Best Frozen Meals & Protein Bars

Frozen Meals and Protein Bars: Recommendations for those who live fast

 

Depending on your job or lifestyle you may find it difficult to grab what is considered a healthy meal or snack during the day. At night, you may also be too exhausted, be it mentally or physically to prepare and cook up a “fresh” meal…join the club!

 

Life happens and we need easy food alternatives to accommodate a fast pass modern lifestyle with limited options. I have experimented with dozens of frozen meals and hundreds of protein bars throughout the years. I have narrowed down a handful of each (in no particular order) I would recommend. Each will have a short description of why I recommend them in accordance with a flavor, pricing, and availability.

 

Both of the following have 10+ different selections/flavors/options in their respective brand name. I recommend them to my clients, and are the only two frozen meal brands I eat. 

 

Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers/Simply Cafe: - They are a staple recommendation for me. Sold almost everywhere, and typically around $3.00. The sodium can be a bit high (like in many frozens) but the calories are low and so is the fat content. The ratios of Fat to Carbohydrate to Protein are typically ideal in all of these.

If you are on a diet that is low fat, low calories, or macronutrient proportion (40% carb,40% protein,20% fat) these will be ideal for you. The calories are low enough where it could be a snack rather than a meal depending upon your size and particular goals. Most of the meals are in the ball park of 290 calories.

 

They have a very standard American menu approach, with a few Asian meals sprinkled in. These are very easy to make and eat as most of them require 3 minutes or so to cook, but they are in a prepared bowl where the items are separated during the cooking process and then combined in the larger bowl for your eating.

 

Typically, one of the two are located in every major grocery store chain. The Café Steamers are in a beige box while the Simple Café are in white. Some of my favorites are; Asian Stir Fry, Grilled Chicken Marinara with Parmesan, Crustless Chicken Pot Pie, and Beef Merlot.

 

Saffron Road - These are not as calorie friendly, but still many under 400. They tend to be closer to the $4.50-$6.50 price range, because they use more premium ingredients. In addition, majority of their meals are gluten free and all of their meat is hormone free. Most of the dishes use rice or rice noodles.

 

They have an Asian/Far Eastern-centric base with a few more traditional Latin dishes sprinkled in. They are not easy cooking friendly as the Healthy Choice Meals. You do have to typically stir the food halfway through the microwave process and they take longer to make (4-6 minutes total).They are in most major grocery stores as of this point (Kroger, Publix, etc) but you will find them more often than not in the organic frozen sections. Some of my favorites are; Chicken Enchiladas Poblano, Lamb Saag, Chicken Tiki Masala, Chicken Vindaloo, Sesame Ginger Salmon, Chicken Pad Thai.

 

I have tried every protein bar under the sun. The questions I try to solve when using or recommending a protein bar are; Are the ingredients satisfactory? Are the calories to cost ratio worthwhile? Do the flavors/taste allow me to look forward to eating it?

There are some great protein bars that are too expensive for the calories they provide, some whose taste is either too fake or too bland, and others whose ingredients are filled with chemicals and sub-par oils.

I am not listing the ONLY protein bars I eat, but rather the handful I recommend from a trial standpoint. You may only like one of these, but my goal is to list a variety of protein bars from a textural, flavor, and composition standpoint so that you can hopefully find one becomes your go to.

1.       Oatmega

2.       Cliff: Nut Butter Series

3.       Power Crunch

4.       RX Bar

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The Oatmega bars are made with premium ingredients. They have a variety of flavors such as mint chocolate chip, vanilla almond, and chocolate coconut. They can be found at most major grocery stores, Walmart, Target, and of course Amazon. I enjoy the texture of the oats and can’t say they remind me of any other protein bar. They are slightly chewy, do not taste “fake” yet feel dense and filling for only 190 calories. They use grass fed whey protein. There is literally no better protein on the planet from a biological value standpoint. For the sake of time, I will delve into protein differences and how the body absorbs/uses them down the road shortly in another post.  They use gluten free oats, tapioca syrup, cocoa, fish oil, rice flour, among other healthy ingredients.

