Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss

Weight loss is an all consuming topic in our nation. Americas’ obesity epidemic is on the news, in magazines and spreading like wildfire. There are thousands and thousand of books on weight loss, thousands of diets, and hundreds of gadgets to help you lose weight.

What if I told you weight loss isn’t your primary goal. That actually we want to focus on fat loss. What’s the difference, you ask, isn’t weight loss fat loss and vice versa? These two terms are often used interchangeably which can cause confusion when in fact weight loss and fat loss are two very separate things.

Weight is the sum weight of your bones, muscles, organs, body fat, and hair. It’s your body in its present state. By present, that means your weight fluctuates during any 24 hour cycle based on some of these factors: stomach/bowel/bladder content, water loss/retention, muscle loss/gain, and fat loss/gain.

Body fat is the total amount of fat in your body. People who are similar in height and weight can look completely different if one has lower body fat than the other. A certain amount of fat is essential to bodily functions. Fat regulates body temperature, cushions and insulates organs and tissues and is the main form of the body’s energy storage.

BMI (body mass index) is a common measure of body fat. BMI is calculated using only height and weight to determine body mass. It does not take into account the amount of lean muscle mass a person has or their bone structure. Therefore people with larger frames or who are muscular are likely to be classified as fat. Many experts think the BMI method is flawed because it doesn’t take lean muscle mass into account.

Finally, there is the scale. The least useful tool in your body transformation toolbox.  Clothes, pictures, a measuring tape, and body fat calipers are your best friends. These tools won’t lie to you. The scale can become your worst enemy by misleading you and killing your motivation.

Here are 2 reasons you can’t trust the scale:

1. Carbohydrates and water. Carbohydrates bind to water. Eating fewer carbohydrates will help you lose weight through water loss. When you are on a diet, like Atkins, you lose weight but it’s mostly water. When you increase your carbohydrates you will gain weight due to water retention.

2. Muscle gain and fat loss. In this program you will gain muscle while losing fat because we do total body strength training. On the scale it will look like you’re not making progress because your body weight might not change or the changes are small.

Keys to losing fat and not muscle:

1. Get Stronger. Strength training builds muscle and prevents muscle loss.
2. Eat Healthy. Eat whole unprocessed foods 90% of the time.
3. Track your progress. Use body fat measurements, circumference measurements and pictures to keep a record of your progress. It won’t happen overnight, but you will achieve the results you desire by staying committed.
Limit cardiovascular training. Don’t overdo it. Cardio can cause muscle loss if it’s not properly balanced with strength training.

Common myths about losing body fat:

1. You can lose body fat by spot reducing. Many people believe that you can get rid of fat if you engage the muscles underneath that fat. You’ve seen the infomercials promising to get rid of tummy fat just by working out with the amazing abdominal gadget. The truth is that your body decides where to put fat and where to remove it, and it’s largely determined by your genetics.

2. Starving yourself burns body fat. Depriving yourself of necessary daily calories puts you in physical “starvation mode.” Your body will think that there isn’t enough food available and that you’re starving. When you go off your diet, your body will store even more fat in reserve against future lean periods. It’s true that when you don’t eat enough calories, your body will break down stored fat to use as energy. However, when you start to eat normally again, you’ll gain all that weight back.

3. Body fat comes from fatty foods. Fat in foods doesn’t equal fat on your body. Fat comes from calories; it doesn’t matter if those calories come from a burger or a salad. There are many foods that contain essential fats that we need, like avocados, and there are many foods that are bad for us like fried foods or fast foods. If you eat more calories than your body needs, it will store them as fat. To keep off body fat, don’t overeat any type of food. Instead, eat small and balanced meals.

