Weight Loss and Dieting
Many people decide to combine diet and exercise to drop a few pounds. But it's important to talk with your doctor to determine the right routine for you. For example, the caloric intake of a 25 year-old female marathoner will be vastly different than that of a 60 year-old male trying to lose some weight. Still, there are some diets that are so "out there" that most everyone agrees that they are ineffective or – even worse – unsafe. From the bizarre, gross and downright unhealthy, here are the worst dieting fads that no one should ever try:
- The soup diet: This usually involves eating a normal breakfast and then chicken or cabbage soup for the rest of the day. But this diet is actually harmful – not only is soup often high in sodium, which is very unhealthy for the heart, it's also empty of necessary vitamins and nutrients.
- The vinegar diet: Supposedly, poet Lord Byron drank vinegar and water daily to "cleanse" his body, which caused vomiting and diarrhea. He also added raw egg to his tea every morning, and encouraged others to try his diet. It's safe to say this master of words should have stuck to what he knew best.
- Grapefruit juice diet: The plan for the grapefruit diet is to eat whatever you want as far as fats and proteins go, but to avoid carbohydrates and only eat around 800 calories per day. You're also supposed to drink 64 ounces of grapefruit juice, which supposedly combines with protein to increase your body's fat-burning capabilities. This diet emerged in the 1930s and was made popular again in the 1970s when it was referred to as the Hollywood Diet. Needless to say, science has proved that it doesn't work and, in fact, isn't healthy.
- Baby food diet: People who try this diet – eating up to 14 jars of baby food a day, and then possibly eating a real adult dinner – are banking on the lower amounts of fat, sugar and calories in baby food compared with adult meals. However, baby food is formulated for babies – though you can lose weight on diet, you wouldn't be doing it in a healthy way because it doesn't have the nutrients that adults need.
- The cotton ball diet: This one is extremely dangerous. There have been rumors that different models have tried eating cotton balls because they're full of fiber and also filling so you don't feel hungry. However, cotton isn't meant to be consumed by people. In fact, eating cotton balls can give you serious digestive issues that require surgery.
- Sleeping Beauty diet: The idea behind this diet is that you can burn plenty of calories while sleeping – and you won't be eating. People who tried it out used to take a sedative and sleep for a few days at a time, but it's obvious that this isn't safe nor is it healthy in anyway. There are rumors that Elvis Presley did this after he gained a lot of weight in the 1970s.
- Tapeworm diet: This one is downright scary. Tapeworms are parasitic flatworms that can thrive in the intestine. Though they typically don't cause too many symptoms, they can cause diarrhea, anemia and potentially even seizures. This diet became a thing in the 1920s and horse jockeys were said to have ingested tapeworm larva to stay thin.
Needless to say, the above diet plans are unhealthy, unsafe and not worth any risks you'd take to lose the weight. It's a better idea to see a doctor and trainer to help you come up with an exercise and diet plan that is right for you.
When trying to lose fat and build muscle, many people opt for low-carb diets. If you're thinking about decreasing your carb intake, here's the scoop on carbohydrates and how you can do it healthfully:
What are carbohydrates?
There are three macronutrients in the food we eat – protein, carbohydrates and fat. Carbohydrates come from plant-based foods – starchy vegetables, fruit, cereal and bread – while most of the foods ingested from animals have less carbohydrates and more protein. Carbs are the main source of energy for our bodies, but they also are important in storing energy from food, as most of the time, we eat more food than our bodies need to use immediately. Often, the body stores the extra energy as fat.
Carbohydrates raise blood sugar levels because they're converted to the simple sugar glucose. This is not a bad thing, but eating too many carbs can cause the pancreas to produce excessive insulin. This directs the body to store fat and prevents it from burning already stored fat. So when people consistently overeat carbs, they gain weight and also have low energy levels.
