months. The longest backorder delay is on the bumper plates (up to 10 weeks!). The cardio equipment can wait since it’s summer and the wall mirror isn’t totally necessary right now.

Setting it all Up

My new favorite thing is to troll the hashtag #homegym on Instagram, as well as search through Pinterest for inspiration. The space in my basement isn’t huge but it’s large enough for what we’ll need. I feel like once it’s all put together even my husband may be inspired to work-out again. I can’t wait to add finishing touches like a place for towels, Bluetooth speaker, fridge for water and more!

It really is sad that we need to think about home gyms rather than going out to gyms but in a way, it will save time for me each day, which is a good thing since I’m starting a new job that is likely to be a lot busier than my old one. I’m excited to start to receive all my new equipment in the coming weeks! I’ll post pictures as I get my new pieces and look forward to finishing off the space. While I’m a little sad that I won’t be going to a gym anymore, I am kind of happy to have my own space and think it will really turn out nicely in the end. Plus, going forward it’s easy to add things as you go. It’s this first round of acquisition that is the hardest!

Five Nutritional Tips to Help You Gain Muscle

Gaining muscle is not easy for people who struggle to put on mass. The good news is there are proven guidelines that, if followed, can help you gain weight in a healthy way without feeling bloated all the time. Below are some tips and tricks to keep in mind. Keep in mind everyone is different so the right meal plan and foods for one person will be different than another person’s nutritional needs. The best way to ensure success is to find a nutrition coach who can help you figure out your recipe for success.

  1. Consume enough protein. Muscles need protein to grow. It’s important to make sure you are getting enough to fuel your strength training workouts. A good rule of thumb to start out with is one gram per pound of bodyweight. Now, your body cannot absorb more than 25 grams of protein at a time so you’ll want to spread out your protein intake throughout the day. For example, a 120-pound female might consume five meals a day with roughly 24 grams of protein at each meal.
  2. Healthy fats are important! Don’t shy away from fats. Eating the healthy unsaturated fats is a great way to add mass. One gram of fat is equal to nine calories! Protein and carbohydrates are only four calories per gram. The best way to add healthy fats is to supercharge shakes with MCT oil, hemp hearts, chia seeds, flaxseeds and nut butters. You can also enjoy nut butter or nuts as snacks throughout the day. Be careful to measure out all your portions, though, because those calories can easily add up to too much!
  3. Carbs are not bad. Your body needs carbohydrates for energy. If you are exercising regularly, especially if you are lifting heavy, you need to fuel with carbs. That’s why runners carb at key times in their training. The thing to remember is that you want to eat the healthy carbs and not just fill up on junk. The healthiest carbs include steel cut oats and whole grain toast for breakfast, sweet potatoes, brown rice or whole grain bread for lunches and dinner, and rice cakes or all bran cereals for snacks. Livestrong.com has a great list of healthy carbs that you can bookmark for future reference.
  4. Eat enough calories. You need to make sure you are eating a little over your maintenance calories to gain. This is important. So many people eat too little and then wonder why they are not gaining. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain. But, you want to be gradual about it and healthy about it, too. How many calories you need depends on your basal metabolic rate. There are calculators online that will help you figure that out or you can even have it scientifically determined at a physician’s office or gym, if they have the equipment. Once you know your maintenance, start by eating 300 calories more. If you are not gaining, move to 500 calories, and so on.
  5. Don’t despair if you are not hungry enough during the day. It’s challenging to consume more calories than you need, believe it or not. There are days you will just not be hungry. Keep plugging away. Add a shake before bedtime if you are short. I have a jug of Serious Mass on hand in case I fall short. If you don’t want to invest in that, a high protein snack, such as Greek yogurt with nuts and berries, steel cut oats with chocolate chips or whole grain toast with nut butter will help you add another meal without ruining your sleep.

You might be wondering how many carbs and fats to eat daily. That all depends. As a baseline, start with 50% of your calories from carbs and 25% from fat. See how you are doing. If you have trouble eating that many carbs, up your fat. Find the right mix for you. As I age I find that I do better with higher fats, which help regulate hormones. You may find that, as well. See what works for you. You need at least two weeks to really determine if it’s working or not.

