Is a Dr’s OK Necessary to Start Working Out?

It’s better to be safe than sorry, but not all people need to see a doctor before starting an exercise program.
Image by Vic/Flickr

Typically, weight loss and fitness advice is accompanied by the recommendation that you see a physician before starting a diet or exercise program, but that is mostly to cover the bases of the one doling out the advice. Though most people should be able to handle common exercises with no problem, no one wants to be responsible when the exception to the rule injures themselves. Still, because you may be an exception to the rule, it might be a good idea for you to see your GP before diving headlong into a diet or exercise program.

Sometimes It’s Not An Issue

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Most people should be able to participate in a good workout without worrying about health issues.

If you are in the habit of seeing your doctor annually, you probably don’t need to schedule an extra appointment before you start a fitness and weight loss program. This is especially true if your physicals over the past few years have been essentially normal with no indications that any serious health conditions had developed or might develop. If your blood pressure and blood tests are normal and, other than being a bit overweight or out of shape, you feel fine, you should be OK to start working out. You can always mention your new fitness regimen and discuss any questions with your doctor at your next visit.

Pay Attention to Red Flags

Dizzy spells or problems with balance are red flags that a doctor should weigh in on before you begin an exercise regimen.

Of course, if you know that you have a serious health condition, it’s best to consult a physician before participating in an activity that could aggravate it. Even though moderate physical activity can improve many health issues, your doctor will advise you on the best ways to get the most out of exercising without making your condition worse. The Mayo Clinic says that people with arthritis, asthma or other respiratory disease, diabetes, or heart or kidney disease should talk to their doctors before starting a weight loss or exercise program.

Sometimes, people experience symptoms of a serious disease but haven’t been diagnosed. Harvard Health advises that people who have problems with balance or who experience dizzy spells should see a doctor before starting an exercise program. Other symptoms that should not be ignored include pain in the neck, jaw, or chest during exercise, shortness of breath while exercising or even when at rest, rapid heartbeat, ankle swelling, or joint or lower leg pain. Also, if you take medications that make you dizzy or drowsy, talk to your physician about how your prescriptions may affect you physically if you start working out.

Still Not Sure?

If you’re still unsure about seeing a doctor before working out, spend a few minutes on the PAR-Q to see if it’s necessary for you.

If you aren’t sure whether or not to see your doctor before beginning a weight loss and exercise program, don’t feel bad. Many people have been conditioned to play it safe instead of taking a risk and being sorry later. Seeing the difficulty some people have when trying to decide between jumping into an exercise regimen or waiting until a doctor has given them the OK, the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology developed the PAR-Q–the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire. It’s a handy little tool that can save some time and anxiety by helping you to conclusively determine whether a visit the doctor before starting a workout program is necessary.

Recommit to Your New Year’s Resolution

Celebrate New Years all over again by recommitting to your fitness and weight loss resolution now.

Statistics show that as we get further away from the new year, more people bail on the good intentions they had starting out. If you’re among the 54 percent who resolved to get in shape but have jumped off the wagon, don’t wait another eight months to make a new New Year’s Resolution. Recommit to the one you made this year. It’s not too late to begin a get-fit-for-summer-workout plan and start eating healthy. If you can maintain for the second half of 2018, you can consider your resolution kept.

Focus Your Focus

Refining your resolution to focus on one important goal — and get specific about it–will help you hit your target.

A lot of times the trouble with making resolutions to exercise and eat healthy to lose weight and get into shape is that you set goals that are too broad and vague.

  • I’ll exercise more.
  • I’ll eat better.
  • I’m going to lose 50 pounds in XX months.

Though the intentions behind them are admirable, every one of those resolutions is destined to fail. Kirsti A. Dyer, MD, MS, FT, CWS of Columbia College advises focusing on one thing you want to change. When the original resolution was, for example, to work out “more” and to lose 50 pounds by March, drop the weight loss part altogether and commit to working out 4 to 5 days a week. The logic behind that strategy is that

#1: it’s unlikely that you’ll lose a large amount of weight in a short amount of time, so you’re cutting out the part that is practically guaranteed to be unsuccessful

–and–

#2: getting specific about the amount of time you’ll spend on workouts each week gives you a goal you can reach

The added bonus is that, if you stick to the workout plan, the weight loss will come anyway.

Make a Plan — and Write it Down!

Writing down your resolution plans weekly will help you define them in specific terms and will also help you track your progress.

