How to Keep Healthy in the New Year Without Buying into a Worthless Diet

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, most people include goals involving health and working out. Some want to start off the year fresh and shave off that weight they added over the holidays, while others are using the calendar switch as a good excuse to get started on a healthier lifestyle.

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If you are struggling to decide what you want to improve on or how to create the proper resolutions for yourself, I’m here to help.

Set realistic goals based on your past

If you are already an avid gym goer, think about what you can improve on during your time at the gym. Do you spend more time lifting and less time socializing? Are you walking out of the gym drenched in sweat? Are you pushing yourself to your maximum ability? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then reevaluate how you perform your workouts. If you’re just getting started, set realistic goals for yourself in terms of building muscle or shredding fat.

Don’t get discouraged

Seeing a change in your body won’t happen overnight. It might not even happen until well into February. But consistency is the key to success and in order for you to avoid losing steam and missing out on opportunity to change yourself in a positive manner, you need to just put your head down and go to work. Don’t question anything as long as you are giving it your all.

Research more

Whether you’re a seasoned vet or a young neophyte, there is always room to improve your techniques, add a new exercise to your routine, or clear up many of the misconceptions that exist in all corners of the fitness world. Read up.

Set new personal records in major lifts

Squat, Deadlift, Bench = major keys to success. One way to make sure you stick to your schedule is to have monthly PR checks. This means that once a month you try to beat your previous personal record weight in the three major lifts. Doing this will add purpose to your everyday workouts and give you a reason to push yourself during every workout.

The reason that many resolutions fail is because it is easier to bite off more than you can chew without devising a proper strategy to achieve your goals. Remember #1 when it comes to planning new goals throughout the year. 2016 shouldn’t just be about the start. You should be modifying your goals as your begin to progress and holding yourself accountable in order to maintain success in the iron temple.

Do not buy into a diet

In terms of diet and eating “healthier,” my advice is DON’T do it. Diets are meant to be broken. If you want to change your eating habits, you have to change your lifestyle. A simple change in thinking will go a long way. Instead of thinking, “I CAN’T have that piece of cake,” think, “Eh, I don’t really WANT that piece of cake.” If we are being honest though, I know we both really do want that piece of cake. We shouldn’t have to deny ourselves a basic human right to fulfill our sweet tooth. I try to eat as healthy as I can all the time, meaning chicken and veggie stir-fry, egg whites, Greek yogurt, etc. But once in a while if I’m craving warm, soft chocolate chip cookies then I go for it. The more you deny yourself, the harder you will end up binging later and this will only make you feel defeated.

Once again, remember #1 and start small. Cut out processed food, add green smoothies to your daily breakfast, or choose chicken instead of steak. Then slowly start being stricter and more detailed until you no longer think twice about making healthy options. #3 will take you a long way in terms of diet, and researching matters will help you avoid giving up on your goals and ending up at McDonald’s at 3 am on a Monday morning.

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Shake It Up | Best Post-Workout Protein Shakes

You just spent 90 minutes pushing your body to its limits and breaking down muscle fibers. The proper way (or should I say whey) to promote recovery and capitalize on gains in the gym is to finish off your workout with a protein shake. There are hundreds of different powders, liquids, and pre-made shakes to choose from, which may be overwhelming if you’re new to the scene.

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My favorite brand and flavor of protein powder is the cookies and cream flavor of Gold Standard by Optimum Nutrition. I love its taste, and the overall simplicity and efficiency of the nutrient profile make it one of the best on the market in my opinion. Gold Standard Natural is even better because it is void of artificial ingredients and flavoring.

I have had years of experience in the art of shake making, and there are infinite ways to pimp your shake. Here are a few of my favorite recipes:

The Mean Green Protein Machine

Additions:

  • ½ Tbsp. Ground Flax Seed
  • ½ Tbsp. Chia Seed
  • Handful of Spinach
  • ¼ Tsp. Spirulina

PB and Gains

  • Base: 2% Milk
  • Fruit: Frozen Banana
  • Protein: Gold Standard Vanilla Whey

Additions:

  • 2 Tbsp. Peanut Butter
  • 1 Tbsp. Honey or Blue Agave
  • ½ Cup Almonds

The Willy Wonka

Additions:

