Send Your Dopamine Levels Through The Roof – The Best Ways to Increase Dopamine Naturally

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

12201701You’ve probably heard of dopamine. It gets talked about in all sorts of circles. Scientists toss the word around when discussing depression and addiction. Exercise buffs rave about that crazy runner’s high they got.

But what exactly is dopamine? What does it do for your brain and why should you want more of it? How can you tell if you don’t have enough? And what can you do to up your levels?

It can be confusing, right? So many people have so many opinions and it can be difficult to sort out truth from fiction.

We’re here to set the record straight.

We’re going to help you understand the what, why, and how of dopamine.

Understanding Dopamine

Before we talk about why you should increase your dopamine levels, you need to understand dopamine itself. What the heck is it and why would you want to increase it?

Simple answer: it’s a chemical in your brain that makes you feel like a million bucks

12201702Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that allows you to feel pleasure, euphoria, motivation, focus, concentration, and more. When a brain cell releases dopamine, it crosses a brain synapse and connects to the dopamine receptor in the next cell. When your dopamine levels fall, you start to experience things such as poor mood, difficulty sleeping, impaired cognition, trouble paying attention, and more.

By increasing your dopamine levels, you become happier, more driven, more focused, a clearer thinker, and loads of other benefits. There’s a reason that dopamine is called the “happiness hormone”.

Sounds great, right? And it is. When your dopamine levels are high, you’re happy. Depressed people, on the other hand, have very low dopamine levels. Of course, if you’re one of those odd people who don’t like being happy, then don’t worry about trying to increase your dopamine levels.

Do You Have A Dopamine Deficiency?

 

12201703How can you know if you have a dopamine deficiency? Some straightforward symptoms are:

  • Altered sleep patterns
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Consistent fatigue
  • Lack of interest in things
  • Decreased drive and motivation
  • Inability to focus
  • Impulsive or self-destructive behaviors
  • Addictions to caffeine or other stimulants
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Quick mood swings
  • Excessive feelings of hopelessness or guilt
  • Poor memory
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Inability to focus/impaired concentration

The more symptoms present in your life, the more likely it is that you have a dopamine deficiency. If you can’t get out of bed, have lost all interest in watching Game of Thrones, and are guzzling twelve cups of coffee per day, you may have a dopamine deficiency.

Action should be taken to correct these problems.

 

Powerful, Natural Ways To Increase Dopamine

12201704There are some terrible ways you can increase dopamine. You can take illegal drugs and totally fry your brains out. Marijuana and painkillers are the most popular ways people try to increase dopamine levels (even if they don’t know exactly what’s happening in their brains).

People also rely on drugs like cocaine and meth to take their brains to the next level. Unfortunately, these tactics can lead to addiction/jail time/completely ruining your life.

Bethany Brookshire puts it this way:

But when most people talk about dopamine, particularly when they talk about motivation, addiction, attention, or lust, they are talking about the dopamine pathway known as the mesolimbic pathway, which starts with cells in the ventral tegmental area, buried deep in the middle of the brain, which send their projections out to places like the nucleus accumbens and the cortex. Increases in dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens occur in response to sex, drugs, and rock and roll. And dopamine signaling in this area is changed during the course of drug addiction. All abused drugs, from alcohol to cocaine to heroin, increase dopamine in this area in one way or another, and many people like to describe a spike in dopamine as “motivation” or “pleasure.”

Thankfully, there are safer, much more natural ways to increase dopamine. Ways that don’t involve sneaking out at night for a clandestine meeting with your Russian mob dealer.

Natural Ways To Boost Dopamine

#1 – Stop Eating So Much Sugar

12201705Those midnight donuts could be killing both your figure and your dopamine levels. Sugar follows the same brain pathways as alcohol and drugs, which is why you get the sugar high after downing three pieces of cake. Your dopamine levels spike.

There are two problems with this. First, you can develop a real sugar addiction. While this addiction may not lead to crippling financial problems and/or a criminal record, it’s terrible for your health. It can lead to a host of financial problems.

Additionally, sugar spikes are followed by sugar crashes. It’s no surprise that people feel most fatigued after lunch. Eating raises glucose levels, which then fall off the table a short while later, leaving you feeling like you need a nap.

Don’t turn to sugar to increase dopamine levels. It’s only a temporary solution and doesn’t produce the long term results you need.  

#2 – Cut Back On That Coffee

12201706This may be difficult to hear, but coffee doesn’t always play nice with dopamine. It’s true, coffee does provide a temporary boost in dopamine, which is why you feel like superman after that second cup. But these results are temporary and you can even develop a tolerance to caffeine.

One study noted that after repeated exposure to caffeine, rats developed a caffeine tolerance and didn’t receive any serotonin boost from the stimulant.

Practically speaking, this means that when you drink coffee all you’re getting is the jittery/anxious effects without much of the mood boost. And like sugar, you’re going to feel the crash a short while later when the caffeine leaves your system.

There are much more effective ways to boost your dopamine. If you desperately need caffeine, green and black tea are much better sources than coffee due to chemicals in them that promote dopamine.

#3 – Take Dopamine Increasing Supplements

12201707There are numerous stimulants that can naturally increase the amounts of dopamine in your brain. These stimulants include:

  • L-Tyrosine – The precursor to dopamine, increasing l-tyrosine levels can help your body create more dopamine.
  • Phosphatidylserine – Some studies have indicated that this supplement can boost mood, concentration, and endocrine response.
  • Mucuna Pruriens – The primary ingredient in mucuna pruriens is L-Dopa, which is an immediate precursor to dopamine. Studies have indicated L-Dopa can cross the blood-brain barrier and be converted into dopamine.
  • Ginkgo Biloba – There are scientific indicators that this herb can decrease anxiety, improve memory and cognition, as well as help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s.
  • L-theanine – An amino acid naturally found in green and black tea, it can improve dopamine levels in the brain.
  • Curcumin – Curcumin is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric and has been used in studies to treat depressive disorder.

#4 – Adopt a Dopamine Friendly Diet

12201708

 

By now, you know that all that coffee and sugar is hurting your dopamine levels. However, this doesn’t mean you have to give up all delicious foods and only eat calorie-free soy. There are numerous foods that can improve dopamine levels, such as:

 

  • Bananas
  • Green and black tea
  • Almonds
  • Apples
  • Watermelon
  • Yogurt
  • Beans
  • Eggs
  • Cherries

While it’s difficult to significantly boost dopamine through food alone, eating a dopamine friendly diet in conjunction with taking supplements can cause your overall levels to rise.

#5 – Get Out and Exercise

Despite your possible hatred of all things running, the runner’s high is a real thing. Various studies have shown that vigorous exercise can produce a real increase in dopamine levels.

Ideally, the exercise will be intense and last for some time, but even a short walk can produce results.

If you want to feel happier, go to the gym, get out for a run, or hit the pool. Get your heart pumping and the sweat pouring off your body and you’ll feel the results.

Wrap Up

There are numerous ways to increase dopamine levels that don’t involve breaking the law. In fact, simply by cutting out a few things (sugar, caffeine) and adding a few practices (exercise, taking supplements, etc.), you can significantly blast those dopamine levels through the roof.

