Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Chalean Extreme Tracking Worksheets

***Updated on 9/1/09 to fix the link. It should work now!***

If you are doing Chalean Extreme and don't have something to track your weights yet, Beachbody has finally made some downloadable PDF worksheets for you. They're nicely done - they have the same formatting as the P90x worksheets. Enjoy!

Download here!

My Cathes Are Coming!!!

Woo-hoo! I got the shipping notice that my STS DVDs are on their way to me. I am so excited!!!!! Now, will I finish Chalean Extreme, or will I start STS.... Arg, decisions!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

100 Calorie Packs Are Evil

I hate these things. But I have to give credit to marketers for thinking of a way to make junk seem like it's a smart, healthy decision. Seriously? Just because it's only 100 calories doesn't eliminate the processed flours, refined sugars, preservatives and nasty dyes in it. Sure, it might help you control your munching better than a huge bag of Oreos with no built-in portion control. But a small portion of crap is still crap. You'll still be hungry 30 minutes later, craving more carbs, and then want to reach for another, or go foraging for something else. And since you "only" had 100 calories for your first snack, what does it matter if you have another? :P

Personally, I would rather just have some string cheese and an apple - about 120 calories, but full of protein, fiber, and fat that will help keep me full for a while and prevent an insulin-induced repeat snack attack. And I didn't pay extra for a fancy label telling me it only has 100 calories, either!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Macros Week of 1/16/09-1/23/09

I'm decided to post only my weekly macro averages, since it's really all about the average anyway. This week turned out to be pretty much perfect:

Friday, January 23, 2009

If you lift weights at home, you should have PowerBlocks

Powerblocks are absolutely the best piece of fitness equipment that I have. They are a set of dumbbells that adjust in weight, so that you can have several pairs of dumbbells that only take up the space of one pair. I use them almost every time I work out (unless I'm just doing a purely cardio workout). I have two sets: the old sport blocks (3-21lbs in 3lb increments) and the old personal set (5-45lbs in 5lb increments).

Here is what I love about my powerblocks:
  • they're fast to change weight
  • they go as heavy as I would ever want to with a dumbbell
  • they are smaller than standard dumbbells at heavier weights
  • the mechaism used to change weights is simple and sturdy and does not have complicated moving parts that will get jammed or broken
  • changing weights is fast - I can do it in about 10 seconds
  • they don't need a special base to hold the extra plates that aren't being used
  • they come with a 10 year warranty (seriously, what product can you buy today with that kind of guarantee?
The only negatives I can say (after using them for over 5 years) is that sometimes the plates stick together when you pull them up. I fixed this by coating each plate with some WD-40 and it solved it. Also, they don't rest well on your shoulders, if you want to put them there for lunges or squats. (I hold them at my sides and they work just fine.)

I love love love my powerblocks and would absolutely purchase them again. Actually, I'll tell you a little secret: I'm considering selling my current sport blocks (the up to 21lb size) because there is a new model that is SO PRETTY I just have to have it. Yes, the only difference is that it is grey instead of black, and the top is curved, not flat. But, I really want the new pretty ones!!

Here's a visual comparing the powerblocks to a standard dumbbell and the Bowflex Selectech. I love that the powerblock isn't HUGE. And, it's not going to get jammed or break like the Selectech (which only comes with a 2 year backing).

Monday, January 19, 2009

Spaghetti Squash....for spaghetti!

Just in case you haven't tried this yet, you should: spaghetti squash instead of actual spaghetti. Yep, just put it right under your regular spaghetti sauce or whatever you usually put on your pasta. It's a perfect way to add another serving of veggies to your meal and to eliminate a huge portion of starchy, processed, insulin-spiking carbs from your meal.

It's super easy to make. Just cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and strings, and bake it at 400F for about an hour. Let it cool enough to handle, then scrape out the innards with a fork. It naturally forms noodle-like strands as you scrape it. And, it has practically no flavor of its own, so it doesn't add or detract from the flavor of your sauce.

I consider this to be a pretty much perfect sub for pasta. Especially compared to other carb-less options like Shiritaki noodles (yuk, yuk, yuk!!).

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Macros 1/17/09

Not bad, considering this includes Chick-fil-A breakfast and yellow cake with chocolate icing for dessert.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Chalean Extreme First Impressions

Like most of the fitness-video-obsessed, I ordered Chalean Extreme as soon as it was released, in mid-December. Due to shipping snafus and issues with scratched discs and then being sick for almost a month (boo!), I haven't really gotten to try it out until this week. Now that I have tried it somewhat, I can say that I am pretty much happy with the program.

