Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Tips for Using Healthy Meal Services

There are a number of healthy meals services out there. These are companies that basically bring you healthy "take out" to your door. Or, to put it another way, act as your person chef for some heat-and-eat pre-cooked meals.

The idea is pretty simple - you outsource your healthy cooking. Instead of shopping for your own food, cooking and preparing it, and then eating it, you just do the last bit. Not only that, but they help you stay on a meal plan and can make it easier to access quality ingredients by hitting the farmer's markets for you.

This is very helpful for people with more money than time. Especially for people who'd be eating out anyway - the costs are comparable.

It's also useful for people who want to eat healthier but just don't know where to start. Like fitness training, healthy eating can be a tough thing to just jump into. There is a lot of contradictory information out there, and a lot of advice that just doesn't fit your situation or your goals. Everyone can use the help of a guide.

Getting your healthy meals from a chef or service is much like hiring a trainer. A good trainer can ensure your workouts fit your goals without you needing to learn all of the ins and outs of fitness training. You can just concentrate on getting it done, not deciding what to do. A good chef or food service can also ensure you get what you need without your personal biases towards what you like getting too much in the way.

What do I mean by a healthy meal service?

There are increasing numbers of these. Here are just a few:

Elite Lifestyle Cuisine (based close to me in Clifton, NJ!)

Metabolic Meals

BistroMD

Those aren't specific recommendations, just examples of the services I'm discussing here.

Here are some ways to use them:

All In

This is the total food service approach. Set up a weekly meal plan and let it all roll in. Then just eat what you get. Adjusting up or down is easy - order more, order less. No worries about eating too much if you've chosen correctly.

Pros: You don't have to cook anything, just eat. Cuts down on your shopping time, and cuts down food prep time to just heating and eating.

Cons: Expensive. You aren't learning to make your own healthy meals. You might still eat off the plan if you under-order or over-order. No accounting for sudden cravings. The "weight watchers" effect - you learn to eat their foods, but not how to eat when the deliveries stop.

Special Days

You don't need to subcontract out all of your cooking, though. One approach is to just figure out which days in your schedule need outside support. If one day a week you work all day and you can't cook (or no one can cook for you), try a meal service.

That way instead of day where you're grabbing food at random, or snacking all day, or not eating it all, you're getting healthy meals. It can change a "fast food and junk" day into one of your healthiest eating days. If you usually eat out on such days, you're potentially trading sideways on cost. Instead of $10 meals of junk, it could be $10 meals of healthy and good food.

Pros: More affordable. It makes a minus into a plus.

Cons: Still more expensive than making your own. You need to schedule in advance, often well in advice if it's shipped.

Certain Meals

If you're not one for waking up early and making breakfast, consider getting breakfast delivered. Work late? Get dinner brought in. Have lunch dropped off at your house and take it to the office or job site. Or have it delivered to work. Have it waiting at home when you get home from the gym late at night so you don't have to scrounge for a good post-workout meal.

Basically, whenever you need to eat but don't have the time to make good meals yourself, slot in a healthy food service meal.

Pros: Less costly than the all-in approach. Allows for your own cooking skills to develop while covering weak points in your schedule. Turns a minus (difficult eating situation) into a plus (prepared healthy food.)

Cons: Cost. Not as much impact on your diet as more encompassing solutions.

Jump Start

Approaches like this can also be a "jump start" for eating healthy. Slot in a few days in a week to have a healthy set of meals delivered. Then, either expand out or slowly cut back on the food deliveries. Try to make your own versions of the meals that come that you like. Use them as a template for eating on your own. Slowly taper down to one of the approaches above - certain meals, certain days, or just commit to all-in, always.

Pros: A quick start to weight loss, weight gain, or eating for health.

Cons: The "weight watchers" effect. Cost. You need to put in the effort to learn to make your own or it's just a temporary effect. Can be a tough adjustment as your entire diet changes radically, suddenly.


I hope that helps give you some ideas of how to take advantage of delivery healthy meal services!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Working Out vs. Training (via the Industrial Strength Show podcast)

This post was provoked by a great segment on the latest Industrial Strength show podcast where someone asked, via Joe DeFranco's guest co-host Ashley DeFranco, the difference between working out and training.

(And as an aside, I highly recommend that podcast. It's entertaining, it's down-to-earth, and it's smart and full of valuable information explained well. Joe knows his stuff inside and out, and he explains it well.)


34:30 – Joe explains the difference between “Working Out” vs. “Training”


First, please listen to that and then come back to this.

My thoughts on this?

In some ways, it's semantics - "working out" versus "training."

But there are real differences in approach that people in the industry have labeled in this way.

Exercising just for how it feels today, without regard for the future

vs.

Exercising for the benefit it gives long-term for your goals.

It's hard as a lay person to tell the difference, sometimes. We've all been drilled with so many messages about hard work:

"No Pain, No Gain."

"You have to work harder than the other guy."

"Torching your abs."

"Go heavy or go home."

"Feel the burn."

"Crushing" a workout.

"Your workout is my warmup."

"I'm going to have to work off this cheesecake tomorrow."