Remember, you are far more likely to reach a goal if you write it down…like, nearly 97 percent more likely. Once you’ve settled on what your new, more focused resolution is, make a plan for implementing it into your life and write that plan down. Maybe that means scheduling out your week to see where you can fit exercise into your calendar. Maybe it means planning meals every week to ensure you’re eating healthy. Whatever it means to you, writing it down will give you better odds of staying with your resolution for the rest of the year. In an article for the Huffington Post, Rachel Verlik recommends having a weekly planning session to map out your week. It’s an effective way of keeping your goals real and staying in touch with where you are with them. Your weekly planning is a great time, too, to tweak your Big Picture Plan based on the results you’ve seen so far compared to where you want to be by December 31, 2018.

Be Patient and Forgiving

Among the tips Woman’s Day gives for recommitting and sticking to your resolutions is the advice to be patient. Not seeing big results fast–like losing weight quickly–is likely why you gave up on your New Year’s Resolution. Recognize that it’s going to take time to get back into shape. Understand that you didn’t pack on the pounds in one month, so they’re not gonna come off in 30 days or less, either. Have some sympathy for the fact that going cold-turkey on the junk food in favor of eating healthy will be a difficult transition if you don’t do it slowly and in small steps. Don’t look for the total payoff to come right away. Be happy with and celebrate the small victories and keep plugging away.

Don’t beat yourself up over slipups. Instead, schedule a cheat day to accommodate planned lapses in exercise and healthy eating that you don’t have to feel bad about.

As for being forgiving, sorry to bust your bubble, but you are human, gloriously imperfect in countless ways. You’re practically guaranteed to mess up now and then. That’s why you should set an exercise goal for 4 or 5 days a week. Then it’s no big deal if you miss a day, but you can be proud of the extra accomplishment if you get all 5 days in. It’s also why you should factor in a cheat day if your resolution involves eating healthy to lose weight. Cravings are tough to fight but, when you know you can have that jelly-glazed donut later in the week on your official cheat day, it’s easier to pass up. The forgiveness factor gives you the leeway to screw up now and then without derailing your goals entirely.

Just keep in mind that, even though the original resolution may have been made to get fit for summer and swimsuit season, looking and feeling great is beneficial all year round. If you start now, you’ll begin seeing small results soon. Yes, even in time to look great in summer wear. Plus, you’ll really notice some bigger changes right about the time the fall and winter clothing is hitting the stores. It’s still a score if you’re able to fit into a size or two smaller over the winter season, and you’ll have a head start on the 2019 resolution.

Strength Training to Nip Back Pain in the Bud

From the True Story Files: Mrs. S has had a rough winter. She’s suffered from neck pain and back pain off and on for years due to degenerative disk disease, and has even had a few disks surgically fused. After taking a therapeutic soak in her whirlpool tub recently to get some relief for back pain, Mrs. S fell while stepping out of the bath and was surprised to find that she couldn’t get up off the floor. At only 64 years, she had never considered herself in the same league as the geriatrics on the much lampooned commercials. (“Help! I’ve fallen and can’t get up!”) After spending almost an hour shivering under a towel on the floor, Mrs. S finally mustered the strength to drag herself out of the bathroom door, across the hall and somehow pulled herself onto her bed. That unfortunate fall required multiple visits to the chiropractor — several times a week at first — and much time spent immobile in her recliner or in bed.

When her back pain finally subsided, and she’d been able to cut visits to the doctor down to one a week, her chiropractor had some grave news for her.

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Resistance training won’t seem like such an inconvenience when you’ve fallen in the bathroom and can’t get up.

“I can keep putting your back and neck back into alignment, but your muscles aren’t strong enough to keep your bones in place,” he said. “Unless you start working on building muscle, your problem is only going to get worse.”

Cripes, there it was again. Someone else pushing the benefits of strength training on her. Like most people, Mrs. S had gone through phases of consistent exercise but hadn’t ever stuck with it. She didn’t really enjoy working out. Not with a partner, not in a class, and even when she endeavored to work out at home, it didn’t last long. Whenever she became concerned about her weight, she preferred trying to control it through diet rather than exercise. Now, however, Mrs. S was faced with making a decision, and there really wasn’t much of a choice. If she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life in pain and a constant state of declining mobility, she would finally have to start exercising.

