TransformAging | An online fitness and health webinar for midlife women

I want to continue to age well.

TC_Aging

To look good, feel great and to be able to keep doing all of my favourite activities for a long time to come.

Don’t you? Doesn’t everybody?

The thing is, when it comes to aging well, you need a plan.
  • A plan that incorporates movement and nutrition that’s appropriate and relevant to your midlife needs (hello achy knees and fluctuating hormones…).
  • A plan that’s evidence-based and prescribed by fitness professionals who specialize in the fitness and nutrition needs of midlife women (we’re out there, although you might not notice us because we don’t post six-pack abs selfies).
  • A plan with actionable steps you can start taking today (because who has time to wait until tomorrow?).

Good news!

You’re invited to attend the first ever TransformAging webinar; two afternoons and evenings of free access to top professionals in the field of midlife fitness.
  • Midlife Weight Gain, Hormones, and Menopot: Strategies for Staying Slim Without Losing Your Sanity with yours truly, Tamara Grand, PhD, based on the interview I did last spring for the radio show Voice America
  • Resistance Training: Your After 50 Easy Weight Management Program brought to you by the highly qualified, quite funny, action-oriented, fitness pro, Debra Atkinson
  • Supplementation and Skincare to Transform Aging Inside & Out: What’s Really Needed? by Mo Hagan, an award-winning, internationally known presenter whose passion is elevating baby boomer women (and she just happens to be Canadian too, ‘eh?).
Mark the dates June 3rd and 4th (5:30 pm EST/2:30 pm PT) on your calendar and click through the link below to register now.

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For 48 hours you will have free access to interviews, practical tips, and easy to follow strategies to transform your life starting right away. 6 webinars spread over 2 days, for you to attend each day at a time convenient for you.

Can’t make the webinar in real time? Worried that you won’t be able to write fast enough to capture all of the nuggets of wisdom and ‘do-right-nows’ we’ll cover? Want to be able to watch them over and over and over again to reinforce the small steps you’ve taken and keep you moving in the right direction?

More good news!

You can also purchase the entire webinar, either in advance ($24; because you love a deal and you just know that you’re going to get great value from this program) or afterwards ($34; maybe you had to sneak out in the middle of a great presentation and really want to hear what else the speaker had to say). Make sure you register for the webinar, as only registrants (whether they show up or not) will receive the purchase details and links.

Just like in fitness, there’s an option that’ll work for everybody!

Here’s hoping I ‘see’ you next week!

Any questions? Feel free to leave me a comment below.

 

 

 

 

10 ways to measure progress other than the bathroom scale

Ask a room full of 40 and 50 year-old women what their number one health and fitness goal is and you’re bound to hear ‘lose weight’ more than a few times.

Given that weight loss requires a multi-pronged approach (strength training, cardio, attention to nutrition and of particular importance to those experiencing perimenopausal symptoms, improved sleep and stress reduction), it’s surprising that one of the most preferred ways to measure progress is still the number on the bathroom scale.

Especially when the pounds aren’t falling off as quickly as they may have when you were younger…

While I can’t argue that seeing a smaller number on the scales isn’t indicative of weight loss, there are many other ways to measure progress along the way.

  • Metrics that encourage reflection and celebration
  • Metrics that shift the focus from how you look to how you feel
  • Metrics that emphasize ability and performance

This week, I challenge you to substitute one of the following metrics (brainstormed by me and some very smart members of my Facebook community; you’re welcome to join us!) for your daily (or weekly) weigh-in.

10 ways to measure progress other than the bathroom scale

1. Take circumference measurements; Losing weight via a combination of exercise and attention to nutrition often results in circumference measurements decreasing before pounds on the scale. Especially if your exercise plan includes lifting weights (as it should :-) ). If seeing numbers decrease is a big motivator for you, adding up those inches lost every month or so can be a great way to measure progress. Six inches sounds like way more than 2 pounds, doesn’t it? And because it takes a little more time and effort than simply stepping on the scales, you won’t be inclined to do it daily.

Wendy asks herself “Can I get into pants I could not get into last month, three months ago, last year? Can I zip a jacket/vest?”

