Friday, February 27, 2009

Try Adding This to Your Workout

I'm always looking for ways to keep my workout varied. This one comes to us compliments of the guys at Men's Health. It's a total body workout that should only take 15 minutes or less, and you can do it when you want to change it up your routine a bit, or add it to the mix once a week or so. These 4 exercises will work every muscle group in a short time. Do them back to back with no rest in between, using the same dumbell (as much weight as you can do and still do the whole workout). Do 3 to 4 sets, resting 2 minutes between sets.

1. Dumbbell Swing

With feet shoulder-width apart, hold a dumbbell at arm's length with both hands.

Squat and bring it between your legs, so your forearms touch your inner thighs.

Then, as you straighten your knees and back, swing it up to slightly above your eyes.

Lower it to the start position and repeat.

Do 10 reps.

2. Squat and Press

With your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and toes pointed slightly out, hold a dumbbell with both hands, keeping arms extended downward.

Squat (don't bend at the waist) until it touches the floor.

In one movement, stand up as you bring it up to your chest and then over your head with arms extended.

Do 10 reps.

3. Row and Twist

Hold a dumbbell in your right hand.

Bending at your waist, assume a bent-over row position—right arm perpendicular to the floor, your left leg staggered forward, and your right leg back.

Pull the dumbbell to your chest and rotate your shoulders to the right.

Do 10 reps.

Switch hands and repeat on the other side.

4. Corkscrew

Assume a squat position, holding a dumbbell with both hands at arm's length to the right of your right ankle.

Push to a standing position, keeping your arms extended and rotating your torso as you bring the dumbbell above your opposite ear.

Then lower it.

That's one rep.

Perform 10 on each side.

Illustrations by Kagan McLeod

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Eat This, Not That!

There are lots of things we can do to eat better. The food we eat is a huge part of our health, more so than exercise. A lot of people aren't willing to make big changes; some are willing to do a major overhaul on their diets to get themselves on track. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, there is always room for improvement. I've recently purchased some really handy books on how to better understand the food you're eating and how it's affecting you, and also how to swap certain foods for others in the supermarket or at a restaurant. Eat This, Not That! is a series of books by David Zinczenko. There is one for the supermarket, one for restaurants, and one for kid's foods. If you can't tell, I think this guy is pretty cool. He's also the author of the Abs Diet books, and he is the editor-in-chief of Men's Health. He is on the Today Show and other shows all the time. My wife and I have found the Eat This, Not That! books super helpful for evaluating what foods we're buying at the store, and making better decisions when we eat out. We've found that a lot of dishes at restaurants that you would assume are decent choices are just the opposite, and some of the things you assume are no good for you can be better than the "healthy" menu options. For example, you might think it's a good choice at Chili's to order Chipotle Chicken Crispers. It's chicken, right? Too bad it contains a little over 2,000 calories and 99 grams of fat. You'd be better off getting a hamburger. Watch this video for a few more examples:

For more examples, follow this link:

This is a link to the Eat This, Not That section on the Men's Health website. It has more examples and is a sampling of what you'll find in the books. There are tabs for restaurants, supermarkets, drinks, and a few others. In addition to these tips, the book also contains a whole bunch of other useful information, like how to get your kids to eat better, the foods you should eat every day, and glossaries of ingredients and additives you find in foods, including a bunch that you've never heard of before (I can't believe the stuff that is going into our foods that we don't know about.) It's quite illumintating. We bought our books at Amazon, but you can find them at most booksellers or at the Men's Health link above. They're not expensive, and definitely worth it.

Friday, February 20, 2009

StyleTip: The Pocket Square

Pocket squares, like the tie bar, are another one of those finishing touches that you don't see too much of. If you haven't worn one before, give it a shot and see if you like it. Here are a few tips on how to wear the square:

1. Don't wear a matching tie/pocket square combo. Never ever.

2. Don't try to get crazy with it. I wouldn't use a multi-peaked or puffed look personally, I know some that do and I don't dislike it per se but it's not my look.