How to cut down on the carbs
If you're trying a low-carb diet, you'll be restricting your intake of grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and even milk, among other things. Low-carb diets typically restrict calories from carbohydrates to between 50 and 150 grams per day. On the contrary, a typical diet according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans includes between 225 and 325 grams per day, which is between 45 and 65 percent of one's caloric intake.
Starting a new diet can be difficult, and not all diets work for everyone. It's often best to start slowly. Here are some tips for when you give it a go:
- Cut out "hidden" carbs, including sports drinks, juices with added sugar, sauces and dips. We often don't think about these things, but they have added, unnecessary carbohydratess.
- Make an extra serving of vegetables for dinner and cut out high carb, less healthy parts of the meal like pasta.
- Instead of eating a pastry or toast and jam for breakfast, try a hard-boiled egg or a protein meal replacement shake. One good option for vegans, vegetarians and carnivores is the VeganSmart All-In-One Nutritional Shake, which comes in chocolate, vanilla or chai. This is a great option because it's low in carbs with only about 14 grams per serving, but high in fiber.
It's always best to talk with your doctor before starting a new diet. If you restrict your carbs too much, it's not healthy. Too few carbohydrates can lead to ketosis – the body no longer has sufficient glucose to keep the brain and muscles working properly. Fat is burned for energy, but large numbers of ketones can enter the bloodstream, which can cause confusion, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, nausea and even death.
Consuming too few carbs can also lead to constipation due to lack of fiber, and feeling lethargic because they are the cells' main energy source.
If you're worried about these things, you can also switch to a moderate carb diet. Rather than eating simple, refined foods that contain little fiber and cause a spike in blood sugar – like white rice, pasta, cereals and sugary foods – opt for unrefined carbs. These "good" carbohydrates are complex, meaning they're broken down slowly and don't cause a spike in blood sugar. They're also a good source of fiber. Some great unrefined carbs are anything with whole grains, vegetables, fruit, brown rice and bulgar wheat.
You may think that you have your fitness routine down to a science, but gym-goers of all experience levels and body types can probably do more to make the most out of every minute spent at the gym. If you're thinking about updating your workout, try one – or all – of these seven tips!
1. Start your routine with something you like
If you find that your workouts are getting a little stale, try beginning your fitness routine with the exercise you enjoy the most. This will help you get your heart rate pumping while also getting you psyched up for the workout ahead.
2. Eat before you go
While you don't want to wolf down a steak before hitting the treadmill, eating a small meal or light snack before the gym can help boost your metabolism and keep you from fading during your routine. Try an antioxidant-rich snack like blueberries, a yogurt packed with probiotics or a shake made with a total soy meal replacement.
3. Use your upper body during cardio
Using a treadmill or stationary bike to improve heart and lung endurance is a great way to stay fit, but chances are you're ignoring your upper body during these workouts. Using a full-body elliptical machine that works on arms as well as legs can help you burn more calories while improving your overall stamina.
4. Get a little competitive
Notice someone on the treadmill near you who's really giving it their all? Use their motivation to work a little harder! Friendly competition can give you the boost you need to spend a few extra minutes on the machine or convince you to push yourself to run just a little faster. However, be sure that you don't do anything that's outside of your limits.
5. Try eccentric exercises
It's tempting to focus solely on improving muscles like your abs, but many abdominal workouts shorten and "crunch" those muscles. Mixing in movements that lengthen your spine and strengthen back muscles can help you achieve all-over body fitness.
6. Take advantage of unilateral training
Most of the time, when you're using a leg press or extension machine you're using both of your legs at the same time. While there's nothing wrong with that, most of us tend to favor one leg over the other, even when using both at once. Try doing a full set with your weaker leg – for most people, this is their left – and then doing a full set with your stronger leg. You'll immediately notice that one side completes the exercise with greater ease. Doing this can also help improve balance!
7. Invest in a personal trainer
Maybe you haven't achieved the arm tone you wanted, or maybe your runs are still leaving you feeling exhausted after five minutes. If it seems like your workout isn't having the effects you were hoping for, you may want to consider hiring a personal trainer who can help you reach your fitness goals. Sound too expensive? Try splitting a session with a friend or looking into group fitness programs.
