Published on January 3rd, 2013 | by Healthy Gay Lifestyles0
Finding the Balance for Dramatic Physical Improvement, Part 1 of 4
by Greg Rothman
Here we go again. Another year behind us. Another year beginning. For most of us, this means setting new goals for the New Year. And year after year, at the top of that list, is making positive changes to our bodies – how we feel, how we move and yes, how we look. While most people renew their desire to improve their bodies at this time of the year, for gay men it seems almost an imperative. Good or bad, to some degree we live in a physical culture which puts a lot emphasis on things like bigger arms and more defined abs. And January 1st begins the countdown to Spring, when we pack away the sweaters and bring out the t-shirts and tank tops.
Unfortunately, for so many of us, the desire for change too quickly becomes frustration as we put in the time at the gym and don’t see the results for which we were hoping. And then comes the self-recrimination. Why can’t I get the body I want? If only I had a faster metabolism. Or pushed myself harder at the gym. Maybe I should go on a starvation diet. What if I tried steroids?
The good news is that absolutely anyone can find dramatic physical change without going to extremes with their diets, their exercise regimes or trying dangerous supplements or steroids. The solution is actually a very simple one, which is not so say easy. If it were easy, everyone would be flaunting their six-pack abs. But it is simple to start living in the body that you imagine for yourself.
In this article and the three that follow, I will teach you the secret to healthy, dramatic physical improvement.
Here is the secret: Balance. A balance created by eating in a way that supports your goals, building metabolism-boosting muscle tissue and doing the right kind of cardio for burning off unwanted fat. While that may sound obvious, it is not. Doing any one or two of the above will not give us the result we are seeking. It is in the correct combination of those three pieces of the puzzle that we will find success in creating the bodies we desire.
So, if we are going to succeed, we need to understand why we’ve failed in the past. Almost every single person who walks into my gym, Empower Fitness, in Manhattan’s West Village, wants something very similar. No matter how they say it – “I want to lose weight”, “I want to be stronger and more muscular” – what they mean ninety-five percent of the time, is that they want to have a better balance between lean tissue (muscle) and fat. Muscle, in the absence of fat in and around it, gives our bodies the lean, cut look that most people want, whether they call it a swimmer’s body or a gymnast’s body, two iconic types toward which many people aspire.
Many people attempt this through diets that deprive the body of the calories that it needs to function and thrive. The truth about diets is that they do not and, in fact, cannot work. When the body gets fewer calories than it needs, two things happen. First, the brain resets the body’s internal calorie thermostat so that it can survive on fewer calories, slowing the metabolism. At the same time, the brain puts the body into survival mode, essentially storing as many calories as possible by turning them into fat and depositing them into the fat cells.
Other people try an approach to weight loss that is equally sure to fail. Instead of trying to starve off the fat, they try to burn it off. I frequently meet people who spend an hour every day jogging on a treadmill or using an elliptical machine. Unfortunately, long, steady-state cardio tends to burn more muscle than it does fat, resulting in a body with a very unfavorable ratio of fat-to-muscle. The word I often use to describe this body type is “skinny fat”.
Still others, try to build muscle to reverse the soft, flabby body type that is created by dieting and doing the wrong kind of cardio exercise. Unfortunately, most are either not getting enough calories to build muscle or are burning too much of it with the excess of cardio. Even those who are eating in a way where adding muscle might be possible typically are not doing their strength training in a way that gives them results.
If any of the above sounds familiar, it’s time to re-think your fitness program and start moving toward your goals. Again, the answer lies in the balance that comes in eating in a way that supports your goals, exercising in a way that adds muscle to the body and doing your cardio in a way that burns off excess fat. The good news is that it is actually very simple to start seeing physical improvement almost immediately and for the most part it can be accomplished very efficiently in just a few hours each week.
For many, the most difficult piece of the puzzle is the nutrition, so we’ll address that first in the next article in this series. The first step toward eating in a way that supports your goals is to take an honest look at what you are eating now and start to make small changes. I recommend taking at least three days in which you do a “food journal” and write down everything that you eat and drink and at what time of the day. After you do that, download the Empower Fitness Guide To Supportive Nutrition at www.GetEmpoweredFitness.com/downloads.html. The Password is: metabolism. Read each nutrition “rule” on the left side of page one and compare it to your food journal. Make a small change or two that reflects the more supportive way of eating that I suggest. The first thing that you will notice, within a week, is that you will have more energy and be less susceptible to those mid-afternoon crashes, as sure sign of a quickening metabolism.
Once we have addressed nutrition and you understand how to eat more supportively, we will take a look at the most efficient ways to build muscle and burn body fat, respectively, in parts three and four of this series. You can expect to learn the most efficient ways to dramatically add muscle and burn fat from your body.
As we look toward a new year and a new “you”, remember to be thankful for what you have in your life and make a real and conscious effort to make improvements in those areas in which you feel you need it. So many things in life are about finding the right balance and I’m looking forward to helping you learn how to do that with your fitness goals this year.
Greg Rothman, MS PT , is a fitness professional, author and the owner of Empower Fitness Studio, located in the West Village neighborhood of NYC. He received his Masters Degree in Physical Therapy from Columbia University and has 20 years of experience in the rehabilitation and fitness fields. Greg’s mission is to empower his clients to take control of their bodies and their metabolisms. He believes that absolutely anyone can find dramatic physical change and that doing so can be accomplished efficiently.www.getempoweredfitness.com