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We have all probably said it at some point or another – “I’ll start working out tomorrow” or “My diet starts Monday”. How often do we keep putting this off as we let time slip away from us? Too often. Fitness is about routine and consistency. There has to be a way to snap yourself back into it when we fall out of habit, right One of the most efficient ways is to be prepared with a plan, so we put together 5 tips to help jumpstart or get back into your fitness routine.

  1. Set an alarm on your phone and lay out your clothes the night before.

We often get wrapped up in our daily to-do lists so often that exercise takes a backseat to these other commitments. Setting an alarm on your phone, or even putting a “workout” time on your calendar helps us block out time for exercise in advance, which rules out the excuses of lack of time and forgetting. You can also take advantage of behavioral cues like laying out your clothes the night before by the front door (or using post-it notes!) to help to keep exercise at the forefront of your mind.

  1. Work out with a friend or join a group fitness class.

One of the biggest challenges to restarting a fitness regimen is holding ourselves accountable – which is where working out with a friend is helpful. It also gives you a sounding board to speak of your plans and goals out loud with people you are closest with to make sure you are continually progressing. Group fitness classes are another great option. Not only are they a fun way to incorporate fitness, but in many cases class attendees become like family, since these members will hold you accountable to show up to class, much like coaches or players on an athletic team.

  1. Get a personal trainer.

Another person you can seek out to hold you accountable is a personal trainer, who will help motivate, inspire, and teach you about fitness. Personal trainers will also encourage you to be consistent with your training and complete exercises on your own outside of working with them, which gives you an automatic support system.

Related: try a personal training session at FFC on us! Click here to sign up.

  1. Plan for meals ahead of time.

Fitness is not just about working out. It’s about maintaining a healthy life through healthy choices in the areas of nutrition, sleep and coping with stress. When nutrition is a second thought, we often fall victim to picking the most convenient options, not necessary those that are healthiest for us. By creating a weekly meal plan, you can shop efficiently and have all the ingredients on hand for easy preparation. Or, you can even cook for the week over the weekend, so you can simply reheat and eat a healthy, balanced meal.

  1. Make it fun!

At the end of the day, we can plan to exercise or eat well, but the bottom line is we will never stick with a fitness regimen if we do not enjoy it. So find a way to make it fun!

  • Pick a race or event to train for and challenge yourself. Set goals to achieve or try some new, crazy things (like handstand pushups!).
  • Try a new exercise (e.g. battle ropes, TRX, a kettlebell workout, row machines, swimming).
  • Work out with friends or family or mix up your routine to eliminate boredom.
  • Do what makes you happy. Find what you like and stick to it.

The most important steps to successfully getting back to your fitness routine are to find ways to hold yourself accountable or have others hold you accountable, planning ahead, and making it fun. You have the power to do whatever it is you want to do. So how bad do you want it? The choice is yours.

Post written by FFC Union Station Fitness Director Michelle Stratton.

 

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Ever heard of souping? If you haven’t already, you likely will. Souping has been touted as “the new juicing.” Before you roll your eyes, take a look at what the trend entails and how it can make eating healthy during these colder months easy.

Often shunned for high sodium content, many people wonder if soup is actually healthy. It is! Vegetable and broth-based soups can be both healthful and delicious, packed with all sorts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

A well-crafted soup contains a combination of vitamin-rich vegetables, protein, and complex carbohydrates. Soups can provide the fiber and protein for a high-volume meal that is relatively low in calories when compared with other foods with similar nutrient profiles.

Look for broth-based soups that have plenty of vegetables and a serving of lean protein in each bowl. Additionally, soups with a serving of legumes (such as beans or lentils) will provide you with quality low-glycemic carbohydrates, fiber, and additional protein along side the extra flavors and textures they bring to the dish. Beware soups that are cream-based as they are typically loaded in saturated fat and extra calories.

While we don’t necessarily promote “fad diets”, souping can be a great way to reset your diet and cut calorie intake while still getting all the nutrients you need with a quick, 30-minute meal. What should you know about souping? Souping is a short-term diet comprised solely of soup.