When it comes to getting in shape and improving your overall fitness, just finding the time and motivation to get yourself to the gym can be half the battle. Unfortunately, once you're at the gym there are several common mistakes that can derail even the most dedicated fitness fans during their workouts. Watch out for these 10 errors that can hinder your efforts.
1. Socializing too much
Having a buddy can be a great way to make sure you get to the gym regularly. However, working out with a friend can also be a distraction. It's fine to socialize, but try to make sure that your trips to the gym actually involve some focus on fitness!
2. Lifting weights that are too heavy
Don't head right for the heaviest dumbbells in the gym. Lifting weights that are too heavy for you can lead to muscle strains, so don't feel like you have to show off. In many cases, studies have shown that lighter weights – used effectively – can have just as much of an impact as heavy ones.
3. Lifting weights that are too light
On the other hand, lifting weights that aren't causing you to exert yourself at all won't help. Fitness experts suggest choosing a weight that you can lift 30 times during your first set, but can lift only 15 times during your second.
4. Not mixing up your routine
If you're getting on the treadmill regularly, that's great! But fitness experts recommend switching up your workout to promote full-body fitness, rather than focusing on just one area.
5. Exclusively using the machines
Sure, your gym may be full of fun equipment that you're eager to try. But many of these machines focus on one particular muscle group, meaning that your time could be better spent elsewhere. Lots of free weight exercises require that you use your whole body, so they can help you burn more calories and strengthen more muscles in less time.
6. Ignoring your core
According to experts, the body's core is where all human movement originates. Therefore, a strong core can help you get fit much faster. It's a great idea to use ab machines and do sit-ups, but it can also be beneficial to keep your core strengthened during other workouts, like the bench press and leg press.
7. Not understanding the equipment
If you're new to the gym and have questions about a certain machine, just ask! Using a piece of equipment incorrectly is ineffective and won't help you get in shape any faster, and you want to ensure that you get the most out of every minute of your workout.
8. Inconsistent workout schedule
This is a common and easily-avoided mistake. Instead of going to the gym four days in a row and then skipping your workouts for the next two weeks, try to hit the gym with relative consistency. This helps you get into a routine and can promote a speedy metabolism.
9. Setting unrealistic expectations
Improving your fitness is all about hard work and perseverance. While it's common to yearn for instant results, it's important to remember that healthy living is an ongoing process. Don't stop hitting the gym because you didn't drop 10 pounds in one week – continue working hard and you'll start to see results!
10. Not changing your diet
Even if you're going to the gym regularly and avoiding these common workout mistakes, exercise alone often isn't enough to help you lose weight. If you've been sticking to your routine like a pro, you can consider adding a weight loss supplement or trying a protein meal replacement to kick your metabolism into gear and help you get the body you want.
You may not think that you have time to get the bathing suit body you always wanted before summer's end, but there are actually lots of speedy exercises that you can do to gradually improve your beach bod! If you have 15 minutes to train before hitting the sand, you can get your body looking great in that bikini with these easy-to-do fitness tips.
1. Cross-Body Mountain Climber
Mountain climbers are a full-body workout that can strengthen legs while toning your tummy. Get your body into pushup position, and brace your abs. Keeping your core tightened, pick up your right foot and bring that knee toward your left shoulder. Return to your starting position, and make the same motion with your left leg. Complete 12 reps per leg, remembering to brace your core throughout the workout.
2. Alternating bug
The alternating bug is a great core workout that can also improve coordination. Start on your back with both arms and legs pointed at the ceiling and your feet flexed. Next, lower your left arm and right leg until they are parallel with the floor. Bring your arm and leg back to their previous position, and do the same thing with your other arm and leg. Continue alternating with slow, fluid motions for 30 seconds.