 

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Cliff Nut Butters are delicious. Cliff has a variety of bars and most notably their original bar and cliff high protein builder bars. They can be found at most major grocery stores and even smaller chains and bodegas. Their nut butter series has less sugars, less calories, less ingredients and yet somehow tastes better. They are not what I consider a high protein bar, but there is typically 6-10 grams per bar along with healthy fats and enough calories for the price point ($1.50 average).  For those who aren’t so consumed with having high protein but rather healthy ingredients and ample amount of calories as a good hold over snack between meals this is ideal. They have a handful of great flavors like banana, blueberry, maple, etc. They use all organic ingredients the first being either almond butter or peanut butter.

 

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Power Crunch are relatively new and not sold everywhere. You can get them at some grocery store chains, and any major health and vitamin store. These bars taste just like the wafers you had as a child. They are something to look forward to (provided you like wafers) and very different tasting from the last two bars. There is a bit of a candy-esque sweetener taste to them but it’s actually not from sugar. The milk protein isolates combined with the oils (palm oil and palm kernel oil) makes for a rich flavor. I enjoy this as a switch up to my normal bars, and for those of you on lower carbohydrate diets this one works. Power Crunch typically has somewhere from 10-14g of fat and the same for protein. However, the sugars are in the single digits and the total carbs are normally closer to 9 than to 15.

 

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RX Bars may be the cleanest of all the bars. By far the least ingredients, and for the price point ($2.00) they do provide enough protein and overall calories. They have picked up a lot of steam in the market place and at least a few flavors of RX bars are found everywhere from the airport to the local corner store. RX bars are not just a simple high protein bar, but rather a great healthy snack to hold you off in between meals. Dates, peanuts, and egg whites make up majority of every bar. Then depending upon the flavor (they have well over a dozen) the next ingredients could be berries, or chocolate, etc. They are calorically in the ball park of 210 per bar, and a standard bar could look like this; 11g of Fat, 22 Carbs (13 sugars from dates), and 12g of Protein. I enjoy the chewy and natural flavor and texture of these bars. I find almost everyone I have recommended these to enjoy are least a few of the flavors.

 

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Body Fat Percentages: What do they mean and is it important?

What does my Body fat percentage tell me? Should I take it for my client?

 

When a client tells you’re his/her goal is to track progress I believe in having as many baseline tests as possible. Assessments, BF%, weight, etc. This allows you to stay positive when a certain number of tests do not show progression there will be a higher chance a few will which in turn keeps a positive attitude toward continuing health and wellness related tasks with their trainer…you.

When first starting to train with clients they may ask you to take their body fat measurement. There are a handful of ways to do this but for the sake of time and likelihood of your equipment I will assume you are using a bioelectrical impedance machine.

The more variables your machine uses the more accurate it can be. In addition, understanding that it’s not about the initial accuracy as much as it is the differences up or down upon the next measurements. Even if the machine is off, let us say at 1.5 %, you can still measure your client’s progress from their initial measurement as the machine will be consistently off that same 1/5%.

Understanding body fat percentages

If I were to take two adult twins (male, female) who looked very similar physique wise, the difference in body fat % would be in the region of 6% -10%. So, a male with a great physique and very noticeable abdominal musculature at 8%, could look similar to a female at %14-%18. 

MALES

5-9% - This is the range of an athlete, fitness freak, or teenage male. At this BF% you can see abdominal musculature definition and the person would typically be visually more vascular throughout the entire body. However, someone with 4-6% is visually much different than someone with 9%.

10-14% - When a male breaks 14% body fat, upper abdominal definition and some external obliques can still be seen, but the definition is minimal and the lower half of the abdominals are typically not defined.

15-19% There is still faint definition here in certain men, but typically a smoother more filled out look with noticeable fat accumulation. Your average runner will have this body fat percentage often.

20-24% - Definition has now ceased. You are not meeting any criteria for health concerns, but this body type would no longer be considered athletic.

25-29% After 26% BF in Men, you can be considered Obese (32% for Women). Typically you have a "gut", and fat pockets start to hang over your hips.

30-34% - This is full blown obesity. Typically no muscle definition anywhere, and well overweight.
35-39% - At this point, your gate is abnormal from holding the excessive weight and your health is of concern.  

FEMALES

5-9% - Ripped. This is female elite body building level. Extremely vascular and complete abdominal definition.

10-14% - Very good definition. Something along the lines you would see from a model on the cover of Shape magazine. 

15-19% - Athletic build, with great shape and very little body fat. Definition along the lower abs starts to fade, but still distinct ab definition in the obliques. 