  • ½ Tsp. 100% Pure Cocoa Powder
  • 1 Handful Ice
  • 3-4 Squares of Dark Chocolate
  • 1 Tbsp. Honey or Blue Agave

Strawberry and SpongeBob

  • Base: Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • Fruit:
  • 1 Cup Strawberries
  • 1 Cup Frozen Pineapple
  • Protein: Gold Standard Vanilla Whey

Additions:

  • ½ cup Cottage Cheese
  • ½ Tbsp. Ground Flax Seed

In general, the secret to changing the game in any of your shakes is a frozen banana. If you are opposed to the taste, you can try adding half a banana and using a more potent flavor like chocolate for your protein powder. In terms of additions, don’t be intimidated by green. You won’t taste spinach or spirulina in your shakes, but you’ll feel the added health benefits in the form of increased focused and a small boost in mental energy. Flax and chia seeds are good sources of fiber and add texture to the shake.

I have found that adding sliced pear or apple to any shake can give it an added sweetness boost without dramatically changing the flavor profile. Regular milk also works as a substitute for almond, and if you are really feeling bold you can try coconut milk. If you decide to go the coconut route, ditch the frozen banana and stick to chocolate flavored protein powder. In the end the choice is yours, and trying out different shakes can serve as motivation to maintain consistency in your workout routine.

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Shed the Holiday Poundage with Another Torch Tuesday

How are you going to survive the dirty temptations of the holiday season? Well if you’re like me, you’re not. The sight of soft chocolate chip cookies is enough to render my normally rock solid resistance futile

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I like to keep my workout intensity high when I know that I’m going to be deviating a little from my normal healthy diet. You shouldn’t feel like you have to deny yourself of the sweets and treats of the holiday season, but if you want to avoid getting soft then you’re going to have to put in some extra work. That being said, lets get into this week’s Torch Tuesday.

The Warmup

3 Rounds

  • 30 Second Jumping Jacks
  • 20 Second Butt Kickers
  • 10 Second Rest

The Torch

5 rounds

  • 20 Seconds In and Out Jump Squats
  • 10 Second Rest
  • 20 Second High Knees
  • 10 Second Rest
  • 20 Second Mountain Climbers
  • 10 Second Rest
  • 20 Second Burpees
  • 10 Second Rest

Next Level

If you’re roasted after the Torch then pat yourself on the back and go have a few chocolate chip cookies. It’s meant to tire you out, but if you’re in advanced shape and you want to keep pushing yourself, or you really want to feel less guilty about that piece of cheesecake, then follow it up with this afterburner:

  • 10 Hill Sprints (at least 15 Seconds of 100% effort)

Note: Walk down the hill after each sprint and catch your breath. The minute you reach your starting mark, turn around and kick it into high gear again. Push your limits and don’t cheat yourself. You won’t regret it.

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Keep the Winter Weight Off with this 6 Week Workout Plan

Winter is fast approaching and so is the urge to bundle up in a Snuggie and never move from your couch. The only reason you’re salvaging motivation is because the body you want to show off during the summer must be chiseled during these dark, cold months. But how do you know where to begin? What should you do to battle the truckload of stuffing, pumpkin bread, and peppermint bark you’re going to consume during the next few months?

If you’re trying to gain strength, your workouts should focus on lower reps and higher weight on your exercises. If you’re looking to get lean, aim for higher reps and lower weight. It’s always better to try and put on muscle before you try to lean down. That being said, in order to put on muscle you’re going to need to eat. A lot. Don’t be discouraged if your body fat percentage increases when doing a strength training program, since you should be greatly increasing your daily calorie intake to allow you to reach your maximum potential during lifts.

I used to be an advocate of the full body workout. Three times a week I would go to the gym and do the same exact workout each time, hitting virtually every muscle type in my body in one day. The problem with this method was that I was sacrificing each individual muscle group because I did fewer exercises for each.

Now I generally like to spread my week out with four lifting days, two cardio days, and one rest day.

Follow this weekly schedule for six weeks, starting with an amount of weight you can easily perform each exercise with. Each week you should be increasing the weight on every exercise by at least five pounds. Push yourself to reach this goal every week and you’ll gain muscle and strength in just a month and a half.

