Limitless Movie: Is this Mind Drug Possible?

Limitless Movie: Is this Mind Drug Possible?

Posted on 29. Mar, 2011 by .

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After seeing the latest Bradley Cooper movie, Limitless, in theaters this weekend, I could not shake it off my mind. I keep thinking “what if this drug really existed? What will happen to our society as we know it today? Is it even possible to access all our brain’s capacity?”

If you have not heard or seen Limitless yet, let me give you a little background. You’ve probably heard that we only use 20% of our brain. In this movie, a company created an experimental drug, called NZT-48, which will let you access 100% of your mind 30 seconds after ingesting the pill.

It was amazing seeing the possibilities a person can do when they’re “under the influence” of this pill – you can access information on virtually anything you’ve ever been exposed to in your life and this includes books you’ve read, t.v. shows you’ve seen, tutorials you’ve learned, etc. In other words, you become really smart and you become untouchable because you can absolutely get your way out of anything! Not to mention, you become rich and popular as a side effect.

So, back to reality, what can really happen if you have something like this at your disposal? It just so happened that I was re-reading the book, “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill which I’ve written a series of blog posts and videos about in the past and you can watch the first one here: Video Series 1: Thoughts are Things.

I’ve been heavily influenced by the teachings in this book and I have seen the power of it in my own life so I decided to read it again to review the concepts. Maybe it happened by chance but after putting the movie and the book together, I decided we can definitely find a way to access more than 20% of our brain. Movies like, “The Secret,” have talked about this although they do not necessarily discuss just how we can DO it in real life.

The power lies behind the subconscious mind. We mostly use our conscious mind everyday which is the 20% capacity you’ve heard before. However, the subconscious mind resides within our entire body. As said by a good friend of mine, Joseph Giove, who is also a Clinical Hypnotist, “when you engage the mighty subconscious, which is at least ten million times more powerful than your conscious mind, you engage 99.9+ percent of your capacity.” The good news is, everyone can have access to this power but you have to fully believe that using your subconscious mind to achieve whatever you wish is possible first. Failure to do that will bring you no results at all.

When you compare this to an iceberg, the tip represents you conscious mind and the rest which is hidden under the sea is your subconscious mind.

subconscious_mind

Here is a great quote that I read from Think and Grow Rich which summarizes what I’m talking about here beautifully:

“Man may become the master of himself, and of his environment, because he has the POWER TO INFLUENCE HIS SUBCONSCIOUS MIND, and through it, gain the cooperation of Infinite Intelligence.”

At this moment, you may dismiss the power of this sentence because it sounds too “out there.” Believe me, I felt the same way until I practiced accessing my subconscious mind each day and actually seeing my visions coming true in real life. It was mind-blowing when I realized what was happening but now I am a lifetime believer. In fact, many successful people do this and that who I am learning all this material from. Don’t make the mistake of dismissing the concepts I discuss here – this stuff really works!

How to Access Your Subconscious like NZT-48 in Limitless

Here is one simple way I’ve found to be very effective yet very easy to do. Look at your schedule at look for a time on each day that you are available for at least 15 minutes. For me, this is every night before bed time which I dubbed as my “quiet time.” During those 15 minutes, visualize a situation that you want to happen in real life. This can be the moment you get your long-awaited and well-deserved promotion, or finally freeing yourself from sugar cravings, or selling more products or services (if you’re in sales), or finishing a marathon, or finally fitting comfortably into those skinny jeans, etc. Whatever it is, think as if you’ve already achieved it and be specific in how the situation actually happens.

You’re going to want to think of the little details like who was involved, where you are, what the weather is like, how you come upon the situation, what you were wearing, etc. Essentially, you want to make it as real in your head and attach how you feel to it so your subconscious can start “believing” it. Do this repeatedly and you will see this situation materialize in your life in no time.

Realize that I was convinced that I need to write a post about this because I have seen its workings in my life. My only regret is I didn’t start practicing my visualizations earlier. But, now I do not ever take it for granted. On some nights when I just feel too tired, I force myself to do it because it is that powerful.

Back to the movie, Limitless, Bradley Cooper’s character, Eddie Morra, was able to write a book in 4 days, literally rises in popularity (not to mention riches) in the financial world in 10 days, and ultimately becoming president of the United States (at least from what’s alluded in the movie). The drug eventually got people sick and they died but Eddie Morra was the only one who figured out how to not die from it and become the perfect version of himself.

Accessing your subconscious mind can help you get close to the perfect version of yourself just without the side effects. Any changes you make on a conscious level is temporary, any changes you make with your subconscious is lasting and effortless.

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What Does Hunger Mean and Why You Should Care

What Does Hunger Mean and Why You Should Care

Posted on 17. Mar, 2011 by .

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In order to be great at this thing we called life, we have to learn and we have to learn a lot. Whether, it’s taking formal lessons at an educational institution or just reading books about self-growth and professional growth, no one is successful at doing anything without learning from people “who have done that” before them. As I was listening to one of business coach’s video, I was reminded of one quote that really stuck with me, “You are either moving away from something or going towards something.” It sounds simple maybe even stupid. Kind of like a “duh,” isn’t it obvious kind of saying. But, then he said, “You are either moving away from pain or moving towards pleasure.” Now, it makes more sense.

