Month: May 2018

6 Podcasts I Can’t Live Without

My name is Amber and I am a podcast junkie.

It's true. Me + my trusty AirPods + a good podcast =  happiness.

I like a lot of different programs but I have compiled my all-time favorites in case you are looking for something new to play in your earbuds during your next workout (is it weird that I listen to podcasts while working out?).

 

The Goal Digger Podcast by Jenna Kutcher feels like having lunch with a girlfriend. Except this girlfriend is a genius girl boss and gives you all sorts of advice that you don't hear from anyone else. This is a podcast I never miss and I have Jenna to thank for so many ah-ha business moments.

 

 

I didn't know I was interested in Richard Simmons until listening to this podcast! This is a binge-worthy series devoted to exploring the sudden disappearance of Richard Simmons from the public eye. Be prepared for more than a few surprises while listening.

 

 

 

If you are one of 10 people who haven't heard of the podcast Serial you need to go right now and listen to every episode of Season 1. Seriously. Right now. Go.

 

 

 

 

I listened to every episode of Dirty John over a single weekend (it's amazing how much cleaning gets done when you have a podcast in your ears!). It's the real-life story of a woman and her relationship with a fraud-master named John. The story drew me in and definitely made me feel lucky I am happily married to a man who I can trust.

 

 

 

I only recently found Online Marketing Made Easy but I have been going through the archives and listening to every single one. Amy Porterfield is a master marketer and if you have any kind of business her weekly episodes are a can't miss.

 

 

 

That's it – those are my top 5 favorite podcasts. I've tossed around creating a podcast of my own someday, but for now as a little bonus I've included the links to two podcasts that have interviewed me as a guest.

 

Amber Brueseke || Pushing for Growth (Biceps After Babies)

 

Amber Brueseke on having Biceps After Babies

MFP Tips And Tricks

If you are new around here, you might not know much about macros – and that's ok! My goal is to break seemingly complex ideas and lingo down into something anyone can understand.

First up – my good friend MyFitnessPal (MFP). This is a free app and if you haven't downloaded it, head to the app store right now and get ‘er done.

I will wait.

You back? Ok, good. Now you have one of the handiest tools for tracking your macros downloaded on to your phone. As much as MFP promotes the Premium version, you do not have to purchase it to be able to track your macros. In the future you may want to upgrade (I have) but the free version works just fine for now.

There is a little bit of a learning curve with MFP, and it is going to take you just using the app to get more comfortable with it, but today I am sharing 5 tricks that will help you become a MFP guru:

One of the biggest mistakes people make at first is not selecting accurate MFP entries. Let me make one thing really clear: not all MFP entries are accurate. For better or for worse MFP allows people to add foods to it's database which means a lot of the foods you search for will be wrong.

Don't panic. There is a solution. Tack the term “USDA” to the end of your search. This will bring up foods that were entered off of the US Department of Agriculture meaning they have a much higher chance of being accurate.

Use this trick if you are searching for any non-packaged animal or plant product. For example, I would search “skinless chicken breast, raw, USDA” or “fuji apple, USDA” or “baby carrots, USDA.” These entries usually come up with the option to enter your servings in grams which is how you should be weighing all your food.

 

If you are entering each of your foods in separately and

are coming back to the database after each entry you are wasting time! The multi-add feature allows you to add multiple foods from your favorites lists and search results all at once. It really makes logging your food for a meal much faster and easier.

To enter Multi-add mode, go to Settings –> Diary Settings –> and toggle the slider for “use multi-add by default.” Then when searching for foods a filled in bubble will appear next to each food you have added.  Mark as many items as you'd like to add, then tap the Add button, and all of the items you've checked will be added to your diary at once.

 

This isn't specifically a MFP tip, but it sure is a helpful one when you want to weigh out food like peanut butter without dirtying 5,000 dishes. When measuring something out of a jar (like peanut butter, pickles, nutella, protein powder), place the whole jar on the scale, zero out the scale, then take the amount out you want. The scale will now display a negative number; forget the negative sign and log that amount in MFP.

