Granola nutrition bar

We know all the reasons to eat right and stay away from fast food. Fast food has been blamed for the sudden rise in obesity, and obesity has been linked to heart troubles, diabetes, joint damage and even premature death, but when you are pressed for time, it’s undeniable that fast food can be a convenient meal. To be healthy and stay in good shape, you must exercise of course, but you must also eat right.

Nutrition Bars Are A Healthier, Convenient Option

In an effort to cut calories and stay away from the Bog Macs and Whoppers, many people are turning to nutrition bars to replace high fat meals and snacks. While the jury is still out on the benefits of nutrition bars for people trying to lose weight, sometimes a nutrition bar is your best option when you’re on the go.

But some bars are no better nutritionally than candy bars, and some taste like cardboard. Of the major nutrition bars, which ones are actually good for you, and which ones taste good?

Some Popular Nutrition Bars

Slim-Fast is the market leader in meal replacements. The “Shake for Breakfast, Shake for Lunch and a Sensible Dinner” slogan converted a whole generation of dieters to meal replacements, but hectic lifestyles made keeping shakes cold difficult.

To provide more convenience, Slim-Fast introduced a line of meal bars that were touted as being a complete meal replacement. The first versions of the products were as high in sugar as a Hershey bar, but when American went low carb, the lower-sugar Optima line was unveiled. With 15 grams of sugar, the Optima bars still aren’t an option for low-carb dieters or diabetics, but with two grams of fiber and eight grams of protein and 220 calories, they make an attractive option to a high fat hamburger. Flavors range from Rich Chocolate Brownie, which is passably chocolate and very moist Trail Mix Chewy Granola, which tastes like a higher fat granola bar. These aren’t the best tasting bars, but they are far from the worst.

The dubious honor of worst tasting bar goes to the South Beach Diet Cinnamon Cream bar. Like the Slim-Fast bar, it weighs in at 220 calories. It has seven grams of fat and five grams of fiber, but only one gram of sugar. From a nutritional profile, this bar is better for you than a Slim-Fast bar, especially if you are watching your sugar intake, but it can’t help you if you won’t eat it. The cinnamon tastes terribly artificial and it leaves a bitter aftertaste. The Chocolate Crisp fares a little better, but is still far from the best tasting bar.

Luna Bars

The best tasting bar is also the lowest calorie bar. Luna Bars have a paltry 180 calories per bar. They are quick to point out that this is not a complete meal replacement and recommend yogurt or fruit to round out a meal. The bars contain a whopping ten grams of protein, three grams of fiber,four and a half grams of fat and ten grams of sugar. This is a more balanced ratio than Slim-Fast or South Beach bars. The bars also provide 100% of the daily value for vitamins C, B12 and B6. Flavors go from the fruity Lemon Zest to Carmel Nut Brownie. The texture is similar to a heavy rice cereal treat. A new line of Luna Bars, Luna Sunrise, also provides Omega 3s.

When possible, whole fresh foods are your best bet, but when you are on the go, nutrition bars can salvage your diet.

I know what you’re thinking — now that you have actually gotten into the habit of going to the gym on a regular basis, why should you have to worry about changing anything?

Well, the fact is that no matter how much success you might be having with your current routine, sooner or later things are going to change and you will hit the dreaded “plateau”.

Plateau may be one of the most hated words in the world of health and fitness, yet it happens to everyone sooner or later. Yes, it is unfortunate that you will have to deal with it, but it happens, you just need to know what to do when it does.

Why Do Plateaus Occur?

Our bodies are very adaptable — they can handle stresses ranging from childbirth to running an Iron man Triathlon. If you know how to train yourself and adapt, your body will do the rest. Actually, that’s why people can run marathons and triathlons to begin with. Our bodies are put under an incredible amount of stress during a 26.2 mile road race, so much so that many people will never be able to accomplish the feet for one reason or another. In order to be able to do in the first place, you need to put faith that your body is actually going to be doing a lot of the work on its own.

Day after day, mile after mile, our bodies endure whatever tortures you can dish out and in the process it adapts by lowering its own heart rate and metabolism in order to combat the grueling task that you are putting before it. If your body is able to this in a situation as extreme as a marathon, it will certainly do it when you are in the gym.

Every time you work out your body is subjected to stress that creates microscopic tears in the muscle fibers. These tears heal with time, rest and nutrition and grow larger and stronger.

However, your body doesn’t really like that this is happening. It is a form of stress and your body doesn’t like stress. So, eventually your body gets used to whatever fitness regime you have set for yourself and will only put forth enough effort on its own so that you can accomplish what you have done before. Over time your body gets used to the stress and ignores it as much as it can. And that creates plateaus in your performance where you gains might not necessarily decrease, but they certainly don’t increase.

How to Overcome a Plateau

In order to avoid the plateau effect as much as possible you need to get creative with your workouts. Doing cardio day in and day out might work at first in the weight loss effort, but eventually your body will get used to the pace you keep and use as much anaerobic energy as possible to avoid having to use calories as a source of fuel. So what do you do?

