Tag Archives: Adipose tissue

Insulin…a wonderful little hormone or fat storing machine?

Most of you know that I am a complete nerd and have been hacking my body for years. That means that I have worked hard to figure out how “MY” body reacts to specific foods and have made healthy changes. We all respond differently to certain food groups so it’s important for you to do the same thing. But, lets start with the basic stuff.

Insulin is a wonderful little hormone that regulates how our body uses and stores glucose and fat. Our cells rely on it for energy and it has an important role in the body. If we don’t have enough or can’t respond to insulin then we become resistant or diabetic. But, all of us are on a mission to avoid that, right?

Insulin signals the liver, muscle and fat cells to take in glucose from the blood and use it for energy. If we have enough insulin on board from food then insulin signals the liver to take that extra glucose and store it as glycogen for future use. Did you know the liver can store up to 5% of it’s mass as glycogen? Once that capacity is full then insulin signals fat cells to take that extra glucose and store it in fat as triglycerides and make it harder for our body to breakdown fats.

Without insulin our cells cannot take glucose from the blood and use it for energy.

With insulin resistance our body is less able to take up glucose from the blood.

What you eat and drink play a key role in controlling this process. Anyone can be insulin resistant. Refined carbohydrates found in processed foods, white breads, bagels, pasta, sodas, sugary sweets, and many other things on the Standard American Diet (SAD) contribute to this. When we eat processed foods, our body requires more insulin to metabolize it and our cells become less responsive. As we get older we become less sensitive to these changes.

To help balance insulin, consider a whole foods diet with fresh vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats. Limit fruit to no more than 2 a day. Veggies are free foods, fruits aren’t. That apple is like an intravenous injection of fructose that takes a b-line to the liver telling your body to store fat!!

You CAN get enough healthy carbs from non-grain sources like vegetables.

Healthy fats are important to help insulin resistance. These fats include tuna, salmon, cold-water fish, eggs, avocado, grass-fed butter, and flaxseed.

Exercise will help insulin levels stay normal, maintain hormonal balance, and regulate metabolism.

Consider limiting your eating window to an 8 hour period. This will give your body time to look to fat stores for energy instead of continually suppling it with glucose from food. If you don’t eat your blood glucose levels will take a chill pill and then your insulin levels will decrease. There are tons of studies supporting this. Hit me up if you want the references. In order to burn body fat your insulin levels need to be very low. You can get there with short term fasting (eat in an 8 hour window and fast the other 16).

If you want to use your body fat as fuel you need to challenge the FDA and media with all this eat every 2 hours to maintain your metabolism garbage that is out there. Do a little test run yourself and see how you do.

For more information and support check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/homefitnessjunky or http://www.anitakellam.com_6454

What’s your excuse??

What’s your excuse??

I already know all the excuses because I was the queen of them for years… It’s raining out, it’s too nice out, my workout clothes are dirty, I forgot my headphones at home, I don’t have time, I don’t want to get bulky, I’m too tired…blah blah blah. The real question to ask should be what’s your REASON?

My before picture is just after finishing my doctorate. I did not regularly exercise. I held baby weight after each pregnancy. I was constantly exhausted and used the excuse that chasing the children around was enough exercise. I came down with every cold and virus that could fester and spread on the grocery cart handle. I was miserable and avoided any pictures with my children – which now in hindsight is just plain sad for them and me. I went to bed miserable every night because I failed at what I had sworn that morning I would do – which was to make better food choices and get to the gym. It was an ugly vicious cycle and the effects of my misery did not go unnoticed by my family. 

Finally, one morning I woke up and said I am done talking about it -(I felt my back fat jiggle) and from that day on I started living it and being about it. There have been setbacks, struggles and tears but the truth is, once I started getting up and consistently working out in the mornings, it made me want to make better choices all through the day, including in the kitchen. My energy levels became increasingly better and I slept like a rock all night. My moods were much happier and instantly improved my family life and relationships. It would be a straight up lie if I said I wasn’t motivated to rock a bikini at my age but I also realized these kids in my life really were MY WHY and they needed and deserved a happy, healthy, active mom who could step up and be their healthy role model. When I found my reasons why, I simply lost all of my excuses.

My decision to coach keeps pushing me further, keeps me motivated and providing goals but it is very far from my reason why I continue to live this lifestyle.

So instead of looking for your excuse, are you able to dig deep and find YOUR reasons WHY? When you do find your why and your passion, your results will follow. Message me for help.11042942_947364438631658_7105274840541815394_n

Goodbye love handles. Hello Sexy Abs!