2. Estimate your body fat; For most people, losing weight is really about losing body fat (I can’t think of a single client who’s ever asked me to help them reduce their muscle mass…). When fat loss is accompanied by muscle gain, body composition estimates gives us more information about our health than the number on the scale. There are many ways to estimate body fat, some of which require professional help (e.g., callipers, immersion) or specialized equipment (e.g., Skulpt Aim device, see photo below). But if you’re only looking for a ball-park estimate, a simple, online body fat calculator is good enough.

My front and back ‘muscle quotient’, as measured by Skulpt Aim

 

3. Try on your ‘thermometer’ jeans; You know that pair of jeans (or other pants) that, when they fit well, make you feel like the best version of yourself? Use them to measure progress (or to tell you when you’ve fallen off track). Note that these shouldn’t be a pair of pants you wore way back when, before you had three kids and had hours a day to devote to fitness and menu planning. We’re aiming for realistic, attainable goals here ;-).

Heat suggests that once you lose the weight you “buy new, smaller clothes and get rid of the other ones. That’s just giving yourself permission to wear them again later.”

4. Tally up the ‘toonies’ in your workout rewards jar; I like to ‘pay’ myself for every workout I do, saving the money for one or two more extravagant rewards every year. Seeing the coins accumulate in my workout reward jar makes me feel successful and encourages me to get to the gym on those days where my motivation is low.

I seem to be always saving for new shoes…

 

5. Celebrate weight-lifting PR’s; My favourite numbers to keep track of? How many pounds I lift during my a workout. I use the app Strong to record my strength workouts. It has a fun, summary screen that tells you the total number of pounds lifted and reps performed during your workout. The best thing about these types of numbers? You celebrate when they go up!

Kudos to Shayna for “pushing … [her]self a little harder every week at the gym” (and noticing the corresponding changes in her body).

6. Complete a fitness test; Remember those fitness tests you had to take way back in high school? The gym teacher who recorded how many pushups and sit-ups you could do in a row? The stop watch she wore around her neck to time your planks and wall sits? Test yourself monthly and compare your results. Even if your weight loss workout doesn’t specifically include these four exercises, consistent exercise will produce spill-over effects and improvement over time. (Want to improve your pushups? Here are some tips for getting from knees to toes)

Try one of the follow pushup variations. Keep track of how many you can do.

7. Cut your 5K time; Pay attention to how much more quickly you can perform certain activities (and recover from performing them too). Time your runs or your metabolic finishers. Aim to shave a few seconds off each time out.
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In just a month, I shaved a 1.5 minutes off this metabolic finisher!

 

8. Peruse your progress pics; You know what they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. When we’re smack dab in the middle of a weight loss goal it’s sometimes hard to see the forest for the trees. We focus on what’s not changing and fail to see what is. Taking photographs of yourself (or having someone you trust do it for you) is a great way to objectively see the changes in your body over time.

Try wearing the same, form-fitting clothing in each set of photos (one from the front, one from the side, one from the back); it makes it easier to see progress and you’ll have twice the proof when those clothes start to sag and bag…

ways to measure progress

9. Celebrate streaks; Do you wear a pedometer and count your daily steps? Log your food in MyFitnessPal? Attend 6:00 am Bootcamp Monday through Friday? Why not keep track of how many days in a row you hit your goal? Generating healthy habits is the first step towards weight loss and improved fitness. Focus on the small, day to day steps and the bigger goals will follow.

MyFitnessPal loves to announce streaks to your friends...

MyFitnessPal loves to announce streaks to your friends…

 

10. Focus on how you feel; When it comes right down to it, weight loss and fitness improvement goals are about feeling good. We all want to feel healthy, energetic, happy and light in our own bodies.

As Meg says “feeling good is my wellness scale” (see what she did there? ‘wellness SCALE’?).

What’s YOUR ‘wellness scale’? One of the metrics mentioned above? Or something entirely different?
Share your favourite ways to measure progress towards your fitness and weight loss goals in the comments section below.

Training for the status quo | fitness after 40

A couple of weeks ago a fellow gym-goer asked me what I was training for.

She’d noticed that I lift heavy, 3-4 days each week and that I’d been consistently upping my weights, in particular on my rows (not stalker-ish; she’s quite interested in developing her back, so she pays attention to these things).

