Runner crossing mountainous landscape

Choosing Training Strategies To Reach Your Goal

Choosing a fitness goal is only a single step on the road to better health. Once you’ve decided on your goal, whether it is losing weight or increasing your endurance, you must plan a training strategy to reach it. Exercising in general will always be a net benefit, but not all exercises were created equal or have equal results. Below are some common goals, and suggested activities to achieve them.

Muscle Building

If you are looking to build muscle, then sprints and high weight training may be the best options for you. You might also consider incorporating some cardio routines, though in regards to muscle growth, cardio will not necessarily give you the same results that targeted lower body exercises with weight lifting will get you.

Losing Weight

If your goal is to lose weight, then a combination of cardio and weight training is often the best strategy. It’s important to remember that losing weight requires changes in diet alongside changes in exercise. Some gyms employ a nutritionist that can give you professional advice on diet changes for healthy weight loss.

Increasing Endurance

For those whose goal is to build endurance and enhance their natural energy levels, a combination of cardio exercises and distance running is a great choice. There are a variety of activities recommended for cardio. These include walking, running, biking, swimming, and more. If you want to mainly focus on running, such as preparing for a long distance running event, sprints are also a good activity to try.

Personal Training

If you have difficulty deciding what exercises you should use to achieve your fitness goal, working with a personal trainer can be a great help. Many local gyms employ personal trainers who can help you choose exactly what activities you need and can teach you how to safely do them. Personal trainers can also be great motivators if you ever find yourself feeling discouraged.

Group Training

For any fitness goal, a great way to get started and make sure you follow through on your commitment is to find a group class. A group fitness class will give you the benefit of a personal trainer at lower cost, as well as provide an exercise routine for you to follow. The other benefit of participating in group training is added safety. While many of the exercises are ones you can do on your own, there’s always the possibility of incorrect form leading to injury. Having someone there to guide you in a group class can make sure that your form does not lead to injuries over time. Activities that do require gym equipment are safer when a spotter is nearby, especially for beginners.

Though there is always a risk of injury when it comes to working out, the biggest risk is to be inactive and not take an active interest in your health. For more information about achieving fitness goals, or to speak to an experienced trainer, visit STR8 Training, a 24 hour gym in San Marcos, TX.

Fresh strawberries, blueberries, and mango slices mixed together for a nutritious diet

How To Add More Fruits & Vegetables To Your Diet

Fruits and vegetables provide essential nutrients such as vitamins to the body. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables as part of your daily diet is usually advised by nutritionists and health professionals due to the health benefits that come with them. However, for many people who have busy day to day lives, adjusting daily diet can be difficult and even frustrating. Below are several tips to consider to help increase your daily intake of fruits and vegetables.

Make Your Snacks Revolve Around Fruits and Vegetables

Snacks help to reduce hunger during tight schedules that don’t allow time for having a full meal. Adding them to your diet can be quite useful. Encouraging yourself to replace common salty or sweet snacks with fruits or vegetables can help improve your dietary health. This can be achieved by keeping a bowl of fresh fruits at your desk or at home, providing easy access to a quick, healthy snack. You can also try keeping dried fruit in your car for snacks on the go.

Boost Your Breakfast

Breakfast is the appropriate time to get in an extra serving of vegetables or fruit. This can be accomplished by simply stirring fresh or frozen berries, or banana slices into your yogurt, cereal, or other meal. If you have time, you could also consider making a breakfast smoothie from a simple recipe such as this:

  • Take your favorite yogurt (or a low fat milk)
  • Add 1/2 cup of frozen berries (any kind will do, though remember to consider seeds!)
  • Blend together to desired consistency!

If you prefer to use fresh fruit instead of frozen, considering adding some ice to your smoothie as well. If you have no time for breakfast, you can pick an orange, apple, or banana and have it on your way to work.

Add Small Amounts

Another great way to eat more fruits and vegetables is to add them into your current daily diet. This will not only allow you to improve the health of your favorite dish, but let you use your creativity to spice up old recipes. A simple way to do this is to grate or puree fruits and vegetables and add them to dishes they might complement. Another idea is to grate carrots or zucchini onto burgers, meatballs, or other meat dishes, as their taste and consistency can go well together. In addition, putting chopped peppers, mushrooms, carrots, or other veggies into recipes such as pasta sauce can add a few more vegetables into your diet.

Make a Meatless Day for Yourself

At least once a week, create a meatless day. Prepare fruits and vegetables for the day and then increase your intake to 3 servings. You can also make a fruit salad for snacking and meals. Also consider grilling extra vegetables and preserving them for salads, soups, sandwiches, and other meals during the week. This is not only good for your health, but it can also be beneficial to the environment.

Try Something New Each Week

Trying new things can be a fun way to increase your fruit and vegetable intake. Whether it’s a new recipe, or a fruit or veggie you’ve never tasted before, try to find something new each week. Looking up which fruits and vegetables are in season can help you decide what new food you’d like to try. You might even discover something that you want to keep eating on a regular basis.

