Are you wasting your time in the gym?

You’re on a mission to lose body fat. Have you wasted hours in the gym by doing the following:

Before you start your workout you eat a snack because you think you need the energy. You eat nuts or granola, energy bars, dairy or fruit and then spend an hour doing cardio on the treadmill or elipticial or take a conditioning class.

What’s wrong with this approach? Well, the issue is that fat loss only happens when your body runs out of energy from carbs. If you eat lots of carbs every day you will burn only carbs and never body fat. What constitutes lots of carbs? For the average 150 lb woman that would be more than 150 grams per day. For the average 180 lb guy about 180 g of carbs per day.

The only way you will ever change the shape and look of your body is by burning off the body fat that covers your muscles. Unless you drop to a body fat of about 20% for women and 16% and below for men you are not going to see any muscle tone because the muscles are hidden underneath a layer of fat. Take a look at the pictures below, which illustrate the level of definition based on your body fat percentage.

How do you expose the muscle and show tone and definition? You need to burn off the fat that covers them. Here’s how:

When you work out your body uses energy initially from the carbs in your blood sugar. That might last you about 20 minutes – depending on how long ago you had your last meal and how many carbs you ate. (Just imagine that your first 20 minutes running on the treadmill might not even burn any body fat – but only carbs!). Once the blood sugar resources are used up, your body turns to carbs stored in your liver and muscle. These carbs are called glycogen. The muscles can hold up to about 450 grams of carbs if you have a lot of muscle and much less if you have little muscle (that’s why you want to strength train. The more muscle you have, the more glycogen they can hold without making you fat!). The liver can store about 100 grams of carbs. Both muscles and liver can store about 2,000 calories worth of glycogen, which can provide you with about 3 hours of energy during an endurance event or last you for about 2 days if you keep a moderate carbohydrate diet. Only once those stores in the muscles and liver are used up will you burn fat .
So, make sure you reduce your carb intake throughout the day to about 30 g per meal to allow your body to use energy from body fat instead of energy from carbs. Once the time for your workout comes, you’ll burn through your blood sugar energy and muscle and liver glycogen stores quickly and then draw energy from your fat stores. Did you know that the average person can live for several weeks without food because your body becomes ultra-efficient at burning fat as fuel? That’s how much body fat we all carry on our bodies. 

If you have reached your goal weight and body fat already, then snacking before a workout can help you push yourself harder and make your workout more productive. Here’s a few pointers for snacking before working out:

Dairycan make you congested so reserve it for refueling after your workouts or skip it entirely. Nuts are too high in fat and that can make you sluggish during your workout. Granola is loaded with sugar and 1/3 cup has about 40 grams of carbs. You might have to run on the treadmill for about 30 minutes to just burn through the food you ate to fuel your workout – that’s a total waste of time. Use the fuel stores in your body.
Fruit converts into fructose, which is used by the liver, but not your muscles. The muscles will only use it for energy if nothing else is available, so save yourself the fruit sugar. If you want to lose fat and maintain muscle, then do your workouts on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. If you work out at night them have a snack or protein shake about 90 minutes before your workout. A non- carb/low-carb protein shake is best since it will allow you to maintain muscle while promoting fat burning. And, the best fat loss trick of all is to finish your day with a protein shake instead of a heavy dinner. Not only will you wake up feeling energized and refreshed but also quite a bit lighter. 

How do you lose body fat?


silly question – which I am sure you have answered before. How do you lose body fat? Is it through not eating fat? Through gaining muscle or just plain losing weight?

Thanks, Sandy

good question and at the core of understanding how you can create a change in your body.

To lose body fat you need to allow your body to burn energy from stored body fat instead of energy from food. Most of us eat too many carbohydrates. Carbs are energy for the body and as long as you have a decent amount of carbs coming in from the food you eat, your body will burn just those. Only when you lower your carb intake can your body switch from burning carbs  (from food) to burning body fat on your hips, thighs, butt, abs – wherever you store it.

Here’s the deal. A 150 lbs woman needs to eat roughly 150 grams of carbs per day to stay in fat burning mode. Eat more than that and you’ll store the extra energy away as body fat – for times of famine (yeah, we have a few, I’m sure). That means you can eat about 30 grams of carbs 5x a day to stay in fat burning mode. This amount allows your body to have enough energy to feel good have energy for working out, but it isn’t more than you need. If you eat more carbs than you need, then the body converts the excess into glycogen and shuttles it to the muscles and liver. It sits there until you need that energy to work out or until your body needs it because you haven’t eaten in a while. You have about 2,000 calories of those glycogen stores in your muscles and liver at any time, which will last you about 2 days – or less if you work out intensely.

