What Is Fitness?

By Anne Keckler | November 30, 2009

Many people seem to think that fitness is synonymous with weight loss, or perhaps just endurance. I’d like to get you to rethink that.

Photo by N. Murat

The dictionary gives these definitions:

fit┬Ěness (ftns)
n.
1. The state or condition of being fit; suitability or appropriateness.
2. Good health or physical condition, especially as the result of exercise and proper nutrition.

I especially like the first one, and it helps us to understand the second. If we are in “good health or physical condition,” what does that mean? What would that look like? How would we know if we are in “good health or physical condition?”

Certainly, a healthy ratio of body fat to lean body mass would figure into that, but many people are simply weighing their total body weight and looking for a specific number on the bathroom scale or a BMI that is in the “fit” range. But by gaining some muscle and losing some fat, you can be more fit than by simply losing weight. In fact, if you are only trying to lose weight, you may end up losing muscle, which would be detrimental to your ratio of body fat to lean body mass.

But there is really a lot more to fitness than that. What do you want to be suitable for, exactly? I want to be capable of playing with my children, scuba diving with my husband, and dancing with my friends, to name just a few things. These things require strength, stamina, and agility.

And what about good health? A good blood pressure and healthy cholesterol levels will help me to live a longer, more productive life. A strong body is less likely to suffer injuries, too. So the right exercise and nutrition plan will benefit me in all these ways.

What is the right exercise program?

An exercise program that improves physical fitness is one that increases your strength, stamina, and agility. It should positively impact your body composition (ratio of body fat to lean body mass), and your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. I highly recommend a progressive resistance training program, along with interval cardio exercise and daily stretching to accomplish these goals.

Related posts:

  1. Are You Bored With Your Fitness Routine?
  2. Fitness for Older Adults
  3. Methods of assessing fitness
  4. 25 Fitness Myths, Part 2
  5. How Your Lifestyle Affects Your Fitness

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Topics: Benefits, Exercise | 1 Comment »

Meal Planning

By Anne Keckler | September 25, 2009

Are you confused about what to eat to achieve your goal? Whether you want to lose weight, gain muscle, or simply improve your health, there is a lot of misinformation out there. There are diet gurus with books to sell or magazines to push or special foods to promote, and they each tell you something different. This one tells you that you can eat whatever you want, and that one insists that sugar is poison, while the other one suggests that the only way to lose weight is to eat nothing but boiled chicken breasts and steamed brown rice. Ugh! I want to break through the confusion and help you to plan healthy meals that will help you to meet your goals.

Eat Often

Many people typically start their day with a high-carb meal, such as cereal, or none at all. Then they are hungry mid-morning, and hit the snack machine. This is not the way to achieve your fitness goals.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Your mother probably told you that, and she was right! Hey, we moms have to be right about something occasionally. But the key is to have a high protein breakfast. By getting protein into your body first thing in the morning, you will keep your blood sugar level more stable throughout the day, and probably eat less. You’ll have fewer cravings, and you’ll be able to think better.

After that high-protein breakfast, you’ll want to continue to eat fairly frequently, to keep your energy level up. But what should you eat, and how much? The American College of Sports Medicine currently recommends 4 to 6 small meals per day. This prevents energy slumps due to low blood sugar, and keeps your metabolism revved up throughout the day.

Calories

When you hear that you should eat many small meals, you might picture the kind of meal your mother served for dinner, complete with bread, potatoes, gravy, and large servings of everything. Well, let’s rethink that.

Some women, like myself, for example, only consume 1200 calories per day when losing weight. If you divide that by 6 meals a day, you can see that these “meals” are really just snacks! Even if I eat 4 meals a day, that’s only 300 calories per “meal.” A 12 oz. can of Coke contains 150 calories, so that would be half of my caloric allowance for a meal! Those calories add up quickly, so keep portions small when trying to lose weight, and be mindful of the number of calories in your foods (and drinks!).