Double Your Intake

Since extra vegetables are generally fairly easy to add to recipes without greatly affecting taste and composition, doubling what you use is a good option to consider. Some ideas for adding extra veggies to regular recipes include adding extra vegetables as topping to frozen pizza, to a variety of casseroles, or onto sandwiches.

Choose Fruit-Based Desserts and Salads

Using fruits such as grapes or bananas can add a good flavor to popular desserts. Some examples of desserts that can be improved with fruit include ice cream, frozen yogurt, and even pastries. You can also use frozen fruit as a dessert by itself. This can be done by dipping part of your fruit into a small portion of antioxidant dark chocolate.

For more information about how to increase the health of your daily diet, or to speak with a nutrition counselor, visit STR8 Training, located in San Marcos, TX.

Upper Body Workout Ideas For Men And Women

When you are looking for an upper body workout, there are a large number of available plans that will give you results. You will want to make sure that you find one that is right for you and your particular needs. The following upper body workouts are suggestions to help you find a workout plan that will give you the healthy body that you had always dreamed was possible. Remember to always use an experienced spotter when using gym equipment.

Chest Press

The first exercise that you will want to look at doing is call a chest press. This is an easy exercise to do as long as you have a flat surface that you can lie down on with a couple of small weights in each hand. Place your legs up in the air at a 90-degree angle and then slowly begin to press your hands upwards. This exercise will help to increase the muscles in the chest.

Arm Raises

Another suggested exercise for increasing upper body strength is arm raises. This exercise will also use weights. To perform this, stand with your feet spread shoulder width apart, with your arms at your sides. Raise your arms up until they are parallel with your shoulders, then bring them down to your hips where you started. Then raise your arms to the sides in a position that forms a T shape. Bringing the arms back down will be one rep. It is advised that you do 15 of these in your workout.

Diamond Press Up

Start in a press up position. Instead of keeping your hands on the floor shoulder width apart, put your thumbs and index fingers together to form a diamond against the ground. Then bend your elbows and lower yourself as far as possible without touching the floor. Push back up in the same position to return to the start.

Suspended Press Up

The next exercise will be a bit more difficult as you will have to use a bench as well as a ball. Place your legs on the ball and use the bench to support your upper half. Once you are in position, you can then begin by lowering yourself down and pushing back up. This is one rep and you need to make sure that you do 15 of these reps.

Plank Row

The last exercise suggested here is called the plank row. This is not as hard as it is intense on the upper half of your body. Take and begin in the standard press up position and then begin to bring one part of your body up with your elbow aiming towards the ceiling. This will go a long way toward helping you to get a much stronger upper core. With focused practice you will soon be able to do these exercises without any trouble at all.

All of these exercises can be used as ideas for getting a stronger and leaner upper core. No matter what your fitness level is, you will be able to do these exercises with little to no trouble. Remember to always workout safely, and use an experienced spotter when using equipment. For more information about workout plans, or to consult with an experienced trainer, visit STR8 Training, a 24 hour gym located in San Marcos, TX.

Micro Goals: Setting Achievable Fitness Goals

How many times have you told yourself that this is the time that you’re going to stick to that workout plan or loose that extra weight only to fall short of your goal? Sometimes we give up because there is too much time that passes without progress between a starting point and where we ultimately want to be. Newton’s 1st law of motion states that objects in rest tend to stay at rest, while objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Given this principle, if we don’t consistently stay in motion working toward our goals, then we will inevitably stop. But there are useful tactics to help keep you on track.

What are Micro Goals?

How do we keep in motion to create a momentum that will help us reach our goals? Micro Goals. These are the mini milestones that help bridge your short term goals that will ultimately help you reach your long term goals. Micro Goals are extremely specific and, more importantly, task specific. These goals help prevent stalling or giving up by creating an achievement that gets us closer to our ultimate goal. In order for Micro Goals to work, a tangible link needs to be made between these goals.

The Purpose of Micro Goals

Micro Goals help you stay motivated even when you are not feeling like doing anything. They are small enough that completing one goal doesn’t take too much effort, yet powerful enough that completion of a goal adds to the momentum to keep you pushing to reach your next goal. This is because a wonderful pleasure inducing neurotransmitter called dopamine is released when a task is accomplished that makes your brain want to continue to complete tasks. You don’t really feel like doing anything, but a Micro Goal isn’t going to take too much effort so you complete the goal. You’re body is happy you completed the goal and rewards you with dopamine. You suddenly feel better because of the dopamine and this motivates you to complete another Micro Goal. This process has a snowball effect that builds momentum, keeping you in motion to achieve your ultimate goal.