Beyond the first few weeks, remember gaining muscle and mass is a long game. It takes literally years. I’m in year four and have gained about six pounds. This is OK! Don’t get discouraged and stick to the plan. You will see results with hard work and dedicated focus. Have specific questions? Hit me in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

Five At-Home Workouts to Build Strength

It’s challenging to figure out how to adjust your normal strength routine for the at-home environment. It’s been seven weeks for me and I’m still experimenting! But, I finally have a decent plan for you all that incorporates minimal equipment that you probably already have or can easily obtain. You can also substitute other items if you don’t have dumbbells, such as kettlebells, soup cans or water bottles. It is a body part split plan and I would recommend the following schedule:

Monday – Chest/Triceps

Tuesday – Leg Day #1

Wednesday – Back/Biceps and Abs

Thursday – Leg Day #2

Friday – Shoulders

Saturday – Abs

Also, try to get outside as much as possible. A 20 to 30 minute walk will do the trick. If weight loss is your goal, add more cardio to this plan – at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity three times per week. The full workouts are listed below with videos where I had them to share. If you have any questions about how to do any of these, let me know! I continue to add to my video library and will try to get to all of these in the coming weeks. Enjoy!

Ab Home Workout

Equipment Needed: Dumbbells

Superset 1 – 3 times through

Leg lifts – 30 seconds

Plank30 seconds

REST 15 SECONDS

Superset 2 – 3 times through

Russian twists30 seconds

Bicycle crunches – 30 seconds

REST 15 SECONDS

Superset 3 – 3 times through

Deadbug – 30 seconds

Plank crosses – 30 seconds

REST 15 SECONDS

Superset 4 – 3 times through

Side plank thread the needle – 30 seconds (15 per side)

Pilates toe touchdowns – 30 seconds

REST 15 SECONDS

Finisher

V sit – 30 seconds work/10 seconds rest for 3 cycles

 

Back/Biceps Home Workout

Equipment Needed: Resistance band, dumbbells, barbell (optional)

Warmup

Halos 15 seconds to the left; 15 seconds to the right
Arm Circles 30 seconds
Rear delt raises 2×10

Workout 

Close Grip Lat Pulldown w/ resistance band 4×15
Row w/ resistance band 4×15
Straight arm pulldown w/ resistance band 4×15
Dumbbell or barbell row 4×15
Dumbbell biceps curl 3×15
Resistance band biceps curl 3×15

Finisher 

Resistance Band Alternating Row20 seconds work/10 seconds rest for 8 cycles

 

Chest/Triceps Home Workout

Equipment Needed: Resistance band, dumbbell

Warmup

Arm Rotations 10 per side
Pushups 10

Workout

Floor press 4×15
Floor chest fly 4×15
One arm resistance band cable cross 3×15
Dumbbell skull crushers 3×15
Tricep pressdown w/ resistance band 3×15
Tricep overhead press w/ dumbbell 3×15

Finisher

Tricep pushups (arms close to side) – 20 seconds work/10 seconds rest for 4 cycles

 

Shoulder Home Workout

Equipment Needed: Resistance band, dumbbell

Warmup 

Halos 5 per side
Arm circles 10 per side

 Workout

Dumbbell shoulder press 3×15
Dumbbell side shoulder raise 3×15
Rear delt raises 3×15
Dumbbell front shoulder raise 3×15
Resistance band face pull 3×15
Upright dumbbell row 3×15

Finisher 

Shoulder press drop set – start with heaviest dumbbells you have and keep pressing lowering the weight, if you need to until you completely fail.

 

Home Leg Workout #1

Equipment Needed: Resistance band, dumbbell, ankle weights (optional), booty band (optional)

Warmup 

Booty band crab walk 3×30 sec
Leg swings 10

 Workout

One leg glute bridge 4×15
Frog stance glute bridge 3×15
Sumo deadlift with dumbbell 4×15
Romanian deadlift with dumbbells 3×15
Split squat with dumbbells 3×15
Donkey kicks (use band or ankle weights if you have them) 3×20 per side
Booty band clam shells 2×20 per side

Finisher

Glute bridge drill – 20 seconds work/10 seconds rest for 8 cycles

 

Home Leg Workout #2

Equipment Needed: Resistance band, booty band, dumbbells, ankle weights (optional)

Warmup

Booty band crab walk 3×30 sec
Bird dog 5 per side

 Workout

Resistance band squats 4×15
Resistance band assisted pistol squat 3×15 per side
Step up with dumbbells 4×15
Single leg Romanian deadlift 3×15
Hamstring curl on all fours (use ankle weights if you have them) 3×20 per side
Donkey kicks (use ankle weights or booty band if you have them) 3×20 per side
Booty band clam shells 2×20 per side

Finisher

Wall sits45 seconds work/30 seconds rest for four cycles

 

