HEALTHY DIET

Snacks to Keep You Full and Energized

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Healthy people know that a good diet is the key to getting and staying in shape. Starving yourself with heavy restrictions may get you off to a fast start, but it’s not sustainable. It’s unhealthy and can make you very sick or lead to series injuries or illnesses. It can also make you feel sluggish and tired. Eating the proper amount each day will keep you full, healthy, and energized.

You should aim to eat three meals every day with two small snacks in between. Unfortunately, while many people may plan healthy meals, it’s way too easy to fall prey to unhealthy snacks. Bags of chips or doughnuts in the office are all to tempting, but they’ll leave you feeling unsatisfied and won’t give you the energy you need to make it to your next meal. Here are some healthy snack ideas to keep you energized all day.

Almonds

In general, nuts are full of healthy fats that your body needs to survive. Almonds are packed with filling protein as well as other nutrients like potassium, calcium and magnesium. Just be sure to watch your portion size, since the high fat content means that they are also high in calories.

Guacamole

Who doesn’t love guacamole? Skip the chips, though, and try one of these healthier options. You can replace a veggie dip or ranch dressing with guacamole for double the vegetables and lots of nutrients. In the mornings, you can spread guacamole on a piece of whole-wheat toast. 

Fruit and Cheese

The warmer weather means more access to fresh product, including delicious fruits. Fruit and cheese is a healthy snack that can feel indulgent from the sweet fruit and creamy, salty cheese. However, fruit provides fiber and vitamins, while cheese has protein and calcium. Be sure you eat more fruit than cheese to limit the calorie count. Try strawberries, which are in season in many parts of the country in the spring. Melons have a high water content, which will help hydrate you, as well.

Peanut Butter & Banana on a Rice Cake

This is a great snack to eat before a workout. Choose a brown rice cake for complex carbohydrates to give you energy. Bananas contain potassium that will keep muscle cramps at bay while the peanut butter has protein that will help you feel full and prevent your energy levels from crashing after an hour.

Eggs

Eggs are a great protein-rich food. They contain all the essential amino acids that your body needs to get by eating foods. Protein keeps you full and helps you build muscle. You can put eggs on whole-wheat toast, scramble them, make an omelet, mix them with vegetables, make them into a burrito, fry them, or hard boil them for a portable snack. 

Water

Okay, this one isn’t a snack, but it will help you feel more energized. A lot of times when you feel hungry, you’re actually feeling thirsty. Dehydration can make you feel sluggish and decrease your metabolism. Drink water consistently throughout the day to keep your energy up without any caffeine. You can add fruit and herbs like lemon, cucumber, strawberry, basil or mint for extra flavor.

How Protein Helps You Build Muscle

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 When it comes to getting in shape and staying healthy, diet is just as important as exercise (if not more). A nutrient-rich diet will give you the energy you need to work out and get on with the rest of your day. Eating a balanced diet will help you lose weight. What you eat is also important if you’re looking to build muscle. In particular, eating protein will help you gain strength and build muscle mass.

How It Works

Simply eating more protein doesn’t mean you’ll gain muscle mass. You also need to exercise and weight train, as well as eat a nutritious and balanced diet with fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates.

Protein is made up of amino acids, which aid and cause many of the reactions and processes in your body. When you exercise and lift weights, you create tiny micro tears in your muscles. When you eat protein, your body breaks it down and uses those amino acids to repair the tears. They surround and fill the tear, and make it bigger and stronger.

How Much Protein You Need

You want to make sure you’re eating the right amount of protein. Too little, and your body could take longer to build muscle. Eat too much and you could become dehydrated increase your risk of kidney stone, and end up gaining weight from fat, not muscle. Like anything, you need to find a balance and eat the right amount for you.

An average recommendation for someone who exercises regularly is .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. That means that for 150 lb. person, they should be eating about 55 grams of protein per day. Athletes and people who work out a lot should eat even more.

How much protein you specifically need to eat every day will depend on your gender, current weight, height, and how much you work out. Women tend to need less than men. Hormone levels and body composition also play a role in how much you’ll need to bulk up.

If you really want to get it right, consult with a registered dietician or nutritionist to help you figure it out.