 

I have a whole tutorial about how to enter and track a homemade recipe on MFP on my Instagram Story Highlights. That is really helpful for those homemade casseroles and the pancakes you make for your family. But what about those lunches that you make for yourself that aren't really a recipe, but are just some foods that you frequently eat together? For example, maybe you make my Greek Yogurt Chocolate pudding with fruit for snack every afternoon (if you haven't tried it you should – 1 cup of non-fat Greek yogurt + 10 g of sugar-free, fat-free chocolate Jello pudding powder, mix and thin with water to your liking). In this case, saving those foods as a Meal lets you easily add them to your diary as a group.

In my example, you could create a Meal called “Chocolate Protein Pudding” consisting of Greek yogurt, pudding powder, and the strawberries you throw on top. You could then add this as a group, instantly, instead of adding each item separately.

To create a Meal, just go to the same place you enter food and click the Meals tab. Click “Create a Meal” and enter the components of the meal and save. One of the great benefits to creating a meal rather than a recipe is that when the meal is logged each of the components still shows up individually in your diary. Meaning if you used 120 g of strawberries instead of only 60 g this time making your Protein Pudding you can log the meal and just adjust that one component without having to redo the whole recipe.

 

It still floors me how many people don't know this last really simple game-changing tip. Turn your phone sideways to landscape while viewing your diary in MFP; you'll be able to see the macro breakdown for each meal as well as your total breakdown for the day by scrolling to the bottom of the screen.

 

I sure hope these tips and trick were helpful and that even if you are a seasoned tracker you learned something new! Hit “reply” and tell me which one was new for you or if you have a tip that I missed that everyone should know about!

Paper Towel Analogy

Done is better than perfect.

I'm living by these key words this week.

Part of me wants to hold this video back and re-do it and get the sound quality better, but you know what? The content is solid. The message is what I want to share. And sometimes you just have to say done is better than perfect.

That being said, I hope you enjoy this short (4 minute) video. I promise you will never look at a roll of paper towels the same way again!

Yes, I know the sound quality could be better and I promise I will work on it with future videos. Stick with me – it's only going to improve 🙂

Your WHY

Why is it that so many people who want to lose weight, who know what they need to do to lose weight, struggle to string enough consistency together to gain traction?

Have you found these thoughts creeping into your head:

“I don't have enough willpower.”

“I need to workout, but I'm just so busy…”

“I get excited but then my motivation wanes quickly.”

“It is too hard/time consuming/boring to eat healthy…”

“I workout for a little while, but I don’t see results, so I stop…”

Can you relate? If so I am going to ask you a very important question:

What is your why?

 

It is impossible to stay committed and determined to do anything in life unless you nail down your “WHY”.  Your “why” is the reason, the driving force behind you wanting to change.

I want you to read this parable that Darren Hardy uses in his book “The Compound Effect.”

If I were to put a ten-inch-wide, thirty-foot-long plank on the ground and say, “If you walk the length of the plank, I'll give you twenty dollars,” would you do it? Of course, it's an easy twenty bucks. But what if I took that same plank and made a roof-top “bridge” between two 100-story buildings? That same twenty dollars for walking the thirty-foot plank no longer looks desirable or even possible, does it? You'd look at me and say, “Not on your life.” However, if your child was on the opposite building and that building was on fire, would you walk the length of the plank to save him? Without question and immediately – you'd do it, twenty dollars or not. Why is it that the first time I asked you to cross that sky-high plank, you said no way, yet, the second time you wouldn't hesitate? The risk and dangers are still the same. What changed? Your WHY changed – your reason for wanting to do it. You see, when the reason is big enough, you will be willing to perform almost any how.

I want you to do some soul searching this week and get serious in thinking about what goals you have for yourself and why you want to accomplish them. Once you get to the root of your “why”, it changes the game.

Here is your challenge for today. Write your why down. Put it on your mirror. Read it every night. Make your why something you can recite to yourself when choices get hard or temptation crops up.

YOU + YOUR WHY = SUCCESS

What To Do When You Mess Up

Consider this analogy:

This morning you slept through your alarm, hit traffic on the way to work, and end up 30 minutes late to work. What do you do?

Do you beat yourself up for being so weak and decide that since you already missed 30 minutes of work you might as well just go home?