A Common Problem

Sedentary lifestyles are creating adults who don’t have the muscle tone to walk around the block, let alone get up off the floor after a fall. Image by Steve Baker/Flickr

It’s not surprising if Mrs. S’s story sounds familiar to you. The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition reports that less than five percent of adults get 30 minutes or more of physical activity each day, and over 80 percent don’t get the recommended 2 days of strength training and 75 to 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week. Considering that Mrs. S’s chiropractor was spot-on about spines needing strong back muscles to stabilize them, it’s also no surprise that she’s battled back pain and neck pain for decades, or that her condition has worsened as she’s gotten older. According to Medline Plus, muscles atrophy as people age, losing their tone. That means they’re no longer effective for supporting your spine and other bones that make up your frame, unless you work to keep them strong.

Recommended Resistance Training

Professionals recommend resistance training with bands to build muscle without aggravating back and neck conditions.

While there’s not much she could have done to prevent degenerative disc disease, Mrs. S could have been strength training all along, building muscle to support her spine and neck to provide some back and neck pain relief. Interestingly, the back pain exercises Mrs. S’s chiropractor recommended are rubber band resistance training exercises. Using bands for resistance builds strength without putting load or pressure on her spine, so her back and neck pain won’t be aggravated. Plus, since Mrs. S has a TargitFit Trainer, she can do her resistance training exercises at home. After just a couple of weeks, she is feeling better, getting neck and back pain relief after months of agony on top of years of frequent issues. Additionally, her strength training program has already increased Mrs. S’s strength enough that she’s adding more resistance bands to her workouts.

Benefits of Yoga for Back Pain

Yoga not only alleviates back and neck pain by stretching and strengthening muscles, but it also reduces stress.

This blog may regularly tout the benefits of strength training, specifically with use of a certain piece of ultra-effective equipment for building muscle, but the advice in this particular post would be incomplete if it didn’t mention the benefits of yoga exercises for back pain. Yoga is low-impact and builds strength, too, so it’s a valuable addition to resistance training at home or the gym for people of all ages and abilities. The element that enhances its value when you’re trying to control back and neck pain is that it lengthens and stretches your muscles, alleviating tension and pain as well as pressure on your spine, spinal cord, and nerves. According to Yoga Journal, performing yoga poses correctly aligns your skeletal structure, specifically your spine. Certain yoga poses also open your hips and chest, areas that can cause back pain if they become too tight and closed off. If you need the research to back it up, a study published in the health journal “Spine” showed that yoga improves mobility, decreases back pain and even has the added bonus of reducing depression.

Exercise Can Help You Quit Smoking

04261804As far as nasty habits go, smoking is diabolical. It not only shortens your life, but it affects how food tastes, dictates your daily schedule, and interferes with your ability to breathe. Yet, even with all the negative aspects, it’s a hard habit to break. Healthline reports that it takes an average of 2.7 tries for a person to quit smoking for good.

One of the things that makes it so difficult to quit is that there is no one perfect method to stop smoking. Some people can go cold-turkey. Others have successfully quit using  nicotine patches or gum. It gets discouraging to go through trial and error looking for the approach that will work for you. If you’ve already taken 2.7 stabs (or more) at quitting and haven’t been successful, there’s one more thing you can try.

Exercise Makes Quitting Easier

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Exercise has been shown to reduce the severity of headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and other nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms smokers experience and the craving for nicotine are usually the smoker’s downfall. The craving will start nagging at you within hours. Then, in about a day or two, you’ll start to experience physical symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Smokers trying to quit also report feeling depressed, anxious, and irritable.

That’s when you could use a good workout. You might not feel like putting on your sweats and getting physical, but a study conducted at the University of St. George’s London found that exercise provides a sort of protective effect against nicotine withdrawal horrors. One notable effect was that physical activity activated a receptor in the brain that nicotine typically targets. In general, workouts reduced withdrawal severity, making it easier for quitters to stay off the cancer sticks.

Oh, and the really, really good news? It doesn’t take a super-vigorous workout to affect symptom severity. The study found that even moderate exercise, such as a brisk walk or short bike ride, was enough to keep withdrawal manageable.

When Should You Start?

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Quit right now!

There’s no better time than now to get moving and give up smoking. No matter how long you’ve smoked, you likely feel the effects in the form of reduced lung capacity and stamina. The good news is that once you no longer smoke, your body starts healing immediately. WebMD reports that after only 20 minutes, your blood pressure, pulse, and circulation begin returning to normal. After 8 hours, the carbon monoxide and nicotine levels in your blood will be down to half. That also means your oxygen levels will be up and your heart won’t have to work as hard. Within 3 days, your lungs will begin recovering, so it will be easier to breathe—and it will just keep getting easier.