Was I training for a weight lifting competition? Nope (this made me giggle)

To build bigger muscles? Not particularly (although that Tricep score my Skulpt Aim gave me is bugging me just a bit 😉 )

SkulptAim_May5_2015

I could have sworn my triceps were stronger than this…

To lose weight or lean out? Nah, I’m pretty happy with my body the way it is (i.e., I’m not interested in doing what it takes to drop 3 or 4% more body fat…)

To improve my performance in another sport? Perhaps, if you consider life to be a sport (have you seen my new tag line?)

My lack of appropriate response clearly confused her, so I tried to explain that my primary reason for exercising consistently and progressively is to continue being able to perform all the activities I love, pain-free and for a long time to come.

That is, I train to stay pretty much the way I am. And when I look around at the mostly healthy-looking people in my gym, I don’t think that I’m alone.

I guess you could call it training for the status quo.

Note that this isn’t a case of simply running to stay in place (a la the Red Queen)…

Alice and the Red Queen

“It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place”, said the Red Queen to Alice

It’s running to NOT end up in a worse place :-)

Training for the status quo has myriad benefits (especially for those of us who aren’t 20 anymore…)

Why I train for the status quo

  • maintain or increase metabolism; As we get older, muscle mass is both harder to create and harder to maintain due in part to a reduction in the production of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. With declining muscle mass comes a reduction in basal metabolic rate. Hence the increased challenge of keeping midlife pounds at bay. Progressive resistance strength training encourages muscle growth and allows me to continue eating (most of) the foods I enjoyed in my 20’s and 30’s without gaining (very much) weight.
  • health is more than how you look; It’s not just what you see that’s important; how things are working ‘under the hood’ is a strong predictor of future health and longevity. Training for the status quo can help improve many of the health markers your doctor is watching; cholesterol, blood pressure, lung capacity, heart rate and stroke volume, to name a few.

Like ‘eating for maintenance’, training for the status quo isn’t sexy.

But it’s a heck of a lot better than the alternative…

Does the phrase ‘training for the status quo’ make you think of a hamster wheel? Or do you see the benefits of exercising simply for the benefits of exercising?

 

training for the status quo

 

6 tips to build your confidence in the gym

Many of the women I teach and train confess to being more than a tad uncomfortable in the gym. Particularly when working out by themselves.

Some common responses to my query as to what, in particular, makes them feel uncomfortable?

  • I don’t know how the equipment works
  • I’m not sure which exercises I should do
  • The free weights section is in the middle of the room; everybody will be watching me
  • I’ll do something wrong and look stupid
  • I’m self-conscious about my body
  • I just don’t feel like I belong in there with all those fit, young people

confidence_gym

Recruiting a friend to be your ‘exercise buddy’ is a great solution (check out these tips for creating the perfect fitness partnership).

However, there will be days when your training partner isn’t available and you’ll be faced with the decision to either ‘go it alone’ or cancel your workout entirely. Choose the latter too often and you’ll be hard-pressed to see the results of your sporadic efforts…

Looking to feel more at home in the weight room? Try the following suggestions to build your confidence in the gym
  • Make a plan. Know exactly what you’ll be doing before you get to the gym. You can find free workouts in books, magazines and websites (here’s a whole page of free workouts I’ve created just for readers like you). Choose one, print it out and pack it in your gym bag to reference at the gym.
  • Choose a quiet time to train. Call or visit the gym in advance to find the least busy time of day to train. At most gyms, early mornings, late afternoons and evenings are when equipment is most in demand. If your schedule allows it, plan for a late morning or early afternoon workout. You’re likely to have the place to yourself (or at the very least, not be surrounded by 20-year old males flexing and grunting and taking selfies 😉 ).
  • Adopt a ‘gradual entry’ approach. Start by tagging 10 minutes in the gym onto your regular group fitness class. Ask your instructor (or the weight room attendant in the gym) for three gym exercises you can do either right before class or immediately after. Once you get comfortable with those exercises (and with the gym itself), add another three exercises to your routine.
  • Carve out a corner. Keep your eye out for less-congested areas of the gym. Collect all the equipment you’ll need for your workout and claim your space. Corners are a great place for people who are concerned about others watching them. Plus, having all of your equipment in one place means a quicker workout.
  • Practice new moves at home. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are with strength training, the first few times you perform a new exercise you’ll always feel awkward and conspicuous (Turkish getups anyone?). Before you debut them at the gym, practice new moves at home and ideally, in front of a mirror. Not only will you improve your form, you’ll also realize that you don’t look nearly as silly as you thought you might.
  • Find a back-up fitness buddy. If you tend to always go to the gym at the same time of day, you’ve likely noticed others that share your preferred workout time. You may even have started to smile or say ‘hello’ to them in greeting. Chances are that at least one of them is feeling exactly the same as you and would appreciate having an occasional workout partner for accountability and motivation.