Sunday: Chest and Triceps

Chest (Sets x Reps)

  • Bench Press (5×5)
  • Incline Press (5×5)
  • Decline Press (5×5)
  • Cable Fly (4×10)

Triceps (Sets x Reps)

  • Dips (4×10)
  • Tricep Extension (4×10)
  • Cable Extension (4×10)

Monday: Cardio

Tuesday: Legs

  • Squat (5×5)
  • Leg Press (5×5)
  • Bulgarian Squat (5×5)
  • Leg Extension (4×10)
  • Standing Calf Raises (3×20)
  • Sitting Calf Raises (3×20)
  • Lying Leg Curl (4×10)

Wednesday: Cardio

Thursday: Shoulders

  • Shoulder press (5×5)
  • Front Lateral Raise (3×10)
  • Side Lateral Raise (3×10)
  • Shrugs (4×10)
  • Arnold Dumbbell Press (5×5)
  • Deltoid Raise (3×10)

Friday: Back and Biceps

Saturday: Snuggie and Couch Potato Day

Don’t stress out if you miss a day or have a sub-par workout. Come back motivated and ready to set the bar higher for your next lift.

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Torch Tuesdays #1: Intense Workout + Playlist

If you’re looking to burn fat, the one word you should be building your workouts around is intensity. Cardio is essential when it comes to leaning down, but most people avoid it at all costs. What if I told you that all you needed was 15 minutes and a good music playlist to revolutionize your opinion of cardiovascular exercise. You’ll be exhausted and satisfied in about the same amount of time it takes your girlfriend to finish applying eyeshadow.

Warmup

Make sure to get your blood flowing before you start the nitty gritty.

The Torch

Debrief: The idea of this workout is to complete as many rounds as you can in 15 minutes. When you are first starting aim for one round a minute but don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t meet your goal. As long as you are focusing on keeping the intensity up, you’ll reap the benefits of this fat-blasting circuit. Although it isn’t the longest workout, if you do it right you shouldn’t be able to stand without getting a little dizzy.

Necessities: This workout can be completed at home with a timer, a little open space, and the addition of a pull-up bar. Pull-ups are essential parts of this workout so don’t overlook them. I use the Iron Gym because it is versatile and easily removed from your doorframe, but you can purchase a cheaper alternative here.

Round 1

Round 2

  • 10 jump squats
  • 5 pull-ups (close-grip)
  • 20 jumping jacks

Round 3

  • 10 pushups
  • 5 pull-ups (chin-ups)
  • 20 high knees1

Repeat

If you find that certain exercises are easier for you than others, push through them as fast as possible. Pace yourself throughout the workout but remember that the key is to feel as uncomfortable as possible for the entire 15 minutes. Good luck, and remember the harder you go the more tacos you can eat tonight.

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Playlist

 

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Common Misconceptions of the Shred Game | Episode 1: Late Night Eating

In today’s digital age, information is right at our fingertips. Unfortunately this means that a lot of times we’re going to be exposed to material that may not be totally accurate. Becoming informed shouldn’t seem like a chore; for you to be successful in your fitness journey over the long-term, you must be passionate enough to want to learn everything about the lifestyle. Be aware of the traps laid out by greedy companies, power hungry trainers, or uneducated friends who believe everything they hear. With that being said, I’m here to get you started on what not to believe.

One of my favorite late night snacks is ground turkey. A little Worchester sauce, a little garlic salt, and some chopped mushrooms are all it takes to make a seemingly boring dish taste absolutely delicious. Not only is it easy to cook, but it doesn’t leave you feeling full or bloated, which is good when you’re close to going to bed. The deliciousness of this dish didn’t stop my roommate from questioning my eating habits and explaining how he read an article about the negative effects of eating before bed and why it was a sure way to put on fat. If I didn’t know any better I would have started going to bed hungry and angry every night. Hanger (hunger + anger)  is real and it’s not enjoyable.

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Webmd.com claims that the U.S Department of Agriculture Weight and Obesity website states, “It does not matter what time of day you eat. It is what and how much you eat and how much physical activity you do during the whole day that determines whether you gain, lose, or maintain your weight.”