John Hawthorne is a health nut from Canada with a passion for travel and taking part in humanitarian efforts. His writing not only solves a creative need, it has also lead to many new opportunities when traveling abroad.
This article was originally published on vitamonk.com.

The Summer Dilemma: Staying In Shape While You Travel

This year, no one is waiting for summer to officially start–everyone’s hitting the road. If you’ve been looking forward to travel, that’s good news for you, but it’s usually bad news for your fitness and weight loss goals. An unofficial survey on TripAdvisor showed that people typically gain between 2 and 5 pounds during summer vacations with most saying that they give themselves a vacation from exercise and watching what they eat when they’re on holiday. Plus, some commented that they had a hard time getting back into their regular schedules once they got home, contributing to even more weight gain after vacation was over.

There’s nothing wrong with giving yourself a break when you head out on vacation, provided you are committed to resuming your healthy eating habits and workout regimen when you get back home. It’s certainly fine to treat yourself during meals and not worry about an extra beer or glass of wine while on vacation, but you’ll be able to justify it easier as well as help keep extra pounds off if you get some exercise while on holiday. It’s easier done than you think and, when you still fit in your “normal” clothes after vacation, you’ll be glad you did.

Make Your Bodyweight Work For You

Men’s Fitness maintains that an old-school bodyweight workout is a good way to hold onto the progress you’ve made even on vacation. Bodyweight exercises don’t require specialized equipment or much room to do them in–most can be performed even in a small hotel room. Start with a selection of plank exercises like a basic plank and a one-arm plank, also called a “seagull.” Other effective bodyweight exercises to put into a vacation routine include:

    • pushups
    • single leg squats
    • windmills
    • ab lunge twists

Use Your Surroundings

Before lounging by the pool, why not do a few laps first?

Incorporating exercise into your vacation time can be easier for some people if they do something different than typical working out. The Washington Post says using your surroundings is a great way to work a unique exercise regimen into your vacation time. Take advantage of the good weather and beautiful surroundings by running or doing yoga on the beach. Headed to the mountains? Bring your bike along or rent one where you’re staying and take an evening ride. No matter where you vacation, walk everywhere you can. You’ll get to see the sights and burn some calories at the same time.

Bring Some Equipment Along

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Compact, portable equipment is easy to take wherever you go, and works in small spaces like a hotel room, too.

Some people would prefer to stick to their usual workout even when they’re not at home, but the fitness facilities in many hotels don’t have the equipment they need. That’s when taking your own equipment comes in handy, but if you’re into lifting heavy, that’s not necessarily doable. Comprehensive band equipment like the TargitFit Trainer is the answer. Everything you need to do gym-quality exercises–including 220 pounds of resistance–is packed into an easy-to-carry case. Portable workout equipment like the TargitFit makes it easy to keep exercise in your schedule, even away from home.

Enhance Your Home Workout With the Best Climber Machine

Looking for something different to enhance your home gym and take your workout to a new level? Sport Fitness Advisor has the scoop on the best climber machines:

Best Climber Machine

Get the full-body-workout benefits of climbing in the comfort and privacy of your home with a climber machine.

The best form of exercise is always to found outdoors. Be it running, climbing or cycling, nothing quite beats getting fit while enjoying the fresh air and serene beauty of the natural world. Unfortunately, due to the constraints of modern life and the fact that more and more of us are moving to densely populated cities, it has become harder to find the time and natural space to do so. In light of this we compromise and move towards joining a local gym.

The issue with gyms is that they are not necessarily a good environment for everyone to exercise in. It takes a certain kind of person to weather the social aspect of gym workouts. Gyms are among the top reasons why some people put off exercising. For some, the pressure of seeing others with more appealing bodies or working harder is enough to put them off permanently.

For those of us who would much prefer to exercise in the comfort of our own homes away from prying eyes, we are lucky enough to live in a time where there is an array of equipment specifically geared for home use. We no longer have the excuse of it being too expensive and too complicated to put together either.

In this article, we focus in on climber machines and pick out the best models on the market. We’ve tunneled down on quality, price and accessibility to form our overall option. Our hope is that after reading, you feel empowered to make the right decision and ultimately enjoy your home workouts to the maximum.

What is a Climber Machine?

There is a certain stigma surrounding climbing machines. They are often viewed as the ever-present, but often misunderstood staple of any gym. Many people don’t actually understand their function and consequently stay well clear, when in actual fact they are among the most intense machines out there.

It has many names, ranging from vertical climber to stair climbing or simply climber, and it is essentially a device designed to replicate the effort involved in ascending a steep set of stairs or climbing a rock face. With the use of pedals that are pushed down by the user’s legs at intervals  and hand grips to pull on, a climber machine provides an intense cardiovascular workout.

What happens is that each leg has to alternately lift your entire body weight with every upward rotation. The idea is to improve endurance over time by strengthening the coordination between the blood pumping capacity of the heart and the lungs’ ability to transmit oxygen to the flowing blood.

A climber machine requires the use of a number of muscles, including the core, both legs and both arms. As such, it is viewed as a full body workout exercise machine. Depending on skill level and desired length of a session, a climber machine can provide a light routine or a lung burning, strenuous session.

What’s So Great About Climber Machines?

This is a question we often hear. Sadly, many people are more drawn to well established machines such as stationary bikes, treadmills and elliptical trainers. This is understandable given their popularity. Yet, people really are missing a trick by shunning the climber machine. Here’s why.

Burning Calories

First up, in terms of the ratio between exertion to calorie loss, climbing machines rank very high. The simultaneous use of multiple large lower body muscles requires a more important cardiovascular response from your body. In other words, your heart has to work harder. When this happens, your metabolism goes into overdrive and burns off calories quicker to compensate.

It is argued that using a climber burns twice as many calories as using traditional exercise equipment, though this claim is debatable there is indeed some truth in this.

Cost-Effective and Convenient

We’ve spoken about the high level workout climbing machines offer and this matched against the cost of getting one at home, the overall cost-effectiveness is through the roof. When getting a climber, you essentially negate the need for multiple exercise machines, shrinking them down into one all round dream machine.

With this relative low cost in mind, it is easy to afford one for your home, and nothing beats being able to exercise in the comfort of your own garage, home gym or living room.

They are also small devices in relation to other exercise equipment and are designed to fold away compactly for easy storage. They are also notoriously easy to set up and start using too. In addition, as they are installed in your home, they can be used either before your day gets going or after work, or even during your lunch break.

In other words, you are not constrained by the normal opening hours of a full-blown downtown commercial gym and cannot use this as an excuse not to exercise.

A Real Workout

In relation to comparable machines, climbers provide more exercise for the same amount of use. This means that even a short 10 minute session every day yields tangible results. Of course, this is reliant on sticking to a daily routine, eating well and generally looking after yourself. If you do stick with it though, the outcome is great regardless of whether you are a seasoned exerciser or a novice.

Another point to note is that a climber can act as a weight loss solution as well as a muscle toner. It can actually help build lean muscle due to the effort required. In essence, it is a great starter machine, yet can allow veterans to fine tune thigh, glute and even upper body muscles for noticeable tone improvement.

