The Latest From Top Fitness

What to Eat and When

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Losing weight is not easy. It takes a lot of time and dedication to make the necessary changes to your lifestyle. You need to get enough exercise, but you also need a healthy diet. In fact, diet may be even more important than exercise when it comes to shedding pounds. You need less processed food and simple sugars, and more lean protein and complex carbohydrates. Here is a breakdown of what and when to eat for maximum weight loss.

What to Eat

In order to slim down, you need to lose more calories than you take in. On average, one pound is a 3,500-calorie deficit, so you’d need to cut 500 calories a day in to lose a pound per week. Women need a net balance of about 1,600 calories per day and men need about 2,000 per day to lose weight. This can come through diet alone, or a combination of diet and exercise. A diet heavy in fruits, vegetables, complex carbs and lean protein will make it easier to shed pounds without stressing out at the gym.

Most healthy eating guidelines suggest that you eat between five and thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables every day, or between two and six cups. That doesn’t have to be cups of raw produce. They can be made into smoothies or cooked into recipes, as well.

The average adult should get ten to thirty percent of their daily calories from protein. When eating meat, choose lean options like chicken or fish. You can also get protein from eggs, nuts, and even certain grains.

Carbohydrates should make up at least fifty percent of your daily caloric intake. Carbs give you energy, but you need to make sure they’re complex, like whole grains, brown rice, and quinoa. You can also get carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables.

At the end of the day, it’s fairly simple. A diet full of wholesome, fresh, and natural food will promote weight loss and improve overall health.

When to Eat

While the best foods for weight loss don’t vary much, when to eat them will depend on your body, lifestyle and preference. There is no “one size fits all” approach to when to eat.

There are two schools of thought on how often to eat. In the US, we typically eat three meals a day—breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It works really well with most work schedules and is easier to plan for, but often leaves people snacking throughout the day. Additionally, waiting so long between meals can lead to overeating.

Others prefer eating four to five smaller meals a day. Eating more meals will help keep you full and prevent you from overindulging on snacks. Having so many meals per day requires a little more planning and creativity, but it’s much better for snackers. It also helps you sustain your energy throughout the day, since your blood sugar won’t drop as much.

No matter what approach to eating you take, you’ll see results as long as you eat wholesome foods and stick to a regular exercise routine.

Desk Stretches to Keep You Flexible

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When you’re stuck sitting at a desk all day, it’s easy to get lazy and complacent. Plus, it’s not great for your muscles. It shortens your hamstrings and makes your hips and glutes tight, which can lead to lower back pain. When you do get to the gym, you’re working to undo eight-plus hours of sitting, instead of focusing on working out and building muscle. Here are some stretches and exercises you can do at your desk to stay limber. It may feel awkward at first, but your body will thank you.

Stand Up

This is definitely the easiest one. To lessen the effects of sitting, spend some time standing up. Keep your feet hip width apart, engage your abs and keep your shoulders pulled back. Standing burns more calories than sitting and keeps your muscles flexible. You could even get a standing desk that raises your computer monitor to eye level.

Shoulder Stretch

This is an easy one you can do while sitting. Bring one arm across your chest, and hold your forearm or tricep to keep it in place while you stretch. Be sure not to grab your elbow, since it could cause injury. Hold for ten seconds and repeat with your other arm.

Tricep Stretch

Bring your arm up behind your head, bending your elbow. It’s like you’re trying to reach between your shoulder blades. Place your other hand on your elbow and gently stretch your upper arm.

Chest Stretch

This is best done standing up. Clasp your hands behind your back with your elbows straight, interlacing your fingers. Reach your hands down toward the floor to stretch your chest. If you have the space, you can lean over and lift your arms as far toward your head as you can for an extra shoulder stretch.

Toe Touch

You can do this standing up or sitting in a chair. To do the standing stretch, stand with feet hip distance apart, and reach down toward your toes. Try keeping you back flat for as long as you can for an added hamstring stretch. Sitting in your chair, straighten your legs out in front of you. Reach over with a flat back to touch your toes.

Side Stretch

Sitting upright in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, raise one arm into the air. Reach to the opposite side over your head while elongating the other side of your body. Prop your elbow on your thigh for support.