 20-24% -  Athletic build, with great shape and very little body fat. Abdominal muscles showing, and somewhat defined but obliques and hips typically not.

25-29%-  Very little in the way of excess fat, but a softer look with minimal definition ranging on the upper part of the abs. 

30-34% - Still in good shape, typically with curves, and muscle definition starts to fade although the stomach will typically still be flat at these percentages. 

35-39% - No real definition and noticeable fat deposits around the stomach, however not noticeable when lying down.

40- 45% - Considered visually out of shape, and excess stomach fat even while lying down.

VO2 Max: What exactly is it?

Do you need a VO2 max measurement before working with clients? How would you do that? My VO2 Max is 44. Ok, cool. What does that mean?!

 

   It is a measure of your maximum aerobic capacity or maximum oxygen uptake. It measures the volume of oxygen one can transport through the body as you exercise. It can be used as an indicator four your overall cardiovascular system health. When you exercise your muscles need oxygen and the level of your VO2 max can indicate if that oxygen is being delivered efficiently.

   Age, Gender, Genetics, Altitude – these can all affect your VO2 max. VO2 max does not indicate how likely you are to be good at a sport (as some think). Yes, if you partake in an endurance sport it can be an indicator, but for the most part it’s just one of many measurements used.

  VO2 max can also be looked at as the difference between oxygen inspired and oxygen expired in a particular unit of time. I can break the measurements down into 2 categories: Lab vs Gym.

a.      Lab – If done in a sports performance lab, either a treadmill or stationary bicycle is standard in testing. The goal is to analyze both the concentration of gas (oxygen/carbon) and your respiratory rate. They use a mask like Ivan Drago from Rocky IV, which connects over your face. There is date measured with the proper computers along with a heart monitor. The VO2 max is reached when oxygen consumption remains at a static position even with an increase in the workload. You then become anaerobic rather than aerobic.

b.      Gym - Sub Maximal Tests are used in a non-lab setting. The two most common Sub Maximal Tests are: YMCA 3 Minute Step Test, and the Rockport Walk Test. Both of these can easily be done in any standard gym setting. All NASM CPT’s should be able to perform this with their clients. I have video links here to both.

                                                              i.      RockPort

                                                            ii.      YMCA

   I personally don’t think it’s important unless you have an endurance athlete who needs as many baseline measurements as possible to see if he or she is working more efficiently. For anyone else, it’s just a baseline number for motivation.

  Training harder will increase your VO2 max. However, for a minute let’s think of it like increasing your 1 mile run time. At 46, can someone increase their 1 Mile run time through training? Sure. Can they beat their 1 mile run at 16? Unlikely.

In summary, VO2 max is not that important to the average fitness goer, and even the fitness professional, personal trainer, and group class instructor. The primary way to access your client’s capacities are going to be subjective like the talks test.

Ask them how they feel during the exercise routinely. If they are doing bodyweight squats for a set of 20, you should have asked:

1.    How do your knees and back feel?

2.    What feels like it’s firing/working?

Those questions will answer multiple important issues. You will find out if your client gets tired by their mannerisms and how out of breath they appear while talking and exercising simultaneously. In addition, you can access if their level of body awareness which is simply their ability to engage muscle groups and put themselves into the proper positions.

Always check in with your clients during and after exercises so you can develop into a better FIT (Fitness Industry teacher) by honing your craft of assessing the proper work rate for your clients.

F.A.I.R. - Forms, Assessments, Insurance, Records

When Starting With New Clients think: F.A.I.R.

FAIR - Forms, Assessments, Insurance, Records

Always remember FAIR when starting with new clientele. When first meeting with a prospective client regardless of your health profession you will need some form of a PAR-Q (physical readiness questionnaire) and/or a health history form. You can find these online. Upon the client filling out the form it is important you review it on your own first before meeting with them. There may be physical issues or medications you are unaware of and need to do your proper due-diligence on prior to sitting down with the prospective client. If you feel uncomfortable working with someone who may have ailments above your current level of knowledge in order to make the proper exercise modifications you should not work with that individual. This is where your networking comes into play as you should have knowledge of someone else who would be better suited to work with them.

