The Best Way To Flatten and Tone Your Abs

You don’t need to spend $1 million on tummy trimming equipment or secrets.

There’s no shortage of ab exercise machines, fitness exercise programs that target the midsection, or late-night infomercials about toning and trimming the tummy. There are plenty of people ready and willing to tell you how to lose belly fat in exchange for your credit card number. The cold, hard truth is that you don’t need a special ab exercise machine (even if it does look and feel as comfortable as a hammock), and there’s no one magical ab workout that will suddenly accomplish what your half-hearted attempts at diet and exercise haven’t in the past. There are three keys to flat-ab success, and you can have them right here for the price of your time.

Step One: Get Your Cardio

Cardio equipment is useful both for quick, intense HIIT workouts and longer duration, less intense workouts to burn belly fat.

Any fitness exercise program worth its salt includes aerobic exercise. That’s because getting your heart rate up and expending energy burns fat and calories. The goal is to burn more calories than you take in so that your body is forced to use up stored fat, including the flab affectionately known as your “love handles.” Military.com recommends doing cardio four to five times a week, for 20 to 45 minutes a shot. You know the drill: any activity that increases your heart rate such as biking, running, aerobics classes or working out on the treadmill or elliptical trainer. More is not necessarily better when it comes to duration or level of vigor. IDEA Health and Fitness Association recommends two different approaches to maximize fat loss overall as part of a plan to lose belly fat:

  • short, dynamic workouts, such as 30 minute HIIT sessions
  • long bike rides or similar activities of 90 minutes to 2 hours during which your heart rate hits and maintains about 65 to 70 percent max HR

Step Two: Work Those Abs

Ab lounge

Skip the fad workout gadgets — the best ab exercises don’t use equipment.
Image by XpeSports/Flickr

There is no such thing as spot-reducing, but it is useful to perform abdominal exercises to strengthen and tone your core. Toned ab muscles give your midsection the flat look you desire–especially after you start losing the layer of fat that conceals your abs–and, when you work to develop those muscles, you can even get a six pack going if that’s what you want. The really terrific thing about ab workouts is that the best ab exercises without equipment are essentially the best ab exercises, period. For years, planks have been the ab workout darlings of many personal trainers, but the American Council on Exercise says that jacks, mountain climbers, and even side planks are more effective for working your abs from top to bottom and side to side. ACE actually did a study on ab exercises and found the most effective ones to be the bicycle maneuver and the captain’s chair (leg lifts). They’re both effective for working the obliques as well as the main ab muscles that run along the front of your torso.

In your impatience to lose belly fat and flatten your tummy, don’t work your abs every day. Your abdominals are just like every other muscle in your body, and they need recovery time between workouts. That doesn’t mean you can’t do ab exercises more than once a week. Just be sure to allow 48 to 72 hours between workouts.

Step Three: Get a Grip on Your Diet

Healthy food for trimming your tummy can be tasty — and you can still eat a few treats, but in MODERATION.

Ack. There’s that four letter word. Again! Unfortunately, you cannot eat trash and expect to have a trim tummy. Remember the saying: what you eat in private, you wear in public — right around your middle. No one is saying you can’t eat food you like, just think “moderation.” That means limiting sweets and fried foods, choosing naturally low-fat cheeses over the creamy fat-filled ones, eating ample fresh veggies and fruits, and opting for lean meats instead of fatty ones. TargitFit’s never-fail extreme weight loss diet recommends cutting out soda altogether, but if you can’t go cold-turkey on the cola, wean yourself off, cutting back a little at a time until you’re off it entirely. Drink water instead as part of ensuring you get enough H20 each day. Try eating five smaller meals throughout the day instead of three large ones. If you get a grip on your diet and include both cardio and ab exercises in your routine, you’ll be sportin’ that six pack in no time.

Dear Diary…The Benefits of Keeping a Food Journal

Food journals have shown to provide significant help for people who have trouble losing weight.

In this age of social media and publishing every random thought that occurs, you’d think that keeping a food diary would be easy. But if that were true, then so many people wouldn’t still be fighting the battle to lose weight. Maybe you’ve heard the advice before—that keeping a journal to track your food intake can be beneficial—and maybe you rolled your eyes. Or, possibly, you thought it was a good idea but just haven’t gotten around to doing it yet. Well, it’s time to take this weight loss secret seriously. A study published by Kaiser Permanente found that keeping a journal on food intake can double weight loss, and the more detailed the diary is, the more weight you’re likely to lose.

What’s more, listening to and understanding your body is important in general, but especially when you’re trying to lose weight. Health says that keeping a food journal will shine a light on issues such as why you eat when you’re not hungry, how who you’re eating with may affect your meals, and can even identify foods you may be allergic to or that have negative effects on your health.  Armed with that kind of insight, you’ll be more in touch with your body and its relationship with food, and will be able to fine-tune your eating habits to reach your goals. So grab a notebook and a pen and start writing to lose weight.

The Magic Of Writing

When you write down everything you consume, you get a better picture of how much you’re eating as well as whether you’re eating healthy.

One reason food journals can be so successful is that they track the amount of food you eat to give you an accurate picture of what you’re actually eating. Kristin Kirkpatrick, a Registered Dietician, says that clients routinely tell her they hardly eat at all, yet still can’t seem to lose weight. One of the first things she does is have them start keeping a food diary, and they’re always surprised at how much they really do consume.

That’s because many people have gotten used to eating on the run, so they subconsciously dismiss any food not eaten at the dining room table. Another trick of the mind is that they don’t see the “little” calories adding up: a handful of chips here, half a sandwich there, several spoonfuls of Ben and Jerry’s furtively scarfed down in the middle of the night (if you don’t eat it from a dish, it doesn’t count, right?). It all does add up, though, and writing it down makes you accountable, putting you face-to-face with the truth of how much you’re really eating.

How To Keep a Food Diary

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Yep, keep track of everything you drink, too.
Image by Fredrik Rubensson/Flickr

Keeping a food journal is about more than writing down what you eat. According to Organic Authority, there are several important issues that need to be kept track of that relate to the food part of the log. Start with writing down the time of day you’re eating and exactly how much of each item you consume. Plus, every time you eat, you should record your hunger level, the reason you’re eating (stress? it’s noon? I’m bored? everyone else is doing it?), how long it takes you to eat, and reactions, such as whether the food affects your mood or makes you feel contented, happy, hyper, nauseous, tired, or irritable.

Periodic summaries are essential, too. Do it daily, do it weekly, or do it monthly, but the summaries will centralize the data on the food you’re eating and give you the clearest picture of your diet. What’s more, summarizing reveals patterns in your health, moods, and eating habits, and identifying those can do more than help you lose weight. That information can end up being vital for improving your general health.

Get In the Habit and Don’t Stop

After a few months of keeping a food diary, you might be surprised at how motivating it can be.

However you choose to record your experience with food, make a commitment to do it consistently for at least 90 days. By then, the habit should be ingrained enough that you won’t have trouble keeping it up if you want to or if you haven’t reached your goal yet and need to keep journaling. You’ll be surprised at the picture the diary will paint over those 3 months and may be even more surprised at the incentive you get from reviewing it.