Neck Stretch

With your head facing forward, put your hand on top of your head and gently pull your head to one side to stretch your neck. You can reach the other hand down if you need more of a stretch. Repeat on the other side. Afterwards, slowly roll your head in a circle in one direction, then the other.

Knee-Pump Hip & Glute Stretch

Sitting upright in your chair, place one ankle on top of the opposite knee. Push down on your knee while slowly exhaling to stretch your knee, IT band and glutes. 

Is Crossfit Right For You?

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Crossfit has been gaining popularity around the world for the last few years. It seems that new boxes, or Crossfit gyms, are opening on almost every corner. Crossfit Games have become events to watch, and winners are getting a lot more recognition as serious athletes.

 

So what is Crossfit? We’ve addressed it here before. Crossfit is a fitness program that is specially designed to improve fitness and health. It focuses on a variety of movements at a high intensity. Movements can reflect exercises used in gymnastics, running, rowing, weightlifting and more. Crossfit workouts change daily with the Workout of the Day (WOD) from the gym. The constantly shifting style of Crossfit means your body never gets bored and never gets too accustomed to one particular workout style, so you can get stronger and fitter faster.

 

Crossfit touches on every aspect of working out—cardio, endurance, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination and balance. Anyone from a total novice to an elite athlete can benefit from doing Crossfit. Still, it’s a tough and intense workout that might not be quite right for you. Here are some things to consider to determine if Crossfit is right for you.

 

Workout Environment

Some people absolutely thrive in a group class environment. Having a teacher to guide them and lots of other people around them encourages them to do more and push themselves. That’s great! Others, however, prefer to work out alone. They’d rather go on a long solo run or swim laps for an hour than force themselves to get pumped to be in a room full of sweaty people. If you love group workouts, then Crossfit might be for you. It’s a collaborative atmosphere with everyone cheering each other on. Many people find their fellow Crossfitters become some of their closest friends. If not, it’s probably best to skip the box.

 

Your Competitiveness Levels

This goes along with the group vs. solo workout concept. If you’re highly competitive, then Crossfit could be a great way for you to push yourself further. You’ll see everyone else working out and their results, making you want to reach your goals, too. If you think fitness goals are personal and prefer to keep them to yourself, then a workout where achievements are highly publicized isn’t for you.

 

Your Goals

Crossfit won’t get you to be good at any one specific thing, unless what you’re looking to be good at is Crossfit. It is great for improving your overall fitness levels. Because it focuses on so many different aspects of fitness, it’s a great full-body workout. If you want to train for something specific, like a 5K race or triathlon, Crossfit may help improve your fitness, but it won’t help you reach those kinds of goals.

 

Importance of Credentials

There are lots of great Crossfit gyms and instructors out there, but like anything that rapidly gains popularity, there are some less than stellar ones, too. There aren’t really many credentials the owners of Crossfit gyms have to have. It’s fairly easy to get a personal training certificate online if you’re willing to pay for it. With such strenuous, high-powered exercises, it’s important to know what you’re doing. If you have a solid fitness background and know proper form and technique, you’ll be fine locating a quality gym. If not, be wary of people jumping on the bandwagon to make a quick buck.

Choosing the Right Gym for You

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Finding a new gym can be difficult and intimidating, especially if you’re not super experienced. There are a lot of things to consider. Here, we’ve broken down some of the most important aspects to help you find a gym that’s right for you.

Price

This is probably one of the most important aspects when picking a gym. You don’t want to completely break the bank on a fitness center with top-of-the-line equipment and an abundance of amenities, especially if you’re not going to use it all. Decide how much you can reasonably pay each month for a quality gym. Understand that some centers will be dirt cheap, but they still might not be a great deal. It’s worth paying a slightly higher price for a clean, well-stocked gym.

Location

The location of the gym is right there after price on the level of importance. If you have to go too far out of your way to get to the gym each day, chances are you won’t go often. Look for facilities that are near your house, office or on a route you take daily. When you’re driving by your gym every day, it’s hard to make excuses not to stop in for a quick workout.