Are you sick of muffin tops and love handles, or are you comfortable with the roll of flab that pops over the waistband of your jeans and ruins the sleek line of fitness clothes, clingy sweaters, and tailored shirts.

A lot of people think that they can get rid of this annoying bump with daily sit ups. While crunches do tone muscles this exercise alone will not get rid of love handles. Do you know why? Well it’s because love handles aren’t muscle. They’re fat, and to burn fat you need a healthy diet and a rigorous cardiovascular program.
A good overall plan for 30 to 45 minutes of cardio three to four times a week, strength training (including the exercises below) two to three times a week, and a day of rest every week so your body can rebuild muscle. Spice up your workouts with a variety of cardio approaches will be the most effective — don’t just stick to only the elliptical or just a few spinning classes. Getting stuck in a cardio routine can lead to a plateau. Instead, you want to keep challenging different muscle groups. My personal favorite high-intensity interval training to burn fat is TurboFire. You get results quicker instead of working at the same steady pace throughout your workout.
Your initial goals will be weight loss and trimming down the fat. Once you’ve done that — or at least made significant headway — you can start to tone the muscles underneath your love handles. As you burn fat and increase your metabolism through building muscle, that extra padding will eventually go away.

Ab Workout: Kiss Love Handles Goodbye

Make these five exercises part of your plan to tone waist and hips:
1. Bicycle Crunches: “This exercise will work your internal and external obliques as well as the rectus abdominis [the largest ab muscle],” Keigher says.
Lie on your back, knees bent.
Place hands behind your head without interlacing your fingers. Lift your head slightly.
Twist so that your left elbow goes toward your right knee while you extend your left leg.
Pull your leg back in and extend the other leg, twisting so that your right elbow goes toward your left knee.
Build up to 3 sets of 25 reps each.

2. Standing Trunk Twists
Stand with your feet about hip-width apart.
Keep hips and legs facing forward as you twist to the right, extending your left arm out (like a punch) to the right.
Twist in the opposite direction (left), extending your right arm out in a punch to the left.
Aim for 100 repetitions.

3. Lying Leg Twist
Lie on your back with your arms stretched out to the sides, hands flat on your mat.
Lift legs and bend knees so that your calves are parallel to the floor and your thighs form a 90-degree angle with your torso.
Lower both legs together to one side so that your outer right thigh touches the ground on the right side, maintaining the 90-degree angle.
Return them to center and then lower to the other side so that your outer left thigh touches the ground.
Build up to 3 sets of 25 reps each.

4. Side Planks: “This exercise strengthens your core, in the front and the back,” Nasser explains.
Lie down on your right side, leaning on your elbow.
Extend your legs out straight, with your feet stacked. The edge of your right foot should be on the floor.
Use your core to hold your body up in a straight line (you can modify it by putting your right knee down on the floor if you need support). Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, or longer if you can.
Lower yourself fully to the floor and switch sides.
For added challenge, lift the top leg and hold it up so that it is not touching the bottom leg.
Holding each side for about 30 seconds, do four or five reps, and increase as you get stronger.

5. Seated Russian Twists
Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat.
Hold your arms out in front of you, hands pressed together.
Lean back about 45 degrees. With a slow, controlled movement, twist to your left side. Return to center, and twist to your right. That’s one rep.
One full rep should take about 20 seconds. Take a breath and repeat. Start with four to five reps, adding more reps as you get stronger.
For an added challenge, lift your feet off the floor as you do this exercise.
If you eat a healthy, low fat diet and burn more calories than you take in, and enjoy a good mix of cardio and ab workout time, you’ll watch your love handles start to melt away within a few weeks.

Resource: Healthy living from everyday health.

Can you be skinny and still look fat?

Definitions and Misconceptions:

To begin, we need to address some misconceptions about how the body works…

  • You cannot “tone” a certain portion of your body.  Your body will not lose fat in one spot at a time, it will only lose fat.  Thus, you must reduce your overall body fat percentage to see results in the area you want.  This is why the “ab-(insert attention-grabbing verb)” you see on TV won’t work to help you get a better midsection.
  • Lean – having little to no surplus fat – Thus, to look “lean”, you need to have low levels of body fat.
  • Toned – seeing muscle definition on a human body – Thus, to look “toned”, you need to have low levels of body fat combined with having enough muscular development that you can see the shape of the muscle under the skin.  This is usually accomplished at below 20% body fat on women, and below 10% on men.
  • You will never “bulk up” overnight, except from maybe an ice cream and beer binge (guilty).  You will never wake up one morning, look in the mirror, and realize that you just built bulky muscles in your sleep.