6 Ways to Make January Sugar-Free

Although we tend to focus on the topic of exercise, we recognize that many people’s New Year’s Resolution to get healthy is more about diet than working out. Some resolve to eat healthier in general, while others aim for a more specific goal, like cutting down on their sugar intake. If that’s your objective this New Year, we asked our friends at Pyure Organic to offer some advice on ways to make January 2021 sugar free:

2020 was a tough year, and many of us are excited about starting a new year on the right foot. New Year’s resolutions aren’t for everyone, but for some, setting a goal can help hit the reset button and get a fresh start.

Resolutions can be difficult to stick to, which is why many people have started participating in month-long challenges rather than go for goals they can’t achieve. Sugar-free January is one such challenge that’s become increasingly popular over the last few years. If you’re looking for a way to start the year off right, sugar-free January is a great way to do so. Here’s what you need to know about this challenge.

What is sugar-free January?

Sugar-free January is a New Year’s-resolution style challenge/commitment to cut back on refined sugar for one month. There are no hard-and-fast rules to sugar-free January other than to try to eat less artificial sugar. The goal is to both become aware of just how much refined sugar is in our diet, as well as to find recipes that incorporate better-for-you sugar alternatives. Every person’s sugar-free plan will look different, but ultimately, the challenge is to think about your sugar consumption and get back to the foods that make you feel good.

There are a number of cooking blogs and websites that host sugar-free January challenges, but you don’t need to sign up to any particular site to participate. PinchofYum hosts a more structured challenge that includes a Sugar Free January Starter Pack, complete with weekly meal plans, goal setting, and an Instagram hashtag so you can share your progress with others. If that sounds like too much effort, you can simply start by finding ways to swap refined sugar with better-for-you alternatives.

Tips for participating in sugar-free January

Sugar-free January can be as strict as you want to make it. Some people are able to completely cut out sugar, while others make small but impactful changes to reduce the amount of refined sugar in your daily diet. Whatever level to which you decide to commit, these tips can help set you up for success.

  • Read the labels. Sugar is hidden in many unexpected foods, including ketchup and tomato sauces, crackers, processed meats, and even health food products. Look for ingredients like high fructose corn syrup – those are the ones you want to avoid.
  • Make enough for leftovers. When cooking healthier for yourself, make enough for multiple meals. That way, you won’t default to reaching for a shortcut with sugar when you get home too late to make a fresh recipe.
  • Keep it simple. Where many people fall short is that they try to make too many big changes at once. Limit your experimentation to one new recipe per week, and keep meal prep easy so that you don’t get overwhelmed.

January is also the coziest time of year; it can be tempting to reach for sugar to help cope with the long nights and cold weather. Sweet treats are one of the best parts of the holiday season – and there’s no need to restrict yourself from them completely. Instead, try one of these recipes that use stevia as a better-for-you sugar alternative.

No- and low-sugar desserts

Just to help with your sugarless resolution, here are some tasty baking recipes that don’t contain refined sugar:

Peppermint Coconut Hot Chocolate

This festive hot chocolate is perfect for sipping during the holidays. Spike with vodka if desired.

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. In a small saucepan set over medium-low heat, whisk together Chocolate Drink Mix and coconut milk. Cook, stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes or until heated and steaming; stir in peppermint extract.
  2. Divide between 2 mugs. Top with a dollop of coconut cream. Garnish each serving with chocolate and sprig of mint.

Tips:

  • Alternatively, garnish each serving with a light dusting of Chocolate Drink Mix.
  • For whipped coconut cream, chill a can of coconut milk overnight in the fridge. Scoop out the hardened cream on top of the coconut milk into a chilled mixing bowl; beat with an electric mixer on high speed for 2 to 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Refrigerate until ready to use. Sweeten with Pyure Organic Powdered Confectioners Stevia Sweetener or All-Purpose Stevia Blend.

Lemon Blueberry Scone Recipe

The perfect breakfast to bake on Sunday and eat throughout the week, this lemon blueberry scone recipe by Pyure Organic is a must-try. It’s keto-friendly and sugar-free, with a light refreshing taste that’s bound to give you a morning pick-me-up. Full of flavor and not too heavy, yet topped with a sweet glaze, it’s great for you and for the kids. Additionally, they are gluten-free. Truly a breakfast recipe to please everyone.

Yield: 8 scones

Ingredients:

Make the scones and the glaze separately.

Lemon Blueberry Scone Recipe Ingredients

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 2/3 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/3 cup Pyure Organic Confectioners Stevia Sweetener
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

Lemon Blueberry Scone Recipe Glaze Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup Pyure Organic Confectioners Stevia Sweetener
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1-2 teaspoons of heavy whipping cream

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Prepare the scone dough first.

To Prepare the Dough

  1. Mix almond flour, Pyure Organic Confectioners Stevia Sweetener, baking powder, and sea salt. Set aside.
  2. In a second bowl, whisk egg, melted butter, fresh lemon zest, and pure vanilla extract.
  3. Mix egg mixture into dry mixture with a large spoon until you have a softball of dough.
  4. Fold fresh or frozen blueberries until evenly distributed in the dough.
  5. Place your ball of dough onto the lined cookie sheet and gently press down until you form a flat disc. It should be 1-inch thick and approximately 6 inches wide.
  6. Slice the disc into 8 even slices using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter.
  7. Place cookie sheet in the oven and bake 18 to 22 minutes, until the scones are a light golden brown.
  8. Set aside and allow scones to cool completely.

To Prepare the Glaze

  1. Mix Pyure Organic Confectioners Stevia Sweetener with fresh lemon juice in a small bowl.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon of heavy whipping cream and stir. Add an additional teaspoon until the glaze is thick enough.
  3. Pour lightly over the top of the scones once they are completely cool.

Berry Chocolate Marble Bark

Sweet indulgence! This chocolate bark is sure to be a crowd-pleaser at your holiday party or a favorite for seasonal snacking.

Yield: 16 Pieces

Ingredients:

  • 7 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 8 Pyure Brands Sweetener Packets
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, cubed
  • 5 oz white chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
  • 4 oz milk chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1/3 cup dried blueberries
  • 1/3 cup chopped dried cherries
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • Pinch sea salt

Instructions:

  1. Line 13- x 9-inch baking pan with enough parchment paper to overhang sides. In a heatproof bowl set over a larger saucepan of barely simmering water, melt unsweetened chocolate, Sweetener Packets and butter, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove from heat. Let cool slightly.
  2. Pour chocolate mixture into prepared pan; spread evenly. Drizzle white chocolate, then milk chocolate, over top; using a toothpick, wooden skewer or butter knife, swirl chocolates together.
  3. Sprinkle blueberries, cherries, cranberries, chia seeds and salt over top. Refrigerate for about one hour or until chocolate is set. Remove from pan and peel off parchment paper. Break bark into pieces. Store in airtight container for up to one week.
  4. To melt chocolate in the microwave, place chocolate in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on Medium power, stirring every 30 seconds, for 1 to 2 minutes or until smooth and melted.

This article originally appeared on the Pyure Organic website.

