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Weight Loss

  • 3 Simple Steps to a Slimmer Spring

    How to Kick-start your Fat-loss in the Warmer Months

    As the warmer seasons draw closer and the temperature starts to rise, many people are emerging from their winter slumbers.

    Similar to the phenomenon of the New Years' Resolution, fitness enthusiasts all find themselves with an extra drive to slim down, tone-up and look sexy for the warmer months to come. However, for a large percentage of those people, they must first overcome the damage done to their health and routines over their winter hibernation.

    The most common side-effects to the winter hibernation include:

    • Bigger waistlines
    • Decreased fitness/activity levels
    • Extra body fat in problem areas
    • Increased cravings for naughty food

    Many of us (including myself) have all fallen victim to the sweet siren call of the dessert menu at our favourite restaurants or failed to refuse that extra serve of nana's famous, hearty, winter spaghetti bolognaise.

    This is largely due to the fact that the winter chill tends to bring on cravings for more food and increase our natural desire to conserve energy via rugging up in front of the warm glow of Netflix.

    Overall, bad news for the bikini body right?

    That's why it's super important for you, your health and your goals, that you literally 'spring' back into action with a plan of attack that works for you. (Pun most definitely intended)

    Without further ado, here are the 3 simple steps to a slimmer spring:

    1. Take your workouts outside

    Working out in the great outdoors is a fantastic way to bring the fun and excitement back to otherwise sometimes monotonous workouts. Cardio in particular can get a little lackluster if you're restricting yourself to just the treadmill and other elliptical machines.

    Taking things outside is a good way to get some all-important vitamin D from the sun and can introduce newer, more fun elements depending on the style of training you're doing.

    Keep it simple at first. Try grabbing a couple of dumbbells, a kettlebell or even just utilize the equipment at a local park.

    1. Get some structure to your nutrition

    If you weren't already on top of your eating or tracking your food in some way before winter rolled around, chances are, your eating habits and diet are worse for wear now.

    Thus, applying some smart constraints to your nutrition here and there are going to be a great place to start on your spring journey.

    Tracking your food can be as simple as writing down what you eat in a food journal. Just by keeping the journal, you're giving yourself a good visual map of what you're actually putting into your body. Second, it might make you think twice about downing that whole packet of Tim Tams if you know you're going to have to write it down later. (Yeah, we know what you did last winter…)

    Another great habit to start getting into is choosing a couple of good supplements to help fill in the gaps when it comes to your nutrition.

    Simple things like protein powders, fish oil, multivitamins are an awesome way to help give your body the extra boost it needs to start shedding excess body fat and adding some lean muscle to your body.

    1. Take up a sport

    If you're still lacking the motivation to get back into structured training then why not take advantage of the countless outdoor sports there are on offer. With the temperature picking up, sports like 5 a-side soccer, swimming, surfing, tennis, athletics can make for a great addition to your training schedule.

    Participating in a sport not only increases your calories burnt and athleticism, but it also improves coordination and is a great way to meet new friends and widen your social circle.

    Sports make for a great alternative for people who find traditional cardio boring (i.e. me). So, get outside and start kicking, throwing, running, jumping and having some fun pronto!

    There you have it, less hibernating and time to get moving. Dust off those bikinis and board shorts and go hit the beach with confidence this spring and summer.

    From Jake and the Alpha Fitness team,

    Happy toning!

    If you feel like you need more guided attention to help you achieve your nutrition and training goals, our team are passionate about helping women reach their full potential by rapidly transforming their bodies through holistic methods. To find out more, visit www.alphafitness.com.au.

  • The Power of Pre-Workout

    At some point in your fitness journey, you've probably considered taking pre-workout supplements. After all, they are some of the most well-known supplements in the industry today, and the benefits are continuing to grow.

    While some may fear the ingestion of any unknown chemicals or foreign substances, it is important to know what pre-workouts can provide you before going to any conclusions. Keep in mind, there are also supplement companies that create 'natural' pre-workout supplements, which contain only natural ingredients. You can even create your own!

    Let's take a look at what taking pre-workouts contain, as well as the benefits they provide for you.

    Pre-Workouts: What's In Them?

    Many are concerned with these supplements, since they hear stories of people having cases of rapid heart rate, 'jitters,' not being able to sleep at night, or crashing from exhaustion a few hours after ingestion.

    While these all have occurred, it is important to understand that user error needs to be considered as well. Most of the problems that people fear, such as a very high heart rate, is due to the consumer taking more than the recommended intake that is on the label. You should also take some time to build up to the recommended serving sizes, such as starting off with a half a scoop, instead of a full scoop.

    The main ingredients in pre-workout supplements are caffeine, beta-alanine, BCAAs, and (usually) creatine. The beta-alanine is what gives you the 'jitters,' and the rest are normal supplements that you would otherwise have to stack on top of your pre-workout.

    Now let's take a look at a few of the benefits these powerful supplements bring to the table.