When I meet with my clients in our first consultation after reviewing their health history form I still allow them to talk as much as possible. Doctors sometimes calls this the, “What else?” session. If you continue to ask “what else” you’ll be surprised to find the issues or ailments the client has or has had that they decided not list on the sheet because he or she believed they were not relevant. For instance, if they had broken their ankle 30 years ago they are unlikely to write that down on a health history form. However, there could be compensations such as foot pronation, knee valgus, pelvic twist accompanied by false leg length discrepancy just from something as simple as a broken ankle at the age of 17. 

Although I am a corrective exercise specialist I do not always enjoy playing what I call, “anatomical sleuth”, so it is important to understand all of your clients past injuries before doing your first assessment on them.  It doesn’t matter what your client’s particular goals are there are always ways in which you can do an initial assessment and track progress. This helps your client from a motivational standpoint and it helps you understand what is actually working with your program. If weight loss is their goal an obvious initial weight, measurements of specific body parts, and body fat measurement are in order (for body fat percentage I prefer bioelectrical impedance machine which you can get for $60). If you are unfamiliar with general assessments I urge you to start reading up on all the various tests (shark skill, Rockport walking, etc). You can also simply make your own up. I like to have my clients hold a plank until failure, and find the weight they can get close to one 20 reps set for each of the following: low row, chest press, and leg press machines. This allows me to gauge their overall strength levels in core, pushing, pulling, and legs provided the client’s goals and current health status align with that type of assessment.

Your company may provide you with insurance, but it is very cheap to double up and protect yourself. I do not recommend any particular company at this time, but the pricing should be between $8 and $15 per month. If you’re training in home clients, or even at a park and an injury occurs you could be liable. In this age of overly litigious people it is best to always play it safe. You can do your own googling to find out which company gives you the best rates.

Record keeping is important for both insurance reasons and your clients overall goals. To cover the former, understand that if an injury happens and you are being litigated against from a safety issue, having records of what you did that day or week could save you. For the latter, you want to check progress from days, weeks, months, or years passed and having records allows you to do that. For a fitness industry teacher who pre-writes out the workout this is easy as you just keep a copy. I personally do not write out my workouts, so I have to make notes in my calendar (google calendar where I keep all my sessions) if there were any issues that day as far as slips, slight injuries or tweaks, etc. Cover yourself. Keep records.

Can CBD Oil help Arthritic pain?

CBD oil has been all the rage of late. It has been used to help insomnia, pain, anxiety, among others. But what exactly is it, and does it really work? Let’s unpack a few of the reoccurring questions concerning CBD, which are:

-          The difference between CBD oil extracted from hemp and the use of marijuana

-          Research that is relevant for the use of CBD for particular issues/ailments

-          What brand CBD should I look into?

Cannabinoids are the active ingredients specific to the cannabis plant, and they are the compounds primarily responsible for the healing effects. The two most effective and studied cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Our bodies contain endocannabinoids in numerous organs, including multiple brain regions. The endocannabinoid system is involved in maintaining bodily homeostasis, especially with regard to the following functions:

Pleasure

Appetite

Pain

Memory

Immune system responses (i.e. inflammation)

Exercise is known to also stimulate the endocannabinoid system. Supplementation with CBD is thought to improve numerous conditions by helping to restore balance to the body and brain.

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), another compound found in marijuana and some hemp strains, CBD is not psychoactive and therefore does not give users a “high.”  Research has focused on CBD for its wide ranging positive health effects.

There have been 70 cannabinoids identified to date, and there are several others currently being studied, such as cannabigerol (CBG) and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV).

It is worth noting that THC and CBD also only convert to an effective pain-relieving agent under heat, which is why smoking, vaporizing, or baking it is important.

What CBD research points toward:

-          Reducing the presence of pro-inflammatory compounds in the body and brain

It may do this by repairing oxidative stress in a similar manner as antioxidants, potentially removing a major roadblock for the production of feel-good brain chemicals.

-          Restores natural endocannabinoids.

Endocannabinoids (and even the number of endocannabinoid receptors) have been found to be severely depleted and even extinguished entirely by bad lifestyle issues (diet, drinking, etc)

-          Helps relieve pain

Clinical trials have proven links to suppressing pain receptors from some of the chemical reactions caused by CBD.

Arthritis: Pain Relief Evidence

Over 50 million Americans suffer from arthritis. Arthritis, which literally means inflammation of the joints, is another condition that CBD oil may be very effective for.

