Cardio VS Weights; Digestion VS Dieting: It’s Not A War!

Good evening all,

I hope this note finds you well. I find myself in bed agonizing over my life choices… literally. Having trained a lot in Muay Thai I have unfortunately shied from sparring – I bit the bullet today and went to the busiest co-ed class and got over my getting-punched-in-the-face phobia. My shins may be in pain (the agony I am referring to) from blocking and sending kicks but I’ve learned tonight that I’m getting much better and more refined and that kind of progress is empowering: always progress over perfection. I am not here to complain about my exercise regime because that’s not what we’re here to do. As mentioned before it’s a journey and our decisions are made to make ourselves proud :).

Jen and I have decided to tie in the methods in which we target our fitness goals and bring to light how the lesser obvious may actually be most effective. Example: Jen explains that we do not need to stick to just running or climbing steps for cardio, weights can actually do the job!

Well, I’ll let her explain:

I got back from the gym today and literally looked like I had been rained on.  I was *pouring* with sweat.  So what did I do?  Row, run, bike?  Nope.  I lifted.

I remember the first time I tried to convince my mom that she needed to lift weights along with running.  She protested time and time again, “I just love cardio too much!”, “I just like a sweaty workout!”  I get this from women a lot, and I think it’s just because their time in the weight room is often confined to machines and light dumbbells.  Those things don’t make me sweat as much, either.

But today?  I sweat today, and I didn’t hit one piece of cardio equipment. I like running sometimes, and I often do steady-state cardio on the elliptical, but a lot of times I don’t want to leave the weight room, but I still want my heart rate way up.  (Note- this may be because the cardio room is a floor up from the weight room and lockers… I may be lazy.)

Here are a few ways to get your heart rate up and bang out a super sweaty, super heavy lifting session:

1. Supersets

The concept of this is simple, and you’ve probably done it before.  The idea is that instead of doing one exercise, resting, and then doing it again, you do two (or three, or four…) exercises back-to-back, and then rest.  When I tried to start working out back in high school, my “free personal trainer” told me about this, and I always supersetted (and still do…) my bicep and tricep exercises.  While this is a great way to get your work done faster, a better way to get your heart rate up is to superset a weighted exercise with cardio.  I learned about this when I first started lifting for real, doing Jamie Eason’s LiveFit program.  Try something like this for a super sweaty, super killer workout (note: I recommend doing this only with accessory lifts, and not major lifts like squats and bench, where you really need recovery time):

3 x 10 bicep curls

30 seconds jump rope

10 second rest

3 x 10 bicep curls

30 seconds jump rope


Try this with jump rope, mountain climbers, high knees, jogging, jump squats, anything that gives you a good cardio blast!

2. Active Rest Periods

Chances are that when you’re lifting, you’re spending a lot of time resting.  This is good, and your muscles need time to recover between sets– especially during heavy compound lifts.  But this doesn’t mean you have to stop moving!  This is another tip I picked out while working through LiveFit– trying doing some lower impact, easy cardio to keep your heart rate up, but not spike it, allowing that oxygen to run to your muscles.  Anything goes here, even just walking around the gym.  Sometimes I like to do light ab exercises if I’m on the bench (leg lifts, twists), air squats, leg kicks, or some kind of dynamic stretching.  You can also jog in place.

3. Finisher Complexes

My all-time favourite way to work up a sweat (and the reason I look like I was rained on today), is by finishing with a barbell complex.  I’d seen this all over the internet, but Neghar Fonooni’s blog sparked my interest in finishers.  The idea is that you set up a few moves you can string together, grab a barbell or dumbbell, and complete them all back-to-back, as fast as you can.  It burns, and it’s brutal!

My go-to finisher is to grab 40# barbell or an empty bar (45#) if there aren’t preloaded barbells, and bang out this set:

4 deadlifts

4 Romanian deadlifts

4 barbell rows

4 cleans

4 push presses

4 front squats

I do them all back to back, and I do it four times (but only because I like 4s…) and I am a beet-red mess at the end.  But I love it.  It’s quick and dirty and it gets the job done.

See more ideas for finishers at Neghar Fonooni’s blog here.

Moving onto the nutritious side of things, I’ve decided to banish an awful four letter word from my vocabulary – DIET. When we turn this word into ‘dieting’ it then becomes oppressive, inconsistent, unsustainable and depriving. I’ve decided to replace the concept of dieting with taking a look at the importance of digestion to completely change your outlook on old eating habits:

Digestion, NOT dieting.

