Taking Off the Last 10

Last 10 pounds have you stumped? Don’t give up yet!

Applause, applause for everyone who stuck with their New Year’s Resolution and is working out and watching what they eat. According to Statistic Brain, you are in an elite group considering that almost 60 percent of people who make resolutions crap out after only one month. So, if you’re hanging in there almost 6 months later, good for you! You’ve likely seen some terrific results by now, even if you haven’t reached your ultimate goal. Don’t let that small detail convince you to quit now. If you’re down to your last 10 or 15 pounds of weight loss and have plateaued, here are some tricks you can try to move forward and hit your target. 

Adjust Your Eating

Little adjustments such as eating smaller meals and/or eating more frequently throughout the day can get your metabolism burning again.

Nobody likes the word diet, so let’s say “eating plan” instead. If you’ve found an eating plan you can live with and even like, you might be loathe to make changes, but adjusting a few things about how you eat could be just what you need to lose a bit more weight. Prevention interviewed four women who successfully took off their last 10 pounds, and all of them did it by making small changes to their eating plans, such as putting more protein into your meals. Whatever changes you make, stick to eating the same amount of calories. That could mean cutting back a bit on other food groups. Another suggestion is simply to eat smaller portions of the exact same foods you make for the rest of the family. See? No need to plan for special foods or additional meals. Nothing earth-shattering.  

Web MD recommends fiddling with the number of meals you eat, such as dividing your daily calories out over three meals and two snacks if you’re used to only eating three times a day. Bodybuilding.com says to eat homemade more often, and that might be the one tip that finally does the trick. According to the Orlando Sentinel, over half of U.S. adults eat out or takeaway orders three times a week or more, and eating even just one restaurant meal each day can make your weight go up by 2 pounds in a year. If you must eat out while you’re trying to lose weight, at least make healthy choices. Pick the leanest foods on the menu and commit to taking home half of the portion you’re served, instead of cleaning your plate.  

Tweak Your Workout

If you aren’t already resistance training, give it a try. If you are, change up your routine to push your body back into fat burning mode.

Here’s the thing: you’ll get better weight loss results if you combine a healthy eating plan with exercise. Like it or not, them’s just the facts. So! If you’ve been trying to take it all off with diet alone, add a workout into the mix to jumpstart your metabolism. If you’re already working out, then changing up your routine will get your metabolism going again to finish off the final 10. Try a new workout and increase the intensity. You’ve heard us harping on HIIT for sometime now, but that’s only because it works. Switching to High Intensity Interval Training will give you more bang for your workout buck when you not only perform different exercises than you’re used to doing, but you do them with increased intensity in a format that’s been proven to kick your metabolism up a few notches and keep it burning for hours after you’re finished working out.  

Does it all sound too simple? Good. That means it’s doable. With a tweak here and an adjustment there, you can get rid of the last 10 pounds to hit your weight loss goal!

6 Health Issues That Cause Weight Gain

Illness could be at the bottom of sudden, unexplained weight gain.

The human body is a complex piece of machinery. It runs well when everything is in perfect balance, but when illness strikes, the resulting imbalance can throw many elements out of whack, such as your weight. You might think you’re doing all the right things, but if you’ve experienced sudden, unexpected weight gain that you can’t seem to shed with any amount of diet adjustments and exercise, it’s probably time to see your doctor. Gaining weight is a symptom of a variety of different medical conditions but, with a complete physical and a thorough blood test, your doctor could diagnose an issue early enough to treat it effectively. Plus, you’ll be better able to manage your weight.

Malnutrition

You can eat a lot but still be malnourished if you aren’t eating foods that provide the nutrition you need. Image via Nikocado Avocado/YouTube

You might associate malnutrition with starving, but MedicineNet says the more accurate definition is not getting adequate amounts of essential nutrients to maintain optimal health. That means that even if you’re eating three full meals a day, you still won’t get adequate nutrients if those meals are made up of the wrong foods. Not getting proper nutrition can slow down your digestion and metabolism which nutritionists say can cause significant weight gain. Malnutrition is one of the easier issues to deal with. Just start eating healthier, even if it means consulting a dietician.

Ovarian Conditions

Cysts in the ovaries can make it difficult to conceive, but polycystic ovary syndrome (also known as PCOS) can also cause weight gain. Health website NHS Choices says PCOS causes a frustrating cycle of putting on weight which triggers the body to produce excess insulin, which causes more weight gain, which causes more insulin production … you get the idea. Weight gain with PCOS will sometimes respond to diet adjustments and increased exercise, but many times prescription medication is required to get a handle on the problem.

Cushing’s Syndrome

Weight gain is one symptom of Cushing’s Syndrome, a disease that can be brought on with the use of steroidal medication.

