Do You Need Supplements?

If you pay attention even a little bit to the fitness and nutrition world, you know that supplements are big business. Even grocery stores that used to not carry things like whey protein now have entire aisles of fitness and nutrition supplements not to mention vitamins and herbs. Through the years I’ve used a variety of all kinds but over time have landed on the right formula for me. That special recipe is different for everyone, of course, but one thing holds true–there are some supplements you simply do not need.

BCAAs

I took these religiously for three years during my workouts. I erroneously thought they would help hydrate me and prevent soreness after my workouts. In truth all they really did was flavor my water and add sugar to my diet. I was afraid to stop taking them because I was convinced I would be so sore after workouts but when I finally did stop recently, I was happily surprised to see nothing had changed! Nothing! I still get the same required protein and aminos as I did when I was taking BCAAs and now I save about $35 a month! Skip these!

Pre-Workout

Again, I was dependent on this one simply out of fear that if I stopped, I would not be able to power through my lifting at the early hour of 5 a.m. Others told me to just do an espresso shot but I maintained that C4, my drug of choice, was my elixir! Turns out I don’t need it. Once you get up and start moving, your body is fine. It can power through. Truthfully, what turned out to be more important was getting something into my system at that early hour. I started drinking a protein/creatine shake during my workouts and I find I’m doing just fine. Still have energy and still making it through my workouts, even at 5:30 in the morning.

Collagen Peptides

A few people told me they took collagen peptides for healthy hair and skin. While I was growing out my pixie I took it daily in my workout shake. But, when I no longer had a need for it, I stopped. And nothing has changed. My hair is still growing like crazy, my skin is the same and I have no issues growing healthy, strong nails either. I’m not convinced it added anything but cost.

Greens

Lots of companies out there are touting “red” and “green” drinks as a way to ensure you’re getting your vegetables. It’s better for your body when you eat the real thing, guys. I get it that it’s hard to strive for five and I’m not perfect in that area but we all need to commit to trying. We’ll be healthier and it’s probably less expensive, too. Even spirulina and greens shots add little value to your daily diet. I know there are some who would disagree but personally I have noticed no difference. This is the one place, though, where I will sometimes add this supplement back into my diet–when I’m doing a cleanse. It’s helpful to saturate myself with all the healthy things and it helps clear out the not so nice things left in my system.

Vitamins and Herbs

I have never taken an herb that I felt actually did what it was supposed to do except for Fenugreek back when I was nursing my children. Herbal supplements are not necessary. If you eat a healthy, balanced diet, you don’t need them. Now, if you have a special condition or health issue, you could very well benefit from herbal supplements but if you are healthy with no issues, skip them. As for vitamins, I do take a lot! But, they are mostly to help me with specific issues related to aging. I recommend everyone take a good quality multivitamin, fish oil, vitamin D in the winter (if you live in a cloudy area) and a probiotic. Beyond that? You don’t need anything.

For those who are curious, I also take vitamin C, B complex, calcium and magnesium. C helps my immune system (I have three kids!), and the rest are helpful as I age through peri-menopause and have helped me with various symptoms.

Notice I have not mentioned two other popular supplements–whey protein and creatine. That’s because I take both of those and feel they are worth it for muscle building. I don’t need whey every day because I do consume enough protein-rich foods but it helps me in the morning when I just need to have something in my system for my workout. Creatine gives me the extra push I need to really progress with my weight training. I usually take it for about 8 weeks and then take a break from it just to switch it up and keep my muscles guessing. Both supplements are terrific for when you are trying to gain and both have healthy versions with little to know extra ingredients.

When it comes to supplements, I say try what you think might be helpful to you and see how it goes. But never feel like you need to be dependent on them and always be honest with yourself about whether you really do need them. Don’t be afraid to stop taking them and see what happens. You may be surprised to learn you don’t need them after all!

 

A Review of 5 Podcasts for Spiritual and Physical Health

I never thought I’d get into podcasts. I had tried in the past to listen to them but could never stay tuned long enough nor could I find the time when I was alone and could really listen to them. The gym was never a great place because I needed the beat. The car was never a great place because kids! Over time, things have evolved to where I am in the car for longer periods alone and have finally gotten hooked on a few podcasts! Now that I’m working from home I find that I even miss them! Here are 5 I’ve been listening to off and on with my honest personal review. 

Stronger by Science

This podcast is hosted by Eric Trexler but he typically has Greg Nuckols alongside him. They are “bros” in the sense that they talk more about male-related topics than female, if there is such a thing. I get the sense when I’m listening that they are really talking to my husband! But, all that aside, they do share a lot of cool scientific studies and data associated with training and nutrition, which I appreciate. Their website is a wealth of information; all of their episodes are indexed so you can do a keyword search on any topic and probably find something they’ve said about it. I have only scratched the surface on the amount of content these guys generate. Their podcast is a bit on the long side so plan to listen to it in tiny chunks if you don’t have more than an hour to spare. It’s great for long car rides, though! Oh, and if you aren’t a fan of sarcasm, you may want to skip this one!

