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How many people you know start a diet, lose 10lbs in 2 weeks and then plateau? Even worse it seems the moment they break their diet they gain it all back. These weight fluctuations are the result of shifting water balance. You had a vague idea didn’t you? But let’s go deeper and see what’s really happening.
Weight fluctuations can be very frustrating. They can mask fat loss and play mental games, one day you are down 5lbs, the other you are up 7. For most people these fluctuations aren’t severe but they can be the source of a lot of confusion and frustration.
So why do we even bother, and what can you do to steer clear of the scale crazies?
The first step is understanding.
Most of your body is water, and that is the number one thing the scale reflects. The scale cannot measure bodyfat, even the so-called bodyfat scales are very inaccurate.
Don’t get me wrong, the scale is still a useful way to track progress–it has to go down, more so the more you weigh. But it takes some knowledge to understand and interpret the numbers. So lets see what affects your scale weight.
Food has weight – .25lbs of beef weighs… .25lbs! When you eat less, you have less of it in your digestive system and the scale takes note. When you finish the diet and go back to maintenance, or any time you eat more food, that adds to your scale weight. It’s not a bad thing, just something to take note of. After a refeed – whether planned or unplanned – you may not see your prior deficit number for 2 weeks, even if you didn’t gain fat.
Your body is designed to retain sodium and excrete potassium. Normally, in a healthy diet, the two should remain in balance, leaving you with a healthy water balance. When you, for example, overdo the sodium, you end up holding onto more water. That can give you a soft, puffy look and also cause inflated scale weight. Again, it’s not fat, even though it looks like fat. It’s easy to correct by laying off the salt and taking some lite salt or high potassium foods like beet greens, potatoes and tomato products.
All exercise, including weight training and even cardio, causes some muscle damage. That translates to inflammation and water retention that happen in the course of repair. Training also increases retention of glycogen (stored sugar that fuels your muscles), and glycogen is two-thirds water by weight. All that can translate to a scale increase, even while in a deficit and losing fat. If you just started your diet and also began exercising anew, weight staying the same rather than moving down can be a tough thing to deal with, but also a really good sign that you are in fact losing fat.
How to deal with this?
There are also hormonal factors for water retention. For starters, your water balance is governed by aldosterone. Drinking more water causes you to decrease aldosterone production, which tells your kidneys to release water in their filtering process.
Letting yourself go thirsty has the opposite effect, namely you start holding more water.
Stress hormones also increase water retention, and dieting is stressful to your body. Caloric deficit and cortisol levels tend to have a direct relationship, and cortisol also causes water retention. When you refeed and flood your body with insulin, cortisol drops and so can water. This effect happens in many, but not all dieters.
Then for women there is PMS. In this case water retention is caused by temporary hormonal changes. Magnesium works very well in this situation, as does balancing sodium and potassium. Take a bath in epsom salts. Drink an electrolyte drink such as Ultima Replenisher. And above all, resist any urges to overeat as this is the worst time to do so. You won’t gain fat any faster than usual, but your body is primed for water retention so it will probably feel like you did.
As you are losing fat the body holds water in the fat cells until your body is certain it no longer needs that extra storage space. When you lose fat you develop a squishy, cellulite-y appearance. That’s actually good. It means fat has been lost and your body is storing water in an amorphous fashion, soon to tighten up.
As you can see, scale weight is only a partial indicator of progress. So how do you make sure you are on track when the scale is all over the place?
Realize that when you lose 10lbs the first few weeks of the diet it is not all fat, it is not even mostly fat. Resolve to stick to the diet for the rest of the way until it is all fat. Focus on following your program and the results will always follow.
Let us know your questions and comments below!
Warm up.. what a milquetoast phrase. It implies something of lesser importance, something you have to do before you start the real training. Contrary to popular opinion the workout actually starts in the warm up and in fact what you do before training is often more important than what you do when you actually train.
The warm up is the foundation which the workout is built on. If your workout is bad your training is bad. You open yourself up for injury and deny yourself of optimal training. Lets quickly examine what’s the purpose behind warming up.
The goal of any warm up is to increase blood circulation and raise internal temperature, especially around the joints. A good warm up increases joint lubrication and increases range of motion. It also aims to mobilize joints and loosen tight areas.
For this I follow Mike Boyl’s philosophy of joint-by-joint approach which tell us every joint has specific needs. Here’s the cliff-notes — you can read the main article here.
As such a warm up must address the needs for every joint. That doesn’t mean you have to do every movements for every joint, but you must find movements that fit those needs. For example a rotational squat addresses ankle mobility, knee stability and hip mobility. Thus it would be a great exercise to do for a warm up. On the other hand a movement like the scorpion is a terrible idea as it increase mobility in the lower back – a joint that requires stability.
For the actual warm up progression, here’s what I recommend:
Continue reading for what to do for every phase
Or soft-tissue work addresses varying muscle densities, tightness or knots in the muscle tissue. It’s critical to foam roll before you stretch as stretching knotted muscle increases the chance of a muscle tear.