How Micro Goals Work

The reason why using Micro Goals is such an effective method is because this method pushes you to start now and not in the distant future. Micro Goals allow you to focus on something that is attainable at all times and doesn’t allow you to procrastinate or let excuses get in the way. If you were to look at a ruler and create a goal chart, the foot would represent the ultimate goal, each inch would be a short term goal, and each centimeter would be a Micro Goal, as shown below:

Abbreviations:

MG: Micro Goal

STG: Short Term Goal

LTG: Long Term Goal

A map of achieving a long term goal using Micro Goals could look like this:

Now…..MG…..MG….MG….STG…. MG…. MG…. MG…. STG…. MG….MG…. MG….LTG

Goal Examples:

  • LTG – I want to loose 20 pounds in 60 days
  • STG – Run 4x a week, 4 miles each time
  • MG – Get to the gym and run one mile. Then when you’re finished run another mile.
  • Then another, then another. Keep doing this everyday.
  • Planning Micro Goals

    One of the problems in a fast paced society is that we want to do everything all at once. This involves many goals and a lot of chaos. Multiple long term goals create time constraints and cause struggles due to a commitment conflict when trying to decide what needs to be worked on. The thing with Micro Goals is that it allows you to have multiple long term goals simultaneously being worked toward at the same time without the chaos or fatigue of being overworked. Micro Goals are small enough that many could be accomplished in a small time period. They cause you to think about order and priority and help you to plan out how you want to spend your time during the day and what you must do to further your progress.

    Using Micro Goals Daily

    There are many ways Micro Goals can be incorporated into all areas of your life to achieve health and well being. When focusing on health, Micro Goals could be used to achieve a desired weight, to run a marathon, to increase flexibility, or to be able to perform a human flag. Once you know what your goal is, decide what Micro Goals need to be met to achieve your goal and start building momentum. For more information about achieving your fitness goals, visit STR8 Training, a 24 hour gym located in San Marcos, TX.

Strength Training VS Aerobic Exercise

Exercise is something we all need regularly to keep our bodies healthy. There are a variety of ways to get adequate exercise, depending on what type of activity you are looking for. Some people may be looking for a fun way to keep in shape, while others may need exercise in order to excel in a sport or other activity. Here we’ll look at the difference between aerobic exercise and strength training.

Aerobic Exercise

In a nutshell, aerobic exercise are cardiovascular activities such as running, biking, or simply walking with a purpose to name a few. Dancing, playing soccer, skating, or doing anything that raises your heart rate qualifies as aerobic exercise and needs to be embraced. This doesn’t mean that you need to compete in triathlons; it just means you need to stay active. Aerobic exercise is beneficial to the body because it strengthens the circulatory system by building up the heart and blood vessels while also burning calories.

Strength Training

While aerobic exercise will can build muscles, many aerobic activities such as sports and dancing are not considered strength training. For most, the idea of strength training brings the gym and weights to mind, but this isn’t always true. Strength training at its core is the use of resistance to contract muscles which increases strength, boosts endurance, and builds skeletal muscles. Weight lifting is a big part of this for many, but yoga, pilates, and simple body-weight exercises (push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, etc) all accomplish the muscle contraction that strength training aims to achieve.

Using a Combination

Do not fall into the misconception trap that aerobic exercise simply burns fat while strength training builds muscle. You’re going to burn fat and calories while strength training and you’re going to build muscle during aerobic exercise. A personalized combination of the two based on your body type, wants, needs and goals is ideal. A combination of aerobic exercise and strength training will help keep your body in shape while burning calories and building muscle without wearing your body out on one type of activity.

Aim for a Healthy Lifestyle

Exercise alone, no matter what kind, is only one aspect of living a healthy lifestyle. Make sure that you have a healthy, varied diet, and that you engage in healthy pre-workout activities such as stretching and hydrating. Try to avoid unhealthy habits, such as smoking, which can damage your body, and focus on healthy habits. Healthy habits could include many activities, such as establishing a private workout routine, attending a fitness class, or even meeting regularly with friends for a workout activity. Establishing a routine will help keep your body in shape. Once you begin to build muscle and exercise frequently, you’ll begin to burn more calories and working out will become easier.

For more information about fitness and nutrition, or to inquire about fitness classes, visit the gym at STR8 Training in San Marcos, TX.

Helpful Nutrition Tips For Active Athletes

Being an athlete has different dietary requirements than for other occupations and hobbies. Athletes burn more calories and need more fuel than the average person. However, this doesn’t mean athletes can eat whatever they like whenever they want. Athletes need to put healthy foods into their bodies to stay at top performance levels and have shorter recovery periods after working out.

Accountability for Your Nutrition

One of the most important aspects of nutrition is accountability. It doesn’t matter what type of diet you are on if you don’t keep yourself accountable. You must be confident and ready to commit to changing your dietary lifestyle. Planning your meals and meal prepping helps you keep your commitment. Create your menus based on what type of diet you want to stick to. If you’re able, prep meals and snacks ahead of time. This will make you less likely to choose something unhealthy if healthier options aren’t readily available.

Nutrition and Your Energy Level

When choosing what kind of dietary lifestyle you want to stick with, take your sport into consideration. Different sports require different needs due to different energy levels. For example, a full court game of basketball will burn around 750 calories per hour, yet weightlifting will burn only 250 calories per hour. On the same note, basketball and weightlifting also require different diets for recovery due to the types of muscles used for each sport. A good rule is to eat what you burn, but make sure it is food that is good for your sport. Weightlifters will require more protein in their diets because it is needed to maintain muscles, but it isn’t needed as much in a high energy basketball player’s diet because protein isn’t a good source of energy.