Keeps Knees and Joints in Check

One of the main concerns of workout enthusiast out there is the impact on their joints, notably the knees and ankles, particularly for runners. The climber machine is a virtually no impact form of exercise due to the upward motion of the legs that once high enough rests backdown on the steps. The pressure applied is gradual rather than sudden, unlike when a foot hits the ground when jogging. With his in mind, knees, hips and other joints are unaffected.

Points to Keep In Mind

Weight Capacity/Restrictions

One factor to keep in mind when considering a climber machine is the weight it can support. For most people, their weight should fall well within the bounds of acceptable limits. However, people who are overweight and embarking on a weight loss program may want to check the weight restrictions before purchasing.

Size and Adjustments

If you happen to live in a one bedroom apartment with limited space, then we recommend going for one of the more compact options. Another consideration the height of the climber and whether or not it will touch your roof when installed. Keep this in mind when shopping around.

Also look out for an adjustable stride feature, this allows you to find the perfect length and ensures you get the best work while avoiding injuries. There’s also the height of the grips, though these are generally adjustable on most models. Pedal positioning is also a plus because if it can be adjusted, you can vary the muscles being used on your lower body.

Resistance

This point is particularly relevant for first timers who want to start on a low resistance setting to ease themselves into a regular exercise routine. If you start on a setting that is too hard, discouragement is soon to show itself and you can easily go off the whole idea due to it being too difficult.

With this in mind, we recommend opting for a model with an adjustable resistance. Not only is this a wise way to start, but as you improve and gain muscle mass you can raise the resistance to match, ensuring you have a consistently good workout.

Inbuilt Programs and Screens

Boredom is a huge concern for any regular exerciser and anything that wards it off is an advantage. Look out for models with programmed routines that vary the resistance to keep things interesting.

Not only does a program vary the physical demands of a routine, it also allows your mind to focus on different types of efforts. That being said, a Climber workout is so gruelling that you won’t be able to concentrate on much else so factor this in if you are among those who are distracted enough by the physical exertion itself.

Some models also offer screens to track you progress with markers for time spent exercising, calorie loss counters and distance climbed, among many other functions. If you are a numbers junky, there are plethora of displays with all manner of metrics to minutely analyze your workout.

Best Budget Climber Machine

Among the budget models, we found the Conquer Vertical Climber to a great option. Here, we have a low priced climber made of durable steel that folds away flat for storage and home use. Ideally suited for people weighing under 275 pounds and no taller than 6’5’’.

Like the MaxiClimber, it is quiet when in use, yet slightly lighter weighing in at 29 pounds. Don’t let this worry you, as the construction is robust and durable. It does require some assembly with tools though even the most novice builder shouldn’t have too many issues putting it together.

The Conquer is supported by four slip proof rubberized feet and has one set of stationary ergonomic handles and a set that moves in unison with your feet. The moving set is adjustable to fit your height. The gripped pedals are wide and allow some movement in terms of which part of your foot you apply pressure with. This allows a variety of exercises for different muscle groups.

There is no adjustable resistance, but the Conquer matches the speed and pressure of your legs so you determine the tension and hence, the difficulty of the workout. As there is no display screen, you may have to use your phone or an auxiliary device to time your sessions.

Another issue is that the cable mechanism used to create the pedal movement has been reported to wear rather rapidly, though this is after extended use so shouldn’t affect most users.

Overall, this is well and truly a budget model, yet it is well built and sturdy. It offers a solid workout and with regular use shows some great results. The size and the fact that it folds so easily also make it a great product for the price.

We aren’t all blessed with huge amounts of disposable income and with this in mind, we propose the Welso Climber as the all round lowest priced model on the market. You do get what you pay for, yet it is reliable enough to offer a decent work and won’t fall to pieces when being used.

The Welso Climber incorporates a lightweight, space saving design made of steel that supports people up to 250 pounds. Set up involves pulling the two feet away from each other and that’s it, all ready to use. The four grips normally found on most climbers are available here, with the habitual adjustable set that moves in time with the pedals and the other stationary for upper body work.

Though this climber machine doesn’t have adjustable resistance, it uses the weight of the user to mimic a hard workout. The display screen is fairly standard and shows session count, total count, time, calories burned and a sweeping scan function.

Some complaints revolve around the difficulty in putting it together out of the box, though to our eyes the instructions are more than sufficient to do so. Otherwise, the Welso Climber is a suitable low budget option without any a no thrills set of features.

Best Affordable Climber Machine

Our model of choice in the budget category is the Welso Step Fit Climber, which incorporates a stepper and climber in one. Made of a robust steel frame, the Step Fit supports weights up to 250 pounds and itself weighs 81 pounds.

Its weight and four rubber feet keep it stable when in use. It also folds in one quick motion for storing. It does require self assembly though the instructions are easy to follow. It is rather tall at 90.5’’ so make sure your residence is capable of housing it without any issues.

As with most climbing machines, it has two sets of handles, one for stationary use and the other matching the pedals for that climbing effect. The second set is height adjustable and will suit the majority of body types and builds.

The pedals are larger than most models to allow for the stepper function, though this doesn’t affect the climbing action with a workout that is as good as any competitor models. The motion is smooth without any unwanted jolts.

Unlike many alternatives, the Step Fit has adjustable resistance, meaning you can change it to suit your strength or how good you feel on any particular day. The LCD display is also handy as it tracks your workout by measuring distance, calories burned, heart rate, and the number of rotations performed among other metrics. It requires two AA batteries to function and these are not included. You can also watch your favourite show while working out thanks to a shelf that houses your phone; a nice feature that helps limit workout boredom.

The Step Fit looks more robust than other models in this price range and this isn’t purely cosmetic because it is in fact the most durable in this category. Overall, we liked the many features and the inbuilt stepper for a lighter workout on off days.

Best High End Climber Machine

If budget isn’t an issue, we highly recommend the Versaclimber. The price may be prohibitive though you do get a top of the line product that is fit for a full sized gym setting and will last for years to come.

First off, it incorporates both a vertical climber and stepper, offering a two in one solution. Built with aircraft-grade aluminum and steel, the Versaclimber is solid and won’t budge on the ground thanks to a thick metal plate holding it firmly down. It can support up to 350 pounds.

Size wise, the Versaclimber is compact and is not much bigger than much lower priced competitors. It folds away quite easily as well. Some assembly is required and the instructions provide a suitable guide as to how to do this. It weighs 65 pounds; not excessively heavy, but more so that the others in our guide. If anything this helps the stability of the climber.

It is virtually silent and the manufacturer claims you can be in the same room with someone and the noise is barely discernible thanks to a plastic coated cable. A high claim, but one that rings true when it’s put to the test.

The pedals are gripped to avoid slipping and can be adjusted to three settings to suit your size. The stride length and step height can be changed to anywhere between one and twenty inches. The movement is fluid and natural. There are no jumpy or jagged movements and the low-impact reputation of climbers remains intact with this product.

There are two sets of grips, one stationary acting as a handrail for the stepper function and the other movable in line with the pedals. Each has three height settings that suits most users well.

The programmable display incorporates time, calories burned, distance, and heart rate among others as well as three different modes, which are programs, standard and race. Overall there are 16 different routines to choose from depending on your intensity needs. You can also devise your own workouts fairly easily. It does require a nine volt battery to function though.