There are two common categories:

·         Osteoarthritis (OA): A degenerative disease that affects joint cartilage and bones, causing pain and stiffness. It often affects the hip, knee, and thumb joints.

·         Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): An autoimmune disease in which a person's immune system attacks their joints, causing inflammation. RA commonly affects the hands and feet and leads to painful, swollen, and stiff joints.

Research published below has found a dramatic reduction in inflammation and signs of pain, without adverse side effects in rats with arthritis after the animals were given CBD:

2011

2014

2016

2017

A 2017 report concluded that there was substantial evidence that CBD cannabis-based products are effective for treating chronic pain. Another, separate study published in 2012 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, suggests that CBD use can lessen both pain and inflammation.

This human study found Sativex, a cannabis-based mouth spray, helped to relieve arthritis pain. However, the cannabis plant extracts that the company use to make the spray contain both CBD and THC.

2008 review of research into CBD and its possible mechanism of action suggested that CBD could play a role in chronic pain management.

Cannabidiol Oil and use as a Medical Supplement

CBD supplements can be found in the following forms; capsule, spray, or oils. The oils can be used to smoke or consumed orally.

How do I know what brand to get? Make sure the product is all natural CBD oil, and not synthetic. It should be labeled appropriately. Pure CBD oil, will contain all the proper hemp based beneficial components.

My go to brand is CBDPure, which makes CBD oil from organic hemp that contains zero THC. A friend started using this company and referred me. It was much better tasting (they can taste very earthy/grassy), quicker shipping, cheaper, and worked better than the previous companies I had tried. Additionally, they had a 90-day refund policy and a 15% off coupon (attached below).

CBDPure offers three different versions of CBD oil: 100mg, 300mg, and 600mg.

My recommendation would be to start with just 1/2 a dropper, which contains 1 gram of “full spectrum” hemp oil (no synthetics, all the benefits from the hemp plant)

Although the calming effects take to some people instantly, the anti-inflammatory responses will take longer.

*Make sure to contact your doctor before using CBD*

Additional Pro’s to going with CBDPure

-          Hemp harvested in Denmark (high quality)

-          Their process of C02 extraction > Butane/Ethanol (most US companies use the latter)

-          High potency

-          Lighter taste

-          Organic (full spectrum)

-          Free Shipping

-          Third party tested

-          Discrete shipping

-          90 day money back guarantee

<Click here to visit the CBDPure website>

5 Mistakes During HIIT Workouts

5 Mistakes During HIIT Workouts

 

HIIT exercise or High Intensity Interval Training is simply repetitions of high-intensity exercise for a specific number or duration broken up with low to medium intensity recovery periods. HIIT workouts are all the rage these days, and many gyms have started to do HIIT specific classes. Whether you are planning to start your first go at a HIIT class, or you’ve been doing them for a while on your own, below are some tips to make sure you are doing things in the correct manner.

 

1. Do not stop completely during your recovery period...that is not HIIT.

 

You must continue a low to medium intensity movement in order for optimal caloric burn expenditure. By stopping completely you decrease the caloric burn potential, and also allow too much oxygen re-uptake which in turn allows your body to stay aerobic. Obviously, for the sake of safety if you feel exhausted, light-headed, dehydrated, you should stop immediately. However, overtime you should begin to understand both your high and low zones and keep track of your heart rate in order to not have the issue of over exertion.

 

2. The term "high intensity" is person specific so find your zones

The general rule of thumb however for heart rate in high intensity is 220 - Age X .80, .85. or .90. However, this varies among different level of athletes and different ages. 

The rest intervals should be somewhere around 220 - Age X .65. Again, this varies on your cardiovascular and fitness level. Whatever your zones are, find them out prior to jumping into a HIIT class and use a HR monitor (apple watch, etc) to track this in order to stay as close as possible. If you do not own an electronic that can keep your heart rate, you can learn overtime to assess your breathing and respiration as you get a better sense of your body’s limitations.

You can also take your own pulse. Just place two fingers between the bone and the tendon over your radial artery, which is located on the thumb side of your wrist. When you feel your pulse, count the number of beats in 15 seconds. Multiply this number by four to calculate your beats per minute.