Not many people are at risk of developing Cushing’s Syndrome. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, as few as two to three people in a million are diagnosed each year. Steroid medications or tumors can cause Cushing’s Syndrome. One of the effects of the disease is heightened levels of cortisol, which is a well-known cause of weight gain. The good news is that identifying the factor at the root of the disease can help get the weight off. Removing the tumor or adjusting or changing medication should result in easier weight loss.

Thyroid Issues

We’ve previously talked about hypothyroidism  but any condition that affects the thyroid’s ability to function properly will also affect weight. In addition to hypothyroidism, Healthline lists Hashimoto’s Disease as another thyroid condition that can cause weight gain. Hashimoto’s Disease can actually damage the thyroid, and that will keep the pounds from coming off as easily as in the past. Any time the thyroid isn’t functioning as it should, medication may be required. Working closely with your doctor as well as getting enough rest, eating healthy, and exercising are the best ways to deal with weight gain due to thyroid conditions.

Depression and Other Emotional Disorders

Your overall health can be affected by your emotions, and dealing with issues such as depression (including postpartum depression) and bipolar disorder often bring weight gain along with distressing emotional symptoms. The hormones your body produces when your mood is negative can slow down your metabolism and increase your appetite, a combination guaranteed to make you gain weight. Plus, when you’re depressed or going through a manic low, you probably won’t be inclined to work out. The ironic thing is that working out and eating healthier can make you feel better emotionally. That’s not to say that medication isn’t required, especially in extreme cases, but the exercise/diet adjustment combo is worth a try as part of treating the condition and, as a side-effect, it will help take the pounds off.

Cancer

Not to incite a freak-out, because not all weight gain can be attributed to cancer, but sometimes it can. Cancers that can affect hormones, such as ovarian or pituitary cancers, will also affect body weight. Naturally, treating a condition as serious as cancer takes precedence over losing weight, but the healthy diet doctors recommend for cancer patients will help. Often, the weight of the tumors themselves accounts for part of the weight gain, so removing them results in instant weight loss. Plus, with the tumor gone, it will no longer affect hormones that influence weight gain so it should be easier to take off any remaining excess weight.

Want to Lose Weight and Shape Up? Take a Break!

Use your work breaks for exercise–you’ll shape up and still have time to pour a cup of coffee to take back to your desk.

Last week, we talked about incorporating active rest into your fitness regimen. If you read it looking for an excuse to cut back on exercise, you were probably disappointed. Sorry/not sorry. There are plenty of excuses for not working out (not having the time, simply not wanting to, etc…), but that’s all they are–excuses. Whatever justifications you use, you know as you’re uttering them that you really do need to exercise. It’s understandable for work to get in the way of physical fitness and that you’re reluctant to give up off-work hours to do something you don’t want to do. Not to bust your bubble again, but this article wasn’t written as a hall pass for working out. Instead, it’s a guide to fitting exercise into your busy schedule in a doable way that will ensure it gets done but not at the expense of other, important areas of your life. And what is this awesome answer to the exercise-excuse-conundrum? Exercise breaks. Rather than hitting the break room for a cappuccino and a cruller during your twice-daily work breaks, use them to get fit. Between the morning and afternoon breaks, you’ll get 20 to 30 minutes of exercise each day, and there will still be enough time to pour yourself a cup of coffee afterward, though you may not need it after exercising. The best part? You won’t have to forfeit your lunch hour or your evening.

Fitness Break Rules

Set your watch or computer alarm to remind you when it’s time for a Fitness Break.

You need a plan if you’re going to make fitness breaks work for you. Spoiler alert: you’ll actually have to stick to the plan if you expect it to work. If you don’t take breaks on a set schedule, set the alarm on your watch, phone, or computer for mid-morning and mid-afternoon to remind you when it’s time for a fitness break. Then decide what type of workout you’ll do. Do you want to do 10 minutes of plyometrics? 10 minutes of yoga?  10 minutes of body weight exercises? Or maybe you want to challenge yourself to master one specific exercise like Leah Wynalek did. In an article for Prevention, Wynalek talks about taking push-up breaks for a month to enhance upper body strength and conquer the exercise she’d never been able to do.

One more helpful hint: write down the workout, whatever it is. If you’ll be doing more than one exercise during your breaks, having it in writing will help you remember everything, so you don’t waste time or skip an exercise. More than that, however, having it in writing will help you stick to the plan so it’s more likely you’ll achieve your goal, according to Forbes.

A Fitness Break Workout

Whatever workout you choose to do on your break will be effective, and the options you have are endless. If you’re at a loss for ideas, Fitness has a ton of ideas–everything from a 10-minute belly dancing routine to tone your tummy, to calorie blasters and metabolism boosting workouts. Here’s one to get you started, a 10-minute workout similar to the one fitness expert Ben Greenfield shared with the Huffington Post:

  • 50 step jacks or jumping jacks
  • 15 push-ups
  • 15 side lunges, per side
  • 15 body triceps presses
  • 15 prisoner squats

Work Out Smarter: Incorporate Active Rest Into Your Regimen

Challenging workouts will help you reach your goals, but demanding exercise everyday can cause injury and burnout.