Overall, this is by far the best on our list and is essentially a home solution that matches the quality and durability of a gym equivalent. The price is high, yet worth every penny, simply make sure it isn’t an off the cuff purchase and you use often to maximize returns.

Best Compact Climber Machine

As a space saving option, we have chosen the MaxiClimber Vertical Climber. It is a steady balance of affordability and quality that should be within most people’s means. Though not the best and, by far, not the worst, it does the job well and is a straight to the point build with no added bells and whistles. This means simple design and nothing fancy. Its unique selling point is that it is smaller than many alternatives making it the most convenient and space conscious option.

Firstly, the MaxiClimber is shipped pretty much assembled. The official documentation says 90% complete and this is true given that all you need to do is extend and lock in a supporting crossbar along the bottom of the frame. Removing the crossbar is all that’s needed to halve its size and store it in a cupboard or nook in your bedroom.

It is also very light weighing in at just under 33 pounds, yet sturdy. The height is adjustable to five different positions so even the very tall can use it. The climber is made of cold-rolled steel and has slip-proof rubberized feet to ensure stability. It supports weights up to 250 pounds and the adjustable stride height of each leg is generous so long-legged folk need not worry. The machine is overall very quiet so you won’t bother roommates and neighbors.

The MaxiClimber has four isometric non-stick grip hand positions. Two are stationary for when you want to work on your arms and the other two move in unison with the climbing motion of the pedals for working on the chest and pectorals. The two bicycle-style pedals allow you to shift your weight to alternately work on different leg muscles like the calves, thighs and buttocks.

There is an inbuilt timer that starts and finishes with your workout, helping you complete a full session. The screen displays step count and calorie loss though these are fairly inaccurate given that body metrics are not input. Take these with a grain of salt and as suggested readings rather set in stone numbers. The screen is also oddly positioned for reading and you may struggle to read the results as you glide up and down.

You can also get an accompanying app that tracks your progress and provides a 21 day challenge program, 80 recipe meal plan, wall chart and rewards in the form of more routines if you complete the challenge.

The only real downside to the MaxiClimber is the non-adjustable resistance and its height. It is fixed and takes some getting used to. That being said, for the price, it is a real bargain and provides a solid, smooth motioned workout if you put the time in.

Best Beginner Climber Machine

If you are looking for a beginner model, we recommend the Sunny Folding Climber Stepper, a two in one climber and stepping machine. It has a sturdy heavy-duty steel frame with robust plastic components such as the rubberized feet that support up to 220 pounds of weight.

Thanks to its simple, yet secure pin assembly mechanism and slimline design, the Sunny folds in one quick motion for easy storage in even the smallest of spaces. Of note, is the short height of the Sunny. You don’t need to have a ridiculously high ceiling like other models making it ideal for low apartments and garages.

The large padded hand grip allows the user to alternate between climbing style workouts and stepper routines. The large pedals are hooked up to two quality hydraulic cylinders that simulate the up and down stride motion. The resistance can be set to twelve different difficulty levels to vary your workout. Set it to one and you get a low intensity session. Pump it up to twelve and you’re in for a challenge.

The inbuilt LCD monitor records time, calories burned, total number of strides, session count and a scan function that jumps between the metrics keeping you on top of your performance.

Overall, one of the best features of the Sunny is the low price. If a climber machine doesn’t end up being for you, you won’t have spent a fortune. The Sunny also retains a degree of resale value meaning you won’t lose out to much financially either.

In addition, the simple setup and ease of use are geared towards novices who are not well versed in how exercise machines work so you won’t be messing around for hours simply trying to get it to function properly.

Best 2-in-1 Climber Machine

Realistically, a climber machine can get quite tedious after a while so why not switch it up with a 2-in-1 machine that also incorporates an exercise bike. In that case, we recommend the Best Choice Total Body 2-in-1 Vertical Climber Magnetic Exercise Bike Fitness Machine.

The frame is made of durable steel and is supported by non-slip rubber pads, weighing a total of 66 pounds and able to support up to 330 pounds. Setup is guided by useful instructions that most can adhere to effortlessly.

There are four grips; two serve as handlebars for the exercise bike and a stationary hold for the climber, while the other two adjustable grips glide up in down to mimic the vertical ascent aspect of rock climbing.

One side is a magnetic stationary bike with latch on pedals, a comfortable padded seat, an eight setting tension control dial and a screen displaying metrics such as time, speed distance and calories burned among others.

On the other side is a vertical climber with gripped footholds and a smooth action so you avoid any sudden movements keeping your routine low-impact. There are no resistance adjustments though your own body weight acts to create enough resistance to make the work out as difficult as you need.

What we liked about this 2-in-1 was the ability to alternate between the two machines, using the bike to rest up yet remain moving after a high intensity set with the climber. As it can even be used by two people at once, it’s a nice communal way to exercise with your partner and friends. The price is also very attractive given that it costs much less than buying two separate machines individually.

Best Entry Level Climber Machine

We aren’t all blessed with huge amounts of disposable income and with this in mind, we propose the Welso Climber as the all round lowest priced model on the market. You do get what you pay for, yet it is reliable enough to offer a decent workout and won’t fall to pieces when being used.

The Welso Climber incorporates a lightweight, space saving design made of steel that supports people up to 250 pounds. Set up involves pulling the two feet away from each other and that’s it, all ready to use. The four grips normally found on most climbers are available here, with the habitual adjustable set that moves in time with the pedals and the other, which is stationary, for upper body work.

Though this climber machine doesn’t have adjustable resistance, it uses the weight of the user to mimic a hard workout. The display screen is fairly standard and shows session count, total count, time, calories burned and a sweeping scan function.

Some complaints revolve around the difficulty in putting it together out of the box, though to our eyes the instructions are more than sufficient to do so. Otherwise, the Welso Climber is a suitable low budget option without a no thrills set of features.

Overall

Our overall pick would have to be the Welso Step Fit Climber for the great balance of affordability, adjustable resistance, varied functionality and ease of use. It comes highly recommended and should suit the large majority of home exercise enthusiast and novices alike.

This article originally appeared on SportFitnessAdvisor.com.

Add Some Color–and Energy!–to Your Morning With a Superfood Latte

This week, TargitFit is pleased to bring you a feature by Krista Wolfe, courtesy of Quill.com:

If you’ve only ever sipped on a latte made from coffee and milk, you’re in for a colorful, flavorful treat! Nutritious, energizing superfood lattes typically include milk — made from dairy, nuts, or grains — plus one or more superfood ingredient. Wondering what makes a superfood super? While there’s no scientific basis to this term, it generally means the food is nutrient-dense and offers plenty of research-backed health benefits. While you may choose to drink these lattes for their nutritional highlights, they also feature a range of bright, beautiful colors (like the verdant green of matcha and the golden hue of turmeric) and intriguing flavor profiles (like starchy, sweet taro). Some superfood latte ingredients may boost energy levels without caffeine, while others may include a shot of espresso to get you through the afternoon slump. Want to learn more about superfood lattes? Scroll through the infographic below to discover some of the most common options, plus what makes them healthy.

This infographic first appeared on Quill.com.