If you exercise at night, your body needs to replenish its glycogen levels in order for your metabolism to maintain an anabolic, or muscle building, state. Don’t be afraid to have complex carbohydrates after the sun goes down. Complex carbs are also known as polysaccharides because they consist of more than two units of sugars linked together in a chain. Your body releases glucose at a slower pace when digesting these molecules as opposed to simple carbohydrates that don’t consist of as many sugar subunits.

According to livestrong.com, eating complex carbs can help curb your hunger late at night as well. For those of us who have studying to do before bed, eating a bowl of oatmeal or some baked sweet potatoes will give our brain the boost it needs to concentrate.

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Another of my favorite pre-bed meals is cottage cheese. Cottage cheese contains casein protein, which is a milk derivative that is slower digesting than whey. Slow digesting protein will help your muscles remain satisfied while your catch some shut-eye, and is important for recovery because muscle regeneration occurs when you sleep.

A different method for obtaining casein is buying casein protein powder and making a nice shake before hitting the hay. For more on the benefits of casein check out this article from mensfitness.com.

Eating late at night may seem like a bad idea if you’re pounding Oreo Milkshakes and Double-Doubles, but as long as you keep it clean, it’s a necessary habit to develop in order to ensure your body gets the proper fuel needed to build muscle during the night.

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Learning Important Basics of Your Workout Routine

Having a routine is crucial to your progress in the iron temple. It’s important to develop a sound base and structure your workouts in a way that will allow you to build strong habits.

Never workout on an empty stomach

I’ve heard plenty of advice on why you should do cardio in the morning before breakfast or why you shouldn’t lift until hours after you eat. But the bottom line is that in order for you to kill your workout, your body needs to be able to readily metabolize glycogen. Going on a light-headed five mile jog in the wee hours of the morning may seem like a good idea, but there is no way to push your limits if you don’t have the fuel to do so.

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If you’re on a cycle where you’re doing both weight training and cardio daily, I suggest lifting in the morning and running at night. Personally I don’t like sacrificing anything in the gym. I would rather have a lighter run than a weaker lift.

Always start with compound exercises

This means exercises that target more than one isolated muscle group. If you’re doing chest, start with bench. If you’re doing legs, start with squats. A lot of lifting is mental, and you’re never going to feel like you’re getting stronger if you’re sacrificing weight on your main lifts because you decided to knock out 10 sets of incline flys beforehand.

Warm up, then stretch

Lots of people think it’s important to stretch before weight training. For most of us stretching first thing in the morning is like trying to jump rope with uncooked pasta. The key is to warm up with an exercise that will get blood flowing throughout your entire body so you’re ready to attack your workout from the very first rep. Try doing dumbbell step ups, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, or burpees for two to three minutes before hitting the weights.

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90 minute rule

Another good rule of thumb that will lock you into a routine and force you to hold yourself accountable is the 90-minute rule. If you spend more than an hour and a half in the gym, you’re wasting time and your body is most likely going catabolic (essentially breaking down muscle for energy). It’s good to rest between sets, but focus on keeping your heart rate up. I have an unorthodox habit of walking to my water bottle or water fountain and taking a few sips after each exercise. This keeps my body moving and my breaks short and sweet. Limiting your time in the gym will keep you from losing focus and intensity.

And when you’re waiting in line for a rack or platform to open up, get in the habit of asking how many sets the person in front of you has left so you don’t end up standing there awkwardly with your hands in your pockets for thirty minutes. Ultimate workout buzzkill.

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Gainz, bro

A good workout always leaves you feeling some type of way, but don’t forget to finish it off with some type of whey. Get some protein into your system immediately so you can begin recovering and follow it up with a balanced meal such as chicken breast, vegetables, and a complex carb like sweet potato.

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Don’t let your routine become static

Staying consistent and organized within a routine is essential for your success, but there comes a time when your best friend will become your greatest adversary. Letting your routine become static is the number one reason you will stop seeing improvements, which is depressing and aesthetically demoralizing. Be opportunistic at the gym and know the overall scheme of your workout so if it’s crowded you can do your exercises in any order. This is also helpful because it keeps your body guessing. Whether you realize it or not, your muscles remember whether you always follow up leg press with leg extensions. When you feel yourself losing motivation and plateauing in strength, switch your program.

The most important part of any workout plan is staying dynamic within your routine. If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.