I can’t help but think of the monster of a topic that is food and how many of us have such a love/hate relationship with it when we’re battling with our weight and health. The thing that is most fascinating to me is how much we revolve ourselves around this; the obsessions, myths, trends, and reality behind nutrition and “healthy eating.” How we maintain our physical selves come hand-in-hand between fitness and food. We spend minutes to hours on the treadmill trying to burn off that cupcake and work in ways to the best of our knowledge to get that beautiful, tight, toned body that we see on health magazines. That part is half-the-battle; whether you find it fun or strugglesome. However, I think there is a growing awareness that what we eat accounts for at least 70 – 80% of how we look (and feel) physically (and emotionally). The attitude of “I work out so I can eat what I want” is starting to fade and there is now a desire to educate ourselves on where our food comes from, how it is processed and how we digest it.

How our food is consumed, paired with others and broken down in our stomach determines the effective or ineffectiveness of our weight-loss and weight-training goals. If we are not digesting our food properly then that means we are carrying an excess of waste that our bodies need to expel but are instead being stored and turned into that word we all hate: fat. A difficult process of digestion takes a toll on our bodies and takes energy away from us. You may have noticed that you get tired after a “satisfying” meal – this is because of the work you have just made for your body. The results of this are much worse than you think; it takes away from us physically and mentally – not being able to think or perform at our maximum potential resulting in lethargy, skin blotches/acne, thinned, dull hair and weight gain.

When we begin our venture to optimal health, strength, and energy when looking at nutrition we must start with digestion. It has been evidently proven in my personal journey that I am at my best physically and mentally when I am eating when I am a. only hungry and b. eating satisfying nutritional meals that promote proper, easy digestion. I will share methods that I have learned through reading Kimberly Snyder’s books that will enable you to start eating the right way. Through her, I’ve learned we should actually be eating light-to-heavy and not the other way around. Breakfast/lunch is NOT the most important meal of the day; it actually takes the most energy away from us. Save big breakfast and lunches on natural plant foods/fruit and vegetable smoothies, large, delicious (it is possible) salads and all of those things are bodies are meant to consume. It’s a change – but a change your body will love and thank you for:

1. Digestive Enzymes:

These may be bought in-store or you can make them at home (true.) Digestive enzymes coat your stomach to ready it for a smooth digestive process. Always have one first thing in the morning and before bed.

You can also make a sauerkraut digestive enzyme salad that appeals to the taste buds to eat before your meals. Kimberly Snyder’s Probiotic Enzyme Salad. It is easy to make but it’s a 5-day fermentation process where the vegetable will sit in an air-tight, clean, glass container in filtered water. In this way, the nutritional probiotic enzymes will grow. See the link below for recipe/benefits:

2. Food Pairing:

ALWAYS start with a digestive enzyme and a salad (or greens) to coat your stomach. Next, you must learn to be mindful that pairing certain foods together can either harm or support your digestion. When you pair heavy foods together your body will work overtime to digest the food and will eventually store as toxins in your glands and organs – they literally become one with it. Does that freak you out? It freaked me out. The result of this is not only a high BMI but it will also become a detriment on your health; clogged arteries, kidney/liver problems and so on and so forth. We must pair our foods properly and as promised – you will reach your goals – whether you are athletic or not. If you are athletic you will be over the moon with the results and your new-found energy.

Proper/Improper Food Pairing examples:

  • Proteins paired with vegetables: Good

  • Starches paired with vegetables:: Good

  • Proteins and starches: Bad

  • Different starches paired together: Good

  • Different proteins paired together: Bad

  • Fats paired with protein: Bad

  • Fats paired with starches: Good

  • Fruits (except melons) paired with Raw Greens: Good.