NO WAY!

Most of us would respond like a grown-up; we would look at what contributed to being late and commit to being on time for work the next day.

Why are we able to be adult about being late but are childish about making a mistake with our food choices?

Why when we eat a slice of cake that wasn't planned do we feel extreme guilt, berate ourselves for lacking willpower, and throw in the towel for the rest of the day?

Here's the truth – you are going to mess up. You are going to eat things you wished you hadn't. It's NORMAL.

What really matter is what happens next. People who are successful are ones who can learn from their decision and improve.

The first step is taking ownership of your decisions.

If there is a cookie or a slice of pizza that is tempting I make a choice about whether to eat it or not. So often we try and justify what we ate by saying “I ate it because _________” Whatever comes next is your justification and it allows you to stop taking responsibility for your actions.

Instead I want you to hold onto your power of choice and wield it daily. If you are offered a piece of cake decide if you really want to eat it. Is it worth it to you? If you do choose to eat it, will you own your choice without guilt? If the answer is yes then enjoy that bad boy! Savor the heck out of it! You chose it thoughtfully, taking full responsibility for the decision.

However – maybe you ate the cake when you had previously told yourself that you weren't going to let it pass your lips. You let yourself down. Now you handle the choice like an adult.

1. Own the decision
2. Look at what contributed
3. Create a strategy to avoid messing up again
4. Get right back on track and MOVE ON

You are an adult, you made a choice, and that's it.

The more you can look at the slip-up as a learning experience and one that defines your worth the more successful you are going to be getting to the place where you can hit your fitness goals and find peace with your food.

5 Tips For Finding Your Motivation

I posted this quote on my Instagram page:

There was a great discussion in the comments and also in my stories about how to form habits and how long that process takes. Many of you said that while you feel like you have made exercise a habit, finding the same success with your diet is much harder.

 

I hear you! I've found that exercise habits are often quicker to master than eating habits – but it does happen over time!

So what do you do if you aren't feeling any motivation right now? Remember motivation that leads to habits creates awesome long-term results, but it does often start with sparking that motivation. So what if you just aren't feeling it right now? Here's 5 ways to spark some life into your goals that have eluded you:

1) Know your WHY. There is a reason you want to change your body or your eating habits. Get really crystal clear on what that is. Why are you doing this? If your why is important enough you will find a way to accomplish it.

2) Try something new. Attend a new group fitness class. Search for new recipes on Pinterest. Implement a new morning routine. Switching things up you can breath new life into your health and fitness routine and resurrect those feeling of novelty that you experienced at the beginning of your journey.

3) Create a vision board  Create a board with inspirational sayings, pump-you-up words, and photos that depict what you are working towards. If you don't want to create an entire board change your phone lockscreen to display your goal or a motivational saying. Keeping your goal front and center helps to re-invigorate you when things get hard.

4) Be grateful. Don't compare yourself to others. I know, I KNOW this is hard. Especially in this age of social media. Go through your social media accounts right now and unfollow or unfriend anyone who causes you to slip into the comparison game. Be grateful for your body, your family, your friends, and any progress you have already made.

5) Reward yourself. Set small milestone along the way and plan a reward when you hit those milestones. Lose 5 lbs? Get a pedicure. String a week of consecutive tracking together? Time for a new sports bra. Setting small goals with rewards can help the process to feel like several sprints rather than a marathon.

How can you combat stress and increased cortisol levels?

We live in a fast-paced, high stress world. So telling someone to “relax” or “manage their stress” can almost seem laughable.

But what if I told you that your stress was making it hard for you to lose weight, or even was causing you to gain it? Would that make stress management seem more urgent?

Chronic stress not only disrupts sleep but also increases blood sugar levels. These both lead to increased hunger and and increase in preference for high-calorie comfort foods (ever eaten a whole pint of Ben and Jerry's because of a break-up?). Stress-eating is real and is can cause some serious weight gain through those stressful periods of life.

In addition, chronically high levels of the stress hormone cortisol cause water retention, which can cause big swings in the number you see on the scale. It's not unusual for the body to retain 2 to even 6 lbs of extra water while going through a stressful period. It can be very frustrating to see the number on the scale stay the same, or even to go up, despite diet and exercise.