If you are trying to gain weight, you’ll still need to figure out how many calories per meal you want to consume, on average. My daily caloric allowance when bulking is 2200, so I divide that by the number of meals I eat per day to get a ballpark figure of calories per meal. Many men will consume several thousand calories when bulking, but the basic idea is the same. Just divide your daily caloric requirements by the number of meals per day, and eat that amount to meet your goal.

Macronutrients

I covered macronutrients in a previous article. In a nutshell, macronutrients are the source of most of your calories, and include protein, carbohydrate, and fat.

Protein for Muscle

You want to be sure you get enough protein, whether you are trying to gain muscle, lose fat, or simply maintain your current weight and be healthy. Protein builds new cells, and your body needs to continually build new cells. You’ll need 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. If you weigh 150 pounds and you have 20% bodyfat, that means you have 80% lean body mass, which is 120 pounds. You would need to consume 120 grams of protein each day. You can find protein in significant amounts in meat, fish, eggs, dairy, and beans. The biggest problem with getting your protein from beans or other vegetable sources is that you’ll also get a fairly large amount of carbs. The problem with getting protein from meat is that you can also end up with a lot of fat. You’ll want to make careful choices. Chicken breast meat, eggs (especially egg whites), and whey protein powder are all good, lean sources of protein.

Fat for Satiety and Health

In the 1980’s, low-fat diets were all the rage. We can see how well those worked! A low-fat diet leaves us feeling hungry and dissatisfied. Fat is very important for good health. Still, we don’t want to consume too much fat. The biggest problems with fat are that fat has more calories per gram than protein or carbs, and we tend to have an imbalance in the types of fats we eat. We don’t get enough Omega 3 fat, but we get too much saturated fat and Omega 6 fat. We’ve learned that this balance is even more important to our health than the amount of fat we consume overall. Still, you’ll want to keep your fat consumption reasonably low if you are trying to lose weight, because fat has more calories than protein or carbs. On the other hand, if you are trying to gain weight, you can eat more fat! Just be sure your protein requirements are filled first.

Carbs for Energy

Carbohydrate is your body’s main source of energy, but many Americans eat enough carbs for an endurance athlete, while sitting at a desk all day! The body will store these unused, unneeded calories as fat. The best source of carbs for the average desk jockey is vegetables. A cup of salad each day and a couple of servings of steamed veggies is all you need for optimum health.

Starchy foods, such as bread and potatoes, as well as fruits and sweets, are best consumed immediately before or after an exercise session, and then in moderation.

Basics of Meal Planning

With all of this in mind, then, what should a meal look like?

A serving of protein with one or two servings of vegetables should constitute most of your meals. That includes breakfast. Add some little something for flavor, as long as it fits within your plan and will help you to achieve your goals. I know that I wouldn’t want to live for long on boiled chicken breast and dry salad! Add some pesto, and a very small amount of salad dressing made from oil that is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids (such as olive oil), maybe a small treat, like a little cheese, and you can have a satisfying meal.

Have a small, high-sugar, low-fat treat immediately before exercise, and then a high-sugar protein shake immediately afterward. This will give you the energy to have a great workout (thus boosting your workout results), and allow for recovery afterward.

Avoid sugary things at night. You’re going to sleep! What do you need that energy for? If you’re so hungery that it will interfere with your rest, you can have a low-carb protein snack at night.

In the near future, I will provide you with a sample two-week meal plan based on these guidelines.

Related posts:

  1. Nutrition: Carbohydrates
  2. Nutrition: Macronutrients
  3. Protein FAQ
  4. 146 Reasons Why Sugar Is Ruining Your Health _Not!
  5. Nutrition: Protein

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Topics: Nutrition | 1 Comment »

Gaining Muscle

By Anne Keckler | September 17, 2009

Let’s start with a confession.

Hi, my name is Anne, and I’m a foody.

My Weakness

I have an absolute obsession with food. I love to taste new things, to figure out the best way to prepare a certain dish. I love food! There is probably a twelve step program for this, but I’m not ready to give up my addiction just yet.