First, I want to establish that having muscle doesn’t mean being bulky…

The first thing you need to do is compare these two women:

For reference, the girl on the left is a runway model and the girl on the right is an elite CrossFit athlete.  Both have approximately 12-15% body fat.  Both are doing something they love, and the bodies they have created help them do that.

On the left, we have a runway model who has almost zero muscular development while also having almost zero fat deposits.  She has enough essential muscle to not fall over walking, but not much more.  If you want to look like the woman on the left, sorry, but we cannot help you get there.  Although, if you have an apple and a cigarette a day for about a year, you could get close (it supposedly worked for Christian Bale in the Machinist).  However, CrossFit South Bay will not help you create that type of body.

The female on the right has spent years developing her strength and muscle.  She has battled heavy weights and pushed herself to the limit to squat, deadlift, and lunge heavier weights every time she comes into the gym.  She weighs approximately 35-40 lbs more than the runway model due to the large amount of muscle that she has acquired.  She is likely approaching her genetic limits in the amount of muscle she can develop without going on a bodybuilding routine.  Between her and the runway model, there is likely very little difference genetically, yet there is a huge difference in training and diet (more on this shortly).

 Here’s a fit girl, now dressed up, still bulky??

Thus, you can have a large amount of muscle without ever looking “bulky”.  Don’t you agree??

Now that we know that muscle doesn’t make you “bulky”, what does??

Well, the answer is fat.  Excess adipose tissue will result in less than satisfactory aesthetics.  This is regardless of the amount of muscle you have.  This is easily seen in the image below:

The image at left shows a female figure that has a large amount of fat, while having a very small amount of muscle.  This is described in the fitness community as “skinny fat”.  While not overly “bulky” she  doesn’t have the aesthetics that most of us work so hard to attain.  The woman in this image is likely at a level close to 30% body fat and likely has a similar amount of muscle as the runway model.  So even though she may look fine wearing a sweater, it is a different story at the beach.

The trick is how to fix this.  Well, option 1 is to eat less and do tons of cardio, surviving on a diet heavy with running and light on food, and you will end up looking more like the runway model above.  Option 2 is to develop muscle to burn away the excess fat while doing cardio, resulting in looking more like the elite CrossFitter above.

Ok, so we have started to establish that building muscle isn’t a bad thing, right??  Yet, you are afraid that by squatting and deadlifting, you are making your legs and butt bigger, thus getting more “bulky”, correct??

Here is the kicker, the reason your legs (and shoulders and arms and back) are getting a little bigger is that you have now started to add some muscle to them.  Now, that muscle will burn more calories, starting to help whittle away at the amount of fat you have on your body, even while you sleep.  You now are able to achieve that “lean” and “toned” look, as your body fat levels have decreased, and your muscle is starting to show, giving the “toned” look.

Additionally, you cannot have a “toned” look without muscle.  This is because that “toned” look that you are going for is the result of seeing muscle that is underneath a layer of fat.  If you have too much body fat, it acts as a shielding layer.  For those of us that require a visual, imagine your muscle as an apple sitting on a hard surface.  Now cover the apple; what you cover it with is representative of your body fat.  A wet paper towel=very low body fat.  A dish towel = low body fat.  A comforter = high body fat.  As the covering gets thicker, it becomes harder to see the apple, which is exactly what happens as you gain body fat.  Now, more muscle makes the object bigger, imagine the apple is now a grapefruit.  Less muscle makes the object smaller, imagine changing the apple to a cherry.  Even with all the objects being similar in size, it is the covering that determines how “bulky” they look; same with body fat.

BAD cardio

Bad cardio and worse cardio…

Some people keep saying to be leaner they just need more cardio and less strength.  Well, yes, if you just do “more cardio”, you will lose more fat, but you would also lose muscle because without anaerobic and strength training, your body burns muscle as well as fat.  So, instead of looking more like a Victoria Secret model, you start to look more like a runway model.  Then, once you stop doing “more cardio” you will gain fat even faster now that you don’t have the muscle to burn the extra calories, resulting in the “skinny fat” look.  You can see this in ex-athletes that have tried to “get leaner” by doing “more cardio” only to result in having more fat with less muscle.