Foods with High Nutritional Value

Many diets have different requirements. As an athlete, you should only put foods with high nutritional value into your body. This will keep your body in optimal health for all areas of athleticism and allow the body to recover properly. Only eat real foods and avoid processed foods. Don’t exclude carbohydrates as an athlete because you need them for energy. Your body changes carbohydrates into a form of sugar called glucose and then stores them in your muscles as glycogen, which is then converted into energy. Choose high quality protein in your diet, such as lean meats, fish, poultry, nuts, beans, eggs, and milk. Go easy on fats. Most diets get enough fats from nuts, avocados, olives, vegetable oils, and fish. No matter what, always aim for healthy choices. For example, choose whole grain bread over white bread, or trail mix over chips.

The Importance of Staying Hydrated

A major thing that must be done to keep your body healthy and your digestive system working properly is to stay hydrated. Athletes often sweat quite a bit, so staying hydrated is even more important. How much daily water intake your body needs can vary somewhat depending on the person and their lifestyle, but it is generally recommended to drink 64 ounces of water daily. Drink water before, during, and after workouts. Chilled drinks are more easily absorbed than room temperature drinks, so keep your drink cold if possible. If your workout causes you to sweat a lot, replace your electrolytes with a sports drink. Remember that over half of the body consists of water, and it is important to stay hydrated for all bodily functions.

Make Healthy Choices for Your Body

When choosing a dietary style to complement your lifestyle, there are many different factors to consider. Make sure that you get enough types of energy sources to maintain a healthy, athletic lifestyle. Making healthy food choices is part of living an athletic lifestyle, and both will help keep you in great form. For more information about incorporating nutrition into your lifestyle, visit STR8 Training in San Marcos, TX.

Total Daily Energy Expenditure: Pt 2

Daily Caloric Intake for Gaining or Losing Weight

In our previous article we went over what a Total Daily Energy Expenditure calculator is, and an example of maintaining the same weight, and the basics behind the use of it. In this article we will be going over how though calories are calories in regards to sheer weight goals, it is better for you and a better goal to have a balanced diet and active lifestyle.

Carbohydrates

It is important to get a good amount of carbohydrates to have sustained energy and to be able to have the ability to work out when you want, unsaturated(mono/poly) fats because your body needs some fat to be able to function properly especially for those looking to gain weight. If you are working out, especially lifting weights, you will want to make sure you are also getting enough protein in your diet. And of course, either eating a multivitamin or eating fruits and veggies that are rich in vitamins.

Carbs

You will also need to get some carbs that have fiber, and sugar in moderation, though it isn’t something you need by any means. For someone who is looking to lose weight, it will also depend on how much they want to lose per week/month. A deficit of 500 calories per day comes out to roughly a pound a week lost. For example, if you are a 40-year-old male that is 5 feet 9 inches tall, and weigh 240 pounds, you will need to eat 2,387 calories per day to maintain your weight. If you want to lose a pound a week you will need to eat 1,887 calories a day. It can be hard to know how many calories you are eating without a calorie calculator, which is one of the best tools to pair with a TDEE calculator.

Anything that can track your daily macros will help you make sure you are reaching your goals. These numbers reflect someone with a sedentary office job, but they will change as you work out more. Without using a calorie counter app, a TDEE calculator, and tracking your exercises, it can seem extremely arbitrary trying to lose weight and knowing how much you need to eat less per day. That same person however, if they have gotten their weight down to 170 pounds, and working out 3-5 times a week, and is looking to gain 1 pound a week, will need to eat 3,091 calories per day, or 2,591 to maintain your weight.

Protein

Regardless of if you are cutting (losing weight) or bulking (gaining weight) you will need to make sure you get enough protein. The TDEE calculator can actually help you with the numbers. You need to hit those numbers because otherwise your body will break down your muscle to get it’s needed protein. If you are on a low carb diet of 155g of carbs a day, then you will need almost 309g of protein a day. But if you are on a high carb diet, you will need to get far fewer to hit your goal weights.

If you are looking for help with getting start on a new nutrition plan or learning more about the calories you should be consuming, contact our trainers at Str8 Training.

Total Daily Energy Expenditure: Pt 1

Daily Caloric Intake for Gaining or Losing Weight

It can feel daunting trying to figure out the fitness goals that you want to hit. Especially when you have set numbers you are trying to hit every week, breaking that down into day by day amounts can seem difficult and arbitrary. But with a couple tweaks to your diet and having an actual number of calories to eat a day, you can figure out how much you need to be eating every day to lose or gain weight. There are ways that you can calculate what that daily number is, using what is called a TDEE calculator. Basically it takes the amount of food you are eating a day, how much you weigh, your total activity, and then calculates how much or how little calories you need to eat to gain or lose weight. But there is a little bit more that goes into it than that.

