High Energy Workouts for a Head Start on Swimsuit Season

High Energy Workouts for a Head Start on Swimsuit Season

Getting Fit for Swimsuit Season 

For a solid high-energy workout, you’ve got to put in the work! Even if you’re not keeping up with the class or if you’re running a slow mile compared to someone else, putting in the best that you can do means you’re getting an amazing workout. 

Your body is always competing with its own personal best. If you are challenging yourself in a way you haven’t been challenged before, then you’re doing things right! This can mean that you’re doing one more pushup when you thought you were ready to quit or running your mile a couple seconds faster than you did the last time. Strive to outdo yourself in bits and pieces and you’re bound to get more out of your workout! 

That being said, we know it’s easier to give that little bit extra when you have a game plan. Here are some options to help keep you moving until the last second of your workout! 

Circuit Training

Circuit Training tasks your body to perform a series of exercises back to back before a brief period of rest. This workout model is intense, not only because it works multiple muscle groups over the course of the workout, but because it requires you to keeping moving all the way through. If you’re really feeling ambitious you can even throw in some cardio before you start your circuit. 

A sample workout could look like this: Complete 8 to 15 reps performing the Leg Press, then the Chest Fly, then the Glute Kickback, and end with Bicep Curls. Rest for 90 seconds and repeat the circuit 2 to 3 times. 

View this circuit, and additional samples of this training model, here. 


Plyometric exercises can be upper body or lower body focused. It’s all about building up your movement from slow and controlled to explosive and powerful. Plyometrics are great for generating speed, but to accomplish this, your body will need to expend a lot of energy to move the way you’re asking it to 

Lower-Body PlyometricsThese are exercises like box jumps, jump squats, and switch jumps. The sudden explosion of energy required to jump is what makes these exercises plyometric movements. You can even add a medicine ball to increase the intensity. Click to view some medicine ball plyometrics. 

Upper-Body Plyometrics – These focus less on jumping and more on generating power from your upper body. An example of this would be a clap push-up or a medicine ball wall throw and catch. You can view these and more upper body plyometric workouts here. 

Drop Sets

A drop set is several repetitions of the same exercise that you perform until failure. You are essentially pushing a single muscle group as far as it can go. To help pull you through this kind of workout, drop sets are designed to allow you to drop the intensity of your movement with each set. For example, once you’ve done as many as you can do at a certain level of resistance, you allow yourself to continue by decreasing the resistance and performing another set.  

The best way to perform these is on machines because you can more easily manipulate how much weight you’re carrying, and you’ll have a safe way to release the weight when your muscles finish their last possible rep.  

View some sample drop set workouts here. 

For more articles like this one, and to keep up to date on our fitness, nutrition, and wellness articles, subscribe to our monthly newsletter, today! 

Salt Grains for Muscle Gains?

Salt Grains for Muscle Gains?

Looking into the Potential Strength Benefits of Sodium

Salt has been called the “secret weapon in the gym” and “the newest workout supplement1.” The white granules known as table salt (also sea, kosher, or Himalayan salt) in your kitchen are simply sodium and chloride put together. By itself, sodium is one of several critical electrolytes which are minerals that affect the body’s fluid balance, muscle and nerve impulses, blood pressure and acidbase balance.  

Though human requirements are only 300-500 milligrams of sodium daily, the average American consumes ten times that – over 3,400 mg2! It’s well known that athletes have a higher need for sodium, mainly due to sweat losses. However, competitive athletes also train hours a day (and the majority not resistance work) compared to the average person in the weight room. So then, we wondered where the hype about extra sodium came from. Does liberally salting nearly everything you put in your mouth help you pump more iron in the gym?