Krista Wolfe has been working in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for over eight years. She loves turning the internet’s most-searched topics into articles that answer your most sought-after questions. In her spare time she enjoys baking, laughing too much at puns, whatever hobbies her kids are doing at that moment, and traveling.

Will a Carnivore Diet Put Me in Ketosis?

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

Source

One of the most common questions about the carnivore diet is if it puts you in ketosis.

Ketosis has many benefits including:

  • Reduced inflammation
  • Increased satiety
  • More endurance
  • The ability to speak to electricity

So of course people are concerned.

Let’s discuss

What is the Carnivore Diet?

First off, what is the carnivore diet?

The carnivore diet is a high fat, high protein diet where you eat only animal products. Yes, that’s right. No more grains. No more sugar. And no more vegetables.

This may sound wacky at first. But there are many benefits of it including:

The carnivore diet took the world by storm when Shawn Baker appeared on the Joe Rogan podcast. He is an orthopedic surgeon and athlete. Dr. Baker is in his 50s and is absolutely ripped (I tried counting his abs but lost count at 1,421). He recently set two indoor rowing world records and he attributes his success to the carnivore diet.

Other prominent advocates include Mikhaila and Jordan Peterson, the clinical psychologist. Both have reversed lifelong autoimmune and mental health issues with the carnivore diet.

It’s also a variation of the Ketogenic diet as cutting out all carbohydrates will put you into ketosis.

What is Ketosis

Ketosis is like the shoes in the movie Like Mike. They give your body metabolic superpowers.

What is ketosis?

Ketosis is the metabolic process of using fat, specifically ketones, as the primary source of energy instead of carbohydrates.

It’s a natural metabolic state that you evolved to spare muscle. Throughout evolution, there was not a grocery store nearby to have 6 meals a day. Your ancestors often went long periods without access to food (gasp, they even skipped breakfast, the “most important meal of the day!!”).

How did they survive without a constant IV drip of food like most people in Western countries today? They survived because of seamless and caviar. No, they survived because of ketosis.

Your brain is very energy hungry. It lacks its own engine, thus requires a continuous supply of energy. For most people, this is glucose. Every single day a normal person’s brain consumes approximately 120g of glucose. This is 420kcal of energy which is almost 60% of all glucose utilization at rest .

However, at any given moment, your body only stores approximately 120g of glucose in your liver. Meaning, you’ve only got a day’s supply of glucose! Any longer fast than that and you’d be dead.

Your body has a couple ways of dealing with this challenge.

  1. Your liver can turn amino acids from protein into glucose via gluconeogenesis. However, the problem is that when you’re fasting you need your muscle for strength to capture food. Muscle mass is associated with longevity and your body wants to preserve it at all costs
  2. Ketosis

Let’s discuss #2.

Even a very lean person that’s ~10% fat has upwards of 50,000 calories of fat on them at any given point. Yes…fat isn’t just a fashion statement. It’s stored so you can survive without food.

In response to fasting (or low glucose levels), insulin levels fall and your body pulls fat from storage. Many cells in your body, like your heart and brain, cannot use fatty acids directly for energy. So your body shuttles body fat to your liver to make into ketones (and actually fatty acids can be broken down into glucose too).

(P.S. How freaking cool is it that this is all happening behind the scenes?)

As you can see in this photo below, one of the main ketone bodies Beta Hydroxybutyrate rises dramatically into a fast as your blood glucose levels flatline.

Without this metabolic trick, we would not be here today. In fact, despite your brain needing glucose to function, you don’t have to eat any glucose at all. Your body can synthesize it all on its own. If this isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.

This study showed that after three days of starvation, the brain will get 25% of its energy from ketones. During much longer term starvation this number can rise as high as 60% .

Ketosis has a number of benefits I’ll get into below,

Once your ketone levels reach a minimum of 0.50mmol/L of BHB, you’re considered to be in nutritional ketosis (according to Dr Steve Phinney).

The Benefits of Ketosis

Beta-hydroxybutyrate is a much better fuel than glucose. It has major benefits:

  1. Upregulates FOXO genes which regulate oxidative stress, insulin sensitivity and influence longevity.
  2. Ketones improve mood and have antidepressant like effects
  3. BHB reduces oxidative stress in the brain and may be beneficial in preventing neurodegenerative disease
  4. BHB lowers inflammation and blocks NLPR3 inflammasome
  5. Increases endogenous antioxidant production
  6. Ketones improve insulin sensitivity
  7. Improved sleep quality
  8. Increased fat loss while preserving lean muscle mass and performance
  9. Ketones can slow tumor growth by starving them of their preferred fuel, glucose, and lowering IGF-1
  10. Appetite regulation: One of the first things people often notice

In fact, your brain and heart will preferentially use ketones when they’re available.

And in my opinion, this is a huge reason why mental health has deteriorated — most people are starving their brain of its favorite fuel.

So Does the Carnivore Diet Put You in Ketosis? 

Do you need to starve yourself to go into ketosis? No, the benefit of the carnivore diet — a low carb variation of the ketogenic diet — is that you can still enter ketosis while providing your body with all the nutrients it needs (this is key!).

The carnivore diet gives you the benefits of fasting, without fasting.

As mentioned, your body stores around 120gm of glucose in the liver when stores are full and can make a good deal more from protein. If you’re eating a high carb diet, your body doesn’t ever need to go into ketosis because you’re eating all the glucose you need.

To go into ketosis, you need to eat fewer than 50g of carbs per day and sometimes as low as 20g (actually, some people can eat more carbs if they are extremely active, but lets leave those superstars out) .

When you restrict carbs to these levels, within 2-4 days you’ll usually be in ketosis.

Because carbohydrate intake is approximately zero on the carnivore diet, it will put you into ketosis. Most people’s levels tend to be > 0.5 mmol, but this depends on how much protein they’re eating.

Choosing between glucose and ketones is like deciding between rocket fuel and sludge that produces a massive amount of toxic waste.

What About Protein on the Carnivore Diet?

This is a highly debated topic within the ketogenic community. A properly formulated ketogenic diet is considered ~80% fat. But most people in the carnivore community are eating closer to 65% fat.

Does this hinder ketosis?

From my anecdotal experience and from working with others, it does.

I think of protein as more of a structural component than a fuel source. And when you exceed your protein needs, it strains your metabolic pathways (like your urea cycle).

This great presentation from Ben Bikman illustrated one mechanism whereby protein could reduce ketosis. If you’re starting the carnivore diet with already elevated levels of insulin and blood glucose, protein tends to increase insulin. And when insulin increases, fat burning and ketosis shuts off. Whereas Fat does not increase insulin and does increase glucagon, which increases ketosis.

I’ve tested this personally, and my ketone levels are much higher when I eat 80% fat and I feel much better.

With that being said, protein’s effect on ketosis seems to be highly individual. Many people can eat more protein and feel just fine.

Regardless, you will be getting many benefits from this way of eating. But in general, I recommend to experiment with macro ratios.

So does the carnivore diet put you in ketosis? The answer is an emphatic yes.

Conclusion

Ketosis has many benefits. The carnivore diet puts you into ketosis and this is one of the many reasons why it works so well.

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.