If you are looking to lose weight, then at its most simple it is eating less calories each day than you use, barring any diagnosed medical conditions that impede your body’s natural ability to reduce your weight. There is a huge amount of varying ways in which you can go about consuming those fewer calories, and using more calories/burning more fat in a day. But we will not be going in-depth into your diet or you exercise routine in this article. We will be going over breaking your goals into actual steps and being able to measure the number of calories you can consume a day when taking into account physical traits and amount of exercise you do in a week.

Calculating calories

You can use any calculator, but this one is built on a bootstrap frame and does not ask for any personal information to get your results, which you should be weary of. For example, someone who is 180 pounds, 6 feet tall and 30 years old and works out 1-3 times a week, needs 2,495 calories per day to maintain the same weight. That same person who does not work out only needs 2,177 calories per day to not lose or gain weight, however. You can be a “healthy” weight but still live unhealthy.

It doesn’t matter quite as much where you get your calories from (i.e. 2000 calories of rice vs 1,000 calories of rice and 1,000 calories of chicken, or 1,000 calories of rice and 1,000 calories of M&M’s) if you only care about staying the same weight or just losing or gaining a certain number of pounds. But just because you can change your weight does not mean that is the best course of action over the long run. It is important to have a well-balanced diet (which definitely sounds like something from a 1980s breakfast commercial).

In our next article we will be going over gaining and losing weight using the TDEE, some of the differences in diets, how to define exercises, and some of the potential pitfalls in TDEE calculators.

TDEE Calculator link: https://tdeecalculator.net/

Healthy Alternatives to Soft Drinks, Sugar, Candy and Snacks That Don’t Hurt Your Teeth: Part 2

In our previous article we went over briefly some of the negative effects of soda, sugar, candy and junk snacks, and went over some basic replacements for them. In this article we will be going over more alternatives, and some foods that are considered “healthy” but are not really any better than traditional sweets.

Alternatives

One of these is fruit juice drinks. Apple juice, orange juice, cranberry juice and things of that nature would seem like they would be a lot healthier. But in reality some have even higher amounts of sugar than soda. The only advantage of juice is that some of them have Vitamins, mainly vitamin C and a few have potassium. As mentioned in our last article, iced teas and Gatorades will have the same issue. And the electrolytes that they are stated to have, are normally less than 4% of the amount you need a day.

The best thing to do is to check the nutrition facts. Some hot chocolates with real coco are fairly healthy, and some real fruit juices are at least better for you than soda. And sometimes, it is unrealistic to expect a completely sugar free and great tasting alternative. Sometimes you have to go with something that is only half as unhealthy.

Smoothies can be a very tasty replacement for shakes and sweet drinks, if you prepare it with fresh fruit, milk/yogurt, and maybe some veggies. But if you make them like Naked Smoothies make their drinks, you will end up with a lot of sugar, and a small number of vitamins. Bananas that are fresh are great for potassium, strawberries are good for taste, blueberries and pineapples and oranges can give you vitamin C, milk and yogurt will give you protein, carbs and something real in your smoothie.

Veggies like avocados are not the best tasting in combination with fruits, but they do have healthy fats in them. Another OK replacement for shakes/ice cream is low-fat pudding, which is surprisingly healthy when it comes to certain brands, as well as yogurt. Something to keep in mind however is that just because something is low-fat, doesn’t mean it is low in sugar. And for things that are low in sugar, that does not mean that they are low in fat.

Gum

While it will not give you calories, will curb your appetite for a small amount of time.

Sweet Potato Fries

Making sweet potato fries is a great alternative to junk food.

Dark Chocolate

If you are going to have candy, dark chocolate is the healthiest by far, but still something to have in moderation.

Kettle Corn

Unsalted and unbuttered kettle corn is actually OK to have as well in moderation.

Hopefully this helps you, as anything that is lower in sugar will have less of an effect on the decay of your teeth. Change doesn’t happen overnight. If you can just replace your candy with something else, or your soda with an alternative, or find a healthier snack, then you are on the right path to having healthier teeth and finding sustainable eating habits.

Healthy Alternatives to Soft Drinks, Sugar, Candy and Snacks That Don’t Hurt Your Teeth: Part 1

We all know that sweets and junk food are bad for us; they make us gain weight, they decay our teeth, they slow down our immune system, and damage our organs over time. But the reason our body craves sweets is not just because the sugar, contrary to popular belief. We actually crave it for the calories it provides, and the number of calories and thus instant energy already available (sugar is the base form of energy and easy for our body to use but is the shortest lasting type of energy too).

When we were cavemen it made sense for our bodies to get all the sugar it could, because a little bit from a fruit for example, would give us a boost while we continue our search for food, and our body would want us to get all that we can from it because sugar would be found in limited amounts in nature. There is a wide-range of food however that is sweet or has a lot of flavor but not any sugar in it.

Today we will be going over some tasty alternatives to soft drinks, sugar, candy, and junk food snacks. However, for many foods, it will be hard to find a 1:1 replacement, but it may be possible to find an alternative. For example, if you really like ice cream, but do not like all the fat and sugar that is in the food, unless you buy sugar free ice cream (which still has sugar alternatives and dairy), there isn’t necessarily a 1 to 1 replacement. But there are some alternatives. The best one is using cool whip, putting it in the freezer, and using that as your sweet snack you can eat out of a bowl.