    Pre-Workout For Increased Performance

    This is the #1 reason that people order these supplements. Pre-workouts come with a beautiful combination of supplements that have a high impact (BCAAs, creatine), and combines them with caffeine to provide an excellent energy boost.

    But now, on top of just having an energy boost, you have increased strength, endurance, and focus. One study showed the positive impacts that NO-Shotgun® has on performance, muscle mass, and body composition1.

    Increased Metabolism

    Because of the thermogenic effects pre-workouts have, they give you increased endurance, as well as using fatty acids for fuel. When this is done, you are helping to fight off any excess fat mass gain, due to your pre-workout supplement speeding up your metabolism.

    The side effects of these supplements is another reason your metabolism is boosted. This includes having more stamina, which allows you to train for longer durations during your training sessions. On top of this, you also have increased intensity, which allows you to exert more energy, and thus burn more calories.

    Pre-Workout for Improved Recovery?

    Remember when I said that BCAAs were included in most pre-workout supplements?

    Yeah, those things have a massive benefit on a number of variables.

    One of these variables includes muscle recovery post-exercise. After you finish working out, it is important to replenish and fuel your muscles, to help them recover and grow from the stress that was accumulated. But with the inclusion of BCAAs, you already have a head start on this.

    That is because BCAAs are responsible for protein synthesis, the process that is responsible for starting the recovery and growth of your muscles. When these are ingested prior to working out, they are already helping your muscles to repair and recover, since they are readily available in the body.

    Conclusion

    It is my opinion that everyone should try pre-workout supplements at least once. They are loaded with beneficial ingredients, provide an unbelievable improvement to your training sessions, and make you feel much more fulfilled and satisfied with your workout. Without them, you greatly reduce the chance of a bad training session.

    Don't train fatigued and hinder your growth and progress. Instead, grab a quality pre-workout supplement, and watch the performance improve, and the muscle gains come piling on.

    1. Shelmadine, B., Cooke, M., Buford, T., Hudson, G., Redd, L., Leutholtz, B., & Willoughby, D. (2009). Effects of 28 days of resistance exercise and consuming a commercially available pre-workout supplement, NO-Shotgun®, on body composition, muscle strength and mass, markers of satellite cell activation, and clinical safety markers in males. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
  • Why You Should Use Carnitine

    L-Carnitine is an amino acid derivative that has become an effective supplement for a multitude of goals. It is so dynamic that it can fit into almost any goal or nutrition plan, and still come out as one of the main benefits of your regimen.

    Let's take a closer look at some of the many benefits L-carnitine can provide for you, so that you know when to include it into your nutrition plan (which is always!).

    Carnitine For Muscle Mass

    One study showed that oral ingestion of L-carnitine helps to increase work output1. Because of this, you will experience increases in strength, power, and muscular endurance during your training. Due to this consistent improvement in performance, you can expect to see increased muscle mass, since you have a greater ability to overload the muscles.

    And speaking of placing stress on the muscles…

    L-Carnitine for Recovery

    During exercise, your muscles are placed under serious stress, and you will be breaking down the muscles throughout a workout. Because of this, you often see how important post-workout nutrition is, since you need to fuel your muscles. If this isn't done properly, you won't allow your muscles to recover. Over time, your performance can be decreased due to your muscles not being fed the proper amount of energy it needs, and they can even experience atrophy.

    Muscle atrophy is something that everyone wants to avoid, since it is a difficult and slow process to add on muscle mass. In order to do this, you need to fuel your muscles with proper amounts of protein and amino acids.

    L-Carnitine has also been proven to assist in recovery of exercise, after the completion of high-repetition squat sessions2. These are some of the most intense training sessions known, so seeing evidence that carnitine boosted recovery in these types of sessions goes to show just how effective it is at helping to repair your muscles.

    Shred the Fat

    When trying to get lean, amino acids play a tremendously important role. First, they help in sparing your muscles and preserving your strength, which is something that L-Carnitine assists in, as I have already shown you.

    However, L-carnitine adds another layer onto the benefits in terms of helping with the fat loss battle.

    The primary role of carnitine in the body is to provide your body energy. It does this by transferring fatty acids to the mitochondria. From there, these long-chain fatty acids are oxidized to produce energy for your body to use.

    So, this helps to keep your body from storing fat, due to its role in energy production. Another bonus of this is that it helps to increase your aerobic capacity, since fatty acids and mitochondria play a vital role in providing the body with the energy it needs to perform long-duration cardiovascular exercise. Because you will be working for longer periods of time, you will see another added benefit in terms of burning more calories.

    Carnitine Can Help With Any Need

    L-carnitine has many benefits outside of the bodybuilding realm, including in assisting with heart problems, kidneys, sperm production, diabetes management, and benefits to the immune system. It is an extremely versatile supplement that should be included in any lifter's supplement plan, as it has proven time and time again to produce massive results.