Now that things are opening up again, many are hitting the gym hard, determined to get back the gains they’ve lost over the last few months. “More is Better” seems to be the mantra, as proven by the masses of exercisers obsessively working out 5 days a week or more. Their resolve is admirable, but it’s a blueprint for defeat. Pushing yourself to exercise hard (or harder than you’re used to) will not only cause near-debilitating soreness but setting a goal of a minimum of exercising 7 days a week with no rest causes burn-out.

The way to optimize your results is by incorporating active rest into your workout regimen. It’s an effective way to exercise every day because it not only helps keep you in the habit of daily workouts, but it also promotes recovery to alleviate soreness while helping build muscle.

You Need Active Rest

The day after an intense workout, you might not feel like getting out of bed, let alone exercising, but that’s just what the doctor ordered. Personal trainer and health and fitness expert Jonathan Ross explains that, unless you’ve done damage and injured yourself, an active rest day will help you get past the discomfort of post-workout pain and get you feeling better faster. Some personal trainers advise clients to take a day off between each workout, but strength and conditioning coach Kyle Arsenault recommends that the days between lifting should be used to perform mobility exercises to correct form and imbalances, and enhance conditioning.

So, What Is It?

Using lighter weights or only doing one set of each exercise are two ways to incorporate active rest into your workout schedule.

Active rest isn’t literally rest, so inserting active rest days in between workouts doesn’t entirely give you a day off. Instead, it’s more like changing things up and taking it a little easier. Stack explains that you can approach active rest in one of three ways

  1. do your typical workout, but decrease the intensity
  2. stick with the same intensity but take the volume down a notch (performing only one set of each exercise, for example)
  3. do something physically active but entirely different from your typical workout

Option number three is a useful choice for people trying to commit to keeping exercise in their schedules because it eliminates the boredom factor that defeats so many. It’s also an effective way to push past a plateau because it is a change of pace that forces your body to do something different–and that’s when you typically see the best progress.

A Recommendation

An increasing interest in improving mobility is trending in health and fitness . Doing so enhances quality of life for people of all ages, and it reduces the chances of injury from any activity including sports,  exercise, and even normal everyday actions. Sure, you expect professional athletes to sustain injuries during games, and it’s common for people who work out to strain, pull, or twist something, but how many times have you heard of someone throwing their back out getting out of the car or wrenching their neck when turning around too fast? Because you can hurt yourself doing pretty much anything, it makes sense to perform mobility exercises on your “off” days between workouts.

Fitness expert and former Navy SEAL Stew Smith recommends starting your active rest workout with about 20 minutes of cardio. Use the elliptical or a bike to keep it low-impact. Then work with the foam roller for about 5 minutes before moving on to exercises that are more like dynamic stretches such as walking lunges, bodyweight squats in which you hold at the bottom of the move for a count of 10, hip rotations, wood choppers, halos, and finish up with a few planks, held for 30 seconds each.

Should You Ever Take an Actual Day Off?

According to ACE, getting a massage counts as active rest–that’s my kind of workout!

Sure you should, especially if your body is telling you it needs a rest. If you don’t feel like working out, the American Council on Exercise recommends you analyze why. Are you just being lazy? Are you bored with your workout? Or is your body too fatigued to go on? If it’s the last one, there’s nothing wrong with taking a day to do nothing more physically demanding than making the bed and taking out the trash. To ensure you reach your goals and stick with your fitness regimen, though, make sure there are less of those days and more active rest days for recovery and breaking up the monotony of your challenging workouts.

Here Comes the Sun: Safe Tanning

So here comes the sun and, along with it, temperatures hot enough to make you want to revert to your childhood penchant for wearing your swimsuit every day of summer, all day long. The problem with bearing more skin in the summer months is that most of us want that skin to be an attractive burnished shade of copper, but everyone is more than aware of the risks of sun exposure. Though tanning your hide has been linked to skin cancer, most people still associate tanned skin with a healthy glow. If you desperately desire to be brown as a berry this summer, at least commit to using common sense.

Everyone Is Different

From the palest white to dark, rich browns that border on black, each skin tone has various levels of melanin that determine how well or if a person will tan.

Human skin comes in a veritable rainbow of colors thanks to melanin, the levels of which are programmed by genetics. That’s why some people tan easily and can retain some shades of summer year round, and others skip straight from pasty-white to lobster-red after minimal sun exposure. You likely already know where you fall on the scale of tan-ability, but accepting natural limitations is sometimes difficult for those with fair skin. Acceptance is the first step, however, to formulating a plan for a tan. Unless your skin entirely lacks melanin, you should be able to achieve some level of color darker than the shade you naturally sport all winter long. Decide to be satisfied with whatever color you can safely cultivate instead of pushing for the deepest, darkest tan, damn the consequences.