Naturally, my greatest struggle, when it comes to fitness, is weightloss. I may love food, but I don’t particularly want to look like I love food.

I tend to study weightloss quite a bit as a result of this struggle. That studying leads me to write about what I learn, and that is why you’ll find a lot of information on my site regarding weightloss, and specifically fat loss. In addition, it seems to be an area where a lot of other people struggle, and my goal is to provide scientifically sound information to anyone who reads my site.

But someone recently emailed me to ask if I have experience in helping others to gain muscle. I’m so glad I got this question.

Gaining Muscle

The one area where I have the least struggle is in gaining strength and muscle. I’m going to give you a few quick tips today, and I promise to elaborate on this subject in the near future.

Lift heavy weights. Doing a hundred reps with little or no weight will increase your muscle endurance, but it will do little for sheer strength or muscle size. (And ladies, don’t let the word “size” scare you. You won’t end up looking like a man! I promise.) So lift a weight that is somewhat challenging for you. Do ten reps with it. Do twelve if you can. Then add more weight and do eight reps. Increase reps gradually again until you can do twelve, then increase the weight and do eight again. You can continue in this way for a while, gaining strength, and it’s necessary to have some strength and to be able to exercise with proper form before you can gain much muscle.

Lift often enough. If you lift infrequently, you risk injury and won’t make good progress toward your goals. Three or four times a week seems to be optimum for most people.

Do compound movements. Isolated movements do not build muscle or strength as well as compound movements. An example of an isolated movement is a bicep curl. An example of a compound movement is a squat, or bench press. Isolated movements are useful for rehabilitation, but compound movements are best for building functional strength.

Eat enough to give you the energy you need, and more to build muscle. It takes calories to build new cells, and many of those calories should come from protein. Strive to consume at least one gram of protein per pound of lean body mass, and eat about 500 calories more than you need to just maintain your current weight. I’ll give you more information on how to figure out how many calories you need, if you don’t already know, in the near future.

Increase intensity on a regular basis. If you aren’t increasing the intensity your body will get used to what you are doing and you will plateau. This goes back to what I said about lifting heavy weights, above.

Rest. Daily rest is essential to avoid the symptoms of overtraining. Taking time off between workouts is also a good idea, and the ideal break would be 36 hours. Most people have busy schedules, and it’s easier to work out at the same time of day each time, so they have a weightlifting session about every 48 hours. Taking a week or two off every couple of months will cause your body to respond more favorably to weightlifting when you start back up again, too.

That’s it for now! But keep checking back to learn more about how to set up a workout program to meet your goals. Even if your primary goal is to lose fat, you will want to at least maintain muscle. I can teach you how to do that. And if the bland, boring diet that you read about on most weight-loss blogs sounds unappealing to you, you’ll love the fact that muscle helps to increase your metabolism, so you naturally burn more calories throughout the day, and you can eat more than the cardio bunnies!

Related posts:

  1. Book Review: New Rules of Lifting
  2. 25 Fitness Myths, Part 2
  3. Thinking About Food
  4. 25 Fitness Myths, Part 1
  5. How to Lose Weight

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Topics: Exercise, Uncategorized | No Comments »

146 Reasons Why Sugar Is Ruining Your Health _Not!

By Anne Keckler | March 26, 2009

Have you seen this email that is being forwarded around? 146 Reasons Why Sugar Is Ruining Your Health is one of the latest in a long line of messages designed to tell us that some common food is the epitome of evil and will cause every illness known to mankind. Well, I’m here to tell you it just isn’t so.

In the eighties we eschewed dietary fat. We were told by nutritionists and doctors, as well as all the magazine articles, that eating fat would make us fat! Why, it seemed so simple. If we would just quit eating fat, we’d all lose weight and be free of things like heart disease. Naturally, the only reason this didn’t work is because we simply didn’t have enough willpower, right?

For some people, meat is the sinful food that most people eat, and they believe that if we all just quit eating meat we’d all be thinner and healthier. We must deprive ourselves of this food that mankind has been eating for millennia, and we’ll be better off for it, right?