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The sooner you quit, the sooner you’ll start getting healthy. Your body and your loved ones will thank you for it.

The point is, you should start working out the same day you give up smoking. Your body will be on board right away. It will continue to improve the longer you stay smoke-free, and the exercise will help. Naturally, you should always consult your doctor before starting any workout program, even if you aren’t a smoker. If you do smoke and want to exercise as part of your quitting strategy, your doctor will help you formulate a plan that will give your body the breathing space it needs, so to speak, so that you don’t overdo it too soon and undermine your health along with your goal.

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Your bank account will also get healthier after you quit smoking.

One last thing: if your argument against using exercise to quit smoking is that you can’t afford to join a gym, that’s a lame cop-out. First, there are a million ways you can workout for free, from jogging in the park to performing bodyweight exercises in your living room. However, there are a gajillion things you’ll be able to afford once you give up smoking. According to smokefree.org, smoking a pack of cigarettes a day costs about $9,200/year. That will more than pay for a gym membership complete with a personal trainer, and you’ll even have an impressive chunk of change left over.

The Common Snack That’s a Better Source of Workout Fuel Than an Energy Drink

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Sports drinks are an expensive habit that aren’t all that healthy.

If you down energy drinks like they’re water, you’ve probably developed a spendy little habit. At nearly $3 per 250 ml can and almost $5 for a 500 ml can, it’s estimated that your sports drink habit could easily cost you close to $3,000 a year, depending on how many you down in a day.

You may be willing to overlook the cost if those drinks truly give you the boost you need to get through the day and get through your workout, but what if there’s an alternative that’s not only better at providing energy but is also better for your health? As it turns out, there is just such a wonder-snack, and you might even have it sitting in your kitchen right now.

Nanas Have Superior Nutrients

04191802Researchers in North Carolina came up with the idea of comparing bananas to sports drinks as an energy source and found some surprising results. Their study not only showed that bananas gave energy drinks a run for their money when it came to delivering energy and nutrients during a workout, but bananas also offered better anti-inflammatory benefits. That element alone is worth its weight in Ibuprofen, as it means less fatigue during the workout and quicker muscle recovery afterward.

Bananas During Your Workout

04191803You may have an open mind and be willing to ditch the energy drinks, but maybe you’ve been told you shouldn’t eat during a workout. Muscle and Fitness points out that, for workouts 60 minutes or longer, it’s actually a good idea to eat during the first part of your workout to ensure you have what it takes to get to the end of it. However, it all depends on how empty or full your stomach is before you hit the gym. If you just ate—let’s say 30 minutes or less—before your workout, then, yeah, it’s probably best to save the snacking for after exercising. On the other hand, if your stomach is relatively empty, you’re gonna need that nana, and it will be a better choice than an energy drink.

Yes, both bananas and energy drinks contain sugars, vitamins, and other nutrients. Even the protein in both are comparable, but energy drinks have long been a concern for health professionals. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, excessive energy drink consumption was found to be related to high blood pressure and altering the electrical activity of the heart. On the other hand, Medical News Today pronounced bananas to be a heart-healthy food filled with safe, natural amounts of vitamins and minerals.

The Best Way to Incorporate Bananas for Energy

Bananas, chocolate, and a few other energy-boosting foods mix together well to create a satisfying and healthy energy drink you can down during a workout.

Consider this: if you sip on an energy drink while exercising for the energy boost, there is a way to incorporate bananas into a healthy drink that will serve the same purpose. Concoct a shake from a banana, skim milk and/or Greek yogurt, a dollop of almond or sunflower butter, and a dash of dark chocolate. Heck, even add a splash of cold coffee left over from breakfast if you need a little extra caffeine kick. They’re all energy-boosting foods that are healthy and, served in liquid form, will be as satisfying for your thirst as for your energy levels.

25 Ways Your Health Benefits From Cycling

This week, Targitfit is pleased to bring you a feature by James Rackliffe:

Cycling is a sport that I started as a side-effect of beginning to do Triathlons. Little did I know all the health benefits that would come out of it! Thanks to bad allergies, when I started my cycling journey, I used to get winded doing a 5-mile ride around a park near my house. Now, several years later, I am busy training to compete in my first Ironman and at the age of 35 have never been healthier. This led me to look into the changes I had experienced in weight, well-being, and vast improvements in other aspects of my health. When I started putting together all the results, these were the top 25 benefits I found for cycling:

25 Health Benefits of Cycling

This infographic first appeared on DocTriathalon.com.