All in all, stress and increased cortisol levels aren't good for fat loss. So how should you combat it?

1. Get more sleep
Lack of sleep signals to the body that stress is all around, triggering the body's self-preservation mode. This results in increased quantities of cortisol in the bloodstream. Try to sleep at least 7 hours a night.

2. Don’t over-train
More isn’t always better. When you’re working out, you should bust your butt—then give your body a rest. Muscle is torn down while we work out, but it rebuilds and grows when we rest. Take rest days, don't go balls-to-the-wall exercising seven days a week. I promise that doing more exercise isn’t going to guarantee faster weight-loss. For maximal fat loss, I recommend that you workout 4 to 5 days each week, with 3 days including HIIT training, for a total of 1 hour per day on workout days.

3. Quit caffeine
Many clients ask me about diet soda. It doesn't contain macros that we measure, so it SEEMS like you could drink a gallon a day, but as with most things, I suggest moderation. And once a day isn't moderation—I’m talking about maybe a handful of sodas each month. Also, 200 mg of caffeine (a can of diet coke has about 46 mg) can increase blood cortisol levels by 30 percent in an hour. Is it worth it? Regularly drinking multiple cups of coffee or taking large amounts of pre-workout will also push up your cortisol levels because of the caffeine they contain.

4. Reduce stress
It isn’t always easy to let things go. We put pressure on ourselves to meet the demands in our lives, to take care of our families, to excel in all our activities, and to make everyone around us happy. But when we forget about taking care of ourselves, the stress can start to appear in extra pounds or other things that impede our health and our ability to function. Take time for yourself and eliminate things that cause unnecessary stress in your life.

5. Gratitude
Being grateful for the things you do have, rather than focusing on what you don't have can help you better manage stress. Start a gratitude journal. Include gratitude in your prayers or meditation. Verbalize gratitude to those who support you. The more you express and focus on gratitude, the lower your stress levels will become.

The two most frequently asked questions that pop up in my inbox

Today I'm taking two questions that frequently pop up in my DM's and inbox and answering them for you, once and for all.

Q: What should I do if I get to the end of the night and I haven't finished my macros and I'm not hungry? Should I force myself to finish them?

In general you do want to eat all your macros. First, it's helpful for you because by keeping your intake consistent you (or your coach) are able to adjust your numbers more accurately. If you are eating 1500 calories one day and only 1300 the next it can be hard to tweeze out which macros are the ones that are actually getting you results.

But even more than giving you accurate feedback, eating enough makes sure you stay in the optimal fat burning deficit. You have to be in a caloric deficit to lose fat, which means you have to eat less calories than you burn, but too large of a deficit actually isn't productive because your body won't burn fat as efficiently. Our bodies are able to burn fat the most efficiently in a moderate caloric deficit, not a severe one.

Chronically underfeeding your body can also slow your metabolism overtime, which (ironically) makes it even harder to lose fat as you have to keep eating less and less to see results.

A better way? Keep your calories and macros as high as possible while still seeing results, and only drop your macros if your weight loss actually plateaus. That means 2 weeks consistently hitting your numbers with no change in your weight or any of your measurements.

Some days I totally understand that for whatever reason you may have not finished your macros come bed time and at that point no, I don't want you forcing food down. What I do want you to do is to plan your next day a little better and try to eat more earlier in the day so that it doesn't become a habit of finishing the day short on macros.

Q: Is there a BEST time to eat for fat loss? 

The short answer: No. When it comes to losing fat, total calorie intake is the most important factor and your macro breakdown is the second most important factor.

The long answer: When you are talking about pounds lost, it doesn’t matter if you eat 1 or 12 meals in a day, if you end the day eating less calories than you burn, you will lose the same amount of weight.

However, there can be a psychological impact with meal frequency, and that’s not to be ignored.

Personal preference is really important – some people enjoy fewer, larger meals in a day (hey hey to those who like intermittent fasting!) and others (like me) prefer 5-6 smaller meals. It really comes down to your life and your schedule and the way that you prefer to eat.

