fat loss

Walking Joshua To Class

"So Joshua ordered the officers of the people." --Joshua 1:10

Read: Joshua 1 I used to dread 5th period math. Oh, I was fine with the subject matter, but it was the getting to my math class that had me shaking in my little boots. Each day that semester, a small group of bullies would hang out by my locker, calculating ways to torment me until one day, I got smart and asked my Bubba to walk me to class. Little did they know that the skinniest kid in school was the younger brother of the toughest. They did the math.

In our passage today, Moses has just died and the responsibility fell on Joshua. In preparing Joshua to address the people, you notice God say things like, "Nobody will be able to stand against you" (v. 5), "Be strong and courageous" (v. 6) "Be strong and very courageous" (v. 7) and then again God finishes his holy encouragement with, "Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." (v. 9)

God walked Joshua to class.

You know, I don't remember ever being scared again on the way to math. Not because of who I was, but because of who walked with me that day. If you notice, God didn't tell Joshua, "Chin up, you have the power, trust your instincts, believe in yourself." No, God knew Joshua could stand tall because he wouldn't be alone. And what was Joshua's response? After nine verses of God's assurance, we learn Joshua didn't hesitate. That's right. He ordered. He commanded. He pushed forward in faith and trust. (Because that's how winning is done.)

Folks, faith says that there aren't enough problems waiting around today's corner that can add up or stand up to the One you bring with you. Like we said yesterday, life hits hard. Life can bully. And if we rely on our "selves," we do have reason to fear. But like Joshua and that skinny fifth grader, you and I don't walk to class alone.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: What are you facing that needs your absolute faith and trust that God is with you? Health, financial, relationships, hardships? What can we be praying with you about?

EXTREME MAKEOVER: FRIDGE EDITION Body makeovers start in the kitchen. So for 2013, it’s out with the old and in with the new for your fridge and freezer. We’ve got five things to scratch off your shopping list and five fresher, healthier, and more affordable things to put in their place.

>> Click here for tips on how to retrofit your fridge for year-round clean eating. Prayfit Stainless Steel Water BottleSHOP FIT: Looking for some new fitness swag to sweat up in your pursuit of a leaner, healthier body? We've got just the thing(s).

Click here to explore the newly updated PrayFit store!

Peace of the Puzzle

"For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace." --1 Corinthians 14:33

Read: 1 Corinthians 14

I've never been very good at riddles. My brain just doesn't work like that. Crosswords? Forget 'em. For the life of me, I can't keep from looking up the answers in the back of the book. But puzzles? Well, that's a different story. Loretta and I enjoy a good puzzle. Shopping for one is easy too. You just find a cool picture, and that's it. You bring it home, spread the puzzle out on the table, prop up the photo and get to work. It's not long before what used to be in pieces begins to take the shape of the goal.

But how easy would it be if you took away the box with the picture on it? Tough, right? Or what if you turned off the lights, what then? How easy would it be to put that puzzle together?

For those without Christ, that's life. They piece together hours, days and weeks, assembling their lives -- on feel alone -- without Christ. As Christians, our lives are not easily assembled either. (If you're with me, say 'amen'.) Though we have Christ as our picture of perfection and more than enough light for a million-piece-life, we still stumble and struggle to put it together. Yet deep inside, we have that missing 'peace', don't we?

You know, Loretta and I can both be looking for the same piece of our little puzzle and when one of us finds it, what's the first thing we do? We show it to each other. We share it. Then we watch how it fills the empty space. And it's not long before what used to be in pieces begins to take the shape of the goal. You and I have the missing peace, and someone we know is searching for it. Let's show it. Let's share it.

--Jimmy Peña

Question: Whether at work, school, gym or even socially, where can we share Christ more unashamedly? Will you commit to sharing Christ with someone today? Use this (stole it from my grandmother): When you encounter someone who acts like a Christian, ask them, "Are you a Christian?" If they say, "Yes", say, "I thought so." If they say, "No", just tell them, "Oh, you'd make a great Christian." And then take it from there...

PLAYER PROFILE: Louie DeDonatis

Find out how this collegiate athlete has made relationship with the Lord his focus and what he has done on the field to build closing speed and game-changing stamina in this exclusive Q&A.

>> Q&A with Louie DeDonatis

A Line In the Sand

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” --Colossians 3:23-24

Read: Colossians 3 My recent trip to the water reminded me just how much my wife and I love turtles, especially those sea turtles. My dad used to say to me, “Jimmy, turtles are great because to get anywhere they gotta stick their necks out.” Well, in case you don’t share our enthusiasm, let me share some turtle trivia.

First, they’re born on the beach, even though they were never meant for the sand. And once they hatch, they don’t stick around to watch the grass grow. No sir! No sightseeing for these guys. In order to avoid the predators like birds and crabs, they run to the water as fast as they can. They might be young, but they know enough to know they’re neither safe nor at home.

And neither are we. We’re born on foreign soil and all we need to do is make our way to safety. The good news? Jesus has already defeated our predator, and He drew a line in the sand for us to follow. All we have to do is stick our necks out and run.

–Jimmy Peña

Question: What lines in the sand have you drawn for yourself, physically and spiritually? Are you committed to being obedient in quiet times as well as honoring the body through better choices of food and activity? If you want to share, please do so in the comment section. Let us celebrate and pray with you.