You’ll never know if you don’t ask. At the very least, you can exercise next to them and pretend that you’re working out together 😉

Have you ever suffered from a crisis of confidence in the weight room?

How did you build your confidence in the gym?

Overcoming obstacles to exercise and healthy eating

One of the favorite topics of discussion in my online women’s fitness training group is obstacles to exercise and healthy eating. It seems like one of us is always struggling with making healthy choices in the face of circumstances, seemingly out of our control.

obstacles to exercise and healthy eating

This is my kind of obstacle course!

Common roadblocks to consistently following an exercise routine and sensible meal plan include (but aren’t limit to…);

  • special events (I can’t say no to cake and wine at my best friend’s birthday party)
  • poor sleep or low energy (the dog was sick and kept me up half the night, I can’t possibly get to the gym today)

The underlying theme being that, anything other than our normal, well-controlled environment tends to result in going off-plan.

The thing is, only rarely are we ever in that ‘normal, well-controlled’ environment.

I don’t know about you, but my life is one big variety show/circus.

Each week is different from the last, presenting it’s own unique set of challenges to stay true to my fitness routines and goals.

It seems to me that rather than creating structure around exercise and nutrition, we really need to learn the dual arts of adaptability and resiliency.

Adaptability is the art of making due with what you have. No access to the gym? Head to the playground. Cable and pulley machine taken? Sub out a similar exercise that only requires dumbbells. Only burgers and fries on the menu? Go ‘bun’-less and ask for extra carrot sticks.

Resiliency is the ability to rebound quickly after a set-back. Beer and chips and s’mores at the weekend’s Cub camp? Eggs and veggies for breakfast on Monday. Back from an ‘exercise-free’ holiday? Schedule your workouts for the next two weeks as soon as you’re back.

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Rebounder fitness is so fun!

There will always be obstacles to navigate. The trick is to remember the end game.

And to remind ourselves that no one can force us to do something we don’t want to do.

In the words of a very wise friend (and member of my online training community);

In the end, the only one who controls my destiny is me

This week, I challenge you to recall these words whenever you find yourself facing an obstacle to exercise or healthy eating. 

Motivating fitness mentors for over-40 females

Last weekend I did a ‘cleanse’.

Not the type of cleanse you’re probably thinking (if you know me at all, you’ll know that ‘detoxes’ and food ‘cleanses’ are not exactly my thing 😉 ).

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A social media cleanse.

As a fitness professional, blogger and freelance writer who’s fairly active on social media, I subscribe to a lot of fitness and nutrition websites. I also  ‘follow’ a ton of Facebook pages and Twitter and Instagram accounts. Mostly to stay on top of the latest research and trends in my field but also because I too, seek motivation and inspiration from other fitness mentors. (Trainers need trainers too, right?).

The thing is, despite the daily deluge of emails and the speed with which my Facebook news stream updates with ‘fresh’ material, only a small proportion of the content delivered to me actually serves its purpose; to educate, motivate and inspire.

Instead, I found myself confused by contradictory and misleading information. Should I run or lift weights if I’m trying to lose weight? fasted cardio; yes or no? 

Overwhelmed by the sheer volume of exercise and nutrition advice. Everybody’s an expert (with or without credentials) and no two experts ever seem to agree…

Shamed and angered by the “what’s your excuse?” memes. If my priorities differ from yours does that make them ‘excuses’?

And weary of seeing photos of chiseled and buff 25-year old abs-in-training for a fitness competition. After three pregnancies, this almost 48 year-old will never see abs like those again and doesn’t believe they have anything to do with her level of fitness or self-worth. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with fitness competitions or bikini shots, if that’s your thing 😉

I realized that much of the content I was seeing was not written with me in mind. An intelligent, educated 47-year old mother of three who works both in and out of the home, enjoys exercise as much as she enjoys chocolate and craft beer and aims to fit fitness into her life, rather than life around the gym…

fitness mentors for over-40 females

Why yes, I did sample them all!