Mind Pump

One that posts a new episode nearly every day, Mind Pump is great fun. Things I like? The host reviews a “table of contents” at the beginning so you know what’s in the episode. I often skip ahead to the listener Q and A but it’s always good to know what they’re chatting about so you know if it’s an episode you’re interested in. Mind Pump often includes content that really resonates with me so although it is a bunch of guys, they talk about training and nutrition tips for hard gainers, women and more. Things I don’t like? There is a fair amount of sponsor posts and them trying to sell their own programs. I finally did buy one and am in week two of it. The jury is still out on whether they really do know what they’re talking about! Seriously, they do know and as a personal trainer and nutrition coach I like that they talk about things that are not often accepted by clients or necessarily believed by clients. Mind Pump is a great service to the fitness community!

Your Best Life with Anna Victoria

This is a newer podcast by fitness trainer, Anna Victoria, who has quite the social media following, mostly on Instagram. She has her own fitness training app with a nutrition component and often is featured in top women’s magazines. She is wholesome and sweet and often features her husband in the podcast, too, which is cute. Her content skews a bit younger, though, and I am not always interested in her special guests. It’s very current, though, and if you are pregnant or expecting she covers a lot of ground there as she, too, is expecting. Her episodes are nearly an hour in length but she also sprinkles in shorter 10 to 15 ones she calls “Real Talk” that just touch on tips or quick thoughts. This podcast is new and I expect it will age nicely, especially among the 20 and 30 something women who tune in.

Ask Father Josh

Turning to spiritual health for this next podcast. If you’re Catholic you will definitely want to check this out but even non-Catholics would learn a ton from this zany priest from New Orleans. He’s hip, he’s fun and he’s not afraid to talk about ANYTHING. Taboo topics come up all the time and he handles them with truth and grace. The show is fun, on the shorter side closer to 30 minutes, and a great way for me to reconcile my faith with real life. Father Josh is goofy but incredibly smart and he explains difficult concepts eloquently in a way everyone can understand. The only drawback on this one is the production value isn’t great. The volume often goes up and down. Plus, he does have a random commercial for Ascension Press, the producer of the podcast. Overall, though, it’s one to listen to, if you have any interest at all in Catholicism.

All Things Catholic

This podcast is also on the shorter side, coming out weekly usually on Tuesday. It’s geared a bit more toward families and how they can live their faith. What I like about it is that the host himself is a husband and father and often brings his wife on the program. They have several kids and they struggle with the same things I struggle with in terms of how to keep faith front and center in a world that often goes against all of it. I have learned a lot of little tips on how to make daily prayer easier, include my children and encourage their faith formation and even a few marriage tips along the way. The host has his doctorate and adds his scholarship to the mix, too, which satisfies the nerd in me!

There is literally a podcast for everyone and every topic you can think of. These five have been in my car playlist for a while now but others pop in every so often, too. If I had more time, I’m sure I’d listen to even more. It’s great to be able to learn and be entertained at the same time. My physical and spiritual health is super important to me right now and with my limited time, podcasts are helping me keep my focus on them! What podcasts are you listening to? Any fitness, nutrition or spiritual life ones I should check out? Drop a comment below!

10,000 Steps A Day – Fact versus Fiction

We’ve all heard it drilled into our brains – you need to get 10,000 steps in every day to stay healthy. But, if you’ve ever actually tracked your steps you may have realized just how challenging it can be, especially if you have a desk job or avoid cardio like I do. But, do you really need it? And, if you do need it, how can you achieve it without going crazy? I’m here to sort out fact and fiction when it comes to the steps.

There is no question that moving more is better than moving less. In fact, you probably do move more than you think you do. In fact, everything we do expends some level of calories in a phenomenon known as non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT. Some people are lucky enough to have high NEAT jobs, such as farming or construction. Those of us who sit at a desk all day face a different challenge. But, there is a way to increase movement. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Drink more water. It forces you to go to the bathroom more. You’re even luckier if your restroom is far from your office area. Working from home my bathroom is on the next level, forcing me to climb stairs to go. Even better!
  2. Take 10-minute walking breaks, or a longer one on your lunch, if the weather is nice. I have started walking our dog morning and night for a half mile or so each. It’s been easy to hit 8 to 10K steps this way, especially on days I do more NEAT activities, such as cleaning the house or running errands.
  3. Park far away from the entrance when you go to the store.
  4. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. These days, it’s probably safer for you, as well.
  5. Plant a garden! That will burn calories all by itself but so will tending it — watering, weeding, etc. Plus, you get healthy food!

All of these strategies will help you with your step count and thus calorie burn in support of that elusive 10,000 steps. But do you really need 10,000 steps a day? One study says not necessarily. Any movement is good and when you take into account the average American walks 4 to 5,000 steps a day, it’s easy to set your bar a bit higher for optimal results. My personal goal is 8,000 steps based on how my activity levels have ranged over time, as well as the latest research, which says 7 to 8,000 is the “sweet spot.” I use my Apple Watch to keep track. On days I walk the dog twice and stay active throughout the day, I easily get to 8K. On days I don’t walk her and sit around for most of the day, I’m lucky if I reach 4K. So, I know 8 is a better day for me personally. 10K is a stretch goal and I try to have at least one day a week where I reach it.

What you decide is best for you depends on your own activity level and goals, as well as your overall health. If you are overweight and want to lose weight, walking is a great low impact way to support that goal and you don’t even have to walk quickly. Start out small and walk around the block, adding more distance or more sessions as time goes by. Slowly, your step count — and calorie expenditure — will increase. Plus, you will have more energy and feel better as a result.

Steps is a great way to gauge your activity level. I know so many people who have lost weight just by walking more. It really does work! So, enjoy this summer weather and start paying attention to your NEAT. You just might hit 10K steps a day!

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!