4. A little exercise is all you need to lose body fat. You have probably seen the advertisements for weight loss in just five, eight or ten minutes a day. Unfortunately this is untrue. Those ads gloss over the fact that your body won’t burn stored fat unless it needs to. If you exercise for 10 minutes you will not burn fat. You will use the energy from the food you ate that day. Your body doesn’t burn energy stored in fat cells until your other resources are depleted. In fact, your body won’t begin to use fat as fuel until you’ve been exercising for at least 20 minutes. These factors also contribute to breaking down fat and using it as energy: type of workout, intensity of workout and duration of exercise session.

So, how much body fat is healthy? As we have discussed above, body fat percentage is simply the percentage of fat your body contains. If you are 150 pounds and 10% fat, it  means that your body consists of 15 pounds fat and 135 pounds lean body mass (bone, muscle, organ tissue, blood and everything else).

General Body Fat Percentage Categories*:

Classification     Women (% fat)     Men (% fat)
Essential Fat      10-12%                2-4%
Athletes            14-20%                6-13%
Fitness              21-24%               14-17%
Acceptable        25-31%                18-25%
Obese              32% plus               25% plus
*American Council on Exercise

Knowing your body fat percentage can help you determine if your weight loss goals are realistic.  Remember, weight loss doesn’t always mean fat loss.  For example:
130# woman with 23% body fat. Goal: lose 20 pounds
Initial body fat: 130# x 0.23 fat = 30# body fat
Lean body mass: 130# total - 30# fat = 100# lean body mass
Goal: 130# - 20# = 110 pounds

A 20 pound weight loss goal is not realistic or healthy.  At 110 pounds, this woman still requires 100# of lean body mass (bones, organs, etc.), but would only be carrying 10# or  9%  body fat.  From the chart above, you can see that this is a dangerously low percentage.

A better goal would be for the woman to reduce her body fat from 23% to 18%.  In this case:
130# x 0.18 = 23# body fat
100# lean body mass + 23# = 123# goal weight

To achieve a lean, but healthy 18% fat, she would need to lose only 7 pounds of fat, reducing her weight from her current 130 pounds to 123 pounds.  Losing more than 7 pounds means losing lean body mass.

When you decide to lose weight, remember that your “body weight” consists of both lean body mass and body fat.  It is far healthier to lose body fat and increase lean muscle mass. You will be healthier, stronger and fitter in the long run.

If you want to effectively lose body fat, take part in one of our challenges or join our Body Revolution class.

7 Tips to Help Prevent Injury While Exercising


Most of us know how bad it can be to get injured while exercising.  You have been putting in time and energy to get fit and then you have to take a break so you can heal.  Injuries aren’t 100% preventable, but with these easy tips you should be able to continue your workout routine injury free.

  1. Always warm up. Having a proper warm up is very important for injury prevention.  Most injuries happen when joints and muscles are still cold and tight.  Cold muscles do not absorb shock or impact as well. Warming up gets your muscles and joints ready for strenuous exercise by gradually stretching and loosening them up.  Start every workout with at least 5 minutes of light cardio, after that you will be for a gradual dynamic warm up that slowly stretches and warms up the body.
  2. Know your limits. Especially when starting a new exercise program, it is important to not over do it.  Always work up to a new challenging activity.  If something is hurting more than just normal fatigue it is important to stop and take a break.  Some tiredness and soreness is normal, but if you are experiencing sharp pains or light headedness it could be something more serious.  It is good to push yourself during exercise but if you are just starting a new program or running routine it is important to not over do it.
  3. Stretch properly before and after exercise. Stretching is a very important step for preventing a sports injury. Stretching can increase the flexibility of a muscle-tendon unit which leads to greater range of motion.  The more freely you are able to move the less likely you will be to experience muscle tears.  Stretching also increases blood flow to the muscle, which will also help prevent soreness and fatigue.  We highly recommend a dynamic warm up before your workout and static or yoga stretches after your workout.
  4. Rest and recover after a hard workout. Getting enough rest after exercise is essential to high-level performance.  If you don’t allow your body to have a rest day after a challenging exercise or when you are sore, your body isn’t able to rebuild the muscles and energy stores you have depleted.  Torn muscles can only repair when they are allowed to rest.  If your muscles are in a constant state of fatigue your entire muscular system will not be able to function therefore you are more likely to injury yourself.
  5. Get lots of Sleep. When you live an active lifestyle, getting at least 7 hours sleep a night is essential.  If you are tired, not only can your body not perform at a high level you are also more likely to make a miss step or fall while doing a routine exercise move.  If you are tired, or your body is weak, you won’t get very far toward meeting your fitness goals.
  6. Listen to your body. You should be able to tell when something is wrong.  If you notice a pain that isn’t improving you should stop exercising and see a doctor before it gets worse.  Often times an injury can quickly heal with some rest and recovery.
  7. Tell your trainer. If you have an injury, or have been injured in the past, it is very important that your trainer or fitness instructor knows.  They will be able to modify all exercises so you will be less likely to re-injure yourself.
  8. Injured? Don't give up! Find exercises that you can do to keep your fitness level up.  Seeing a physical therapist is a great way to quickly heal an injury so you can get back out there.  Being injured is no fun, hopefully these tips will help keep you healthy and allow you to continue to live a happy and healthy active lifestyle!