James is a 35 year old Triathlete and owner of DocTriathlon. He started his site to help people get into the sport of triathlon and to help spread the benefits associated with the sports involved.

Top 5 Diet Mistakes Women Make

This week, TargitFit is pleased to post an article by Jessica:

04041801When it comes to diet, even smart women make mistakes. No matter how smart you think you are, there are some diet mistakes you will be making without even realizing it. These mistakes may be the reason why you are not seeing the results you want despite spending so many hours in the gym.

Regrettably, most women get their diet instruction from less than reliable sources.  When you are taking nutrition advice from a non-professional, you may be making mistakes that will affect your weight goal negatively. If you have been trying to lose weight but have not seen the result you are looking for, it may be time to revise your diet. Some unknown mistakes may be hindering your chances of achieving your objective.

In this article, you will learn about top dieting mistakes that you may be making without realizing it:

Top Diet Mistakes Most Women Are Making

  1. Cutting Out Too Many Calories

04041802Unfortunately, most women are waging a war against calories. You have heard that the reason you are obese or overweight is because you are eating too many calories. You then may have taken this personal and started a war against calories.

The fact is that you need calories for your muscles. When you avoid calories but continue doing cardio, you will lose more muscle and gain fat. When you are losing muscle, it slows down your rate of metabolism and makes it even harder to lose belly fat, firm-up your arms, and shrink your thighs.

Everyone’s caloric needs are different but, in general, you need to eat up to 1400 calories per day to make sure that you are not losing muscle.

  1. Relying Too Much on Packaged Foods

04041803Nowadays, there are tons of diet and weight loss programs that recommend their own pre-packaged meals and snacks. It is sad to see that most women in the United States now depend completely on these diet programs for their daily meals.

While these pre-packaged foods may be great for knowing how much you are eating, they are not the same as eating fresh foods and may not give you the right portion size you need.

Moreover, most of these pre-packaged foods contain added sodium and preservatives which may affect your health in one way or another. It is better than you get most of your daily nutrients from fresh foods than from pre-packaged meals.

  1. Ditching Carbs for Protein

04041804It looks like the modern weight-loss industry has succeeded in turning women against carbs. While some carbs are not necessarily good, most women who are on vegan and gluten-free diets have completely abandoned carbs because they want to lose weight fast. If you replace carbs entirely with protein, your gluten-free diet can lead to fatigue, weight gain, digestive problems, and irritability, too.

A good way to fix this is to adopt Goldilocks approach which recommends that you don’t take in too little or too much macronutrients.

  1. Not Paying Attention to Exercise

04041805Most women are too busy nowadays. In fact, many modern women who work in the corporate business environment have little or no time for exercise. Thus, they think they can lose weight relying on diet alone.

While diet is good, you also need to take exercise into account. You need to do cardio at least 2 to 3 times every week. Create an exercise plan and make sure that you follow it strictly. Avoid paying attention to diet only.

  1. Falling For Fad Diets

04041806Unfortunately, there are just too many fad diets on the market nowadays. Millions of people are looking for a way to lose weight. New statistics show that this is a multi-billion dollar industry and has attracted a lot of attention from people that just want to take your money and run away.

There are many diets you can see on the internet today. Some of these diets are created with fake testimonials and will never work for you no matter how closely you follow them. Instead of depending on fad diets, eat natural foods that are healthy for you in moderate amounts.

Conclusion

It is normal to make mistakes when you are choosing a diet. While some mistakes are costly, others may have little or no effect. However, the important thing is to find out the mistakes that may be hindering your weight and health objectives and stop them as soon as possible.

 

Jessica is a former competitive fitness athlete and now owner/operator of her own gym in sunny Southern California. Her website, GottaHaveFit.com, is a resource dedicated to the latest in science-backed nutrition, supplementation, and today’s hottest home fitness equipment and training regimens.