Understanding and Conquering Weight Loss Plateaus

Image by Pixabay.Most people who have tried to lose a significant amount of weight and maintain that loss have also experienced the insidious weight loss plateau. The weight comes off easily at first but then, after weeks of watching the numbers on the scale drop almost daily, the progress stops and doesn’t seem to want to start up again. It’s frustrating enough when a plateau hits before you’ve reached your weight loss goal, but it gets even more aggravating when your weight remains the same after days, weeks, and months of working out and eating right–just as you had been during those first few exhilarating months of losing weight.

Many personal trainers recommend varying your workout routine, or even switching to an entirely different exercise style, and that is good advice, but it only addresses one issue that causes weight loss to stall. There is more than one reason your progress grinds to a halt, so the best strategy for getting off a plateau is to address as many causes as possible. Once you understand why you hit a plateau, you can jumpstart your weight loss and get back on track to meeting your goal.

Maintain That Muscle

Include resistance training along with cardio to ensure you maintain fat-burning muscle mass.

One of the worst culprits that cause weight loss plateaus is the loss of muscle mass during the first successful weeks of a new diet and exercise regimen. According to the Mayo Clinic, since muscle mass burns more calories to maintain, losing even a small amount of it will slow your metabolism down. You’ll be burning fewer calories doing the same activities and exercises you were doing during your initial weight loss. That can result in a plateau or even reversal, especially if the number of calories you burn no longer exceeds the amount you take in.

A change in workout routine or exercises can help with this one, but MyFitnessPal recommends re-evaluating your caloric intake and burn after every 5 to 10-pound loss to stay ahead of a plateau. Additionally, it’s important to include strength training as part of your workout routine to give your body a chance to at least maintain muscle mass, if not build more for better weight loss results. AND, be sure to include lean protein in your diet. That will not only help you build and maintain muscle mass, but WebMD points out that protein suppresses the hunger hormone that stimulates your appetite, making it easier to stick to your weight loss diet plan.

Get More Sleep

Setting the alarm for an early workout can cut into necessary sleep time and hinder your weight loss goals.

If you’ve been getting up early to exercise, the lost sleep could be counteracting your workout. According to the University of  Chicago Medical, dieters who cut back on sleep also cut the amount of fat they lose. Instead of commandeering sleep time for exercise, try to schedule your workouts for some other time of day. If morning is the only time you can work out, then go to bed earlier, so you still get a full night’s sleep. Have a hard time falling asleep if you hit the hay earlier than midnight? Prevention has some tips for sleeping better starting with going to bed at the same time every night. It may take some getting used to, but once your body is accustomed to going to bed at that earlier hour, it will be easy to drift off within a reasonable amount of time.

Other sleep-better tips include:

  • not working out too close to bedtime–give yourself a 4-hour buffer between exercise and going to bed
  • talking to your doctor about how your medications may be affecting your sleep
  • eliminating caffeine after 2 pm
  • plugging in a sound machine that emits soothing sounds such as rain falling, wind blowing, or white noise
  • turn off and block out all sources of light when it’s time for bed

Also, it can be helpful to develop a bedtime routine and stick to it. Going through the same motions night after night such as laying out your clothes for the next day, brushing your teeth and washing your face, and relaxing in bed for 15 to 20 minutes before lights-out will signal your body that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep.

Relax Yourself Off a Plateau

A few minutes of deep breathing or meditation is relaxing. It snuffs out stress and can help get you off a weight loss plateau.

Stress is often overlooked as a reason people hit weight loss plateaus, but it is one of the worst offenders because it not only affects your ability to sleep, but it also sabotages your willpower when it comes to your diet. Prevention‘s solution is to take up meditation, citing a study published in Obesity Reviews that showed the positive effects of meditation on all three types of stress-related eating: emotional eating, binge eating, and overeating. The recommendation when stress over anything including a plateau makes you think you want or need to eat is to take 5 minutes to empty your mind, focus on relaxing one body part at a time starting with your toes and working up to your head, and just concentrating on inhaling and exhaling fully and deeply.

Stay tuned–next week we’ll talk about an effective way to bust through plateaus.

How to Lose Weight: Breaking Through Those Pesky Plateaus

It happens to everyone: after beginning a fitness and weight loss regimen, you start seeing results and feeling good about yourself and your progress…then you hit a plateau. That’s when your enthusiasm and motivation takes a dive and, if you don’t find a way to break through that plateau, you may be tempted to bag it.

The first thing you can do is to let go of ideas of rapid weight loss and expect those plateaus. You’ll go through periods of quick weight loss and periods when it seems like you’re not making any progress at all. Don’t be surprised or bummed out when that happens. If you expect it, and you have a few weight loss tips for plateaus in your bag of tricks, you’ll be more inclined to stick with your original weight loss plan, work past the plateau, and start a new cycle of losing weight and building muscle.

Change Up Your Workout

workout-gym4

Try a different workout or form of resistance to break through plateaus.

Weight-loss plateaus hit when your body predictably adjusts to your routine of physical activity. Military Fitness recommends changing up your workout when this happens. Don’t fight it. You may be comfortable with your workout and know it by heart, but the familiarity is what’s causing you to plateau. Drop some of your usual exercises and replace them with different ones that still work the same muscles. ExRx.net has a comprehensive exercise directory that cross-references exercises by muscle groups. The site also has a search option that lets you search by muscle or exercise.

Also, consider changing the time of day you work out if possible, or even the equipment you use. If you typically gravitate to the free weights, give the cable machines or resistance bands a try for a few weeks. Additionally, a plateau can be an indication that it’s time to increase the amount you’re lifting. Do it carefully and gradually to avoid injury, but don’t be afraid to add some weight to your workouts to increase muscle mass and build strength, as well as kick-start your weight loss program again.

Fine-Tune Your Cardio

Use a different piece of equipment or even take your cardio outdoors to get your metabolism into fat-burning mode again.

Some people avoid cardio while some do it instead of resistance training, but it’s important that cardio exercise as well as resistance training are both included in your weight loss plan. If aerobic exercise isn’t part of your workout, add it. If you already do cardio, add another day and increase the amount of time you’re spending on it. Professional trainers recommend increasing your cardio workouts by 5 to 10 minutes at a time to find your cardio sweet-spot. That can be anywhere from 30 – 45 minutes per session, but it shouldn’t exceed 60 minutes. Also, change the type of aerobic exercise you’re doing. Ditch the treadmill or stationary bike for awhile and give the elliptical a try. Attend a class at your health club or, if the weather is nice, go for a run outdoors. Maybe even give HIIT a try. Anything to shock your body back into weight-loss mode.

Make Your Diet a Moving Target

Instead of overdoing the calorie deficit, change how and when you eat.

If making changes to your resistance training and cardio workouts aren’t giving you the weight loss results you want to see, try tweaking your diet. You may be eating too close to bedtime, so try to start eating earlier, giving yourself four or more hours between your last meal of the day and the time you hit the hay. You can also break it up so that you’re eating smaller meals more often–five to six snack-sized meals a day instead of three squares. You can use the Harris-Benedict Formula to determine how many calories you should be getting each day. Keep in mind that, if you don’t get enough calories, your body will start conserving them and shut down your weight loss. (Don’t like to do math? Let this handy calculator do the ciphering for you.) Instead of creating an extreme calorie deficit to induce rapid weight loss, concentrate on the foods you eat, making sure you eat enough protein, and change up your carb count a few days each week. ShapeFit recommends lowering your carbs one or two days in a row, then increasing back up for two to three days. It’s called carb-cycling, and the erratic amounts will keep your metabolism on its toes and in fat-burning mode.

