The exercises and content expressed in this column are for illustrative purposes only. Consult a medical professional before trying any physical activity or nutritional plan.
At this point, America is heavier than ever, and it doesn't seem to be changing anytime soon. The holidays, especially wintertime, seem to be synonymous with weight gain and poor health choices. As a prepper, this is directly at odds with your physical preparation plan. Extra weight gain will surely slow you down and make survival in a crisis even more difficult.
Shedding weight means minding your plates, both in the kitchen and in the gym. There are many different popular diet programs out there right now, but they all operate on the basic premise of a calorie deficit. Whether you're on a paleo plan, doing intermittent fasting, trying a ketogenic diet, or out in the wilderness eating anything you can scavenge, eating fewer calories than you use typically results in weight loss.
So, follow along as we review some strategies to avoid the winter bulge and keep you fit and healthy for what may lie ahead.
Protein is a critical component of anyone's diet, especially when it comes to losing weight. Higher protein diets tend to result in more weight loss. Protein contains 4 calories per gram, but more energy is required to break them down than carbohydrates or fats. This concept is called the Thermic Effect of Feeding. You actually use more calories when eating proteins. This is part of the reason why many higher-protein diets result in weight loss, assuming the rest of the diet is composed of healthy foods. Moreover, higher protein diets — when combined with a resistance training program — boost muscle mass. This can increase your resting energy expenditure, ensuring you'll burn more calories at rest.
Recommendation: Consuming up to 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight can help you feel satisfied longer after meals and improve body composition. Game animals can be a great source of protein, as can protein powders, eggs, or fish.
Carbs aren't the enemy they're made out to be. There's some truth to the idea that certain people handle carbohydrates better than others, but carbs don't necessarily make you gain weight. Much like proteins, carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram. But it's not the number of calories that's important, it's the type of carbohydrate that really matters.
When you eat highly refined carbs or simple sugars, you may end up getting higher cholesterol, higher triglycerides, insulin resistance, and more body fat. Foods like sugar, white bread, and pasta are good examples.
On the other hand, carbohydrates from better sources can do nearly the opposite. Lower cholesterol, less body fat, lower triglycerides, and better blood sugar control are all characteristics of slower digesting, higher fiber carbohydrates. These types of carbs include quinoa, brown rice, fruits, and vegetables. If times are tough and you're out foraging for food, you should grab anything you can. When given the option, though, keep an eye out for foods with higher fiber content.
Recommendation: When focusing on weight loss, you should include roughly one to two cupped handfuls of healthy carbohydrates per meal. Because carbs are handled slightly differently depending on the person, if you notice that you've gained weight or you're not losing any weight, consider reducing the amount you're eating before changing anything else.
Just like carbohydrates, there are good and bad fats. The thing to understand is that eating fat doesn't make you fat. That's important to grasp. Unlike carbohydrates and proteins, fats are more calorie-dense with 9 calories per gram of fat. So, be careful of eating too much fat, as it's easy to consume too much when they're readily available in shelled or nut butter form. This is why eating nuts in the shell typically results in consuming fewer calories.
Good fats from sources like nuts, avocados, fish, eggs, and coconut oil are great in moderate amounts. You should avoid trans fats like the plague, which are found in margarine, baked goods, fast foods, microwave popcorn, and frozen pizza — yes, all the foods you already know aren't good for you.
Recommendation: Because fats are so highly calorie dense, shoot for one to two thumb-sized portions of healthy fat per meal.
Given the recommendations so far, a sample meal for weight loss might look like this:
At the heart of the matter, obesity or weight gain can be partially related to inactivity. Beginning a workout program comes with many positive effects such as increased testosterone, reduced body fat, increased bone density, increased muscle mass, among others.
Resistance training should be an element of any weight loss program because it creates a substantial metabolic demand. To reduce body fat, we should focus on lifting moderate weight, roughly in the 8- to 12-repetition range with rest periods anywhere from 15 to 45 seconds between sets. For beginners, slightly higher repetition ranges can also work well.
We'll pair exercises that don't affect each other, such as a dumbbell chest press and a cable row. This way, when you train your chest, the back is able to rest, and vice versa. This is where the large demand on your body takes place: The muscles are able to rest, but the overall systemic effect still occurs. It's not uncommon to see weight loss purely from adopting this style of training and making little to no changes with diet. The effect is more pronounced when we include combination lifts, which are usually a mixture of one upper body and a lower body lift together in the same exercise. You'll see some examples of this in the sample workout provided.
To give you an idea of what this looks like, here's a sample of a workout you might use if you're looking to shed body fat.
Squat Jump: 4 Sets of 10 Reps
1. Begin in a standing position with or without a weight.
2. Quickly sit into a squat position, imagining you're sitting between your knees.
3. Explode off the floor.
4. Land softly, and repeat for 10 total repetitions.
Dumbbell Chest Press: 3 Sets of 12 Reps
1. Lie flat on a bench with dumbbells straight above your shoulders and your shoulder blades tucked back and down under you.
2. Slowly lower the dumbbells until your elbows are roughly in-line with your body. Your upper arms should be about 45 degrees relative to your body.
3. Press the weights back up just shy of locking out your elbows.
4. Repeat for 12 repetitions.
Kettlebell Goblet Squat to Overhead Press: 3 Sets of 10 Reps
1. Start by holding a kettlebell at your chest.
2. Sit your hips back until your thighs are about parallel to the floor.
3. Drive your heels through the floor, fast, and press the kettlebell over your head once your legs straighten.
4. Slowly bring the kettlebell back to your chest.
5. Repeat for 10 repetitions.
Barbell Bent-Over Row: 3 Sets of 10 Reps
1. Hold a bar at arm's-length with your hands just outside your thighs.
2. Keeping your back flat and knees soft, sit your hips back and slide the bar down just below your knees.
3. From that bottom position, drive your elbows back and shoulder blades together. Don't let your elbows pass your body.
4. Complete 10 repetitions, and drive your feet through the floor to stand back up.
Straight-Leg Sit-Up: 3 Sets of 8 Reps
1. Lie on your back with your arms straight towards the ceiling. You can do this with bodyweight or with a medicine ball or kettlebell.
2. Keeping your arms and legs straight, sit up and reach your arms towards the ceiling.
3. Slowly return back to the starting position.
4. Repeat for 10 repetitions.
This physical preparation plan yields weight loss. Everyone can make changes to both their diet and exercise routine, so make sure to get at least a couple of good takeaways from this material. The best results come with consistency, so try making small changes and progressively add more as you master the previous steps. ‘We all know winter is coming, but extra holiday pounds don't have to come with it.
Ryne Gioviano is the owner of Achieve Personal Training & Lifestyle Design in Aurora, Illinois. He holds a master's degree in exercise physiology, a NSCA Certified Personal Trainer, and Precision Nutrition Certified Nutritional Coach. Gioviano is also an avid firearms enthusiast. For more information, please visit www.Achieve-PersonalTraining.com.