Cinnamon is also something that has natural sweetness, but no sugar at all. In fact, cinnamon is actually an antioxidant, meaning that it isn’t just health neutral, but it is a net positive. Cinnamon is not as naturally sweet as sugar, so it is hard to use it as a direct replacement in instances where you would have used sugar. Like you can’t replace sugar with cinnamon in your brownie recipe. But you can make things like sweet potato fries and put cinnamon on it, or when you make toast you can put cinnamon on top of them. It is great for pastries and bread food, and more.

Unsweetened tea and herbal teas are also a great way to get a flavored drink that isn’t full of sugar. Brisk Iced Tea and Gatorade, while many may think they are healthy, are actually full of sugar. Ultimately water is the best, but Crystal Lite is generally low in sugar, and fine for even diabetics. Some Diet Sodas are still full of calories; they just use sugar alternatives to get around it.

In future articles we will be going over more replacements for junk food and candy, which can be a hard one to find alternatives for in general.

Encouraging Muscle Growth: Exercise And Nutrition

A lot of factors go into encouraging muscle growth. Some factors are commonly known, such as work outs, endurance training, and more. However, some factors are less well known, but just as important. These include sleep, diet, helpful supplements, and activities to reduce inflammation. Today, we’ll look at an overview of these factors, all of which come together to promote muscle growth.

Workout Options

A commonly known aspect of encouraging muscle growth is working out. To encourage muscle growth, you have to work your muscles to the point of exhaustion to create micro-tears in your muscle fiber which will then grow back stronger than before. This can be done through a variety of workout routines, including high weight exercises, low rep exercises with an Olympic bar, or sprinting. For added endurance training, high rep exercises, body weight exercises, and distance running will help.

The Importance of Sleep

Sleep is an important part of fitness because our body does most of our regenerative processes at night during sleep. When you are awake, most of your energy is devoted to keeping your body functioning. At night, your body has the resources to focus on rebuilding muscle. Therefore, if you are not getting sufficient sleep, then eventually your body will not be able to heal as fast as damage is created.

Amount of Sleep Needed

The amount of sleep required for healing can vary from person to person, depending on age, activity level, and other factors. However, in general a minimum of seven hours of sleep is needed for average physical activity. If you are working out heavily, or must do a lot of physical labor during the day, then you may need closer to eight or nine hours of sleep at night.

Sleep Needs Change

As people get older, they need less sleep. From those in their late teens to those in their early twenties, up to nine hours of sleep may be needed for their bodies to recover, especially if they work out a lot. Those in their late twenties to late thirties may need slightly less, around eight hours of sleep. As your age increases, it becomes easier to function fully on seven hours of sleep or fewer, regardless of daily activity. However, this can vary by person, some people needing more, others needing less sleep to recover. Pay attention to your body and ensure that you get the amount of sleep that’s right for you.

Diets that Promote Muscle Growth

Another important factor in encouraging muscle growth is what you eat. It is commonly known that protein is an important part of healthy diet. It is also important to ensure that you eat enough antioxidants to combat muscle inflammation. Many antioxidants are found in vitamins, such as vitamin C and various B vitamins. Another important element to include in your diet is unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fats. These ensure that you stay healthy and that your heart can get blood and oxygen circulated throughout your body.

Sources of Necessary Nutrients

Knowing what your body needs is one thing, but finding foods that carry those elements can be more challenging. Below are some suggestions for getting enough protein, antioxidants, and unsaturated fats.

Protein: Good sources of protein include lean meats, nus, and dairy products such as yogurt, milk, and eggs.

Antioxidants: Antioxidants can be found in various vitamins, such as vitamin C and others. Healthy sources for these vitamins include fruits, such as oranges (making fruit smoothies is a great way to get antioxidants). Salads also offer many great antioxidants. If you need to supplement your diet, vitamin C tablets are also an option.

Unsaturated Fats: Unsaturated fats are good for your health, and can help lower cholesterol. Healthy sources of unsaturated fat include nuts, seeds, certain grains, avocados, yogurt, and eggs.

What to Avoid

While some fats, like unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, are good for your body, others can be detrimental. Avoid foods high in trans fat, and limit foods high in saturated fat. These fats can raise your cholesterol levels and increase your risk of developing certain health issues such as heart disease. These fats are found in high amounts in fried foods, such as doughnuts, and baked goods, such as crackers. Avoid these types of foods as often as you can.

If you would like more information about exercises and nutrition that encourage muscle growth, visit STR8 Training, located in San Marcos, TX.

New Year’s Resolutions: Achieving Fitness Goals Part 2

One of the most important parts of meeting a fitness goal in the new year is planning how to achieve it. For those with weight loss or general fitness goals in mind, deciding what activities will get you to your goal can be difficult. Here are some tips on choosing the right activity to help you reach your cardio fitness goals!