It didn’t address my goals. To remain strong, healthy, vital and energetic and be able to enjoy the physical activities I love for a long time to come. 

It didn’t jive with my fitness philosophy. Find a form of exercise you enjoy and do it consistently and progressively, with just enough intensity to move you toward your goals.

It didn’t support the body image mindset I’ve worked hard to cultivate. Exercise and eat well because you love how it makes you feel, not because you hate the way your body looks.

So I purged. And cleansed. And deleted. And un-followed.

Until I was seeing just the things that lifted me up, made me laugh and generally, reinforced my worldview.

My own personal list of fitness mentors for over-40 females.

Below you’ll find seven of the women that made the cut (there were many more; I’m not that ruthless.. 😉 ). I hope that you find a little motivation and inspiration in this list AND will share your favourite health and fitness mentors in the comments section at the end of the post.

  • Fun and Fit twins Alexandra Williams and Kymberly Williams-Evans – Using wit and wisdom, Alexandra and Kymberly share their life-long love of movement and exercise, uniquely tailored to mid-lifers and baby boomers (AND they teach group step; what’s not to love?).
  • Meg Root of Wellness Feels Good – Meg’s whole-person approach to fitness and wellness and her focus on making small choices to help move you towards your goals resonates with this busy mom (who sometimes is challenged with prioritizing herself…).
  • Go Kaleo’s Amber Rogers – Her tagline says it all, “Sanity in health and fitness”. Strong and outspoken against ‘fitspiration’ photos (#takebackfitspo ), Amber is a woman I’d LOVE to work out with!
  • Josie Maurer of Yum Yucky – Any woman who has four kids, loves to cook, bake and eat and still finds time to create and share fun workouts with her followers is a woman after my own heart. Her Facebook posts almost always brighten my day; thanks Josie!
  • Carla Birnberg and Roni Noone both individually and more recently, as co-authors of the soon-to-be-released book “What You Can When You Can – Healthy Living on Your Terms” – #wycwyc is more than a hashtag, it’s a movement, a mindset, and a lifestyle aimed at harnessing the power of small steps (small but CONSISTENT steps, right 😉 ). And the trailer for the book? Too fabulous not to share…

 

If YOUR list of fitness mentors for over-40 women includes Fitknitchick you’ll want to add your name to my email list. It’s the only way to ensure you never miss a post and stay ‘in the loop’ about my upcoming program offerings!

3 weeks to new fitness and nutrition habits | The 21-Day ‘Re’-Bootcamp

new fitness and nutrition habits - fitknitchick.comWe all start new exercise programs with the highest of hopes. Hopes that this time we’ll actually enjoy working out. Hopes that nothing will ‘come up’ and get in the way of our workouts. Hopes that that old college injury won’t flare up again. Hopes that finally, this time around, exercise will ‘stick’.

Sticking with an exercise and nutrition plan requires that you create new habits and develop new mindsets. Healthy new habits to replace the old habits that are no longer serving you. Positive new mindsets that acknowledge the non-scale related benefits of exercise and clean eating.

Most people who start a new exercise program fail to make it to the third week. Often times, they start off with a bang. Ambitious exercise schedules are created and complete diet overhauls planned. After missing a workout or three and succumbing to an evening of beer and chips they give up, convincing themselves that this wasn’t the right time to start a new program and that next month will be different.

In order to succeed, people needed assistance with consistency, motivation and forming new habits around exercise and nutrition.

That’s why I’ve created the 21-Day ‘Re’-Bootcamp. A downloadable, self-paced exercise and nutrition program to help you build new fitness and nutrition habits.

 

new fitness and nutrition habits - fitknitchick.com

 

The program’s mission? To help both newcomers to exercise and those returning to it after injury, illness or plain old ‘time off’, develop new fitness and nutrition habits. Habits that will in turn, help them in their desire to become long-term, independent exercisers.