We've been told that if you don't sweat, don't feel sore, and don't puke in a bucket during or after the workout it wasn't really hard. And that hard work is good work. "Hard" is just another word for "good" or "effective."

It's not, though. Working out hard has its place. But it's not synonymous with doing it right, or doing what's to your long-term benefit. Ideally you want to work just hard enough for the maximum benefit. You want to put in your best effort each time. But each session doesn't need to be all you were capable of at that time. Your body adapts, but it grows and adapts when you give it time to recover. If you don't, it will break down and you will end up giving it recovery time anyway - as you nurse an injury or suffer through illness.

As a trainer, it's easy to get professionally bothered by this. You really do have to keep a client feeling like they're working hard. You will lose clients to people who just smash a client over and over. You'll get trainees who come in and say, "I lifted yesterday hard, but I still have a little bit left today" and not think - is this is best way to make progress? And if you just smash clients day after day, they will break down. They might be happy but won't reach their goals.

As a trainee, it's easy to feel this way. If a workout wasn't hard, was it beneficial? Did you miss a chance to make some progress? Did you really try if you didn't try your hardest? Was that a waste of time and/or money to just get in a light cardio session or leave some reps in the tank or lift a lighter weight than was possible? If I fail to meet my goals, is it because I didn't work hard enough?

You need to trust the process, which can be hard.

But listen to Joe DeFranco's discussion of it. It's a process. You map it out, and you follow it. It's not about how hard you work but that you work through each step properly. It's a process that leads you somewhere.

And that's why you hear all of this "working out" versus "training."

And it's why I "train" my clients, instead of just having them "work out." I'll make sure they feel like they put in effort, and I'll nudge them towards measuring progress instead of measuring effort. It's the responsibility of trainers to do so. And astrainees we need to learn to recognize what's working, not just what feels like it should be.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Don't Eat at Cross Purposes to Your Goal

I see two common errors when people eat on workout days. One occurs with fat loss, the other with muscle gain.

Goal: Fat loss

On days when you train, don't eat any extra to make up for training.

Often I'll hear clients say they eat extra on training days because they don't want to "waste" the workout. Or, they'll say they eat extra to "maximize" the workout. That's well and good when you are trying to gain, but with fat loss, I find it's easier not to adjust. It's applying good information (that there is value in eating to maximize a workout's benefits) in a way that's counter to your goal (using more energy than you take in, through diet and exercise.)

First, part of the goal with fat loss is getting the body to use up some of its energy stores (aka, fat.) So if you work enough to use 20% more energy today and then add in 20% more energy through food, you're really just eating to maintain. You want the extra deficit.

Second, habit and routine plays a big part in steady, sustainable fat loss. Having two routines - a workout day routine and a non-workout day routine - is tougher than having one. It's much easier to build one habit at a time. So build an eating pattern that works towards your goal and sustain that day after day. Eating is homework - if you don't do it, you won't benefit as much from your efforts in the gym. Just don't adjust the amount based on the gym. Adjust it based on your results - if it's working, keep it up. If it's not, move the amount up or down and observe the results.

Goal: Muscle Gain

On days when you train, definitely eat more. But if you're having trouble putting on muscle, it's probably your off days that are doing you in. If you squat heavy and then eat heavy, then have a light day and eat light, you're eating to maintain, not gain. You want to eat more overall.

The comment about habit, above, still applies. You're better off eating one habitual way that leads to your goals than trying to build in multiple eating habits at once.

This doesn't mean workout nutrition doesn't play a role. If you're in the gym for 60-90 minutes and you're eating a light meal before and your next meal some 30-90 minutes after, you might be eating less overall than a non-workout day. You might be missing a chance to eat - instead of a hearty breakfast and a big lunch and a snack you're eating light, sipping some water at the gym, and then eating a big lunch . . . for less overall calories. That on a day where you absolutely don't want to eat less food. A solid workout shake and post-workout shake can fill in the calories you're not getting because you spent that time training, not eating. Make sure you aren't eating less on days you train.

The second issue is under-eating on off days. A lot of lean guys who want to become big guys make this mistake - eat heavy, then eat light, then eat heavy, etc. and get stuck. They'll hit the AYCE place and fill up, then skip breakfast and have a light lunch the next day. Eating is homework, get it done.


Short version: Don't eat at cross purposes to your goal.


Monday, March 7, 2016

Article Review: Get started today

I recently read an excellent article on getting started on improving your fitness and health.

Here’s how to meet your summer fitness goals, starting today

What I like about this article:

Actionable advice. These are things you can do now. Not in six months, not eventually - now. What can you do today and then do tomorrow?

Slow and steady. It's not a "how to get abs in the minimum time!" approach nor does it over-promise. It's about getting moving a little more than you move now, getting lifting a little more than you do now, and getting your diet a little better than it is now. And then repeating that - moving slowly to your destination.

Not only that, but it takes pains to tell you not to do too much to start. Holding back the enthusiasm of a convert to a more healthy lifestyle is hard - but it's critical to long-term success.


What I don't like:

Weak diet advice. It's good advice, but it's a bit narrow and overly specific. If you want something a little more broad and useful, check out this post at Precision Nutrition.

Otherwise, it's great!
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