Size

The size of the gym is important. Some people like large gyms with lots of other people and movement. They like the social aspect and may like making friends at the gym. Others want a small, quiet facility where they can go and work out in peace. Figure out what you want and need in a workout space.

You’ll also need to look at the physical size of the space. If this is a gym in a large, urban area that could attract a lot of people, be wary if it’s too small. That could lead to long wait times for machines and equipment.

Equipment

Like the size of the gym, the amount of equipment it has matters. Are there enough machines to support the number of people there? Will there be long wait times for your favorite pieces of equipment? You don’t want to waste too much time at the gym waiting in lines. You’ll also want to make sure that the equipment is quality and up-to-date. Old machines can be dangerous, as can cheaply made ones.

Offerings

Some people want their gym to offer more than just a few cardio machines and some weights. If you like taking group classes or want a personal trainer, look into what each gym offers. If classes are available, do they cost extra? Do you have to use one of the gym’s trainers, or can you bring someone else in to work with you? Choose the gym with the best selection of options for you.

Amenities

This is probably the least important part of choosing a new gym, but amenities can make or break you gym experience. A nice locker room, clean showers and space to safely store your things are crucial. Some gyms also have lap pools, hot tubs, saunas and smoothie bars. Many are starting to have spaces for childcare. Look for the amenities that you would use and that would make working out regularly easier and more appealing to you.

Many gyms allow you to use their facility for free for a day or even a week to try to convince you to join. Take full advantage of those offers and really try to figure out which one is the best fit. Plus, you’ll get a few weeks of gym access with no cost!

Best Winter Workouts

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Winter

The summer gets the reputation as the best time for outdoor workouts, there are great exercises you can do outside in the wintertime.

Ice Skating

Pull out those skates and go for a spin! Even a leisurely skate can burn up to 250 calories an hour, so there’s no need for professional speed. Bring the whole family and make a fun day activity out of it. You could also join an ice hockey league with your office or local recreation center. You won’t even feel guilty about the hot chocolate you’ll drink after.

Skiing

This is a popular wintertime activity for people around the country. Even those who don’t live anywhere near snowy mountains often take a trip to hit the slopes. You can get a great workout just doing some moderate downhill skiing. You could also take on a bigger endeavor with uphill cross-country skiing, which can burn up to 1,000 calories an hour.

Snowboarding

If you’re sick of skiing or just want a break from the crowds, try snowboarding. Instead of facing forward on two skis, you ride a board down the mountain like a surfer. It requires a different type of balance and a lot of core and leg strength.

Snowball Fight

It’s not exactly a sport or workout, but a classic snowball fight can burn a few calories. Making snowballs, throwing them at your opponents, and building forts all take a lot of energy. Plus, you’ll be ducking and dodging incoming snowballs.

Shoveling Snow

It’s not exercise, and it’s not exactly fun, but shoveling show is actually torches calories and is a great upper body workout. It can burn up to 300 calories, and you’ll feel it in your arms, chest and shoulders the next day.

If you just can’t bear to face the cold, then winter is the perfect time to try some new indoor workouts.

Try a New Class

If you’ve been dying to get into that pilates-yoga fusion, SoulCycle or kickboxing class, now is the perfect time to try it. You won’t feel guilty about not being outside enjoying the weather, and you’ll still get a great workout. Plus, so many people let their exercise routines slip this time of year, so there may be open spaces in a normally packed class.

Do A Home Video

Home workout videos have come a long way. You don’t need to don your leotard and leg warmers anymore. If you’re snowed in or just have zero motivation to leave the house, give a workout video a shot. You can buy a DVD, or rent or download any number of videos. Try yoga, kickboxing, Zumba and more from the comfort of your home. You won’t even have to be nervous about looking silly in front of strangers. If you don’t want to commit to buying a video, YouTube has plenty of great ones you can follow along with.

Do a TV Workout

Make sitting in front of the TV a productive workout time. You can do different sets of exercises, like squats and push ups, during commercial breaks. You can even make watching your favorite shows into a workout game. Look up the drinking game to your favorite show, but instead of taking a drink when certain things happen, do a set of exercises instead!