Skinny vs Strong

This can also happens as we age, as the muscle we built by running, jumping, and playing in our childhood and teens atrophies due to under-use with a more sedentary life, so people in their early twenties are seen as having “high metabolisms”, supposedly not having to work to maintain lean body shapes.  This “high metabolism” is because the muscle they built in their teen years is burning excess calories and fat, and with the low body fat levels, you can see their “toned” muscle underneath.  However, as they take day jobs and do not stimulate their bodies, their muscles atrophy, burning less calories and thereby lowering their “high metabolism” and leading to increased body fat as they age. Usually, people try to do “more cardio” to regain their lean, toned bodies that they had when they were younger. However, since they do nothing to build new muscle or maintain their current muscle, they slowly transition to a thin, but “skinny fat”, look as they age.

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Train like an athlete…. Look like an athlete…

Most people can agree that they want to get “toned” and “lean”, but have you ever asked someone that was “toned” and “lean” what they have done to get that way??  You should, because almost every athlete I know that looks “toned” and “lean” has spent years working to develop strength, power, speed, endurance, and stamina for a sport.  They move HEAVY weights quickly.

Lastly, you will never be able to create muscles like a man lifting weights.

A WOMEN THAT LOOKS LIKE SHE HAS MUSCLES LIKE A MAN HAS LIKELY TAKEN STEROIDS!!  This is the defined truth, a woman’s muscle development is much different than a man’s.  Unless a woman has a very different genetic make-up (a very, very small portion of the population), it is almost impossible to build muscle like a man.  (And, as much as you might think it is true, you only have a 1 in a million chance of being the 1 in a million that has the different genetics, so stop saying, and believing, it)

This is because males have 20-30 times the testosterone of women, resulting in deeper voices, more body hair, and more muscle development.  Women just physically cannot build muscle like men can, sorry but it is a scientific fact.  Some of the maximal amounts of muscle you can put on a female frame with CrossFit training can be seen below.  These are women that built their bodies using sports and strength training.

An extremely high level of muscle on a female will look like the pictures above, but again, only with many YEARS of weights training and a focus on a clean diet.

So, lastly, just to clarify, “bulky” means fat.  Which does not happen when you work hard at http://www.homefitnessjunky.com!!


Fat Slappin

Hey! How are your thighs today?

If you’re tired of having that fat “slappin” on your thighs and are ready to make a change I’m here to help.

click the like button and I’ll let you in a great resource to help!

What and When You Should Eat

I ate these - ants in the Amazon 2003

Image by exfordy via Flickr

By Steve Edwards

It’s not just what you eat but when you eat that matters. The perfect food for one situation may be horrible for another. Nutrient timing is a science that athletes use to try to get the most out of every calorie they consume. Not everyone needs an athlete’s level of efficiency, but all of us will benefit from a basic understanding of nutrient timing.

This is 911, need-to-know info only. To keep you focused on the big picture, I’ll begin with an example at the extreme end of nutrient timing. If the average Joe followed the same diet as an Ironman triathlete, he’d likely have type 2 diabetes in a matter of months. Conversely, if someone tried to complete an Ironman on even the healthiest version of a low-carb diet, that person would either be forced to quit or die. This is not just because either diet would mean eating too much food or too little food. Different foods cause the body’s metabolic process to react in different ways; and various activities should be fueled using various means.

Let’s begin by looking at our possible fuel sources:
Carbohydrates
Are fuel only. They aren’t stored in body tissue, only in the blood and liver as glycogen, which needs to be burnt off. They are essential for high-level functioning like running fast, lifting heavy things, and thinking. They are digested and put to use by your body very quickly. If you eat more than you burn, your body will convert them to be stored in adipose (fat) tissue.

Proteins
Called the body’s building blocks. Hence, you need them to rebuild tissue that breaks down daily. You digest proteins slowly, and at a certain point, your body just can’t assimilate them. Therefore, it’s important that throughout the day you eat foods that are high in protein.

Fats
Help regulate all of your bodily functions. They are dense and contain over twice the calories of proteins and carbohydrates. While they are vital for our health, it’s easy to eat too much of them, which will result in unwanted fat tissue on your body. You digest fats slowly, and fats will also help slow the digestion of anything else you eat. Fats are also your backup fuel source, though they can’t be put to use right away the way carbs can.