Pros of the Souping Diet:

  • Souping minimizes blood sugar spikes when compared to juicing because vegetable and legume-based soups are not only inherently lower in sugar compared to juices (which are primarily made from fruit), but they also provide a greater concentration of complex carbohydrates (which are much slower to digest and raise blood sugar).
  • Nutritious soups have protein, which is typically lacking in a juice cleanse.
  • The extra fiber and protein found in soup not only provides more nutrition than a typical juice cleanse, but it also provides more satiety.

Cons of the Souping Diet:

  • Souping often tends to be low in calories – sometimes too low – which may lead to muscle breakdown instead of fat loss.
  • Souping is a short-term “fad” diet, not a long-term solution. Substantive and maintainable weight loss will require more changes to the big (dietary) picture than a soup cleanse will provide.

Bottom line: nutritious soups can be a wonderful addition to a healthy diet. For some people, replacing a few meals per week with a well-crafted, lower-calorie soup can be a great springboard into making those small dietary changes that eventually add up to big changes.

Related: soups are a great meal to prepare if you are meal prepping. Check out some other meal prep tips here!

30-Minute Recipe: Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Yields 4 servings.

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 – 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 TBSP Italian Spice Blend
  • 2 cups sliced green cabbage
  • 1 cup green beans
  • 1 cup kidney beans
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  • In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sautee the onions and carrots until softened, 3-5 minutes. Ad garlic and continue to sauté ~2 minutes, until softened.
  • Add tomato paste and spices, stir to incorporate and continue to sauté for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add stock, stirring to combine. Make sure to dissolve any tomato paste lumps.
  • Add chicken pieces, cabbage, green beans, and kidney beans, stirring to combine. Bring soup up to a slow simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low, and gently simmer until all vegetables are tender and chicken is thoroughly cooked.

Post written by FFC contributor.

 

It’s 5 PM and you’ve almost hit your daily 60-gram macro limit for fat (or some other type of macro), and you haven’t even had dinner yet. What’s a flexible dieter to do? How do you balance macros?

This is a question I get from my clients all the time. You have two choices in this situation: 1) you can go over the limit for a particular macro for that day or 2) you can eat foods that are free or very low in that particular macro.

If you opt for the second option, your next natural question would probably be something along the lines of, “what foods are available to eat in each category?” Below I’ve compiled a number of useful lists you can refer to in this situation to help yourself balance macros and stay on track, but also eat healthy and feel satisfied!

Protein-Dominant Foods

These foods are rich in protein, but free from all or most other macros. Eat these foods when you need more protein, but have already hit or are coming close on your limit of carb or fat macros.

  • Pure whey protein powder/ vegan protein powder: this is great to have on hand and choose brands that have zero carbs and fat or brands that have very little of the other macros. Brands like Isopure, Pescience, Vega One, and BioSteel are zero carbs or very low carbs and 1 gram of fat per serving.
  • Very lean chicken breast: this is only about 1.5-2 grams of fat per serving and could be even less if you remove visible trace of yellow chicken fat before you cook it.
  • Fish: many fish are very low in fat. The top three? Atlantic Cod (0 carbs and .8 grams of fat per serving, Orange Roughy (0 carb and .8 grams of fat per serving) and Mahi Mahi (0 carb and .8 grams of fat per serving).
  • Seitan: this source of protein is 0 grams of fat and just 6 net carbs.
  • Egg Whites: 1 egg white provides just trivial amounts of both fat and carbs, but 3.6 grams of protein.
  • Turkey Breast: roasted turkey breast is just .8 grams of fat per serving and 0 carbs.
  • Crabmeat: Alaskan King Crab is just .8 grams of fat per serving and zero carbs. Just skip the dipping butter!

Related: want to set up a free nutrition consultation at FFC? Click here!

