Ladies, Time to Lift Heavy $h!t

Women Fitness Rx: Lift Heavy $h!t

PhotographerPhoto Credit: Suzanne Tylander Photography

“Lifting weights makes women bulky.”

“Lifting weights is dangerous for your joints.”

“If you build muscle and stop lifting, it’ll all turn into fat.”

These are a few fitness myths that boil my blood. As a personal trainer and barbell fitness coach, I plan strength training into EVERY workout. The majority of my clients want to improve muscle tone, increase strength & endurance, and enhance their overall wellbeing. Some days we spend 12-15 minutes dedicated to one barbell lift (i.e. back squats) or body-weight lift (i.e. pull-ups), other days the strength training is built into our higher-intensity conditioning workouts. Either way, we’re not turning into green, testosterone-filled she-Hulks. We’re building our muscles, strengthening our bones, and empowering our minds.

According to data collected by the CDC, only 17.5 percent of American women- and 20 percent of college-aged women- meet the federal physical activity guidelines for aerobic and strengthening activities, and that number decreases dramatically as age increases. The comparable figures for men are 23 percent and 37 percent, respectively. Oh no, no, no… It’s time for a change! Not only does strength training trim inches off your hips and waist (reducing risk of metabolic syndrome), it also transforms your entire body and overall health. Ladies, let’s pump some iron!

 

6 Reasons Why Women SHOULD Lift Weights:

  1. Heart health. Lifting weights regularly strengthens your ticker. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found that those who lift weights are less likely have heart disease risk factors such as a large waist circumference, high triglycerides, elevated blood pressure, and elevated glucose levels.(1) Another study conducted by researchers in Brazil found that though the heart rate increased in patients during heavy bouts of training, their blood pressure and resting heart rate were significantly lower the following morning.(2) Remember, your heart is also a muscle.
  2. Fat loss. A huge advantage of weightlifting over cardiovascular training is the ability to burn more calories during AND after a workout. Building more muscle means increased energy (calorie) expenditure throughout the day. Heavy weightlifting also leaves your body in a state of excess oxygen consumption for hours or even days after your workout (aka EPOC: excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). Heightened oxygen consumption leads to an overall improved energy expenditure and increased metabolic rate. Burn, baby, burn.
  3. Mental health. According to a study by the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, resistance training has been shown to successfully reduce anxiety, improve executive brain functioning (memory!), fight depression, lessen chronic fatigue symptoms, boost self-esteem, and effectively improve sleep.(3) Enough said. Lifting weights strengthens more than just your muscles… it strengthens your mind.
  4. Fight osteoporosis. As women age, they are at an increased risk of losing bone and muscle mass. Postmenopausal women have an even higher risk due to lowered levels of estrogen secretion. Fortunately, lifting weights can help to slow the loss of bone mass by stimulating bones to create more bone cells. A study conducted at McMaster University found that after a year of resistance training, postmenopausal women increased spinal bone mass by 9 percent.(4) Conclusion, start lifting weights ASAP to maintain bone health later in life.
  5. Improve your performance [in life]. Here are a few examples of how barbell fitness IS functional fitness: Have you always wanted to do a pull-up? Well, practicing your barbell deadlifts at a challenging weight trains grip strength, shoulder stabilization, and core strength, in addition to creating toned hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes. Are your kids getting too heavy to pick up? Good news! The barbell clean and press teaches you how to move weight from the ground to overhead.** For you cardio-lovers, weight training increases the number and size of calorie-torching muscles, therefore lifting weights could help you burn more calories during cardio workouts!
  6. Build your BOOTY! Cardio is the weight loss king, but that weight loss comes from fat AND muscle loss. Weightlifting helps to maintain muscle definition, while still burning more calories and fat than cardiovascular training. Don’t be alarmed when you see the scale go up after a few weeks of weight training; muscle weighs more than fat. Keep track of body measurements and how your clothes feel to better gauge how your body changes from the addition of weightlifting to your regular workouts

Happy Lifting!

Xoxo, Melissa

**Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise regime. Once cleared by doc, remember to get proper instruction from a qualified personal trainer or coach before lifting a weights for the first time.
1- Magyari PM, Churilla JR. Association between lifting weights and metabolic syndrome among U.S. Adults: 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Nov; 26(11): 3113-7.
2- Cardoso, Crivaldo Gomes, et. Al. “Acute and chronic effects of aerobic and resistance exercise on ambulatory blood pressure.” Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2010; 65(3):317-325.
3- O’Connor, P.J., Herring, M.P. and Carvalho, A. (2010). Mental health benefits of strength training in adults. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 4(5), 377-396.
4- Muir JM, Ye C, Bhandari M, Adachi JD, Thabane L. The effect of regular physical activity on bone mineral density in post-menopausal women aged 75 and over: a retrospective analysis from the Canadian multicentre osteoporosis study. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2013 Aug 23; 14: 253.