Believe it or not, it’s a lot easier than you might think, you just have to work a little harder than you might want to. The average gym-goer uses either the “manual” or “fat-burning” setting when doing cardio. And this is just fine, at first. The fat-burning setting will be effective for much longer because the machine will adjust itself to bake sure that you keep an elevated heart rate. However, the manual setting will only work for so long until you adjust to the pace and distance goals that you have made for yourself. After you have gotten used to working out on a particular piece of equipment; instead of using the manual setting try using the “random” setting. This will generate a random elevation or speed by which to keep pace with. With your body being unable to predict what will happen next, you will be able to keep a higher heart rate through out the course of your workout.

Weightlifting is a little more complex. Yes, you might want a bigger chest and bigger arms, but doing the bench press and preacher curl everyday isn’t the way to go about your goals (the fact that it is actually your triceps that give your arms greater size and shape not withstanding). You really need to sit down and figure out your best plan of attack when it comes to lifting. You need to figure out what your goals are and how much time you have each day to devote to said goals. Will you do a training split or a total body workout (see: Train Split vs. Total Body Training article)? What body part or exercise will you do first and thus devote the most energy to? How many reps will you do per set? How many sets will you do per exercise? Will you listen to your body or stick to a plan? This are very important questions that you need to ask yourself before working out, because you are going to need to re-evaluate them regularly.

Training your method of weight training is recommended approximately every month to two months. Changing your routine this frequently will ensure that you body doesn’t grow stale of the same old routine that you put yourself through day in and day out.

Never Give Up

Most importantly, never give up; keep working hard. Don’t think that just walking in the door of the gym is enough, it may be the hardest thing you do, but it isn’t the last thing that you need to worry about. Fitness isn’t short term, it is a lifestyle. Don’t waste your time or money on something that you aren’t willing to put your all into. You health is too important to just go through the motions.

Man working out by running

There are many people who decide to work out or get into shape but are not sure what technique will give them the fast results they are looking for.

The truth is, there are many different workouts for the exact results you are looking for. For example, if you want to be just plain ripped but not look like a meat head, or if you want to be ripped and look big, there are different work outs that you should choose carefully.

My Experience and Approach

I have done my fair share of working out. I have used many different approaches and strategies but I have found that only a couple of them actually gave me the results I was looking for. Now, like I said, if you want a ripped body but not to be too big or just to be ripped and big at the same time, there are different work outs to choose. I am willing to share with you the work outs that have given me the fastest results.

First I will explain the work out used to get the really ripped body that when you take off your shirt the folks will be like, “Wow, I didn’t know you worked out”.

Getting That Totally Ripped Body

The equipment I would recommend for this approach would be something like a Bow flex or a crossbow. These are very popular today in home work out gyms. They allow your muscles to be worked throughout the whole routine.

Start out doing three sets including 10 reps each. Depending on what you are aiming for you will do those certain work outs. I would suggest working out only three times a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Monday and Friday you should do the work outs I have listed below.

Monday and Friday:

  • Bench – Chest
  • Squats – Legs
  • Curls – Biceps
  • Crunches
  • Shoulders raises with a dumbbell or other weight

Now on Wednesday you will do different workouts.

Wednesday:

  • Back rows – The back row is kind of like trying to start your lawn mower, except you’re not pulling a string you’re pulling weight.
  • Pull ups – Biceps
  • Pull downs – Grab the two handles of a bow flex as you’re standing up. Set it to where you have to pull them down. Then keep your arms straight only bending at the elbow, pull the weight down. You should feel it in your triceps.
  • Crunches
  • Leg Raises – Adjust to your strength. Don’t put a lot of weight on if it’s too hard. Start out easy.

There is your new work out routine. Do about three sets of 10 reps for each work out on that particular day. Do the three sets of 10 for two weeks using the same weight the whole two weeks. For example, if you are doing 185 on your bench for three sets of 10 then on week three you will go up about 10-20 pounds and do five sets of five.

The heavier you get the lower reps you will do until you are use to it. After you do two weeks of five sets of five then you move up weight again and for your last two weeks you do fours sets with only three reps each. Now most people can do more then 10 crunches so start out at doing around what is comfortable for you.

This is a six week program and it will work. I’m not a very big guy. I’m only 5’10” and about a 160 pounds and I went from having problems benching 200 to about six weeks later almost getting 260.

Going For the Muscle Man Look

muscle man

Now for those who want to be strong and look the part, I have a work out for you. Look at the same routine above. You will be using those exact work outs. Now except using a bow flex home gym you are going to be using free weights. Have you ever heard of the term, “pumping Iron”? You will be using the actual weights, the weights you will be sliding on and off of the bar that you will bench and squat with. Make sure you have some one to spot you while you do certain work outs.

Just go through the exact same six week routine and you will have a deeper foundation and a really nice toned body kicking in.

Very important: Make sure you are eating healthy, and do not drink sugary carbonated beverages. That’s right, I mean no pop. Drink water when you work out and after every meal. Your body is made mainly of water so drinking water will help heal your muscles and give them what they need to grow. If you have completed the six week program then just start back at day one with three sets of 10, but now use more weight then you did last time on three sets of 10.

Now get started! And best of luck — you can do this!