I thought about this quote a lot since it made so much sense to me in a way that, I started noticing everything that I was doing and how I made my decision into doing them. These are some of the choices that were presented to me:

  • Will it take my pain away? or
  • Will it be pleasurable? or
  • Will it be painful? or

For instance, it’s time to go to the gym. Will it be painful or will it take my pain away? These are the thoughts that are going on in my head: Yah, it’s probably going to be painful and pleasurable at the same time. But, I just don’t want to go right now (i.e. it’s painful for me to go because I’m feeling lazy). But, I know I will feel better after wards. Plus, I know I can burn some more calories so I can reach my goal this week…etcetera.

turn_pain_into_pleasure

[Photo by Abubakar Jamil]

Another example would be deciding whether to satisfy a craving. The thought of satisfying a craving is very pleasurable especially if I’ve had several days of eating at a calorie deficit. So, some thoughts that might go through my head is, what is more pleasurable, losing my belly or eating that donut (or whatever my Kryptonite is at the moment).

Why Talk About Pain or Pleasure?

I’m not talking about this particular quote or these examples to demonstrate that I’m neurotic :) Although, you might think that now. Instead, my goal is to demonstrate to you that most of the time, you are not aware that your mind is doing this and your actions are the result of these thoughts. If you’re a constant reader of my blog, you may already know that one of the keys to being successful at losing fat is consistency. The little changes that we make in our nutrition habits everyday, the little decisions we make about what to eat or what not to eat, the small decisions we make about whether or not we are going to the gym on our scheduled times – these are the changes that matter over time.

Pleasure-Pain

So, if we are either moving away from pain or moving towards pleasure, I guess the question we should ask ourselves is: how often are we moving towards pleasure? I would guess (and I’m sure my guess would be right in this situation) that the people who moved towards pain or chose to go outside of their comfort zone consistently are the ones who reached their fitness goals the fastest. They probably chose to go to the gym more often than not, they chose to forgo desert more often than not, they chose not to have a second cocktail more often than not, and so on. In other words, they chose pain right now so they can reap the rewards later. In this word where we get immediately gratification is popular, this is a lot more difficult to do.

Our Brain’s #1 Job and Why It Can be a Problem for Fat Loss

The other thing that we do have to keep in mind is our brain’s main job is to keep us alive. Our brain alerts our body when we’re hungry, or thirsty, or if we’re about to hit the car in front us. This is one of the reasons it can be difficult to eat at a deficit. Your brain is telling your body that it should not “starve.” It must feed itself to stay alive. Unfortunately, we usually mistake a lot of things such as boredom or thirst for the feeling of hunger. Some people also eat even when they’re not hungry.

So, why am I telling you all this? I now like the feeling of hunger because I know that eating at a sufficient calorie deficit to be burning fat. After all, how can your body burn its stored body fat if you’re eating at maintenance or over it. So, if you’re aware that you are burning fat when you’re feeling hungry, you are most likely not about to satisfy that feeling with food. At least, when it’s not time for a meal yet. The lesson here is this: if we just become aware of our pain or pleasure response and how hunger works, most of us will eat a lot less. If we choose to go outside of our comfort zones, we are more likely to reach our fat loss goals at a faster rate.

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How to Look Fit and Still Look Feminine

How to Look Fit and Still Look Feminine

Posted on 13. Feb, 2011 by .

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Note: The rest of the post will be talking mostly to women and how they can achieve the fit and feminine look. Guys, please feel fee to forward the information to your lady friends :)

Okay, I admit, I have done workouts that were designed for men before. I did not have a lot of choices back then. I was also still learning a lot of new things about fat loss, health and fitness during those days. I also did not know I can achieve a certain look with my workouts or even control how I end up looking when I reach my fitness goals. Today, thanks to John Barban and Rusty Moore, women now have many workout program choices in terms of getting the feminine look while still looking fit and without looking like you’re trying too hard in the gym. Let’s be honest – women do not want to look like a “she-male.” That is not a very attractive look.

The current trend I’m seeing is there are now more and more workout programs designed for women. If you’re a regular subscriber of my blog, you’ve probably read my blog post about one of the things I learned from the Venus Index. If you have not done that, you can read it here: “How Many Calories Should I Eat Daily?”

So, instead of doing a “review” of Rusty Moore’s Visual Impact for Women (which is a wonderful resource for women of all shapes, sizes, and fitness levels), I wanted to share with you one thing I learned that will help women achieve the fit but still feminine look.

How to Get Toned Muscles, Not Bigger Muscles

Rusty discusses the concept of Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy versus Myofibrillar Hypertrophy. He explains these concepts in a very simple way that everyone can understand:

Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy is an increase in the muscle cell fluid (called sarcoplasm) within the muscle cell. This is a fast way to increase the size of a muscle, but since sarcoplasm is a fluid and can’t contract…it won’t make the muscle significantly stronger.

Myofibrillar Hypertrophy is actual muscle fiber growth. Since muscle fibers can contract, growth in this area leads to dramatic improvements in strength. This leads to very limited gains in muscle size.