 

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2017: New Year, New You!

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Did you miss the last Easy Weight Loss challenge? Now is your time to SHINE!

Do you have BIG goals for your health in 2017? Now is the time to make the commitment!

Do you want to have more energy, better sleep, and lose a few pounds? Now you CAN!

Register before 12/31/16 to save 10% on my [New Year, New You] Easy Weight Loss Challenge! My last round of pre-holiday participants had great results and a lot of fun with our private Facebook forum! I also hold mini-challenge along the way so participants have a chance to earn cool prizes!

Learn more thru the link above, or make the leap and register HERE. Use promo code “GOALS2017” to save 10%.

I Don’t ACTUALLY Know What’s Best

That’s right. I am not 100% sure what I [or you] “should” be doing when it comes to nutrition and exercise.

Yup, I said it.

There is no ONE dietary theory or exercise program that will work for everyone. Heck, there’s no ONE dietary theory or exercise program that will work for me [or you]!

Our bodies and lives are constantly changing: inflammation, weight, muscle tone, disease, sickness, pregnancy, puberty, stress levels, immunity, cancer, autoimmune, mental status, community, career, family, sleep, love, interests and so much more!

How is ONE way of eating and ONE workout regime supposed to work for all of those changes? That is why I work with my clients to help determine their personal health blueprint. I teach them to be sensitive to how different foods make them feel, whether it’s good or bad. Did you know that your stomach is NOT supposed to hurt after you eat a meal?

I am not immune to these diet and life changes. Over the past 10 years, I have gone through over a dozen diet and exercise “phases.” I struggled with digestive distress, food intolerances, and crazy-limiting fad diets. It wasn’t fun, but I was learning how to figure out what my body needed to feel its best.

Take a look below at my wild diet/exercise adventure…

-Vegetarian and Spent 2+ Hours at the Gym Everyday (18 y.o.)

-Junk Food Omnivore and Exercise Bulimic (19 y.o.)

-Omnivore and got strong again with Running & Kickboxing (19 y.o)

-Junk Food Omnivore and into Swimming (20 y.o.)

-Omnivore and Played Recreational Co-Ed Soccer (21-23 y.o.)

-Full Omnivore and Supplemented my Gym Workouts with Insanity (23 y.o.)

-Pescatarian and Trained for a Full Marathon (23 y.o.)

-Vegetarian and a Complete Yoga Snob (24 y.o.)

-Vegan and doing a mix of Yoga, Insanity, Swimming and Running (25 y.o.)

-Pescatarian (no dairy) and introduced to HIIT workouts (26 y.o.)

-Pescatarian (no dairy) and Running Every SIngle Day (27 y.o)

-Pescatarian and All Yoga All The Time (27 y.o.)

-Full Omnivore and doing it all: Yoga, HIIT and Olympic-Lifting (28 y.o.)

Now: Paleo (it’s a lifestyle, not a fad diet)… Eat whole foods, avoid dairy & sugar, skip grains (or minimize intake), eat mostly organic & local, and eat foods that FEEL GOOD in your body. Makes sense, huh?

I believe in eating intuitively and to reduce inflammation. Have you toyed with the idea of living the Paleo lifestyle? I’m making my Paleo Supercharged clean-eating program available for purchase. Learn how to develop healthy eating habits, lose weight naturally, and take charge of your wellness in just 2 weeks!

If you’re like me, you know you don’t feel good when you consume too much sugar, eat bread and pasta, and indulge in cheese and ice cream. These foods are all inflammatory to your gut, and therefore wreck havoc on your immunity. We don’t get sick in the winter because it is “flu season,” we get sick because we start baking cookies and pies by the dozen, and crave comfort foods. Did you know that 80% of your immune system is in your gut? Well if you gut is constantly inflamed by sugar, gluten, grains and dairy… then how are you supposed to fight off all those germs?

Now it all makes sense, right? I’ve finally figured out simple guidelines that keep me sniffles-free and energized throughout the colder months. AND YOU CAN TOO! Give Paleo a chance with my Paleo Supercharged program, and see how reducing inflammation with whole foods can change your life too!