How to Set Up the Perfect Home Gym

It’s that time of year again–when everyone resolves to finally get in shape and/or lose weight. Many are flocking to fitness centers already in anticipation of doing right by their New Year’s resolution, but some are looking at outfitting their own workout spaces at home. For those in the second camp, we’ve got advice from Andrea Lozoya on setting up the ideal gym in your home to make the most of your workouts:

It’s almost an urban cliché that most gym memberships wind up expensively unused. Although subscriptions are taken out with the best intentions, maybe as a New Year’s resolution, fitting workouts into a busy modern lifestyle is in reality more difficult than people tend to assume.

Some days there’s simply no time to waste traveling for a workout. Other days the motivation isn’t quite there to leave home when the weather’s not on your side.

But the fact remains that regular exercise is excellent for both your physical and mental health, so it’s a shame to let that fitness ambition slide. For many people, the ideal solution is to set up a home gym, a project which offers many strong benefits over a paid membership.

Convenience and ease of use

A carefully built home gym makes it easier to fit a quick workout into your daily routine, without all the hassle of driving to a maybe distant location. And you needn’t miss out on the expert assistance and motivation of a gym trainer either. There are increasing numbers of online workout programs you can follow, offering both standard and personalized routines for all levels of fitness.

What’s more, a home gym needn’t cost a fortune – in fact, if you’re careful you can save big on membership fees. But to enjoy it to its best, you need to build a gym setup that fits perfectly into the way you prefer to work out. Here are the most important points to think about.

Find the best gym space

A basic home gym can be set up in surprisingly little space. At the smallest scale, enough room for a yoga mat lets you start with stretches and core exercises. For high-intensity interval training (HIIT), you’ll need a little more room to move, along with a floor that’ll stand up to the impact punishment. Example spaces include basements, converted attics, or even outdoor areas like porches or decks if your climate and situation allows.

If you’re planning on the full weights, treadmill, and rowing machine experience, you’re probably looking at an unused room like a home office, den, garage, or spare bedroom.

But however big or small, the key is to find an area of your home that you can call your gym and use at a moment’s notice, whether it’s a corner of your living room or a fully equipped dedicated space.

Stock up on the right gym gear

While a gym membership gives you access to a wide range of top-line equipment, most people only use a small proportion of it. A home gym can be kitted out quickly and relatively inexpensively if you only install the gear you’ll need for your favorite workout styles. For example:

Yoga / Pilates: For simple yoga or Pilates workouts, a comfortable, high-quality mat is all you’ll need. More advanced routines and poses may call for a Pilates ball or exercise block, both of which can be bought inexpensively.

Boxing: With its combination of strength, endurance, and coordination training, boxing makes a great all-around workout to do at home. All you’ll need are some boxing gloves and a freestanding punching bag, or one suspended from a sturdy beam.

Cardio: An extensive cardio workout ups the ante a little in the amount of equipment you’ll need. Consider jump ropes, treadmills, elliptical machines, and HIIT straps depending on your preferred routine.

Strength training: This is the workout type that benefits from having the widest range of equipment available. However, you needn’t invest in everything all at once. Start small with weights and resistance bands. The TargitFit Trainer is the perfect resistance piece for home gyms as it enables you to do over 115 gym-quality exercises without taking up a lot of space, and it’s budget-friendly. If you do have an abundance of room and want to invest more extensively in equipment, you can always add stability and BOSU balls and multifunctional squat and power racks as your workouts develop.

Swimming: If you have the space and the funds, adding a pool to your yard makes it easy to workout with laps or water aerobic exercises.

Dance: Fit a barre to an empty wall, along with full-length mirrors to monitor your form. Wooden floors make the best surface for dance and don’t forget to include a sound system for your choice of music.

Install a recovery zone

Recovery is an essential part of working out, giving your body the chance to develop, heal, and prepare for the next session with a reduced risk of injury. There are many ways you can enhance your recovery routine at a home gym.

At the simplest level, recovery aids like foam rollers and percussive massagers are great for soothing tensed up, sore muscle groups, while a massage chair does the same across your whole body. A small home sauna is excellent for boosting circulation to tired muscles, and modern self-contained units take up surprisingly little space.

At the high end, a home spa including whirlpool, infra-red cabinet, and steam room is a luxurious but practical investment if you have the space, the funds, and an advanced workout routine that justifies the installation cost.

Working to a budget: DIY your equipment

Plenty of useful, bargain-basement gym equipment can be found on Craigslist, Marketplace, and other second-owner sales sites. But if you want to make the absolute most of your budget, there’s plenty you can do in the DIY realm too.

From simple gear storage racks using reclaimed lumber, to DIY yokes, pulling blocks, and reverse hypers, if you’re handy with a few tools you can kit your home gym out with homemade equipment at a fraction of the cost of new gear.

Plan storage from the start

With a home gym you likely won’t have the luxury of unlimited space, so planning efficient storage for your expanding collection of gear is a must. Simple lidded storage containers can be used for yoga mats, recovery massagers, jump ropes, and so on, sliding away under a bed when you need to reclaim space.

If your gym is set up in a living room, a storage ottoman can keep your gear tidily out of the way when it’s not in use, and it also doubles up as a comfortable footrest for kicking back after your workout

For more heavy and bulky equipment like dumbbells, specialist hangers and racks are available, although a less expensive metal shelving unit makes an equally good option providing it can support the weight.

But whichever type of storage you choose, the key is to consider it at the start of your home gym journey rather than trying to retrofit extra storage after installation.

Making your home gym as energizing as possible

Installing a home gym that you’ll want to use is about much more than adding the right range of exercise equipment. Creating a comfortable but stimulating environment is key to getting the most out of the space you’ve built. Here are some important home gym ideas to consider when putting your design together.

Good light: No one wants to work out in a gloomy and claustrophobic space. Allowing for plenty of natural light is ideal, but if necessary, make sure you have enough electric lighting overhead so you can see exactly what you’re doing as you exercise.

Mirrors: Full-length wall mirrors help you keep an eye on your form as you work out, giving you visual feedback on your movements so that you become your own instructor. Mirrors also make space feel larger, which can be highly valuable in a smaller home gym.

Gym Flooring: Interlocking gym flooring is easy to install and provides a firm, stable surface for exercising on, while also protecting your carpets, tiling, or floorboards underneath.

TV or tablet: A carefully positioned TV or tablet lets you watch your online workout lessons in comfort, or can provide entertainment during longer sessions on equipment.

Sounds: Installing a music system can energize you for more vigorous workouts, or provide a calming influence for yoga or stretches.

Tidiness is important: Your home gym should be available at all times so that you can fit an impromptu workout into a busy day. Don’t let it fill up with the clutter of daily life which could discourage your session. And even when you’re tired after a workout, prepare the space for its next use immediately after completing your recovery routine.

Add your medals: If you’re training for competition, displaying your past medals, trophies, and badges can help create that extra spark of motivation to keep your workouts on track.

Get the most out of your home gym

After all the work of setting up your home gym, don’t let the effort go to waste. Draw up a realistic workout schedule that you can stick to, and set some solid goals you can work toward to keep your enthusiasm levels high. The best home gym is one that’s used as often as possible, so if you find your motivation starting to fall away, consider asking a friend to join your scheduled sessions, giving you no room to back out.

And don’t forget: working out should be fun as well as beneficial to your health. If you’re not enjoying your sessions, a home gym gives you the freedom to change and develop the setup until you hit on the design that’s an ideal fit for you.