The Strength Training Community 

Reading through three online sources3,4,5 touting the benefits of salt for size and strength it would appear that we’ve missed out on the key to bodybuilding success! Sodium increases blood volume and intracellular water retention. True, but sodium just doing its job for fluid status and muscle contraction doesn’t mean more salt enhances power and strength for greater gains. None of those articles provide evidence-based references or citations to support these supposed enhancements. (Sodium phosphate is a different molecule that is mentioned as an intracellular buffer that can increase aerobic and anaerobic performance when supplemented3.) The authors do agree that although you shouldn’t limit sodium, you don’t need supplemental salt for strength gains, just ample dietary consumption. A fourth bodybuilding source6 advises not to add excessive sodium to meals and shares that it’s more important to have potassium in balance with sodium intake.  

Sports Nutrition Experts  

We asked Jennifer McDaniel, RDN, a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD), in the St. Louis, Missouri area if strength athletes and power lifters need additional sodium beyond that in the typical American diet. She informed us that sodium requirements vary significantly based on intensity and time of training session, sweat rate and acclimation to the training environment. “Based on the current research available, strength-based athletes do not need more than the average intake of sodium from the typical Western diet,” McDaniel said. She explained that most athletes’ eating habits far exceed the recommended limit of 2,300 mg sodium* per day making it unlikely that strength trained athletes would need an increase in daily sodium for the average hourlong training bout.  

* for the general public, from the 2015-2020 US Dietary Guidelines7.  

Also, nationally known, Marie Spano, RD, CSSD and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist®, gave us her input regarding athletes’ sodium needs. She shared that dehydration can decrease strength and power. “Your muscles need sodium to hold on to more fluid and for muscular contractions, so consume adequate sodium to cover sodium losses through sweat,” Spano advises.  She previously wrote, “To achieve proper hydration, athletes may want to add sodium to their sports drinks or preworkout meals to help retain the fluid they’re consuming.8 The amount depends on total dietary sodium intake and sodium losses through sweat while training in a particular environment.  

Professional Organizations  

American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) 2016 position stand and The International Society of Sport Nutrition’s (ISSN) 2018 research and recommendation update both addressed sodium. Regarding hydration, the ACSM indicated, “Sodium consumed in pre-exercise fluids and foods may help with fluid retention, and advised ingesting sodium during exercise when large sweat losses occur9. The ISSN stated that inadequate sodium would impair performance and advised replacing adequate amounts due to sweat losses10. In regard to extra sodium the Society indicated it was beneficial for hydration in the early days of training in the heat10.  

Neither ACSM or ISSN directly mentioned sodium involved in strength, power, weight training or muscle mass. In fact, the ISSN didn’t list any sodium compounds as “muscle building supplements” based on available literature but did name sodium bicarbonate and sodium phosphate under the “performance enhancement” category, noting there was strong evidence to support their efficacy10. The Society also indicated limited or mixed evidence to support the efficacy of [sodium] nitrates to improve aerobic work performance and endurance exercise10. 

Evidence from Scientific Research 

Being that salt is everywhere in our diet, research on supplemental sodium chloride solely for muscle strength or growth is lacking. Sodium bicarbonate, on the other hand, is not easily obtained from food and has evidence as a modestly effective sports nutrition supplement for short-term, high intensity exercise (anaerobic work) performance11,12. Benefits are most likely due to its action as an extracellular (blood) buffer11. Sodium citrate is a potential alternative buffer, but with unknown effectiveness. For endurance work, sodium phosphate may enhance performance12.  

The Final Word 

So, it seems the hype surrounding salt for strength comes from the importance of sodium for hydration and muscular contraction. Most people generally get enough of it in the form of sodium chloride, more of which doesn’t help strength gains as long as dehydration is prevented, particularly for training sessions that are very long or in the heat. Other sodium molecules consumed as sports nutrition supplements may offer ergogenic effects that can’t be derived from table salt, namely sodium bicarbonate for anaerobic work. The consensus is not to limit salt if you’re intensely resistance training, but you don’t need to intentionally use the saltshaker everywhere either. Consider just drinking a higher sodium fluid electrolyte beverage pre-workout. 

Exercise Safety with Multiple Sclerosis

Exercise Safety with Multiple Sclerosis













What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system. This system is comprised of the brain and spinal cord and, when it is compromised, it can be disabling. Essentially what happens is that the immune system attacks the protective covering on nerve fibers which disrupts the communication between the brain and the rest of the body. The affected nerves will vary from person to person, so not all people with MS will exhibit all of the same symptoms.1  

What Do Symptoms Look Like?