Visual-Impact-for-Women-Video

By looking at these definitions, we can say that if you’re a woman who is happy with the size of your muscles but want to gain strength and increase the density of your muscles then you would want to stick to Myofibrillar Hypertrophy. In practical terms, this would translate to about 5 repetitions per exercise per muscle group.

One example that can make these concepts more clear to you would be women who are content with the size of their arm muscles but want to increase the tone and density of those muscles. These women would have to perform 5 repetitions of arm exercises for about 4-5 sets. The goal is not to go to “failure” which is the point when you can not lift a weight anymore because when you reach this point, you will be training your muscles to get bigger.

Another example that Rusty gave was one with women who may have bigger hips or thicker legs than they would like and are having trouble finding a pair of jeans that fit comfortably. If you are one of these women and you would like to decrease the circumference of your hips and legs but want to maintain the muscles in those areas, Rusty suggests you do not perform and butt and leg exercises but use the “Fat Torching Cardio” strategy which he included in the program. I’ve come to know Rusty’s cardio strategies to be very effective because I have been using them for the last 12 weeks. He takes High Intensity Intervals to the next level so you can burn off free fatty acids in your system after your workouts.

Who is Visual Impact for Women For

Besides the obvious fact that this program is designed for women, this would be a great fit for women who want to learn (and really learn) more about how they can still look fit and feminine without looking like they’re trying too hard. When I say “really learn,” I mean learning the concepts and reasons behind how the workout program is designed so you make your own tweaks to it based on how you want your body to look. If you have a thicker midsection, you will learn how you can make it smaller. If you have bigger calves than you would like, you would learn how to make it smaller. Seriously, the possibilities are endless and you will not be stuck with a generic program that’s designed for everyone else.

Visual-Impact-for-Women-Cover

Besides the concepts I discussed here which I thought were really ground breaking since you will not read them on popular women’s fitness magazines, you will learn a lot more helpful strategies that will make fat loss simpler for you. Rusty specializes in techniques on how to get ready for a big event, like a wedding or a once in a lifetime vacation, and he does not skimp on the content.

Even if you don’t buy this product today, Rusty has some tips over at his blog about creating a fit, feminine look. You can check it out here: “Visual Impact for Women, Jazzed to Introduce My New Women’s Course

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Increase Bone Density through Strength Training

Increase Bone Density through Strength Training

Posted on 30. Jan, 2011 by .

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The other day, I organized a health and charity event which benefited the local Food Bank. I had health vendors sign up for tables so people can find out more about their services. One such service was, Dr. Ken Howayeck who is a podiatrist performing bone density tests. I’ve never had such a test done so I was curious to see what my results would be. Being that my first reason for taking up strength training was to prevent Osteoporosis, I wanted to see how I was doing.

bone_loss

To my delight, I passed the test with flying colors! But, I didn’t know how great my results were until Dr. Howayeck told me I had 2 major risk factors going against me – I am a woman of Southeast Asian descent. According to him, with those 2 risk factors, I should not have the numbers that I got. He told me that I should be proud of myself and that I should show my results to my clients. So, I decided I’d share my results with you and share a little bit of what I learned about the importance of knowing your bone density and having dense bones.

After much research, the first obvious consequence of not having dense bones is Osteoporosis. According to the Mayo Clinic, Osteoporosis, which means “porous bones,” causes bones to become weak and brittle — so brittle that a fall or even mild stresses like bending over or coughing can cause a fracture. A mild case of Osteoporosis is Osteopenia. In many cases, bones weaken when you have low levels of calcium and other minerals in your bones. Before, women are the most likely to get Osteoporosis but some men can get it too.

A bone density test is the first step to find out if you are at risk for Osteoporosis. It is a fairly accurate predictor of your risk of fracture. Dr. Howayeck’s test which scanned my heel cost me $15 because it is what they call a peripheral test. Some tests that scan the hip bones and spine which they call central tests may be more expensive. I recommend at least getting a peripheral test done so you can get a good idea of your risk for Osteoporosis.

Here are some facts I found about Osteoporosis:

The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends bone density testing if:

  • You’re a woman age 65 or older
  • You’re a postmenopausal woman under age 65 with one or more risk factors for osteoporosis
  • You’re a man age 70 or older
  • You’re a man between age 50 and 70 with one or more risk factors for osteoporosis
  • You’re older than age 50 and you’ve experienced a broken bone
  • You’re a postmenopausal woman and you’ve stopped taking estrogen therapy or hormone therapy

Note: It seems that the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends the test for people who are 50 and older but as with everything, knowing what your risks are early in life so you can prevent getting the disease is a lot better than taking care of the symptoms when it’s too late to do anything about it. When you think about $15 is small change compared to the cost of hip surgery.

Risk factors for osteoporosis include:

  • Getting older, which increases your risk of osteoporosis because bones become weaker as you age
  • Ethnicity — for instance, women who are white or of Southeast Asian descent have the greatest risk of osteoporosis, and African-American and Hispanic men and women have a lower, but still significant, risk of the disease
  • Low body weight, or under 125 pounds (56.7 kilograms) if you’re of average height
  • A personal history of fractures after age 40
  • A parental history of osteoporosis or hip fractures
  • Using certain medications that can cause bone loss, especially steroids

Dr. Howayeck gave me a copy of my results so I scanned it and posted it below (you may click on the image to make it bigger):

bone_density

As you can see from my results, my numbers are way above what the average is for my age and ethnicity. A T-score of above -1 is considered normal. If you’d like to find out what T-score and Z-score mean in more detail, please go to the Mayo Clinic web site. Please note that I’m not putting my numbers here so I can brag about it. Rather, I wanted to spread the word on the importance of strength training and how it can help you lower your risk for Osteoporosis.

