I recently had a conversation
with a lady who'd just completed her first boot camp. She was
bouncing off the walls with a newfound energy level, a sense of
euphoria, and was so excited to come into the studio for her
post-camp evaluation since she was confident her body had
changed significantly. After reviewing her numbers, however, her
enthusiasm quickly turned into disappointment. "After 4 weeks of
exercise, how could it possibly be that my body weight and
measurements didn't go down?"
Unfortunately, this scenario is
all too common, not just at boot camp but in nearly every
fitness environment where fat loss is a goal. I talk to a lot of
people who "exercise and eat healthy" yet are not achieving the
results they desire. As a result, some give up in frustration
while others justify that, in spite of persistent lack of
noticeable physical change, at least they are healthier. I
agree! Movement is much better than stagnation and provides
plenty of health, mental and emotional benefit. But if someone
is investing their time (not to mention their money) into a
fitness routine, why not get ALL of the desired results in return?
Below is a listing of the seven
common mistakes people make when attempting to find the balance
between eating right and exercising. After talking with our boot
camp friend, she admitted to making several of these mistakes. I
don't want you to be in the same boat at the end of your camp!
With an understanding and elimination of these mistakes, you'll
avoid the frustration of this lady and find yourself moving more
rapidly toward achieving your fitness and weight loss goals
during your boot camp experience.
Common Mistake #1: Consuming
too much sugar (or refined carbohydrates)
Thanks to savvy marketing, the words "fat free" have compelled
Americans to feast on cookies, cakes, ice creams, and pastries
as our waistlines have grown larger. The number one ingredient
in these foods is sugar and regular consumption is an excellent
way to sabotage attempts at fat reduction.
See, when you ingest simple
sugar, even if it's from a fat free Fig Newton, an energy or
meal replacement bar, or glass of orange juice, all of that
sugar gets absorbed into your bloodstream at once. For that
moment, you have high blood sugar. Assuming that your pancreas
is functioning well, it responds by producing additional
insulin. And since there is a sensitive balance between the
pancreas' production of insulin and glucagon, when insulin
production increases the production of glucagon is reduced.
Insulin is a "storage hormone" transporting sugars through the
wall of the digestive tract and into the muscles and the liver.
Glucagon is a "release hormone" allowing you to mobilize and
thus burn stored fat. Therefore, when glucagon production
declines (due to excess sugar consumption) you significantly
slow your body's fat burning ability.
Refined carbohydrates, such as
foods made with bleached and refined flour, are not much better.
Normally your body does a fair amount of calorie burning work to
digest complex whole grain carbs. However, if you're consuming
carbs that have been bleached and processed there is very little
thermic value and these foods are void of vital micro-nutrients
making them "empty calories." Like sugar, these bleached and
processed carbs quickly spike blood sugar and are easily
converted into triglycerides and stored as fat.
Common Mistake #2: Failing to
provide adequate challenge to the working muscles
In virtually every fitness environment there are people who are
just going through the motions as they workout, allowing gravity
and momentum to propel their weights up and down. We need to
remember that to bring about positive physical change we need to
continually find a new stimulus to provide progressive
challenge. In other words, if your body is capable of handling a
given workload without much challenge, your progress stops and your body ends up
hitting the plateau.
If you perform 30 seconds of
dumbbell curls, for example, with 8 pounds, and you are
absolutely certain you're going to get to 30 seconds without
breaking a sweat, that set will do very little to stimulate
metabolic or strength improvements. Conversely, if you start
with 8-pound dumbbells and they are initially challenging, and
as the workload becomes easier you gradually increase the
resistance level (to 10 pounds, 12 pounds, etc), you can
facilitate very impressive change over time.
Common Mistake #3: Neglecting
When most people think of healthy foods they usually think of
fruits and vegetables first. Next they think of whole grains.
Often, though, people who exercise come up short on sufficient
protein consumption. In the absence of adequate dietary protein
your body can begin catabolizing (or breaking down) muscle
tissue to free up stored amino acids. This loss of muscle is a
long term detriment to metabolism and can result in the body
becoming more efficient at storing fat. Remember to strive to
include leaner proteins (chicken, turkey, seafood, legumes, low
fat dairy) into your diet 5 times every day. Ideally you'll
consume 20 grams of protein at each meal. If you find it
difficult to eat sufficient protein, consider using a quality
protein shake as a supplement.
