Fitness Crunch

Published on April 25th, 2013 | by Healthy Gay Lifestyles


Finding the Balance for Dramatic Physical Improvement, (Part 4 of 4)

by Greg Rothman

After a very long winter in the Northeast, it’s finally starting to look more like spring. Time to pack away the coats and sweaters and bring out the t-shirts and tank tops. With this change in wardrobe, comes a strong desire to improve our bodies. No more hiding under bulky clothes; time to show some skin.

If you have been following this series on transforming your fitness program, and your body, for summer, your nutrition should be on track and you should be finished with the 4-Week Strength and Growth Phase of my fitness program.

If you followed the program as written, the changes to your body should be obvious. You are stronger and have added some muscle to your body that is quite noticeable and you will have lost some fat along the way. Don’t worry if your weight on the scale hasn’t changed; chances are very good that you’ve lost as much weight in fat as you have gained in muscle, just from the metabolism-boosting effect of carrying that muscle. The average male weighing one hundred and fifty pounds gains six to eight pounds of muscle in those first four week and loses about the same amount of fat. But even if the scale doesn’t reflect the change, it should be obvious – shirts should fit tighter in the chest and arms, and pants should fit looser in the waist.

Now that you’re eating right, and have added some muscle to your body, the next step in the program is to strip away some unwanted fat, revealing the leaner, more toned look that most of us desire.

The most efficient way to lose fat involves both a change in how we exercise and a change in our nutrition program. The two work in synergy, giving much better results than either could on their own.

From a nutritional standpoint, we want to employ a trick called carbohydrate manipulation. I call this “protein days”, and for most people I recommend doing three of these each week during this phase of the program. We will continue to eat small, frequent meals as recommended in my general nutrition plan – if you don’t have a copy, you can find it on my web site’s download page – the password is: metabolism (no caps). But on protein days, we will eliminate starchy carbohydrates, added sugars, fruits and alcohol. Because you are eating less (roughly one-third of our calories generally come from starchy carbs), we will want to eat more proteins, vegetables and lean dairy products. Fats are okay, too, but try to choose from the list of the best fats on page two of my nutrition guide.

Sugars (and the starchy carbs that your body treats as sugars) are your body’s preferred source of fuel. And the arch-enemy of fat loss. When we remove these from our diet, the body must turn to it’s second choice for fuel – fat. Now, this is a two-part process: the body must first be in a place hormonally where it is releasing fat from the fat cells, which is the case when the blood-sugar is stabilized because we have been eating small, frequent and balanced meals as suggested. When this is the case, and we remove the sugars, this trick works amazingly well for burning stored fat as fuel.

So, we’re creating an environment in the body where maximal fat burning is possible. Now, we need to do the right kind of exercise to burn the fat. The focus of our exercise now shifts away from building muscle by lifting progressively heavy weights and turns to the kind of exercise that gets the heart rate up, often called High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT.

At Empower Fitness during this phase, I have my clients do several types of exercise over the weeks (four to six) during which fat-loss is the primary focus. We do circuits of six to ten exercises interspersed with short intervals of cardio done on a treadmill or elliptical. We also do bodyweight exercises that incorporate functional movements and plyometrics, hitting the same muscle group with three to five different movements in a row. Because we do so many different workouts at Empower Fitness during this phase and change the workout each week, I’m not going to give specific workouts for this phase. Instead, I suggest using a search engine and entering “HIIT”. You will find many options. Choose a few that work for you and start doing them, varying the workout each week.

On days when you are not doing the HIIT workouts, you can add twenty to forty minutes of cardio. It doesn’t matter whether you use a treadmill, an elliptical or run outdoors, as long as it is done as interval training. If you need to review the specifics, you can find the “cardio” sheet on my web site’s downloads page. Password, again, is: metabolism (no caps). The amount of cardio you will want to do will depend on how much fat you want to lose. Some people at this point are close to their goals and just changing the nutrition will have a big enough impact. For others, there is still a lot of desired fat loss and doing cardio on as many off-days as possible may be the best choice.

During this phase of the program, a lot of fat loss is possible when you combine the nutritional trick of “protein days” with HIIT workouts and additional cardio on off-days. During these next four to six weeks, you will weigh less on the scale – since we are no longer adding new muscle significantly, the fat loss you achieve should show up directly as weight loss as well. My clients who follow this phase of the workout see one to three pounds of fat loss each week.

As you reach the end of the fat-loss phase, it’s important to take a look at the bigger picture and recognize the cyclical nature of this program. We started by adding strength and muscle and now have shifted focus to fat loss. At the end of the program, you can begin again with the Strength and Growth phase, add more muscle and reinvigorate your metabolism before going into another fat loss phase. You will of course begin the program again at a higher level – you are stronger and more fit than when you started the first time. In this way, you can train your body to achieve better and better results by cycling through the program as many times as you like. At Empower Fitness, we start each new program at a higher lever, substituting heavier weights and harder exercises as we become capable of doing so much more. I would encourage you to do the same.

As you close in on another summer and hopefully a new beach-ready “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, writer and the owner of Empower Fitness Studios in NYC. He received his Masters Degree in Physical Therapy from Columbia University and has twenty years of experience in the fitness and rehabilitation fields. He believes that absolutely anyone can have the body of their dreams once they understand how to eat and exercise in a way that supports their goals. It is his mission to Empower as many people as possible to do just that. His “Recession-Proof” Fitness Programs are an affordable way to find dramatic physical change over the course of 10 weeks. Greg is happy to hear from you if you have questions about any topic related to fitness or nutrition, and can be found at


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