 

3. Use compound movements as much as possible

 

Compound movement are simply exercises that use multiple muscle groups and/or sections of the body ( i.e. upper body, lower body, core) together in the same movement. This pushes your body to expend more energy, and subsequently gets your heart rate into the high intensity zones faster. Using isolated movements (i.e. a shoulder press) will not get you into a high heart rate zone as fast as using a compound movement (squat to shoulder press). 

Hopefully, your instructor is creative enough to give you these movements. If you are doing this on your own, think about combining any lower body movement with an upper body movement. For example:

(Using Dumbbells)

Lower Body: forward lunges, reverse lunges, narrow stance squats, sumo squats.

Upper Body: shoulder press, bicep curls, high pulls, lateral raises

 

Giving you 4 lower body and 4 upper body exercises gives you 16 unique compound movement exercises. That is just scratching the surface as there are endless combinations when integrating fitness tools and toys as a variable into that equation.

 

4. Change your movements or stations in your HIIT class routinely

 

Your body eventually adapts to the stress you put on it. You become efficient at the movements you do often, and although that is good for sports (i.e. swinging a golf club), efficiency has the less than desirable effect in fitness of using less energy to complete the movement. You have to challenge all muscles, and you have to continue to do so through muscle confusion in order to burn more. 

 

You will inevitably find movements you like more, or are better suited to do. However, you must challenge yourself by doing the movements that are more difficult for you. Also, if given option from your instructor choose the movements that are new over the movements that you’re comfortable with.

 

5. Don't compare how long your HIIT workout is to your other workouts

 

What people do not notice is the short intense workouts produce a high level of EPOC. EPOC is Excess Post-Exercise oxygen consumption - (Many refer to this as the "After Burn"). Typically, the more intense a workout is the higher the EPOC. This allows for people to work in short intermittent bursts yet feel the effects of caloric burn for hours after as the body recovers and tries to restore homeostasis. 

It is normal to assess the HIIT routine, and wonder how a potential 30 minute workout is better suited for caloric burn than 45-60 min on the elliptical. You have to trust the metabolic and physiologic science that backs this exercise medium as being effective. When it comes to caloric burn, it’s not all about the duration, it’s also about the intensity.

Which Personal Training Certification is the Best?

“If I don’t have any experience or certifications for Personal Training, how do I compete with others and where do I start?!“

You’ve already started. The fact that you are here is a step in finding the right path for you. However, I want to be clear and emphasize this;

Certifications/Education gets your foot in the door, they do not represent your actual skill set.

I have trained alongside people with who have their Masters in Exercise Physiology, and held a dozen top level certifications costing more than 5k collectively, who have had trouble booking 10 sessions a week. I have worked with Yoga instructors coming off of 2 years of specialized training who couldn’t fill a class of 8. I have worked with Registered Dietitians who averaged one appointment a day, because they could not connect with people on a psychological level.

You are stepping into an industry where people trust you with their bodies, and subsequently with their mental health also. Learning ways (which I go over extensively in my E-Book) and enjoying the process of building connections will be of much more value than endless certifications, most of which the paying clients won’t even be familiar with.

If you plan is to work as your own boss in your home or elsewhere, you may not need any specific certification. If you decide to work for someone, the business typically requires you have one. Which one? That depends on the specific business.

Do you own an I-phone or Android? After you answered that, you probably inferred that I was going to judge you on your choice. Why? Because people are tribal by nature and we instinctually pick teams.  Typically, the certification held by the highest level employee is the most respected for that specific business.

If I am a Director of a Fitness Facility and I hold an ACE certification for Personal Training, I know what ACE teaches, understand their concepts, and trust them. Therefore, I am more likely to hire someone with the same certification. That is why it is important to dig into the businesses website of your preferred studio/facility or call them to find out what certifications their managers or top level instructors hold.

I have a list of certifications in the Personal Training Industry at the very bottom, in an easy to read table ranking 6 different certs by their; Prestige, Price, and Difficulty (concerning passing their tests) and other useful info. Feel free to skip straight there. However, I also go into depth about the accreditation, continuing education (to keep your certification active), and general information about each if you are up for more details.

Accreditation

This shouldn’t be too much of a concern for most people, but I do want to explain the process behind this in order for confusion to be lessened here. The market of certifications for Personal Training is more or less decentralized. It can look like the Wild West from the outside, but there are some program steps and protocols that are set by what is considered an accrediting body. If the accrediting body feels the entity (i.e. NASM) has met certain standards of program development, professionalism, governing, and continued customer/membership responsibilities, they can be rewarded and hold this accreditation. On top of the initial accrediting, there are typically regular evaluations to ensure these entities are upholding the standards.