I also highly suggest you do some experimentation. Try out eating more or less frequently with bigger and smaller meals and pay attention to how you feel, your hunger when you do so, and your energy levels. Chances are you will be able to easily identify the schedule that works best for you.

Should I Focus On Losing Fat Or Building Muscle?

Should I focus on losing fat or building muscle?

In fitness-speak “bulking” is the process which someone goes through to gain muscle. It means you are eating a caloric surplus while lifting weights allowing your body to use the excess calories to build muscle.

“Cutting” is the process of trying to lose fat. It means you are eating in a caloric deficit which requires your body to use fat storages for fuel and energy.

Ideally when bulking you want to gain muscle while minimizing fat gain. With cutting the opposite is true – you want to lose fat without losing muscle.

Seems pretty straight forward, right?

Hold on a minute! I get emails all the time that go something like this, “Hi Amber! I have tried macro counting for a couple months but I’m not really making any progress. I really would like to lose fat and gain some muscle, can you help?”

Maybe you can relate to this conundrum. You want to add muscle AND lose fat, so, what should you do? Should you bulk? Should you cut? Should you do something entirely different? The answer, of course, depends on the person. Let’s walk through the process.

 

What is your current body fat percentage?
There are many ways to measure your body fat percentage and many of them aren’t as accurate as they claim. However, most will give you at least a general idea of your current body fat percentage. I like to use calipers because they are cheap and fairly accurate, but you can also rely on a body scale, Dexa scan, or handheld device. Even cheaper than any of those options is just a simple mirror. That’s right – you can actually get fairly close to determining your body fat percentage by just taking off your shirt and looking in the mirror and comparing yourself to this chart:

 

The higher your current body fat percentage is, the less you should be thinking about bulking. Going into a caloric surplus when you are above 25% body fat (for women, and around 15% for guys) is not smart. You will find that because you already have a surplus of fat your “gains” during a bulk will end up being a lot more fat for not a lot more muscle.

Because of this I don’t suggest starting a bulk until you are at least fairly lean – ideally around 20-23% BF for women and 10-13% BF for men.

 

I’m Already Fairly Lean

If you are already at least fairly lean then you have more options and you should spend some time thinking which matters more to you right now. If your biggest long term goal is to build more muscle then my suggestion would be to set your calories in a 5% surplus and go for the bulk!

If, instead, getting leaner is really most important to you because you have a trip coming up or you have a goal of having visible abs or whatever, then set a concrete period of time to cut and then plan to bulk after the cut is over.

You can cycle bulking and cutting as many times as you need to in order to get the muscle mass that you desire.

Recomposition

There is a third option, and it’s called body recomposition which is a fancy phrase for adding muscle and losing fat simultaneously. Sounds like the perfect scenario, right? But before you think of this as the magical solution to achieving fat loss and muscle gains together, this process comes with a few caveats.

It works best for the inexperienced
If you take an untrained person and stick them in a gym lifting weights they are going to add muscle regardless of what program they are doing or what they are eating. The body responds very well to adding the first amount of muscle to it’s frame. For those who are inexperienced in the gym, many can get away with eating around maintenance and losing fat and gaining muscle simultaneously. During this process there likely won't be huge changes in the scale over time but they will notice their clothes getting loser as they are adding muscle and losing fat. Unfortunately, our bodies adapt fairly quickly and if you have been weight training for over 6-12 months you are no longer a beginner and likely won’t be able to milk the recomposition process. That being said it's not a bad idea to at least try eating at maintenance for a couple months to see how your body responds before going into a bulk.

It takes time
I’ve worked with hundreds of clients, and one thing I have learned about human psychology is that if something is hard and it’s not making a difference, most people have a hard time sticking with it. Body recomposition takes a long time. And specifically it takes a long time without much change on the scale. It can be hard for people to trust that changes are happening when they step on the scale day after day and it says the same thing. Your measurements will probably go down and your clothes will likely be looser, but many people lack motivation if the scale isn’t changing. So yes, recomposition is cool, but it’s not fast and you have to be patient over a period of months to see the changes

To focus on recomposition you would set your macros at maintenance levels and continue to lift weights. Over a 3-6 month period you should see changes in your measurements and the way clothes fit, although the scale may not change significantly because you are adding muscle simultaneously with fat loss. Hopefully you are clear on whether your personal goal should be to cut, bulk or recompose.