Bonus Trivia Question for Runners: What burns a greater percentage of fat calories? High-intensity intervals or low-intensity/long runs? Think you know? Give us your answer and justification and we may send you some PrayFit gear!

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Cinnamon Roll Oatmeal Cinnamon rolls. Oatmeal. Two breakfast faves that sit on opposite ends of the healthy-living spectrum -- unless you combine the best of both worlds. This recipe gives you the rich flavor of a cinnamon roll with the craving-killing fiber of oatmeal, all in one perfect breakfast bowl.

>> Click here for the recipe!

I'm His Resume

"By this all men will know that you're my disciples, that you have love for one another." --John 13:35

Read: John 13

Yesterday I worked on a resume. Some of you may know, but trying to put a life of work on a sheet of paper is no easy task. The objective, the history, the qualifications, all to make sure your best foot is forward and in view. Here I am! This is what I've done! But as I was working on it, I knew it didn't even come close to capturing his worth. See, it wasn't my resume, it was my Dad's.

And while his job history in the Navy and then in private business is impressive, I'm his resume. My brother is his resume. My mom, his wife of almost 50 years is his resume. I wish I could call prospective employers and tell them that we are who we are today because of who he is and what he's done. What a conviction to try and convince someone to give your sweet Dad a chance.

You know, our lives say a lot to the world about our Father. I know you feel the same, but I want nothing more than to be a living resume for my Jesus. You and I may be the only Jesus someone ever sees; the only believers someone will ever come into contact with. They may be famous, popular or simply a next door neighbor, searching for the truth. The truth is, Jesus died and rose again so that you and I may have an abundant life and eternity with Him. Because of that, I want the way I talk, think, act and live to be such a strong testimony to those around me that they have no other choice than to take a good, long look at this Jesus we call the Savior. And when they see us, hear us, and watch us, may they pause long enough to give Him a chance.

--Jimmy Peña

TRAINING TIP: Compound Moves

The three most popular, widely-used lifts in the gym are the bench press, deadlift and squat. Referred to as “The Big Three,” these moves fall into a category of exercises called compound, or multi-joint, lifts. These exercises require movement at more than one joint, which means that more total muscles have to get involved to complete each rep. And the more muscle you work, the more muscle and strength you stand to gain. As a bonus, the more muscle you recruit on a given exercise, the more calories you burn. Finally, any measure of muscle gain will improve your metabolism since muscle is calorie-eating tissue.

>> Learn how compound moves can be your ticket to a healthier body.

Off You Go

"God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called." I have always loved that saying. Story of my life. But what does it mean? Well, for me it means that God often calls us to do something that we may not feel equipped to do. Sometimes I think, "Who me? But Lord, that isn't what I am best at." Or so I think. I'm reminded of a few biblical examples of those who understood what it meant to be outside their comfort zones. (Moses, Peter, Mary Magdalene...) But when we're obedient, I believe those are the times we grow and are really used by Him.

Reminds me of my recent trip to Allaso Ranch, my amazing church's kids camp where I was a counselor. So many adventures and fun things to do, one of which was the zip line. As I stood in line with my 9-year-old daughter to fly high above the camp and across the lake, she was all smiles. I was smiling too but beneath my smile and sunglasses, I was scared. How is it that my 9-year-old daughter has no fear but me, a grown woman, is apprehensive?

So the guy tells us, "Just sit on the edge, let your legs dangle, lean over and off you go." I literally asked him, "Can you just push me?" (It seemed easier if the choice wasn't mine, but his) "No, you have to do it," he replied. "Ugh," I growled under my breath. I looked over at my daughter beaming at me from the other zip line, she was seated, feet dangling, just waiting for me. I flashed her a big grin, took a deep breath and off we went.

You know what? Experience of a lifetime. In my comfort zone? No. Worth the risk? Yes.

Outside of my comfort zone, I struggle. I sway back and forth between what is comfortable and what is good. It's a tug of war between my mind and my heart. Thankfully, God knows my heart, and He knows yours. He created us to be anything but mediocre, and He cares about the details of our lives. So today, I am going to move forward outside of my comfort zone, in obedience and in faith that the God of the universe has great things in store for me. He has them for you too. It’s His promise. So go ahead, sit on the edge, let your legs dangle and...off you go.

--Allison Earnst

PrayFit's contributing writer, Allison Earnst, is a fitness expert, motivator, competitor and mother of three. She's been featured in numerous magazines including FitParent, Natural Muscle and Oxygen magazine. She has shared her fitness story on Good Morning America, Extra TV and Lifetime's "The Balancing Act." You can visit her blog by clicking here.

3 WAYS TO CLEAN UP YOUR DIET With the abundance of nutrition information out there, it can be difficult to figure out where to start making changes. Too many steps explored, unfortunately, can sometimes lead to none taken. Here, we've boiled it down to three easy things you can start doing today to clean up your diet.

>> Dietary Do-Overs: 3 Steps You Can Take NOW

Misfits Seldom Do

"But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong." --1 Corinthians 1:27

Read: 1 Corinthians 1

If he were your neighbor, you'd move. If choosing teams, he'd be the last one picked. Without a doubt, on the island of misfits he'd be king. But he didn't care. More bold than beautiful, John knew the act to follow was really the act to follow. So he used whatever God gave him to get his message across to a world in need.