7 Guidelines for Eating After Exercise

After a workout, especially after a challenging Body Revolution class, it is important to properly replenish your body.  Your post exercise meal is critical to recovery and improves your ability to train consistently. Training puts wear and tear on your joints, muscles and bones, and your body uses up nutrients during exercise, so what and when you eat is very important for you to reap all the benefits of your hard work.

You should be hungry after exercising and it is important to make healthy choices, rather that grabbing for chips or cookies.  Follow these helpful guidelines while planning your post exercise meals.

1. Time it right.  After a really tough workout, you should try to eat within 30 minutes if possible.  If you won’t be able to eat a full meal within 30-45 minutes of working out you should have a small snack so your body can start repairing itself.  Aim for a small snack with carbohydrates and protein, such as a few crackers with some nut butter, a protein shake or a low fat yogurt.  Once you are ready for you meal, make sure it hasn’t been more than 2 hours post workout.  Research shows that your body's ability to refill muscle energy stores decreases by 50 percent if you wait to eat 2 hours after your workout compared to eating right away.

2. Eat your carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are your friend; you just have choose them wisely.  Carbohydrates are the chief fuel for all bodily functions, they are important for replacing the muscle fuel (glycogen) you used up during exercise. You should be having complex carbohydrates with your post workout meal.  Healthy complex carbohydrates include brown rice, quinoa, oats, and multi-grain bread. Sweet potatoes and yams are also a good choice.

3. Protein is important.  Protein combined with carbohydrates creates a better muscle refueling and building response, and it reduces cortisol, a hormone that breaks down muscle. Be sure you are choosing high quality, lean protein such as fish, skinless chicken breasts, turkey, and lean beef.  Watch your portions; you should be having between 4 and 8 ounces.

4. Eat Green.  Be sure you are adding vegetables to your post workout meal.  Kale, spinach, broccoli, red leaf lettuce, asparagus and carrots are all quick and healthy options. When preparing your veggies try steaming, sauteing them, or roasting with a little extra virgin olive oil.  For your salads either make your own dressing or buy low fat salad dressing (watch out for high sugar content).

5. Limit alcohol.  The dehydrating effect alcohol has on our body will prolong the time it takes to rehydrate and recover after training sessions. Alcohol can also cause inflammation to muscle cells making you much sorer the next day.  If you are going to enjoy drinks after exercise try to limit yourself to two beverages and make sure you drink plenty of water and have eaten a balanced, healthy meal.

6. Drink enough water.  Hydrating after exercise is important for you to get all the benefits from your workout. Without adequate water consumption your muscles don’t have what they need to repair and get stronger for your next workout.  Through proper hydration you will feel better and have more energy for your next workout.  Hopefully you are hydrated before a workout and only need to replenish what you have lost. After an hour of exercise you should drink 4 cups of water to rehydrate. To really be sure you are drinking enough weigh yourself before exercise and then again afterwards.  To fully rehydrate you need to drink at least 2 cups of water per pound lost.