3. Use a solid color--probably white--in a simple cotton or linen. There is some utility to the pocket square: It's basically a handkerchief in your pocket. If you wouldn't blow your nose with it if you needed to, it's probably too fancy. Silk ones (usually worn puffy) can be over the top, and they definitely have no utility. Most of the people I see wearing something in their jacket pocket fit into the silky/puffy category. The simple white square is a classic look, but as you can see in the pictures, it's also modern when coupled with a streamlined suit. You can get work stripes or patterns in if you dare.

4. To achieve the perfect fold for your pocket square.... fold it and put it in your pocket. Not complicated. Just make it so the uneven edges are in your pocket and not showing. If you want it looking really crisp, you could iron and starch it. Ironing a hankie is easy, and it's easy to wash
afterwards. Iron it, wear it, blow your nose into it if you need to, wash it. Repeat.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Muscle Building Foods

There are lots of foods that will help you build muscle. I want to focus on 7 of them today. This list comes from information I've gathered from Men's Health. I'm borrowing from a few articles that cite a few different scientists and researchers. Each of these foods has it's own "speciality" and will help you build muscle in their own way.

1. Eggs

How they build muscle: The protein in eggs has the highest biological value—a measure of how well it supports your body's protein needs—of any food, including beef.

But you have to eat the yolk. In addition to protein, it also contains vitamin B12, which is necessary for fat breakdown and muscle contraction. (And no, eating a few eggs a day won't increase your risk of heart disease.)

How they keep you healthy: Eggs are vitamins and minerals over easy; they're packed with riboflavin, folate, vitamins B6, B12, D, and E, and iron, phosphorus, and zinc.

2. Almonds

How they build muscle: Almonds are one of the best sources of the kind of vitamin E that's best absorbed by your body. The vitamin E in almonds is a potent antioxidant that prevents free radical damage after workouts. If you don't know what free radicals are, Google it. It's a lengthy topic that's too vast for our purposes here, but to sum it up, they're nasty and they're everywhere and they mess you up. Antioxidants combat them for you. The benefits of almonds will help you build muscle faster and recover more quickly. Have two handfuls a day.

How they keep you healthy: Almonds double as brain insurance. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that those men who consumed the most vitamin E—from food sources, not supplements—had a 67 percent lower risk of Alzheimer's disease than those eating the least vitamin E.

3. Salmon

How it builds muscle: It's got high-quality protein and omega-3 fatty acids. "Omega-3's can decrease muscle-protein breakdown after your workout, improving recovery," says Tom Incledon, R.D., a nutritionist with Human Performance Specialists. This is important, because to build muscle you need to store new protein faster than your body breaks down the old stuff.
How it keeps you healthy: It reduces your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Researchers at Louisiana State University found that when overweight people added 1.8 grams of DHA—an omega-3 fatty acid in fish oil—to their daily diets, their insulin resistance decreased by 70 percent in 12 weeks.

4. Yogurt

How it builds muscle: "Yogurt is an ideal combination of protein and carbohydrates for exercise recovery and muscle growth," says Doug Kalman, R.D., director of nutrition at Miami Research Associates.

Buy regular—not sugar-free—with fruit buried at the bottom. The extra carbohydrates from the fruit will boost your blood levels of insulin, one of the keys to reducing postexercise protein breakdown.

How it keeps you healthy: Three letters: CLA. "Yogurt is one of the few foods that contain conjugated linoleic acid, a special type of fat shown in some studies to reduce body fat," says Volek.

5. Beef

How it builds muscle: More than just a piece of charbroiled protein, "beef is also a major source of iron and zinc, two crucial muscle building nutrients," says Incledon. Plus, it's the number-one food source of creatine—your body's energy supply for pumping iron—2 grams for every 16 ounces.

For maximum muscle with minimum calories, look for "rounds" or "loins"—meat cuts that are extra-lean. Or check out the new "flat iron" cut. It's very lean and the second most tender cut of beef overall.

How it keeps you healthy: Beef is a storehouse for selenium. Stanford University researchers found that men with low blood levels of the mineral are as much as five times more likely to develop prostate cancer than those with normal levels.

6. Olive Oil

How it builds muscle: "The monounsaturated fat in olive oil appears to act as an anticatabolicnutrient," says Kalman. In other words, it prevents muscle breakdown by lowering levels of a sinister cellular protein called tumor necrosis factor-a, which is linked with muscle wasting and weakness (kind of like watching The View).