The program is 3 weeks in length and includes:
  • weekly workouts; 2 strength, 2 cardio and one flexibility (each with two different levels of difficulty/intensity; one for beginners and one for intermediate exercisers), illustrated descriptions of all exercises and a blank, downloadable template to record workout details on
  • daily emails; for accountability, motivation and inspiration (it’ll be just like I’m perched on your shoulder encouraging you to re-commit daily)
  • nutritional information; information about healthier food choices, macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fats), portion sizes and meal planning (note that this program does not include a personalized meal plan)
  • recipes; some of my favourites as well as links to Pinterest boards I’ve created to support the nutritional needs of regular exercisers
  • a support group; participants can meet and share their experiences with the program in an ‘invite-only’ Facebook group (as this is a ‘stand-alone’ program, I do not offer individualized coaching to participants, but do check into the Facebook group every few days to see what’s happening)

Note that this program is self-paced. No need to wait for an official start day. You start the program when you want, with the first email arriving in your inbox within a day of registration.

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For more information about the program, what past and current participants of my online programs have to say about me and a link to the registration form click through to the following pages;

Questions? Feel free to email me directly (tgrand@telus.net) with any questions or concerns you have about the program.

But please don’t ask ‘will this program work for me’; my standard answer to this question is ANY program will work for just about ANY body, as long as they’re willing to commit to the process…

 

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Calories burned during exercise | should you include them when you track food?

Whenever I start working with a new client whose primary goal is weight loss, I assign her the task of food tracking. Before I can suggest changes to her diet, I need to know what she’s currently eating.

calories burned during exercise

An exemplary client ;-)

 

Most of my clients use online food tracking software, with MyFitnessPal being the most popular choice, by far. Because MFP also allows users to ‘earn’ extra calories via exercise, the question ‘Should I track the calories burned during exercise?’ inevitably arises.

The question is a good one because weight loss depends on creating a net caloric deficit; to lose weight, one must consume fewer calories than are expended during the day. (Typically, a 500 calorie a day calorie deficit will result in a one pound weekly weight loss).

In a perfect world, where accurate measures of caloric intake and expenditure are available to all, my answer would be;

Yes! Track your workouts with as much care as you track your food and adjust your daily net calorie intake in a way that’s sustainable, well above your basal metabolic rate and on track for a 1-2 pound per week weight loss.

Because we live in a world full of imprecise estimates and frequently invalid assumptions, however,  I typically recommend that newcomers to food tracking focus solely on the ‘calories consumed’ part of the equation (at least until we’ve obtained enough information to create a weight loss plan).

[If food tracking makes you crazy or you aren’t sure how to get started, click through to read last week’s post “Food Tracking Tips: Lose Weight Without Losing Your Sanity”]

Why? People have a tendency to underestimate the number of calories they consume (think that was really just a tablespoon of peanut butter? did you measure it? if not, I bet it was more…) and over-estimate the number of calories burned during exercise (especially if they use the estimates displayed on most cardio machines or reported in standard ‘calories burned during exercise’ tables).

Once food tracking is well-established (and perhaps only used periodically to ‘check-in’) and exercise has become a regular part of a client’s day, the question of whether to measure and incorporate calories burned during exercise into the daily energy plan becomes relevant for two reasons;

  • to ensure that she’s not eating fewer calories than required by her body for daily maintenance (known as ‘basal metabolic rate’ or BMR) and
  • to determine how many calories can actually be consumed while still losing weight.

The first is important because long-term under-eating tends to undermine weight loss via it’s lowering of the body’s rate of calorie burn. Eating below BMR teaches the body to conserve energy and be all-too-eager to store excess calories as fat (when one inevitably returns to a more ‘normal’ pattern of eating).

The second is important because cutting calories is challenging enough without feeling ‘hangry’. If exercise allows you to consume an extra 200 calories a day and still lose weight in a safe and sustained manner, why deprive yourself?

calories burned through exercise

Tell me that I’m not the only one who’s felt this way…

 

The challenge now? To actually figure out how many extra calories you can eat in a day, as a consequence of exercise.

Many users of online trackers simply use the options provided to them by the tool itself. For example, MyFitnessPal allows you to choose from a list of exercise activities (both strength and cardiovascular), indicate how long you performed the activity and provide details about reps, sets and loads (for strength workouts) before giving you an estimate of calories burned during exercise.

tracking calories burned during exercise

Just a few of the options MyFitnessPal provides for tracking your workouts

 

There are several difficulties with this approach:

