One thing that I can’t stress enough for maintaining a healthy lifestyle is to MEAL PREP! No matter what your goals are, whether it’s strictly to look as bad ass as you can or if it’s just to feel healthier, meal prep is essential!
Making food at home takes time. Without a plan, it’s hard to stay consistent throughout the week. Learning how to effectively meal prep is a necessity if you want to stick to a clean eating diet.
Having a schedule or having everything written down what you are going to eat will not only help you stick to your plan, it’ll make everything so much simpler.
First, you’ll want to set yourself up with a system. I like to plan ahead and meal prep for a whole week, sometimes it’s hard enough trying to plan two days in advance, so set yourself up with a schedule that will work for you. I will typically go to the grocery store on Sunday afternoon, and again on Wednesday evenings. I pick up everything I need for that week.
I am a creature of habit, so I do well with general guidelines that I can repeat one week to the next.
Next, you’ll want to pick out a variety of food, based on your goals for each meal of the day. Come up with four to five different options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. I try and use ingredients that I already have in the fridge/pantry to limit the amount of food that gets wasted. Choose different types of grains, produce, and protein sources to cover your meals for the length of your schedule.
Whichever was is easiest for you, make sure you are writing down your meal plan. A chalkboard in the kitchen, or calendar on the fridge is always a good option. If you are a little more tech savvy like me, something like www.myfitnesspal.com might be a better more fun option for you. A lot of times, I will just copy an old meal plan on the weeks that are a little busier. Just remember, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to switch out the foods you are eating. If you eat the same meals every single day, your body starts to deprive itself of nutrients that exist in other type of foods that you may be cutting out.
A goal that I set for myself is to try one new recipe per week. I really love making a clean version of “regular” foods.
Here is a template that I tend to go by, insert your own variations of foods and eat smaller meals more times a day.
Meal 1: Breakfast
Meal 2: Snack
Meal 3: Lunch
Meal 4: Mid-Day Snack
Meal 5: Dinner
Meal 6: Snack (optional)
Once you have four to five different choice for each category, create several different meal plans and switch them out as the days/weeks pass.
Next, get in the kitchen! Plan one or two nights per week that are dedicated to being in the kitchen. Mine are Wednesdays and Sundays. A good tip for measuring portion control is well, measuring! Measure and weigh all your food! Now when you are preparing meals for an entire family, I understand how that may be a little difficult, and you aren’t going to necessarily weigh out your kids foods! So just keep your overall goals in mind when preparing your meals.
I have an array of Tupperware. It’s my best friend in meal prepping. Put all of your meals in “to go” Tupperware and you’re set!
I’m writing about protein because I receive many e-mails asking about my diet; people wonder if I only eat protein, if I eat just fish, how much protein to include in the daily diet, etc.
First I want to be very clear about the quantity of protein, because over-eating protein or other macronutrients will result in fat and weight gain. It’s also important to know that the calories are very important when you design a diet. To know the exact grams that a person has to eat is impossible, but some research can help to find a good formula for a balanced diet.
So how do you calculate your protein needs? It depends on multiple factors, including height, weight, activity (sedentary, active, elite athlete).
Usually the formula is:
• Average healthy sedentary adult: 0.5-.7 grams of protein per pound bodyweight
• Average healthy active adult: 0.8-1 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight
You’ll also find this proportion in some bodybuilding and fitness articles: 0.8-1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Another way to calculate how much protein you need is by using daily calorie intake and the percentage of calories that will come from protein. To do this, you’ll need to know how many calories your body needs each day.
To factor protein into your total daily calorie intake, you just need to know that 1 gram of protein contains 4 calories. Multiply the grams of protein you’re going to eat each day by 4 to figure out exactly how many calories your protein intake will account for. For example, my weight is 130 pounds. I eat 130 grams of protein per day, and 130X4= 520 calories from protein per day.
Here are some protein facts:
• The American Heart Association recommends that 10 to 15 percent of your daily calorie intake come from a source of protein.
• Protein is a vital part of every tissue, cell and organ in your body. Protein is in a constant process of being broken down and replaced by the essential amino acids in your diet. Proteins are composed of chains of 20 different kinds of amino acids.
• Hair and nails are mostly made of protein.
• Your body uses protein to make enzymes, antibodies, hormones and other body chemicals.
Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, teeth and blood.
• The smallest units of proteins (amino acids) fall in either of the following types:
• Non-essential amino acids: alanine, cysteine, glycine, serine, histidine, tyrosine, cystine, proline, arginine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid and glutamine.
• Essential amino acids: Valine, threonine, leucine, lysine, isoleucine, methionine, phenylalanine and tryptophan.
The most common high-protein foods are:
• Chicken (skinless)
• Turkey (skinless)
• Fish (all kinds)
• Beef (leaner cuts)
• Pork (leaner cuts)
• Whole eggs, egg whites
• Protein supplements (whey protein powder, casein protein powder, etc.)
• Beans (all kinds)
• Nuts (all kinds)
I hope this article helps you to understand that the quality, calories and quantity are important for achieving a balanced diet. If you eat more than your body needs, you will gain fat. Balance is the key!