And while all olive oil is high in monos, try to use the extra-virgin variety whenever possible; it has a higher level of free-radical-fighting vitamin E than the less chaste stuff.

How it keeps you healthy: How doesn't it? Olive oil and monounsaturated fats have been associated with everything from lower rates of heart disease and colon cancer to a reduced risk of diabetes and osteoporosis.

7. Water

How it builds muscle: Whether it's in your shins or your shoulders, muscle is approximately 80 percent water. "Even a change of as little as 1 percent in body water can impair exercise performance and adversely affect recovery," says Volek. The more parched you are, the slower your body uses protein to build muscle.

Not sure how dry you are? "Weigh yourself before and after each exercise session. Then drink 24 ounces of water for every pound lost," says Larry Kenney, Ph.D., a physiology researcher at Pennsylvania State University.

How it keeps you healthy: Researchers at Loma Linda University found that men who drank five or more 8-ounce glasses of water a day were 54 percent less likely to suffer a fatal heart attack than those who drank two or fewer.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

StyleTip: Raising the Bar

The tie bar is an instant style upgrade when you're sporting a tie. We're talking about tie bars (aka tie clips) not collar bars. The tie bar is functional--it was created to keep your tie in place and not flying in the wind or in your food--but it's also classic and stylish. It's a great accessory to add a little flair to your look. They're definitely making a come back as far as trends go, but they were not seen for quite some time. This is a look I like regardless of trends or what other people are wearing. Here are a few tips for rocking a tie bar:

--Wear it higher than half way up the tie, but not too high. Right at about the lower tip of the sternum is good. Straight across the tie is best. No crazy angles.

--Try not to get one that have teeth on the back side. They put those on there for grip I suppose, but they could mess up your tie and they're a bit excessive unless you're in hurricane-force winds. A lot of the teethed ones have hinges. I don't think the hinge is a bad thing. Some tie bars just slide on. No hinge. Suit yourself.

--Keep it clean and simple. There are some pretty crazy tie bars out there. I typically steer clear of bejeweled or baroque looking stuff as a general rule. I like the ones that are silver and maybe have some simple lines or even little designs. Less is definitely more.

--Don't confuse a tie chain or a tie pin with a tie bar. The tie chain is just a no-no, and a tie pin leaves a hole in your tie.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Let's Blend

I have been a big fan of smoothies for quite some time. They're super healthy. You can put the best stuff in there and they are delicious. I drink them as a snack, after a workout, or sometimes as a meal replacement.

Here is the recipe for one of my own blends. This one (or variations on it) is my favorite:

2/3 C Vanilla Yogurt
2/3 C Frozen Strawberries (or blueberries, blackberries, etc)
3/4 C Frozen Mixed Fruit
1 TB Orange Juice Concentrate
1 Banana
1/3 C Milk

This is enough to make about 24 oz. I usually give 8oz to my wife and drink 16oz myself. All 24 oz or so that it makes has about 465 calories and 15g of protein. I throw some protein powder in to up the protein sometimes, especially if it's post-workout.

Here are some recipes from Men's Health that you might like as well. Experiment with the ingredients and come up with your own go-to smoothie as a delicious and healthy snack or meal.


The berries here aren't just super food for your brain; they offer an important cancer-fighting bonus.

1/2 c fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 c fresh or frozen raspberries
1 c pineapple OJ
1/2 c low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 c ice


Using all unsweetened fruit, this recipe delivers an antioxidant whallop without the sugar.

1/2 cup frozen unsweetened raspberries

1/2 cup frozen unsweetened strawberries

3/4 cup unsweetened pineapple juice

1 cup soy milk or 1% milk


This low-calorie smoothie is a good source of fiber, phytochemicals, and antioxidants. Blueberries in particular contain compounds that can help prevent cataracts, cancer, constipation, and memory loss.

1/2 c orange juice

1 pint nonfat vanilla or peach frozen yogurt

2 1/2 c sliced peaches

3/4 fresh or frozen blueberries


This mix features the brawn-building power of protein from both peanut butter and whey.

