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If you’ve always struggled to get strong muscles, here are three great and simple moves you can do to start building some serious strength!

Many people get so frustrated that they just can’t seem to build strength, size or muscle definition. I hear this complaint a lot more from men than I do from women. We are all born with basic genetics that determine our shape and size; we can alter this code slightly with our lifestyle choices, but it’s a fact that not all men were made to look like the ‘Incredible Hulk’ in the same way that not all women were made to be skinny. Many men naturally have a lean frame and find it hard to put on muscle.

My advice is to make the very best of your natural physique by building lean mass and getting strong without worrying too much about actual size. I think it’s best to have strong, functional muscle that enhances your daily life rather than bulk or size that simply slows you down.

Fat does not turn into muscle

I love going into the gym and listening in on the many conversations about exercises, size, muscles and diet. The gym is a place where you can learn so much but also hear some common myths being circulated. One crazy conversation I’ve heard a few times is incredibly muscular guys recommending eating tons of junk food calories to gain size and then turn it into muscle. The fact is, it just doesn’t work that way!  The old saying ‘you are what you eat’ comes to mind when I hear such talk. Gaining healthy weight and size is not just about putting a large number a calories into your body. They have to be the right calories at the right time or you may end up just gaining unhealthy weight.

I understand that the 300 lb. bodybuilder in the gym may admit to bulking up on everything, including the kitchen sink, but you have keep in mind that they’re also training three to four times harder and longer than the average man. Another thing we don’t see is that their internal health may be paying the price for eating too much junk food. So before you head to eat all of the junk food you can find to gain some extra weight, try eating a balanced diet with adequate protein combined with my three must do strength moves.

Moves to get strong

They may sound old school, but these moves are effective if you want to get strong! My top three moves that I recommend for building strength and muscle definition are:

Pull- ups

This is one of the hardest but simplest moves to master. The underhand grip chin-up is also effective for building upper body and core strength. By simply changing your hand position, you can put emphasis on various muscles in your back, shoulders and arms. Your body weight alone is enough to build incredible muscular strength but you can also use a weighted belt to add additional resistance. If you can’t manage to do a single one, have a buddy assist you or use the assisted machine in the gym.

If you’d really like a challenge to get strong, I suggest doing variations of pull-ups. You can try doing wide grip pull-ups, where your hands will be placed further apart on the pull-up bar. This will contribute to creating a V shape in your back. You may also consider a close grip chin up. This move will involve your bicep muscles more than a traditional chin-up. And if you want to challenge your core, try doing a few pull-ups with leg raises. Once you reach the top of the pull-up, raise your legs in front of you so they are parallel to the floor, then lower.

Perform five sets of pull-ups and/or chin-ups in each workout to build upper body strength. Or, get creative and come up with your own pull-up circuit. Once you master the technique you can watch your strength improve each week.

Weighted lunges

This is a great functional exercise for building both upper and lower body strength. Hold weighted dumbbells or a sand bag and walk for 20 paces in a lunge style walk. Put the weights down, rest for a few moments and then repeat. I like to do six sets of walking weighted lunges for building leg strength. Be sure to keep a strong, neutral back alignment and use a weight that isn’t too heavy to allow you to use good technique.

Push- ups

Push-ups are the ultimate total-body move for building strength! There are a number of ways you can perform a push-up—you can add in a challenge or make it easier if you’re new to fitness. Try to do push- ups at least a three times a week. Typically 3-4 sets of 20-30 is a good number.

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Building strength and gaining muscle doesn’t have to be difficult, but you do have to be conscious of certain things. Try not to have caloric excess and make sure you get a sufficient amount of protein in your daily diet. I understand that gaining weight for some people is not easy but don’t resort to gaining unhealthy weight. It’s better to take your time with quality nutrition and functional exercises.

How many pull-ups can you do? On my last test, I was up to seven good ones, that’s three more than I could do on January 1st, but 22 less than I could do ten years ago. I’m determined to get stronger with each day, so join my quest with me and share your experiences in the comments section!

Written by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA. Samantha is Director of Fitness Education at Herbalife.

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Posted in Fitness Tips Health Articles By Guy Alony

Traveling can definitely disrupt your usual diet and exercise routine, but you can enjoy your vacation without gaining weight. Here are a few pointers on how to avoid weight gain while traveling. 

When you’re planning a vacation, you probably start by figuring out where you’re going to go, how you’re going to get there, where you’re going to stay, and what you’ll want to do once you get there.  And if you’re like many of my clients, there may be something else you might plan for when you travel – weight gain. However, I’m going to tell you how you can take a vacation and avoid weight gain.