Carbohydrate-Dominant Foods

These foods are rich in carbs, but free from all or most other macros. These may come in handy when you need more carbohydrates, but have already hit your limit on protein and fat. While it would be simple to just eat a tablespoon of sugar… these are healthier options!

  • Fruit: most fruit is (almost) fat free and very low in protein. Some common options? \
    • Bananas – a medium banana has less than .5 grams of fat and only 1.4 grams of protein.
    • Apples – a large/ medium apple has less than a gram of both fat and protein.
    • Blueberries – a cup has .5 grams of fat and only 1 gram of protein.
    • Strawberries – a cup of strawberries has less than .5 grams of fat and only 1 gram of protein.
    • Pears – a large pear has a trivial amount of fat and less than a gram of protein.
  • Honey: While honey is mostly pure sugar, it does offer some good health benefits, so use this as a carb-boosting sweetener when needed.
  • Sweet potatoes: a medium sweet potato has a trivial amount of fat and just 2 grams of protein, but 23 grams of healthy carbs.
  • Butternut squash: a cup of roasted butternut squash is virtually fat-free and contains less than 2 grams of protein.
  • Dried fruit: dried fruit is a quick way to boost your carb intake in a hurry. Make sure to choose dried fruits with no added sugar and ones that are unsulfured. Some good options:
    • Trader Joe’s Unsulfured Apricots: 10 apricots contain 50 grams of carbs, 0 grams of fat and only 2 grams of protein plus 4 grams of fiber.
    • Dried figs: 5 dried figs deliver 26 grams of carbs, 0 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein and 7 grams of fiber
    • Dried dates – this is as good as candy dried fruit and contains 31 g of carbs, 0 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein and 3 grams of fiber per 5 dates.

Related: do you need help regulating your cortisol levels? Read this!

Fat-Dominant Foods

This is one macro group that I never have trouble reaching, and one that I actually have to work at NOT going over – but I recognize some flexible dieters may not find it as easy, especially if you have been stuck in a low fat mindset for a long time. Below are some options that are not only rich in fat, but in healthy fat too.

  • Virgin olive oil: this monosaturated oil has been linked to a lot of health benefits so use it when possible to boost your fat grams for the day. 1 tablespoon is 14 grams of fat and nothing else.
  • Virgin coconut oil: this fat has gained wide popularity over the last 5 years and also has some health promoting properties. 1 tablespoon contains 14 grams of fat and no other macros.
  • Grass fed butter: grass fed butter also packs some nutrition along with the fat. 1 tablespoon is 11.6 grams of fat and has just a trace of carbs and protein.
  • Nuts: nuts are high in fat, but do contain some protein and carbs. However, the fat they contain is healthy and by far the dominant macro. Some good options include:
    • Almonds – 10 almonds have 6 grams of fat, 2.4 grams of carbs, and 2.6 grams of protein.
    • Walnuts – 1 oz contains 18.6 grams of fat, 3.9 grams of carbs and 4.3 grams of protein.
    • Pecans – 1 oz delivers 20.4 grams of fat, 4 grams of carbs and 2.6 grams of protein.

Other Tips on Macros Related to a Healthy Diet

Will going over on a macro ruin your diet?

Don’t stress out if you go over one of your macros on a particular day – or even if you don’t hit one. It won’t ruin your diet. The most important thing, in my opinion, is to his as close to your TDEE as possible. Macros are more for “fine tuning” your results, while your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure, related to exercise or expended energy through normal daily activities) determines whether you lose, maintain or gain. Your TDEE is determined by combining your MBR (metabolic rate) with the calories you burn through physical activity.

So yes, you should strive to meet your macros, as these will help you reach your goals as far as body composition is concerned, but eating 20 extra grams of fat on a particular day won’t derail your progress unless it puts you over your caloric goal regarding your TDEE.

Interested in knowing how many calories you should be eating or more about macro tracking? Feel free to contact me at ssobotka@ffc.com or set up a 30-minute complimentary nutrition session and learn more about the programming and resources available to you here at FFC!