To you health!

XOXO,

Melissa

Email: mbrooksfit@gmail.com

Half Vegan, Half…Paleo?

My whole life has been a constant struggle to determine my own food blueprint. I have tried too many fad diets, been a true omnivore, vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, ovo-vegetarian, and now …vegan-Paleo?

I believe in eating foods that fuel my body. Foods that promote efficient digestion (happy gut), reduce candida, balance blood sugar, reduce bloat, decrease inflammation, help optimize liver and kidney function, reduce brain fog, and just FEEL GOOD in my body.

In the past couple months I have been experimenting with eating animal protein (besides eggs), again. It had been 4 years since I had pork, and I ALLOWED myself a couple homemade ribs last month… and guess what? I didn’t get sick. In fact, I felt totally fine.

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So over the next few weeks I decided to let myself eat animal meat when my body craved it. I reintroduced my body to chicken, and then turkey. The couple times I had chicken my stomach wasn’t too happy, so I try to limit myself now (and stick to organic, antibiotic-free)… but I was totally fine with turkey. Pork and fish are still my go-to’s for easy digestion, especially if they are of high quality. I have yet to reintroduce beef because I remember it not feeling very good in my stomach 3-4 years ago, but that’s not to say I won’t try it.

I began studying food combining to see if it had an effect on how my body feels after a meal. Animal meats do not combine well with grains because they need different gastric environments for proper digestion… hmmm, I wonder why a cheeseburger leaves you feeling bloated?!?! Protein needs a more acidic environment for enzymes to break those big chains of amino acids into smaller ones we can absorb, and carbohydrates need a more basic environment to get digested properly in the gut. Maybe if we set our bellies up for success with proper meal planning, we might feel a little more energized and a lot less bleh after eating a big meal.

Here is an awesome food combining graphic to help you intelligently plan your meals for a happy gut:

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Simplify by remembering that everything works well with green veggies, fruit should really be eaten alone, and done mix protein with fats or starch, and you’ll feel the difference! Less belly bloat to hide and quicker digestion to allow time for more Summer fun!

Side note: it has taken me 3 days to finish this post, and ironically I’ve been consistently interrupted by invitations to eat. Since it has taken so long, I have had the chance to re-taste beef, and I have no idea if it feels good in my body (only one bite)… but I don’t really care for the taste. That’s why I had a big and juicy pork chop the other night, instead, with kale and green beans on the side (no starch!).

Speaking of eating, here is a fun “detox” recipe I threw together the other night. It is so warm and delicious! Enjoy!

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See the full recipe HERE

Grab a Friend! It’s Beach Season!

Everything is more fun with a friend! Even DETOXING!

I did my first Summer Detox Program last year with my best friend, and I was so glad we were able to support each other! Both of us had high-stress jobs with long hours, limited time to food prep, and crazy junk food cravings (nacho cheese and chocolate anyone?). My skin was horrible, my hair was dry, and I was just chronically exhausted. This is why I became committed to detoxing each season!!! It’s the perfect reboot to get me through 3 months of toxic build-up from stress, crazy workouts, junk food binges (yes, me too!), and the not-so-clean suburban environment we live in these days.

LAST YEAR WAS OUR FIRST DETOX, EVER. Even though the detox was challenging for us, we stuck to it and emerged as revitalized, less-toxic champions!

“Melissa’s Summer Detox is awesome! I did the two week detox last year and lost 5 lbs in two weeks! I felt great and it really helped to reset my cravings. It was a challenge, but with Melissa’s support, I did it!” -GC

DId you know: We carry 5-10 lbs of toxic waste in our bodies. GROSS! That’s why seasonal detoxes are great for kick-starting weight-loss, shrinking muffin tops, and prepping for upcoming celebrations (wedding season!). I personally lose 3-5 lbs each time I detox, which just amazes me because it typically takes a HUGE amount of focus (and cardio!) for me to lose weight! I love how I feel after I unload all of the junk and bloat form my system. It’s like being a brand new ME!

Now it’s YOUR turn! Do you want to be bikini-ready before summer’s over?

Grab a friend… or three. Let’s be our healthiest, slimmest, most energized selves together!!!

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Email me if you have any questions! XOXO, Melissa

mbrooksfit@gmail.com

FREE Bikini Reset… Say what???