2 Tbsp peanut butter
1 banana
1/3 c whey protein
1/2 c fat-free chocolate frozen yogurt
1 c fat-free milk


This smoothie is a muscle-rejuvenating, beta-carotene-filled, orange-colored wonder.

3 small ice cubes

2 apricots (sliced and pitted)

1/2 papaya (frozen in chunks)

1/2 mango (frozen in chunks)

1/2 cup carrots

1 tablespoon honey


The fiber from the fruit teams with the artery-protecting antioxidants and healthy monounsaturated fats of the peanut butter to keep your ticker tickin'.

1 banana
1/2 c raspberries
1 Tbsp peanut butter
1/2 c nonfat chocolate frozen yogurt
1 c fat-free milk


This recipe helps produce wake-up chemicals in the brain.

1 c skim milk

2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate

1 c strawberries

1 kiwifruit


The yogurt aids digestion, while the mango and juice boost immune response.

1/2 c pitted cherries
1/2 c mango
1/2 c low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 c pineapple OJ
1 c ice


An all-fruit smoothie, packed with carbs to boost your serotonin levels. Add a handful of flaxseeds for an extra dose of mood-boosting omega-3 fatty acids.

1/2 c fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 c fresh or frozen mango
1 c pineapple OJ
1 c ice

Monday, February 9, 2009

Supplement Your Workout: Part II

I've written about David Zinczenko's 3 areas of focus for helping you get cut and lean. Exercising the big muscles and speed interval training are the first 2, this is the 3rd area of emphasis to focus on in your workout. I did them out of order, but notice the acronym ABS. Abdominals, Big muscles, Speed intervals. Like I said yesterday, work your big muscles 3 times a week with compound exercises in a circuit. Do speed intervals once a week on a non-strength training day. Do your ab exercises twice a week, preferably before your strength training workout. I've included 3 workout plans (beginner, intermediate, advanced) below that will only take a few minutes before your workout, and will really strengthen your core. These might feel a bit strange because you're not doing situps or crunches. Do them right and you'll see that they're super effective at shoring up those core muscles.

There are lots of reasons to strengthen your abs. Here are 3 big ones:
1. Abs protect you. Having a strong core is crucial to avoiding injury.
2. Abs prevent back pain. If you are weak in your abs, your leg and glute muscles have to compensate, and things really start getting out of whack.
3. Abs help you excel. Whether it's golf, tennis, basketball, baseball, or any other sport, a stronger core will give you better performance. Think of how your core muscles are involved in your golf swing. If you have good strength and stability, it'll improve your swing and your distance. You can find an application for any sport.

Beginner Workout

Exercise 1: Plank on elbows
Assume a pushup position, but with your elbows bent and your weight resting on your forearms. Your body should form a straight line. Now brace your abs as if someone were about to punch you in the gut. Hold for 30 seconds. Rest 30 seconds, and repeat once.

Exercise 2: Mountain climber with hands on bench
In pushup position with your hands on a bench, brace your abs and slowly lift your left knee toward your chest. Pause 2 seconds, lower it slowly, and then raise your right knee. Alternate for 30 seconds, rest 30, and repeat once.

Exercise 3: Side plank
Lie on your left side and prop your upper body up on your left forearm. Raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from ankles to shoulders. Now brace your abs and hold for 30 seconds. Roll over onto your right side and repeat. Rest 30 seconds, and do 1 more set.

2. Intermediate Workout

Exercise 1: Plank with feet elevated
Use the guidelines for the beginner version of the exercise, but with both of your feet on a bench.

Exercise 2: Mountain climber with hands on Swiss ball
Follow the beginner instructions, but place your hands on a Swiss ball instead of a bench.

Exercise 3: Side plank with feet elevated
Do this the same way as the beginner version, but with both of your feet on a bench.

3. Advanced Workout

Exercise 1: Extended plank
Do the beginner version, but place your weight on your hands, which should be positioned about 6 to 8 inches in front of your shoulders.

Exercise 2: Swiss-ball jackknife
In pushup position with your feet on a Swiss ball, raise your hips and pull the ball forward. Do 2 sets of 15 reps, with 30 seconds of rest.