The most impacted function with Multiple Sclerosis is movement. Numbness or weakness in the limbs, tremors, and an unsteady gait are among the most recognizable symptoms. Vision, speech, sexual, bowel, and bladder problems are also known to occur.1

Exercise with MS

Muscle weakness, balance and coordination problems, dizziness, and difficulty breathing can make exercise a significant chore for people with Multiple Sclerosis. However, activity is still very important. Common MS treatments and inactivity can render people with this disease more susceptible to developing osteoporosis, which can make balance and coordination issues an even greater concern. This can be prevented or slowed, however, through physical activity and proper nutrition.2  

A 2004 study found that, even though cases of MS vary across patients, exercise programs designed to increase cardiorespiratory fitness, muscle strength, and mobility can enhance a patient’s quality of life while also reducing the risk of secondary disorders.3 However, it’s important to adhere to exercises that are safe.  


A publication by BMC Neurology identifies a number of practical and beneficial exercises for patients with MS. An important preface to their findings is that each exercise program should be designed to address a patient’s specific goal and should take into account a person’s baseline impairments and capabilities. Only a healthcare professional can provide the appropriate fitness routine for your needs, but generally, these aspects of training are known to hold benefits for patients with MS: 

  1. Aerobic Training: Low to moderate intensity aerobic training is effective on cardiovascular fitness, mood, reduction of fatigue, and overall quality of life. Examples include bicycling, aquatic exercise, and treadmill walking. Rowing and running are also potential options but only for patients with proper functioning.4
  2. Strength Exercises: For MS patients, supervised resistance training is safer than unsupervised training, and the use of weight-machines is safer than the use of free-weights. It is also important to prioritize the lower body because that is where the strength deficit is usually greater. Examples of strength exercises include the seated leg press, seated hamstring curls, knee extensions, shoulder press, chest press, and lat pull-downs. As a note, seated exercises are the safer option when compared to standing exercises.4
  3. Flexibility Exercises: These types of exercises are important to enhance mobility and improve balance and posture. Slow, gentle, and prolonged stretching is recommended before and after exercise with a particular focus on spastic muscles (tight or stiff muscles). Yoga and tai chi classes may be options for patients with higher functioning.4
  4. Balance and Coordination Exercises: Exercises that challenge balance can be very helpful. It is important that a stable support is available or that patients exercise in water. Water exercises provide support that help protect participants from dangerous falls.4  

Common Concerns

As with all new exercise routines, it’s important to know when to stop. You can help protect yourself from injury if you are attentive to how your body is feeling with each movement. When it comes to Multiple Sclerosis, there are a few more things to keep in mind. 

  1. Heat Intolerance: Heat stress caused by exercise can exacerbate the symptoms of MS. For this reason, heat-sensitive patients are encouraged to exercise in air-conditioned rooms, to perform water-based exercises, and to avoid exercising during the hottest part of the day.4
  2. Fatigue: Exercise can make symptoms of fatigue worse in MS patients.4 This is part of why it’s important that you don’t push yourself to exhaustion. It can be dangerous to do so, especially if you are using free-weights. In the grand scheme of things, exercise can actually help improve symptoms of fatigue,4 but it is important be aware of your limits during exercise.
  3. Risk of Falling: It is advised that patients who are at risk of falling be monitored during exercise.4 A fall is a risk not worth taking, so it is important to have non-slip surfaces in areas of aquatic activities and to take precautions during any form of exercise. 

What is your approach to exercise with MS? Share your thoughts in the comments below! For more articles like this one, and to stay in-the-know on important health and nutrition topics, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the Living Healthy Blog. 