Get the Inner-You in Shape and the Outer-You Will Follow

When it comes to self-improvement, many people don’t get the connection between the physical body (the outer self) and the spirit (the inner self). If you have trouble losing weight and keeping it off or getting into shape and staying that way, it may be because you’re focusing everything on your outer self and neglecting your inner self. The concept may sound new-agey, but suspend skepticism and judgment for just a moment. Remember that you really do consist of the “inner” and the “outer.” If you want to get into the physics of it all, the inner you is really more you than the outer you. Give your spirit equal time to finally get your fitness and weight loss plan off that plateau.

Meditation and/or prayer, yoga and journaling are the main contemplative practices the University of Minnesota lists as ones that are important for health. While it can be argued that people who engage in regular spiritual practices tend to make healthier choices and, therefore, are healthier, it’s not just about the choices. Including practices in your lifestyle that strengthen the inner you will improve your life and health in other, surprising ways.

Meditate On It

Don’t scoff at the thought of meditation improving your physical health. According to the U.S. News and World Report Health section, meditating can improve your blood pressure significantly enough to actually get you off blood pressure meds. That alone will enhance your cardiovascular health, but you want to know how meditation can help you lose weight. Human Kinetics shines a light on that issue by pointing out that meditating improves athletic performance allowing you to work out more effectively and focus on your goal.

Meditation is just as beneficial for physical health as it is for mental and emotional well-being.

Further, meditating promotes cell repair by stimulating your parasympathetic nervous system. That helps recovery and muscle building, and we all know that muscle burns fat. Another way meditation supports recovery is by clearing your mind so you can sleep better. It’s during quality sleep that your body produces human growth hormone, a vital component of muscle building and cell regeneration. Possibly the most important benefit of meditation when it comes to weight loss is that it reduces the production of cortisol, the pesky stress hormone that encourages your body to hold onto belly fat.

You don’t need to find a solitary mountaintop for effective meditation. The privacy of your own home works as well.

Don’t buy into the myth that you have to sit lotus position for hours on end and completely master emptying your mind. You’ll benefit from just 10 minutes at a time of deep, mindful breathing. Set a timer to eliminate the need for frequent interrupting peeks at the clock. Headspace.com has a terrific free program that explains meditation in unique, understandable terms and guides you through getting into the practice on a daily basis. Alternatively, there are numerous guided meditations available on the internet, MP3 and CD. Some are free, some are not, but you’ll have scores to choose from with any theme you’re looking for, including weight loss. Go ahead and start out at only 10 minutes, then build up as you get better at it, and your schedule allows. Setting aside the same time each day, such as every morning or every evening, will make it part of your routine so you’re less likely to skip it, and fall out of the habit. Some days you may only have 10 minutes to spare, and that’s OK. Do what you can when you can, and you’ll see a huge difference.

Journal Yourself Fit

If the journaling part of a health and fitness spiritual practice seems unlikely to be of any help with a weight loss plan, consider Charmaine Jackson’s story. CNN reveals that she accomplished weight loss success, dropping half of her body weight and she credits journaling with helping her reach her goal. The journal provided her with an outlet to write down her feelings and emotions and figure out that she was an emotional eater who relieved stress with food. Journaling helped Jackson realize that crunchy chips and pretzels were her go-to comfort foods and that she could get the same satisfaction from munching on crunchy fruits and vegetables that she grew in her own garden.

Handwrite your journal or type it on your computer — whatever works for you is the right way to do it.

Journaling can do the same for anyone, and Discover Good Nutrition points out that many coaches require athletes to keep one. It keeps you accountable for your diet and workout plan; it helps you prioritize your health, fitness and weight loss; and it’s the perfect tool to monitor your progress. The beauty of a journal is the versatility and flexibility — there’s no right or wrong way to do it. If you love to handwrite and want to keep a leather-bound food and workout diary, do it. If you prefer typing, make a file on your computer and use Word to create an entry each day. You could even opt for software that’s designed specifically with journaling in mind. If you have the time and inclination to go into detail about your food, feelings and fitness regimen, by all means, do it. On the other hand, if you have minimal time and don’t aspire to any level of creative writing, keep it simple. Use a fresh page for each day and include

  • the day and date
  • your feelings — basic one-word descriptions are acceptable!
  • exercise — include type, intensity, time of day and duration
  • physical evaluation — note any pain, how tired or energized, strong or weak you feel
  • diet

For the diet part, you can simply rate your overall eating and nutrition for the day using a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 meaning you didn’t exceed your caloric intake and only ate healthy nutritious foods. Take note, however, that the more detailed the food part of your journal is, the more likely you are to lose weight. Web MD reports on a study in which participants who kept detailed food records at least six days a week enjoyed double the weight loss of those who only sporadically journaled about their diet. That may mean keeping notes throughout the day so that you can include everything later in your journal but, if it results in twice the weight loss, it’s worth the effort.