Note: Put your arms crossed in front of you, with the elbows parallel to each other. This will push the scapula forward enabling you to target the back muscles.
Note #2: Roll each muscle separately, don’t do both pairs at time.
You can also use a tennis ball to roll the bottom of your feet, calves, tibialis anterior, chest, lats and upper back muscles.
You don’t have to roll every muscle group before every workout. Instead look for muscles that are especially tight. In my opinion the priority is upper/lower back, glute, glute medius, TFL, IT Band and thigh abbductors.
Foam roll everyday as well, not just for your warm up.
I know static stretching before training leaves a poor taste in a lot of people’s mouth but doing some static stretching is essential. It’s important here to recognize tightness and address it. I recommend holding each stretch for 15-20 seconds but not more. Don’t stretch areas that you have sufficient flexibility in. The key is not to be tight but also not too loose.
Stretches to do:
After you finished your statics, its time to move on to dynamic stretching. One key component for get a good dynamic warm up is isolating the muscle group you are targeting, stabilizing the other groups and slowly increasing range of motion. Attempting to jump into full range of motion often leads to incorrect muscle activation and improper stretching movement.
Do these stretches:
Again with the mobility exercises you want to pick a handful that you always do. For example my favorites are leg swings, high knees, wall slides, ankle mobilization, lunges and rotational squat. It’s important to focus on the muscles that you will be training that day, shoulders, back, upper back for chest days – although you still want to do some lower body.
Now you’ve finished your warm up you have to move on to the exercise warm up. Which generally people pick up the bar and haphazardly go through the movements to warm up.What I have my clients do is something I called activation pattern. The idea behind it is to treat the warm up the same way as you would your heaviest set. Your form on your warm up should be optimal. Focus on the movement, come down controlled and drive up explosively.
The purpose of this warm up or activation pattern is to prime up the CNS for the movement. This also acts to remind your body how to move, and you will see a great increase in intensity and workload.
I hope this article has been helpful. I know I’ve neglected warm up for many years and wondered why my training would suffer. With a proper warm up you will have less injuries and better results. Please post any questions or comments you have!
Let’s face the facts. If you eat less than you burn, you’ll lose weight. If you eat more, you’ll gain. Most people have nothing but a rough estimate of what they are eating, and usually it is way off. The first step towards fat loss is taking control of your food. This article will show you how to dissect your food and make it work for you and what to do when faced with the dreaded drive through window, being repeatedly asked, do you want to supersize that.
If you are serious, get a food scale and weigh everything. It’s not that you have to track forever, because I know it is tedious, but that you have to develop awareness. You may think that a giant bowl of chips is a serving, when a serving is a handful. You may also not know that your bowl is giant.
Eating should be a pleasure. Dieting is not an excuse to exercise your masochistic tendencies, rather, it should make you lose fat, as painlessly as possible. Unfortunately for many people fast food is one of their biggest indulgences. I had a client recently casually report eating a chipotle burrito, which he thought was at least a healthy alternative. After the total calories were tallied in it was a staggering 2100! I showed him the errors of his ways and now he can indulge without the consequences.
We selected five popular fast food joints, scoured their menus, weighed the options and found the best selections. Obviously you will need more or less calories based on your diets so work that portion control. We tried to get the most protein while minimizing fat and carbs while at the same time getting the most nutrition.
With chipotle you can use this nifty calculator. Goal is to get a balanced meal and maximum amount of proteins while keeping the calories low. Start with a bowl if you’ll want guacamole or extra sauces, otherwise you could go for the hard tacos. Add either pinto or black beans, since unlike rice they have more protein and are lower GI. The meat choices are pretty much the same so get what you like. The Salsas are pretty low in calorie (15-20-40) so go hog wild. Be careful with the extras -guacamole, cheese, sour cream- as adding all three will bump you up another 375 calories. Chips, as usual, are terrible at 570 calories 73g carbs and 27g fat.
Tomato and Hot Salsas
So they are healthening it up a bit themselves, with the new Kentucky Grilled, and 395 calories for $3.95. It’s not bad, if fast food were your only option. But if you’ve got a kitchen, there’s no reason not to make a tasty Kentucky feast of your own. You can’t go wrong with the Kentucky Grilled but if you don’t want to die from rabbit starvation, get a side dish along with it. Any of the side dishes should be ok as long as you stick to one.
2 breast + 1 drumstick
Mashed Potatoes (No gravy)
BK was really a tough one. All the burgers were loaded with carbs and fat and it was difficult getting close to 50g protein without breaking 800kcal. Your best bet is to stick with the tendergrill chicken sandwich with an extra chicken breast or two. Getting it with mustard instead of mayo will save you 100 calories. And if you want to cut the carbs in half throw away half the bun.