This article first appeared on porch.com.

Andrea Lozoya is a Marketing Analyst and does Content Marketing at Porch. She has a MBA, and her hobbies are running, playing piano, and singing.

Cheating Can Help You Stick to Your Diet

No, the headline isn’t a typo—it’s a fact. Bodybuilding pros, dieticians, and doctors all know that a planned cheat day can improve the results of most diets. It might seem counterintuitive to encourage someone who has been trying to lose weight to indulge in “real” food on a regular basis but hear us out. There are benefits to cheating, especially if you do it right. That’s great news, particularly at this time of year when extra temptation is everywhere.

The Leptin Factor

Dieters often have lower leptin levels, which signals the brain to slow down metabolism. Cheat days give you a chance to increase leptin and keep your metabolism burning.

Low calories are one of the reasons diets fail. Cutting the number of calories you eat often results in hunger which, in turn, causes leptin levels to drop. Leptin is the hormone that informs your brain that you have plenty of energy in reserves, but when the levels drop, your brain thinks that you’re starving. The result is that your metabolism slows down, and you end up burning fewer calories. It’s a vicious cycle that typically causes frustrated dieters to quit dieting altogether.

Toss a cheat day into your dieting schedule, however, and, according to EatThis,  your leptin levels will go up, notifying your brain that all is well. It will keep your metabolism set to burn calories instead of conserving them.

Avoid Feeling Deprived

Knowing you can eat what you want to on a regular basis will keep you from feeling deprived.

Another reason it’s tough to stick to a diet is that you usually can’t eat many of your favorite foods, and you end up feeling deprived before you start seeing results. Consequently, working a cheat day into your diet will make you feel like you’re not being deprived at all. Bodybuilders like King Kamali tell Muscle & Fitness that cheating gives them a mental break. Knowing that you’ll be able to treat yourself on a specified day will make it easier to stick to stricter meal plans the rest of the time. What’s more, you might notice you perform better in the gym or TargitFit class the day after you cheat. Those extra calories will give you the energy to power through a beast of a workout, which will benefit your weight loss goals in the end.

Tips for Cheating the “Right” Way

Make a plan. If you want to use cheating as a dieting strategy, you can’t just randomly decide that “today’s the day” and then go back to dieting tomorrow. Having a plan is always the best bet. Decide if you’re going to allow yourself one cheat meal every 10 meals or an entire cheat day every 10 days. There’s nothing magic about the number 10, so don’t get hung up on that. The point is to pick specific times for cheating and stick to that.

Don’t over-restrict your calories before your cheat day. You’re already cutting back by being on a diet, so it’s not necessary to cut back extra right before a cheat day. Eliminating additional calories will only result in binge-eating on your cheat day—which is unacceptable … and it’s the next tip.

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Taking a cheat day isn’t the same thing as having permission to eat yourself into a coma. On cheat days, eat moderate amounts of the foods you miss most when you’re following your diet. Image by Chelsea Marie Hicks/Flickr

Don’t binge! Allowing yourself a cheat day is not the same as getting permission to eat everything in sight. You’ll still need to eat reasonably on your cheat day; it’s just that you’re allowed to have foods typically off limits. Eating slowly can help. Not only will you get to savor every drop of silky Alfredo sauce or delicious crumb of chocolate cake, but eating slowly will give your stomach enough time to signal your brain when you are full.

Keep working out. You should have rest days worked into your exercise schedule, but it’s a good idea to manage them so that they don’t coincide with your cheat days. Resting on a day when your caloric intake is low will help keep your body from thinking it’s starving, and working out on a day when you indulge will help work off those extra calories before they’re stored in fat cells.

Dr. Oz recommends spreading out “cheat foods” throughout the day, such as having your “cheat sugar” as an afternoon snack.

Be strategic with your cheat meals. Dr. Oz  advises that having structured meals on a cheat day can minimize some of the cost of going off your diet. The Good Doctor’s plan even allows for you to eat three meals plus two snacks: have your “cheat fat” at breakfast, “cheat salt” during your morning snack, your “cheat carbohydrate” at lunch, your “cheat sugar” in the afternoon, and your “cheat protein” at dinner. This plan still has you eating foods that you might consider to be diet foods, so you’ll hardly feel like you’re cheating at all. If Dr. Oz’s plan isn’t for you, another cheat day strategy is to cut down the number of eating hours on your diet day off—kind of like daylight savings time for your diet.

One cheat day strategy is to eat a larger breakfast of your favorite things a little later in the day–like after 10:30 a.m.–so you won’t get hungry before late afternoon/early evening, when you can have another delicious cheat meal.

The way to do that is to eat a high-protein meal for dinner the night before your cheat day, so you’re not starving by the next morning. Then, push your first meal of the day to lunchtime. That doesn’t mean skipping your morning meal altogether, but unless you are living for pancakes with syrup and bacon, have a protein shake or granola bar for breakfast and indulge in your cheat foods for lunch and dinner. Alternatively, have that big breakfast but be sure to include fiber and protein so that you can skip lunch and won’t be famished to the point of gorging yourself when dinnertime rolls around. Yet another choice could be to have the big breakfast and one other meal in the late afternoon that takes the place of both lunch and dinner.

You really have nothing to lose but pounds, so why not give cheating a try? It might feel a little naughty, but you may be surprised at how easy it is to stick to a diet and lose weight when you know you have a reprieve coming.

10 Benefits of Vitamin A You’re Missing Out On

This week, Targitfit is pleased to bring you an informative diet article by Carnivore Aurelius:

Source

The internet is rife with vitamin C remedies for the common cold, vitamin B concoctions to boost energy and high doses of vitamin D for bone health.

Yet vitamin A gets the cold shoulder. Think about it, when was the last time you saw a vitamin A shot at the gas station??? Exactly.

While Vitamin A isn’t exactly known as a sexy vitamin, it does, in fact, have superpowers:

  • It rejuvenates your skin
  • Protects cells against free radical damage
  • Powers your immune system
  • Supports vision
  • Accelerates muscle gain

These are just some of the many benefits. Supposedly enough vitamin A can even give you X-Ray vision…I haven’t tested this out yet though.

Stay with me here as we dig into the nutrient powerhouse you’ve been ignoring, what it does and how to make sure you get enough.

A Primer on Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a term that encompasses a group of vitamin compounds including carotenoids and retinoids. Carotenoids are precursors of the active Vitamin A that your body needs and retinol is the active form. There are three forms of active retinoids in the body: retinal, retinol and retinoic acid.

As is always the case, when plants and animals have a different form of a nutrient, the animal form is always the one you need. It makes sense. Your eyes aren’t made of carrots. They’re made of the same building blocks that animals have in their eyes…

Foods high in carotenoids are most commonly fruits and vegetables with bright red and orange colors but also include some dark leafies. Some examples of foods high in carotenoids include:

  • Sweet potato
  • Pumpkin
  • Carrots
  • Butternut squash
  • Kale
  • Collard Greens
  • Red palm oil

Humans and animals make retinoids (this is the active form of vitamin A, remember?) from some of the carotenoids. Active vitamin A is stored in the liver and in fat, making animal liver and animal fats the best sources.