    1. Wall, B. T., Stephens, F. B., Constantin-Teodosiu, D., Marimuthu, K., Macdonald, I. A., & Greenhaff, P. L. (2011, February 15). Chronic oral ingestion of L-carnitine and carbohydrate increases muscle carnitine content and alters muscle fuel metabolism during exercise in humans. The Journal of Physiology.
    2. Volek, J. S., Kraemer, W. J., Rubin, M. R., Gómez, A. L., Ratamess, N. A., & Gaynor, P. (2002, February). L-Carnitine L-tartrate supplementation favourably affects markers of recovery from exercise stress. American Journal of Physiology.
  • Sleep and weight loss

    Sleep is an important modulator of neuroendocrine function and glucose metabolism. It has been reported that the worldwide prevalence of obesity has doubled since 1980, with women more likely to be obese than men. This obesity epidemic has been paralleled by a trend of increasing prevalence of sleep loss in both children and adults in the modern society. We are sleeping a lot less than we were a few decades ago and are paying the price for it. Significant amount scientific evidence has indicated that poor sleep quality and sleep loss can cause endocrine alterations, including decreased insulin tolerance and sensitivity, increased level of cortisol in the body in evenings, increased level of ghrelin, decreased level of leptin, and increased hunger and appetite. There is a direct association between increased BMI and sleep loss. Children and adults who are short sleepers are at a higher risk for weight gain and obesity. In addition, the dysregulation of the neuroendocrine control of appetite and the alteration of glucose tolerance in people who are not getting enough sleep exposed them to an increased risk of getting diabetes later in life.

     

    So, how much sleep is enough? Well, it really depends on the individual and your age group. One may feel properly rested after 6 and half hours of sleep while others may need 9 hours of sleep to feel rejuvenated. The average basal sleep need for a healthy adult is around 7-8 hours per night. This is discounting all the sleep debt that one accumulates due to previous sleep loss, which may make you feel tired even after a few nights of good sleep unless the debt is paid.

     

    Many of us work very hard to keep our weights down but sometimes we forgot that basic routines in life such as sleep could have a far greater impact on our body and health than the extra 2km you run on the treadmill the other day. Getting enough sleep is probably the easiest, cheapest and most productive way of setting yourself up a good foundation to a healthy and lean life.

  • Calories are not created equal

    The balance of our body weight can be seen as an act of balancing energy input and energy expenditure. There are four subcomponents that contribute to energy expenditure: resting energy expenditure (the energy used to just stay alive), thermic effect of food (the energy needed to digest food), activity energy expenditure (energy used from doing activities) and total energy expenditure (the combination of the 3 above). Calories-in-calories out is the traditional model for weight gain and weight loss. Many professionals hold the belief that a calorie is a calorie, no matter what you eat. However, it has became more apparent that not all calories are created equal, some calories will make you burn more energy, through altering one or more of the 4 subcomponents of energy expenditure.

     

    A study conducted by Ebbling et al and published in the prestigious The Journal of the American Medical Association in 2012 compared the effects of three common diets, low-fat diet, low-GI diet and low-carb diet on energy expenditure. In contrast to the conventional recommendations, the study showed that the low-fat diet tested was probably the worst diet for weight loss and maintenance compared to the low GI and low carb diets. The authors concluded that low fat diet "produces changes in energy expenditure and serum leptin that would predict weight regain".

     

    In agreement with some available diet programs, the study showed that low-carb diet resulted in the highest resting energy expenditure and total energy expenditure in most test subjects compared to the low-fat and low-GI diets. Test subjects on a low-carb diet used on average 67kcal per day more resting energy than subjects on a low-fat diet and 29kcal per day more compared to those on a low-GI diet. The figures shown represented average data from all test subjects, there were of course exceptions, some people tested seemed to respond better and burn more energy on low-GI and low-fat diets. One has to choose what is more suitable for them based on their own experiences.

     

    Although low-carb diet is the most beneficial in terms of energy expenditure and a number of metabolic syndrome components, prolonged enforcement of this diet can increase the secretion of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. High cortisol levels may in turn promote fat gain, insulin resistance and cardiovascular diseases. Therefor, low-carb diet may not be a long-term solution to weight loss and maintenance.

     

    Low-GI diet on the other hand, appeared to be the most healthy and sustainable in the long run compared to the low-carb diet, even though the effect on energy expenditure was not as pronounced, it was comparable nevertheless and more effective than the low-fat diet.

     

    Altering the components of your diet based on how your respond to different foods can make a significant impact on the body's energy expenditure and consequently affects weight loss/maintenance. Reducing fat from your diet doesn't necessarily translate into fat loss. A low-carb diet may be an effective and safe short-term boot camp solution for some but may also be harmful in the long run for others. A low-GI diet might not have the impact of the low-carb diet but it may be good for weight maintenance. Different people will respond to different types of food differently and you will have to find what's best for you. Remember, not all calories are created equal.

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