  • estimates are just estimates and may not apply to you. Online calorie trackers typically  consider only your weight and the duration of an activity to generate an estimate of caloric expenditure. This estimate is based on the average number of calories burned by thousands of other similar-weight people performing the same activity for the same duration. Without knowing the error of the estimate (a statistical term that should be provided for all averages…), you can’t know how wildly your actual calorie expenditure might differ from the published value.
  • Exercise intensity is rarely considered  and when it is, it’s measured subjectively. Most of the activities included have generic, intensity-free labels; ‘Running’, ‘Yoga’, ‘Spinning’ (and my personal favourite, ‘Wii Bowling’). When intensity-modifiers are included, it’s up to the user to decide whether their activity was ‘moderate’ or ‘vigorous’. As a Bootcamp instructor, I know that one person’s ‘vigorous’ is another person’s ‘light’ (especially when it comes to Burpees and Box jumps…). And I bet that my definition of ‘light housekeeping’ is substantially ‘lighter’ than yours 😉
  • calories burned during strength training depend on more than just sets, reps and load. Depending on the amount of rest time between sets, the tempo of the lifts and whether the workout has triggered an ‘afterburn’ effect (that is, whether they’ll continue to burn calories at a rate higher than usual for the remainder of the day), strength training can be more or less energetically costly than indicated by published tables and online calculators.

Rather than have my clients (inaccurately) estimate the number of calories they burn during each and every workout (and potentially undermine their weight loss goals), I prefer to individually tailor their daily recommended calorie intake to their weekly workout frequency and intensity.

I do this by;

1. calculating BMR (you can calculate your own here >> MyFitnessPal’s BMR calculator; MFP uses the Mifflin-St. Jeor equations to estimate BMR which is believed to be more accurate than the more commonly used Harris-Benedict equation)

2. calculating daily caloric needs based on weekly workout frequency and intensity (you can calculate your own here >> ACE’s Daily Caloric Requirement calculator. I typically generate two values for this number; one using the client’s reported weekly workout frequency and intensity and the second using the multiplier for a slightly less intense workout week, just in case 😉  ).

3. comparing both numbers and choosing a value somewhere between the client’s BMR and Daily Caloric requirement that’s in line with their weight loss goals. I have my client enter this number in MFP (or whatever tracker they’re using), over-riding the program’s calculated daily calorie goal (not sure how to do this? see the imbedded video at the bottom of the post for a quick tutorial). We then work towards this target for a few weeks, paying attention to energy levels, feelings of hunger and satiety, quality of sleep and measurable weight loss. If need be, we alter it by 100 calories or so and repeat.

While this approach isn’t error-free, it fits nicely with my general approach to fitness and nutrition;

Figure out the smallest possible change you can make and still see results.

Not to mention all the time it’ll free up by saving you from having to enter your daily workouts in your food tracking software!

Do you account for calories burned during exercise in your food tracker?

Do you find that knowing how many calories you burned during exercise tempts you to ‘eat back your calories plus more’?

Not sure how to change your daily goals in MyFitnessPal? Watch the short clip below (and note that I’ve also indicated a way to change macronutrients too), then ‘Subscribe’ to my YouTube channel to stay up-to-date on my video offerings!

Food tracking tips | lose weight without losing your mind

Let’s be honest, food tracking is a chore.

food tracking

 

Weighing, measuring and documenting everything you put in your mouth isn’t any fun.

It’s tedious and time-consuming. It tethers you to your phone or computer and can trigger anxiety and obsessive behaviour in people who get overly hung up on numbers.

Yet research repeatedly demonstrates that people who keep food journals are more successful at weight loss and weight loss maintenance than those who don’t.

Is there a way to track your food without losing your mind?

I think so. Below, I share my food tracking philosophy; why it’s important, how to get started, what to do with what you learn, and best practices for losing pounds while preserving your sanity.

Why food tracking is important
  • it’s an objective way to show you what your diet really looks like; calories, fats, sugar, carbs, proteins, warts and all 😉
  • it allows you to identify areas for improvement; often tweaking just one or two components of your diet can result in measurable change
  • it creates a sense of accountability; knowing that you have to log those Girl Scout cookies may make you think twice about whether they’re truly helping you move toward your goals
  • it forces you to become more knowledgable about what you’re putting in your body; newbies to food tracking are often shocked by how many grams of sugar their favourite flavoured yogurt has or how little protein a purportedly ‘high protein’ breakfast cereal actually has
  • it facilitates the creation of new nutrition habits; long-time food-trackers typically report that they eat the same basic meals from one day to the next. Food tracking has helped them identify their best nutrition plan; a plan that’s sustainable over the long term.
Getting started with food tracking
  • pick an online food tracker and create an account; it doesn’t really matter which program you use, they all count calories and break your daily intake down according to carbohydrates, proteins and fats. I prefer MyFitnessPal (just because I’ve been using it forever..) but have clients that love CoachCalorie and FitDay.
food tracking

Hooray me! A 9-day food tracking streak!

