Jessica Matthews by Jessica Matthews

New Year = New You. Right?

Before you go setting unrealistic or ineffective resolutions, take some time to rethink the approaches you’ll be taking this year to become a healthier, happier you.

Revolutionize your resolutions and allow yourself to truly transform in 2012! Here’s how:

Meet Your Fitness Resolutions

Meet Your Nutrition Resolutions

Revolutionized Fitness Resolution

Learn more about how you can maximize your cardio workout in this video.

Watch it on YouTube

TOSS: Vowing to do more cardio to lose weight.

TRY: Redesigning your cardio routine, and vary your approach to exercise.

If your resolution is to include more heart-pumping cardio into your workout routine, avoid the temptation to simply hop on your favorite piece of cardio equipment for the same amount of time — and at the same pace — as you’ve been doing week after week, year after year.

Instead opt to maximize your cardio sessions by incorporating high-intensity interval training (or HIIT) into your program one or two days per week. HITT consists of short bursts of high-intensity activity combined with a period of active recovery.

Research shows that this style of training allows the body to utilize the anaerobic energy system more efficiently, and also helps remove metabolic waste from the muscles between intervals effectively. It also enables exercisers to increase their VO2 max without increasing cardio duration.

DO IT TODAY: While there’s no one single way to structure a HIIT session, here’s an example of a training protocol you can try today to get a feel for this type of training. 

HIIT can be done with just about any mode of cardiorespiratory training — from running to cycling to swimming. When it comes to intensity, the high-intensity intervals should be performed at an exertion level of 7 or higher (on a scale of 0-10), and are typically performed for anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes. The active recovery intervals are performed at a moderate intensity of around a 5 on the same 0-10 scale.

Alternating these intervals in a 1:2 ratio (for example, one minute of high-intensity activity followed by two minutes of active recovery) helps to ensure that an adequate length recovery interval is taken — this is where many of the benefits of this type of training occur.

In addition to interval training, consider varying your approach to cardio by trying out some fun-filled cardio-based group fitness classes this year, such as Zumba®, TurboKick®, or Spinning®. Also, keep in mind that resistance training is an important factor with regards to losing weight, improving resting metabolic rate, increasing lean muscle mass and decreasing body fat percentage.

Revolutionized Nutrition Resolution

Learn more on how to make your carbs work for you — and your workout — in this video.

Watch it on YouTube

TOSS: Cutting out carbs.

TRY: Using your carbs wisely by focusing on nutrient timing.

The reality is that carbohydrates are needed for both aerobic and anaerobic exercise, as the body uses muscle glycogen as a primary fuel source during exercise. So while it may be tempting to swear off carbs altogether, keep in mind that a depletion of muscle glycogen results in reduced force production and muscles weakness — not exactly the ideal conditions for having an effective workout (or the energy to continue to work out on a regular basis).

Instead, vow to use carbs more wisely! Growing research in the area of nutrient timing shows just how effective carbohydrates can be in terms of proper fueling and refueling before, during and after exercise:

Phase 1 (the ‘Energy Phase’): This phase occurs before and during a workout, and is designed to increase nutrient delivery to muscles — sparing glycogen and protein loss, minimizing muscle damage and nutritionally preparing the body for recovery. Believe it or not, proper fueling in this phase actually stimulates protein synthesis and aids in the rate of muscle recovery post-exercise.

Phase 2 (the ‘Anabolic Phase’): This phase is typically defined as within 45 minutes to an hour post-exercise, which is when nutrients are most needed in order to make gains in terms of muscular strength and endurance. Research has shown that consuming carbohydrates within this first hour helps increase protein synthesis and replenish glycogen stores that provide the body with what it needs for recovery.

Phase 3 (the ‘Growth Phase’): This phase is defined as the remainder of the day, and is all about muscle strengthening, repairing and growth. In fact, consuming a mix of proteins and carbohydrates within 3 hours post-exercise has been shown to have a positive effect on stimulating protein synthesis.

DO IT TODAY: So how can you translate the science into practical tips you can follow at home? For the average exerciser (working out for about 60 minutes or less), about an hour or so before a workout, aim to consume a combination of easily digested carbohydrates along with protein in roughly a 4:1 ratio.

Need snack ideas? Try low-fat yogurt with a sliced banana or perhaps low-fat string cheese with a serving of whole-grain crackers.

Within an hour after your workout, aim to consume roughly a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. Examples of post-workout snacks can include a cup of cooked oatmeal with ¼ cup of raisins, two slices of whole grain toast with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter or an energy bar and a sports drink.

For the remainder of the day (especially within 4 hours of exercise), focus on enjoying a mix of complex carbohydrates and healthy proteins in roughly a 1:5 ratio — tuna and a small whole wheat pita, or grilled chicken with a small serving of brown rice and vegetables.

So what are you waiting for? Make this year your best year and set yourself up for success by revitalizing your approach to your health, fitness and nutrition. Your body will thank you!

Have specific goals for 2012? Consider enlisting the expert guidance of a personal trainer or registered dietitian who can help you on your health and fitness journey.


  1. Bell-Wilson, J. (2005). “The Buzz About Nutrient Timing.” IDEA Fitness Journal (February), 41-45.
  2. Chambers, A. & Kravitz, L. (2009). “Nutrient Timing: The New Frontier in Fitness Performance.” AKWA: The Official Publication of the Aquatic Exercise Association, 22(4), 4-6.
  3. Helgerud, J., Hoydal, K., Wang, E., Karleson, T., Berg, P., Bjerkass, M., (2007). Aerobic high-intensity intervals improve VO2max more than moderate training. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 39(4), 665-671.