Protein-Rich Snacks

You can get protein from shakes, bars and supplements, but eating whole foods with naturally occurring nutrients is always going to be the best thing for your body. Here are some delicious ideas for protein rich snacks.

Eggs

Eggs are great to eat any time of day, not just for breakfast. They contain all the essential amino acids your body needs to get through your diet.

Rice Cake and Peanut Butter

This is a great pre-workout snack. The rice cake will give you energy while the peanut butter will keep you full and provide protein.

Greek Yogurt and a Banana

Greek yogurt has more protein than normal yogurt thanks to the way it’s strained. Try a plain yogurt with a banana for some sweetness and potassium. Add honey if you need to cut the tartness of the yogurt more.

In addition to helping you build muscle, protein keeps you feeling full longer so you’re less likely to snack or cave in to unhealthy temptations. It also helps your body digest sugar more slowly and regulate the release of insulin over a longer period of time, giving you more lasting energy and preventing a big crash.

Easy Ways to Cut Sugar from Your Diet  

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blog-image-topfitness-1We all know that too much sugar isn’t good for you, especially the processed kind. It can lead to weight gain, make your energy levels inconsistent, cause breakouts, and increases your risk of things like heart disease and diabetes. Still, most Americans eat way too much sugar on a daily basis. For a healthy diet, men should consume at most 37.5 grams or nine teaspoons of sugar per day. Women should eat no more than 25 grams or six teaspoons. However, some studies have shown that the average American eats 76 grams of sugar per day, or the equivalent of 19 teaspoons. Thankfully, there are relatively easy ways to cut back on sugar.

Read Labels

Companies sneak so much sugar into products you wouldn’t expect. Jarred tomato sauce is a big culprit of added sugar, as is peanut butter. Always check how many grams of sugar per serving are in all your processed food. You should also read the ingredients list. Some foods have naturally occurring sugars, but if you see sugar (by any name—glucose, dextrose, sucrose, maltose and high-fructose corn syrup) on the list of ingredients, you know it contains added sugar.

Eat Real Food

Sugar occurs naturally in a lot of the food you eat, but those sugars aren’t necessarily bad for you. Your body needs them to function properly. There also isn’t a ton of sugar in them anyway. The more real food you eat, the less likely to are to eat sugar. Instead of reaching for boxed snacks in the afternoon, grab an apple, a few almonds or some carrot sticks.

Don’t Drink Your Sugar

We don’t necessarily thinking about the contents of our beverages the way we think about food. It’s easy over the course of a day to drink a ton of sugar. Sodas, fancy coffeehouse drinks and alcoholic beverages all contain sugar. Skip the sugar in your morning coffee and swap out soda for tea or sparkling fruit water. At happy hour, stick to beer, straight liquor or even a little bit of wine—just no mixers.

Get Enough Sleep

When you’re sleep deprived, you’re less likely to make wise decisions when it comes to what you eat and drink. You reach for quick carbs and sugars when you’re tired to give you a boost of energy, but it doesn’t last long. Your blood sugar drops and you eventually crash. You then reach for even more sugar, turning it into a cycle.

Eat More Often

You are much more likely to reach for sugary foods when your blood sugar is low and you feel ravenous. Eating consistently throughout the day can help keep your blood sugar and energy levels steady so you’re not as likely to give in to cravings. Just remember to stick to healthy snacks that are mostly whole foods. 

Go Cold Turkey

If you’ve tried the easy ways and still have trouble dealing with sugar cravings, you may want to consider quitting it altogether, at least for a little while. Eliminating processed sugar completely is tough, but after a while you’ll stop craving sweets. It might even make natural sugars in fruit and dairy taste even sweeter!

How to Successfully (and Permanently) Change Your Lifestyle

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Do you want to be a healthy person?

Someone who is in shape, without being on a diet or some crazy routine all of the time?

Do you want to make fitness a permanent part of your lifestyle?

Most people do. Creating a lifestyle that fitness fits into is the key to long term success.

You cannot be on a diet forever – but you can generally default to eating healthy foods. You can make working out a few times a week a habit that you enjoy and look forward to.

How do you get there?

How do you get over the hump and go from a fitness routine being something you are consciously doing, to part of who you are?