7. Keep it simple.  After a workout you may not want to put too much time into your meals. Here are some easy and healthy meal ideas.

  • Scrambled eggs with whole grain toast
  • Oatmeal with chopped almonds and fruit
  • Chicken breast with quinoa and a small salad
  • Vegetable stir fry with chicken breast or tofu served with brown rice
  • Greek salad prepared with salmon or chicken breast served pita bread
  • Salmon filet served with quinoa and roasted broccoli

Have fun with your post exercise meal.  You work hard and deserve to enjoy what you eat. By eating a healthy balanced diet you will have more energy to continue exercising and get stronger!

2 Months Down. Where Are You At?

It's February and we are almost 2 months into the New Year. January always rolls out slowly and before you know it, February is almost over. What happened to those January resolutions? You know - to start working out regularly, eating healthier and generally getting our shizz together.

Alywn Cosgrove said this "We don't know how long we've got, so don't put things off.  It's not just about looking better, it's about feeling better and being able to do things.  If you knew you only had 10 years left, what would you do with it? And how do you know you don't?"

Let's go back to our resolutions and goals for the New Year. How are you doing? Are you successful or did your motivation falter because you had too many things on your list? Did you know if you commit to one change you have an 85% chance of success. If you commit to making 2 changes, that drops to 35% and if you add a third change that drops to almost no chance of success.

Well, what does that mean? Does that mean I can't make more than one change at a time? Not really. To be successful you work on one thing at a time. Once you are successful, then you move on to the next. That might mean you have small changes that you can adhere to within a week or two weeks. If you have a major change to make, well that might take a month to get it to stick. Sometimes you need more time or you need less. The key to making a successful change is to concentrate on one thing at a time and by the end of 6 months or a year you could have a slew of changes under your belt.

Make a plan with small, incremental manageable parts. Be flexible to allow for change to happen but stay on point. Determination and motivation will get you to your goal. And don't forget to have fun along the way.

The Top 5 Benefits of Foam Rolling


Foam rollers are becoming very popular lately, and with good reason.  The foam roller not only stretches muscles and tendons but it also breaks down soft tissue adhesions and scar tissue. By using your body weight and a cylindrical foam roller you can stretch muscles and tendons also called myofascial release, which is basically self massage.

Foam rolling is great before and after exercise.  Here are the top benefits of using a foam roller.

  • Prevent Injuries.  By foam rolling before exercise you can gently massage and stretch muscles fibers, making it less likely to pull a muscle or injure yourself in some way.  Foam rolling before a dynamic warm-up will warm you up faster and will be more efficient. Soma Training recommends this High Density Foam Roller to keep you healthy.
  • They are inexpensive.  For around 20 dollars you can have your own foam roller and we recommend this high density foam roller. By using one every night you will definitely notice a difference, and will need to see your massage therapist less!
  • Relieve tension and stress.  While you are rolling over your tight muscles be sure to focus on where you have the most tension and soreness.  By applying pressure to the tight areas, the elastic muscle fibers are altered from a bundled position to a smooth straight alignment.  Knots and tension around the joints will quickly be reduced.
  • Prevent soreness.  We all know how important it is to stretch after exercise.  Think of foam rolling as a deeper more efficient way of stretching.  By applying pressure to your tight and shortened muscles blood circulation will be increased allowing your muscles and joints to heal faster.
  • Increase flexibility.  The foam roller and static (standard) stretching go hand in hand; the roller helps you remove restrictions, and then static stretching helps you restore the muscle to its proper length. Because restrictions are removed, the muscle is ready to be stretched after foam rolling.

Foam rolling should be a part of your daily workout routine.  Watch these 5 exercises to get you started.