Exercise 3: Single-leg side plank
Do the beginner version, but once you're in position, raise your top leg and keep it raised for the duration of the set.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Supplement Your Workout: Part I

In the book The Abs Diet, David Zinczenko outlines 3 main areas to concentrate on for maximum results from your exercise time. Big Muscle Groups is the first area. In last week's post about the no-gym workout, there is a great plan for doing compound exercises in a circuit to work the large muscles in your body. The second area to concentrate on is Speed Intervals, the third is Abdominal Exercises. In today's part I of supplementing your workout, we're going to go over speed intervals. Tomorrow we'll talk about abdominal exercises. With these 3 areas combined, you'll have a great all around workout routine for the week. Combined with a good diet, you're on your way to more muscle and less fat.

Here's the big picture:
Big Muscle Groups: 3 times per week
Speed Intervals: 1 time per week
Abdominal Exercises: 2 times per week

You can, of course, do more if you have the time. So here's what Speed Intervals are all about:

Speed Intervals

A while back I was trying to include some cardio exercise into my strength training. My wife and I would go to a track 3 times a week and run, I would usually do 3 or 4 miles. My endurance was good, but I was having a really hard time getting results from my strength training. Turns out that by doing an exercise like running over a long period, your body switches from burning fat to burning muscle for energy. Whoops. Just the opposite of what I wanted.

What's your goal? Steady-state exercise will eat up muscle. That's just your body being efficient. If it doesn't need the weight, it'll use it for something else (i.e. burn it and get rid of it). I prefer to build like the sprinter--powerful, defined, fast muscles. Remember: as you build muscle, your body works on it throughout the day, burning calories hours after you worked out. I learned that I should incorporate speed intervals into my routine to accomplish optimal results. If this is your goal, steady-state exercise is obsolete. Speed intervals refer to doing cardio exercises with bursts of high intensity, instead of getting on a treadmill or stationary bike and going for a set period of time at the the same pace. "Time and time again, research has shown that higher-intensity workouts promote weight loss better than steady-state activities like running 3 or 4 miles at the same pace...researchers measured differences in fat loss between two groups of exercisers following two different workout programs. The first group rode stationary bikes four or five times a week and burned 300 to 400 calories per 30- to 45-minute session. The second group did the same, but only one or two times a week, and they filled the rest of their sessions with short intervals of high-intensity cycling. They hopped on their stationary bikes and pedaled as quickly as they could for 30 to 90 seconds, rested, and then repeated the process several times per exercise session. As a result, they burned 225 to 250 calories while cycling, but they had burned more fat at the end of the study than the workers in the first group. In fact, even though they exercised less, their fat loss was nine times greater. Researchers said that the majority of the fat burning took place after the workout. And that's really what makes it so effective -- you'll keep your fat-burning mechanisms revved not only during your exercise but after it as well." -DZ

Do a speed interval workout once a week in addition to your strength workout. Pick your favorite cardio exercise (running, cycling, swimming, elliptical, etc.) and alternate between high intensity (pretty much all-out) and low intensity (like a jog). You only need to do about 20 or 25 minutes. I've found that sports like basketball and tennis accomplish the same goals if you're going hard enough.

Here are a few options on how to use interval training:

Interval Variation I: Standard
The following is a typical interval workout. You alternate the same period of low intensity with the same period of higher intensity.

1. 3 - 5 minutes warmup (light jog, low intensity, gradually increasing at the end of the warmup period)

2. 1 minute moderate or high intensity followed by 1 minute low intensity (repeat 6 - 8 times)

3. 3 - 5 minutes cooldown (light jog, low intensity, gradually decreasing by the end of the cooldown period)

Interval Variation II: Pyramid

This pyramid structure allows you to start with short bursts of speed, and then you'll peak at the longest surge of energy in the middle of your workout before coming back down.