The key is to change your habits. To get to the stage where you are doing the things you need to do, without thinking about it.

No motivation or accountability is required – you just do it.

If you look at the four stages of learning, many of you will be yo-yoing between conscious competence (making yourself do the right things, following a diet, getting yourself motivated) and conscious incompetence (knowing what you should be doing, but giving up, ‘falling off the wagon’ and not maintaining it).

For long term success we need to get to the fourth stage, unconscious competence.

At this stage, doing the right thing is habitual. We do it, without having to think about it or make any particular effort. It is just part of who we are.

So how do you reach the stage of unconscious competence?

You Are Your Habits

Who you are can be defined as the actions and behaviors that you engage in. You are what you do.

When you consider that the majority of what we do is habitual and not something we consciously think about, you can say that we are our habits.

We get up, roll out of the same side of bed, eat the same breakfast, drive the same route to the office, etc.

We all have habits that define our lives, without us thinking about what we are doing.

What we want, is for fitness to become part of our habitual lives. We want to habitually go to the gym and workout. To achieve that we might habitually pack our gym bag the night before, habitually drive a different route home (via the gym) etc.

The way to create permanent change is to change our habits. To maximize our chances of being successful we should aim to change one habit at a time.

Trying to overhaul everything is overwhelming and most people fail in their fitness goals because what they are trying to do is too far away from what they are normally doing. They’re trying to change far too many habits at once.

Willpower and desire will work for a while, but not forever. If you’re trying to change too many things it will become overwhelming and you will never enjoy it.

The fact is, our habits are our comfort zone. It’s important that we are getting out of our comfort zone to make progress, but not so far out of it that we are constantly uncomfortable. That is a recipe for giving up and going right back to our old habits that keep us firmly inside our comfort zone.

Playing Dominos

Certain habits are more important to change than others. Certain habits are a trigger that lead to multiple other actions. If you can change these base habits, it can set off a cascade of other behaviors that we want to create.

For example, changing the food you put on a grocery list is more effective than making a decision every time you are going to eat about whether you should eat healthy or not.

If you only buy healthy foods in the first place, you don’t have much option.

This will conserve your willpower and avoid the temptation of junk food all together. Much easier to maintain than making a decision 3-4 times per day, every day, about what to eat.

When we’re stressed, tired, rushed, etc. it’s all too easy to fall back into the wrong decision in the moment.

By changing our grocery list and only buying healthy foods, we have completely eliminated that problem with one simple habit.

This is how you should approach all of the habits and behaviors you wish to change. Peel it back to the base habit that underpins everything which follows.

Changing this one thing can create a domino effect that leads to changing many other things which follow.

This is the secret to taking small, simple actions which create big changes. It is leveraging the odds in your favor.

This is the secret to successfully changing your lifestyle.

Do it in little steps; making changes to the few key habits that have a trickle down effect on everything else. Trying to change too many things at once will always lead to overwhelm, burnout and going right back to your old habits.

Anti-Resolutions: 6 Things to Stop Doing in 2017

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New Years Resolutions FitnessAs it’s January and people like to start and stop new habits for their New Year’s resolutions, I thought I would list a few bad fitness habits that we should all stop doing.

These are things that will hinder your results, leave you frustrated, or just flat out annoy everyone around you.

1. Stop comparing yourself to your favorite Instagram Selfie Guru

Here’s some home truths that will hopefully make you feel a bit better about your current physique.

– These people are professionals. It is literally their job to go to the gym and be in shape. They don’t work long hours in stressful offices, have screaming kids waking them up, or attend dinner parties full of rich food.

– Half of the girls have had plastic surgery and a lot of the guys are on steroids. No amount of training or discipline will catch up to that.

– They’re probably not happy. People in the fitness industry are some of the most insecure people around. When you define yourself and your value solely on your body, it is very easy to feel bad when you’re a bit bloated, your muscles look flat, or that cute chick in the gym didn’t check your biceps out.

– This amazing lifestyle and perfect photo? They got dressed up and did their makeup, simply to take the photo. They can’t actually afford to be there. They took 300 photos and scuttled home to choose the best one to see the light of day on Instagram.