How You Can Deal with Stress and Anxiety through Keeping Healthy Habits

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged. There are very good reasons that I am sure many readers will relate to, such as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on our lives. But, even without this public health emergency, I have been experiencing stress and anxiety over another life-changing event – a relocation and transition to a brand new, higher level job. They say moving is one of the most stressful things a person can do in life. It’s right up there with starting a new job, general work life stress and health concerns. It’s bad enough when you have one of those stressors to deal with. I have multiple ones. This post is not about my stress, though, because despite it all, my family is healthy, we are employed and we’re doing fine. I know that is not true for a lot of people and I pray for them every single day. What this post is about is how to deal with stress and anxiety in these homebound days. These are tips that have worked for me and even if one of them helps you, I will be glad to have shared.

Keep a Routine 

We’ve been home now for about seven weeks. If you’re doing the math, that’s approximately 49 days. Experts say it takes about 21 days to form a habit. So, it’s safe to say that by now you’ve settled into a new routine. Or have you? Some of you might be all over the place still, and that’s understandable. But, trying to keep some semblance of a routine is extremely important in these days where it can seem like Groundhog Day, the monotony is real. Routines are important for a few reasons. For one thing they keep you from wallowing in the self-pity and lack of motivation that can come from losing your normal life and activities. Another thing a solid schedule can do is help you accomplish the things you need to do so you don’t fall into the trap of being lazy and letting your anxiety cripple you.

I keep a bullet journal as I have always done. But I’ve added personal “to do” lists and habit trackers to keep me honest. I get up at the same time each day and try to do the same things I would have done had COVID-19 not kept me home all these days. I still workout first, followed by prayer, a shower and breakfast while I peruse the news of the day. I still start work promptly at 8:30 a.m. and I still break for lunch at around the same time. I go to bed around the same time as I used to, even though at times I’ve been tempted to stay awake longer and sleep in! I still make a grocery list on Fridays for a trip to the store on Saturday. And, I still tune in to Mass on Facebook Live Sundays at 9 a.m.

So, even though I never leave my house anymore, my routine looks nearly the same and that has kept me sane.

Keep Exercising 

I mentioned above that I am still working out each day. That’s important. You need to exercise, eat well and get enough sleep to keep yourself feeling healthy. Not only will you avoid weight gain that can happen from being more sedentary at home, but you also can keep your stress levels in check. Working out at home is not the same as going to a gym or participating in a class. Believe, me I get that. It’s not fun for me at all and it’s been tough for me to keep at it. But there are so many different options popping up now for you to get at least 30 minutes of activity in whether it be through a free app, a jog or walk around the neighborhood or finding a new home workout on a fitness influencer’s social account. Try to commit to three days a week at least. But, if you want to do a little something every day, that’s even better. Walking the dog even for 20 minutes a day will do wonders for your mental state and it will get you some fresh air outside the four walls of your home.

Keep Eating Well

It can be tempting to snack all day when you’re home. But, don’t do it! You will only feel worse and your energy level will plummet. Eat as healthy as you can. For us, we’re trying to limit the amount of sweets in the house. In fact, since we’re preparing to move, we’re trying to use up everything we have, which has yielded a lot of creative recipes and saved money! Since meat is scarce, we’re eating more plant-based proteins and that has been less expensive, as well. We are also still meal prepping dinner and sometimes breakfast, as well. On Sundays, I make steel cut oats in the Instant Pot, for example, to have them on hand. Whatever you need to do to make sure you eat well, do it, whether that be to have only healthy snacks on hand to preparing. You likely have more time to think about and plan, as well as to make your own recipes! Take advantage of the time!

Keep Keeping House

We’re home all the time now. Why not take advantage of that time and spring clean? Or, better yet, reorganize and declutter. We have been doing that in anticipation of the move and it feels so good to purge. It’s a bit anxiety producing to see boxes all over but for the most part, my husband is moving the boxes out to the garage so out of sight out of mind! I have friends who are painting rooms, gardening and improving their homes. It seems as though we will be spending a lot more time at home in the weeks and months to come. You might as well make it the best environment you can.

Keep Taking Care of Yourself

Take the time for you. Last weekend, I spent a nearly a full day on my back deck in the cool sunshine reading a fabulous book. It may seem lazy, but it was much needed. Meditate, take a bath, do a face mask, pray. Whatever you need to do to focus on you, schedule that time in. It’s so important.