The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) accredits ACSM, ACE, NASM, and NSCA.

There are other accrediting agencies, but ironically in my opinion none in which have any merit to actually accredit. Furthermore, the legitimacy of the afformentioned certifications above typically hold more weight and clout with Fitness Directors/Managers hiring for positions.

Courses

NASM – (National Academy of Sports Medicine) The study options are endless for this certification which I deem the best overall. Starting with the NASM CPT text book, video guide, and online printable text. On top of practice quizzes (10 questions) after each chapter there is a comprehensive 100 question test prep exam. There are also online flash cards, interactive discussion questions, and 1-day live workshops. NASM provides top level customer service, and offers 6 months upon purchasing the program to pass their test. The test is proctored and taken at a local testing location.  

ACE – (American Council on Exercise) ACE is equal to NASM in its professionalism and dedication to members. It has a various resources that you can use to help you study. They also offer several online programs that will help you prepare for the test, including an exam review and practice tests. They have a competent resource center with Study Counselors to help you review particular questions you may have. It is recognized industry wide as one of the top certifications.

ACSM -  (American College of Sports Medicine) This non-profit has three resources here you can get through the established and well respected program. ACSM’s Resources for Personal Trainers, ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, and ACSM’s Certification Review. They also offer an adaptive quiz platform for studying, and charge a bit less than the previously covered certifications.

ISSA – (International Sports Sciences Association) ISSA will send you a hardcopy along with an online copy of the main course text, a study guide and workbook, practice exams, a reference DVD, web support and social opportunities, and an animated online exercise lab that will give you the key information on 250 exercises. A marketing and business guide is also given which is unlike many of the other certs

NSCA -  (National Strength and Conditioning) NSCA-Certified Personal Training certification course really help trainers design safe and effective exercise programs. The have great study materials, including NSCA’s Essentials of Personal Training, workbooks, practice exams, multimedia CDs, and audio CDs. The safety guidelines are top notch and they go into depth concerning essentials such as modifications and assessments, training special populations, and even exercises programs to use.

IFTA – (Interactive Fitness Trainers of America) This is a lesser known certification, but one worth looking into. They are not nearly as established as the other certifications. However, they do a fantastic job with their CPT on-site one day certification. You are sent a hard-copy book in advance to study. The day of you meet at a location to go over test prep questions. After review and the subsequent taking of the exam, you do a small practical in the fitness facility. They demonstrate a true hands on feel and mimic day to day personal training. It is by far the least expensive also. If you plan to work out of your own home, or just part time this isn’t a bad certification to start with.

 

Personal Training Certifications Ranked

* Information accurate as of 9/18/18

* Information accurate as of 9/18/18

Becoming a Fitness Instructor: 5 Important Factors

Becoming a Fitness Instructor: 5 Important Factors

1.       Just Get Started – The process is going to take time, I am here to help expedite it, and skip some of the “mistake phase”. However, there is no use or advantage in putting off taking the first plunge. Well Steve, what is that first step? You’re already doing it!

Research. We will talk about timelines in the course, but doing your research in order to map out your timeline is vital.

Find out; what fitness medium drives you, similar businesses/people who are doing it, community activities/businesses that overlap, certifications/qualifications that are needed. From there, we can map out our timelines, and look forward to the next steps.

2.       Shadow/Network – Even if you do not have a specific qualification, you can always shadow. Fitness professionals are a very inviting community by nature, as we all joined this profession to help others.

Find local gyms, studios, coaches, etc, and tell them your story, and your interest in jumping into the industry. You will find that people are excited to take you under their wing and teach you. Even a few hours a week will really give great insight into developing your next steps.

3.       Find your niche – Now that you’ve done your research, and started networking/shadowing, you can begin to assess the good and the bad teaching styles and fitness approaches.

Start to develop a mental picture of how you would run your ideal business, and the styles in which you would use.

This will help guide you on your path to differentiating yourself. I enjoyed helping clients break through the psychological boundaries in order to meet their physical goals. So, teaching large classes was not for me as I needed 1 v. 1 training to build stronger connections. It took shadowing and observing business models to come to grips with that.