2. Stop doing cardio before lifting

You do not ‘burn fat and then tone up’. That is not a thing. You burn fat by manipulating your metabolism. The best way to do this? Lift weights.

Doing cardio is just wasting energy (physical and mental) that will detract from your proper workout. Do cardio after lifting, or separately.

3. Stop eating dry chicken and soggy broccoli

You can get in shape without being this strict. In fact, you can get in shape without being utterly miserable at all!

You should eat clean, but there’s clean and then there is just stupid. Frankly, being too strict and one-dimensional isn’t healthy anyway. You’re missing out variety in your diet to get a full complement of nutrients.

Not to mention there is a 100% chance that you will binge eat on the weekend if you’re too strict during the week. You know this happens, and you know that you eat about 5000 calories in 2 hours on a Saturday night. Why not just split an extra 2000 calories over the week, enjoy your food a little, and not have the binge?

Bonus! You’re much nicer to be around when you will eat normal food. You can eat with family and friends, go to a restaurant or grab lunch on the go without flipping out. Trust me, I’ve fallen into this trap. People like you more when you have some degree of normality to your eating habits.

4. Stop leaving your weights all over the floor

If everyone put all of their weights away, they would all be 3.6% lower body fat from exerting all that additional energy.

Seriously, it’s not hard to put your weights back. I know it frustrates you when you can’t find the second of a pair of dumbbells because it’s scattered on the floor somewhere in a far flung corner of the gym. Why do that to other people?

It’s disrespectful to the gym and everyone else who uses it. You will always find that the biggest, strongest, most experienced guys are respectful of their surroundings and keep the place tidy. Maybe there’s a lesson there?

5. Stop looking for validation on social media

Here’s a novel concept. You can go to the gym…without checking in to tell everyone on social media that you are going to the gym.

I promise you, it still works. Your body doesn’t revolt at lack of social validation and refuse to grow fitter.

Really, why are you going to the gym? I’m sure you started because you want to make some internal changes to your body, your mindset and the way you perceive yourself. Don’t lose sight of that and just go through the motions to be someone who ‘works out’ but never gets anywhere because it’s just for show.

Real validation will come naturally, when you’re in great shape. People can’t help but look at you, give you respect and desire you. You don’t need to tell everyone you go to the gym. It is immediately obvious, just by looking at you.

6. Stop making excuses

You can make excuses or you can make progress. Choose one.

You must play the cards that you are dealt and make the best of the situation.

If you’re busy, someone else is busier than you and still putting work in at the gym.

If you’re naturally skinny/fat and fighting your genetics, someone else is genetically worse off than you and still putting work in at the gym.

If you’re intimidated, someone else is more intimidated and still putting work in at the gym.

Etc.

Realign with why you want to workout in the first place and find a way to make it work. it might not be perfect. Results might be slow and you might have to work twice as hard as the next person for the same outcome. So what? You can do the work and achieve something, or you can stay exactly where you are right now. Which do you choose?

I don’t usually do negative-oriented posts, so I thought I would mix it up with a little rant. These are some pet-peeves of mine, some as a fitness professional and some just as an avid gym user.

I get to experience gym culture on both sides – being and interacting with people who love the gym and see it as a core part of their identity, and also helping people who don’t like the gym, are unhappy with their body and desperately want to change it. I can empathize with each.

If everyone stopped doing these 6 things, I think we would all be a lot better off.

4 Truths About Fitness You Don’t Want to Hear

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We all wish getting in shape was easy, simple and fun at every stage.

Unfortunately, that is unlikely to be the case. We’re going to look at 4 truths about fitness that people do not want to hear – but need to.

You need to know the reality of the situation, to know what you are trying to do and what it’s going to take. This empowers you. It gives you control of your situation.

Control to direct the outcomes of your life.

Hiding away from reality might feel better at the time, but it is sabotaging your long term happiness.

A little sacrifice now will create the life that you want in the future.

Here’s the 4 truths about fitness you don’t want to hear, but need to embrace to successfully achieve the body you dream of.

1. It takes time

Rome was not built in a day, as they say.

While you can make significant changes to your body quickly, if you are fully committed and dedicated, the reality is that your body reflects your long term behaviour.

