Bridal Fitness Basics
...a complete guide to getting in shape for the wedding day and beyond
Of course you want to look fabulous on your wedding day – who doesn’t? Unfortunately, a gorgeous gown and killer accessories can only take you so far. The true pathway to looking and feeling amazing is paved by a healthy fitness and nutrition routine.
Ugh..you know that tired piece of advice is easier said than done. But that’s where we come in… We’ve outlined the basics to get you started towards a healthier you.
Getting Started - Lifestyle Changes vs. Restrictive Dieting:
The key here is simple changes you can incorporate into your daily routine that will gradually improve your health and the look of the body. In other words – no crash dieting! Extreme caloric deprivation is not only dangerous, it sets you up for failure since it’s impossible to maintain.
If you’re looking to lose a lot of weight, you’ll need to get cracking at least 6 months before your wedding day (or as soon as you read this!) Even if you’re just looking to tone up and drop a few pounds, start today. Why wait?
Losing/Maintaining Weight 101
Forget the fad diets, forget the off-limit foods, forget the banned categories of foods. There is only one simple rule you need to know: to lose weight – you must burn more calories (energy/exercise) than you take in (eat). It’s all about calories in vs. calories out.
Nutrition 101 (the calories-in part)
Get a general estimate of how many calories a day you’re burning, then build your meal plans around an equal amount of calories (to maintain) or slightly less calories (to lose). A handy free tool can be found at dailyplate.com. Here you can enter personal stats like height, weight, and weight loss goals – along with the various types of physical activity you do each day (not only at the gym, but also activities like cooking, cleaning, walking up stairs – they all count). The tool will then calculate the number of calories you should eat based on your goals.
Here are some simple guidelines to help you maintain your caloric goals, keep your energy level up, and get all the nutrients you need:
1) Eat 5-6 small meals a day
Give up the notion that you must starve yourself to lose weight. Your body is designed for survival, and part of its survival mechanism involves holding onto body fat to be used in times of food shortage. Skipping meals or eating a very low amount of calories causes your body to go into starvation mode, which slows your metabolism.
Three large meals do not provide your body with the constant flow of nutrients and energy it needs to increase your metabolism and burn fat. Strive to eat 5 or 6 small meals evenly spaced throughout the day.
2) Portion Control
Understand that the size of your stomach is about as big as your two fists. So at one meal, you should never eat more than two fists full of food. Here’s a general idea of the correct size portions:
Protein – a deck of cards or the meaty part of your hand with the fingers cut off
Carbohydrates – make a fist and cut your hand in half (or about 1 cup)
3) Food Content - Focus on Fiber and Protein
Food without protein or fiber has little to no nutritional value (that’s what they mean by empty calories). With every meal you eat, you should aim to get about 10 grams of protein and about 5 grams of fiber – for a total of at least 60 grams of protein and 25 grams of fiber per day). This doesn’t mean you have to bring out the calculator every time you eat. Getting your daily amount of protein and fiber is easy if you’re eating 5-6 small meals a day consisting of foods that have at least a few grams of fiber and protein. Check the nutrition labels on the foods you buy.
Forget the notion that all carbohydrates are evil. Complex carbohydrates rich in fiber are “good carbohydrates,” absorbed slowly into your system, giving you a steady energy supply. They can be found in whole grain breads, pasta and rice - also beans, fruits and veggies. The fiber in these foods also helps promote satiety, making you less likely to overeat.
When it comes to carbs, you should aim to have at least 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit per day. Avoid any grain products with the word “enriched” on the label and pasta products with “semolina” in the ingredients; instead opt for those with whole grain, stone ground, and whole wheat. Same goes for items containing high fructose corn syrup (sugar) in the first three ingredients – skip ‘em!
Protein is necessary for muscular growth and aids in weight loss by:
1) requiring more energy to digest than other foods (i.e. burning more calories and helping with the calories in vs. calories out equation).
2) helping to preserve lean muscle tissue while you lose fat
3) slowing down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream; reducing hunger and making it easier for the body to burn fat
4) promoting satiety – helping you feel full so you can stop eating sooner
Other Easy Nutrition tips:
Having difficulty sticking to this eating plan? Here are some small steps you can take to achieve your caloric goals:
- stay hydrated – drinking lots of water helps you stay hydrated and may also make you feel full (sometimes hunger pangs are actually a sign that you’re thirsty). How much should you drink? Multiply your total body weight by 75%; this is the total number of fluid ounces you should take in each day.
- sub. sugar free/low fat versions of your favorite snacks
- sub low fat or fat free dairy for whole fat versions
- switch to diet sodas
- replace sugar with splenda in recipes or other items you usually add sugar to
- limit alcohol intake – not only is alcohol empty calories (all sugar, no fiber or protein), but it usually leads to poor eating decisions or skipping workouts. Try your best to avoid it.
Exercise 101- (the calories-out part)
Getting Started - Establish an exercise routine you can live with. If you’re currently sedentary, don’t attempt to dive into an hour-a-day/seven days a week routine – because chances are, you won’t stick to it. Instead, increase your energy level with achievable goals; 30 minutes for three to four days a week is a good start for those who haven’t hit the gym in years. If you’re already pretty active, commit to taking it to the next level – either by adding a few extra minutes to your workouts, or increasing the intensity of your routines.
Regardless of your current fitness level, you should strive for an exercise routine that combines cardio, strength and flexibility.
Here's an optimal fitness schedule for you to strive towards; depending on your current fitness level, working up to this routine may take more or less time:
Cardio Schedule - 3-4 cardiovascular workouts a week for 25-40 minutes. Pick activities that you enjoy and try to change it up - remember, exercise is meant to be fun. Take a fast walk or jog with your dog, go swimming, ride your bike, play tennis.
Strength Schedule - 3-4 strength workouts a week for 30 minutes. When strength training, you should work until fatigue – meaning the last repetition of each exercise should be extremely difficult. Don’t forget to include core and stabilization training; try incorporating physioballs, BOSU and discs into your workouts, or take a pilates class once a week.
Flexibility Schedule - Stretching will help you increase flexibility. Flexibility training can help avoid muscle imbalances, postural distortion and injuries. Stand tall, shoulders back, walk graceful and don’t forget to smile, this is your day!
Let’s face it – we’re all pressed for time – especially busy brides-to-be. The most efficient way to get all your cardio, strength and flexibility training in is through interval or circuit training training. By doing short bursts of cardio and strength with minimal rest in between – you can get the most of your time.