Common Mistake #4: Failing to
eat frequently enough
The typical American diet of a small breakfast, moderate lunch,
large dinner, is more a result of habit than it is the result of
careful evaluation of human performance and nutritional need. If
we think of our metabolism as the rate at which we convert
nutrients into fuel, or the speed with which your body burns
through food, going five hours between meals is enough to send
blood sugar plummeting and thus, create an intense craving for
excessive calories when you finally do get to your next meal.
Optimally, if the goal is a lean toned body, your body would be
very happy to eat a small "meal" every 3 - 3½ hours. Again, if
you struggle to get to food frequently enough, consider
investing in quality meal replacement shake.
Common Mistake #5: Believing
daily activity "counts" as exercise
So many people confuse yard work, cleaning the house, playing
golf or shopping for exercise. I'm not saying there is no
benefit to cutting the grass, but when engaging in the things
that we do on a routine basis the process of adaptation has
already taken place. It's important, regardless of what you do
in the course of a day, to set aside some dedicated time to
challenge the muscles against progressive resistance.
That doesn't mean back off on your activity. Of course physical
activity will serve you well, but it's not an adequate
substitute for focused exercise sessions devoted solely to
improvements in body composition and in cardio respiratory
Common Mistake #6: Failing to
ingest sufficient calories to maintain metabolism and supply
fuel for activity
A 120 pound woman, at rest for a 24-hour period, would burn
approximately 1200 calories just to keep her brain functioning,
her heart beating, and her internal organs pursuing
life-sustaining metabolic processes. Add in movement, exercise,
stress, and work and caloric requirements further increase. The
old and misleading adage, "eat less to weigh less," has sent
dieters into too aggressive calorie deprivation.
Yes, to lose excess fat stores
you have to have a small to moderate calorie deficiency (500 -
1000 calories a day). Once you understand, however, that eating
small meals frequently throughout the day will boost metabolism,
making the body more efficient at utilizing calories and
releasing fat, you'll quickly develop some improved eating
habits. Ideally you'll divide your daily calories into 5 - 6
balanced meals allowing for optimal use of nutrients and a
continuous stimulation of metabolic activity.
Common Mistake #7: Failing to
schedule down time
Think of exercise as the stimulus
that causes your body to make positive adaptations . . . as you
rest. By "rest," I'm not only referring to sleep, although that
should certainly be adequate if you want to see results. I'm
also referring to the pursuit of a relaxing hobby, days off from
work, visiting a park or a beach, or sitting at home enjoying
There is a crucial balance
between stress and recovery, and while positive stress
(exercise) properly applied can lead to the body making
exceptional progress, it will only do so if there is adequate
It might be helpful to realize
that there are opposing forces at work, and if the balance isn't
quite right, the results can be perilous. Cortisol is a hormone
produced by the adrenal glands and has been referred to as the
"stress hormone." During periods of elevated stress, cortisol
levels are increased. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone, which
means it allows the body to cannibalize its own tissue. It does
have an important purpose. The gradual breakdown of tissue
allows you to continuously build new, healthy cells. Cortisol
also makes certain that if the body's energy needs suddenly go
up due to an extreme stress, there are plenty of amino acids
floating around to be converted into glucose and used as fuel.
We access those amino acids in a stress-induced state by
breaking down muscle.
There are other hormones that are
more geared toward enhancing positive response. Growth hormone
has received much attention lately and people have come to
believe it's a drug. It isn't a drug, but a human hormone that
is produced by the pituitary gland and it plays a vital role in
anabolism (tissue building) and protein synthesis as well as in
keeping metabolic processes at optimal levels of performance.
Growth hormone production is
increased when you rest, and further increased when you enter
deep sleep. Without adequate rest and sleep a cortisol-dominant
environment can prevent you from seeing the results you're
working so hard to achieve.
So, keeping these 7 common
mistakes in mind, your path toward a healthy, lean and highly
energized body is now in reach. Eat supportive meals frequently
(lean protein, starchy wholegrain carbs, and live fibrous carbs),
exercise enough to provide challenge (use challenging weights at
camp), maintain appropriate elevated hear rates (don't walk when
you're capable of jogging, don't jog when you're capable of
running… and never miss out on the suicide drills!!), and
schedule in relaxation and recuperation time. With this common
mistake checklist in place reshaping your body becomes a much
more straight forward process.
Now let's get to it…see you in