You are what you pee (well, sort of)

You are what you pee. Kind of. It’s something we normally do without a second thought every day.  Into the bowl it goes and we flush it away. Hold off on flushing for a second though, because your pee can actually give you some insight on your health.

What you want to take note of when you’re checking your urine is its color. Normally, it should be a yellow/gold color. When it’s a light yellow color, it usually means you’re well hydrated and good to go! The darker the yellow typically the more you’ll want to hydrate (drink water and maybe cut back on the caffeine.) On the flipside, if your urine is completely clear and you’re running to the bathroom often, you might be overhydrated and may want to cut your fluid intake back a bit.

Now, sometimes your urine might be a different color. Here are some colors you should take note of and what they may potentially indicate:

Orange – It’s typically a sign of dehydration, but could also mean that you’ve consumed a lot of orange foods like carrots or squash, or had some food with orange food coloring. It can also look like that right after exercise. The darker the orange, the more dehydrated you are. Perhaps you should drink some more water.

Brown – This is usually an indicator of intense dehydration, but could also mean you ate some fava beans. It could also signal a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) or kidney stones. If your urine looks like this often, consult a physician.

Green- Pretty rare, but this could mean that you have an unusual UTI or you had an excessive amount of asparagus. It’s usually nothing, but if it persists see a doctor.

Red – This could mean that you have blood in your urine, or that you ate a lot of beets, blueberries other red colored food (or foods with red food dye). If you suspect that it may be blood, consult a doctor immediately.

Black – Not a good sign at all. See a doctor immediately.

There you have it! A short guide on what your pee can tell you. Next time you go, take a closer look to see what your pee says about your health!

For hydration’s sake, here is a handy urine color chart taken from www.navyfitness.org:

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Want to shrink your gut? Suck it in! (No joke!)

Just about everyone dreams of having a flat, toned stomach. You may even be thinking about the best way to do it right now. You want results quickly, right? So perhaps you turn to Google and look up “how to get six pack abs” or “how to shrink belly fat”, etc. You’re hit with literally TONS of articles and products claiming to have the answer to shrink your belly fat fast. Those “solutions” might be some magic pill, some fancy new diet, or some weird new exercise or machine that promises to give you what you want for just 4 easy installments of $29.99! (Those body wraps that you see claiming to help you lose inches are a total load of crap by the way.)

Now, when most people think of working their abs the usual exercises that come up are crunches and sit-ups. Some people insist on doing hundreds of these a day in a vain attempt to tighten their stomach and lose fat. Those exercises are pretty ineffective if what you’re looking to do is to tighten up (and doing hundreds every single day doesn’t really help either!)

What many people don’t know is that crunches and sit-ups only work one part of your abdominals. Your abdominal muscles are actually composed of layers of muscle, with the deepest (and arguably most important) being the transverse abdominus (we’ll call it T-abs for short). Your T-abs are essentially your body’s natural girdle. It supports your spine and keeps everything “together” so to speak, of course with the help of the other layers of abdominal muscle.

When you’re doing crunches and sit-ups, you’re primarily working your rectus abdominus, which are only “assisting” the T-abs in holding everything together. Essentially, you’re working the muscles that are merely ASSISTING in providing support and keeping your stomach nice and tight, while pretty much neglecting the main muscle that holds it all together. Doesn’t make much sense, right?

I may sound like I’m bashing crunches and sit-ups, but I’m not. They do have a time and place in a workout routine, but in order to see the results you want AND to make yourself stronger overall, you want to start working your T-abs. How do you do it? Here’s one way, and it’s REALLY simple:

Suck in your gut – Yes. I really just wrote that. It’s an exercise called the abdominal vacuum and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governator himself, used this exercise to help him chisel his famed Mr. Olympia physique. Simply suck in your gut as far as you can and hold for 15-20 seconds at first. It helps to envision bringing your belly button in towards your spine and holding that position. Try going for 3-5 sets of 15-20 seconds each for 3 – 5 days a week for about two weeks. You’ll likely notice that your posture starts improving.