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Check with your doctor before following a sodium-depletion regimen.
• Choose a target date for looking your most shredded. This can be the date of a physique contest, photo shoot or wedding.
• Starting about two weeks before this date, keep sodium content on the moderate to high side. Consume at least 2,500 milligrams of sodium a day for the next week, allowing your body to adjust.
• Reduce sodium five days before this event. Take in only about 1,500 milligrams of sodium for the next two days. Be conscious that many condiments and salad dressings are high in sodium. Drink at least a gallon of water each day.
• Eliminate sodium three days before your target day. Prepare your own food and avoid processed foods, which may have more sodium than labels indicate. Drink at least a gallon of water, emphasizing spring water for its lower sodium content.
• Emphasize diuretic foods and supplements at this point. Diuretic foods include asparagus, cranberries, lemons, oats, ginger and Brussels sprouts. Diuretic supplements include caffeine, dandelion root and horsetail. You can seek out a multi-ingredient supplement designed for this purpose, often included as part of a fat-loss supplement.
• Cut water intake the day before your target. Continue on your no-salt regimen, but reduce water to no more than a half gallon a day. Only sip water or take in ice chips during the latter part of the day.
• On your target day. Admire your physique, and only take in sips of water.
• After your target day. Re-introduce sodium gradually, only increasing by about 500 milligrams per day. You will naturally increase fluid retention by adding more salt, and this can be uncomfortable if you do it too quickly. Also take in more water, but keep it to about a gallon for the first few days as your body re-accommodates to normal hydration and electrolyte intake.
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Our butt (or, in technical terms, our gluteal area) is comprised of three muscles. The first and outermost layer is our gluteus maximus muscle. This muscle is the largest of the gluteal area (some peoples’ being much larger than others, much to their chagrin).
One of the most powerful muscles in the body, its function is to extend and outwardly rotate the hip and extend the trunk. Contrary to popular usage, it is not meant to be sat on all day long.
The other two muscles located around our rear end are the gluteus medius muscle, responsible for rotating and abducting the leg, and the gluteus minimus, the smallest glute muscle located deep within the hip joint.
Strong Butt, Strong Back
A strong rear end strengthens the lower back. This is a necessity for anyone who suffers with lower back pain as well as for those who play sports. The glutes play a major role in running, kicking, lunging, and squatting–movements used in many commonly played sports.
In 2006 the American Council on Exercise commissioned and released a study to determine the best exercises for our gluteus maximus muscle. Using electromyographic (EMG) analysis, researchers compared the muscle recruitment patterns of eight gluteal exercises.
They tested the squat, single-leg squat, vertical leg press, horizontal leg press, quadruped hip extension, step-up, lunge, and four-way hip extension. As the squat elicited the most gluteal involvement, it was used by researchers as a baseline to compare the results of the other exercises.
The good news is that all eight worked the glute muscles, proving that these are easy muscles to target. However, of the eight, the vertical and horizontal leg press fired up the least amount of glute muscle and the quadruped hip extension, four-way hip extension, and squat fired up the most gluteal muscle.
The Best Exercises for Our Gluteus Maximus Muscle
- Step forward with one foot and drop your back knee down toward the floor.
- Make sure that you keep the front knee directly over the centre of the foot.
- Push down and forward through your back heel to return to the start position.
- Repeat on the other leg, alternating 10 to 15 reps per side.
- Stand with good posture behind a tall bench, step, or sturdy chair.
- Place your left foot on the top and transfer your weight to that leg as you step up.
- Keep the right leg passive, especially as you step up, tap the top of the bench with your right foot and then slowly lower yourself using the left leg only.
- Perform 10 to 15 reps with one leg and then switch.
- Stand with good posture on top of a tall bench, step, or sturdy chair.
- Allow your left leg to dangle and slowly bend the right leg pushing your bum rearward as you squat down.
- Come down as low as you feel comfortable and then come back so your leg is fully extended.
- Be sure that your right knee tracks with the second toe and stays behind your laces.
- Steady yourself by staring at something stationary; this will help maintain your balance.
- Perform 10 to 15 reps with the right leg and then switch legs.
Quadruped Hip Extensions
- On your hands and knees, slightly contract your abdominals to stabilize your torso and spine.
- Lift one leg up behind you, keeping the knee bent at 90 degrees.
- Lift the leg until the bottom of the foot is pointing toward the ceiling and the upper thigh is lined up with the body. Repeat 10 to 15 times and change legs.
As a trainer, I recommend that you try performing the squat on an unbalanced surface (such as a wobble board or BOSU) to fire up even more muscles.
- To squat, make sure that you press your bum rearward, as if you were going to sit in a chair.
- Maintain a neutral spine and lower yourself as low as you feel comfortable.
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Forget the human condition—knee pain is the one unifying force that most of us have experienced on some level. A sprain, a twist, a dislocation, a bruise; certain acute injuries are unavoidable. Many chronic injuries are avoidable, however, but there’s no need to put up with persistent pain.