Fiber
Categorized as a carbohydrate, it is not a source of fuel as it has no calories. It’s the indigestible part of a plant and is of vital importance in your diet because it regulates the absorption of the foods you eat. It also helps us feel full. Most of us don’t eat enough fiber, and that’s a big part of the obesity problem.

Alcohol
Not really a food source but something we tend to consume. It has nearly twice the calories of proteins and carbs (though it lacks fuel) and digests rapidly. Its only healthy function is that it seems to make us happy. Studies indicate this is a good thing, as those who consume alcohol generally live longer than those who don’t, but from a purely nutritional standpoint, it’s not so hot because you’re getting calories without any upside. Its use should be strategic and regulated for best results.

Now let’s look at the various situations we face daily, at least on most days—hopefully.
Relaxing
This is when we’re sedentary both physically and mentally. In a relaxed state, you burn very few calories because your body is engaged as little as possible, hence the relaxing.

Sedentary work
When we’re at work or school. Our bodies aren’t moving, but our brains are engaged. The brain runs on glycogen, which is blood sugar fueled by carbohydrates.

Low-level exercise
Like mowing the lawn, cleaning the house, or going for a walk. This breaks down body tissue, so you’re burning calories, but it’s not intense work. Therefore, it can be fueled by your stored body fat. Your body tries to fuel its low-level outputs by mobilizing fat stores because this saves its limited glycogen for emergency situations.

High-level exercise
Fueled by glycogen. When you really have to get after it, all sorts of hormones go to work, and your body burns its blood sugar. Body-tissue breakdown is rapid, and your stored blood sugar (glycogen) won’t last much more than an hour.

Sleep
A very active time. Deep sleep is where your body works the hardest to repair itself. You need nutrients to make these repairs, but it’s better if you aren’t mucking up the process with digestion. This is why you hear that you shouldn’t eat too much at night. It’s best to eat early to allow most of the digestion to happen while you’re awake, thus allowing your body to use all its energy for recovery during sleep. It is worth noting here that it’s better to eat before bed if you need the nutrients—don’t skip them. Your body can’t repair itself without nutrients, and recovery from breakdown is why we eat in the first place. Next, let’s take a look at an important word you need to know: insulin.

Insulin
Wikipedia tells us that insulin “is a hormone that has extensive effects on metabolism and other body functions, such as vascular compliance. Insulin causes cells in the liver, muscle, and fat tissue to take up glucose from the blood, storing it as glycogen in the liver and muscle, and stopping use of fat as an energy source.” Okay, that’s a little scientific, but look at all the things we’ve already referenced: hormone, glycogen, metabolism, and fat as an energy source. Even if you don’t fully comprehend “vascular compliance,” you can tell that insulin is something important in today’s discussion.

Sure enough, it’s the only hundred-dollar word we need to know today. Your body’s insulin response is the main reason you want to eat certain foods at certain times, to do certain things.

Putting it all together
Now let’s take what we’ve just learned and put it to use. For most of us, nutrient timing is pretty simple. The next thing to consider is what you’re going to be doing or what you just did. As I said before, what you eat should be based on this. You’ve probably heard about the evils of sugar, or maybe even the glycemic index. Using the science of nutrient timing, you can turn sugar into something healthy because it’s the only thing that transports nutrients into your blood quickly enough to be of service during and after hard exercise.

Essentially, sugar or other easily digested carbs (the less fiber the better) promote an insulin release. This speeds the transformation of carbohydrates into glucose in your blood. As your glycogen stores are depleted during exercise, recharging them with sugar minimizes the damage done by the breakdown of tissue during exercise. Therefore, sugar, the oft-vilified ingredient, is actually your body’s preferred nutrient during times of excessive stress and tissue breakdown.

Pretty cool, huh? The bad news is that this miracle nutrient is not good for you when you’re not doing intense exercise, which for almost all of us is most of the time. In fact, sugar’s very bad for you because the insulin response that was so fabulous for you when you were bonking (glycogen depleted) is not so fabulous for you when you’re sitting in front of the boob tube.

Remember this from the Wikipedia definition of insulin, “stopping use of fat as an energy source”? That’s bad when you’re sitting around. Remember how one of dietary fat’s responsibilities is to fuel you during low-intensity exercise? Well, when sugar causes your insulin to spike, it cuts off that process. Now not only are you not burning body fat for low-level outputs, you’re trying to force your body to use its glycogen. Double bad.