Dr. Atkins, many people believe, advised us to give up carbs (when he really just said to eat the amount that is right for your lifestyle).

Hmm… I’m seeing a trend. What is with the human idea of deprivation that makes us feel so holy?

And now it’s sugar. Well, to be fair, I remember the nutty Susan Power claiming that you would become instantly weaker as soon as sugar touched your tongue. Does anyone else remember her?

I’ve been meaning to write this article for a few days, ever since I first received that email about sugar, but I put it off until I saw that Tom Ziglar (yes, the son of Zig!) had written a blog post about his “Purity Diet.”

Again, someone is proposing that some foods are purer than others, that there are good foods and bad foods. In fact, Tom’s ideas about food sound a lot like those of the zany creators of the Hallelujah Acres Diet.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were some foods that you could simply give up, and by doing so you’d be guaranteed weight loss, health, and longevity? That would be so simple.

But nutrition is a little bit more complicated than that. I’m sure it’s not too complicated for you to understand, but it’s more complicated than that.

But back to sugar.

All carbohydrates are made up of sugars. Table sugar (which I must assume is what the email author is talking about, but didn’t specify) is sucrose, which is a simple carbohydrate. It is converted to glucose in the body, the same as every other carbohydrate you consume! Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of fuel, and are especially important to proper brain function. How much carbohydrate you need in your diet depends a lot on your activity level.

I wrote much more about carbohydrates here: http://www.annekeckler.com/nutrition-carbohydrates/

Related posts:

  1. Nutrition: Carbohydrates
  2. How to Lose Weight
  3. Meal Planning
  4. Are You Bored With Your Fitness Routine?
  5. Enjoy in Moderation

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Topics: Nutrition, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Be Good to Yourself Day

By Anne Keckler | August 21, 2008

Deb suggested that she needs a “Be Good to Myself Day.” I suggest that you should be good to yourself every day!

How can you do that?

What can you add?

Related posts:

  1. Benefits of Exercise?
  2. Fitness for the Busy Lifestyle
  3. Longer Life
  4. I’m Back from Cancun
  5. Find Activities You Enjoy

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Topics: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Boring Blogging

By Anne Keckler | August 20, 2008

My daughter tells me that she doesn’t read my blog because it’s boring. Well, I guess to a teenager, it might be boring to read about carbohydrates and weight loss and fitness, unless you happen to really be into that stuff. She wants to improve her run time and increase her strength, but she just doesn’t find my writing interesting.

So now I’m pondering how to write about this stuff and make it interesting, maybe even entertaining, to the average person, while still giving good information backed up by science.

Any suggestions? Or am I doomed to be called boring by my kids?

By the way, I’m pretty much unreachable by email at the moment. I’ll be back next week and will answer emails then. I can see that I have them, but I cannot reply from here. I’ll have to change that before my next trip.

Related posts:

  1. How Your Lifestyle Affects Your Fitness
  2. I’m Back from Cancun
  3. Film Festivals!
  4. Thinking About Food
  5. Nutrition: Carbohydrates

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Topics: Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Traveling

By Anne Keckler | August 13, 2008

I lift heavy weights. Most hotels don’t offer the facilities I need to get a good workout. Even those that boast of “fitness facilities” usually only have some cardio equipment and maybe some dumbbells. That’s just not gonna cut it for me.

I’ll be leaving town for a couple of weeks. I have a list of things to do in preparation for my road trip. One of the most important things on my to-do list is to get a list of gyms where I can work out in my destination cities (Orlando, Jacksonville, and Atlanta). Then I look up the locations of the gyms and compare them with the location of where I’ll be staying in each city. I try to find a website for each one to compare their equipment and facilities, but if I can’t find a website, I’ll call each one to inquire. Finally, I choose a first, second, and third option for each city, and print out a map and directions to each one from where I’ll be staying.

Many gyms, even independent ones, are members of organizations that allow their members to use the facilities of other member gyms when they travel. Before you travel, you might want to ask your gym if they do this.