For the love of knees
If you’ve ever been injured, chances are you’ve heard of rehabilitation or rehab: repairing and strengthening an injured muscle, joint, or bone, and nursing it back to health. For a few decades now, athletic trainers and strength and condition coaches of elite-level athletes have been employing something called “prehab.”
Prehab exercises strengthen and stretch the muscles that support the joints in an effort to avoid injury altogether. You may not be a professional athlete, but your legs are the key to your mobility, and your knee health is paramount to an active, healthy lifestyle.
The bane of your existence
How many times have sore knees or the threat of pain stopped you from participating? You wake up, they’re sore. You go to sleep, they’re sore. You sit, you stand, they’re sore—but they don’t have to be. Many knee problems are caused by weakness or tightness in surrounding muscles, which means they can be fixed.
Other problems, such as bursitis (inflamed fluid-filled pads at the joint) and tendinitis (inflamed tendons from overuse) can be healed with sufficient rest and inflammation control through the use of ice and anti-inflammatories.
Go low impact
If you suffer from tendinitis, osteoarthritis, or patellofemoral pain syndrome (characterized by a dull ache under the kneecap when squatting or walking down stairs), avoid exercises or activities that involve jumping, hopping, running, or sporadic and random lateral movement. Instead, opt for low-impact activities on predictable surfaces.
Warm up properly
To properly rehabilitate your knees, you will experience some discomfort when doing exercises. Make sure to have a good warm-up, such as a five- or 10-minute walk, to get synovial fluid flowing in your joints, and perform all exercises with control and appropriate resistance. Afterward apply ice to reduce swelling.
If you’ve spent a lifetime abusing your knees, you may be looking for a little added support. While surgery and expensive braces may ultimately be the answer, it’s possible that supplements may help alleviate some discomfort. Visit your local health and nutrition store or a natural health practitioner for recommendations.
A quick lesson in leg anatomy
When talking about knee strengthening exercises and muscles that affect knee movement health, the focus is on the four muscles of the quadriceps:
|sartorius||runs across the thigh, from the outside of the hip to the inside of the knee||kicking a soccer ball with the inside of the foot|
|vastus intermedius||muscle in the top middle of the thigh||walking|
|vastus lateralis||big muscle on the outside of the thigh||getting up from a squat position|
|vastus medialis||big muscle on the inside of the thigh||walking|
Need to succeed
Whether you’re hoping to avoid future knee injuries or currently suffer from knee pain and want to be rid of it, consistently performing the following exercises should start to provide noticeable relief.
Complete 3 sets of each exercise for 20 repetitions, or as directed. This circuit may be done at home and is performed every other day to allow muscles to recover. It’s best to do this workout wearing shorts or clothing that lets you see your leg muscles clearly.
Muscles targeted: vastus medialis, gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, gastrocnemius
- Begin by standing on your toes with your feet together and your arms relaxed by your sides.
- As you hop your feet out to shoulder-width apart, drop down into a seated position, allowing your arms to swing forward while keeping your weight in your heels.
- As you drop down to chair seat height, be sure to have your knees and toes turn outward at a 45-degree angle.
- Pop up to starting position, ensuring your knees still track outward over your toes.
- You should finish on your toes as tall as possible.
Muscles targeted: vastus medialis
- Sit on the ground with legs outstretched in front of you, feet roughly hip-width apart.
- While actively pointing toes toward you, rotate them out to the sides as far as possible, keeping your heels on the ground.
- With your left side, flex your inner thigh muscle as tightly as possible and lift your entire leg off the ground.
- After a brief pause, lower your left leg and relax the muscle.
- Do 20 lifts and then switch sides for 20 more lifts.
Note: it is important to contract your inner thigh muscle before your outer thigh muscle, as this exercise trains the timing of muscular activation.
Single-leg High Squat
Muscles targeted: vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, sartorius, gluteus medius
- Use a chair with a seat height 2 in (5 cm) above the back of your knee.
- With your back to the chair seat, stand on your left foot with your toe pointed forward and your right foot raised 1 to 2 in (2.5 to 5 cm) off the ground in front of you.
- While maintaining a tall upper body, slowly lower your bum to lightly touch the top of the seat. While you may use your arms to assist at first, the goal is to be hands free!
- When you feel the touch, slowly stand back up to starting position, making sure to push your hips all the way forward.
- It’s critical to watch your knee track directly over your toes while lowering and raising yourself, being careful not to let your knee cave inward.
- Perform 20 reps on the left leg and then 20 on the right.
Note: to adjust difficulty, raise or lower seat height.
Standing Quadricep Extensions
Muscles targeted: vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, sartorius
- Place one end of a resistance band on the other side of the top of a door and close the door. The resistance band handle will be anchored on the other side.
- Loop the handle of the resistance band around the arch of your right foot, adjusting it so that the tubing extends under your foot.
- Situate yourself about 6 1/2 to 10 ft (2 to 3 m) from the door, facing the opposite direction while holding onto a chair in front of you for balance.