Friends, our bodies are merely tools. In the end, they simply get us from life's A to B. But our short trip was so important that Jesus made His. So this week, let's add how we eat and exercise to the list of strange ways God makes Himself known to those around us. Will you be popular? Maybe not. Regarded or rewarded? It's doubtful. But then again, the only attention that's really important is the attention you're paying to the body God designed for you. So go ahead. Be the last one standing. In a world that disregards the body as a means of praise, you'll be in good company when you don't fit in. Misfits seldom do.

--Jimmy Peña

TRAINING TIP: Rest Right, Blast Fat

If you're spending time in the gym and your goal is to get a little bit leaner, don't just go through the motions. The time you are taking between sets of exercise may be limiting how much fat you can burn. Here's how to use rest to lean up faster!

>> Click here to start burning more bodyfat today!

>> READ: For quick-hit, healthy living resources, visit our dedicated fitness and nutrition pages, which are updated with new content each week.

>> COMMUNITY & FELLOWSHIP: Our family has grown by leaps and bounds in five years. Interact with fellow faith-and-fitness devotees by joining our forums today. Here, you can share successes and struggles, swap recipes, pray for one another or just catch up with like-minded friends. Already a member? Sign in here.

>> SOCIAL NETWORKS: Now you can "like," "join," "tweet" and "watch" PrayFit. Click the links below to get plugged in with the rest of the PrayFit community. Facebook HeavenUp Twitter YouTube

Shepherds In Suits: Part I

"And even the very hairs on your head are numbered." --Matthew 10:30

Read: Matthew 10

Back in 2009, I wrote about a small group of soldiers-turned-bodyguards. Once brave on the battlefield for our country, these men now stand in the gap between danger and their client, with no regard for self. On watch and on guard, for the sake of their call.

As it so happens, I was asked to advise their client with training and nutrition as he prepared for a movie, so I had a rare, bird's eye view of their excellence.  And what I witnessed was nothing short of perfection. Selfless, stealthy. Shepherds in suits. I say shepherds because shepherds are fierce protectors; they can handle themselves, no problem. And yet shepherds are as caring for their sheep as nurses with newborns. And because I stayed close to the client, I shared his shield. I was safe, not because of who I was, but because of who he was. One call from the client, and you got the calvary.

So I suppose it's no wonder the bible refers to Jesus as the Great Shepherd. He watches over us night and day, and would go through hell to keep us safe. As a matter of fact, He did.

One call to Him? Calvary.

--Jimmy Peña

Question: How does knowing Jesus watches us so closely help you strive for better health or achieve modesty in how your portray yourself? Does it make a difference?

EGGS & CHOLESTEROL Are eggs bad for you? Hardly. Researchers have found that subjects who ate three whole eggs per day gained twice as much muscle in 12 weeks as those who only had one egg per day and that those who ate eggs at breakfast stayed fuller longer. And despite long-held beliefs, eggs really pose no danger to your heart when part of a balanced diet.

>> To read about how eggs affect cholesterol, click here. EGG FACTS: One whole egg contains 72 calories, 6 grams of protein, 0 grams of carbohydrate and 5 grams of fat. But don’t worry — about 80% of that fat is monounsaturated and saturated fat, which actually aids in the muscle-building process.

How Deep Is It?

"For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the spirit searches all things; even the depths of God." --1 Corinthians 2:10

Read: 1 Corinthians 2

During Memorial Day weekend, I overheard some kids as they were running toward the pool. They had it all. Towels, floaties, goggles. I think I even saw Scuba Steve hanging out of a bag somewhere. But it wasn't what they were taking to the pool that caught my attention, it was what they kept asking: "How deep is it?!" One kid asked, then another and another. Their dad, carrying all the tools for the fun, simply said, "Go find out!"

I remember asking that very question at each new pool we visited as kids. Going over to a friends house to swim, "How deep is it?" Maybe you did the same. But one thing is for certain, we asked it on purpose. Why? Well, it wasn't because we planned to stay in the shallow end. It was because we were going to A) dive in and B) try to touch the bottom of the pool.

When it comes to our lives and our health, let's be kids again. Splash around. God has given us this one life, so let's go find out. I like to think He enjoys watching us run to the day's water with one question ringing in His ears.

--Jimmy Peña

FUN FACT: AQUA CARDIO

While you're scrambling around this week figuring out what to do to start reclaiming your health, you may want to consider hitting the deep end and splashing around, literally. (Okay, maybe with a bit more purpose.)

Did you know that swimming can burn 430 calories in a single, 30-minute session? That's right, "chasing the black line" in your local lap pool could help you get in shape quick, and with less stress on your joints. Swimming with high effort using the standard freestyle stroke tops some of these other activities in total calories burned over 30 minutes:

High-impact group aerobics - 301 calories Walking on 10% incline, 3 mph - 319 calories Bicycling, 12-14 mph - 344 calories Running, 5 mph - 372 calories --Estimates based on a 180-pound individual.