3. Curtsy lunge
To strengthen and tone your legs, try a curtsy lunge. Begin by standing with your feet together. Step into lunge position with your left leg, bringing the foot across your body and in front of your right foot while dropping your right knee. Use both feet to push yourself back into a standing position, and repeat the same motion with your right leg. Remember to keep your chin and chest up throughout the lunging motion – no slouching! Do 10 reps with each leg.
4. Superset plank
Planks are a great, low-impact exercise that will strengthen your core and arms. To start, get into a modified pushup position with your elbows beneath your shoulders and your forearms in front of you on the floor. Your body should be in a straight line, and your shoulder blades and back shouldn't be sticking up into the air. Brace your abs and maintain the position for 30 seconds.
5. Jump and tuck
This routine is slightly more challenging, but it can really help improve lower body strength. Begin with your feet hip-width apart. Bend at the knees, pushing your hips back into a squat, and jump as far forward as you are able. Land with your feet hip-width apart, and immediately jump as high in the air as possible, bringing your knees up into your chest. Try to land softly, with your knees slightly bent. If you find that this is too tricky at first, don't worry! Regular squats are a fine substitute.
Never underestimate the effectiveness some good old-fashioned push-ups can have on your arm tone! First, do pushups for 20 seconds. At the top of your last push-up, hold the position for an additional 20 seconds. Repeat the routine four times, taking breaks as necessary in between sets.
Many people in today's fast-paced world don't have enough time to plan out their meals, and their efforts to find foods that are quick and easy often mean that they end up eating something fried and greasy. Luckily, there are many delicious "superfoods" that can aid in weight loss while helping you stay healthy. Many of these foods take little (or no) time to prepare, so they're perfect for healthy eaters on the go.
Many people are surprised to learn that avocados are healthy because they're so high in fat. Luckily, it's the good kind of fat – monosaturated fat – which can actually help your body maintain lean muscle tissue.
2. Soups with broth
While a heavy chowder or bisque won't help you shed pounds, a light, broth-based soup can be a great weight loss food. They're low in calories and high in vegetable nutrients, keeping you healthy and fit while getting your body the vitamins it needs.
Blueberries are a low-calorie, antioxidant-rich snack that's delicious to boot. Plus, they're bite sized, which makes them great for travel or as a part of your lunch at the office.
Like blueberries, apples are a great superfood because they're so compact – you can throw one in your backpack, gym bag or briefcase without worrying about Tupperware or plastic bags! They're low in calories and packed with fiber, and they may even help to prevent the buildup of belly fat.
5. Hot peppers
Not for the faint of heart, hot peppers – especially chili peppers - contain compounds called capsaicinoids that give them their fiery flavor. But in addition to their spicy taste, capsaicinoids have anti-inflammatory and heart-healthy effects. If you can take the heat, give chili peppers a try.
That instant stuff won't do you too much good as it's chock full of sugar and calories, but old-fashioned, steel-cut oats are rich in nutrients and fiber that can help you lose weight.
7. Protein shakes
If you're looking for a tasty meal that's also easy to make, try a shake! Packed with protein that can keep you lean and fill you up, a protein meal replacement can be a tasty choice for breakfast or on your way to the gym.
Eating salmon is a great way to improve your heart health. The fish is full of omega-3 fatty acids, which are one of the good fats that can lower cholesterol. Omega-3's are missing from many people's diets, and eating salmon can be a great way to fix that.
9. Nuts and seeds
Getting a little hungry between meals? Reach for some nuts or seeds. Raw, unsalted nuts are a healthy snack that can also be extremely satisfying and filling. You can also add a tablespoon of chopped nuts to many meals – a salad, for example – for a flavorful treat that's full of protein.
10. Green tea
It's always pleasant to unwind with a mug of tea, and green tea is well known for its antioxidant and anti-aging properties. But that's not all it has to offer – this particular type of tea contains catechins, which can boost metabolism and help you lose weight.