Exercise Your Options

Safely cultivating a tan in natural sunlight requires the use of sunblock, no matter how dark or light your natural skin tone is.

Other than being born with olive-toned or darker skin, there are three ways to achieve that coveted healthy glow. The first is the good old-fashioned way: sun exposure. It’s actually a good–and important–natural source of vitamin D so, unless your skin is so fair that you literally burst into flames upon exposure to sunlight, outdoor tanning is an acceptable way to darken up. Don’t flip out before you’ve read the caveat: tanning in natural sunlight absolutely requires that you use sunscreen and limit your tanning time. Yes, you will get a tan using sunscreen, but it will take some time. Medical Daily points out that the paler your natural skin tone is, the higher the SPF you’ll need. Apply one coat of sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before you go outside, and then apply another coat about 15 to 30 minutes after being in the sun. Choose your tanning time wisely, too. Since UV rays peak in intensity at midday, 30 to 60 minutes exposure early or late in the day is your best bet. One more thing: protect your eyes, ears, and face by wearing sunglasses and a hat with a brim. The skin in these areas and even your eyes themselves are especially delicate and susceptible to UV rays.

Once thought to be safer than tanning in the sun, indoor tanning beds are just as capable of causing skin cancer with excessive use. Image via Evil Erin/Flickr

Tanning beds are another option for bronzing your skin, though they’ve become controversial since the peak of popularity in the 1980s and 90s. Initially thought to be a safer way to get a sun-kissed glow, research has since determined that excessive exposure to UV radiation from any source can cause skin cancer. The key words there are “excessive” and “can.” That’s not to downplay the risk, but only to put it in perspective and, in fact, an article published on Health Journalism revealed the results of a study that found the risk of tanning bed-use causing melanoma to be less than one percent. Additionally, Dr. Mercola touts moderate use of tanning beds as beneficial and a convenient and valuable way to get a healthy dose of vitamin D, a nutrient that can even decrease chances of other types of cancer as well as many illnesses. Remember: lotions specifically formulated for use in tanning beds are essential. They don’t have SPF, but they do help protect you from burning, and they moisturize and nourish your skin to keep it from looking like an old catcher’s mitt.

Self-tanning products offer a risk-free natural-looking tan, but they don’t last longer than a week or two and there’s no way to keep the color from rubbing off on clothing. Image via Irma Marshall/Flickr

Finally, of course, there are the self-tanners. This option is truly the only way to tan without increasing your risk of melanoma–provided you realize that most self-tanners don’t contain any protection from the sun. Slapping on some self-tanner and then heading out into the sunshine without SPF leaves your skin as vulnerable as going out naked. The biggest downside to self-tanners aside from the smell is that there is no way to keep them from staining your clothing. Even the combo products that blend lotion with self-tanner still transfer to clothing and bedding, though not as intensely. Also, some people are sensitive to DHA, dihydroxyacetone, the chemical in all self-tanners that produces the tanning effect. If you’re among those unfortunate few, you’ll develop an itchy and unsightly rash along with your faux tan.

Falling Back on Our Favorite Mantra

Don’t overdo it! A moderate approach to tanning will allow your skin will age gracefully and you’ll reduce your risk of melanoma, too. Image via CNN/YouTube

You know what we say about everything from dieting to exercise to alcohol consumption: moderation! Even when you read the studies and warnings from professionals, you should notice the use of words we pointed out above, words such as excessive, undue, extreme, may, can, and could. Overdoing most things, whether it’s sun exposure, eating cake, or even drinking too much water can be dangerous and potentially deadly. All of the uproar and fear of the sun, tanning beds, and UV rays is a bit excessive in itself. No one wants to be responsible for giving anyone permission to do harm to themselves, so the experts go overboard in steering the masses away from what could be harmful if indulged in excessively.

Image via OWN/YouTube

 

The answer? Grow up. Be an adult. Take responsibility for yourself. Use the common sense God gave you to determine which tanning option is right for you–or choose not to tan, if that is your preference. If you do opt to tan, do it in moderation to minimize risks and maximize positive results. True, you might not get the George Hamilton glow you want but, when your skin ages gracefully and you don’t end up with melanoma, you’ll be happy you used a moderate approach to tanning.

Back to the Basics

Complex fitness equipment and complicated diets can be too much trouble. Go back to the basics to avoid winding up in Disappointment City.