Source: American College of Sports Medicine

>> TAKE THE CHALLENGE: PrayFit is helping people of all ages and experience levels recapture a level of health they haven't seen in years. Have you taken the PrayFit 33-Day Total Body Challenge? If not, you can click here for more information and get started today! Once you're ready, you can track your workouts and interact with other members of the PrayFit community here.

>> RUNNERS: Do you run to keep fit? Join in on this hot forum topic now to offer insight, get ideas and share experiences.

Me and My Drum

Turns out PrayFit has a theme song -- a song that sums up PrayFit perfectly. My wife and friends might guess it's a Rocky montage or the Gladiator theme song but alas, no. I have one better. The Little Drummer Boy. (Pa rum pum pum pum) That's right. Yesterday with my iTunes on shuffle, it played. Christmas in March? Why not? I hope you won't mind either.

"Come they told me, a newborn King to see.  Our finest gifts we bring, to set before the King. Little baby, I am a poor boy too. I have no gift to bring, that's fit to give a King. Shall I play for you on my drum? Then He nodded... I played my drum for Him. I played my best for Him.  Then He smiled at me. Me and my drum."

It might be odd talking Christmas gifts in March, but health isn't seasonal and neither is the news of His birth. What's more, You and I are poor. Like the little boy, we have nothing to bring that's fit to give the King. But He's delighted when we come to Him. And it's music to His ears when we play our life to its fullest. And that's the basis of PrayFit. Giving our best effort to let health be a means of praise. I want to bring a smile to His face, don't you? The very idea of doing so brings one to mine; to me and my drum. Pa rum pum pum...pum.

--Jimmy Peña

STAY LEAN WITH PROTEIN

Carbs taste good. No…they taste great. But it’s the main course on your plate –- that chicken breast, fish cutlet or steak –- that may be doing your body composition the most good. As you work out your family’s menu for the week, make sure that you choose a quality, lean protein as the foundation of each meal. Research published in the journal Physiology & Behavior showed that subjects who consumed a diet rich in protein burned significantly more fat than a control group. What’s more is that they did so without regard to total caloric intake.

Minimum recommended daily allowances for children range between 16-28 grams of protein per day. Healthy male adults should aim for 45-63 grams per day, while females should strive for 46-50 grams. Pregnant? You may need 60 grams per day for your growing baby. Protein requirements vary, of course –- if you workout regularly or at higher intensities, you may need more protein to help rebuild muscle and keep your lean body mass in healthy ranges.

(Sources: Physiology & Behavior, FamilyEducation.com)

26 Grams of protein in a 3-ounce serving of sirloin steak

7 Grams of protein in a 1-ounce serving of peanuts (Source: FamilyEducation.com)

Still Time To Dance

I will be your God throughout your lifetime -- until your hair is white with age." --Isaiah 46:4

Read: Isaiah 46

You remember 8th grade dances, right? I sure do. I was the king of holding up the wall. Turn down the lights on a basketball court, add some streamers, some 80's music, and you had yourself a dance. Just...without the dancing. (No way I was crossing the outer marker.)

I thought of those dances this week while on a television interview in the Midwest. Referring to the senior citizens watching her show, the host asked me if it was ever too late to start an exercise program or to improve your health. Instantly I was transported to those last ten minutes of my 8th grade dance. Knowing my dad would be pulling up any minute to get me, I knew I didn't have another minute to spare. So I took a deep breath, swallowed any last drop of moisture left in my throat (gulp), and I defied 8th grade logic. I walked across the three-point line and asked the first girl I saw to dance. Best 10 minutes of the year for me.

And that's my answer to the host's question. Our life and our health are precious at any age. So if it's been a while since you've exercised or even if you've never crossed the outer marker, consider each sunrise the upbeat He's playing for you. So get crazy. Defy logic and move those arms and legs. Even if Daddy (Abba) says it's almost time to go, it's not too late to ask, "Can I have this dance, for the rest of my life?"

--Jimmy Peña

FAT-BURNING TIP: Train Hungry

Regardless of how long you've been exercising you have probably heard about the concept of "empty-stomach cardio." But it's not just lip service. Training while hungry -- ideally before breakfast -- can help you lose more fat when training. Researchers at Kansas State University found that exercisers who fasted before a low-intensity workout oxidized 94.3 more calories from fat, on average, than groups who had a meal 30, 60 or 90 minutes before exercise.

As you sleep, your body uses stored carbs (glycogen) to run your brain's motor, so in the morning, your body is in a carb-deprived state. This means that fat will be burned for fuel sooner during a workout.

As the study suggests, this approach is best done before low-intensity training because high-intensity training, such as sprinting, requires more carbohydrate for performance. What's "low" intensity? The most universal and leisurely low-intensity exercise is walking. So if losing bodyfat is one of your training goals, try putting your feet to the pavement before you put fork to mouth each morning.

BONUS TIP: The same logic applies to doing cardio after weights. Since weight training uses stored carbs for fuel, doing cardio after will help decrease the time it takes to start burning calories from fat.

DVD: Click here to get started on the PrayFit 33-Day Total Body Challenge.

