I thought for this post I'd just lay out a couple very, very simple concepts about health and fitness. The point of these 3 concepts is not to make your jaw drop to the floor, and also not to provide you with some "secret" formula for how it works, but rather to help open your eyes to the facts about how stuff works in the real world!
1) It's not just about exercise...It's not just about nutrition...It's about both
Sorry! Another way to say that is that if you do T25 every day, but don't watch what you eat you won't see the best results possible. Likewise, if you jump onto a new nutrition plan but aren't physically active, you will also not see the best results.
The thing that makes this even worse, is that if you had to chose one over the other (exercising, vs. eating well), the answer isn't what you want to hear either: focusing on nutrition is probably the more important of the two!
But the bottom line is that abs aren't even made solely in the kitchen as the popular tagline goes. A baseline of healthy nutrition is so important - I'm talking vegetables all day long just like your Mom told you, I'm talking lean protein at every meal, and limiting of most wheat products and anything with added sugar. But also, the physical activity should not be overlooked. You can diet yourself to weight loss, but you might notice it on the scale and not in the mirror if you don't continue to tone muscle through some kind of physical activity. Plus, the increased circulation from exercise can improve mood, aid in digestion and neutralization of free radicals, and help increase your metabolism. So even if getting "ripped" isn't in your set of goals now, things like simple cardio, walking, and moderate exercise can have huge benefits and make your days better.
2) It's better to workout more times a week for a short duration, than workout fewer times a week at a longer duration, even if the total calories burned over the week is the same.
That's probably another "DOH!" one for many people. I know for the longest time I'd miss a workout and think, "eh...I'll just double up tomorrow." (or actually most of the time never make it up...). But actually, it's better for you to just do something in place of missing a workout. Recent research conducted by Beachbody has shown that the first 30 minutes of the workout are the most important, and have the biggest impact (hence new programs T25 and P90X3). Actually, even if you read your P90X(1) guide book, it says the same thing. The first round through something like Chest and Back is where most of the work happens, and the second round is just to really push.
The other thing about working out for even a short duration is that it puts your body into a better state for burning fat throughout the day. Elevated heart rate, increased oxygen usage, and muscle use trigger your energy systems to be more efficient. In other words, your body digests food more efficiently (and less as fat) after a workout versus before a workout! Just doing something like the Insanity warm-up before breakfast can be a great thing to do even if you can't get a full workout in because you are setting up your body to be awake and start storing the food as usable energy instead of long-term fat storage.
The final thing on this topic relates to doubling up on your workouts. Most of the Beachbody DVDs are designed so that you actually get the necessary 24-hour rest before doing the next workout. So by doubling up back to back, you are perhaps burning the same amount of calories, but aren't giving the muscles proper recovery and rest time. Some of you are beasts and can just workout all day and it's fine...but for the average person, this recovery time is more than just being ready for the next workout, it's about allowing the muscles to rebuild before the next day.
3) When you start a new workout program, you probably won't lose weight the first 3 weeks.
What? That's it I'm returning my product!!
But wait...read on. Let me give you an example. I did Ultimate Reset (a 21-day cleanse) a year ago and didn't workout during the period of 21 days. When I finished, I weighted in about 12 pounds less than when I started! I didn't really want to lose that weight, but it was nice! I gained most of it back, but stayed lean in the months after, and overall improved my performance and lost body fat, so that was a win for me! But that 12 pound drop on the scale was strange and intriguing, no?
Then, I recently started P90X3, at what I considered slightly above my goal weight (I had let a little bit add on during the holidays.) I am on week 3, and I have not seen the scale go down. Most people would panic - but since I've done this a few times, I've begun to look at other things that have improved:
-My jeans fit way better. I have already lost an inch or so on my waist from 3 weeks.
-In the mirror, I like the way I look better than 3 weeks ago. Same weight, but more definition for sure.
-I am getting better at the workouts. I can do more reps, have more balance, and am digging deeper!
So why no scale budge? All those things are great, but I'm sure many of you want to see pounds lost too!
Well, the secret is that your weight is made up of a lot of things: muscle and fat...sure, but also bone, connective tissue, blood vessels, and lots and lots of water. Since I look better in the mirror, I've obviously lost some fat. I might have even gained some muscle. But with muscle gain, you also strengthen your support system, perhaps making ligaments, blood vessels in the muscles, and even bone stronger and therefore denser. And then...the water. When you start a new workout routine, your muscles are sore and worked in different ways, and they will often retain water as they are being used in the onset.
So with all of that, the fact that I'm retaining my weight is sweet! That is because I was close to my goal weight and just want to shed a couple pounds by the end of the P90X3...so far it looks like I'm on track for that.
Now - if you are significantly above your goal weight, you will probably see the scale move more than I do in the first weeks, and that is a good thing! In general, 1-2 pounds a week is a good gauge, but you shouldn't try to lose much more than that through exercise and diet. (This is why I don't like the Biggest Loser!). And when I say 1-2 pounds a week, that is talking about fat loss primarily, not strange things like losing 8 pounds of water weight from a cleanse in one day, or even the 12 pounds from my Ultimate Reset - those are shock therapy and while they will do good things for your body in the future (as Ultimate Reset did to me) you can't expect to keep that weight off permanently. It's more about release of toxins and building up of healthy cells, to kickstart whatever your next venture is.
There you have it - I gave you the most boring 3 nutrition and fitness rules: 1) You have to workout and eat well, 2) Workout as many days as possible, and 3) You probably won't see the scale budge at first if you are doing it right! Don't kill me!