  1. “Multiple Sclerosis.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 19 Apr. 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/multiple-sclerosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350269. 
  2. Pietrangelo, Ann, and Kristeen Cherney. “The Effects of Multiple Sclerosis on Your Body.” Healthline, 2018, https://www.healthline.com/health/multiple-sclerosis/effects-on-the-body#7. 
  3. White, L.J. & Dressendorfer, R.H. Sports Med (2004) 34: 1077. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200434150-00005  
  4. Halabchi, F., Alizadeh, Z., Sahraian, M. A., & Abolhasani, M. (2017). Exercise prescription for patients with multiple sclerosis; potential benefits and practical recommendations. BMC Neurology, 17(1), 185. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12883-017-0960-9  

I’m Not Seeing Progress! What Am I Doing Wrong?

I’m Not Seeing Progress! What Am I Doing Wrong?

When You’re Stuck in Your Weight Loss or Stuck in Your Muscle Gain

Whether you’re hitting a plateau after weeks of steady progress, or you’ve been working hard from day one and have hardly seen a dent of change, something is happening when your body is seemingly stuck.

Is it something you’re doing wrong? Has your body simply adjusted to your routine? Let’s break down some of the reasons why your weight loss or muscle gain progress has hit a standstill. 

Weight Loss Plateau

1. You’re Gaining Muscle 

It’s possible that the scale isn’t moving because your body composition is changing. You may still be losing fat, but the scale may not be reflecting it because you’re gaining muscle at the same time. Author of our Body Composition article, Deanna Mercurio, explains that a more accurate way to track your progress is not with the scale but with body measurements and pictures. 

2. You’re Consuming Too Many Calories 

If you haven’t felt the need to track your calories, it might be a good time to start. Too many calories could be the culprit behind your plateau. Your body is smart, and it knows you’ve been depleting those precious fat stores. A study on weight gain found that the body’s internal protection against starvation encourages eating just so you will regain lost weight! Keeping track of what you’ve eaten can help you outsmart this natural response to weight loss. 

3. You’re Eating Too Many Processed Foods 

You might be hitting the right calorie count but turning a blind eye to the nutritional content of your food. Your body needs a variety of macro- and micro-nutrients to keep functioning at its best. Our dietitian recommends that you focus on real, whole foods and that you avoid processed food products.1  

4. Your Sugar Intake is Too High 

Sugar is the enemy in the battle with weight loss, partly because it’s easy to consume too much. The World Health Organization recommends that sugars comprise no more than 10% of your daily calories; that’s about 50 grams per day.2 A single beverage can easily contain more than that. Yes, that also means cutting back on healthier beverages like fruit juice. Our dietitian also warns against seemingly healthy smoothies that contain sherbet or fruit syrups. Those sweet additions, she explains, contain refined sugars that are easily absorbed and metabolized into fat.3 

5. Your Metabolism Has Adapted 

Switching things up can help kickstart your weight loss again. Again, we’ll lean on our dietitian’s recommendation. To switch things up, she suggests adding to or intensifying your existing fitness routine with weight training/resistance, cardio, or HIIT workouts, while adding some nutritious calories to those workout days. Those calories can take the form of vegetables, legumes, and pre-workout shakes or recovery drinks.4  

Muscle Gain Plateau 

1. You’re Not Eating Enough 

As you gain muscle, your energy needs change as well. You’ll need more nutritious calories (from lean proteins, vegetables, whole grains and healthy plant fats)5 and more protein than the average person because your body needs them to repair and build the muscles you’re working. Read our Protein article to learn how to calculate what your body needs (based on your weight and activity level) to help you bulk. 

2. Your Muscles Have Adapted 

Just like your metabolism, your muscles can adapt to your routine. This is why workout routines should be anything but “routine.” You’ll need to do things differently to break your body out of its comfort zone. Remember when you first started a certain type of workout and you really had to push yourself through your sets? If you no longer feel challenged by your workout, your body has adjusted. Try increasing your working weight or incorporating some more intense training, like drop sets, to get your muscles back into build-mode. Sticking to the same routine may help you maintain muscle, but progressive overload is crucial to building muscle. 