If they don’t participate in something like this, your other option is to ask the gym you are visiting for a trial membership. Many gyms give away a one week trial membership, and that’s probably all you need. If they don’t give it away, they’ll probably sell you one pretty cheap.

If you travel a lot, like I do, you can’t afford to miss all those days at the gym. You’ll never see good results that way. So find a gym with the equipment you need and get in there!

Related posts:

  1. Gym Etiquette
  2. Zumba in Tallahassee!
  3. Farewell, Dear Friends…
  4. Taking My Own Advice
  5. How to Choose a Personal Trainer

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Topics: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Thinking About Food

By Anne Keckler | August 12, 2008

So I’m trying to lose the weight I put on during my absence from the gym. I’ve been reading up on nutrition and weight loss, and just trying to stay motivated to eat fewer calories than I burn. It’s never fun.

One thing you’ve gotta know about me is that I love food. I love the variety of tastes and textures. And I particularly like certain combinations of foods. So while I could have a low-fat veggie pizza and some water, I just wouldn’t be satisfied if I didn’t have soda with my pizza. Likewise, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich just calls out for chocolate milk!

So right now I’m just limiting portion sizes, for the most part. And giving up dessert entirely. I know it’s not forever, and one day, when my weight is closer to where I’d like it to be, I can occasionally have a brownie.

But there’s no way I’d eat oatmeal and skinless chicken breast all day long. I don’t care how good it would make me look!

Related posts:

  1. Enjoy in Moderation
  2. How Your Lifestyle Affects Your Fitness
  3. I’m Back from Cancun
  4. Gaining Muscle
  5. Protein FAQ

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Coming Back After a Long Layoff

By Anne Keckler | August 11, 2008

It happens to everyone at some point or another. You get sick or injured, or real life just interrupts your gym routine. For whatever reason, you’ve gotten out of the habit of working out, and now you face the harsh reality of getting back in shape.

If you are injured, see a doctor immediately. I cannot stress this enough. If you have been injured, do not decide for yourself whether you should just “work through it.” Get a doctor to look at it. Get x-rays and MRIs if necessary. Be sure you are not going to make things worse by working out.

Once you’ve been cleared to work out again, you’ll need to start off slowly. Don’t be too hard on yourself those first few weeks. Use light weights and perhaps fewer sets. Just get back into the routine of working out regularly, without being so sore that you can’t walk the next day.

I started back to the gym a couple of weeks ago, after a layoff of several months. I was still somewhat active, but that’s not the same thing as lifting heavy iron several times a week. So now I’m paying the price by having to lift lighter weights, but I won’t make the mistake of lifting too much too soon, risking an injury or simply getting so sore that I can’t work out on my next scheduled day. An injury will only set you back even further, and some injuries cause permanent limitations.

In reality, this layoff put me back to lifting what I was lifting a year ago. I had wanted to be bench pressing my bodyweight by now, but it will probably be at least six months, and maybe a year, before I’ll be doing that. Still, the worst thing I could do right now would be to push myself too hard.

If you are coming back from an injury, be sure you get professional advice and assistance in rehabilitating the injured body part. If you are just coming back from a long layoff for personal reasons or illness that doesn’t effect your training directly, just take it easy for a while and work back up to where you were gradually.

Related posts:

  1. Are You Bored With Your Fitness Routine?
  2. Losing Weight vs. Losing Fat
  3. 25 Fitness Myths, Part 2
  4. Find Activities You Enjoy
  5. Strength Goals

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Topics: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Sleep!

By Anne Keckler | May 8, 2008

I’ve been horrible about writing lately. I’ve been so busy with my sons’ activities!

But here is a post you might enjoy about how to get a better night’s sleep.

Sleep is so important to your health, your weight, your energy levels, and everything else. J.D. has dug up some good information that might help you.

Related posts:

  1. Fitness for the Busy Lifestyle
  2. Benefits of Exercise?
  3. Taking My Own Advice
  4. Find Activities You Enjoy
  5. I’m Back from Cancun

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Topics: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

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