You don’t get fat in 2 weeks, and nor do you get in shape in 2 weeks.

If you’ve been eating fattening foods, not exercising, not sleeping properly and highly stressed for years or even decades, you cannot expect to undo all of that in days or weeks.

It will take at least months.

You will make some progress quickly, but to fully reverse, it is going to take time.

The way that you look, feel and perform is reflective of your long term behaviours. You need to make a long term commitment to eating right, exercising, sleeping and managing stress if you want to optimize your health and the way you look.

We all want fast results, and it is possible to see changes quickly – there is nothing wrong with that. Getting fast results is not the same as only being committed for the short term. If you can implement a plan that gets you quick results and sustain it then go ahead.

Results in the short term can act as positive reference and motivation to keep going. There is nothing as encouraging as seeing results.

2.  There’s no magic pill or routine

Most people would admit this when asked. You know that if your friend was asking for advice, you would tell them to put in the time, stick with it and do the work.

Yet, we still want to believe that we are different. We have an edge and that there is a program, supplement, food or routine out there that will give us fast and easy results for little effort.

The marketing of many supplements, and fad diets is responsible for this, where they promise the world when you take this magical (expensive) pill, powder or shake. The reality is these plans might give you some short term results, but it is not sustainable.

To really see changes, you must commit to doing the work over a long period of time.

Become a master of the basics and you will succeed. Do not fall into the trap of the latest fad diet/exercise/supplement, thinking that this is the key to achieving more.

Keep things simple, eat healthy, move and commit to it for an extended period of time if you want to see results.

It’s against human nature to do this – why would anyone want to work hard to achieve something slowly when we could get it quickly for little effort – this is what the scammy marketers prey on. In the real world, the tortoise always beats the hare. You just have to make that commitment and believe in the process.

3.  If you don’t find a way to enjoy it, you will likely fail

It’s much easier to believe in the process and commit over the long term if you enjoy what you are doing.

Sure, you can force yourself to do things you don’t like for a period of time, especially when you are highly motivated, but you cannot do this forever.

Now, if you are not someone who currently enjoys working out or eating healthy, it can seem impossible to find a way to enjoy it. It’s just not who you are, right?

People change, and given time, you will change.

They key is to be looking for ways to enjoy it. This comes a lot from the way you talk to yourself. If you focus on how much you hate doing it, your mind will never open to the possibility of enjoying it.

If you focus on the foods you are not eating, you will simply miss them more. If you focus on all of the tasty foods you are eating, you will find that you enjoy your diet a lot more.

The same goes for exercise. Find something that you enjoy doing. If you don’t like the gym, try playing tennis or rock climbing. Whatever you think you might enjoy.

Think about it, nobody has to force you to do something that you like doing. You don’t need to build up willpower and drag yourself out of the door. You want to do it.

4.  The thing you hate the most is what you most need to do

This is pretty much true across any area of your life. We all gravitate to our strengths and avoid our weaknesses. The human ego likes being good at things, and dislikes being bad at things. We will always feed our own bias and focus on the things we are already good at.

This might mean you’re a great endurance runner, but have no strength or muscle mass. The temptation is to keep running – stay in the field in which we excel – rather than be humbled in the weights room.

It might mean you love going to the gym, and enjoy working out, but hate watching what you eat. So you focus on training, doing more, working harder and completely neglect the diet.

In both of these cases, the thing that holds the biggest benefit is the thing you do not want to do.

Eeking out an extra 2% in what we are good at will not move the needle as much as improving from 0-20% on something we are bad at. Yet the latter is easier to achieve.

This doesn’t mean you have to live in misery doing things you hate 24/7.  Just take a step back and honestly assess your strengths and weaknesses. Make a commitment to work on tackling some of the weaknesses until they are no longer a weakness. Your overall results will skyrocket.

Conclusion

The truth can be a bitter pill to swallow, but the sooner we start looking objectively at reality, and stop wishing or hoping for an alternative, the sooner we start changing our lives. 

Testosterone & How Men Age

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testosterone

Testosterone, testosterone, testosterone! Start taking anabolic hormones, eat more oysters, and sacrifice a goat to the gods of manliness!