 

  • enter your current weight and, if asked, your current activity level; note that this is usually an assessment of how you spend the majority of your day NOT how frequently or intensely you work out.
  • don’t enter a weight loss goal; the first week or 10 days of tracking are to be used to figure out what you’re currently eating and identify areas for improvement.
  • accept the program’s default settings for daily calorie intake and diet (macronutrient) composition; again, making changes before you know what you’re already doing is simply shooting in the dark.
  • diligently track everything you put in your mouth for 7 to 10 days; this includes water, tea, coffee, condiments and cooking oils. The more accurate your input, the easier it is to determine what needs to be changed. Don’t worry, you won’t be doing this forever (see below).
  • don’t track exercise; since we’re not trying to meet any particular calorie requirements during this initial phase, tracking caloric expenditure is overkill (plus, it’s way too easy to overestimate calories burned during exercise…).
Using the data to make change
  • once you’ve established 7 to 10 days’ worth of baseline data, analyze it; compare your daily calorie intake to the recommendations made by the program. If you’re consistently well-above your target, focus on reducing food intake by no more than 500 calories per day; small changes tend to be easier to maintain than drastic ones.
food tracking

A day where I was fairly close to ‘plan’

 

  • if your daily intake is close to the program’s recommendations, compare your daily macronutrient intake to the program’s targets; focus on tweaking your macronutrient intake to better reflect your goals. Most people tend to over-shoot on carbohydrates and under-shoot on protein. Simply swapping a serving of lean protein for a serving of starchy carbs may be all you need to move things in the right direction.
  • if your daily intake is consistently below your target you’re going to need to eat more; chronic low calorie intake (especially if you’re eating fewer calories than your body needs for basic maintenance and day-to-day functioning) tends to result in metabolic slow down. Because your body is used to having to save energy, it’s in perpetual fat storage mode. The thought of eating more may scare you. You’ll need to adjust your intake slowly, perhaps by as little as 100 calories per day every week or two.
  • commit to following this ‘new’ program and continue tracking food for another 7 to 10 days; pay attention to how your body responds to the changes you’ve made, keeping track of energy levels, hunger and cravings in the comments section of your food tracking app.
  • repeat the above steps in another 7 to 10 days’ time; figuring out your ‘best nutrition plan’ is an iterative process.
  • continue avoiding the temptation to track exercise; most trackers only provide calorie burn estimates for cardiovascular exercise and, unless they integrate heart rate, are likely to be wrong. For a discussion of the challenges of estimating caloric expenditure during exercise, read the follow-up post to this article.
Food tracking for weight loss and sanity maintenance
  • once you’ve created a baseline, used it to generate a plan and have followed the plan consistently for a week or two, take a break; religiously tracking food can lead to anxiety over eating and an obsession with numbers. Listen to your body and trust yourself to continue fuelling yourself in a way that makes you feel good.
  • return to food tracking, periodically, as a way of ‘checking in’; birthday months, holidays and stressful times at work are typical reasons for going ‘off plan’. Return to tracking for a week or so after any life event that’s left you eating differently than you usually do. Right yourself and get back to living.
  • simplify your food tracker’s ease of use; have a tendency to eat the same meals over and over again? Most tracking software allows you to create and save favourite recipes or meals. I do this with my protein pancakes and veggie omelettes. Then all I need to do is enter one food item, rather than enumerate all the ingredients every time I eat it.
  • link up with friends who are using the same food tracking system; just knowing that somebody will notice that you’ve logged in and lost a pound makes food tracking less isolating (it’s also a great way to increase the accountability factor of the tool).
  • use your food tracker as a menu planner; rather than logging after you’ve eaten, input your planned meals and snacks for the next day, examine the daily nutrient summary and tweak your menu to optimize calorie and macronutrient intake.

Next week….some thoughts on the challenges of including exercise expenditure in your daily food tracking routine.

Do you track your food? If so, which program do you use and why?