Beef liver, for instance, is the best source of Vitamin A retinol in the world. Just 100g of beef liver contains over 15,000 IU of Vitamin A.

Interestingly, besides liver, foods that naturally contain the highest amounts of vitamin A are those that are meant to sustain young animals through development like milk and eggs. The highest natural sources of retinoids include:

  • Liver
  • Cod liver oil
  • Butter
  • Whole milk
  • Egg yolks

Cereals and other grain products may be fortified with vitamin A but I’m obviously not promoting those as good sources. If that surprises you, check out my posts on saponins and lectins to learn more.

Carnivore is King

Plants do contribute to vitamin A status however, many factors impair our body’s ability to convert carotenoids into active vitamin A.

First things first, only about 10% of the over 500 carotenoids can be converted into active vitamin A.

Second, there are physiologic factors that play interference in our ability to convert, including:

  • Certain health conditions like diabetes and celiac disease
  • Age (infants and children)
  • Low thyroid function
  • Low fat intake
  • Diarrhea
  • Pancreatic dysfunction
  • Fiber in the diet
  • Parasites
  • Nutrient deficiencies including protein, zinc, and iron
  • Genetic variation (reduces ability to convert by up to 75%)

For many people, the conversion rate of beta-carotene to retinol is only 5%. For instance, this study shows that every 15 mcg of carotene in spinach is equivalent to 1 mcg of retinol .

Layer in genetic polymorphisms, low fat intake and gut issues and absorption rates may be even lower. It makes sense why there are so many health issues today, as this is one of the most important vitamins in the world.

As you can see, relying solely on plants to meet vitamin A needs is a problem for the majority of people.

So it makes sense to let mother nature take the guesswork out of it for you and incorporate animal sources to get what you need.

If you’re interested in maximizing your amount of vitamin A intake, the carnivore diet is the best diet in the world.

What Does Vitamin A Do?

Vitamin A has a wide range of benefits. It’s important to note that the benefits do not apply universally to both carotenoids and retinoids, they are separate compounds with different jobs. Here, I’ll discuss mostly the benefits of active vitamin A with some comments about carotenoids noted throughout.

1.  Reproduction

Adequate vitamin A is required by both female and male reproductive cells for healthy reproduction. You heard correctly – if you want to procreate, both sperm and eggs rely on vitamin A. What could be more of a superpower than helping to create a human?

2.  Healthy Pregnancy for Mom and Baby

From conception to birth, vitamin A is required for a healthy pregnancy. Starting from embryonic development, through the formation of the organs, development of healthy eyesight, and sound immune function, vitamin A is an essential nutrient to make sure physiologic systems are formed and healthy.

For mom, Vitamin A deficiency also increases maternal mortality in pregnant women. Vitamin A deficiency is of highest concern in the third trimester when both mom and baby need this essential nutrient.

3.  Healthy Vision 

Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, this is a major health issue for at least half of the population of every single country on earth.

This supernutrient is required for eye development, proper functioning of the retina and protection of the surface of the eye. Vitamin A is a structural component of rhodopsin, the pigment within the cells of the retina that allow us to see colors and dim light.

So next time someone tells you carrots are good for vision, you can inform them that Carrots are a wanna-be beef liver.

4.  Immune Function

Vitamin C and zinc aren’t the only superstars when it comes to immune function. In fact, vitamin A was originally nicknamed the “anti-infective” vitamin almost a century ago because of its importance in normal immune functioning.

The body’s barrier tissues including the skin and linings of the digestive tract and airways rely on vitamin A. Vitamin A is required for the creation of the cells that make up those tissues as well as the mucous they produce. These tissues are the first line of defense for keeping out harmful substances like some types of bacteria and viruses.

The organs of the immune system need a constant supply of vitamin A to produce cells that help to fight off infections in the body. Research shows that vitamin A reduces infection and death of many serious illnesses including tuberculosis, pneumonia, measles, and malaria.

Whenever I’m getting sick, I load up on beef liver and my cold virus vanishes — maybe because it can’t stand the smell of the liver?

5.  Clear, Vibrant Skin

Vitamin A helps maintain healthy, vibrant skin through a number of ways including:

  • Production of new skin cells
  • Promoting collagen production
  • Preventing sun damage
  • Supports oil glands around hair follicles

Adequate vitamin A helps maintain moisturized, supple skin. In the case of acne, wrinkles or scarring, vitamin A-based creams or serums may be recommended to increase cell turnover and promote collagen.

Eating vitamin A will transform your skin. How do you think mine looks like porcelain?

6.  Gene Regulation

Genes aren’t just those things created by Levi’s.

They’re the code that regulates all cellular function.

Most people don’t know that your diet can directly impact your genetic material. Your genes aren’t carved into stone and can actually change over time. Actually, there is a whole field of study dedicated to this phenomenon known as nutrigenomics. Vitamin A is a great example of nature and nurture both impacting how the body functions.

Vitamin A regulates the response of over 500 different genes. Genes are parts of your DNA that are passed down to you from your parents. They act as instructions and govern how proteins build and regulate different functions of the body.

7.  Healthy Blood

Vitamin A is vital for the physiologic processes of cell differentiation and commitment. Sounds complicated right? Not really, this simply refers to the change in stem cells to cells that have a particular function in the body.

Lab studies done outside of the body suggest vitamin A may be required to turn undifferentiated cells known as stem cells into red blood cells. Vitamin A also helps mobilize and transport iron from various tissues in the body. As such, deficiency of vitamin A contributes to the development of anemia.

8.  Strong Bones

Vitamin D and calcium have gotten most of the attention for strong bones but vitamin A plays a critical role as well. Strong healthy bones rely on bone cells called osteoclasts and osteoblasts for remodeling, the process of building and strengthening bones in response to stress. This delicate balance of breakdown and rebuilding requires vitamin A.

How much is required for good bone health? The jury is still out. Some observational studies have shown that too much or too little vitamin A increases fracture risk but others have shown no association, or reduced fracture risk.

Because bone health depends on both vitamin A and vitamin D, including food sources that contain both nutrients such as cod liver oil, beef liver, and eggs are a good idea.

9.  Reduces Inflammation

Many carotenoids act as antioxidants, protecting cells from free radical damage and reducing inflammation. Vitamin A’s role in immune functioning and cell turnover also contributes to an overall anti-inflammatory effect.

Acute inflammation plays an important role in health but chronic unchecked inflammation is known to play a role in the development of a number of chronic diseases like heart disease, arthritis, and dementia.

 10.  Accelerates Muscle Gain

Read through any bodybuilding magazine….You’ll see countless ads for whey protein and men with traps so big they can barely put on a shirt.

But they’re missing one of the most crucial things. Vitamin A.

Vitamin A increases muscle gain via several mechanisms.

It’s critical to the production of testosterone. Rat studies show that greater concentrations of Vitamin A in testes increases testosterone secretion .

Vitamin A also increases transferrin production which is responsible for a variety of growth factors, like IGF-binding protein 4.

Lastly, the incorporation and utilization of protein requires vitamin A. Rats fed a diet low in vitamin A synthesized protein at a lower rate

It’s true what they say — beef liver is the new steroids (fine, I’m the only one saying it).

Am I Getting Enough Vitamin A? Probably not. 