We’re almost half-way through the year, and it’s about this time or even sooner that the fitness resolutions people made back in January fall by the wayside–assuming they ever got started at all. There are a handful of reasons people give up exercise in the spring including:

  • boredom
  • lack of results
  • hitting a plateau
  • destined-to-doom plans to exercise outdoors

Some people think that the reason their fitness and weight loss goals failed is that they didn’t have access to the right home equipment or a revolutionary new workout plan. However, complex contraptions and rigorous regimens aren’t necessarily the answer for reaching your weightloss and fitness goals. If that new diet, routine, or home gym in a box motivates you, then you should absolutely sign on. Remember, though, that you actually need to do something with the diets or fitness products you buy. If you don’t make use of them, they’re a waste of money. Before you make that purchase, try doing something simple and basic and making it a permanent part of your lifestyle. If you can do that, then maybe that fun, new piece of equipment can be your reward for hitting a small goal and you can use it as a stepping stone to help you reach the next one.

Benefits of Keeping it Simple

When things get too complicated, that’s when they get dumped by the wayside, and you start looking for the next sure-fire plan. That’s true throughout all areas of life. A study published in the International Journal of Project Management found, among other things, that a complex plan makes managing it difficult enough to derail any undertaking and, the bigger the project, the more problems that are likely to crop up. Sure, the researchers were looking at project management, but the findings apply to fitness goals, too.

Whether you want to lose 10 pounds or 100, whether you aspire to grow your “guns” by 5 inches and sculpt washboard abs to match, creating a complicated plan to do it or telling yourself you need specialized, complex equipment is like pre-programming failure because you’re building in problems. Practically everything in nature gravitates toward the path of least resistance–water, animals, humans …. So, when you’re faced with a piece of equipment that is difficult or inconvenient to use or a convoluted diet that is hard to follow, you’ll choose not to do any of it, and your goals will have to wait until you once again decide it’s time to do something about them.

Basic Workouts That Work

All types of lunges–including walking, stationary, and reverse–are simple, effective, and don’t require complicated equipment.

The most basic of workouts are ones that use nothing more than bodyweight for resistance. They’re effective exercises for beginners as well as people who have reached their weightloss and fitness goals and are simply trying to maintain. The great thing about basic exercises is that incorporating basic weight equipment with them takes the intensity up a notch to help those who are more advanced build muscle, lose more weight, or get off a plateau.

Different experts have slightly different ideas about which exercises should be included in everyone’s workout, but there are a few go-to moves that show up on most lists:

  • reverse lunge (or split squats)
  • pushups
  • squats
  • pull ups
  • bridges
  • kettlebell deadlifts

Shape suggests using kettlebells to add resistance, and those are nice, basic pieces of equipment that don’t have a lot of removable and moving parts. Even using dumbells or a barbell with plates is still simple enough to qualify as “basic.”

If you feel you NEED workout equipment, TargitFit keeps it simple.

For starters, you can do traditional sets and reps of each exercise, and then hop on your bike or go for a run to get some cardio. Alternatively, and in the spirit of keeping it simple, you can perform three of the exercises consecutively for a set amount of time for an intense workout that gives you both cardio and resistance at the same time. For instance, do 4 split squats with your right leg, 4 with your left leg, 4 pushups, and 4 squats (bodyweight or with kettlebells). Go through the sequence as many times as you can for a 3 minute period, then take a 20 to 30-second rest and move on to 4 pull ups, 4 kettlebell deadlifts or 4 burpees, then hold a plank for 30 seconds. Do that sequence as many times as you can for 3 minutes, rest for 20 to 30 seconds and start again. Running through each set of exercises twice will only take about 15 minutes and will provide a vigorous, effective and basic workout.

5 Key Supplements for Resistance Training

This week, Targitfit is pleased to bring you an informative fitness and nutrition article by Linda Moore:

Image via Clean Wal-Mart/Flickr

When you’re embarking on a resistance training regimen, it’s important to remember that to see gains (increased lean mass), you must provide your body with the nutrition that it needs to recover from the strenuous gym sessions involved in weightlifting programs.

Professional bodybuilders will tell you that true strength-training athletes are born in the kitchen, meaning that what they use to supplement their workouts is often even more important for building muscle than exercise itself.

To help you reach your fitness goals, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 supplements for resistance training along with instructions on how to utilize them for maximum effectiveness.

Protein Powder

Protein is the building block of muscle, so getting enough of it is absolutely crucial for athletes hoping to gain lean mass. Most resistance training athletes do not get an adequate supply of protein from their diets. While incorporating plenty of lean meat like fish, eggs, nuts, beans, and dairy into your diet is a positive for building muscle, it is not enough for people engaged in serious weightlifting.

Although individuals’ protein needs vary, most experts recommend at least 1.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily to meet the normal protein requirements as well as providing the extra amount needed for recovering muscles.

Creatine

Creatine is arguably the most well-researched supplement that is proven effective at spurring muscle development. The human body naturally produces creatine in limited amounts, and it is found in dietary sources like chicken as well. However, the small amounts found in a normal diet are likely not enough to produce the results that a supplement can provide.