The beautiful weather of summer makes it easy to want to get outside and stay active. You no longer have to rely on the gym, nature provides some of the best fitness equipment around. Get ready to breathe in the fresh air and start breaking a sweat for a natural immunity booster among many other health benefits. Here are some of the best summer outdoor fitness activities for you to try out before the weather starts to get cool and crisp:
Walking/running on the beach
There is something very different about walking on a sidewalk or a treadmill and walking on the beach. Not only does the soft, warm sand feel great squishing between your toes, your body is also benefiting greatly. Walking or running on sand requires a much greater effort than walking on a flat surface. Your tendons and muscles have to work harder with each step. Your feet sink in and it takes more energy to lift it out to take another step. This summer exercise is also great for your joints – acting as a natural cushion each time you walk or run.
If you're lucky enough to be near a body of water sometime this summer, you may want to try out the latest fitness craze: paddleboarding. Participants stand or kneel on a paddleboard and use a paddle to push themselves along on the water. It offers an amazing full body workout, and is especially good for toning your arms, back, biceps and shoulders.
This fun summer sport requires a unique distribution of force throughout the body. You use a variety of muscle groups to maintain a stable and upright position. It's a great upper body workout and even works on your endurance so you can sustain long periods of concentration.
Whether you're playing on a beach or a park, Frisbee is a great way to stay active and tone your arms. Get a group of friends together and try your hand at Frisbee golf, where you have to throw the disc in certain baskets in a set amount of throws, much like golf.
Swimming is probably the most popular summer activity out there. Hop in a pool, lake or ocean and get your arms and legs moving to burn calories and work on your endurance. Swim laps or play fun pool games and you'll be slimming your waist without even knowing it.
It’s hard to keep tabs on all of the diets out there, along with which ones work and which ones don’t. There’s South Beach, Atkins, detox and more … who wouldn’t be overwhelmed? We’re here to inform you of all the ins and outs of one diet: the Paleo Diet.
What is the Paleo Diet?
This diet revolves around the idea of eating foods that existed when the cavemen roamed the earth, prior to the agricultural revolution, like animal proteins and plants. This means steering clear of dairy, refined sugar, legumes and grains. Instead, you’ll be filling your plate primarily with poultry, fish, meat, veggies and fruits. Those following this eating pattern hope to live a healthier and more fit life. By eating animal protein, fruits and vegetables, you’ll be getting beneficial nutrients like antioxidants, vitamins, phytochemicals, omega-3s, soluble fiber, monounsaturated fats and low-glycemic carbohydrates.
What are the benefits of this diet?
Following a strict diet filled with unlimited amounts of fruits and veggies could cause slow and limited rises in your blood sugar, and the omega-3s will help to reduce inflammation. While there is no significant evidence that the Paleo Diet causes weight loss, if you build a “calorie deficit” into your diet plan, where you’re eating fewer calories than your daily recommended max, you may slim your waist. And because fresh produce is essentially sodium-free, your salt intake will be significantly lower, warding off bloating and other poor health issues.
You’ll never get bored with the Paleo Diet, because there is such a wide variety of ways you can cook up different animal protein and fruits and veggies. Here’s a Paleo Diet recipe from Men’s Fitness to try out at home: Paleo Diet Asian Pepper Shrimp: Serves 4
You may have seen a kettlebell or two lying around your gym – they're weights with handles and resemble a basketball with a suitcase handle. People use kettlebells to really amp up their workout and build muscle.
These weights were invented in Russia and used by strongmen for decades. But how are kettlebells different from your typical dumbbell? Kettlebells offer individuals a wider range of motion than they would get from a standard dumbbell. They also work the whole body at one time without putting unnecessary strain on your joints. According to Jason C. Brown, owner of Kettlebell Athletics in Philadelphia, a kettlebell's center of gravity shifts throughout the exercise, rather than giving you that lopsided feel of a dumbbell. Users can flow easily from one exercise to the other without putting the weight down, making their workout more effective. And unlike a dumbbell, you only use one kettlebell, not two.