- Keeping your left foot on the ground and your knees touching, raise your right heel toward your glutes. Ensuring your inside quadricep muscle fires first, slowly return your foot as if kicking a ball, so that your leg finishes completely straight, flexing your muscle as much as possible.
- Do 20 reps on your right side and then perform 20 on the left.
Progression: stand farther from the door to increase the tension.
Ball Squeeze Toe Squat
Muscles targeted: vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius
- Find a slightly underinflated ball roughly the size of a soccer ball.
- Place the ball between your legs, slightly above your knees.
- Squeeze your knees together as tightly as possible and align your feet so that if you look down, your toes are directly below your knees.
- When you have found the proper width, put a 1 1/2 to 2 in (4 to 5 cm) high object under each of your heels. A sturdy book or a door jamb will do nicely!
- While squeezing the ball tightly and keeping toes pointed straight forward, squat down to chair seat height, while maintaining equal weight distribution throughout your feet.
- Still squeezing the ball, stand all the way up to starting position.
Progression: add weight by holding a dumbbell at your chest.
Rock and Roller
Muscles targeted: tensor fasciae latae, iliotibial band (IT band), sartorius
- Use a foam roller or a tennis ball.
- Lie on your side on top of the roller so that it’s lined up horizontal to your body.
- Situate yourself so that the roller is putting direct pressure on your tensor fasciae latae, (located below and behind your hip bone); it will be tender.
- Lie on the roller, applying as much weight as you can bear while still relaxing your leg muscles.
- After holding for 60 seconds twice, slowly roll your body, allowing the roller to go all the way down the side of your leg to your knee.
- Carefully roll it back up your leg to your hip.
- Repeat this 15 times.
- Turn over so you are face down on the floor. Move your body to the side of the roller and deliberately roll from your hip down to your knee and back again 15 more times.
- Do the same circuit with your other leg.
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You've probably done an elbow plank so many times by now that you know the drill by heart: straight back, belly button pulled in, and palms flat on your mat (trying not to clasp them in a prayer pose if possible). But I, recommend my clients do a slight modification that's a little more challenging: when in elbow plank, flip your hands over so your palms are facing up.
Pressing through an elbow plank with palms facing down will help keep back muscles engaged and clasping hands together in a fist will enlist your chest muscles to help stabilize you, but flipping your hands over will make your plank even more about the core. "Performing a plank with palms up [will] disengage some of the support from the muscles of the hand and forearm," she says. In other words, simply moving your hands will help you get on the fast track to bikini-ready abs.
Another reason to go palms up? You'll help unround those hunched-over shoulders. "It takes the pronator teres (one of the major forearm muscles) and positions it in what is called the 'anatomical position' (palms forward when standing, palms up when prone in a plank), which is the most desirable position in which to function," "We are all busy typing on keyboards these days, encouraging a particular position of the forearm: palms down. Simply repositioning the forearms in your plank helps to create a balance."
Sculpted abs and looking taller are two great Spring-ready reasons to try the "palms up" modification the next time you're in an elbow plank, but don't worry if making this change has you collapsing into Child's pose sooner than you're used to. "When you perform a plank, perform it to the best of your ability in the moment you're in — palms in prayer, palms flat, or palms up, it's probably one more plank than you did yesterday, right? Keep it up!"
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Experienced exercisers know the importance of protein, and while physiques are fine-tuned in the gym, they’re really assembled at mealtime. But adequate protein is more than the ticket to a sleeker, fitter physique. It turns out chowing down on those aminos could be even more important for women when it comes to appearance and long-term health. And an increasing amount of research is highlighting the importance of protein to the female diet, especially among active women.
We’ve got 10 reasons why protein is the macro-nutrient (aka a big category of nutrients like protein, carbs, or fat) that deserves your love this month — and all months moving forward.
(Think you might be slacking in the protein category? Don’t worry, we’ve included tons of great options for upping healthy protein intake throughout!)
1. Protein Is Better at Keeping Women Lean
The Atkins Diet made bacon-lovers rejoice, but not all of us are ravenous carnivores (can’t we all just get along?). But there was definitely something to the trend: Cutting back on carbs and replacing those calories with protein contributes to a decrease in fat tissue.
And research suggests that effect is significantly more pronounced in women (who typically have a higher percentage of body fat) than in men1. Perhaps another reason to celebrate the power of cheesecake.
2. Protein Controls Hunger All Day
Quick! What was your go-to breakfast as a kid? If a basically-candy cereal is the first answer that pops into your head, chances are it’s time to recalibrate the morning routine.
Eating a high-protein meal early in the day — Greek Yogurt with fresh fruit, for example — triggers a hormonal response that helps keep hunger at bay all day2. Chow down early to control eating often.
3. And It Will Keep You Fuller, Longer
Protein’s magic formula for satiety really works in two ways: It controls appetite later on and promotes a greater feeling of fullness than carbs or fat3. Basically, that means a food high in protein takes less to get you feeling full.