COVID-19 is a public health emergency that is causing untold issues for all of us. From health concerns to financial worries to overall stress and anxiety, we all need to try to focus on what we can control to keep us healthy and happy. In the coming days I’m hoping to post a few home workouts and healthy recipes for you all, as you create and maintain your own healthy routines. Is there anything else this personal trainer and nutrition coach can help you with? Comment below and stay safe, healthy and happy!

How to Feel More Confident in the Gym

Now that we’re into 2020 many folks might be falling off their resolutions a bit and not making it into the gym as often. Some may have found it to be intimidating and have hesitated to go due to nerves. Not everyone is confident working out in front of other people and depending on the layout of your gym, you may feel like you are in a fish bowl. Here are some tips to help you gain that confidence you need to work out in a gym.

  1. Go when there are not as many people. Ask the folks who work there when the least busy time is and try to arrange your schedule to be there at that time. When I first started lifting, I went early in the morning. Not only were there fewer people but it was easier to get through my workout without the machines and weights being tied up. That schedule has stayed with me to this day but I don’t find it to be quiet at that time anymore, at least not where I work out. Sometimes it can be later in the evening, so if you are a night owl, that might work for you, as well.
  2. Take advantage of the free personal training session when you sign up. Many gyms offer a free session. Not only should you take it but you should use it to orient yourself as far as what equipment is where and how it works. It’s less intimidating to be learning something new with a trainer and it will help you feel better about trying things on your own.
  3. Find a buddy. There’s safety in numbers, so they say. Find a friend who is willing to go with you and you will feel better about doing your routine. Plus, they may be able to give you a tip or two about different exercises and routines. It will also help keep you motivated to keep going and hold you accountable.
  4. Use an app. There are so many online fitness apps out there now and you can follow along right on your phone. Doing a prescribed routine like that will help you feel more confident because you will look like you know what you are doing! Plus, because you are focusing on your screen to ensure proper form and what’s next, etc. you won’t have time to worry and wonder about people looking at you!
  5. Buy new fitness clothing. There’s nothing like a great pair of leggings or a new workout top. When you have clothing that fits well and you like, you feel more confident. Plus, you will look the part and blend in better with the rest of the crowd.
  6. Find a corner. Nearly every gym has a few nooks where you can be virtually alone with your routine. Some even have a separate room you can go into. Take advantage of those spots and set up your workout so you can stay out of the fray and away from the crowd.

Remember everyone had to start somewhere and most of the time, even though you think people are looking at you, they’re probably not. In fact, they’re probably wondering if you are looking at them! Just go in and do your thing. Focus on your exercise routine and you will gain confidence, especially as you make those gains!

How do you grow your legs and glutes?

The leg and glute muscles are the largest muscles in our body and are critically important to our overall movement and strength. There are so many muscles making up the lower body complex that it can be challenging to hit them all. A new leg/glute program by Shawna Moran (@trainforlife_fitness) aims to grow your legs and glutes in 12 weeks! She’s testing it right now on about 12 ladies, including me, who are committing to three to four days of her program in the gym each week. Each one of us has a slightly different program because she has customized it for our goals. Some ladies want to gain and some want to lose weight but gain muscle. She has us checking in weekly with progress photos and she’s available as needed throughout the week. 

My first week was great! I definitely felt it, especially in my hamstrings, which have been week historically so that makes sense! Lots of hip thrusts, which according to “Glute Guy” Bret Contreras are gold when it comes to growing your glutes. Even men should be doing this exercise a few times a week. There are also many different exercises for hitting all sides of your glutes/legs, as well as that glute/hamstring connection that helps give the butt more lift and shape. For this program, you do need access to a gym, and some accessories are helpful, too, such as resistance bands. Shawna’s customization takes into account what equipment I have in my gym, as well as my comfort level with different exercises, such as back squats and deadlifts.

I worked with Shawna in the past and the program she wrote for me about a year ago helped me put on more than two pounds of muscle in just 8 weeks. She’s amazing and knows her stuff! For this program, I’m hoping it helps me break through my plateau to make some big gains in my legs/glutes. Right now, I’m not doing any cardio but my warm-up three days a week is on the stairclimber. Shawna will adjust the program as I go along, too, so cardio may come later, depending on what she’s seeing. She will also help adjust nutrition, if necessary. Right now, I’m sticking to my current macro split of 25% protein, 45% carbohydrates and 30% fats and eating around 2350 calories per day, which is 220 higher than maintenance. 

