Ask Ava! New Blog March 2017.

Posted by Ava Cowan on

In this blog, I am on call to answer your toughest diet and nutrition questions.

I receive numerous questions a daily basis about how and what to eat—and sense the deep frustration many of you feel about this issue. To share my personal wisdom I picked two questions that I see often and want to share my “in the trenches” experience with diet and exercise—though to avoid any confusion I want to make clear that I am not a medical doctor or expert in nutrition—however, I have do have 10 years of practical experience which consists of diligently documenting all food intake everyday. I am able to see first hand the fluctuations in my own metabolism, with regards to my ability to lose body fat while maintaining muscle. As a result, it is inevitable that my food intake varies everyday because sometimes a certain amount of calories will yield fat loss. Other times, I must increase or decrease my calories in order to effectively decrease body fat as well as maintain a healthy metabolism.

Question # 1: I workout first thing in the morning (weight training and cardio), and have a whey shake (1 scoop whey, soy milk, and a teaspoon of natural peanut butter) an hour before the workout, and another one immediately after the workout. Should I be counting those as separate meals? Can/should I still eat breakfast and if so, what would be the best time for that? I prefer just having a shake before my workout because working out on a full stomach bugs me. I just don't want to be overeating!

Ava: I really want to convey not only the importance of breakfast in general, but it is especially important for the physically active person. Eating correctly and meal timing is imperative to people of all levels of physical fitness. I can assure you that I have tried every possible way to get lean through countless methods. That being said, meal #1 is missing about 25% of your daily carbohydrate intake. Also, with the suggested increase of carbohydrates both before and after the workout, I suggest removing the fat calories from the peanut butter and replace them with a carbohydrate source. You could perhaps save that entire morning meal, one you obviously like, and have it at night instead. Ideally, before you go to bed and without any additional carbohydrates added. In fact, the peanut butter may help control hunger throughout the night.  

Still, it’s very common to misunderstand and question this whole new way of eating. It is comparable to learning a whole new “language” with regards to food intake. As a personal choice, I call all forms of food consumption, even if only a protein shake, a meal. So the shake would be considered meal #1— a typical day consists of 5-6  meals. This reason for this frequency is to constantly fuel the body and take in the appropriate amount of nutrients. In order to eat all of your meals per day I suggest eating every 3-4 hours. Those times are contingent upon how many hours you are up in a day. The contents of each meal also depends on how many carbohydrates, fat, and protein that are required at that particular time of the day. Since you train in the mornings with weights and do cardio, I suggest splitting approximately 50% of your days total carbohydrate intake half before and half after your workout. In short, 25% pre workout and 25% immediately post workout.

May I also suggest eating as soon as you get up. If you are in a deficit of calories, you will be hungry upon wakening. That may not be the case initially and it may take a few weeks to happen. But eventually, as you adjust to a whole new style of eating, you will be hungry in the morning before you know it. By the time you get dressed, pack up your meals for the day and drive to the gym, a good 30-60 minutes will have gone by since you ate meal #1. And that is perfect meal timing!

Question #2: If I was to ask a question it would be, what is the best exercise to build a nice round bubble butt? (and great looking hamstrings?)

Ava:  Floor hip extensions keeping the leg straight for are great for beginners, and may be done anywhere. By maintaining a straight leg, the hamstrings are being used in addition to the glutes. There are several ways to add intensity to this exercise as you progress. One way is to hold the leg in the contracted position working the muscle isometrically. The benefit is that while some muscle fibers fatigue, other fibers are then engaged in order to maintain the static position. The next progression would  be to add ankle weights for increased resistance, or you may use a cable machine using the same extended movement if your gym has the ankle straps. Since some gyms do not have the ankle cuffs needed for that exercise an alternate idea is using a standing glute machine. This is actually ideal for intermediate and advanced programs since you may incrementally add resistance by weight plates. Please keep in mind by keeping the leg straight through the entire  range of motion both the hamstrings and glutes are being used, which is perfect for you since your concern improving the glutes as well as your hamstrings. The repetition range for hypertrophy is 8-12 reps, so choose a weight in which you are just shy of failure within that rep range. And as with all exercises, progression is absolutely necessary to avoid adaptation. I suggest increasing the frequency, intensity, or duration so that you continue to see improvements.

My last suggestion, would be to do cardio on the step mill machine. It’s ideal because it is a combination of getting your cardio done, and working the glute-ham tie in area. This is to be done during as a steady state cardio session.  Because this is a compound movement, you must be mindful of staying at a slower speed, of the muscle being worked and to avoid ballistic movements to avoid injury. Step on every other step, focus on pushing through the heel and finish with a slight extension at the top of the movement. Each step should be deliberate, focusing on placing the entire foot securely on each step.  Keep the leg straight and slightly extend it at the top of the movement. By adding a few of these suggestions to your current routine and you will invariably have a, "nice round bubble butt, and great looking hamstrings."  Without a doubt!

I hope you enjoyed my first blog post of 2017...more to come!

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