Foods That Speed the Metabolism for Weight Loss

We have an odd, unfortunate relationship with food. It is necessary for keeping bodies healthy and alive, but food gets cast as the villain in the weight loss struggle nearly 160 million Americans face, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. It is those pesky calories that interfere with the love affair your palate has with tasty, yummy fare. If only food worked to make you lose weight instead of gain it…

Don’t waste your time wishing for calorie-free cuisine. There are a number of delicious things you can eat and drink that will kick your metabolism into gear to actually burn calories.

Bring the Heat

The capsaicin in spices such as cinnamon and chili peppers kick-starts your metabolism.

One of the top ways to switch on the fat-burning signal in your brain is to eat warming, spicy foods. The element that flips that switch is capsaicin, and many foods that contain it are probably already on your favorites list. Of course, hot peppers are the first food to come to mind when you want to bring the heat to boost your metabolism but, according to Prevention, there are so many others including

  • bay leaves
  • cinnamon
  • cloves
  • garlic
  • ginger
  • mustard

Even vinegar is listed as a warming food that helps increase metabolism. If you are waiting for the catch, here it is: you do need to ingest quite a bit of capsaicin to raise your body temperature enough to increase your metabolism. The solution is to eat something spicy several times a day instead of trying to cram it all into one meal to ensure you benefit.

Foods With Substance

Muesli contains several foods with substance to get your metabolism going: whole grains, nuts and dried fruit.

High-fiber foods are filling, so they can help you eat less. However, they also have a thermic effect on your metabolism. That is because your body has to expend extra energy to digest foods such as barley, brown rice, oats, quinoa and other whole grains. Almonds, Brazils and other nuts are healthy foods that burn calories to digest, and the same goes for vegetables, but specifically cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

Berry Fast Metabolism

Dark berries contain metabolism-boosting antioxidants.

Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and the like have been touted as superfoods lately, and with good reason: their edible seeds and skin contribute fiber to your diet, so they have a similar effect on your metabolism as whole grains and vegetables do. However, berries are high in antioxidants. A specific antioxidant — catechins — is especially helpful for weight loss because it raises your resting metabolism, according to Prevention.

The Protein Bonus

You’ll burn over 30 percent of the calories in a steak just to chew and digest it.

Bodybuilders eat a high-protein diet to help them build muscle, but also to kick their metabolism into high gear for cutting body fat. LIVESTRONG reveals that your body burns over 25 percent of the calories in the protein you eat just to digest it. Whey protein is often recommended as the best quality and form of protein, but you should mix it up a little and get your protein from a variety of sources. One reason is that chewing up a piece of steak or chicken breast burns more calories than drinking down a protein shake, meaning you can take even more than 1/4 of the calories right off the top.

The Caffeine Advantage

Partaking of dark chocolate and coffee is a yummy way to rev your metabolism.

There is a good reason that most thermogenic supplements contain caffeine. The Huffington Post reveals that research has shown that drinking just one cup of coffee can increase your metabolism up to 15 percent. Additionally, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that drinking coffee increased fat oxidation. Chocolate lovers will appreciate the really good news. Dark chocolate not only contains caffeine, but it also has catechins, the same antioxidant that abounds in berries. Imagine the weight loss boost your metabolism will get when you snack on a few blueberries dipped in dark chocolate and wash them down with a cup of quality coffee.

Cool Down

Drink water on the rocks — the colder it is, the more calories your body will burn heating it up.

You should be drinking plenty of water every day anyway. Drinking water can help you eat less by making you feel full, and it flushes toxins from your body. However, water on the rocks can help with speeding up the metabolism for weight loss. Web MD reports on a German study that found that men and women’s metabolisms increased 30 percent after drinking water. Some of the increase was attributed to the energy the body has to expend to heat the water once it hits your stomach. It’s estimated that you could improve your calorie burn by 17,400 calories a year just by upping your cold water intake by 1.5 liters per day.