Eye on the Prize

While New Year’s resolutions are aimed at the goal being achieved over the course of one year, remember that you don’t have to reach it by a certain date. This is especially important for number-oriented goals. Goals that focus on ensuring that you stick with the actions that will lead to the desired result are generally easier to keep up with than goals that only specify the end goal.

Do Your Homework

Before choosing an activity, you should make sure to do you homework in regards to what actions will best lead you to fulfilling your resolution. This could include a variety of things, such as picking a workout plan, or supporting exercises to add onto an existing exercise routine. Also consider looking into ways to increase your general physical activity through activities like extra hobbies or sports. Finally, for fitness goals, make sure that you factor health eating into the plans for reaching your goal.

Cardio Related Goals

For those who set goals related to cardio, select a workout plan related to your specific goal. A great activity for improving your cardio health is running. If your goal is to run a five, six, seven, or ten minute mile, then you will want to plan workouts that increase your endurance. A helpful endurance activity is to do sprints. Sprints have the most benefit, not only for increasing short distance run times, but also for increasing long distance run times. Weighted sprints are a great way to supplement this workout, though normal sprints are also helpful.

Some helpful distance running workouts include meter dashes. For this exercise, start with the longer distances and slowly decrease the distance until you reach the shorter ones.

  • 200-300 meter run (x 1 or 2)
  • 100-200 meter run (x 2 or 3)
  • 50-100 meter run (x 3-5)
  • Repeat

The great thing about distance running is that there are a lot of workouts and a huge variety of cardio exercises. There are also many cross country workout plans if you prefer running longer distances. However, if you want to improve your cardio health but hate running, there are additional options for you.

Cardio Without Running

If you dislike running, then forcing yourself to do it all year for your resolution will make meeting your goal that much harder. Cardio is cardio, and while different activities will work out slightly different muscles, if you push yourself then at the end of the day you will still be making your heart stronger. Instead of doing something you don’t like, consider alternatives. Swimming is a great option to consider in place of running. Doing laps in a pool can be an excellent cardio exercise.

Stretching and Warm-Ups

Another option for meeting cardio fitness goals is to add a stretching routine into your activities. Stretching before any workout has proven to decrease injuries because it is a warm-up that makes your muscles more limber and more resistant to tearing during exercise. For cardio, some recommended stretching routines include yoga, or fitness yoga, though other routines will work as well, as long as they help you stretch.

Enjoy Your Workout

Whatever workout activity you choose, the important thing is that you stick with it. You are far more likely to continue doing something that you enjoy, so pick an activity that you don’t mind sticking with throughout the year. If you hate running but love biking, then bike. If you hate working out but love the competitive nature of sports, then consider joining a sports club and attending several times a week.

If you would like more information about meeting your fitness goals this year, visit STR8 Training, located in San Marcos, TX.

New Year’s Resolutions: Achieving Fitness Goals Part 1

Every year, millions of people make New Year’s resolutions, and every year millions of resolutions get broken. There are many types of resolutions that you can make, such as learning to play an instrument, cooking more, or taking a class. One of the most frequent resolutions is getting in shape. Fitness resolutions come in all shapes and sizes. Some people aim to lose weight, while others just want to feel more fit. Whatever the resolution, reaching fitness goals can be tough. Here’s some tips on keeping this year’s resolution!

Break Down Your Goal

When making a resolution, many people set their goals by the year, but this can lead to goals seeming far away and unachievable. Instead, consider breaking down your resolution into smaller steps that you can take week after week, day after day, and step after step. In addition, if possible, mold your resolution around actions, not results.

Action-Based Over Results-Based

It can be hard to know exactly how much activity is necessary to lift ten more pounds a month, or to lose five pounds a month. These are results-based resolutions, and they can leave you feeling like you have failed early in the year. To avoid this, consider action-based resolutions. These are resolutions made based on the activities necessary to attain your final goal. Instead of making the resolution to lose five pounds, make your resolution to go to the gym three times a week, or something similar. These are clear, actionable goals.

Don’t Forget Nutrition

If your goal fitness goal is based on weight loss, you’ll need to consider having some nutritional goals as well as ones involving physical activities. An easy way to keep an eye on your nutrition is to make sure that you eat healthy meals every day that provide a healthy amount of carbs and energy, but is not have on calories. Another important part of having proper nutrition is ensuring that you have some healthy, low calories snacks to hold you over in between meals.

Don’t Go Without Eating

Having healthy snacks to consume between meals is important because it keeps you from going hungry. Allowing yourself to go without food forces you to fight hunger pangs, which uses up a lot of your willpower. If you let it go too far, you will eventually be okay with eating anything instead of sticking to your nutritious meals. This temptation to eat anything, such as candy or junk food, can set back your goals. To avoid it, make sure that you have healthy snaps available.

Getting Enough Energy

If you exercise a lot, you’ll need to plan your diet around getting the energy you need while still have a lower overall caloric intake. Eating things with complex carbs such as pasta and oatmeal, good fats like nuts and eggs, and high protein foods like diary products and meat, will help you to get the building blocks your body needs to maintain your energy. In addition, high protein and vitamins are also important. These elements help your body repair itself from the damage it takes from exercise.