Just kidding…Testosterone has buried itself deep into contemporary culture as the number one determinant of manhood, and while yes, it is an important hormone for male health, let’s not get carried away. Testosterone declines as men age, the level of which is totally dependent on how healthy one’s lifestyle is. Like our previous article on female hormone changes after the age of 40, hormone changes are natural and can be mild to the point of being inconsequential if you treat your body right. First, let’s take a look to what men experience as they pass 40:

Weight gain

Decline in muscle mass

Higher likelihood of depression

Higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis and prostate cancer.

Reduced libido

Reduced sexual potency

All of these symptoms can be attributed to lower T levels and proportionately higher cortisol or estrogen levels. However, let’s dispel one of the bigger testosterone myths, and that is unless you’re above the age of 65, aging has little effect on T production. Factors such as obesity, heart disease and glucose intolerance are what really impact testosterone levels negatively, but it’s because men are more likely to experience these diseases later in life that testosterone on average decreases with age. T production is also directly correlated with body weight since extra adipose tissue (fat) can produce estrogen itself.

The rise of so-called “diseases of affluence” like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, etc. in the past few decades has dramatically affected serum testosterone levels across society as a whole.  50 year-old men only a few generations ago had higher testosterone levels than 50 year-old men do today. So what can you do to avoid this fate? Testosterone replacement therapy is valid option, but supplementing with hormones will make your body dependent on them. Should you ever need to stop taking hormones the side-effects can be nightmarish, including depression, insomnia, impotence, gynecomastia, (male breasts) etc.

When you take synthetic testosterone, your body naturally increases estrogen levels to maintain a hormonal balance. When you stop taking synthetic testosterone there is a considerable lapse before your body starts naturally producing it again. If you prefer to avoid all of this together, you can simply

  • Eat:
    • Protein such as fish, free-range chicken, turkey, and grass-fed beef
    • Healthy fats, (avocado, coconut oil, almonds, and grass-fed butter)
    • Lots of veggies, particularly cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.
  • Exercise
    • Moderate to easy exercise 4-5 times a week
    • High-intensity exercises like sprinting or compound lifting (squats, deadlifts, bench press, etc.) 1-2 times a week.
  • Sleep…a lot:
    • Testosterone is physically released during REM sleep so if you don’t rest you lose.
    • Growth Hormone (GH) is also produced when you sleep and (same with testosterone)can be increased by sleeping in a cold environment. (Around 68 F degrees in your bedroom)
  • Supplement:
    • Vitamin D positively correlates with testosterone in men, meaning more vitamin D in your system = more testosterone.
    • Zinc supplementation can also improve testosterone levels but only to a degree. Low zinc typically correlates with low testosterone, however regular supplementation will not necessarily boost your T levels above normal.

Another factor is cortisol levels (the stress hormone). As people age their cortisol levels increase, making it harder to effectively deal with stress. Cortisol is also negatively correlated with testosterone as it reduces and antagonizes free testosterone in the body. Elevated cortisol levels have even been shown to inhibit erections! The easiest ways to avoid excess cortisol is to exercise (but do not over-train), get plenty of sleep, have plenty of sex, and learn how to meditate.

The human body is adaptive, and just because you spent the last 10 years eating cheeseburgers and chugging beers does not mean you’re a lost cause. Aging can be rewarding if you take the time to let it be. Eat, sleep, exercise right, and you won’t have to worry about sexual dysfunction, gynecomastia, or beer-belly syndrome.

What to Eat and When

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what-to-eat-and-when

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.

Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain

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Weight Gain

The holidays are quickly approaching, and with them typically come some added pounds. From munching on leftover Halloween candy to a Thanksgiving feast to too many holiday cookies, it’s way too easy to put on extra weight this time of year. Unusual schedules and travel add another level of complication. Here are some tips for maintaining your weight over the holidays.

Eat Before You Go

If you’re going to a holiday party where you know there will be lots of tempting snacks and treats, eat a small meal before you go. Load up on vegetables and lean protein at home, and then you can enjoy the party food in moderation without worrying about going overboard.