How Strength Training Helps Increase Bone Density

As your muscles become more toned and get bigger, your bones also have to get bigger so they can support your bigger muscles. I’m not saying you have to look like Ms. Olympia with huge muscles. Any sort of muscle growth will help lower your risk for this disease. As I said earlier, this is my main reason for starting strength training in the first place and I can see that my efforts are paying off. I hope you do the same as well.

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How Many Calories Should I Eat Daily?

How Many Calories Should I Eat Daily?

Posted on 21. Nov, 2010 by .

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A common question I get asked a lot is, “how many calories should I eat daily?.” This is a very good question because, as I’ve said over and over again, the basic principle of weight loss is calories in, calories out. If you violate this rule, you will have a difficult time seeing weight loss. I guarantee it.

I’ve given you a resource for calculating calorie deficit before and you can instantly download this tool from this article: “How to Calculate Your Calorie Deficit”. This tool will give you a good estimate of how many calories you should consume daily but I’ve found that, sometimes, the numbers can be way too high for people outside of the average population which most of these calculations are based on. If you are within the average population, your actual number may vary by a difference of 100-200 calories a day. In reality, this is only a rough starting point. But, after reading a recent e-book from Brad Pilon, I happened upon a better way to calculate your daily calorie intake.

You will most likely remember Brad Pilon as the author of Eat Stop Eat but recently, he came out with a joint project called, Venus Index. Pilon wrote the nutrition manual for Venus Index (VI) while his partner in crime, John Barban, created the amazing workouts. While I’m not ready to fully review the Venus Index yet, I’d like to talk about what I learned from Brad on the nutrition standpoint so far.

The nutrition manual for VI is entitled, “Body Centric Eating Manual.” Brad defines body centric eating as (his own words exactly): With Body-Centric Eating, the ‘end goal’ is a specific body weight and shape. We simply eat to obtain then maintain this shape and weight. With Calorie-Centric Eating, the ‘end goal’ is to eat a mathematically pre-determined amount of calories with hopes that this number will lead to weight loss. Brad also goes on to say that your calorie needs are largely determined by your height and your activity level. We’d like to think that having more muscle or eating more protein will help increase our metabolism which they do, but the increase in metabolism is not significant enough to make a difference in our weight loss efforts. But, I digress…

jessica-biel

[Just so you know, the body shape I'm going for is what Jessica Biel sports in this picture]

Brad then gave an ideal weight range for men and women based on their height and the minimum calorie intake we should be eating during extended periods of weight loss. For instance, for me (a female) with a height of 5’4″, my ideal weight range is 108 to 139 lbs. Based on my height, my minimum calorie intake is 1,250 calories a day. This number is lower than what I previously calculated since it does not take into account my activity level because this is a body centric equation. But what this number will do though is it will help me move towards my ideal body shape no matter what my activity level is. With the Venus Index, they suggest you do not go over 50% of your height. In my case, my waist should ideally be 40% of my height which is 25.5 inches.

Keep in mind that I don’t intend to eat 1,250 calories a day. I love food so much that eating as little as this is simply not sustainable. I would go off track on my 3rd day most likely…lol. It’s a great thing I use Eat Stop Eat. Brad suggests to treat 1,250 calories as a rolling average. This means I can have a 24 hour fast eating no calories at all so I can eat a lot more than 1,250 during the days I do eat. If I have confused you already, here is how my daily calorie intake looks like:

  • Monday – Start Fast after lunch, eat only 850 calories
  • Tuesday – end fast at lunch, eat only 850 calories
  • Wednesday – full day of eating, eat 1,750 calories

Since I ate 400 calories less than what I’m supposed to 2 days in a row, I can eat an extra 800 calories on the days I do eat. What I tend to do is save these extra calories over the weekend when my husband and I go out to a nice restaurant or go to a social gathering of some sort. If I add in another 24-hour fast to my week, that is a whopping 1,600 calories extra I can eat over the weekend or on days I’d like to eat more. Now, you can see how I can maintain this “rolling average” of 1,250 calories a day even when I eat more on certain days. To make this simpler, if I multiplied 1,250 by 7 days, I have 8,750 calories to play with during the week and distribute it however I want. So, maybe the right question is “how many calories should I eat in a week?” instead of “how many calories should I eat daily?”.

What Brad has created here is a beautiful thing. Trying to lose weight or “dieting” no longer means canceling all your social functions or dinner with friends because “you can’t eat that stuff.” Really, this is as flexible as you can get. I wish I can post the actual table that Pilon used in the manual but I feel that I will be giving away too much information which he many not appreciate :)

But, if you are fully invested in getting results, I suggest you get the manual right now while it is still 40% off. You can get it here: Venus Index Systems. This is hands down, a great investment which will change the way you eat and the way you workout.