Be First

"Peter again denied it, and at once the rooster crowed." --John 18:27

Read: John 18

I can relate to Peter. In one moment, he declares adamantly he would never deny he knew who Jesus was; the next, he does it not once...not twice...but thrice. But still, what motivates me about Peter was that while he wasn't perfect, he was the one who stepped up. He wasn't always right, but he was never in doubt. First to reach for his sword to defend the Lord (only to be taught a quick lesson in self-control), and first to get out of the boat (only to be the example of how we sink without faith). But if you notice a common thread in the stories of Peter, the more he was first to fall, the more he learned to stand.

In our pursuit of a stronger faith, as well as to better health, we often make bold declarations that we will pray more, train more, and eat better...only to do the exact opposite the next moment. But friends, take courage. Keep being first. Set the pace with your family and friends. Remember, Peter knows what it's like to declare and fail, and to step out and sink. Pursuing obedience is a staggering undertaking. Fortunately, like Peter the pacesetter, we have a Savior who reaches further than the fall.

--Jimmy Peña

3 TIPS FOR FAT LOSS Master these simple tips to start losing inches and pounds

1 CARDIO TIMING: The best cardio approach is to find a program and stick to it. But if you want to maximize those minutes spent in a sweat, perform your sessions before breakfast or after lifting weights. During these two windows, your body is in a carbohydrate depleted state. And since stored carbs (glycogen) are your body's preferred source of fuel, a lack of them will cause your body to burn fat for fuel faster.

2 CARB TAPER: People like to occasionally go on carbohydrate droughts, opting for ultra-restrictive diets that limit this macronutrient for extended periods of time. But that is ultimately unsustainable. A better approach is to choose mostly slow-digesting, healthy carbs, such as those found in oatmeal, whole-grain foods, vegetables and brown rice. But you can take that a step further by limiting your carb consumption later in the day, when your body is more apt to store them as fat. Have the majority of your healthy carbs at breakfast, then have progressively less as the day wears on.

3 TRAIN HEAVY: Many people are afraid of training with "heavy" weights for fear of injury or, as with many women, for fear of becoming bulky. But lifting progressively heavier weights is really just a sure-fire way to drastically alter your body composition. When possible, train with weight loads that bring about failure around 8-12 reps. This will build more muscle. More muscle means more burned calories while at rest. More burned calories at rest means less stored bodyfat. Research shows that training heavy elevates metabolism higher and for longer than training with higher reps and lighter weight. (And don't worry ladies, "bulking up" from weight training is more of an old wives' tale than solid science!)

>> 28 DAY PROGRAM: Looking for a solid training and nutrition program to help you reach your goals? Pick up "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days." This book includes daily devotionals, structured workouts and meal plans that work. Find out more by clicking here.

Pledge Allegiance

"...and by His stripes we are healed." --Isaiah 53:5

Read: Isaiah 53

Driving along the canyon in Los Angeles this week, I came across a tall, old tree in the front yard of a beautiful home. Next to the tree stood an equally tall flag pole. Now, most days I probably wouldn't have noticed, but as I went by I realized the flag was tangled around some branches, evidence of some recent high winds. Now, you may be just like me, but something stirs inside when I see the stars and stripes helpless like that. I don't know, but our symbol of freedom shouldn't be stuck to a tree. It was wrapped so tight in fact, I literally said to myself, "Oh, someone has to climb up there."

With amazing pity for my crimes and yours, our Freedom willingly crawled up that old rugged cross. We were helpless, so someone had to climb up there. And Jesus, with His scars and stripes, embraced it.

--Jimmy Peña

PRAYFIT: WEEK IN REVIEW Use this quick-access guide to the week's greatest hits

FAITH >> BAGGAGE HANDLER: Drop off your luggage and remain seated -- God doesn't need a co-pilot on this ride

>> WHO WANTS THE BALL?: If God had a blackboard, He'd mark our path straight to the cross

>> FEELS LIKE REDEMPTION: Your trials don't make you -- it's how you come back from them that matters most

>> HE'S MY BROTHER: Moses and Aaron complemented each other perfectly. Who makes up the rest of your team?

FITNESS >> WORKOUT: Use this mini-program to build strength and shape in your calves

>> TIPS: Courtesy of Health.com, 51 ways to fight fat

>> RECIPE: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Onions

>> STATISTICS: How closely related are obesity and heart disease?

33 DAYS: How have your New Year's resolutions held up? We're eyeballing the end of January (and heading into the weekend) and some of you may be starting to see your motivation wane. We've got just the cure. Jump start your routine all over again with our 33-Day Total Body Challenge DVD (Lionsgate Entertainment), hosted by PrayFit founder Jimmy Pena. This structured routine calls for 33 minutes a day for 33 days, honoring the One who gave us 33 years, and includes weekly devotionals to inspire and invigorate your efforts. Click here for more information!

He's My Brother

"Then I sent Moses and Aaron..." --Joshua 24:5

Read: Joshua 24

A great friend and mogul said to me yesterday, "I believe God puts people in your life to help show you where you're going." His statement couldn't have been more true about the day nearly seven years ago when I met then writer extraordinaire and future PrayFit VP Eric Velazquez. Little did I know that when I shook Eric's hand in the offices of Muscle & Fitness Magazine, God was showing me where I was going.

In the context of PrayFit, if I could humbly assign Eric a biblical counterpart, it would probably be Aaron. If you're thinking, "Aaron! Yes, of course! Aaron...wait...who's Aaron?" well, that helps my point. Aaron was Moses' brother. Often overlooked, but when Moses was in need, God sent Aaron. Moses stuttered, so God delivered. Aaron 'spoke well' and they became a team.