4.       Fundamentals – Always understand the base fundamentals in your fitness realm. You will continue to grow and learn as you come into contact with various clients and other fitness professionals, but you need to show a mastery of the basics in order to convey your professionalism.

Safety, physiological basics, and theories/concepts. If your goal is to be a Yoga instructor and you don’t know 8 key poses, and the muscles working/stretching in those poses you are still in-between step 1 and 2.

5.       Focus on clients – The money will come. You have to first focus on helping people. The positive and altruistic energy you put out will in turn get you clients, which will lead to the $.

Too many times, people turn down small group classes or training sessions that don’t pay what they expect, not knowing what they’ve really lost was the experiences and opportunity to procure client(s) for life.

We will discuss the 80/20 theory in the course, but most of your money will come from a small percentage of your overall clientele. You have to be of the mindset, that each person/class could be the one in the future that provides most of your earnings.

Cut The Cheese

Weighing the positives and negatives before making a decision is hardwired into the human consciousness ...except when it comes to food. Our ancestors did not have the luxury of and endless supply of food and our bodies/minds have not yet adapted to our times. We need to re-wire our brains circuitry when evaluating foods and their benefits or lack thereof before consuming them.

Limiting something in your diet is rarely a bad thing. The only way to start good nutritional habits is to stop coaxing yourself into "one slice of cheese won't matter" and show some self-restraint. These small restrictions should snowball into your continued day to day diet and help you lead a more balanced lifestyle. 

I cut the cheese...out

We add it to our burgers, broccoli, spaghetti, eggs, cold cuts, potatoes, and fries. We eat it on its own. We even fry it and eat it. Cheese, has and always will be a staple addition to American foods. My beef with cheese (forgive the food pun) is with not only in its high caloric count, but it's lack of nutritional content. 

The paleo's disregard dairy all together. I can see the cheeseheads now rolling their eyes and imagining not being able to pair merlot with their 3 year old gouda. Spare me. I will never suggest cutting cheese out of your diet, but rather limiting and/or substituting it from time to time. Cheese of course has some nutritional value; Vitamin A, D3, K2, etc. These are important fat soluble vitamins. However, I highly doubt people are adding extra cheese to their pizza with the emphasis on getting their daily allotment of K2 in. 

It is not the he only way to lose weight, but without going down the weight loss argument rabit hole (right now) expending more calories than you take in (Law of Thermodynamics) is typically the process of losing weight. The average cheese is somewhere in the ball park of 80 cals per ounce...ounce! Well Steve, what about low fat cheese?

The problem with low fat cheese is that now that the fats (and proteins) are missing, you will be less satiated and tempted to eat more or something else. Casein, is the main protein component in dairy/cheese. This protein, comparatively speaking, is absorbed more slowly and therefore keeps you satiated longer.  Most low fat cheeses, are also lower in protein.

We haven't even hit on the sodium or cholesterol yet. Let me preface this first nutrition related study by conveying that it's not difficult to find contrasting scientific studies on any topic. So, be skeptical of all studies and stay neutral until all the facts are in.

I came upon a study that found that men who ate 10 daily 1-ounce servings of full-fat cheese for 3 weeks showed no effect on their LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. However, it took 30 seconds of googling to find 2 contradictory studies. My focus for this piece is not on cholesterol, but I can’t remind you enough that nutritional arguments are presented, accepted, and then falsified over and over. Always be ready to change with the science.

Calorically speaking, swapping most condiments for cheese will really help. Listed below are condiments and their corresponding cals. This should give you some idea of the calorie differences in condiment substitutes normally swapped for cheese: 

 

Apple sauce    15ml (1 tbsp)    10
French dressing (vinaigrette)    15ml (1 tbsp)    69
Mayonnaise    15ml (1 tbsp)    104
Mayonnaise (light)    15ml (1 tbsp)    43
Pesto    15ml (1 tbsp)    78
Soy sauce    15ml (1 tbsp)    10
Tomato ketchup    15ml (1 tbsp)    17
Tomato sauce (Italian, jar)    15ml (1 tbsp)    7
Worcestershire sauce    15ml (1 tbsp)    10
Coconut (creamed, block)    25g    167
Coconut milk (canned)    100ml    22
Vinegar    1 tbsp    3