Tender Grill Chicken Sandwich
Extra Chicken Breast, Tomatoes and Onions
Skip the fries and dessert and drink water. If you must, opt for diet coke or if you REALLY need it get 3/4th diet coke and 1/4th regular as a last alternative.
We found better choices at McDonald’s; their menu seemed more balanced. We skipped the beef burgers because they’re pretty low on protein for the calorie buck. The chicken sandwiches are better, with the grilled chicken classic leading the way with 420kcal, 10g fat, 51g carb and 32 g protein. If you pull the double breast and no mayo all on one bun trick, as with BK, you can get even better numbers. In the end we were drawn to the salads with the impressive “Premium Bacon Ranch Salad with Grilled Chicken” 260 calories, 9g fat, 12g carbs, and a staggering 33g of protein. Although the total calorie is low it allows for wiggle room if we want a side dish or dressing. A double order of chicken brings up the protein even more making the salad even more filling.
Premium Bacon Ranch Salad with Grilled Chicken (double order meat)
312 calories (estimated)
+Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
The supposed king of the healthy fast food surprising has some pretty calorie dense options. The good thing about subway is the customizability of each item. You get to choose everything and watch it being made so there shouldn’t be too many hidden ingredients. Maxing out in a meal can bring your calories above 2000 easily. A footlong with double meat, double cheese, and a variety of sauces, mayo, chips and a drink will do that. Stick to a 6″ or a wrap or even make your own salad and skip the starch vehicle all together. Go for lean but substantial meats such as chicken breast, roast beef, or even the subway club. Get double meat to bring up the protein, giving you a more filling sandwich that is still nutritionally sound. The breads are almost the same but we recommend the ’9-grain wheat bread’ for its lowest calorie (210) and lowest GI.
The cheeses are pretty much all the same, so if you need it, go with your favorite. Sub out mayo for light mayo or even better skip it all together and get some mustard. Sauces can be ok but if you already stacked with cheese/mayo consider skipping them. Your best bet is the fat free honey mustard or fat free sweet onion.
Make sure to stack a mountain of veggies (Read our Codex Of Leanness for more info) and opt for water instead of soda (or get diet) and no chips.
Roast Beef (Double Meat)
6″ Wheat Bread
Veggies + Water
approximately 0 kcal
The double meat and the veggies make this sandwich especially filling and nutritious.
Soda is single handedly responsible for a large part of the obesity problem. It is used for hydration, taste, energy, digestion aid and everything in between. Ridding yourself of a soda addiction is three fold: combating the caffeine and sugar addiction and finding another source of hydration. Water takes care of the second part REALLY well. As for the caffeine, get your boost from coffee or tea or, hell, even caffeine pills: somewhere where that jolt doesn’t come with 14 tsp of sugar. Eating proper meals will help stave off the sugar addiction.
Here are some comparisons:
And here is a flexible recipe: (and perfect pre- or post-workout!)
12 oz cold coffee
30g whey (usually 1 scoop)
1 c milk (use whichever fat content suits your macros/goals)
1 c. ice, or less, depending on your blender’s abilities
Blend and serve!
Hopefully now you are better prepared to fight the fast food menace. Remember, fixing your diet isn’t about the perfect macro-split or eating clean all the time, it’s about better choices. So switching to diet coke alone might put you at a caloric deficit and on the road to weightloss. Beyond that, realize that change happens gradually, don’t force a lifestyle on yourself that will make you miserable and set you up for failure. Take your current lifestyle and work on improving it, soon enough you will notice that you have achieved your goals painlessly.
The path to strength and size is one filled with injury and pain. Very few progress down that path, as bigger rewards carry with them bigger risks. At one point progress becomes simply surviving the workouts. If you’ve never been injured in some way while training, then I question your methods.
All serious lifters find themselves at a crossroads; they just graduated from Starting Strength or 5×5 and are looking for the next challenge. Often they seek to specialize, in hypertrophy, strength, powerlifting or even traditional weightlifting. But what if you didn’t want to be one thing, what if you wanted it all: strong and swole, is it even possible?
You ever get called a hunchback and have a mob chase you away back to your dark hovel? No? Well we introduce three methods to use for a bigger, fatter, stronger back, guaranteed to incite disgust and revulsion from the nonswole folks. This article is best read with a dumbbell in hand, doing a row every time a Disney movie is referenced.
Frustrated by lack of progress? Sick of convoluted strength protocols with their meso cycles and dynamic effort days? Well Jim Wendler is here to save you with his 5/3/1 routine.
Confused about Tempo? Ever see 201 and wonder what units it’s in? Negatives bringing you down? Well confusion be gone. This article, we tackle lifting tempo and dissect each part, fleshing out exactly what, why, and how. We also recommend ways to include it in your training and get on the fast track to Swole.
Ever wonder about secret exercises? Do you feel like you’re training the same movement ten different times in the same day? Find out the guaranteed way to blast through plateaus and build huge mass.