1. 3 - 5 minutes warmup

2. 30 seconds high intensity, 1 minute low intensity

3. 45 seconds high intensity, 1 minute low intensity

4. 60 seconds high intensity, 1 minute low intensity

5. 90 seconds high intensity, 1 minute low intensity

6. 60 seconds high intensity, 1 minute low intensity

7. 45 seconds high intensity, 1 minute low intensity

8. 30 seconds high intensity

9. 3 - 5 minutes cooldown

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

StyleTip: Your Next Pair of Dress Shoes

Here are a few tips on how to pick a pair of dress shoes that really pop. I'm talking about a classic look, not anything really fashion forward. When you're getting a pair of shoes to wear with a suit or with dressier clothes, they should be somewhat understated for the most part, nothing too flashy. I like some flashier shoes for a certain look, but that's not the focus today. These are shoes that you can wear now or 5 years from now (and if you get the right ones, you can wear them for years to come).

Let's start with what you don't want: another pair of square toe shoes. These were popular for a long while and I still see them all the time. I think I probably have 7 or 8 different pairs of square toe shoes in my closet. None of which I want to wear anymore. At least not most of them. They're bulky and don't fit at all with the style of suits or pants that I like to wear. I do have a few that are slim enough that I can still wear them without looking like I'm all feet, but most are a no-go. I have the shoes in the picture on the left. The toe is even bigger than the picture depicts, and the heal and sole are thick and clunky, and they pretty much look ridiculous with my newer, slimmer suits.

What is in style now, and will always be in style because they're classic, are a nice pair of round toe lace ups oxfords. Stick with these and you can't go wrong. Wingtip, cap toe, plain toe, mock toe, etc. Keep 'em clean and polished, use shoe trees, and have a cobbler add toe and heal taps, and they'll serve you for a long time. If you have the means, treat yourself to leather soled shoes, especially if you don't have any yet. They wear beautifully, last a long time, and you can have them resoled when the soles get a bit tired and you're back in business. Rubber soles have their place (if you're on your feet a lot, need the traction, are in inclement weather a lot) but my leather soled shoes are my favorites for sure.

Loafers and slip-ons are also great. Some can be a bit casual for a suit (like the driving shoes pictured below) but they can be dressed up with jeans and a blazer or down with jeans and a T shirt. The loafers pictured are definitely suit friendly, or can be worn with jeans.

One final note: unless you're going to pair them with a black suit, brown shoes are the way to go. There are lots of great shades to choose from, and they go best with grey, blue, and khaki suits. Much more stylish. Apply these tips the next time you buy a pair of shoes and you'll come away with slim, classic shoes that are also modern and in style. Take care of them and they'll help you look great for years to come.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Are You Getting Enough Protein?

If you're lifting weights and exercising, you should be monitoring your protein intake pretty closely. Protein is the building block of muscle. When you exercise and lift weights, you are breaking down your muscles. The idea is to grow them back stronger than they were before you tore them up by lifting. If you're not getting enough protein, your muscle building stops, no matter how much exercising you do. Enough protein will help you rebuild faster and stronger, and you'll be ready for your next workout (wait at least 48 hours after working a muscle group before you have at it again.)

There's a lot of debate about how much protein you should be getting if you're trying to build muscle. One thing is pretty certain, and that is that if you're lifting weights, you should be getting AT LEAST 130 grams of protein a day. Some experts think you should get 1 gram of protein per pound of your body weight, others think as much as 1.5 grams per pound of your body weight. I'm 175 pounds, so if I wanted 1.5 grams per pound, I'd need 263 grams a day. That's double the minimum.

The beauty of protein is that it's effective for all body types. Even if your goal is to have a net loss of weight (gain more muscle and lose fat) you need to pack in the protein. THE MORE MUSCLE YOU BUILD, THE MORE CALORIES YOU BURN. And not just when you're working out. While you're sitting at your desk or watching TV, your muscles are eating up calories. This is why weight training is so good for weight loss, much more effective than, say, jogging in the morning. (Cardio has it's place, more on that some other day.) Another beautiful thing is that you can have a protein shake along with some fruit as a meal replacement, saving you lots of calories and filling you up so you don't feel the need to eat as much.