Post written by FFC Lincoln Park Registered Dietitian Sarah Sobotka

 

Generally, fat loss is one of the most popular goals for those following an exercise and diet program. With all the information available at our fingertips, however, the sheer amount of best practices, tips, and tricks out there can be overwhelming. Here are 12 actionable ways you can burn body fat better and reach your goals faster!

Start Weight Training

Building lean muscle is the most efficient way to increase your fat metabolism.

Avoid Alcoholic Beverages

Alcohol inhibits the body’s ability to burn body fat content, as well as protein synthesis in the recovery of muscle.

Say No to Sugary Beverages

According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, 25% of American’s overconsumption of calories is directly related to soft drinks and juices.

Pass on Pre-Made, Packaged Foods

Frozen food meals and snacks are packed full of fat-storing chemicals and preservatives.

Related: click here to try out a training session at FFC on us!

Cardio Ain’t Gonna Cut It to Bust Body Fat

If the entirety of your exercise routine consists of low-intensity cardio, you are far less likely to reach your fat loss goals.

Win With Water

Selecting water as your primary beverage will help you burn more fat, perform better in the gym, and flush more toxins from your body.

Fad Diet Fails

Stop falling for fad diets promising big results in a short period of time. You will waste your money, time, and effort.

Stress Less

Reduction in your stress can lower cortisol levels, increase motivation, and increase the likelihood of healthier lifestyle and eating habits.

Viva la Veggies

Vegetables should be your primary source of carbohydrates to help you chisel up.

Cut Out Processed Carbs

Bread, white rice, tortillas and other processed, starchy, carbohydrate filled foods will help you pack on pounds you do not want.

Confidence is Key

If you don’t believe in yourself, you should have quit before you started. Confidence in your ability to succeed is the best weapon in your arsenal.

Accountability

Have someone in your life who can motivate and keep you on track – it will ensure fat loss success!

Did we forget one of your go-to fitness practices? Comment below or share with us using #FFCChicago! For more information on training with Ben or to schedule a consultation, visit his page, email him at btimmis@ffc.com or check out his recently-launched YouTube channel!

 

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I LOVE the squat! Not only do squats provide a complete full-body workout, but they also tone and strengthen the muscles in the lower limbs (especially those glutes!), and burn a ton of calories too.

Squats are simply great for sculpting the body. Check out these 6 reasons why you should love to squat too, plus a simple 30-minute workout to try on your own!

30 Minute Workout: the squat and why they're so amazing for you

Reasons Why Squats Are So Amazing

1) Improve your circulation.

Squats get the blood pumping throughout your entire body. Good circulation = more nutrients and oxygen to vital organs.

2) Build muscle through the entire body.

Need we say more?

3) No equipment is necessarily needed.

This exercise move can be done anywhere! In fact, I sometimes do ~25 squats in the middle of my workday or right before bed.

4) Burn fat and help you lose weight.

5) Tone the muscles in your legs.

So much muscle! Want another lower-body workout? Check out this post.

6) Give you a rounder and fuller backside!

Practice Proper Squat Form

To prevent injury and reap the benefits of the squat, proper form must be attained.

*Please note, this information is very specific to a person’s biomechanics and anatomy. Typically, a hip-width or slightly wider stance with feet pointed slightly outward is ideal, but what’s more important is that your hips, knees and feet are in alignment and tracking properly during the movement.

30-Minute Squat Workout

  • 3 sets of 50 warmup squats w/15 of weight lb (Note: if this is too much, just do 1 set of 50 reps!)
  • 20 jumping squats with 10 lb ball
  • 20 square squats with 12-17.5 lb of weight
  • 20 jumping squats with 10 lb ball
  • 20 wide squats with 12-17.5 lb of weight
  • 20 jumping squats with 10 lb ball
  • 20 sumo squats with 12-20 lb of weight

Please feel free to do any of these exercises without any weights!

Post written by FFC Oak Park Personal Trainer Cherita Ousley.

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