The next step is setting your macros appropriately. If you feel lost and just want someone knowledgeable to walk you through the entire cutting or bulking process and give you quicker results than messing with it yourself that's exactly what I do with custom coaching. You can sign up for that here.

5 Rookie Mistakes Beginning Macro-Trackers Make

If you are new to the macro-counting scene here's 5 common mistakes I don't want you to make.

1. Overshooting calorie goals to hit macro goals

What happens when you go over your carb goal? Or you overshoot your protein macros? Should you still aim to hit your other macros as well?

The answer is no. There’s a hierarchy of importance to macro counting.

Assuming your are aiming to lose fat, keeping your calories in a deficit is most important.

On those days that you end up going over in one of the macro categories instead of hitting your two other macros, default to simply hitting your overall calories and letting your macros fall where they may.

2. Giving up too soon

Remember this video about the paper towels? You aren't going to look overwhelmingly different one, two, or even three weeks into the process. You may not even see the scale move much the first couple weeks.

HANG WITH IT.

Sometimes people tell me, “tracking macros didn't work for me.” And when I asked them how long they stuck to their numbers the response is, “Oh, like a week and I didn't see any change.”

Face palm

Be patient. Fat loss is a slow process. Give your numbers at least 2 entire weeks to work before adjusting anything. If after two weeks of consistency (meaning hitting your numbers spot on every day) there is no change on the scale, in measurements, or in your progress photos, then it may be time to try a small macro drop. But please, for the love of carbs, give your macros a diligent effort before declaring you need new numbers. Which leads me to…..

3. Trying to adjust macro goals too frequently

Your macros are not like your bed sheets. You don't need to change them weekly.

Instead, set your numbers appropriately for your body, stick to them and continue with the same goals for as long as you are getting results. If you reach a weigh loss plateau (definition: 2 weeks of consistency without any change in the scale, measurements, or photos) then you can slightly lower your macros and keep going. But let's stop it with tweaking numbers just for kicks, mmmkay?

4. Logging workouts in MyFitnessPal

I know, I know, it feels so good to log that run you finished. You are darn proud of it and logging it in MFP gives you the dopamine release of checking a task off your list (it's not only me who sometimes will write something on my to-do list after the fact just so I can immediately mark it off, right?).

Here's the problem. MFP doesn't understand that you (or your coach) took your current workouts into account when setting your macros. So when MFP sees that you've burned 400 calories by doing a bazillion deadlifts it will automatically allot you more calories for the day and increase your macro goals.

While it may seem like, “SWEET, more dessert” it's a problem because you are erasing your caloric deficit because you double counted that exercise – once when setting your macros, and again when you logged it.

So as good as it feels, resist the urge to log your workouts in your MFP diary. Or, if you must log them, then be aware your macros may automatically adjust and make sure you are sticking to the right macro goals. *Yes there is a setting where you can tell MFP not to change your macros when you enter exercise, but I don't trust it. I've still seen it automatically update in my client's diaries who have that setting activated. My vote is better safe than sorry – just don't log it.

5. Inadequate water intake

I am a nurse married to a doctor, so I don't get embarrassed talking about your stool, but if you do, you might want to skip this last one—just sayin'.

Drinking water is always important, but it's especially important when you are eating increased amounts of protein. Nitrogen is a bi-product of protein breakdown and nitrogen leaves your body in your urine. Extra protein means extra nitrogen which means extra urine which can leave you constipated.

Ewwwwwwwwww.

To combat it the first line of defense is to drink plenty of water (there isn't an exact amount you need—aim to drink enough so your pee is light yellow to clear) and get 25-35 g of fiber per day. If that doesn't fix the problem adding a probiotic supplement can help. If you are still backed up, I suggest adjusting your protein goals down to a level that allows you to be more regular.

Learning how to use macros to hit your body composition goals is a process and the longer you do it the more experienced you are going to get and the less likely you're going to fall prey to these rookie mistakes.