The Best Way to Tone Your Butt for Hot Summer Buns

03161801Here comes summer…and shorts and miniskirts and swimsuits. Of course that means hitting the gym hard for the push to present well on the beach or when you make your first poolside appearance of the season. Still hot this year, as it has been for the last few years, is a firm, well-shaped backside, according to the May/June 2015 issue of “Muscle and Fitness Hers.” Some feel the best way to tone your butt and achieve a booty lift is by having body fat redistributed through a surgical procedure called a Brazilian Butt Lift; others have invested in a specialized workout program bearing the same name.

Working out is the best way to tone your butt and reduce fat, and it’s the technique that will garner lasting results. Though you can’t spot-reduce or literally move fat from one  area of your body to enhance another when working out, high intensity interval training routines (HIIT) or circuit training workouts that focus on your glutes and hamstrings will build muscle where you want it while reducing body fat overall.

DIY Lifting Butt Workouts

If you want to invest the money in hiring a trainer from Brazil or purchasing a “special, secret” workout to build your booty, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s your money. However, if you already know the secret exercises that are the best way to tone your butt by targeting your glutes and supporting muscles, you can spend the cash on summer wear that accentuates your newly toned hindquarters. This is no time for men to tune out. Flat, baggy 501 cut-offs or cargo shorts on a guy are just as unappealing as saggy or over-stuffed ones are on a girl. Get busy with these seven exercises to cultivate a sexy gluteus maximus that will have the opposite sex doing double-takes.

Lunges – you’ll feel your glutes engaging when you perform a number of lunge exercises, from walking lunges to weighted lunges or explosive lunges, as “Fitness” magazine suggests. Women’s Health and Fitness recommends a Lower Half Lunge, a variation that also works to  tone core muscles while contracting your glutes and getting your heart rate up for a nice fat burning workout.

Targit Squats (2)

Some find it easier to maintain proper form when squatting with resistance bands instead of free weights.

Squats – squats are another glute-centric exercise that also recruit your hamstrings as stabilizers and get your quads working as synergists, making them a terrific and effective butt lifting exercise. Maintaining proper form while squatting is essential for avoiding injury, and that’s why some people steer clear of this exercise altogether. However, you can safely perform squats using just your bodyweight or using band-based equipment such as the TargitFit Trainer.

Kickbacks – if you have access to the weight lifting equipment, rear kickbacks are killer for working your glutes. Alternatively, you can forego the equipment and weights and use gravity to your advantage by performing Heel Sky Raises.

Reverse Hyperextensionreverse hyperextensions do require equipment, but it doesn’t have to be specialized. If you belong to a gym, go ahead and take advantage of what they have to offer. Alternatively, any raised flat surface at home such as a countertop, can be used to support your torso to allow you to lift your legs straight behind you for this glute-targeting, butt lifting  exercise.

Dumbbell Deadliftdeadlifts work your hamstrings, the muscles located right below your glutes. Hand weights, dumbbells or even gallon jugs filled with water can be used to add weight and an element of resistance to this exercise.

Lying, standing, sitting — all leg curls tone and strengthen your hamstrings to lift and support your glutes.
Photo via ScottHermanFitness/YouTube

Leg Curls – any exercise in which you bend your knee and press back against resistance will build and strengthen your hamstrings to provide a nice foundation to press your glutes upward. Gyms typically have a number of leg curl machines, but resistance bands are effective for leg curls, too.


Hip Moves – don’t forget to work your hips as part of a strong foundation that lifts your butt. Lying side hip abductions and side-lying clam exercises are effective and don’t require weight lifting equipment.

The Plan

Use a stationary bike or jog in place between each butt lifting exercise to turn butt workouts into high intensity interval training routines (HIIT workouts).
Photo via POPSUGAR Fitness/YouTube

The best way to tone your butt and engineer your butt lift is by putting these exercises into practice at least once a week, either on their own or by adding them to your leg day. If you do them more than once a week, just allow 72 hours between butt workouts so your muscles can rest and recoup. You can perform them as circuit training workouts, doing 10 to 12 reps of one exercise before immediately moving to the next exercise, and making sure to go through the entire circuit three times. Allow 60 seconds for rest between each circuit. Alternatively, you can do them as HIIT or high intensity interval training routines. Do one exercise as many times as you can in 90 seconds, then jog in place or get on a stationary bike or treadmill to keep moving but at a more moderate pace for 30 seconds. Then move to the next exercise, continuing the 90/30-intense/moderate intervals until you’ve done each exercise three times. You’ll feel the burn, for sure and, by performing your butt workouts as a circuit or HIIT, you’ll have the boogie back in your butt in no time.