So please allow me to use the comparison to publicly acknowledge Eric and his selfless, often invisible, critical and fantastic work he does day in and out. If it weren't for Eric, there would be no daily message. If he's not writing amazing articles for the biggest fitness magazines in the country, or inspiring people to grow closer to the Lord and healthier in the process, he's smoothing out my stutter. He's my brother, and we're a team.

If you've been following PrayFit for any length of time, please help me in publicly thanking Eric for who he is and what he means to us all.

--Jimmy Peña

HEALTH FACTS, BY THE NUMBERS The AHA's most recent report on obesity and its ties to heart disease

149,300,000 - Number of U.S. adults (age 20 and older) that are overweight or obese

33.7 - Percentage of U.S. adults (age 20 and older) that are obese

23,600,000 - Number of U.S. children (age 2 to 19) that are overweight or obese

16.9 - Percentage of U.S. children (age 2 to 19) that are obese

33 - Percentage of U.S. adults that report doing no aerobic leisure-time activity

71 - Percentage of U.S. adults with cardiovascular disease that were overweight or obese

1 in 3- Deaths attributable to cardiovascular disease in the U.S.

Source: American Heart Association Statistical Update on Heart Disease and Strokes (2012)

A Dangerous Prayer

"Why did we ever leave Egypt?" -Numbers 11:20

Read: Numbers 11

Did you catch it? They actually missed prison. Not long after the Israelites met freedom, they actually longed for captivity. Behind bars they had no choices. As inmates, they had no responsibility. Even though they were trapped, they were warm, cozy, and full. Their prayer for freedom was a dangerous one. Nothing a generation in the desert couldn't answer.

What about us? When was the last time you and I prayed dangerously? About finances, a relationship...our health? See, once they were set free, the Israelites faced the need for obedience and responsibility; so do we. Folks, our bodies are merely tools, not finished products. Better fitness simply means better equipped. It's tough to visit the poor from the couch, and it's impossible to see the hurting in our own mirror. But we're warm, cozy, and full (even if of ourselves). (Note: this should speak to both the fit and the not-so-fit.)

If God allows us the opportunity for better health, what will we do with it? Will we sit? Focus on ourselves? Will we allow a generation to wander before we see health as a means of praise? If so, why did we ever leave Egypt?

Jimmy Peña

STUDY: HIGHER PROTEIN DIETS BETTER FOR BODY COMPOSITION

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who consistently consume more calories than they burn each day will lose lean muscle and accumulate body fat more easily if their diets contain too little protein and too much fat and carbohydrates.

The results of the study suggest that the minimum protein intake federal health officials currently recommend -- 46 grams per day for women and 56 grams per day for men -- may not be enough to maintain muscle mass in some people. The study participants needed to consume at least 78 grams of protein per day to avoid losing muscle.

>> For the full story from CNN, click here.

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AVENUE OF AFFLICTION

"In the day of prosperity be happy, but in the day of adversity consider God has made the one as well as the other."— Ecclesiastes 7:13-14

On the treadmill to my right, walked a man maybe 80 years old; on the one to my left, a teenager with a disability. The three of us huffed and puffed, each with a window overlooking a busy intersection -- sort of a fitness fishbowl, if you will. Each stoplight ushered in a new array of commuters and though every once in a while we'd capture the attention of a driver or two, one vehicle in particular caught mine.

But first, isn't it interesting that you really don't know what motivates someone? Some things you just can't see. You can only see the result. Oh sure, while the dashboard on my treadmill might give me distance, it doesn't know what it took to get me that far. Pastor Chuck Swindoll wrote, "Although this journey along the avenue of affliction is unpleasant and unappealing, it is inevitable. Working through the hurt is essential if we hope to become effective for God."

To be effective for God. Isn't that the goal both physically and spiritually? And since we know that nothing hits us without Him allowing it, it's a compliment that He believes we can work through the hurt. Or better yet, we're never in pain alone. So as I stepped in between the two bookends of life on my left and right, it was a comfort to know the steps God took to see me through mine. (Lord only knows what was inside their hearts-the history, the pain, the drive,- but whatever it was, they walked).

And oh yes, I almost forgot. The car that got my attention? An Official Vehicle of the Department of Aging. Somehow, the three of us "vehicles" could easily relate. Wow. Can't you just hear the applause of Heaven? Listen closely, take courage and keep going. Because thankfully, the road we're on as believers? It's an incline.

--Jimmy Peña

CARBS: CHOOSE WISELY

While PrayFit isn't completely against low-carb dieting, we stress the importance of choosing the proper types of carbohydrates to fuel your training and other daily activities. Carbs are, after all, the body's preferred fuel source, so extended or extreme deprivation can backfire for dieters as well as the companies that stake their futures on no-carb schemes. Case in point...

"The low-carb diet craze reached its peak in 2004, with far fewer people following diets like Atkins and South Beach in subsequent years," according to John Robbins, author of Healthy at 100: The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World's Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples. "On August 1, 2005, Atkins Nutritionals, Inc., filed for bancruptcy court protection."