The vast majority of creatine is stored in muscles. It promotes the production of a special type of molecule called ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which muscle cells use as an energy source.

Creatine is clinically proven to boost both muscle growth and performance in the gym, making it a must-have addition to any post-workout shake.

Branched-Chain Amino Acids

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are a category of amino acids that include isoleucine, leucine, and valine. These amino acids are considered “essential” because they cannot be produced by the body – yet they are crucial for muscle growth.

Like creatine, BCAAs can be obtained through diet, although not in optimal amounts – making supplementation necessary for anyone who wants to see results.

BCAAs are proven to reduce recovery time between workouts, mitigate fatigue, and prevent the breakdown of muscle tissue.

Fish Oil

Fish oil is perhaps the most well-known supplement in the world. It contains the specific types of amino acids that provide the biggest performance boost for resistance training are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

The primary benefit of fish oil for athletes is its mitigation of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), the familiar feeling of soreness in the muscle groups activated after a gym session that can last several days.

Quicker recovery turnaround time means more opportunity for growing muscles as a result of increased training.

Multivitamin

 

Although multivitamins are often scorned by athletes, high-quality multivitamin supplements can actually deliver impressive benefits for resistance training.

Although less glamorous than other supplements like creatine, a high-quality multivitamin delivers an abundance of important vitamins and minerals that may be lacking in the diet – especially for athletes who require higher amounts.

Final Thoughts

 

The bottom line is that nutrition and exercise go hand in hand for most health and fitness goals.  If you match the dedication that you put into your workouts with the right supplementation, you’ll be in the best possible position to achieve your fitness objectives.

 

Linda Moore is a lead writer for Suppwise, an evidence-based health and nutrition website. She’s passionate about helping others develop habits that promote a healthy lifestyle.

The Best Time to Work Out

Unfortunately, running in the Rat Race doesn’t contribute to physical fitness and leaves little time for exercise.

Fitness goals often get derailed before they get started when you find it difficult to schedule time to exercise, even if you’re motivated. Some people try setting the alarm clock an hour earlier so they can work out before their day begins. Not everyone is a morning person, though, so those that do push themselves to get up early might not get as good a workout as they would later in the day. That inevitably leads to morning exercise falling by the wayside, either because of fatigue or to avoid the guilt trip over hitting the snooze button instead of going for a run.

That leaves evenings for those who aren’t morning people, but family obligations, overtime at work, and end-of-day exhaustion do a good job of getting in the way of sticking to a workout schedule long enough to make it a permanent part of your lifestyle. If neither morning nor evening exercise is working for you, consider a midday workout. Research has shown that strength-wise, it’s an optimal time to exercise. Plus, you’ll reap benefits other than losing weight and getting in shape.

You’re Stronger in the Middle of the Day

Take advantage of strength peaks by scheduling a midday workout.

Your body has a rhythm, and it goes through a similar cycle each day, according to Professor Don. H. Hockenbury and science writer Sandra E. Hockenbury. Everything from body temperature to pain sensitivity to mental alertness ebbs and flows in a 24 hour period. Some things peak twice in one day, and the first strength peak hits at about 11 a.m., making midday an optimal time to work out. Your muscles will be warmer than in the morning because your body temperature will be on an upward climb at that time. What’s more, you’ll be rested and awake, so you’re less likely to blow off your workout because you don’t feel alert or have enough energy.

You’ll be More Productive

You’ll be more focused, productive, and even happier after exercising in the middle of the day.

Whether or not you’ve noticed it, you think clearer after exercising. Scientific American acknowledges that researchers haven’t quite pinpointed why that is, but their studies have proven that it’s a fact. Exercise increases blood flow to all parts of the body, including the brain, so that factor alone is thought to be key. What’s more, regular exercise reverses age-related shrinking in the part of your brain that learns and stores memories. Whatever the bottom line reason is, study after study has added to the evidence that working out is as good for you mentally as it is physically. For example, it’s been shown that students who exercise score higher on tests afterward so, logically, people who typically experience afternoon sluggishness will be more productive after their midday workout.

Lunchtime Exercise

Eat the carb half of your lunch before a midday workout, then replenish and recover with the protein portion after exercising.

If you work at home, exercising midday isn’t a problem. However, if you have a typical 8 to 5 job, you probably don’t relish the idea of giving up lunch and coming back to work sweaty. That’s only convenient for those of us who work at a gym. The first problem is easily solvable, and it actually helps with your workout. Shape1 suggests splitting your lunch in two. At least 30 minutes but optimally 60 minutes before your workout, eat the carbohydrate portion of your lunch. That will fuel your body for your workout with something that is easily digestible. Then, after your workout, eat the protein part to help with recovery.