Many people tell me that they just can’t stay on their diets while they’re on vacation – admittedly, it’s a challenge. But when people plan to gain weight when they’re traveling, it sounds to me as if they don’t even want to try to stay on track. Vacations can turn your structured world upside down – that’s one of the reasons we enjoy taking them. But just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you have to bring back “excess baggage” around your waist, hips and thighs.

Tips to control calories while traveling

No matter where you go, or how you get there, it really helps if you’re well prepared. Aim to stick to your usual routines as much as you can.  Here are some tips to help you avoid weight gain while on vacation.

-If you’re traveling by car, skip the ‘road food,’ and pack healthy meals and snacks instead. Don’t leave the house until you’ve eaten.  If you’re in a rush, take a protein shake with you so you’ll be less tempted to pick up fast food on the way.

-Easy to pack foods such as protein bars, fruit, nuts or soy nuts, string cheese and individual packs of baby carrots are good snacks no matter your method of travel. They’re great for road trips or flights.

-Finding healthy items at the airport is a challenge – fruit, yogurt, salads or sandwiches can be found – but packing your own food will save you calories and cash.

-When flights are delayed, use the time to walk around in the terminal rather than letting the restaurants and watering holes beckon.  At some large airports, you can easily log a mile or more by walking back and forth along the concourses.

-Watch out for liquid calories.  Staying hydrated, especially if you’re flying, is important. It’s recommended that you drink a cup of fluid for every hour you’re in the air, but if you’re chugging sodas or cocktails, you’ll rack up a bundle of calories.  Stick to water, iced tea or lightly sweetened sports beverages instead.

-If a stop at a hotel figures into your plans, you’ll likely be suffering from a dangerous combination of fatigue coupled with tempting foods from the happy hour buffets or room service.  Travel is tiring, but rather than using food as a pick-me-up, take a walk or hit the hotel gym after you get settled.

-Many hotel rooms have refrigerators.  Pick up some fresh fruits, cut vegetables or yogurt for snacks.  And don’t forget some milk or soy milk so you can whip up a protein shake in your room.

-Ask hotel staff about healthy dining options in the area where you’re likely to find the foods you generally eat.

-Watch your calories at hotels that offer complementary breakfast.  It’s tempting to overeat when you’re not paying for food items.  Most free breakfasts load you up with starchy bagels, cereal and waffles and it’s easy to you eat more than you should, especially when you’re not paying for it.  Instead, be on the lookout for fresh fruit, and maybe some protein in the form of hard-boiled eggs or yogurt.

Travel Traps – Watch your calories in the car,  air and hotel

How much exercise do you need to burn off some of most typical ‘road foods’?  The chart below gives the calories and fat in typical foods, and the amount and type of exercise needed to burn off those calories.Keep in mind that while you’re sitting in a car or on an airplane, you’re only burning about 150 calories per hour.

Food Calories      Fat    To burn it off…
Airport – Cinnabon Cinnamon Roll 813 26 gm 2 hours of backpacking
Airport – Grande Café Mocha and Blueberry Scone 860 33 gm 115 minutes of biking
Airport – Yogurt Parfait with fruit and granola 620 13 gm 110 minutes of dancing
Airport – Subway Chicken and Bacon Ranch Wrap 440 27 gm 50 minutes of singles tennis
Airplane – United Airlines Classic Snack Box 616 33 gm 2 hours of aerobics
Airplane – Delta Flight Delights (Pita chips, hummus, apricots, almonds, Clif Bar, Toblerone mini chocolate) 530 22 gm 90 minutes of baseball
Airplane – Gourmet Chocolate Chip Cookie 420 20 gm 120 minutes of Frisbee
Airplane – Ham and Swiss Breakfast Croissant 350 21 gm 2 hours of vacuuming
Airplane – Boston Market Chicken Caesar Salad with Sun Chips and Dressing 640 52 gm 120 minutes of ice skating
Hotel Mini-Bar – Planters Apple Cinnamon Trail Mix 560 26 gm 3 1/2 hours of washing dishes
Hotel Mini-Bar – 4.5 ounce can Macadamia Nuts 913 97 gm 80 minutes jumping rope
Hotel Mini-Bar – Snickers King Size Candy Bar 440 22 gm 100 minutes ping pong
Hotel “Free Breakfast “– Bagel with Cream Cheese, Fruit on the Bottom Yogurt, 3/4 cup Raisin Bran + 2% milk, 2 strips bacon 1020 34 5 hours of bowling
On the Road – Double Burger with Fries 1100 61 2 hours of jogging
On the Road – Stuffed Burrito and Medium Soda 900 30 90 minutes of stair climbing
On the Road – 6” Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich + Chips 670 20 2 hours of mowing the lawn
On the Road – 5-ounce tray Red Vines 560 0 56 minutes of swimming

 

 Written by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD. Susan is a paid consultant for Herbalife.