So how much vitamin A is enough? This isn’t as easy a question to answer as you might think. There is some discrepancy over current vitamin A recommendations.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin A varies based on age, gender, and reproductive status.

The RDA for Vitamin A is far too low. But even then, 25% of American’s don’t even consume half the required amount. This makes sense. Vitamin A is largely found in foods like organ meats. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen beef liver on the menu at Chipotle…

Surveys of the US population show that about half do not meet need the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) of vitamin A. Compared to the RDA, the EAR is the amount of a particular nutrient that is estimated to meet the requirement for half the healthy individuals within a population.

Some experts contend that dietary inadequacies are more widespread yet go undocumented due to current recommendations being too low and shortcomings with using serum vitamin A as the primary marker for deficiency.

Serum vitamin A is tightly controlled to maintain homeostasis and will not start to fall until liver stores are too low. To get a better sense of total vitamin A status it is recommended serum vitamin A be combined with another test like retinol binding protein (RBP).

In addition, public health messaging has vilified vitamin A during pregnancy due to a study that showed that very high doses of vitamin A early in pregnancy are associated with negative pregnancy outcomes such as birth defects.

As a result, and out of an overabundance of caution, many prenatal vitamin formulations changed to limit active vitamin A content. And, as we’ve established, inadequate vitamin A intake during pregnancy is bad for both the baby and the mother. Just because too much is harmful doesn’t mean the vitamin should be avoided altogether. As the old adage goes “the dose makes the poison.”

Researcher Weston A. Price reviewed diets of healthy indigenous populations and found that intake among these largely disease-free groups was around 50,000 IU per day. This is about 10x the current RDA recommendation.

This threshold can be met by consuming a tablespoon of cod liver daily, organ meat from pastured animals a few times a week and regular consumption of high-fat animal products like butter and cream (again, from pastured animals).

Other experts that also look to ancestral dietary patterns for clues on optimizing nutrition for good health recommend aiming for 3-10,000 IU’s per day. To accomplish this you’d need to eat at least one of the following foods daily:

  • 4 oz of liver per week
  • 3 whole eggs per day
  • 1 tablespoon of cod liver oil per day
  • Liberal use of grass fed butter and red palm oil
  • 3 servings of pasture raised full fat milk daily

Vitamin A Toxicity

It’s true. Too much vitamin A can indeed induce toxicity. But reports have only been seen in the case of people taking synthetic vitamin A supplements for months at a time. Usually these subjects are taking close to 100,000 IU a day for several months…which would be equivalent to eating over 1lb of beef liver a day for months.

Studies also show that Vitamin D increases the toxicity threshold. This study shows that in a typical 160lb male, vitamin D supplementation increases the threshold to 200,000 IU a day .

Please save some liver for the rest of us and don’t eat that much…

For most people, too little Vitamin A is a much bigger problem than too much.

The Take Home

Regardless of which side of the vitamin A debate you sit on, the evidence is clear that most people need to do better at reaching even conservative adequate levels in the diet.

While plant foods do contribute to vitamin A status, there are a number of factors that impair their conversion to active vitamin A (the source of our body’s need). Therefore, the best sources for vitamin A are from animals.

To get what you need, make sure to include some combination of organ meats, cod liver oil, grass fed butter and cream and whole eggs into your regular diet.

 

This article was originally published at www.carnivoreaurelius.com.

Carnivore Aurelius is a nutrition and biochemistry expert who’s studied for over 5 years. He used the carnivore diet to cure IBS, rheumatoid arthritis and his acne. He’s passionate about distilling complex nutritional information down to actionable advice.

Just How Important Is Building Leg Muscles?

Male or female–everyone benefits from strong leg muscles.

It’s not an uncommon sight: a dedicated weight lifter or fitness enthusiast who religiously works his upper body and completely ignores his leg muscles. Typically it’s because building a big barrel of a chest, massive shoulders and impressive “guns” are the priority. Men aren’t the only ones guilty of neglecting the muscles of the leg. Many times women become too sensitive about the size of their thighs and glutes so they concentrate on reducing their legs instead of focusing on how to build up leg muscle. There are important reasons for working your legs, though, and not all of them are geared toward bodybuilding. Everyone of all genders and ages can benefit from strong leg muscles.

The Fat Burning Factor

Leg muscle mass helps keep your entire body trim.

You already know that maintaining muscle helps with burning fat for healthy weight loss. It stands to reason that the more muscle weight you put on, the easier it will be to take fat weight off and keep it off. You leg muscles are the largest muscle group you have, taking up the entire lower half of your body. Building lower and upper leg muscles will go a long way in increasing your overall muscle mass for increased fat burning potential.

Keeping You Mobile

Strong leg muscles keep you on the go and make it possible to do everyday things like climb stairs and get you from point A to point B.

It’s easy to take your leg muscles for granted, but just try to get through one day without using your leg muscles and you’ll recognize the essential role they play in keeping you agile and mobile. The importance of agility and mobility are obvious for athletes, both professionals and weekend warriors, but these elements increase in importance as people age. A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology concluded that leg extension strength in older adults is associated with the ability to keep balance and prevent falling. Additionally, the medical information website Patient says that problems with balance and gait are directly related to muscle weakness, both in the upper leg muscles, such as the quadriceps and abductors, and in the lower legs where calf muscles affect foot flexion.

Symmetry: It’s Not Just for Bodybuilders

Weak leg muscles are weak links in your body’s muscle chain.

It’s no secret that symmetry is as important to bodybuilders as muscle building. According to Bodybuilding.com, an evenly developed body has no noticeable weak points and simply looks better. Aside from the appealing physical appearance, symmetry in your muscles can help reduce the chances of injury. The muscles of your body are all connected, and the ones that aren’t connected directly are linked together through other muscles. They all team up to get you around and allow you to do what you do. However, if one section of the team is weaker than others, it can’t perform properly, resulting in injury whether you’re working out or just performing simple, daily tasks. Former endurance athlete Mark Sisson explains that having weak hamstrings, for example, may result in torn cartilage, bad knees, an abnormal inward curving of the spine, or all three.

How to Strengthen Leg Muscles

In the simplest terms, the answer to how to build up leg muscles and strength is to work them — but work all of them. There are different schools of thought on whether you can or should work upper and lower body on the same day, but ExRx.net recommends dedicating one entire workout day to your leg muscles. Do exercises such as:

 

  • squats
  • lunges
  • calf raises
  • leg curls and extensions
  • hip adductors and abductors
  • hip flexions

Two to three sets of each exercise will challenge your leg muscles to start growing in strength and size. Those strong muscles will pay you back for the effort by helping keep you lean, reducing your chances of an injury, and keeping you on your feet and on the go.

Targit In Your Toolbox

Expand your workout options. Make sure you have more than one type of resistance training tool in your fitness toolbox.

No matter what your goals are, you need to build muscle as well as get your cardiovascular system in shape. WebMD advises that building lean muscle via resistance training is vital for getting in shape because it helps burn fat for weight loss and helps keep it off. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends both resistance training and aerobic activity on a weekly basis in their Physical Activity Guidelines. The aerobic part is easy enough to solve, as you really don’t need any unusual or special equipment to get your heart rate up. Hop on your bike, take a jog around the neighborhood or jump rope for awhile — it’s all good. For building muscle, though, it’s useful to have more than one tool in your fitness toolbox.