I've found that if I eat well throughout the day, I get around 150 grams of protein from food. To give a brief example, the day's meals would consist of things like a 3 egg cheese and ham omelet for breakfast, cottage cheese and fruit for a snack, a sandwich with meat or tuna at lunch, some almonds or peanut butter on celery for a snack, then chicken or another meat for dinner along with steamed veggies. (Everything according to serving size. So if I say peanut butter, for example, it's 2 Tbsp with 8 g protein.) I usually also throw in an orange and a banana in there somewhere. To bump my total up, I usually have a protein shake and/or a smoothie with protein powder added each day. A protein shake is best taken right after a workout, and can give you upwards of 50+ grams of protein. My "shake" is just powder in water or milk. Not the most delicious thing, but this isn't a treat, I'm in it for the protein. Use Whey protein as your powder; you'll get other proteins from your food. Whey is superior to other proteins as a muscle builder.

To sum up, get at least 130 grams a day, and depending on your weight, you should probably bump that total up to at least your body weight, and maybe even more if you want to see the benefits protein can give you. Get it in your diet--eggs, fish, meat, dairy, nuts, etc, and supplement with whey powder, along with muscle building exercises, and you'll lose fat and put on muscle.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Simple Workout That Really Works

While living and working abroad in the Cayman Islands, I didn't want to join a gym because it was like $55 a month. So I started doing simple body weight exercises, and I got into better shape than I ever had at Gold's. I became a big believer in the simple body weight exercises that a lot of people dismiss in favor of machines or free weights. I'll put it this way: when I used to work out at a gym, I remember trying to do some pullups once and only being able to do a few. After a while with no gym and doing not much else besides pushups, pullups, and chinups, I went to a gym with my brother and found that I was lifting as much or more weight than I ever had after months of gym exercises. Not to totally discount gyms, there are times I'd like to have access to more weights for some variety. But you can make significant gains without setting foot into a gym. I use my basement. I have no weights, just a pullup bar, some chairs for dips, a swiss ball, and the floor. If you're not in the habit of exercising, you can start now from your own home. If you're already working out, try applying some of these principles and exercises and I'll bet you'll see improvements.

First, before I share the workout plan, let's talk about two important principles to build muscle, burn more calories, and spend less time exercising: circuit training and compound exercises. They are cornerstones to building muscle in reasonable amounts of time.

Circuit training: Involves doing one exercise after another, with about 30 seconds in between at most. It keeps the workout short and and keeps your heart rate high, which gives you cardiovascular benefits in addition to muscle building, maximizing fat burn.

Compound exercises: These are exercises that use multiple joint movements (as opposed to isolation exercises, which move only one joint.) Said another way, it's getting multiple muscle groups done at once. Isolation exercises have their place, but if you don't have much time and want the most out of your exercise, compound is the way to go. These include pushups, pullups, chinups, dips, squats, bench press, and more. Notice that several of the aforementioned can be done at home with just your body weight.

Since we're focusing on workouts you can do at home, I'm going to suggest the following plan. It incorporates exercises that I've been doing personally for the past few months, but adds some exercises that make it a more complete body workout. I'm going to be doing it for the next few weeks to add some variety to my workout for a new challenge (you always want to change it up every month or so to challenge your muscles with something different so that you continue to see results.) It requires 3 days a week, for twenty minutes each time. That's it. No gym required.

I got this exercise from Men's Health. It's part of a program called belly off. Maybe it'll be worth checking out if you like this program. It's a 12 station workout. You'll need a pullup bar and a swiss ball. Do the exercises as a circuit, with 30 seconds or less rest between exercises. If you find it easy, do it again. Stick to the plan, but modify (add) if need be. For example, I will add reps in areas like pushups, chinups, and pullups, and may add dips and a few others to the mix. Here are the exercises:

1. Prisoner squats (30 reps)
2. Pushups (30 reps)
3. Jumps (10 reps)
4. Swiss-ball leg curls (10 reps)
5. Swiss-ball pikes (10 reps)
6. Stepups (20 reps)
7. Pullups or chinups (5 reps)
8. Forward lunges (30 reps)
9. Tucked-elbow pushups (20 reps)
10. Inverted rows (15 reps)
11. Prisoner squats (15 reps)
12. Chinups (5 reps)

To see a pdf with pictures and details of each exercise, click the link or copy it into your browser. (Disregard the "week 3" stuff on the pdf.) It'll give you a pdf that you can print out, so it's super easy to follow as you do it.

Try this out for a few weeks and I guarantee you'll like the results.