Stick to a Workout Schedule

Don’t let days off from work, holiday shopping, and visiting family throw you off your normal routine. Try to stick to your normal workout schedule as closely as possible. If you know you absolutely won’t be able to follow it, adjust it to something more manageable. Whatever you do, don’t let exercise completely slip by you. Set a goal to help keep you on track. Sign up for a New Year’s or Christmas race to keep yourself motivated.

Be Selective

There is an abundance of unhealthy treats and snacks this time of year. We know it’s not realistic to avoid them altogether. Instead of mindlessly munching on mediocre candies, think ahead about the best desserts of the season and limit yourself to those. If your mom makes an amazing pie at Thanksgiving, hold out for a slice of that. If you have a traditional Christmas cookie you can’t go without, avoid the others available and just eat your favorites. Plus, it will make the desserts you do choose to eat seem more special and delicious.

Limit Booze

Calories from alcohol add up quickly, but we don’t always think about the calories we drink. Creamy eggnog and spiked hot chocolate taste good, but they can wreak havoc on a diet. Too much alcohol can also lower your inhibitions and make you crave junk food. Plus, it dehydrates you, leaving you feeling sluggish and sick the next day if you have too much. Drink a glass of water between every alcoholic beverage to help you stay hydrated and limit the amount of alcohol you consume. Water also helps you feel full so you’re less likely to overeat.

Eat Mindfully

Eating in front of the TV leads most people to consume way more calories than they mean to. When you’re distracted by a movie or football game, you’re not necessarily thinking about that third piece of pizza. Plus, commercials for Doritos and M&Ms can make you crave chips or candy you don’t need. Turn off the television and sit down with food on a plate. Chew slowly and don’t rush through meals. You’ll probably end up eating less while enjoying your food more.

De-Stress

The holidays are a stressful time for a lot of people. As fun as they can be, they’re also full of family gatherings, lots of extra spending, and events every weekend. Stress can lead to weight gain, so take time to care for yourself. Get enough sleep, meditate, exercise, read a book, do some yoga. Anything that makes you feel more relaxed so you’re not turning to cookies for comfort.

Why Sleep Is Important for Weight Loss

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Sleep

When you are trying to lose weight, there are certain things you know you should do. You give up on sugar and junk foods in favor of eating more vegetables, lean protein and complex carbohydrates. You hit the gym regularly and try to move as much as possible throughout the day. What you may not realize, though, is that getting enough sleep is a very important part of losing weight.

The amount of sleep you get directly affects your diet. People who are sleep deprived tend to weigh more and have more trouble losing weight than those who get adequate rest, even when they follow the same diet. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body over produces the hunger causing hormones leptin and ghrelin. You could be more susceptible to overeating, while at the same time being less satisfied afterward.

People who consistently get less than six hours of sleep also show glucose and insulin levels and characteristics similar to diabetics, even if they are otherwise very healthy. Your fat cells lose their ability to properly use insulin. As your body becomes more resistant to insulin, it will produce more and more in order to function. This leads to fat buildup and could eventually lead to diseases like diabetes.

Not getting enough sleep also makes your more stressed out, which in turn makes it more difficult for you to control your appetite. A sleep-deprived body will produce more of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol triggers the reward center in your brain and makes you crave food. The combination of more cortisol and more ghrelin mean that you’ll need to eat more food than you normally would in order to feel satisfied.

Lack of sleep can also lead you to crave more sugary or salty foods and make you less likely to be able to say no to unhealthy treats. Sleeping helps refresh your mind and your decision-making processes. Exhaustion reduces your mental clarity and judgment, so you’re more likely to reach for that donut in the office when you’d normally have a piece of fruit.

Not getting enough rest can also severely impact your time at the gym. Your body and muscles need time to repair while you sleep so you can push yourself the next day. You produces the most growth hormone while you’re sleeping, which helps burn fat as well as repair and build muscles so you can increase strength and lose weight. Not to mention, if you’re exhausted, you’re much more likely to skip the gym. Even if you do make it out, you won’t have the energy to train to the best of your ability. A decent night’s sleep will help keep you energized and motivated through your workout.

It can be difficult to get enough sleep every night. Between work, family, responsibilities, planning and cooking healthy meals and consistent exercise, sleep can get put on the backburner. But if you really want to be healthy and lose weight, make your nightly shuteye a priority.