I am thrilled to announce my first ever FREE Simple Cleanse: my 24-Hour Bikini Reset.

Only one day? Anyone can do that!

This Cleanse can change your life. I can say from personal experience that following this plan changed mine. I feel better than I ever have. Embarking on a raw cleanse can awaken the senses plus you can warm up your smoothies and your juices with spices and make your natural experience warming.

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My own health history includes a prolonged journey to achieving my personal health. My health was in free fall. I remember having the ah-ha moment when I realized I needed to give my digestion a break. I remember thinking to myself, “will my life ever be different?”

Well, my life is different now. I learned the tools I needed to change my body from the inside out and now I am going to share these tools with you for free. What are you waiting for?

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I’m Not a Quitter… I’m Awesome.

BIKINI 2015 UPDATE TIME!

I am so proud of my bikini body transformation thus far. My six-pack (abs, not Coronas) is coming in, my small & large muscle groups are becoming more defined, and my waist is shrinking. I am getting much stronger in all major lifts, and my muscle endurance is improving. I am maintaining flexibility and mobility with yoga, and have added running in 2-3 times per week for fat-burning cardio. Want to see the progress? Here are photos of my physical changes:

Two Weeks In …#TransformationTuesday                   One Week Later… #GettingLean

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Getting My Gains… #GirlsWithMuscles

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So what’s next? Well…..I have been reflecting on how I feel about the whole COMPETITION part, or the crazy EATING plan, or the COST$ for competition prep (meals, supplements, etc) and competition day (bikini, heels, hair, nails, spray tans, etc). I know this seems like some sort of cop-out for not having to put in the work, but I am finding it hard to really connect with the whole bikini competition idea. I love clean eating. I LOVE lifting weights, HIIT training, yoga, and pretty much all forms of exercise. I just don’t love the idea of fake tanning and becoming someone I’m not. For those of you that don’t know me so well, I am NOT a girly girl. I don’t use makeup daily. I barely remember to brush my hair! #GirlProblems

Want to learn more about bikini competition costs, training, and diet?

cost: http://www.fitwithzara.com/2014/08/07/what-it-costs-to-compete-in-npc-bikini/

cost:  http://www.livelifeactive.com/2013/01/08/the-cost-of-competing-in-a-bikini-competition/

diet: http://www.muscleandfitnesshers.com/nutrition/dieting/12-weeks-competition-body-diet-plan?page=2

mid-atlantic competitions: https://garyudit.com/new/npc-pa-mid-atlantic-zone/

diet/training: https://www.figureandbikini.org/a/134/My-Competition-Meal-Plan

saving money: https://www.figureandbikini.org/a/49/Save-Your-Pennies-The-Cost-of-Competing

Random Selfie time… #IWokeUpLikeThis

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For me quitting is NEVER an option…

I have a passion for nutrition and exercise, but more along the lines of teaching the skills and creating the habits for successful weight loss, weight maintenance, holistic wellness, mobility training, strength training, yoga and mindfulness, endurance training, high-intensity interval training, clean eating, bioindividuality, etc. I want to be able to help others and pull from my experience. Competing will not give me the experience I find necessary for everyday health and wellness.

Remember, I have NOT quit the idea of creating my “bikini-body.” I still want to make-over my diet to remove added sugars, refined carbohydrates, DAIRY, and other highly inflammatory foods. I still want to transform my body to be the leanest, strongest, and healthiest it’s EVER been!

I am SUPER excited for my body transformation!!! I will continue as if I am still competing this August (well, I AM going to the beach), and I will use myself as a guinea pig to discover the BEST diet for melting fat, building muscle, and reducing inflammation. Follow my journey on Instagram @mbrooksfit and look out for my NEW 14-day clean-eating Summer program! Makeover your diet, makeover your body. Email me at mbrooksfit@gmail.com to get updates on upcoming clean-eating and detox programs!

FITspirations: My Female Fitness Idols… #LiftLikeAGirl {Check these women out! They rock!}

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Christmas Abbott– Crossfit strong                               Ashley Horner– Super Athlete!

Instagram @christmasabbott                                             Instagram @ashley.horner

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Kayla Itsines– Lean HIIT coach                                     Dana Linn Bailey– Beast competitor

Instagram @kayla_itsines                                                    Instagram @danalinnbailey

28 and AWESOME!

Today is my birthday! I turned 28 years young. I feel the healthiest, strongest, happiest, and most motivated I’ve ever been. This year is going to be a great year… it’s theme is HEALTH & FREEDOM. I will be the fittest I have ever been and I will create the financial freedom I deserve. (Ha, now it’s out there in the universe!)