3. You’re Not Drinking Enough Water 

When your body doesn’t have enough water, your muscles must compete with other organs that are also demanding it. As you lose water through sweat, your blood volume is reduced. This slows oxygen delivery to and carbon dioxide removal from your muscle tissue.6 Essentially, you won’t be able to work as hard during training if you’re not giving your body enough water to cope with the physical exertion. It’s important to hydrate before, during, and after exercise.5 

4. You’re Inconsistent 

As we mentioned earlier, progressive overload and variety in your workout is very important to building muscle. Now you have to make sure you’re consistent about how you train. Your body needs to know that this type of exertion isn’t a once-in-a-while thing; that your muscles need to do this job often! Consistency, paired with progressive overload, prompts your body to build muscle because the physical tasks your body is being asked to do are not going away and they’re getting more difficult. 

5. You’re Doing Too Much Cardio 

The right amount of cardio can help you build muscle. Too much can do the opposite. Go back to the first item on this list for a second. To build muscle, you need to eat more calories! Regular cardio can help you consume those extra calories without gaining a lot of fat.7 Cardio also increases your blood flow, which if you remember for item 3, is important for oxygen delivery to and waste removal from your muscle tissue. The increased blood flow also helps deliver fresh nutrients (which your muscles obviously need for recovery and growth)7 

Too much intense cardio, on the other hand, can pull resources away from your muscle tissue. Now instead of those resources going towards building muscle, they’re fueling your cardio. If you’re trying to bulk, keep your cardio at low intensity and low volume.8  

Let us know in the comments below if you’ve learned something new! Will you be adjusting your workout or nutrition regimen? Stay in-the-know on trending health and nutrition topics and subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the Living Healthy Blog! 


  1. James, Debbie. “How to Handle a Weight Loss Plateau: QA.” Living Healthy, 25 Jan. 2020, http://bloglafitness.azurewebsites.net/2019/09/19/how-to-handle-a-weight-loss-plateau/ 
  2. “Daily Sugar Intake – How Many Grams of Sugar a Day?” Food Pyramid, http://www.foodpyramid.com/daily-sugar-intake/ 
  3. James, Debbie. “My Weight Loss Has Plateaued… Any Advice?” Living Healthy, 20 Apr. 2018, http://bloglafitness.azurewebsites.net/2018/03/29/weight-loss-plateaued-advice/ 
  4. James, Debbie. “What to Do When Weight Loss Stalls: QA.” Living Healthy, 25 Jan. 2020, http://bloglafitness.azurewebsites.net/2020/01/28/what-to-do-when-weight-loss-stalls/ 
  5. James, Debbie. “How Much Protein Should I Be Eating?: QA.” Living Healthy, 25 Jan. 2020, http://bloglafitness.azurewebsites.net/2020/01/09/how-much-protein-should-i-be-eating/  
  6. Muñoz, Colleen X., and Evan C. Johnson. “Hydration for Athletic Performance.” Nutrition and Enhanced Sports Performance (Second Edition), Academic Press, 12 Oct. 2018, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B978012813922600045X 
  7. Hitchcock, Heather. “How Much Cardio Should I Do When Bulking?” LIVESTRONG.COM, Leaf Group, 2 Sept. 2019, https://www.livestrong.com/article/437460-how-much-cardio-should-i-do-when-bulking/  
  8. Hartman, Bill. “Will Cardio Keep Me from Gaining Muscle?” Men’s Health, Men’s Health, 25 May 2018, https://www.menshealth.com/fitness/a19540296/will-cardio-keep-me-from-gaining-muscle/ 

Successful Weight Maintenance – How Do People Do It?

Successful Weight Maintenance – How Do People Do It?


It’s hard enough as it is to lose weight, and the more we learn, the more we find how many factors stack up against our efforts to maintain our progress. A review of the literature on weight loss maintenance and weight regain has narrowed down the potential reasons for why keeping the weight off is so difficult. To help us understand why weight maintenance is tough, it helps to consider what makes it successful to begin with. 

What Makes Weight Maintenance Successful? 