  • Mixing two types of animal protein: Bad

Are you frustrated by the above? I was at first. But it does become easier. Here’s some examples of meals below:

Improper food pairing meals:

  • Meat/Seafood with Rice

  • Peanut Butter/Almond Butter on Toast

  • Sandwiches containing avocado and/or meat

  • Meat/Seafood with quinoa

Proper food pairing meals:

  • Guacamole on rice crackers/corn chips

  • seafood/white meat paired with vegetables

  • salad containing fruit (vegetables can be eaten with anything)

  • Vegetable sandwich with sweet potato fries

Understand that proper food pairing will eventually turn into muscle memory and it will become more and more flexible as your body grows accustomed. This really and truly leads to overall health – even down to the strength of your nails and glow of your skin. I am practicing this everyday – I’m not perfect but I’m getting the hang of it and the results have been exciting and I’ve found so many ways to eat delicious, satisfying meals that didn’t cause me to bang my head on the kitchen counter trying to put them together. It takes patience and learning but at the end of the day – it is so, so worth it. I mentioned above that I am practicing being a vegan and it can be difficult on the weekends out with family/friends when there is cheese and baked goods within arms reach. I finally succeeded my first weekend with my boyfriend’s family maintaining a vegan diet. The challenge becomes less and less and it will eventually turn into habit. It;s a matter of letting go what you want now (a poutine or ice cream) for what you’ve always wanted: optimal health, strength and energy.

3. Eating Light-to-Heavy:

Kimberly Snyder has taught me that our bodies are wasting precious energy on digestion when we start our days heavy. We become tired, develop dark circles under our eyes and have zero energy to get ourselves to the gym and work on our strength-training. We are instead deteriorating our physical selves because we bought into this heavy-to-light myth. I recommend starting your day with fruits and greens compiled in a smoothie. Look in the Glowing Green Smoothie – it has become by addiction. Smoothies are great because it releases all of those beautiful enzymes from plants that we miss out when we don’t chew our food properly. These smoothies are LOADED with nutrition and gives us what our bodies need. Within weeks, your cravings will adapt and you’ll find yourself wanting fruits and vegetables instead of fried food and baked goods. It takes discipline but these results work quickly. Drink plenty of water in the mornings and early afternoons to make sure everything is moving through your body as it should. It’s a cleanser and is a key component to achieving optimal digestion. Lemon is a huge bonus to throw in there since it is a great cleanser for the liver; we only have one so we must take care of it!

Wait for lunch until your body is really saying “I’m hungry.” Food is best enjoyed when hungry anyway. Slow down, and enjoy your food; chew and savour. Start with a digestive enzyme and have a huge, delicious salad. There are so many beautiful, homemade salad dressing recipes available online (try to find oil-free – even olive oil can hinder you). At first, you’ll probably feel a bit hungry a couple of hours after your lunch so try waiting at least a few hours for your body to digest your lunch before you have a snack. Try sticking to fruit for your snack. 

Dinner time is the best time to eat heavier. You can have your starches, fats if your body requires and protein. It isn’t the worst thing if you mis-combine your food in the evening because you’ll be digesting your food in your sleep (the “don’t eat before bed” rule still applies – you should eat after few hours before it’s ‘lights out’). Again, start with a digestive enzyme and a salad and have your meal. If you’re hungry at night – have something light like homemade salsa with veggies. Your body can handle as many plant-based foods you desire – no more calorie counting this way: exciting! This again, is Kimberly Snyder’s regime and it is again, effective!

3. Eating and drinking: Not helpful for digestion

This can actually enable weight-gain. Your body needs to work hard to digest your beverage and food which causes a “traffic-jam” of digestion which again, uses your energy storing water/food sludge into your glands and organs – gross. It’s suggested that we wait at least 20 minutes before and after meals when we eat. This is an easy habit to adopt. If you love spicy foods; at least encourage you to eat slower!

4. Eating often is not helpful

I’m about to busy a long-running myth that eating small meals/snacks often in the day boosts your metabolism thus supporting weight-loss: I beg to differ. I’m sure as you’ve figured from all I have written – this actually works the other way around. Eating more causes more for the body to digest creating this sludge that will be stubborn to expel from our bodies. We are wasting energy by training our metabolism this way making it difficult to have the strength to train for our athletic goals. It’s a myth, people. You will cause more damage than good for your bodies. Believe me, I have been there.

That may have been a lengthy cover on digestion but believe it or not, that barely touches on this fascinating subject. If you fix your digestion you WILL see the results you desire. I’ll be blunt – the more you are visiting the washroom and having bowel movements (not constipation or diarrhea – that is bad); you are doing the right thing. This is a key component for getting energy into the body and powering out in your work-outs. Stick to it, and you will not be disappointed.

Kimberly Snyder’s article is a good read if you’d like to know more:

Peace in, and power out 😉




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