Even better, with a tape measure, measure your waistline. Start doing the abdominal vacuums consistently, increasing the length of your hold by 5-10 seconds per set each week. In 3 weeks time you will likely find that your waist size has decreased anywhere from 1-3 inches.

This exercise is so simple that just about anyone can do it, and you don’t even need a gym! You can do it on the bus, train, in the car, at your desk at work, in bed…the sky’s the limit! Combine it with a solid core training routine and eating right, and you’ll be well on your way to that flat tummy in no time.

Martin Arroyo, CPT

The Scale: Friend or Foe?

 

It was the summer of 2010. I was looking better, getting tons of compliments and feeling pretty good. But I wasn’t satisfied. I had set a goal for myself to drop 100 lbs. I was 10 lbs shy of reaching my goal, but a whole month went by with no movement on the scale. It constantly read between 260 and *gasp* 263! After having experienced consistent weight loss over a period of about 8 months, I finally hit a plateau – the number on the scale would NOT budge. I was still doing everything right – eating well, staying within a reasonable amount of calories for the day, running 3-4 days per week, hydrating, but I wasn’t dropping any more weight. I was starting to get frustrated and a bit depressed. Success started to feel like it was out of reach.

Then I started to think, “Hey, aren’t my clothes fitting better? I’m still getting compliments, and people tell me all the time that I look great. Why am I so worried about a number?” Why? Well, because I used it as the ONLY yardstick to measure my success and progress. No weight loss as per scale = failure. And that wasn’t healthy for my body or my mind.

So when you’re faced with the same issue (and if you’re looking to lose or gain weight, you will likely encounter this) what should you do? Here’s what I did to get the ball rolling again:

Find other metrics – I started using a tape measure to check my waist size and chest size. I found that I was actually trimming down still, but perhaps was retaining lean muscle (a good thing!) I also put more emphasis on how my pants and shirts fit, and how well I was able to do workouts (was I able to increase my reps, intensity? Did it feel a little easier than last week?)

Keep using the scale, but use it consistently – Personally, I weigh myself on my scale EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Yes, I have my scale in the same spot in my room, and I weigh myself there every morning right after I use the bathroom and shower. Here’s the thing: I don’t move the scale from that spot! It’s always there. I don’t weigh myself at other times during the day. Consistency in all aspects of weighing yourself is key, because any deviation can and may lead to a different figure. I also don’t take this number THAT seriously anymore. Understand that IT WILL FLUCTUATE from day to day. I have learned to use it as a guideline, not a test.  Weighing yourself every day like I do may not work for you. Maybe every other day or every week will work better. Find what works, where it works, and what time it works and stick to that. If you forget to do it one day, wait until the next scheduled time to weigh yourself.

In the end, it’s how you feel that matters – Once I started to let go of my intense focus on the number and move towards how I was feeling, I started changing some things up. I felt stronger, so I increased the intensity of my workouts a bit. I was a little hungrier and actually ate a little more. I shook things up because it felt good and I felt good. And guess what? The number started moving again. I reached my goal.

Stepping on to the scale can be a mortifying experience for some people, but just keep in mind that it’s truly just a number – a measurement – and not a test. It doesn’t determine how successful you have been in your efforts or how successful you will be. After all…

Hope this helped ease the anxiety of stepping on the scale and provided some insight on getting past a plateau. I’d love to hear suggestions for future posts, so please comment below and let me know your thoughts.