This is also one of the best programs developed for women and women only which means that you are not doing some workout designed for a dude. I don’t want to say too much about the workout yet because I am still reviewing it at this moment (i.e. actually doing the workouts in the real world which is my lab…haha) but if you just get this because you are interested in the “Body Centric Eating Manual,” you would have gotten your money’s worth already. All I can say about the workouts is I’m having fun with them.

Happy “dieting”!

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How to Get a Bigger Buttocks

How to Get a Bigger Buttocks

Posted on 31. Oct, 2010 by .

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Okay, maybe the title, “how to get a bigger buttocks,” may seem a little funny but a little Google keyword research made me think that this is a popular question a lot of people ask. Being a woman not originally blessed with Kim Kardashian-like buttocks, I can definitely relate to this question since, thanks to certain weight equipments and exercises, I now have a decent pair of buttocks I can be proud of. (They’re still not Kim-Kardashian-like but I’m not complaining…haha). So, I would love to give an answer for those of you out there who may have this question.

Before I go into detail about how to build a better butt, I want to tell you why most people seem to have a “flat” looking butt. If you are like me, I sit on my butt for most of the day. Whether you’re working in front of the computer, eating, watching television, etc. most of us spend a lot of time on the chair. This eventually leads to weakening of the glute muscles and also reduction in muscle size. Just like the old saying says, “use it or lose it.” This becomes a problem because our buttocks muscles are the biggest and strongest muscles in our body which serve several functions such as stabilizing our pelvis and aligning our spine. In short, having stronger glutes helps improve our posture and prevent back pain. In athletes, they train the glutes so they can jump higher or sprint faster. This is due to the fact that gluteus muscles are a part of the core muscles as I discussed in this article, Top 2 Reasons Having a Strong Core is Important.

So, the quick answer to getting bigger buttocks is to use it more often. You may have heard personal trainers or group fitness instructors say, “squeeze your glutes,” and they are right. During lower body exercises like squats, lunges, step ups, etc., doing this gives you that extra opportunity to get more contractions from your glute muscles. I always emphasize this in my bootcamps and as a result I have been called by my clients as the “butt patrol.”

How to Squeeze Your Glutes

Many people might think that squeezing your glutes is easy but what I find from training clients regularly is they do not seem to do it enough. What I mean by that is they just do not squeeze all the way. So, I correct this by using an analogy I learned from Pavel Tsatsouline when I first learned how to peform kettlebell swings. Pavel says, “when squeezing your glutes, imagine you’re squeezing a penny with your butt cheeks so that it does not fall out.” This usually helps my clients understand how hard they should squeeze :)

We got the “how” out of the way, let’s now discuss “when” to squeeze. The timing of the squeeze is usually intuitive. During squats, deadlifts, lunges, and swings, you should squeeze at the top of the movement when you are completely standing up. For instance, during squats, you squeeze your glutes as soon as you return to standing position before you do another repetition. During swings, you do this when the kettlebell is at shoulder height. To give you an idea, here is a video of me doing kettlebell swings:

Squeezing your glutes at the top of lower body movements also prevents you from leaning back therefore protecting your lower back from any possible injuries.

When I Found My Glutes…

For me, the first time I ever found out I actually possess a decent pair of buttocks was after a few weeks of performing kettlebell swings consistently. Swings help you get a lot more repetitions and therefore more glute contractions in less time compared to squats or deadlifts. Because swings are also done in a fast paced manner, you are also getting strength training and cardiovascular training at the same time. So, my advice for those of you out there who wants to get a bigger buttocks, start incorporating leg exercises into your routine and end with kettlebell swings for your cardio routine instead of running or heading to the elliptical.

For a sample kettlebell and overall body workout which revs up your metabolism in as little as 20 minutes, check out the end of this post, What is a Kettlebell?.

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The Top 3 Arm Toning Exercises for Sexy Arms

The Top 3 Arm Toning Exercises for Sexy Arms

Posted on 17. Oct, 2010 by .

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Lately, I have been obsessed at doing arm toning exercises. Well, maybe obsessed is not the right word. But let’s just say I have been focusing on doing them more during the past few weeks because I have been neglecting them from my previous workouts. Whenever I switch my goals to fat loss and start doing multi-joint movements like squats, lunges, military presses, etc, my arms are usually the last thing I think about in terms of training. To fix this, I do some arm toning exercises after my multi-joint exercises whenever I have time.

Before I move on with the topic at hand, I want to make sure you do not get the idea that simply doing these exercises on their own will help you get rid of your arm fat. You know what I’m talking about: it’s the fat that “jiggles” whenever you wave bye bye. The only solution to losing this area of fat is to lose weight overall. The same goes for belly fat and fat in other stubborn areas of our body. However, these arm exercises will make your arm muscles more visible as you lose weight. The result is a “toned look” for your arms just like you see in celebrities like Jada Pinkett Smith (picture), Jessica Biel, Courteney Cox, and Jennifer Aniston, just to name a few.

sculpt-sexy-arms

The Top 3 Arm Toning Exercises for Sexy Arms

Bicep Curls

Bicep curls are probably the most common exercise for toning the arms being that they are most prominent (not biggest) muscle of the arms. These are the muscles on the upper, front part of your arm. To perform this exercise, hold a dumbbell or a barbell in both hands with your arms straight and palms facing away from you. Slowly curl your arms towards your chest and slowly lower to starting position. The most common mistake in performing bicep curls is not concentrating on the lowering or negative part of the exercise. To get the maximum benefit from this exercise, do them as I described in this post. If you do not have access to the gym, you may use resistance bands in replacement of dumbbells or barbells.