In addition to keeping track of my own nutrition, I’m also doing my own upper body program, hitting the gym for a total of 6 days each week at this point. I’m using progressive overload so I’m keeping track of my weights to ensure I am pushing myself at least every two weeks to lift more. At the end of the 12 weeks, I have a feeling Shawna will be offering this program to everyone and I predict it will be well worth your time and investment! Go follow her on social media now so you don’t miss that announcement! Plus, she has great health and fitness tips, too. Happy lifting!

 

Too Busy for Busy Babe Sugar Cleanse?

I’ve bowed out. Last night was the last meal on the Busy Babe Sugar Cleanse for me. Those who know me well know I am not a quitter. I’m the opposite of a quitter and usually am dedicated and loyal until the bitter end. This time, though, I had to listen to my body and know when to quit. My hesitation with a sugar cleanse was always the low carb nature of the plan. I knew I needed healthy carbs for energy and I worried about how the lack of carbs would affect me.

I am up at 4:44 a.m. every morning (Syracuse University reference all the way with that specific time!). I go go go all day long, from the gym where I strength train pretty hard, home to make sure everyone is ready to start their day (I have three kids) to work at Syracuse University, where I put in a 9 1/2 hour day on average with a very short to nonexistent lunch break (I eat but not always away from my desk.). It doesn’t stop there. I head home by 5:20 p.m., get dinner on the table, clean up, make school lunches and help drive the kids to practice or lessons. I set up for the next day and by the time I’ve put my youngest to bed, it’s 8 p.m. I attempt to have at least a half hour to myself to read or cross stitch or play on my phone and just be. I’m in bed by 10 p.m. at the latest. I share all this because it’s relevant to the reason I couldn’t hang with the sugar cleanse. I believe I may be too busy!

This cleanse has you prepping every two days. After seeing what my day is like you might wonder how I had time to prep!? Well, it was rough. I often didn’t get things wrapped up until after 8 p.m. on prep nights and my husband helped clean and drive the kids around. It was exhausting to be honest! I didn’t have any time to spend with the kids the way I usually do in the evenings and that made me sad. I knew it was only for four weeks though so I pressed on. But, one thing that was nagging me the entire time on the cleanse was the complete and total lack of energy. The exhaustion was real. I was having trouble concentrating at work and every five days or so I had a massive headache the entire day. My workouts were poor and I was winded more than usual. I could barely get through some of my lifts. Finally, at the risk of oversharing, despite my increase in magnesium intake and taking everything as prescribed in the cleanse, my constipation was rough and uncomfortable and I just plain hated it!

After much debate with myself on whether to adjust the cleanse to add carbs to the meals or transition out or just stop, I decided to transition out. I prepped the week 3, days 3/4 for my husband last night, making sure I added a carb source to my own lunch, and moved on. He will prep his own for the remaining week and a half on the cleanse. It was my daughter’s birthday last evening and she turned 10. I had a cupcake with her to celebrate; life is good again.

Do I think it was a mistake to try the sugar cleanse? No, not at all. But, it validated something for me that I knew all along – I need healthy carbs to complete my diet. Too much protein and some fat is not going to fuel my busy life and metabolism. I have so much muscle on my tiny frame and it needs carbs along with the fats to synthesize the protein and help me maintain and grow that muscle. I’m in my mid-40s and it’s super hard to keep mass on my frame now more than ever. But, carbs are an essential part of the formula.

Going forward, I will keep the shakes and breakfasts that the cleanse included. They are healthy and excellent ways to start my day. I may also use some of the snack ideas for my mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks at work (the cleanse only had a mid-afternoon which also was a bit of an issue for me – I need to eat every few hours, smaller meals). We also decided that meal prepping could be useful for us on nights when the kids are all over the place. But, I don’t think I can sustain meal prepping every two days. It took way longer than a half hour to prep and usually took 90 minutes. That was tough to fit in to an already packed schedule.

I think the cleanse is terrific for those with the time to do it and the weight to be lost. My husband has lost 16 pounds and counting! For some, I think it’s super valuable. But, for me, who already only took in around 40g of sugar a day anyway, and didn’t have any weight to lose, it was more an exercise in sacrifice, organization and willpower! I’m glad I got through two weeks and feel that is better than not trying at all. And although it hurts me to quit anything, I’m slowly feeling good about stopping. I know I listened to my own body and did what was right for me. If you try the cleanse, I’m curious to know how it went for you! Or, if you’re on one now, I’m happy to answer any questions. Drop me a note in the comments! And, remember, always listen to your body. It’s OK to quit, if you need to. No shame! Stay healthy!