As for returning to work after exercising vigorously, the consumer industry has you covered.  Multiple products have popped up on shelves to help you clean up after exercise. Moist towelettes, similar to baby wipes, are the  most effective and less expensive. Just wipe down after your workout and toss the cloths. A neutral-scented dusting of body powder will take care of any remaining moisture on your skin. Then, get dressed, and you’re ready to go!

What If It’s Not For You?

Almost any schedule should be able to accommodate a handful of 10-minute workouts if you can’t fit 30 to 45 minutes in your lunch hour.

OK, it’s true that not everyone’s bodies follow typical circadian rhythms. If your strength peaks at a time of day other than noon-ish, then you’ll want to schedule your workout accordingly. If that isn’t convenient for any reason, the American Heart Association suggests splitting your exercise up throughout the day. For example, you could take a quick 10-minute jog in the morning, do a fast HIIT workout for 10 to 15 minutes at lunch, then finish up with 10 more minutes of cardio in the evening with either another jog or a short spin on the stationary bike. Whatever physical activities you do, they’ll add up to the recommended 150 minutes of cardio after a 5-day work week. And working out that way is still a good Plan B anytime if your regularly scheduled workout gets preempted for any reason.

 

 

1Shape, “Get Fit Performance Tips,” Sara Angle, January/February 2017, 54

 

Planning Your Meals for Weight Loss Success

Pre-planning your meals can make the difference between success and failure.

If you’ve been struggling to lose weight or have hit a plateau in your bodybuilding or figure goals, your diet probably has a lot to do with it. Take stock of how you approach meals. Do you know beforehand what you will eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, or do you grab whatever is convenient? Eating off-the-cuff will work against you because you’re more likely to make poor nutritional choices. More than that, food that is handy tends to be packed with empty calories.

Proven Strategy

Meal planning doesn’t mean being overly ambitious. Include more simple, easy-to-make meals in your plan than ones that take a lot of time or need a lot of ingredients.

Some people need to make a plan to make a plan, while some personality types are averse to planning anything. Others fall in the middle of the road and don’t have a problem with making a plan if they can see the value in it. When it comes to planning meals, scientific studies have proven that it’s an effective strategy. Research published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine showed that the more time people spent on pre-planning meals, the higher the quality of the diets tended to be, and a high-quality diet is essential for any weight loss or fitness goal.

Multiple Benefits

Knowing what you’ll be cooking and eating over the next several weeks helps curb impulse buys at the market, keeping your budget on track as well as your weight loss and fitness goals.

A “higher quality diet” can mean many things, depending on who is doing the meal planning and what the goals are. Someone who is trying to lose weight will plan for low-fat, nutrition-dense meals that will leave them feeling satisfied, so they won’t have the desire to snack. People who are trying to build muscle for a fitness competition will design their meals to provide energy and protein. Meal planning makes it easier for anyone to control their portions, too. Whatever the goal, most people will (or they at least should) aim to include healthy, nutritional foods that will help them meet their objective.

Meal planning has other benefits, though. The Mayo Clinic points out that you’ll save money two ways because you’ll be eating at home more often and when you go to the market, you will have a list of the items you’ll need for the next few weeks. If you stick to the list and avoid impulse buys of pre-packaged snacks, you should be able to reduce your grocery bill along with your waistline.

Write Out a Menu

Write out a menu, then write out your grocery list.

The first step to meal planning is writing out a menu. You can try to build it around things you already have in your freezer and pantry, you can peruse the ads in the newspaper first and write a list based on items that are on sale, or you can create your menu to include dishes you want to eat over the next few weeks to a month. Don’t have the time to make huge, five-course meals every night? Who does? You don’t have to be overly ambitious, and Prevention even advises against it. Only plan one or two larger meals per week, whatever your schedule will allow, and then plan easy-to-make meals using the leftovers.

As you plan, include snacks in the mix, too. That way you can put baby carrots, apples, or whole wheat crackers and mascarpone on the shopping list to keep you from bingeing on chips or cookies when the munchies strike. Also include the ingredients to home-make the easy to grab-and-go breakfast items that cost more when you buy them from the bakery or the grocery store. Not only will making muffins and scones at home on the weekend save money and provide something quick to eat on the way to work (with the coffee you brewed at home, naturally), but you’ll get a healthier product, too.

Pre-made, pre-packaged baked goods are filled with sugar or unhealthy sugar substitutes, and loads of not-so-appetizing ingredients to preserve them. According to the Huffington Post, you shouldn’t even opt for pre-made doughs or mixes because they contain a variety of artificial ingredients and preservatives such as vanillin (which is made from petroleum or wood) and saturated fats like cottonseed or palm kernel oil. You could always spend time reading ingredient lists looking for healthy pre-made mixes, but it would be quicker to make your own baked goods from scratch. You’ll know all the ingredients you use are healthy plus you can control the amount of fats and sugars you use to make them even healthier.