4. Protein Makes Your Body Burn More Calories
When compared to a higher-carb diet, higher-protein diets tend to trigger more thermogenesis (say that five times fast)4. Greater thermogenesis is generally what’s referred to when someone talks about a “faster metabloism,” and more protein can signal the body to burn more calories before, during, and after meals.
5. It’s Good for Bone Health
Women are at an especially high risk of bone degeneration So while protein often gets a bad rep as being bad-for-the-bones, it turns out this macronutrient is actually vital to proper calcium absorption and bone growth5. For the lactose-tolerant, that means dairy gives a great one-two punch of calcium and a full protein, all in one food. Many tasty protein supplements are also high in calcium and great on the go!
6. Protein Fights Off Aging
As we age, our bodies tend to lose muscle mass. Eating more protein — along with regular exercise, including resistance training — can help our bodies maintain and build muscles to keep us going strong well into the golden years6. Make sure to grab a protein shake or other high-protein snack post-workout to promote muscle repair!
7. Protein Protects from Stress
When we get stressed, all sorts of things go haywire on the inside: oxidative damage wreaks havoc on cells as our internal systems struggle to contain hormone influxes. But a diet high in protein — think between 0.8 and 1 grams of protein per pound of body weight, up to 50% over the “normal” recommendations for sedentary folks — can act as a buffer against this damage7. All systems go for protein!
8. It’s Great for Your Skin
Our skin takes a beating 24/7, and it’s especially under siege when the sun’s shining bright. UV damage takes a toll on our birthday suits and is a leading contributor to skin’s aging. Diets high in certain amino acids — the building blocks of protein — can help reduce the aging effect of outside elements like UV light (along with a quality sunscreen, of course)8. And BCAA (branched-chain amino acids) supplements can be an especially potent way to get those aminos conveniently.
9. It’s Also Great for Your Hair!
In order to keep growing to its fullest, hair needs a well-balanced diet — including lots of protein9. Experiencing slowed or no hair growth? Stress and/or a protein deficiency could be to blame.
10. It’s Delicious
Okay, so this one might be cheating, but let’s be real: Protein is a delicious part of any balanced diet. Chomping down on veggies and grains all day might seem great to a few of us, but you’re really cutting yourself off from countless great food options ranging from sweet to savory. And upping your protein intake isn’t just for the meat-eaters among us: When prepared in the right combinations, non-meat or dairy protein sources can give you all the amino acids necessary for everything from lean muscle to great hair.
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A mouth full of fudgy frosting on your birthday, a fork full of toasty pecan pie at Thanksgiving, a cold bowl full of cookies ‘n cream on a hot August afternoon: These time-honored treats are among life’s sweetest pleasures, meant to be savored and enjoyed.
Problem is, for many of us, sugar has become an overwhelming daily temptation that we feel powerless to resist. Instead of occasionally indulging in special-occasion desserts, many of us are straight up hooked on sweets, needing a daily (sometimes hourly!) fix to satisfy our sugar addiction. If you’ve ever found yourself in a sugar-trance, locked onto a doughnut like a heat-seeking missile, you know how potent sugar cravings can be.
Ready to adopt a take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward the cookie tray? Try these Sugar Smart tips to crush your sugar cravings faster than you can scarf down a Snickers:
1. Eat a protein-packed breakfast. Research shows that protein in the a.m. makes it difficult for sugar cravings to take hold later on. Lean protein options like Greek yogurt, peanut butter, eggs, and low-fat cheese produce less of the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin and more PPY, a hormone that signals fullness. MRI scans of high-protein breakfast eaters in a University of Missouri study showed reduced activity in areas of the brain associated with cravings. Can’t stomach food too early in the morning? No problem. Eat it by 10 a.m. and you’ll still help quell that late-day sugar yen.
2. Never go hungry. Meal skipping is a guaranteed way to fire up sugar cravings. Skipping meals lowers blood sugar levels and causes you to overeat the rest of the day to make up for missed calories. Keep things steady by eating five times a day – three meals and two snacks of nourishing and delicious whole foods such as whole grains, beans, lean meats/poultry/fish, nuts, unsweetened low-fat dairy, eggs, and veggies. They’ll fill you up and give you the ideal balance of lean protein, energizing carbohydrates, and healthy fats to steady your blood sugar and insulin levels and extinguish cravings for sugar.
3. Suss out secret sugars. True to their name, secret sugars lurk in foods you don’t even think of as sweet: Everything from ketchup to crackers, salad dressings to pasta sauce. The problem with these secret sugars isn’t just that they put you on sugar overload (which they do; the average Canadian takes in a whopping 22 teaspoons of added sugar each day—the ideal is 6). It’s that added sugars stoke appetite and beget more cravings, trapping you in a vicious cycle of wanting more, more, more. Search your fridge and pantry and read every label. Find the foods with sugar listed in the first few ingredients and seek out low-sugar alternatives to dial down your sugar intake.