According to this literature review, successful weight maintenance is associated with: 


  1. Greater Initial Weight Loss 
    • The more weight you lose at the start of your weight loss efforts correlates with how well you can keep your total weight loss off. 
  2. Reaching a Self-Determined Goal Weight 
    • There is potentially a psychological benefit to setting a goal and achieving it that helps you maintain the results of all your effort. 
  3. Having a Physically Active Lifestyle 
    • This can be understood to mean that those who lose weight strictly by dieting will have a harder time maintaining weight loss than those who also incorporate physical activity into their lifestyle. 
  4. A Regular Meal Rhythm That Includes Breakfast and Healthier Eating 
    • Numerous studies have already determined that individuals who eat breakfast are more likely to control their weight,1 so we’re not at all surprised by this one. 
  5. Control of Over-Eating and Self-Monitoring of Behaviors 
    • The ability to practice self-control and to monitor our own behaviors is not a natural skill. It takes practice and will-power to master our involuntary impulses. 

These 5 items are all things you can do. You can work for greater initial weight loss, you can add physical activity to your lifestyle, you can change your nutrition habits.

The following factors also contribute highly to successfully maintaining weight loss, but they are not as easy to manipulate.

According to the same literature review, part of your success is also owed to:

  1. Your Internal Motivation 
    • This is perhaps the reason most of us struggle to start with or stick to plans that we think will be difficult to accomplish. 
  2. Your Level of Social Support 
    • It’s not just a matter of having a support system but a question of how easily you turn to them when you need support. 
  3. Better Coping Strategies and Your Ability to Handle Life Stress  
    • Poor coping strategies can involve eating in response to negative emotions and stress.2 
  4. Self-Efficacy 
    • This is the belief that you can do the things you set out to do. 
  5. Autonomy  
    • This is the ability to make your own informed decisions. 
  6. Your Ability to Assume Responsibility 
    • How well do you take-on tasks that are presented to you? 
  7. Greater Psychological Strength and Stability 
    • How effectively can you check-in with your emotions, recover from setbacks, and recognize maladaptive behaviors? 

In this list we can see how much our psychological, social, emotional, and environmental situations all contribute to our overall ability to care for our health. We haven’t even touched the biological factors that make our individual endeavors more difficult. The bottom line is, there is never ONE reason why you are struggling with maintaining your weight loss. 

Why We Regain Weight

Now that we can clearly see the common factors among those who are successful, we can easily run through those lists and identify which factors are playing a part in our personal struggle. A lot of it is founded in our ability to adhere to certain routines and to new habits. An equally important piece comes in the form of our emotional and psychological strength and the type of support we have.  

What Can We Do About It?

If all these things are tied together, it seems that a person would need a life that is perfect in all ways in order to achieve and maintain their goals. However, we know that no one has a perfect life, and yet there are successful people everywhere. How do they do it and what can we learn from their success that we can apply to our own approach?  

The answer to that is attempted in “Keep the Weight Off” articles everywhere. Everyone has their own idea of which approach works best. Yes, there is some cross-over, but a lot of the advice typically goes back to something along the lines of “watch what you eat” and “do more exercise.” However, if any of the above factors mean anything, the real answer should be something only you can determine based on your individual circumstances. 

Take some time today to think through areas in your life that, if improved, can help you set a foundation for success. A strong foundation can make the difference you need to get where you’re trying to go. 

We invite you to share what you plan to tackle to increase your total wellness and to establish a stronger base. Let us know in the comments below! To read our dietitian’s advice for Slow Weight-Loss, How to Handle a Weight-Loss Plateau, or How to Calculate Your New Calorie Limits After Weight-Loss, click the links to read the QA’s. For more articles like this one, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 


  1. Davis, Jeanie Lerche. “Lose Weight: Eat Breakfast.” WebMD, WebMD, 31 Aug. 2010, https://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/features/lose-weight-eat-breakfast#1  
  2. Elfhag, K., and S. Rössner. “Who Succeeds in Maintaining Weight Loss? A Conceptual Review of Factors Associated with Weight Loss Maintenance and Weight Regain.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 10 Jan. 2005, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-789X.2005.00170.x 



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