Remember, the key is to control refined sugar, not to overly restrict healthy complex carbohydrates. Refined sugars, such as those found in sugary drinks, white bread and candy, digest quickly and spike insulin levels, which can cause the body to store fat. Complex carbs, such as those found in whole grain foods, fruits and vegetables, digest more slowly and provide slower, steady streams of fuel to cells.

Source: Healthy at 100 by John Robbins

WORKING BACKWARDS

November 29, 2011Read: Matthew 6

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you." --Matthew 6:33

Losing stuff is easy. It's finding it again that takes a little work. But what do we do? We work backwards. Be it car keys, a book, maybe a wallet -- we retrace our steps until...ahh, the lost is found.

You know, I think that's the way God intended us to live. He said to Seek first His Kingdom because He wants us to secure our future, and sing "Blessed Assurance" for a reason. When you look at it that way, you and I are just working backwards. After all, why would He ensure our final step, only for us to be unsure of our next one?

So if you're facing tough times, do just that: work backwards. Misplaced your courage? Lost your will for a healthy life? You'll find both what you've lost and what you're looking for, if you re-trace His steps and stop at the cross.

--Jimmy Peña

THE SECRET LIFE OF PROTEIN

Almost universally, higher-protein diets are associated with greater muscle mass. While it's true that hard-training individuals should consume more protein to maximize muscle recovery and growth, protein also helps you to stay lean. A recent study published by the American Society of Nutrition showed that dietary protein stimulated thermogenesis (fat-burning) and promoted satiety more than high carbohydrate meals. While casein and soy protein were found to be more filling, fat-burning was higher after consuming whey.

Researchers at Skidmore College also found that when subjects followed a high-protein diet for eight weeks they lost significantly more body fat, particularly abdominal fat, than those following a low-carb/high-fat diet.

Minimum recommended daily allowances for children range between 16-28 grams per day. Healthy male adults should aim for 45-63 grams per day, while females should strive for 46-50 grams. Pregnant? You may need 60 grams per day for your growing baby. Protein requirements vary, of course. If you workout regularly or at higher intensities, you may need more protein -- up to 1-1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight per day -- to help rebuild muscle and keep your lean body mass in healthy ranges.

>> SHOP: In need of the perfect stocking stuffer for your loved ones? Visit the PrayFit store for faith-and-fitness inspired clothing, books, wristbands and more!

TRACKING NUMBERS

November 16, 2011 Read: Isaiah 43

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you." --Isaiah 43:1

Bib No. 18-164 wasn't tracking. Even though race officials, sponsors and loved ones knew bib No. 18-164 started the race, nobody knew where he was on the course. See, bib numbers have bar codes that tell everyone your pace, stage and whereabouts. Without a functioning bib, you might as well be invisible.

Can you relate? In the course of your day, have you ever felt as if nobody knows just exactly where you are? Oh sure, you're at your cubicle or at home with your kids. But is anyone really watching what you're going through, let alone loving you through it? Your hurt is real. Your pain is deep. And walking away would be much easier than running this rat race. But we're more than tracked, and our steps are better than traced. Hope isn't lost and neither are you. God finds us and loves us from start-to-finish.

And as far as bib No. 18-164, he officially finished in just over five hours. And while his time didn't warrant interviews or draw a crowd, he did receive his medal. But he wasn't alone in this achievement -- the prize went to anyone who accepted the invitation to finish the race. Friends, God invites us to accept Jesus into our hearts and lives. When we do, we join a race He's already won on our behalf. Our job is to trace His steps and help others do the same. See you at the finish.

--Jimmy Peña

NUTRITION TIP: Apples for Size

"I commonly advise people to eat an apple preworkout," says Jim Stoppani, PhD, co-author of "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days." "Apples contain polyphenols that have been shown to increase muscle strength, endurance and fat loss."

A recent study affirms those benefits, showing that one of the polyphenols in apples, ursolic acid, also increases muscle growth and fat loss. For the scientific speak on the topic, click here.

>> PRAYFIT IN YOUR HOME: PrayFit founder Jimmy Pena, MS, CSCS, comes to your living room this December with the release of the "PrayFit: 33-Day Total Body Challenge" DVD. Learn more and reserve your copy today by clicking here.

 

NATURALLY

September 7, 2011Read: 1 Corinthians 6

"You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." –1 Corinthians 6:20

Running up the first steep hill of her half-marathon this weekend, Loretta came up behind a man going maybe half her speed. But since hills are hills, they struggled up together, each at their own pace -- two warriors needing the same air to answer the call of the hill. Halfway up, Loretta passed him, but not before they gave each other verbal encouragement.

You know, we've received a number of heartfelt emails and messages lately from many of you in dire need of encouragement to exercise. You've expressed that, for whatever reason, you just don't feel motivated. Well friends, we're praying for you. But at the same time, truthfully, not feeling motivated to honor the body is like saying you're not motivated to be honest. Remember, just because something doesn't come naturally to you doesn't mean you're not called to do it.

So please be encouraged. And do what God has mandated by respecting your body as one of His valuable tools. And oh, yes, the man Loretta was running with on the hill? He had no legs. Using his arms alone, he slowly turned the wheels of his chair over and over and over. Why did he climb? Well he probably had a few good reasons, but the fact that it came naturally, probably wasn't one of them. But no matter what (or why), like you and me, He was simply in the race and the hill was in the way. Answering the call of the hill isn't easy, but because Jesus said yes to His, you can say yes to yours.

