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Ever wonder if you need strength training or cardio? What to eat before a workout?

Are you confused about your workout?

As a lifecoach helping people live healthier lives, Elika works with a lot of people who get confused between all the cardio hype and all the push for strength training. Then comes the confusion about what to eat and when. Is it carbs before a workout and protein after? Do you gulp down a not so tasty protein shake before a workout and then rush because you only have 15 minutes after your workout to have another protein shake? Well, Elika decided to ask someone that she trust, Anna Weiss. Elika also made sure Anna practices what she preaches (and trust me she does).

As a therapist and coach, Elika knows that many of us think that “I can never be that disciplined”, or “I will never be that toned”, or “sure easy for her to say-she probably doesn’t eat anyway” and our favorite “how can I have a life, go out to dinner, eat with my family while doing all this?” Need help challenging these self defeating thoughts? That’s where working with a life coach can help!

Changing your body is HARD! It does take commitment but so doesn’t have to be a  miserable process!

There is so much debate about cardio vs strength training-which is more effective for what? Is one better for weight loss? Why is it important to do both?
It is important to do both cardio and strength training. Cardiovascular exercise is very effective at burning calories, thus, along with a calorie deficit, one can lose body fat effectively. When beginning a weight loss program, it is good to start with cardio and calorie cutting to drop the pounds. The strength training is also important though. Muscle tissue takes energy to build and maintain, thus, one’s metabolism is raised. When you replace lean muscle mass for fat, you actually are making your body more efficient at burning calories. Lots of women skip the strength training when trying to lose weight because they don’t want to get “bulky”. Just look at the bikini competitors to see that lifting weights (in combination with cardio and smart eating), will create a nice, lean yet curvaceous figure.

How do you get past a plateau?
Plateaus occur when you do the same routine day in and day out. I see lots of people on the Elyptical at the gym everyday and their bodies don’t change month to month. In order to make changes, you need to mix it up. Do different body parts each day. Another important thing to keep in mind, and this is very important, most people don’t work out hard enough. If you want dramatic changes in your physique, you have to SWEAT. If you leave the gym looking pretty, you did not work out hard enough! Thirty minute light cardio workouts are better than nothing, but in order to see changes, you need too feel like you really worked out. Some people hate this feeling, but when you start seeing the results, that yucky feeling is replaced with a good endorphine rush and sense of accomplishment!

How do you find time to fit it in? How do you stay motivated?
You don’t FIND the time for exercise. You MAKE the time. It has to be a priority. I stay motivated because I feel so much better when I am in my best shape. I like the confidence it gives me. I like inspiring others to get started. I also like motivating other moms who think they can’t get their body back after having kids or that you have to stay in a cover-up by the pool because you’re 40!

Assuming you don’t want to be a bodybuilder but you want to lean out your body and strengthen it-is there exercises you recommend?A program that combines cardio with strengthening exercises works well for leaning out. Bootcamp-style classes, Crossfit, P90X are good examples of this. I really recommend weight lifting though. It doesn’t have to be heavy, just some resistance to build nice definition so that the body has nice curves as the fat comes off. Exercises I recommend are squats and lunges for the lower body. For the upper body, shoulders, biceps, triceps. These are good areas to focus on for the beginner. Women often complain to me that their arms are saggy. The lunges and squats are good for lifting and firming up the butt and thighs.

Given that muscles weigh more than fat-how should you track your success? Are measurements effective (i.e. your gluts get stronger and lift your butt would that in turn make your measurements increase?)
Many people (especially women) get their feedback from the scale. I really recommend shying away from your scale. It only measures your gravitational pull towards the Earth. Not how you look! Go by what you see in the mirror and how your clothes fit. A few months ago I noticed all my pants were big on me – in the waist and the butt. Now I notice the waist lines are big but the glutes are filling in and the butt area is getting snug. This gives me great feedback that all my effort to build glutes is working. My weight is probably the same or heavier. Doesn’t really matter. Some men and women may want a personal trainer to take before and after measurements and/or photos to track their progress.

What should you eat before a workout (other than protein shake)? What should you eat after?
About 3-6 hours before your workout, eat a meal consisting of complex carbohydrates and lean protein. One to two hours before, have some form of carbs, complex or simple, to give you energy during your workout. Drink plenty of water while exercising – about 8 oz for every 15 minutes of exercise. Some examples of good pre-workout meals are cottage cheese with fruit, a slice of whole wheat bread with almond or peanut butter, a bowl of all grain cereal with milk. Post workout meal should include some lean protein, like 6 oz of flank steak or chicken breast, about 4 oz of a complex carb like brown rice or quinoa, and a serving of veggies.

What do your meals look like in a typical day/week?
Well, I am on a body building diet, ie “clean diet”. It is very effective for leaning out and maintaining muscle mass. I eat six smaller meals a day that consist of very lean meats, whole grains, lots of fresh veggies like asparagus and spinach. I occasionally have a protein shake if I’m in a pinch for time and need post-workout protein. I drink about 3/4 to 1 gallon of water per day (keep in mind a sweat a lot from the intense workouts). I love non-fat Greek yogurt because you can get about 18 grams of protein for about 120 calories. I avoid cheese, most bread unless it’s whole wheat, granola and granola bars, pasta, and desserts. Also, anything that’s fried. I do allow myself one cheat meal per week.

What if you are eating out or eating with others? i.e. kids, husband, friends who do not have the same fitness goals?That tends to be tricky. In order to be successful, I pre-cook all my food for the week and freeze the meals in baggies. That way, I can cook for the family and ensure that I follow my diet. In restaurants, I will let myself have a cheat meal, or, if it’s not time for a cheat meal, I order a salad with low cal dressing and eat half of it. Most restaurants will let you substitute french fries for salad or fruit.

Anything else you would like to add?
When in doubt, consult a professional. Either a trainer or check out websites like There are many resources out there for any budget.

Thanks Anna for your input and inspiration! Feel free to show Anna some love and give her some support via Facebook Anna Weiss, NPC, Bikini Competitor.

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