For those that don't know, it's a 3-phase program designed to lean you and and buff you up. Pretty much the same goals as any infomercially marketed fitness program or device. I think it stands out from lots of other infomercial products, though, because it gives you a complete plan that includes exercise as well as a nutrition plan. It's put together along the same lines as P90x, so it comes with a lot of support material. The materials are very nicely put together books, one for nutrition and one for the workouts. There are lots of glossy photos in both books, and the nutrition book is more than half cookbook. I think this is a great package for the price.

Regarding the workouts themselves, the 3 phases are: burn, push, and lean. Burn and lean are circuit-style workouts, where you do super-setted-ish strength excercises to maximize fat burning while you work out. You usually do one lower body move, like squats, lunges, or deadlifts, followed immediately by an upper body move for each rep. You lift as heavy as you can, and you shouldn't be able to do any more reps than 12 in the burn phase (I believe it is 6-8 in the push phase, but I'm not there yet to say for sure.) The push phase is supposed to be more standard strength training moves, with no super-setting involved.

I like that the pace on these is slow, but it is a bit disconcerting that it's supposed to be at your own pace, rather than following a beat or following along with the exercisers on screen. In P90x, the go at your own pace seemed to work better for me. In Chalean, the cues switch between doing your own pace and following along with the people in the video. You're supposed to follow their slow pace, but then everyone on screen gets off beat from each other, and it's kind of confusing which rep you're on. The camera jumping from person to person all at different places in the move and in the set also adds to the confusion. What I do a video, I don't want to count my reps, so if the people on screen are all going at a different pace, I'm not really sure how many reps I'm doing.

Other than this one complaint, I'm pretty happy with the burn phase. The workouts are fun, and short. The cardio is challenging and fun. The recipes I've tried have all been very easy and very yummy. I'm sure that anyone following this program as designed (including the very restricted calorie plan) would get excellent results in terms of fat loss and definition. I'm not sure how good I'll be at following the nutrition plan for 3 months, but I know I'll still get good results with just the workouts alone.

Shameless Plug: Tassimo Coffee Machine

This isn't really fitness-related, but I can't hold it in anymore: I have found a new gadget that I honestly cannot believe I lived without for so long: a Tassimo coffee/latte/cappuccino/espresso/hot chocolate/tea machine. It is seriously the coolest toy I've gotten in a long time. (Ok, it's not really MY toy, since I actually gave it to the hubs for Christmas, but whatever..... :) ) Anyway, it is actually magic. It makes all of the above-mentioned drinks, all with the touch of one button. You just put the appropriate disc into the machine, it scans a bar code on the lid, and then knows exactly how much water and what temperature to use. It makes coffee so easy and hassle-free. And the lattes it makes are tastier (and cheaper!) than those I get at Starbucks. mmmmm.

And the icing on the cake? I finally worked up the courage to look at the nutrition info on the latte package, my favorite drink, and it's actually NOT bad: about 70cal per drink, and only 3.5g of fat. Woo-hoo!

Macros 1/16/09

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Review: Precision Nutrition versus Metabolism Advantage

Metabolism Advantage (MA) is a book by John Berardi, available in bookstores and libraries. Precision Nutrition (PN) is a more detailed, customizable package of a binder and a cookboook, as well as access to online forums and some mp3 files to support it, also put together by John Berardi. PN is very widely respected among the online fitness forums I visit, and lots of people get great results with it, so I of course had to find out the real deal. Here's what I found out.

Both programs are essentially the same, but MA is specifically targeted to fat loss, while PN talks about fat loss, lean mass building, cutting, etc, through the "individualization guide." I checked MA out of my local library, devoured it, and then decided I needed to have PN as well. I think that your money is better spent just buying the PN cookbooks (both 1.0 and 2.0) and not the whole package. The principles are the same in MA and in PN, and the "personalization" stuff that PN comes with is very brief. Basically, if you don't like the results you're getting, make a small tweak for two weeks and re-assess. I don't think that's worth the money for the whole PN binder, and the extras you get in the binder are really only a few pages of further elaboration and explanation of what you've already learned in MA. You can definitely do this without the extra printed material from PN.

Now, to be fair, I bought my PN used, so I didn't get access to the forums and the downloadable mp3 files, but I can't imagine that they would make the $83 price difference worth it. Maybe $20 more, but not $83...

I really like the cookbooks, though. That was definitely worth it for me. The binder, not so much. I read through it once, and I'll probably never crack it open again.

So my recommendation, if you're interested in PN, is to buy MA for $17 and try it out. If you like the recipies and need more, I recommend the hardcopy of the Gourmet Nutrition 2.0 for $50 (which not included in PN's price of $100) anyway), and then, if you like the recipes and need more, then buy the ebook version of Gourmet Nutrition 1.0.