Consider All Options

Some people are die-hard free weight lifters. They don’t consider it a serious workout unless they’re pumping iron–using the dumbbells or any equipment that incorporates weight plates. There’s nothing wrong with that while you’re young, but as you get older your body doesn’t recover as quickly as it used to. Plus, lifting heavy weights is hard on your joints and tendons in general. However, as you age, it’s natural for cartilage to deteriorate, according to Healthline, making heavy weight lifting difficult and even risky. That’s not to say that you should give up free weights entirely. Many experts from personal trainers to physical therapists to doctors advocate using bands in conjunction with free weights for effective strength training programs.

The benefits of resistance bands increase the effectiveness of your workout.

Advice like that from experts is what makes the TargitFit Trainer a valuable piece of equipment for your fitness toolbox. It uses bands for resistance, eliminating the load placed on your joints while still giving you a challenging workout. If you’re one of the intractable free weight enthusiasts, open your mind a little to discover the benefits of bands as resistance. There are a whole slew of them including but not limited to:

  • constant tension that isn’t subject to gravity
  • momentum is eliminated, which encourages proper form and prevents “cheating”
  • core muscles are activated to improve posture and torso stabilization
  • greater range of motion for increased effectiveness of resistance, resulting in more muscle fibers recruited for greater muscle strength

And, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, resistance bands are useful for athletes of all fitness levels, from beginners to advanced.

Injuries Last a Lifetime

bench press

Bench presses with resistance bands won’t aggravate your shoulder joints.

Injuries never go away. Your body may heal, but you’ll likely never be the same after your knee blows out or you injure your rotator cuff. Band-based resistance is a valuable training tool for anyone, but those who have an injury, currently or one in the past, will find that the non-load type of resistance bands offer are easier on their injured limbs and/or joints. It’s the reason why resistance bands are used in physical therapy and injury rehab. If squats bother your knees or bench pressing irritates your shoulder, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that you can do both pain-free with equipment like the TargitFit Trainer. The resistance is challenging, yet won’t inflict damage or cause further injury, so you’ll be able to keep working out. Also, you’ll recover — from your workouts and your injury — more effectively.

Resistance Training for the Young ‘Uns

kid workout

Kids as young as 7 can safely workout on the TargitFit Trainer.

Another case for adding TargitFit to your toolbox is that it can safely be used by anyone of any age or fitness level, as we mentioned above. Though a study published in Sports Health concluded that strength training is beneficial for children as young as 7 years, the Mayo Clinic points out that lifting too heavy and using inappropriate equipment contribute to injuries, such as bone plate fractures and lower back, joint, and tendon damage. The Mayo Clinic and the Sports Health study agree that resistance bands and tubing are the answer. Bands don’t present the risk of injury or cause bone plate damage, making them a viable and safe alternative for weight lifting for kids. Plus, using them is a terrific way to introduce children to strength training. It allows them to learn proper form to prepare them to lift free weights when they get older.

Multiple Uses, Never-Ending Benefits

the gear

Portable, easy to store and safe — TargitFit is a valuable addition to your fitness toolbox.

As we said before, you should have more than one resistance tool in your fitness toolbox. Most experts agree that giving yourself options provides multiple benefits. Having access to a tool such as the TargitFit Trainer increases your chances of working out consistently, because you’ll have access to it when the gym is closed or overcrowded, when you’re on vacation, or when you don’t feel like leaving the house or simply can’t. You can use it without concern about aggravating old or new injuries. It’s useful as a transition tool, from young to old. It takes the place of free weight accessories such as chains for linear variable resistance but isn’t as bothersome to store and transport. Also, working out with TargitFit is a refreshing change of pace when you get bored with your workout routine. The health and fitness benefits of the TargitFit Trainer are reason enough to try it. The sheer convenience and effectiveness will make you a believer.

Losing Weight is Easier When You Put Your Mind to It

You’ve gotten used to eating on the go and super-sizing that order–but it’s undermining your attempts to lose weight.

We’re all guilty of it. Everyone stops for fast food at least once in awhile, and who hasn’t at one time or another crammed a cheeseburger down their cake-hole in a frenzy while maneuvering through lunchtime traffic? Or plowed through a full dinner plate in record time and piled the second helping high because you still felt hungry? Even if you work out religiously and are *fairly* good at watching what you eat, your eating habits could be what’s undermining your ability to lose weight.

In a fast-paced world of fast food that’s readily supersized, it’s easy to fall into a routine of wolfing your food and eating too much of it. Brian Wasink, author of “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think,” says that people make approximately 250 food-related decisions each day, but few of them can explain their motivations behind those choices. That’s because eating has become automated, something we do when we’re hungry (of course), when we’re stressed, when we’re in social situations and, sometimes, just because it’s time to eat.

Deciding to eat on purpose and with purpose is one of the most important weight loss tips you can put into action. Mindful Eating didn’t start out as a diet and exercise plan, but instead began as a Buddist mindfulness exercise. For those who have given it a sincere try, though, being attentive when eating has turned out to be one of the best weight loss programs they’ve participated in.

How It Works

Mindful eating starts during meal preparation.

The truth is that most people know how to plan a healthy diet; they just don’t do it. The really cool thing about eating mindfully and with purpose is that it’s not all centered on denying yourself favorite foods or measuring out portions. Mindful Eating starts with preparing the food. Some people take it to the extreme of growing their own fruits and vegetables and keeping chickens and goats or cows so that they can start meditating on the food they eat before and during the preparation process. If you want to go to those levels, feel free, but you don’t have to be a farmer to improve your eating habits and lose weight.

Those who buy their food instead of raising it can begin their mindful eating weight loss plan by paying focused attention to the steps they take in preparing any of the food they eat. Notice textures, be aware of sounds and smells and take care in dishing food up for serving, even if you’re eating lunch alone at your desk.

When it comes to the actual eating part, take a few pointers from the pros. No, we don’t mean Buddhist monks. Many medical and scientific professionals have become interested in Mindful Eating after seeing studies such as the one published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. What intrigued doctors, dieticians and the like was that the study found that eating slower by increasing the number of times mouthfuls were chewed reduced the amount subjects ate. To be more aware while you eat, the University of Health Services at Berkeley says to avoid multitasking with food. If you don’t have time to take a full hour for lunch, at least give yourself the 15 minutes it takes to eat a snack for sustenance and give that snack 100 percent of your attention while you’re eating it. The attention factor is actually the central theme in any Mindful Eating advice. Pay attention to what you’re eating and truly enjoy it, chewing slowly, anywhere from 30 to 50 times per mouthful. Don’t get hung up on the number, though. If the food in your mouth has been pulverized and mostly swallowed, there’s no need to continue chomping air to get in your 50 chews. Do make sure, though, that your mouth is empty before taking another bite.

Mindful eating includes taking the time to savor and enjoy your food.

Take smaller bites, too, concentrating on measuring out your spoon or forkfuls as they come from the plate or bowl. Or break off small chunks of bread, cake, or a protein bar before leisurely placing them in your mouth. Almost every expert on eating mindfully recommends trying to schedule at least one meal a week that’s without distractions from television or your mobile phone and they even advise you abstain from reading during the meal so you can immerse yourself fully in your food.