--J.P.

HEALTHY WEIGHT LOSS Reality-show rapid may not be realistic, or sustainable

A generation of crash diets and miracle fitness programs have fed into our collective and undeniable need for instant gratification. The good news and bad news is that some of these gimmicks work -- if only for a time -- keeping our eyes fixed attentively on the scale. No decrease in weight today? Take heart. The small print says it all: "Results not typical." Healthy, sustained weight loss may not be as rapid as you'd like, despite whatever conceptions NBC's "The Biggest Loser" may have created.

"Usually when people lose a lot of weight quickly, it’s mostly water weight," says PrayFit contributing nutritionist Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD. And once the water weight is gone, the frustration tends to set in, she says. "The early weight loss creates false expectations about the rate of subsequent future weight loss. A weight loss rate of 0.5-2.0 pounds per week is more likely to mean that your weight loss is from fat tissue. It also usually means that the weight loss is more likely to be maintained over time.

If you're striving to lose a few pounds, commit to making solid, sustainable lifestyle changes that can help you be a better steward of the body you have been given.

>> 8 WAYS TO EAT BETTER...FOREVER: What changes should you make if you're struggling to lose weight? Here are eight simple strategies anyone can start using today to start melting away inches and pounds.

Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD is a registered dietitian and works at a Washington, D.C.-based independent, nonprofit science organization, where her work is currently focused on environmental and policy solutions to obesity prevention. She also speaks to groups about health and nutrition and provides nutrition education to patients at a free medical clinic that serves low-income, uninsured adults in the D.C. area. You can view more of Emily’s nutrition tips and updates by following her on Twitter, @EmilyAMillerRD.

REDEEMED

August 23, 2011Read: Job 19

"I know my redeemer lives." --Job 19:25

In a recent sermon, my good friend Dr. Aaron Tyler said, "The story in the book of Job is a story that tests the foundations of faith." As you know, God allowed Job to be tested beyond belief. His family, wealth and even his health were taken from him. But like Dr. Tyler said, "Job suffered faithfully." And in a remarkable surge of faith Job said, "Etch this in stone...I know my redeemer lives."

Friends, we might be going through all kinds of tests -- from finances, to relationships, to our health. But may we follow Job's example, that even as our lives unravel or our bodies break, our foundation of faith remains. Oh, we may not have books written about us, but our little stories are no less important to God or those around us. And if you happen to be asked why you care for a body that will surely fade away, just remember Job as you say, "Because my redeemer lives."

--J.P.

GET DAIRY THIN

It’s not just a tagline: Milk does do a body good. So do cheese, yogurt and cottage cheese. A new study showed that women who followed a regular exercise program on high-protein, high-dairy diets lost more total fat – and more from their abdomen – than those on adequate-protein, medium-dairy and adequate-protein, low-dairy diets.

>> For more detail on the study, click here.

THE LORD NEVER PANICS

August 17, 2011Read: Isaiah 55

"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” --Isaiah 55:9

Things on the ground look pretty small from 35,000 feet. I know, because that’s where this entry was written. Halfway through a five-hour trip cross country, the flight attendant announced, “If there is a physician on board, please come to the back of the aircraft.” She repeated it three times.

Immediately two young men, including a man sitting in my row, jumped from their seats and rushed to help. The rest of us simply sat and watched as a huddle formed in the back of the plane. After maybe a minute, a grey-haired man from the front of the plane walked passed us, almost casually, to join the effort. It wasn't long before the man from my row returned to his seat and explained that a young lady had suffered a panic attack.

Curious, I asked him if he was a physician. “No," he said. “There was only one doctor among us back there. Two of us were firemen, but only one doctor -- an older man. When he showed up, we all stepped back to let him work.”

(Get me a laptop, stat.)

In life, we tend to panic, and the world responds will all sorts of solutions. But like today, I know I can’t run to the rescue. Only God can. Isn't it assuring to know that He is never rattled or stressed? He's always in control and is never late. And the problems that find us, even at 35,000 feet, are well under His.

Now I think I’ll sit back and relax. We still have a ways to go.

--J.P.

>> PRAYFIT  IN THE NEWS: Earlier this week, PrayFit founder Jimmy Pena was the subject of an interview on bodybuilding.com, the world's most heavily-trafficked fitness website. Learn about health as a means of praise from this Texas kid turned fitness expert in "Body & Soul."

>> DID YOU KNOW? Vitamin D isn't just a vitamin -- it's a powerful tool in achieving better overall health. Numerous studies show that Vitamin D can lower blood pressure, help prevent certain kinds of cancer and fortify you against diabetes. Vitamin D can also help you feel fuller longer, store less bodyfat, burn more abdominal fat and improve strength levels. According to Jim Stoppani, PhD, co-author of "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Stronger Faith and Healthy Body in 28 Days," vitamin D enhances muscle contraction and protein synthesis, meaning better workouts and improved recovery afterward. The Endocrine Society recommends that healthy individuals get in 1,000-2,000 international units (IU) per day from all sources (food and supplemental). Those who are overweight could benefit from slightly higher doses, up to 4,000 IU.