I get a lot of questions about my diet, exercise regime, supplements I take, how much sleep I get, etc, etc ,etc. It is very flattering! I agree it is pretty cool to look as young as my 17-year old sister and to be able to fit into all my clothes from high school. That said, I decided to focus this week’s blog post on what I do to be the healthiest and happiest I have ever been. It’s about to get very REAL up in this blog post!

mbrooksfit Diet:

My favorite foods are guacamole, kale salad, Thai coconut curry, roasted broccoli, basmati rice, sashimi, chocolate, and eggs… lots of eggs.

1. Protein: I don’t eat any red meats, pork, poultry, or dairy. I DO eat wild-caught fish, crabs, eggs, legumes, quinoa, nuts, seeds, seitan, almond milk, and lots of leafy greens (they have protein too!).

2. I eat SO MANY veggies! (Potatoes and corn do NOT count!) My favorites are kale, broccoli, baby carrots, cauliflower, green beans, squash, asparagus, bok choy, onions, brussels sprouts,

3. I eat SOME fruits: bananas, avocados, berries (all kinds), cherries, tomatoes, pineapple, grapes, grapefruit, plums, and a few more. I rarely eat apples, peaches, melons, kiwis, oranges, etc.

4. I am a CARB-queen! I love grains, especially rice, quinoa, corn and potatoes. I try to limit my pasta intake to 1 or 2 times per week.

5. I eat chocolate. It’s dark, organic, and fair-trade… but it’s still chocolate. I also put cocoa powder in my smoothies.

6. I am really inconsistent at hydrating, but at least I am conscious of it. I do drink various liquids throughout the day: 32 oz of plain water, 2 non-stimulant natural energy drinks (40 oz), a decaf coffee, and maybe 1 smoothie or juice.

mbrooksfit Workout Schedule:

I work out at class-based gyms that focus on weight training and HIIT cardio 5 days per week, and take a class at my yoga studio 1 day a week. This schedule will change soon with my upcoming bikini competition =)

Monday: Lower body (squats, deadlifts, lunges, sprints, etc)

Tuesday: Upper body (chest press, rows, shoulder press, flys, pull-ups, etc)

Wednesday: HIIT cardio (burpees, push-ups, tire flips, lunges, ladder drills, bear crawls, etc)

Thursday: Total body (squat cleans, clean and press, burpees, tire flips, CORE, etc)

Friday: Full body HIIT

Saturday: REST

Sunday: Yoga (heated power vinyasa or heated yoga sculpt)

My gyms/studios- Foundry Fitness in The Kentlands (Gaithersburg, MD), Fitness Edge (Gaithersburg, MD), and Corepower Yoga (Bethesda, MD).

mbrooksfit Supplements:

I do NOT take a multivitamin. Eat a balanced diet and your amazing body will get the nutrients it needs.

I do NOT take any specific vitamin or mineral supplement. Remember, balanced diet? If you are concerned about nutrient deficiency, get your blood panel done and find out where you are lacking.

I DO take one dietary supplement (have been for almost 2 years). It’s an herbal and literally keeps my cellular stress at the same level of a newborn baby. I sleep better, have more energy, recovery faster from workouts, and maintain a healthy weight without counting calories. Maybe it’s why I feel so awesome these days…

mbrooksfit Wellness Tips:

1. Sleep: I aim for at least 6 hours, but on average get 7-8 hours. This is VERY important for healing, recovery, brain functioning and immune system health. Read my blog post a couple weeks ago about the importance of sleep!

2. Work: I make my own hours, do things I am passionate about (yoga and health), and get to be around, and have fun with, people I love and respect. I chose to have a stress-free work situation, and it was the BEST decision I ever made.

3. Hygiene: I brush my teeth twice a day, floss, shower right after working out, use a shampoo and conditioner free from any crazy chemicals, I avoid antiperspirants (I use Tom’s all natural deodorant), have an incredible anti-aging/healing skincare regime, and wash my sheets regularly. Simple, yet effective.

4. Relationship: I have been with the same amazing man for over 12 years. We are best friends, laugh together, workout together, travel together, and love the crap out of each other. Find someone who you cannot be without… then you’ll understand.

Make the decision to live YOUR healthiest and happiest life today.

**For questions, comments, concerns or inquiries email me at mbrooksfit@gmail.com