There are other variations to bicep curls such as hammer curls where your palms are facing each other during the lift. This helps you target a different area of your biceps. You may also squeeze your curl at the top to get more muscle contractions from this exercise.

Deltoid Raises or Lateral Raises

The deltoid muscles are the muscles on the side of your upper arms that are shaped like a triangle (fyi, deltoid is greek for triangle). These muscles are smaller compared to your other arm muscles so you would not need a lot of weight to perform deltoid raises. In addition, because you are lifting the weights away from your body, you are losing leverage which will require lighter weights. Most women can start with 5 lb weights in each hand or the lightest resistance band. Men can start with 10 lb weights or higher depending on strength.

To perform lateral raises, hold a dumbbell or resistance band handles in each hand. If you’re using resistance bands, you will step on the band with one foot to hold the band in place. Start with your arms resting on your sides with palms facing toward your thighs. Lift your arms slowly towards shoulder level or until they are parallel to the ground. Slowly lower down your arms to starting position and repeat. You may also position your palms facing forward during deltoid raises to target a different part of your deltoid.

Triceps Extensions

The triceps are the muscles on the back area of your upper arm behind the biceps. Triceps exercises can be called many different names but all of them require extending the triceps. So, for the purpose of this article, we will call them triceps extensions. The most common way to perform triceps extensions is overhead while standing up or lying down on your back. To start, hold light dumbbells and extend arms overhead with your palms facing each other while standing or lying down. Slowly lower the weights behind your head being careful not to hit your head with the weights. Slowly go back to starting position and repeat.

You can also perform triceps extensions with ropes, cables or bands. For instance, most resistance bands come with a door attachment which you can place close to the top of a door hinge to create some distance between your hands and the other end of the band. Face the door and hold the band handles with palms facing each other. Your arms should make a 90 degree angle at your elbows. Pull down on the bands and lock your elbows to contract your triceps and slowly go back to starting position. This is one repetition. The same action can be done with ropes and cables.

Craig Ballatyne, creator of the popular and effective fat loss workouts, Turbulence Training, actually created a 3-minute Arm workout just for biceps and triceps. Craig designed this to be a short-workout to be done after your regular training. Here is and example:

  • To be done with 4 sets of 6 repetitions
  • Choose a weight you can normally lift for 8 repetiitions but only perform 6 reps
  • Bicep Curls – 6 reps at 1-0-1 tempo (lower 1 second, no pause, return to starting position for 1 second)
  • Tricep Extenstion – 6 reps at 1-0-1 tempo
  • Craig didn’t include this but you can add Deltoid Raises for 6 reps also at 1-0-1 tempo
  • Do not rest in between each exercises. Rest 1 min after all 3 exercises and repeat 3 more times for a total of 4 sets.

The first time you do these arm toning exercises, you may feel a little sore the next day or so. To avoid being to sore to the point that you can’t straighten your arm, make sure you stretch or foam roll the muscles you just trained.

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Top 2 Reasons Having a Strong Core is Important

Top 2 Reasons Having a Strong Core is Important

Posted on 10. Oct, 2010 by .

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[Photo by surfstronger.com - Laird Hamilton, Big Wave Surfer]

The latest buzz word in fitness is core training. You probably hear these words thrown around by your personal trainer, yoga instructor or during news casts and weight loss infomercials as being an important part of our training for overall health and fitness. Before I became a fitness professionally, I didn’t really know what that meant. Okay, I thought it meant doing tons of ab exercises to get six pack abs. Wait, are you telling me I was wrong?

Well, maybe I was a little bit right about that way of thinking but really there is more to having core strength than just having six pack abs.

The Top 2 Reasons Having a Strong Core is Important

Reason #1: Transfer of Movement and Energy

The core muscles are at the center of our body. Hence the name. A lot of people tend to think that this only pertains to the the ab muscles but the core actually also includes all the muscle groups that stabilize the spine and the pelvis (hip area) like our gluteus muscles (butt muscles) and erector spinae muscles (one of the major spine muscles), to name a few. Because of the location of these muscles, we transfer energy through each muscle in the core every time we move. From simple movements like walking, running, sitting, getting up, getting down, jumping, to lifting objects such as in weight lifting, you can bet we are reliant on our core to generate energy and facilitate movement.