Posted in Nutrition Fitness Tips Health Articles By Guy Alony

What you eat and drink after your workout – and when – can have a big impact on your next performance.

What do you eat first after a workout? Most athletes pay fairly good attention to what they eatbefore exercising, but afterwards – for some – it’s almost as if ‘anything goes”.

Eating the right foods and beverages after exercise does more than just replenish your draining fuel supply – it helps your body get ready for your next round of activity, too. So, if you’re the type who works out regularly (and fairly hard), what you eat – and when – can make a big difference in your overall performance.

Keep in mind that refueling is geared primarily to those who are doing extended and strenuous bouts of exercise. If your usual activity is a daily walk or brief swim, your regular meals and snacks should take care of your nutritional needs as long as your diet is healthy and well-balanced – but always stay on top of your fluid intake.

But, if you’re going the distance, what you eat after your workout is just as important as what you eat before you exercise. You’re not only helping your body recover from a bout of exercise – you’re also helping your body prepare for the next one.

What to eat and drink after exercising

Replenish fluids and salts after exercise

When you exercise, sweating causes you to lose important body salts – like sodium and potassium – that need to be replaced. Many advanced athletes get in the habit of weighing themselves before and after exercise, in order to figure out how much fluid needs to be replaced. For each pound that you lose during activity, you should drink about 2-3 cups of liquid (or about one liter of fluid per kilo of weight loss).

What to drink after exercise

Water is fine as a fluid replacer, since you’ll be eating afterwards – which means you’ll pick up carbohydrate, sodium (and likely some potassium) and from your foods. For those who don’t normally drink high-calorie liquids, this is the one time they might drink fruit juices, since they provide fluid and carbohydrate and – depending on the fruit – potassium, too. Sports drinks are great since they provide not only fluid and carbs (some even have a bit of protein – which your body also needs), but the right balance of salts that have been lost through perspiration, too. And, they usually have a mildly light, sweet taste that often encourages you to drink more.

Your body needs carbohydrate after you exercise

After a hard workout, your body has burned through a lot of carbohydrate – the primary fuel that keeps your muscles working – and it’s important to refuel as soon as you can. The recommended amount is about 1.4 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight (or, 0.6 grams carbohydrate per pound of body weight). That’s about 100 grams of carbohydrate for someone weighing 165 pounds (75 kg). Healthy carbohydrates – fruits, whole grains and the natural carbs in dairy products – are a good place to start with post-workout snacking.

Your body needs protein after you exercise

A bit of protein is important in recovery, too, since it helps to stimulate muscle repair and growth after you’ve been working out. It doesn’t take much – about 10 grams of protein or so will do. The ideal post-exercise meal or snack contains a combination of healthy carbs and protein, which is why athletes often turn to foods like a sandwich on whole grain bread, a dish of yogurt and fruit, a protein shake made with milk and fruit, or specially formulated recovery beverages.

Meal timing is important after exercise

When you exercise, your muscles become very sensitive to the nutrients that are available – and that sensitivity lasts for a limited amount of time. That’s why many athletes who want to optimize muscle recovery pay attention to this “metabolic window” – the time period of about 30-45 minutes after exercise during which you should try to eat your carbs and protein. During this critical time after you exercise, your muscle cells are more sensitive to the effects of insulin – a hormone that helps transport amino acids (from protein) into your cells. Insulin also works to drive carbohydrate into the cells, where it is stored in the form of glycogen. This stockpile of carbohydrate can then be used to provide energy to working muscles during the next bout of activity. And, once you kick this fuel storage process into gear, you can keep it going for up to eight hours if you continue to provide your body with a shot of carbohydrate every two hours.

 

 

Written by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD. Susan is a paid consultant for Herbalife. Herbalife markets sports nutrition products. Find out more about Herbalife24 – Nutrition for the 24 hour athlete.

Posted in Nutrition Fitness Tips Health Articles By Guy Alony
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