Listen to Your Body

Without enough rest, your body wants to conserve fat and calories instead of burning them.
Image by Alexandra E Rust/Flickr

Plateaus in weight loss are a huge signal from your body that you need to pay better attention if you want to continue losing weight. The best advice is to listen to your body and understand what it’s telling you. If you feel fatigued and worn out, you could easily burn out if you aren’t getting enough rest. If you’ve been exercising 6 or 7 days a week non-stop since the beginning of the year, taking a week off will do you a world of good. When you are in full workout mode, take care to get adequate hours of sleep each night and do your body the favor of including rest days in your regimen each week, anywhere from one to three should suffice. Giving your body enough rest and nutrition and keeping it guessing with changes to your workout will help bust through those plateaus and have you on the quick weight loss track again in no time.

Dieter Beware: Your “Healthy” Diet May Be Sabotaging Your Weight Loss

If you’ve read any of our posts that mention diet, you know we harp on eating healthy just as much as anyone. A healthy diet combined with exercise is the best way to lose weight, build muscle and get into shape. You might think you’re eating healthy, reaching for the foods on the supermarket shelves labeled “low-fat,” “multi-grain” or “all-natural” but, if you’re not seeing the weight loss results you want, the roadblock could be all that “healthy” food you’re eating.

Translation: Low-Fat=High Sugar & Calories

Low and reduced-fat products usually have more sugar and as many calories as their “regular” counterparts.

The problem with eliminating ingredients from foods is that you need to replace them with something. In the case of low-fat and fat-free foods, most manufacturers use extra sugar to fill in the flavor-gap left when fat is removed or reduced. Increasing the sugar content may make the low-fat versions more palatable, but it also increases the calorie count to equal or sometimes even more than the full-fat varieties.

When you’re faced with choosing between two products that have equal calories but one has a balance of fat and sugar and the other has excessive sugar but not fat, pass up the fat-free option. According to an experiment outlined in the Daily Mail, you’ll lose more weight cutting down on sugar than by eliminating fat. Plus, a healthy diet includes both sugar and fat to help you function normally.

One other issue to keep in mind when contemplating reduced fat products is that they may eliminate or reduce healthy fats. Cooking Light points out that low-fat peanut butter, for instance, has less fat overall than regular peanut butter, but the regular variety includes monounsaturated fats that are actually good for you. The solution instead of eating low-fat peanut butter is to opt for a natural peanut butter that doesn’t have extra oils/fats added to it.

Not All Oatmeal Is Your Friend

Skip the instant oatmeal with its extra salt and sugar and opt for regular or steel cut oats with honey or fresh fruit.

You may have adopted what you believe is the healthy eating habit of having oatmeal for breakfast almost every morning. If, because of your busy schedule, you usually scarf down a bowl of the convenient instant type, that’s where your healthy diet is getting derailed. According to Prevention, instant oatmeals typically contain added sugar and sodium as flavor enhancers. The better diet-healthy move is to boil up a pot of whole or steel cut oats and enhance the flavor yourself with fresh fruit, a sprinkle of cinnamon or a drizzle of honey.

If time is a factor, mix up four or five jars of overnight oats once a week. Not only do they provide a tasty breakfast you can grab on the go, but they also incorporate the healthiest versions of oats (old-fashioned or steel-cut) with other nutritious ingredients like chia seeds, yogurt and fresh fruit. Once you understand the ratios of ingredients to make overnight oats, you can make a variety of flavors. Just to get you started, Eat This, Not That has links to over 50 delicious overnight oats recipes.

The Tall Tale of 7 Grains

Sure, it has 7 grains, but if they’re not WHOLE grains, they don’t have more to offer than any other refined grain product.

You’ve ditched the soft white bread of your youth, and now only craft sandwiches out of hearty, multi-grain bread. Unfortunately, if you don’t read labels, that 7-grain loaf of bread is probably not the healthy diet food you think it is. According to Spoon University, “multi-grain” on the label doesn’t mean that the loaf tucked inside is healthier for you than any other bread. It only indicates that more than one type of grain was used to make it. Those grains were still likely refined, so you won’t be reaping the benefits of the whole grain. That’s the key, though: look for baked goods that are whole-grain. Also, when reading labels, the first ingredient is all-important. With breads and other baked goods, if the first ingredient is bleached or unbleached wheat flour, it’s still a refined product and not 100 percent whole-grain, even if it’s “enriched.”

Let’s Talk Turkey

Packaged meats have a lot of extras that outweigh the healthy elements meat can bring to your diet.
Image by robertstinnette/Flickr

…or any other packaged lunch meat. The packaging is the problem. Additional ingredients are the price you pay for the convenience of having what’s typically considered a healthy meat already cooked, sliced, and ready to put into a sandwich or on top of a salad. Not only does packaged, sliced turkey contain an alarming amount of sodium, it also usually has artificial flavoring, preservatives and sometimes even coloring. WBUR in Boston says that researchers are  now looking at artificial additives in foods as a contributing factor in obesity. Bypass the convenient but unhealthy packaged meat and roast a chicken or turkey on the weekend. Then just slice it up yourself, storing it in single-serving sizes in the freezer for a nutritious supply of protein.

Read the entire label — nutrition facts, ingredients and all — to get an accurate picture of how healthy the foods in your diet really are. Image by ilovebutter/Flickr

Of course a healthy weight loss plan is one that includes exercise, a healthy diet, and monitoring your caloric intake versus energy expenditure, but becoming a label reader is essential. Not just the big words splashed across the top of the packaging, either, but the actual nutritional information found in small print on the back. It will make all the difference in the world for your weight loss plans to finally, truly be eating healthy, and could even be a little liberating, too.

 

Try This If You Think You’ve Tried Everything To Lose Weight

When you’re trying to lose weight, getting sufficient amino acids and protein can get the scale moving in the direction you want it to.

When you hear statistics like “90% of Americans Have a Nutrient Deficiency,” you probably place yourself in the nutritionally complete 10%, especially if you take your vitamins and do a fairly reasonable job at watching what you eat. However, if you are fatigued, chronically lack energy, frequently catch colds and/or have a hard time losing weight, maybe you should think again. Those specific symptoms are signs of amino acid deficiency. Plus, if you don’t get enough aminos, you won’t be able to sufficiently absorb nutrients from that multivitamin and mineral supplement you take.

Additionally, since amino acids are the essential elements that make up protein, if you’re short on aminos, you’re likely not getting enough protein, either. If you’ve been trying to lose weight and nothing seems to work, add amino acids and more protein to your diet. Those elements could be what’s been missing the whole time.

Protein and Weight Loss

Eating lean protein lets you discount 20 – 30% of the protein calories you eat. Your body uses up that much just to digest it.

Protein is essential to good nutrition and, if you think about it, protein for weight loss is good common sense. One reason is that you burn more calories digesting protein than any other food. According to Precision Nutrition, 20 to 30 percent of the protein calories you eat are spent on processing it so, right from the start, protein boosts your burn. Next, when you eat protein as part of a weight loss plan that includes building muscle, protein helps build lean muscle mass which increases the amount of fat and calories your body burns.