The Necessity of Tweaking

Bodybuilders usually have their meal planning down to a science because they need to be in control of caloric intake at all times as well as controlling the amounts of protein, fats, and carbs they eat. Even so, hitting a plateau during the process of building or cutting could be an indication that you need to tweak your diet. Reassess, looking at the number of calories you’re eating each day and what percentage is going toward protein, fats, carbohydrates, fruits, and veggies, then make adjustments where necessary. Your food diary or the menus from the past month will be useful for reviewing what you have been eating, and it’s likely that the things that need tweaking will be obvious.

Even if you aren’t in the fitness or bodybuilding circuit, periodically adjusting your meal planning is beneficial. We tend to go through phases, eating more meat for a month or so, then gravitating toward breads and pastas. In general, there’s nothing wrong with that provided you don’t get stuck in a rut of pizza for dinner every night. If you make a conscious decision to re-evaluate your meal planning regularly, like once a month, then you can mindfully control those phases and ensure that during your pasta period, for example, you’re including some sort of protein even if it’s not meat.

HIIT the SAQ to Supercharge Fat Burning and Beat Boredom

It’s natural in any circumstance to become bored with your workout routine. No matter what brings boredom on, when it happens, a change is called for. We’ve talked before about the benefits of mixing it up when it comes to exercise. Doing so helps you meet your goals because it encourages your body to continue to burn fat, build muscle, or whatever you’re training for as well as keeping things interesting mentally, so you’ll be less likely to bail on exercising. 

SAQ exercises are a great way to get in cardio exercise without getting bored. Image via Howcast/YouTube

The cardio part of your workout can be difficult to change satisfactorily, however. Sometimes it feels like you’ve done it all: running, biking, rowing, aerobics classes, swimming…. In the quest to keep things interesting, it’s time to HIIT the SAQ. Speed, Agility, and Quickness drills are nothing new. Soccer, basketball, and football players and many other athletes have been doing them forever. While some use special gear for their SAQ workouts, equipment is not required. You can do most of the exercises anywhere with assistance from nothing more than a clock with a second hand. That’s the only thing you’ll need to make it a High Intensity Interval Training session, so you can keep track of the time spent working out and the time spent resting between rounds. Performing SAQ as a HIIT workout delivers a double benefit: you’ll increase your fat burning capabilities plus you’ll improve your agility and speed, too. 

Using SAQ for HIIT

You can turn almost any workout into High Intensity Interval Training by doing a set of exercises quickly and for time (as many reps as possible within a predetermined timeframe) and taking a short rest between exercises. So, it’s logical that you can take a set of SAQ exercises and do them in a HIIT format. The bursts of intense activity combined with short breaks are what kick up your metabolism for efficient fat burning and weight loss. 

SAQ Exercises

You’ll need to familiarize yourself with exercises for speed and agility to put a workout together. Fortunately, loads of football and soccer websites such as Total Soccer Fitness and Training offer sample workouts and exercise suggestions. There are the basic, better-known training moves such as ladder drills, squat jumps, and step jacks (a walking jumping jack, forward two steps, then backward two). Add in skaters, plyo split lunges, and lateral lunges, and you have enough exercises for an effective workout.  

For example, do three 30-second rounds of ladder drills with a 10 to 15-second rest between each one, then do three 30-second rounds of squat jumps, resting 10 to 15 seconds between. Continue on through each exercise, completing as many reps as possible during the 30 seconds of work. With a 45 second warm up and cool down on either side of your workout, that gives you an intense 15-minute regimen that should be easy to fit into any schedule. 

When Should You SAQ?

Your body needs fuel before and after a SAQ workout, so have a light snack of carbs pre-exercise, then eat some protein afterward–eggs and turkey bacon are a great choice for an effective recovery meal.

When you do your SAQ workout is up to you, but if first thing in the morning is the only time you can exercise, don’t do it before breakfast. For the longest time, conventional training advice was that you could maximize fat burn by working out in the morning on an empty stomach. It might sound logical but, science doesn’t back that up. First off, if you’re performing HIIT workouts, you’re already enhancing after-burn–continuing to burn calories even after you’ve stopped working out. According to a study published in Sports Medicine, the type of fuel your body burns post-workout depends on what kind it burns during the workout. Basically, if you burn carbohydrates during your workout, your body will switch to burning fat afterward, and burning fat during a workout will cause your body to use carbs later on.

What’s more, you can only benefit from doing cardio on an empty stomach by going at a low intensity for an extended amount of time. How extended? A different study published in the American Journal of Physiology found that “fasted” workouts produced no difference in amounts of fat calories burned until after an hour and a half. That means you’d have to work out at a lower intensity six times longer than if you just did SAQ exercises as a HIIT workout. Bottom line, grab a light snack of carbs before your workout, then eat some protein and a few more carbs afterward. Your body will be fueled and primed to burn more calories more efficiently, and you won’t be bored with your new, quick and easy workout.