4. Pump up the flavor. Sugar may be sweet, but there are plenty of other fabulous tastes out there that you may be missing out on. If you’ve ever seeded a fragrant vanilla bean for a special dish or topped a sliced tomato with fresh basil leaves, you know how much flavor herbs and spices can add. Experiment liberally with spices of all kinds (added bonus: warm spices like cinnamon and ginger can quell a sweet tooth). And don’t forget other flavor boosters like balsamic vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, lemon and orange zest, and hot sauce to perk up your taste buds. Stir your coffee with a stick of cinnamon…toss plain, air-popped popcorn with smoked paprika…the more adventuresome you are, the more you’ll grow to appreciate flavor, and put sugar in its rightful place in the process.
5. Sleep more, crave less. The key to stopping sugar cravings in their tracks is balancing the hormones ghrelin (an appetite trigger) and leptin (which signals satiety), along with insulin. Get these hormones working in harmony and you’ll experience fewer cravings—and less fat storage. But if you get less than the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sack time, you may be undercutting this goal. In a University of Chicago study, a few sleepless nights were enough to drop levels of leptin by 18 percent and boost levels of ghrelin by about 30 percent. Those two changes alone caused cravings for sugary foods to jump 45 percent. Sleep deprivation not only makes sugary foods more appealing, it may also lower your ability to resist them. The parts of your brain that usually put the brakes on cravings aren’t as active when you’re tired, research conducted at the University of California, Berkley found. The upshot? Get your zzz’s to strike the all-important hormonal balance and boost your craving-crushing stamina.
6. Rev up your movement to dial down your cravings. If you’re plagued by strong sugar cravings, getting your body moving may help deactivate them. According to a study published in Applied Psychology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, the more you sit, the greater your appetite – even if your body doesn’t need the calories. Moderate exercise also helps keep muscle cells sensitive to insulin. Strength training builds stronger muscles, which in turn use up more glucose. Any physical activity that you enjoy will help get sugar off your brain—and belly.
7. Soothe what’s really bothering you. The link between emotional comfort and sweets is primal – and persistent. Rewarded with candy when growing up? You may still treat yourself to dessert for a job well done. Did you push back the confusion and loneliness of adolescence with candy bars? You may still be doing that as an adult. To break the cycle of reaching for sugar when you are emotionally cued to, you have to have something that will short-circuit your reflex response. The first step toward breaking the emotional connection between emotions and food is to become aware of the feelings that drive you to crave sweets. Not after the fact – the very moment you reach for sugar. To get a split second of clarity as your fingers close in on your co-worker’s candy dish: Why am I reaching for this? In those moments, remember this simple but powerful catchphrase: “Stop. Slow down. Think.” That will enable you to determine whether you really want the sweet or whether you are just feeding your emotions.
8. Pinpoint your sugar pitfalls. Do the doughnuts in the coffee room at work every morning call out to you? Think through your day and identify where and when you are most susceptible to sugar’s lure, and ask yourself why you “need” sugar in those moments. Is it because you’re starving when you get to work and the doughnuts are just too tempting to resist? Empower yourself with new, positive alternatives you can use to meet that need. Perhaps it’s making sure you eat a healthy breakfast and bypassing the doughnuts on your way to your desk. Fill your need in healthier ways and sugar loses its power over you.
9. Find healthier rewards. Instead of treating yourself to sweets, treat yourself to pleasure! Often we reach for sugar when we’re stressed, lonely, or bored. But there are far better ways to turn around a bad mood or energy lull. Make your own personal “rewards card”—a list of nourishing activities that you can whip out any time you find yourself reaching for sweets. Your rewards should be things that elicit the same pleasure you feel when you indulge in a favorite dessert. Think of things you can do instantly and that last for the 15 to 20 minutes you otherwise might spend lost in a sugar episode. For instance: listen to music, dance like crazy, call a friend, paint your toenails, go for a bike ride, pet the cat, watch junky TV, plan a dream vacation, or just lay down and look at the sky. This strategy of pleasure-focused redirection will work like a charm to keep you focused on nonfood sources of happiness.
10. Supplement with calcium and vitamin D. Are you taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement? Good! Several studies suggest that multivitamins that contain vitamin D and calcium can potentially lower cravings and promote weight loss. Extra body fat holds on to vitamin D so that the body can’t use it, and this perceived deficiency interferes with the action of leptin (the hormone that signals your brain that you’re full). If you’re deficient in calcium, your body can experience up to a fivefold increase in the fatty acid synthase, an enzyme that converts calories into fat. While a multivitamin can’t replace a healthy diet, this bit of extra nutrition “insurance” can’t hurt—and you might just find your cravings lessen while your weight loss speeds up.
11. Snap out of temptation with a photo. Research shows that people who keep a food diary lose more weight. But that doesn’t have to be limited to just writing down what you eat. In a study published in the International Journal of Consumer Studies, volunteers recorded what they ate on paper and in photos. They all reported that the act of taking the photos—and the photos themselves—raised their awareness of what they were eating. By taking pictures of your food before you eat it, you give yourself that crucial split-second pause that enables you to reconsider your selection. Seeing that softball-ball size cinnamon bun in a photo before you down it may jolt you into making a healthier choice.