The Studies

Scientific studies are what really give legs to the protein for weight loss premise because actual results are hard to argue with. One study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that increasing protein helped stabilize glucose and insulin that, in turn, enhanced weight loss. Another study published in the Annual Review of Nutrition showed that protein helped with weight loss by providing energy along with curbing the appetite. Yet more research published in the Nutrition Journal showed that supplementing whey protein and essential amino acids helped with weight loss during a restricted calorie diet. The protein and aminos working together allowed subjects to feel full on fewer calories and increased their bodies’ ability to absorb nutrients, giving them more energy.

Research discussed on Web MD indicates that whey protein is most effective for helping to reduce body fat. The study focused on two groups that were given protein meal replacements, but one group’s protein was specifically whey and included essential amino acids. Both groups successfully lost weight, but the whey/aminos group lost more fat than the other group.

Am I Getting Enough?

Protein supplements are quick and convenient ways to get more protein in your diet.

So how do you know if you’re getting “enough” protein? The CDC has it all neatly broken down into dietary needs based on age and sex, with adult women needing about 46 grams of protein each day and adult men requiring 56 grams per day. However, your lifestyle and your body weight play a part in your protein needs. That means, if you’re working out as part of your weight loss plan, you’ll need more than the bare minimum the CDC recommends. Health magazine has a more accurate way to figure protein needs based on your activity level. Start with your body weight in pounds and then multiply it by a certain number based on how active you are:

  • sedentary, little to no exercise, X by .4
  • active, regularly work out, X by .6
  • athletic, competitive athletes, X by .75

The answer is the number of grams of protein you need each day.

Once you figure out how much protein you should be getting, don’t increase your intake all at once. If your body isn’t used to processing a lot of protein, suddenly flooding your system with it can be hard on your kidneys. Instead, gradually increase your protein by about 5 grams at a time once or twice a week until you’re at the level you should be.

Aminos’ Role

Each of the over 20 amino acids are essential for proper nutrition and health.

There are over 20 amino acids, and each one plays a part in nutrition. Some are specifically tied to functions that affect weight including metabolism. The branch-chained amino acids (BCAAs), for example, typically show up in weight loss supplements because they not only support energy levels, but the specific BCAA leucine has numerous effects on the metabolism, including increasing calorie burn, telling your body to burn fat while keeping muscle, and helping curb your appetite. One study published in the Nutrition Journal even found that supplementing with leucine resulted in a higher loss of body fat than dieting alone.

Livestrong recommends other aminos essential for weight loss goals including:

  • carnitine — which tells your body to use fat for energy instead of storing it
  • tryptophan — which helps stabilize hormone and insulin levels, stabilizes blood glucose levels, and encourages your body to produce growth hormone by promoting restorative sleep
  • tyrosine — which speeds up your metabolism for fat burning and enhances other aminos’ appetite suppressant effects

As if helping you to lose weight weren’t enough, an article in the May 2015 issue of “First for Women” reveals that getting enough protein and amino acids in your diet will also improve your mood and decrease depression, give you more energy, help you concentrate, and enhance digestion of all the food you eat. Even better, Health Central says that amino acid and protein-rich foods like turkey and soy products will help increase your skin’s elasticity. So consider younger looking skin the cherry on top of the amino acid/protein cake.

A Secret Weapon to Lower High Blood Pressure

Natural ways of lowering blood pressure are the healthiest.

There used to be a time when doctors would counsel hypertension patients against resistance training. The prevailing opinion was that lifting weights would increase blood pressure, so those already fighting it should avoid aggravating the condition. However, once medical professionals became aware that bodybuilders had lower overall blood pressure than those who didn’t follow a strict workout regimen, they began rethinking the issue. Several studies have been done over the years that all indicate resistance exercise is one of the best ways to naturally lower blood pressure.

Gifts With Purchase

Resistance training incorporated with aerobic exercise lowers blood pressure and makes you feel great!

Resistance training improves your overall cardio health, so you decreased blood pressure can be considered a side effect. It’s a pretty significant side effect, however, for people who have tried everything to bring their systolic and diastolic numbers down. Resistance exercise is an effective way to lower blood pressure because it makes your cardiovascular system perform more efficiently, transporting oxygen-rich blood throughout your entire body with less effort.

However, resistance training works to reduce your blood pressure in many different ways. Web MD explains that it helps increase muscle mass and boost metabolic rate. With those elements in play, you should be able to lose body fat even with minimal or no change to your diet, and that’s another piece of the blood pressure puzzle. Losing as few as 10 pounds has been shown to lower or even prevent high blood pressure in people who are overweight. Just to sweeten the pot, in his book “High Blood Pressure for Dummies,” Dr. Alan L. Rubin lists a few non-blood pressure-related perks including increased strength and fitness, improved confidence, stronger bones, and better balance.

Lifestyle Change Alert!

Even committing to taking BP medication is a lifestyle change — so why not opt for working out to look AND feel great?

Those who want to lower blood pressure with a quick-fix instead of shifting gears for a lifestyle change should probably stick to medication. That isn’t the healthiest route with the best prognosis, but you can’t just add resistance training to your schedule for a few weeks or months with the plan of quitting exercise once your numbers come down. According to Volume III of the Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine, people who engaged in short-term resistance training didn’t show as much of an improvement in blood pressure as people who permanently added working out to their schedules. The bottom line is that whether you commit to taking medication the rest of your life, decide to cut salt out of your diet from here to eternity, or include resistance training on your lifetime agenda, you’re making a lifestyle change. The workout option offers the most benefits with the least drawbacks. (When have you ever seen the same list of adverse side effects attached to exercise that usually comes with every bottle of medication?) Since studies show resistance training can significantly reduce your blood pressure, isn’t it the best option on the table?

Resistance Training to Reduce Blood Pressure

Talk to your doctor before beginning a resistance training program to lower blood pressure. Image by Vic/Flickr

The first thing to do if you want to give resistance training a try for lowering high blood pressure is to talk to your doctor. He can help you tailor your program to your specific circumstances and offer warnings or advice. You’ll want to start out lifting light weight and with more reps until your blood pressure improves. Only do one set of 12 to 15 reps at first, and don’t lift so heavy that you’re struggling at the end of the set, just heavy enough that you’re starting to fatigue by the 12th or 15th rep. Rest a full 90 seconds between sets and exercises. As your strength and blood pressure improve, increase your weight and the number of sets you do. If you’re looking for a specific workout that has proven to lower blood pressure, you could always try the one researchers used in a study on the positive effects of resistance training on blood pressure. According to Precision Nutrition, the participants worked out three days a week with a minimum of one rest day in between, completing three sets of 12 reps each of:

bench press

A workout that incorporates all the muscles in your body helps you look great — a nice side effect to lowering blood pressure.

  • leg curls
  • leg presses
  • lat pulldowns
  • chest presses
  • biceps curls
  • shoulder presses
  • triceps extensions

It’s a full-body workout that’s useful as part of a comprehensive exercise program that also incorporates 75 to 120 minutes of aerobic exercise each week for lower blood pressure and overall better health.