Why It Works

Since you’ll eat less when you eat slowly, you can have your cake and eat it, too!

Even when you know how to do something, it always helps to know why it works. In the case of eating mindfully, it works as a weight loss plan mostly because it gives your body time to communicate. Web MD says that it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to recognize that you are full. That’s why it’s easy to overeat to the point of discomfort if you’re famished. Eating slowly allows you time to recognize when you’re full, but you’ll also feel full longer.  Additionally, taking the time to chew your food is healthier for you. According to a Purdue University study, food (specifically almonds in one study) that is chewed 40 times is better absorbed and utilized by the body. What’s more, a study published on PLOS.org found that slow eating and increased chewing prevents diabetes.

So there it is: the diet and weight loss plan you’ve been looking for. The one that doesn’t tell you to stop eating the things you love or to cut out entire food groups. The advice is simple and worth following if it means you can have your cake and eat it, too. So, here is the official challenge to do your own research and see how Mindful Eating affects you. When you take the time to eat mindfully, you’ll eat less, feel more satisfied for longer and will actually enjoy your food. How awesome would it be to gain a healthy relationship with food and lose weight at the same time?

HIIT It Up: 5 High Intensity Interval Workouts for Busy People

This week, TargitFit is pleased to offer some healthy living advice courtesy of guest blogger, Eric Bogy:

If you haven’t already, it’s time to jump on board the HIIT bandwagon. HIIT, also known as High Intensity Interval Training, is perfect for busy people who only have a set amount of time for their workout but also want to torch fat and gain lean muscle. In several studies throughout the years, HIIT has been found to reduce abdominal and visceral fat, the kind that leads to metabolic syndromes, like diabetes.

HIIT is also effective at increasing athletic conditioning. So if you are looking to break through a plateau or lose some weight, it’s time to HIIT it up.

Bodyweight HIIT

06151701This is a beginner-friendly HIIT workout that has 3 rounds, about 60 seconds of work, and 15 seconds of rest. You are going to need a stopwatch to help you keep track of time. The best part about this HIIT workout is that you don’t need a lot of time or space.

Complete the following exercises as fast as you can but slow enough to maintain proper form:

Pushups, as many as you can do in 60 seconds

For those who cannot do a traditional pushup, consider bringing over a stable chair or plyo box to give you an incline that is easier to manage. Another option is putting your knees down. Focus on form and maintaining a tight core as you do your push-ups. Manage your time wisely.

Rest for 15 seconds

Squats, as many as you can do in 60 seconds

Keep your feet under your hips as you bend deep into the knees. Body weight should be shifted into the heels at your lowest point.

Rest for 15 seconds

Butt Kicks, as many as you can do in 60 seconds

The higher you bring your heels to the butt, the more you have to work. As you start getting tired, you can downshift to a jog in place.

Rest for 15 seconds

Triceps Dips, as many as you can do in 60 seconds

Use a chair or low table. Your back should be toward whatever is providing support. Put your legs out straight while balancing on your palms. Bend solely from the elbows, lowering as far as you can, then press up to your original height. Keep your core tight!


Rest for 15 seconds

Reverse/Rear Lunges, as many as you can do in 60 seconds

As you step back, focus on getting 90-degree angles with both the front and back knee. Hands can be on your waist for stability.

Remember to warm up and cool down!

Rowing Machine HIIT

One of the most underestimated pieces of equipment at the gym is the rowing machine. However, the rowing machine is a full-body sculptor that improves posture, strength, and cardiovascular endurance. When used as the basis for a HIIT workout, you are going to burn some serious calories.

Complete the following circuit as written 2-3 times through or pair with another circuit listed here and finish up with a cool-down:

  • Row 30-45 seconds
  • 15-second rest
  • Pushups for 30-45 seconds
  • 15-second rest
  • Row 30-45 seconds
  • 15-second rest
  • Plank for 45 seconds
  • 15-second rest
  • Row 30-45 seconds
  • 15-second rest
  • Triceps Dips for 45 seconds
  • 15-second rest
  • Row 30-45 seconds
  • 15-second rest
  • Plank for 45 seconds
  • 15-second rest
  • Row 30-45 seconds
  • 15-second rest
  • Pushups for 30-45 seconds

Treadmill HIIT

06151703Using a treadmill for your HIIT workout means there is no need for special equipment or planning. Just be sure to have a good pair of running shoes, water, and a towel to soak up sweat.

To do the treadmill workout:

  1. Start by walking fast or jogging for 5 minutes.
  2. Increase the pace to a fast run (for beginners) or an all-out sprint (advanced) for 30 seconds
  3. Walk briskly to recover. The length of recovery should be anywhere from 15 seconds (advanced) to 45 seconds (beginners).
  4. Repeat steps 1 through 3 for several rounds (e.g., 5 for beginners; 10 for advanced exercisers).
  5. Cool down by walking for about 5 minutes. Don’t forget to stretch afterward.

Burpee HIIT

We know what you are thinking. Burpees. Still, a burpee works the triceps, chest, core, legs, and serves as whole-body aerobic resistance training. If you cannot do a proper burpee yet, there are a number of modifications that you can use to match your fitness level. For example, you can leave out the pushup or step back into plank rather than jumping back.

Complete the following circuit 3-4 times, resting 1 minute after the burpees in each round.

Pull-ups (see below)

Reps: As many as possible within 30-40 seconds. Rest for 15 seconds. 

Jumping Jacks

Reps: As many as possible within 30-40 seconds. Rest for 15 seconds.

Burpees

Reps: As many as possible within 30-40 seconds. 

The pullups can be standard bodyweight or assisted. If you don’t have access to a pullup machine or are at home, you can do “Door Pull-ins,” a horizontal pullup alternative that requires a towel wrapped around the doorknob. Place your feet on either side of the door to hold it stable. Grab the towel, lean back knees slightly bent, then use your arms to pull you forward.

Jump Rope HIIT

06151704Even moderately jumping rope incinerates calories, so imagine what happens when you use it as your HIIT finisher in this combination? Plus, you are building agility and quickness.

Complete the following circuit in 4 sets and rest for 1 minute after the finisher each round.

Mountain Climbers

Duration: 60-90 seconds, 15-second rest

Pushups

Duration: 60-90 seconds, 15-second rest

Plank Pose

Duration: 60-90 seconds, 15-second rest

Jump Rope

Duration: 60-90 seconds

The key to getting a lot of benefits from the Jump Rope HIIT circuit is to focus on form and speed. You want to concentrate on properly engaging the muscles of your arms and core throughout the first three exercises. When you pick up the jump rope, your arms are undoubtedly going to be tired, so use the energy remaining in your legs to blast through the finisher with as much power as possible.

Conclusion

Ready to fire up your workout? HIIT is going to make you stronger, faster, and healthier than ever before without needing to spend hours in the gym. Even the busiest of people have time to get fit by using these 5 HIIT workouts that are perfect for all fitness levels!

About the Author:

Eric is the content manager at Fit&Me. Fit&Me is dedicated to helping you achieve your health and fitness goals, and transform your body by offering the best fitness equipment and knowledge you need.