~Martin Arroyo, CPT

Five Tips to Keep You Motivated

Sometimes getting started is the hardest part. But what about once you have, and day one, day two, and day three are in the books? Maybe even week one, two and three? What if you have to miss a workout, or you really want a cheat meal? How do you keep the motivation going? To me, this is the hardest part, but here’s five tips to help you keep things moving in the right direction:

  1. Delay gratification – If you’re really craving sweets, or a particular food, think about how it would feel to eat it. Now, think how you’ll feel after finishing it. Notice the difference, then wait an hour. If you still want it, indulge for today. If not, you just beat the craving.
  2. Give yourself a cheat day – This may seem to contradict the above, but you should allow yourself a cheat day every once in a while. We only have one life to live – you can’t spend it avoiding the things you love for fear of putting on extra weight. The key here is moderation.
  3. Envision your “ideal self” – Whether you’re trying to convince yourself not to miss a workout, or to get through a tough one, try imagining that you look like what you want to look like. See yourself in your minds eye as having your ideal body already. Now, envision yourself- in your ideal body – finishing that tough workout. You know that it won’t come without hard work, now get to it!
  4. Promise yourself that you can stop after 10 minutes – When you’re feeling like lounging rather than working out, your mind does a really good job in convincing you that you can just make up for it tomorrow. Instead of letting that happen, make a deal with yourself – work out for 10 minutes only and you can stop. You won’t have to do any more. Nine times out of ten, you will do your entire workout.
  5. Remember how good you’ll feel AFTERWARD – This ties in a bit with delaying gratification, but try to recall how accomplished you feel after a good workout. Remember that the only way to get that feeling is to actually work out. Go for it and grab hold of that good feeling!

If you’re having one of those tough days where you find it hard to get out there and get your workout in, or you’re freaking out at the office over whether or not you should have that cupcake, think back to these five tips and keep things going!

~Martin Arroyo, CPT

 

Got 10-20 minutes? It’s all you need for a fit body

Your schedule is jam-packed. You have ten trillion things to do, and nowhere near enough hours in the day to get them done. You’ve been so busy lately that you haven’t even had the chance to think about exercise, and when you do you’re stuck wondering how you can fit it in. “Tomorrow, I’ll get on it and get started” becomes your mantra and many tomorrows come and go, yet no exercise, and your waistline is starting to pay the consequences. Why is that? What if I told you that setting aside ten to twenty minutes a day was all you needed to keep trim and stay healthy?

Many people tend to over-think going to the gym and working out. I constantly hear people telling me “I can’t find the time to spend an hour or more to work out consistently.” For those going to a gym, factor in travel time to and from, getting ready, etc. it can easily turn into a two hour endeavor that leaves you feeling good, but takes a good chunk of your time. Other priorities get in the way and you TALK yourself out of it because you can’t afford to give up those two hours.

The reality is that you don’t really need an hour of time to devote to working out, unless you’re training for a particular event where you need to be able to endure activity for an hour or something specific. The solution is not trying to last an hour because you want to burn fat, often times just walking or lightly jogging on the treadmill. It’s quality over quantity, plain and simple.

I work full-time, and usually have other responsibilities and obligations that limit my free time including school. It gets tricky, but this is why I’m a huge advocate of circuit training. With just 20 minutes I can get my pump and keep in shape. Here’s how it goes:

–        Pick 3-5 exercises that focus on multiple muscle groups at once (pushups, squats, mountain climbers, etc.)

–        Pick a number of reps that you feel that you can sustain comfortably for each one (maybe start with 10 and adjust from there)

–        Do each exercise, back-to-back with little to no rest.

–        Once you’re done with your circuit, rest for 1-2 minutes, then repeat the circuit again 2-5 more times.

It’s as simple as that. It may sound simple, but once you try it I guarantee that you will FEEL it! Altogether, with a quick warm-up and cool-down, this should take you anywhere from 10-25 minutes. You can even do this at home, with no weights. Now how easy is it to fit getting in to shape in your schedule?

Here’s a sample workout that I like to do sometimes:

Warm-up

Jumping jacks for 1 minute

Pushups – 20 reps

Squats -20 reps

Bridge – 30 seconds

Lunges – 20 reps (ten reps each leg)

Single Arm rows – 20 reps (ten reps each arm)

Rest 1:30 between rounds. Complete 3-5 rounds. Total approximate time: 20 minutes

~Martin Arroyo, CPT