With these popular weights being available in a variety of sizes, they are accommodating to any fitness level. Try out this ultimate kettlebell workout from Men's and Women's Health magazines to burn calories and fat and build muscle. But keep in mind that you should complete each exercise back-to-back without resting. Once you're done with the circuit, rest for one to two minutes, then repeat for about two or three circuits.
Leg raise swing
Grab your kettlebell of choice with both hands, starting in a half squat. Hold the weight between your knees, keeping your arms straight and chest up. Swing the weight overhead, arms straight and as you do so, raise your right leg straight out to one side. Return to the starting position and repeat with the other leg. Do 15 reps.
Lateral lunge with bicep curl
Holding the weight in your right hand, step to the left and lower into a side lunge. Raise the weight up to your left shoulder and reverse the move to return to standing. Do 12 to 15 reps on each side.
Kettlebell single-arm snatch
Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart with a kettlebell in your right hand. Let the weight swing between your legs, and in one fluid motion, pull it forward and up. Once it reaches heart level, flip it behind your forearm and punch it overhead. It may take some practice, but once you train your body to do it all in one move, it's very effective.
Single-arm shoulder press
Stand with the weight just outside your shoulder, palm facing forward. Push the kettlebell straight overhead, then slowly lower it back down to the original position. Make sure to keep your elbow close to your side to maintain proper form.
Finish off your workout with a protein shake using Naturade Total Soy protein powder to help build muscle.
There are always plenty of new fitness crazes to try out these days, but not all of them are created equal. One trend that has been sweeping the nation is CrossFit.
What is CrossFit?
CrossFit is an exercise program which allows users to perform a mix of strength and conditioning exercises, as well as cardio. The program includes different exercises like running, jump rope, rowing, weight lifting, rope climbing and more. It enhances physical qualities including flexibility, power, speed, agility, coordination, endurance, stamina, strength, balance and accuracy. The intensity of the program aims to burn a high number of calories in a short period of time, while simultaneously improving aerobic fitness.
The history of CrossFit
While this exercise trend is fairly new, the general ideas behind the physical activity have been around for much longer. In the 1970s, former gymnast Greg Glassman started a concept that closely resembled CrossFit. It began in a Santa Cruz, California, garage in 1995. He discovered that through the use of dumbbells and a barbell, he could tone his muscles more accurately than any other gymnast he knew who was working with bodyweight only. In that same year, he was hired to train the Santa Cruz Police Department, which is when CrossFit was born. It was formally established in 2000 and by the year 2012, there would be 3,400 CrossFit affiliates worldwide. In 2007, the United States Marine Corps even started shifting their focus from a traditional training program to more of a CrossFit-oriented exercise regimen.
How to get involved
CrossFit isn't for everyone, due to the high-intensity exercises it involves. It's not recommended for those just starting to exercise or returning after a fairly long hiatus. It's a good idea to first work with a personal trainer to develop the necessary strength, skills and mobility needed for CrossFit.
If you find that CrossFit is something you would like to try, the good news is that you don't need to join a CrossFit affiliate gym in order to participate in the training program. If you choose to work out on your own, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- For those with little to no gymnastics or weightlifting skills, try to learn the movements for a month or two until you can perform the common exercise.
- Don't hesitate to substitute exercises to meet your fitness level – knowing how and when to substitute is an art of sorts, and as you practice, you'll become more familiar with the moves and which ones need perfecting.
- Follow the workouts of the day, otherwise known as WODs. However, before actually taking part in them, just watch them to get a good idea of what you'll be expected to do. Read the comments people are making on the CrossFit website and the substitutions they may have to make the workout more suitable to their fitness level.
- If you don't attend a CrossFit gym, here are a few of the equipment items you'll want to think about getting: power-lifting barbell, rowing machine, set of dumbbells, lifting rack and bench, plyo-boxes, ab mat and medicine balls.
- Maintain a diet which builds lean body mass. You need to be able to maintain and recover from frequent CrossFit workouts, which means having a healthy diet. Protein meals are essential for building muscle and giving the body the proper energy to continue with CrossFit.