12. Relax with a cup of tea and a novel. We all know that stress powers sugar cravings. And there’s nothing new about advice to carve out “me time” to combat stress. What is new is a study from England’s University of Sussex that found reading can slash stress by a stunning 68 percent! Other methods the study tested that also work are listening to music (61 percent) or sipping a cup of tea (54 percent). It’s a great way to divert yourself when you get that urge to munch. Pick a quiet spot where you won’t be interrupted and brew a cup of calming tea, such as chamomile, to sip while you turn the pages.
13. Stay hydrated. If your sweet tooth is on overdrive, turn on the tap and drink up. Dehydration can spike cravings for sugar and junk food dramatically – and may take a toll on your mood. Recent studies have linked mild dehydration to fatigue, anxiety, poor concentration, and even your cranky midday slump that can send you lunging for the vending machine. The latest guidelines from the Institute of Medicine recommend that women get 91 ounces of water a day, but you’ll be happy to know that not all of it has to come from the tap. At least 20 percent can come from food. So eat lots of fruits and veggies to make a hefty dent in your water needs.
14. Soothe with scent. Self-soothing techniques help you tolerate strong or overwhelming emotions, so you can manage them in a positive way, rather than reflexively reaching for a sugary treat. Inhaling a pleasant scent is a helpful reminder to enter the present and literally bring you to your senses when you’re in a cravings spiral. Try this exercise: Add 2 drops of eucalyptus oil to 1 cup of water in a bowl and stir. Soak a washcloth in the scented water. Squeeze out the excess water, then roll it up neatly and place it in a plastic bag in your fridge. The next time a craving hits, retrieve your scented washcloth and drape it gently over your face. Focus your full attention on the sensations—the texture of the cloth, its coolness, its scent—as you inhale the calm, and exhale the powerful emotions.
15. Savor life as much as sugar. Take a moment to think about your schedule. Does include an activity that really does it for you? That puts a curl in your toes, a little flutter of anticipation in your gut? We’re not talking downtime in front of the tube. We’re talking pleasure. The more you indulge in it in healthy ways, the less you’ll look for it in sugar. And the more pleasure, joy, and laughter you add to your life, the less you feel the need to derive pleasure from food. Savoring an experience—whether it’s a walk in the woods or a movie marathon with your best friend—means to enjoy it thoroughly, wringing every drop of pleasure from it. And while cookies may taste momentarily sweet, they can't provide true and lasting satisfaction.
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How to Break a Weight Loss Plateau If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that you’re at one point or another going to hit a weight loss plateau. What you decide to do at that time is going to have a large impact on your success.
The following 8 weight loss plateau tips will help you out when you inevitably reach that question: My weight has stalled, how do I break a weight loss plateau?
Be Patient This needs to be said, as even the most patient of people suddenly become impatient when it comes to weight loss. If it’s only been a week, or even just a month and your weight hasn’t changed, don’t stress out.
Weight loss is a process, not an event. Getting fit is not a destination, it’s a way of life. If you’re consistently eating right and exercising, the body fat will come off. Notice I said body fat. It’s important to make that differentiation right now. The important thing is that you’re making progress. Weight is not the only determining factor.
Carbohydrate Cycling This is one of my favorite eating methods for those people that are carbohydrate sensitive. You are able to eat just as many carbohydrates as usual, but instead, you mix up low carb and med/high carb days. Stick those high carb days on intense workout days, and use the low carb days for when you’re resting. In my opinion, there’s no better way to add muscle and drop body fat than carbohydrate cycling.
Increase Your Calories For a While As our weight goes lower, so does our calorie intake. How low can you really go though? Your metabolism slows down as you lose weight, and rightfully so. Give your body a break and try increasing your calories to maintenance levels for a week. I think you’ll find that once you return to a hypo-caloric environment, your weight loss progress will pick back up. Let your body know that it’s not starving.
Try a Different Workout Routine Nutrition is just one part of the fat loss equation, although it is the biggest part. Exercise also plays a large role. It’s not uncommon for your strength training progress to stall out when eating fewer calories. It’s imperative that you maintain your muscle mass as you lose weight, or else the weight you lose will be valuable muscle. If you find that you aren’t making strength progress anymore, but your nutrition is spot on, try changing up your routine. It might be all that you needed to get over that weight loss plateau.
Time Your Carb Intake Carbohydrate intake and timing can make or break your weight loss. I am by no means a low carb advocate. Many people are very successful eating a high carb diet. That is something only experimenting can determine. However, a common denominator for success is when people time the intake of those carbs to around times when your insulin sensitivity is highest.
When is that? Your first meal of the day, and the meals around your workout. Sometimes just shuffling your current carb intake to those times can break you through that weight loss plateau. Give it a try. You might just be pleasantly surprised! Cheat Meal Cheat meals can be a tricky thing. You don’t want them to be an excuse for bad eating, and you definitely don’t want them to work against your goals. A cheat meal does not mean a binge-fest. You could very easily wipe out that 3500 week-long calorie deficit with one day of binge eating. Instead, plan out your cheat meal ahead of time.