Having a weak core can be detrimental to our overall health and fitness but having a strong core can give you many benefits such as:

  • Greater efficiency during movements
  • Increased strength and power output during weight lifting exercises where we use our core such as squats, deadlift, chest presses, jumps, etc.
  • Improved body control, balance, and stability

The benefits of having a strong core can benefit us not just at the gym but more so in real life situations like unexpected falls or turns where balance is important. Using our core during jumping and running can also protect our back and joints by acting as shock absorbers from the impact generated from these types of activities upon hitting the ground.

back_muscles

[Back Muscles are a part of your core]

Reason #2: Stabilize Spine and Pelvis

Our core muscles help keep our spine erect and our hips in the neutral position. Our abdominal muscles especially protect our lower back by stabilizing our spine during movement. Many back problems happen, when our spine gets out of aligment because of a movement done with weak core which can also result to even more problems down the road. This is due to the fact that the spine is our central nervous system’s main pathway of communication to other parts of our body including our brain. Messing up the spine is like closing the major roadway in a big city – a lot of things will not get done and pretty soon, big problems will occur.

What You Can Do Today

The most common and beneficial core training exercises you can start doing today are plank, side plank, and hanging leg raises just to name a few. Doing push ups is another great way to strengthen abdominal muscles even though it is more thought of as a total body exercise. In all the exercises above, a lot more muscle groups are involved instead of just the abdominals. This is a good sign of an appropriate core exercise which is also the reason I didn’t include crunches in the list.

When doing any static exercise like the plank and side plank, start by holding the position for 20 seconds up to 3 times each time with a rest in between and work your way up as you get better at it. As for push ups, you can start doing a modified version on your knees if you’re a beginner and progress to doing regular and advanced push ups as you get stronger.

Doing these exercises for your core will help you get stronger in a lot of weight lifting and body weight exercises and will help you prevent any injuries you may get from every day movement or playing sports.

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A Simple Stress Fix that Flattens Abs Too

A Simple Stress Fix that Flattens Abs Too

Posted on 26. Sep, 2010 by .

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Photo by Mike Hoff

I started lifting weights because I knew that it will help me get stronger bones. As a woman, Osteoporosis is a big concern for me. I started working out because I wanted to lose the belly bulge. But, recently, I found out that there are lasting benefits to keeping our bodies moving when it comes to reducing stress.

First, let’s define what stress is and what it does to our bodies. Stress is basically the response we get when faced with overwhelming situations like work deadlines, money problems, relationship issues, etc. When we get into these and similar situations, our bodies respond by increasing the production of the hormone, cortisol, as a part of our fight or flight response. Normally, when the stress causing situation goes away, our bodies return to normal. But, the kind of stress we experience these days are usuall ongoing which keeps our Cortisol levels up for days.

What Stress is and What Cortisol Does to Us

When we have elevated Cortisol, we tend to store more fat in our abdominal area. I believe there was a drug that was being advertised on T.V. that was supposed to control Cortisol. Anyway, apart from that side effect that none of us really want, stress also causes us to develop unhealthy eating habits. I definitely recognize the times when I reach for something sweet or when I feel like “indulging” myself when I encounter stressful situations. Additionally, stress is also associated with some of the most common chronic diseases known to man.

Looking at Some Facts and Figures

Note: I got these figures from an article in Fitness Magazine.

  • 75% of people in the United States feel stressed out
  • Almost half of us eat unhealthfully because of it
  • 47% of us can’t sleep because of stress. I am definitely one of those sometimes.
  • It makes 1 in 3 of us depressed and for 42% of us, it has gotten worse in the last year.

How to Manage Stress and Keep it That Way

Most of us know that taking a few deep breaths during stressful times will help manage stress. But, the hormonal response when we’re stressed can be powerful that we don’t even think about this trick. So far, the latest scientific research reveals that exercise is the best remedy to stress. One study at Princeton put animals on a six-week aerobic conditioning program, then compared their brains with a group that remained sedentary. The scientists found that the brains of the animals who were exercising transformed into a biochemically calm state over time that stayed steady even when they were under stress. On the other hand, the sedentary animals’ brains continued to react strongly to anxiety-inducing situations.

serene_view

[Looking at this Photo by Poonomo might also help with stress reduction]

The better news for me and other women (sorry men) out there is we naturally and hormonally handle stress better compared to men. To even out the playing field, we can all incorporate regular exercise to our lifestyle which changes our brain, so it takes more stress to trigger the fight or flight response (John Ratey, M.D., Harvard Medical School).

Dr. Ratey at the Harvard Medical School says that cardiovascular activity (which I assume exercise in general as well) helps the heart pump more blood to the brain. More blood means more oxygen and more oxygen means better nourished brain cells. The brain cells become more active and boosts the production of a protein called brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF fortifys our brain cells which prevents them from breaking when exposed to stress. BDNF actually helps preserve the brain cells we already have and helps make new ones. This is a great benefit in my book. This may even help us prevent Alzheimer’s Disease down the road – just my guess.

All these benefits sound too good to be true so what’s the catch? If our bodies become sedentary again, the brain cells shrink. So, to maintain the effects, you have to keep working out :) The stress fighting power of exercise just gives me more reasons to hit the gym or the road (with my running shoes of course) more often. Besides, exercise makes me feel good and gives me the power to change how I’m feeling if I’m having a not-so great day. I’ve found that finding reasons like these to keep exercising helps keep me on track and fuel me to get my workouts in even on days when I don’t feel like it.

So, the next time you’re debating going to the gym, tell yourself, “I want to increase my stress fighting power today.”

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Do Food Allergies Prevent Weight Loss?

Do Food Allergies Prevent Weight Loss?

Posted on 06. Sep, 2010 by .