In order to switch your body from carb burning mode (from food) into fat burning mode (from body fat stores), you need to lower your intake of carbs. That’s best done by cutting out sugar and starches since they are high in carbs and they also signal the body to store fat. Once you lower your carb intake, then your body runs out of incoming energy within 2 days. At that point it has to switch over to fat burning mode to get energy and that’s when the fat loss starts. The first 2-3 days of any diet or fat loss plan are usually the hardest because your body is making this switch and you’re still craving carbs and sugar. However, once that switch is made, you no longer crave those foods and feel satiated and energized.

To stay in fat burning mode, you need to monitor your carb intake – not too high (or you’ll go back to burning carbs and signal your body to store fat) and not too low (or you’ll be low energy and hungry all the time).

Fat intake doesn’t relate directly to fat loss. Yes, it has more than twice as many calories per gram as protein and carbs, but it also fills you up, makes food taste good and helps you absorb your nutrients. You need to have fat in your diet but if you overdo it then it can stall your fat loss.

The key in fat loss is your carb consumption. Protein is also important because every time you eat protein you signal your body to burn fat, provide your muscles with fuel, and protein also fills you up. That’s why every meal should consist of a lean protein and a vegetable.

Interestingly enough, we’re talking about eliminating those types of carbs that the USDA Food Pyramid endorses as those you should consume 6-11 servings of per day. If you ate that much you would have to work out for 2-4 hours to stay at your weight. They’re promoting such a high consumption of grains, breads, pasta, and cereals because the grain farmers of America need to get rid of their excess. Be careful whose recommendations you listen to!
Make sure you eliminate grains, pasta, rice, cereals and sugars and focus your diet on the types of carbs that provide amazing health benefits and fiber: loads and loads of veggies. Limit your fruit intake as it’s high in sugar as well. 

Why do my muscles burn?

Q: I have been working out for a while but only when I take your class I notice a burning sensation in my muscles. Is that normal?

A: Welcome to the Club! Sounds like you’ve finally found the right workout :-)

The burning you feel in your muscles tells you that your workout is indeed making a difference. The harder and more effective your workout, the quicker you’ll see results and the faster you’ll get to your goal. Here’s why the burning in your muscles is actually an indicator of a good workout: During exercise muscles prefer to use fat as fuel. However, when you work out intensely, your body doesn’t get enough oxygen. Instead of fat your body turns to glucose (a carbohydrate)* for energy.

When your body burns glucose without oxygen, lactic acid is created (also called anaerobic metabolism) and causes muscle soreness the day after. Lactic acid also fatigues your muscles, so it’s basically a built-in protective mechanism to keep you from overdoing it. Over time you can train your body to produce less and less lactic acid and work out longer and harder. You may have heard of it as “increasing your lactic acid threshold” – the period of time it takes your muscle to start producing lactic acid.

The good news is that lactic acid is recycled by the liver into glucose (= more energy) and thus can provide almost endless energy for working out.

Next time you’re working out and notice that your muscles start to burn, know that you are fatiguing your muscle and you’re forcing it to use glycogen as fuel. Once the glycogen is depleted (typically within 45-90 minutes) your body has to turn to stored body fat for energy. At that point you’re in fat burning mode. The reason the Brooklyn Bridge Boot Camp is so effective at changing your body is that we utilize high intensity interval training, which keeps your heart rate up (aerobic) while using your muscles to shape and strengthen your whole body (anaerobic). Using both energy systems increases the after-burn effect – the amount of fat you burn in the up to 48 hours after your workout.

You can speed up the fat burning effect by eating a moderate carbohydrate diet that is comprised mostly of fibrous veggies and very limited starches and no sugar. Keep in mind that you can work out all you want without ever seeing a difference in your body fat if you keep a high carbohydrate/high starch/sugar diet. You need to enable your body to burn fat in order to see a difference in your shape, so keep your carbohydrate to about 1g per pound of body weight per day. This will enable you to burn stored body fat while still having enough energy to make it through your day without crashing.

*Glucose is stored in your muscles and liver in the form of glycogen. Depending on how many carbohydrates you eat, you have enough glycogen fuel for about 45 minutes to 1.5 hours of a vigorous workout. Once those glycogen stores are depleted your body burns fat for energy.