Try eating 50% more calories than you average the rest of the week. Doing so can “reset” your metabolism and many of the hormones (leptin, ghrelin) that have begun to make it difficult to lose weight. Try to keep the fat intake low on this day and focus on eating carbohydrates and protein.
Set-Points Set-points are a tricky topic to write about because there’s no clear evidence they exist. On the other hand, there is plenty of real-word personal accounts of them occurring. Set-points are particular body weights that we tend to have a problem breaking through. They usually are a weight that you were fluctuating at for a long period of time in your life, and they tend to be the weight that most people end up getting stuck at. Is it mental? Physical? I’m not sure, but I do know that they can be broken through with a little patience, and you can create new set-points at lower weights.
Start Logging Your Food It’s a tedious process, but one that becomes very helpful when you come upon a weight loss plateau. Are your calories too high? Too low? What about your maconutrient breakdown? Maybe you could do better with fewer carbs, or maybe you aren’t getting the protein requirements that you need. While you can do a good job guesstimating once you’ve been doing this for a while, there is no substitute for tracking calories. The extra work will pay off in the long run.
Melty cheese, sweet carmalized onions, lashings of aioli: it’s often the little “extras” that make a burger memorable—and highly caloric. But while Weight Loss 101 will tell you to skip the sauce, keep it plain, and always-get-your-dressing-on-the-side, Weight Loss 102 brings good news: There are a few little “extras” that you can slather on your burgers (or any meal!) without compromising your diet. In fact, these 5 condiments can actually help you lose fat—from your belly first!
1. Hot Mustard
Get mustard with your lunch and feel the burn—literally! Scientists at England’s Oxford Polytechnic Institute found that by eating 1 tsp of mustard (about 5 calories) can boost the metabolism by up to 25% for several hours after eating. Mustard’s thermogenic properties come from allyl isothiocyanates, phytochemicals that give the condiment its characteristic flavor. Just be sure you’re heating things up with a pure and low-calorie variety. That means avoiding anything that’s neon yellow or loaded with sweeteners.
EAT THIS! Kosciusko Spicy Brown Mustard (tsp: 5 calories, 0 g sugar)
NOT THAT! Honeycup Uniquely Sharp Mustard (tsp: 20 calories, 2 g sugar)
2. Greek Yogurt 'Mayo'
Out of the container, it’s hard to differentiate plain Greek yogurt from sour cream. The two are so similar in taste and texture that you really have no excuse but to go Greek and save about 50 calories and 7 grams of fat per dollop. (A “dollop” is a technical term for 2 Tbs.) Try subbing half the mayo in recipes for the Greek stuff too. Opa!
EAT THIS! FAGE Total 0% (2 Tbs, or 1 oz: 16 calories, 0 g fat)
NOT THAT! El Mexicano Crema Mexicana Sour Cream (2 Tbs: 70 calories, 7 grams of fat)
It may seem counterintuitive to add fat to a meal if you’re trying to lose it, but eating a moderate portion of monounsaturated fat, like the kind found in avocado, can ward off the munchies and keep you full. A study published in Nutrition Journal found that participants who ate half a fresh avocado with lunch reported a 40% decreased desire to eat for hours afterwards. At only 60 calories, a 2 Tbs serving of guacamole (on top of eggs, salads, grilled meats, etc.) can provide the same satiety benefit with even more of a flavor-punch. Just be sure when buying store-bought guac that avocados actually made it into the box!
EAT IT! Wholly Guacamole Classic (2 Tbs: 60 calories, 5 grams fat)
BEAT IT! Mission Guacamole Flavored Dip (2 Tbs: 30 calories, 2 grams fat, and “less than 2% of avocado”)
4. Hot Sauce
Capsaicin, the compound that gives red chili pepper its powerful kick, has proven to suppress appetite and boost thermogenesis—the body’s ability to burn food as energy. A well-cited study by Canadian researchers found that when men at appetizers with hot sauce (0 calories per teaspoon) ate about 200 fewer calories at later meals than those that did not. But do be sure to check sodium counts first. Just a few shakes of some popular varieties can provide nearly 20% of your daily recommended limit.
EAT THIS! TABASCO Original Red Sauce (tsp: 0 calories, 35 mg sodium)
NOT THAT! Frank’s Red Hot Original (tsp: 0 calories, 190 mg sodium)
5. Apple Cider Vinegar
There’s developing research to suggest vinegar can aid weight loss by keeping our blood sugar steady. One study among pre-diabetics found the addition of 2 Tbs of apple cider vinegar with a high-carb breakfast reduced the subsequent rise in blood sugar by 34 percent. Another study found that consuming vinegar with a hunk of bread lowered insulin response and improved satiety compared to eating bread alone. Researchers attribute the results to acetic acid, the organic acid that gives all vinegars their sour taste. So have a side salad with that burger, dressed in a vinegar that’s at least 5% acid and devoid of added sugars or additives.
EAT THIS! Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (Tbs: 0 calories, 0 g sugar)
NOT THAT! Bertolli Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (Tbs: 25 calories, 5 g sugar)
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