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I’ve written about food allergies and sensitivities before in my blog. In fact, I even wrote about my elimination diet experience in this article, “What I’m Going to Do in the Next 30 Days.” Since my first round of elimination diet in 2009, I have since learned a lot more about food sensitivities and have been really fascinated as to how they occur and what we can do to avoid them. Ultimately, I was interested in finding out which types of foods causes digestion problems, health problems, and the inability to lose weight.

gluten-free

I got even more curious after a client of mine, Mary (not her real name), who was diagnosed with Celiac disease had trouble losing weight even after reporting to be eating fairly healthy, low calorie meals and working out with me twice a week for almost 8 weeks. I was baffled. After some research, I found a few facts about Celiac Disease from www.celiac.org. Here they are:

Celiac Disease (CD) is a lifelong inherited autoimmune condition affecting children and adults. When people with CD eat foods that contain gluten, it creates an immune-mediated toxic reaction that causes damage to the small intestine and does not allow food to be properly absorbed. Even small amounts (1/8 of a teaspoon) of gluten in foods can affect those with CD and cause health problems. Damage can occur to the small bowel even when there are no symptoms present.

Gluten is the common name for the proteins in specific grains that are harmful to persons with celiac disease. These proteins are found in ALL forms of wheat (including durum, semolina, spelt, kamut, einkorn and faro) and related grains rye, barley and triticale and MUST be eliminated.

Here is a list of foods (other than Gluten) which may cause food allergies:

  • Soy and Soy Products
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat/Gluten and gluten containing products
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee
  • Ingredients in most processed foods like preservatives

So, to help Mary out, I had her write a full week’s worth of meals so I can review them for her and eliminate the usual “suspects” that cause food allergies or food that may contain gluten. I did this because when people say they are eating healthy, it really is relative when it comes to food allergies. For instance, I might think that whole wheat bread is healthy but if I’m sensitive to gluten then, I would still get sick.

In Mary’s case, I found that she had been drinking her protein drink each morning which is made out of soy ingredients. Soy is one of the usual suspects when it comes to food allergies and sensitivities. I had her stop drinking it and she came in one day with a 1 lb weight loss. That is just from taking out the soy “drink” but we still have lots of work to do. After looking into her food diary in more detail, I found that she is still eating regular bread which has gluten, dairy products, ranch dressing, ice cream, crackers, and all sorts of cheeses. While I’m not implying that she may be allergic to dairy, it could be one of the causes of her food allergies. We will never know until she fully takes them out of her diet. Even after her medical tests have shown she’s not allergic to gluten, having celiac disease means she can not tolerate this protein which means that tests can only tell us so much. The real experiment happens in the real world when you stop eating allergy causing foods and start feeling better.

In my case, my little experiments told me that I’m sensitive to dairy and peanuts for sure. I now have switched my Whey protein to a Vegan protein powder that I truly love. I used to think that I’m sensitive to wheat/gluten because I used to eat my breads with peanut butter. Now I know for sure that it was the peanuts that was making me sick and bloated. Whether I’m sensitive to wheat or not still remains to be seen but to err on the side of caution, I let myself have gluten free days.

While I was researching my content for this article, I came across a blog by Alison St. Sure who was also diagnosed with Celiac disease. At her Sure Foods Living Blog, she wrote an article about, “Why are food allergies on the rise?”. If you want to see the answer to this question, you should head over to her blog and find out. I totally agree with her reasons #3 and #4.

What Do Food Allergies Have to Do with Weight Loss?

When we are allergic to certain things, our bodies treat them as toxins which in turn prevents our digestive system from working to its full potential. We end up storing toxins in our fat cells to keep them away from our vital organs which results to water retention. In addition, our ability to absorb nutrients from the foods we eat is impaired which may cause problems in other systems in our body. But, be aware that even if you are eating non-allergenic foods and/or gluten free foods, you may still not lose weight if you’re eating more calories that you are supposed to eat.

To gain more understanding on how common and real food allergies and sensivities are, watch this short video:

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Regarding the above video, I agree with her when she defines the word “diet” as a way of eating and not a specific weight loss program that you do for a short period of time. However, I disagree when she says that eating gluten free is simply a fad. It may be a fad for some celebrities but for real people who experience discomfort and disease, it will be a way of life.

For people who have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, here is a great book from The View Cohost, Elisabeth Hasselbeck which you can buy from Amazon.com => The G Free Diet. You can also check out her web site at www.gfreediet.com.

The Benefits from Eating Allergen-free Foods

Personally, I have experienced many unexpected benefits from eating allergen-free foods. I say unexpected because I originally was just experimenting with taking these foods out of my diet and seeing if I will lose weight. To my surprise, I also experienced increased sex drive (too personal I know but it’s a very important breakthrough for me), less hunger, no more cravings, deeper and more relaxing sleep, less bloating and water retention, fitting into clothes better, a few pounds of weight lost, better smelling breath even with dry mouth, a real feeling of wellness, etc. I can go on and on about all the benefits I have experienced and this is also why I am writing about this topic. I want to share my experience with you hoping you will try it and experience the benefits yourself.

For more information on eating gluten free or living with celiac disease, you may visit the resources I’ve mentioned above which I also list here:

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