If you would like more information about keeping your New Year’s resolutions for better fitness, visit STR8 Training, located in San Marcos, TX.

Protein Supplements For Vegan And Vegetarian Diets

It’s commonly known that if you’re a heavy lifter, you have to eat enough protein. When it comes to protein, most people have it easy — just eat plenty of meat and you will hit your protein goals. But if you’re on a vegan or vegetarian diet, then the choices of how you get enough protein may be more limited. In this article, we will be going over some different ways that vegans and vegetarians can get enough protein while maintaining their dietary needs.

Protein and Whey Powder

A great option for getting protein is in smoothies. There is a wide variety of foods that can be turned into a smoothie protein drink. In addition to any foods that you put in a smoothie, you can also add protein powder for an extra boost. For vegetarians, simple whey protein will do. Whey protein comes from getting all the protein and amino acids in milk and breaking them down into their base components.

Seitan

Whey protein is a great option for vegetarians, but vegans will need to find an alternative source of protein. One great replacement option is the use of seitan. Seitan is made from the proteins taken from wheat. Of course, this is mainly done using the gluten in wheat to derive the amino acids, so if you are also observing a gluten-free diet you’ll need to be wary of this type of protein.

Hemp Seed

For anyone who has Celiac Disease or whose body just does not handle gluten very well, there are alternatives to whey and seitan. One of those most natural, healthy, and least processed options is hemp seed. Hemp seed is heavy in protein and has all of the building blocks that your body needs. Hemp seed also has high levels of good fat, and a lot of the vitamins and minerals that modern humans lack in their diet. Magnesium, zinc, and calcium exist in especially high concentrations in hemp seed. Hemp seed also contains little or no THC, and is an all natural protein source.

Soy and Rice Protein

Two more common options available for increasing protein intake are soy protein powders and rice protein, though keep in mind that rice protein is likely to contain gluten. These are great sources of protein and offer an alternative to whey and seitan.

Additional Options

Another great source of protein is nuts and rich foods like avocado. Grains are a great option as well. Rice, wheat bread, cereals, and oatmeal are all very healthy options that contain grain. If your dietary restrictions allow it, dairy can be another option to consider. The most health conscious options include non-processed cheese, Greek yogurt, and fat-free milk.

If you would like more information about vegan and vegetarian options for increasing protein intake, or if you have other nutrition questions, visit STR8 Training, located in San Marcos, TX.

The Important Benefits Of Cold Weather Workouts

When it comes to working out, people will go to great lengths to come up with an excuse to postpone it. This is why only 20% of the entire United States population gets the recommended dose of daily physical activity. During the winter, unfortunately, these numbers are even lower. So, why should you workout in poor weather conditions?

Better Performance

Those who expose themselves to low temperatures must become more resilient to go through a high-quality workout. According to the research conducted by the University of Oregon, people who are heat-adjusted will have more efficient workouts in the cold. If you spend most of your workouts in the regular-to-hot environments, your blood will have more plasma. Thus, once you switch to a less comfortable surrounding with snow and wind, you will be able to do more for longer periods of time.

Burn Calories Even Through Warm-Ups

When you workout in cold weather, you will usually shiver for the first 10-15 minutes. Nevertheless, even shivering facilitates calorie burn. Therefore, you will be able to capitalize on the very first second of your winter workout all the way to the end. How does this work? Well, since there will be a rather notable discrepancy between the outside temperature and your body temperature, your body will have to burn calories to keep you warm. Thus, shivering will help you compensate until you are properly warmed up!

Mental Endurance

Working out consistently is not easy, sure. Working out in cold weather is a whole new level of hard. Think of running while your throat is scratching because of the cold air that enters it upon every breath. Or lifting weights when the bars are nearly frozen and your hands feel as if they are dealing with icebergs. These conditions enable you to step out of your comfort zone and build the aforementioned resiliency. Once you are accustomed to this colder climate, your regular workouts will seem easier.

The Discovery

The thing about working out when it is warm outside and you have nothing but a short-sleeved shirt on is that it is easy to keep track of progress. For example, you can see how much you are sweating and use that as a frame of reference to your other workouts. The disadvantage of this is that it can turn into a mental barrier. With cold workouts, you will not really know how much you achieved until you take off those layers and see your body pumping below all the clothing. This can be referred to as the discovery stage when you realize that you just accomplished more than usual with less exhaustion.

Be Knowledgeable

If you are willing to try out a couple of cold workouts, you should beware of common myths that can get you injured. For example, all of the following would be tips to stay safe during this transition:

  • Get a proper warm-up;
  • Do not put on too many or too few layers;
  • Stay hydrated;
  • Finish with a stretch.

Doing all of the above will ensure that you get all the benefits of a cold workout, while minimizing the potential dangers. If you would like more information about cold weather workouts and fitness, visit STR8 Training, located in San Marcos, TX.