Unless you’re exercising, sugar intake should be minimized. During these times—which is most of the time—your diet should consist of a mixture of proteins, fats, and complex carbohydrates. The latter are natural sources of carbohydrates that generally come with fiber, which regulates the insulin response. Whole fruit, a simple carbohydrate by definition because it contains fructose (a sugar), always contains fiber and, thus, can be treated as a complex carb. Fruit juice, and other such stuff, is processed; it, along with processed complex carbohydrates like white rice, can cause an insulin response, so these types of foods should be used more like sports foods than staples.

It’s also important to note that combining all these different nutrients slows sugar’s ability to incite insulin into action. Therefore, a little sugar like a dessert after a well-rounded meal is buffered by the meal. The calories and lack of decent nutrients (processed sugar is devoid of most nutrients, except for energy) still count toward your overall diet, but at least you don’t have to worry about an insulin spike.

So the main point of this article is very simple. You should eat small, well-rounded meals most of the time. These should include some proteins, some fats, some fiber, and some carbs. During (only if it’s a long workout) and after hard workouts, you should supplement your diet with sugar or simple carbohydrates. After this, you should go back to eating well-rounded meals again.

Sports nutrition has evolved this process even further. In nature, foods are generally slow to digest. Nature’s great sports foods are things such as bananas and figs. These are sugary but still contain fiber and other nutrients. Science has found ways to make foods that are even more efficient during sports. These basically manipulate pH levels and process the sugars to speed them into your system. Outstanding when you need it. Terrible when you don’t.

They’ve even taken this a step further by finding a ratio of other nonsugary nutrients (like protein) that can be transported by the sugar to give you a further benefit. Beachbody’s Results and Recovery Formula uses this science. When you’re bonking during a hard workout, it speeds nutrients that are essential for quick recovery into your system as quickly as possible.

I can’t stress how important it is that sports fuels be used for sports performance only. Gatorade, soda, and all sugar candies (hey, no fat!) all function as the poor man’s sports foods. Unfortunately, those perusing the Quick Stop generally aren’t trying to fuel up after doing Plyo X, and therein may lay our obesity trend.

In case the topic is still a bit fuzzy, let’s use the above logic on the examples in the intro: An Ironman athlete is doing intense exercise for 10 to 12 hours or more. During this time, that athlete is mainly burning glycogen, which is gone after an hour or so. The athlete burns stored fat, too, but this is limited in its effectiveness. To race, the athlete must replenish with sports foods because they contain the only nutrients that the athlete will digest fast enough to help. To complete an Ironman, especially at your physical limit, it may take 5,000 calories coming mainly from sugar.

This is a sports-specific diet only. Someone trying to eat that way during a viewing of the Lord of the Rings trilogy would be lucky to stay out of the emergency room. Conversely, if you tried to maintain a 25-mph speed for 8 hours on your bike while munching on raw spinach and lean steak, you’d bonk so hard you’d be praying to get yanked from the race at the first checkpoint. That should cover your 911 on nutrient timing. Next time, we’ll move on to the topic of supplements. Are they magic pills, overhyped placebos, or something in between?

5 Ways to Break through Dreaded Weight Loss Plateaus

By Justine Holberg

You’re tracking calories, working out each day, then bam! For a week or two, the scale refuses to budge…and you realize you’ve hit a dreaded weight loss plateau. Now what?

Even though it’s completely normal to hit a snag in your fitness journey, a perceived setback like this can send even the most dedicated dieter off course, away from healthy eating and toward cookies, cake, and pizza. But you can be strong and start getting back on the weight-loss track again. Try at least one of the following techniques, and there’s a good chance you’ll burst through your plateau in no time.

Here are five important things to know about hydration and exercise:
1. Zigzag your daily calorie intake.
In theory, you’ve got to eat less to lose more, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes you just have to shake things up. Here’s one way to do it: If your average daily intake is 1,400 calories, try dropping to 1,200 one day, going up to 1,800 the next day, and then dropping back to 1,400. The idea is to keep your metabolism guessing. There’s no magic number that works for everyone, so you’ll have to experiment until you find the right calorie levels for you.

According to Beachbody Director of Results Steve Edwards, what happens when you zigzag is that you force your body to choose how many calories it needs to recover from the rigors of your exercise program. “Most people who hit a plateau are undereating. If you are indeed undereating, adding calories for a few days, then lowering them again, will help you force your body into a hormonal response that will not only help you break out of a plateau, but—as you learn to recognize the signals—will teach you how much food you should be eating.”

2. Switch up your exercise routine.
If you do the same workout each day, eventually it can start to become less challenging, and (unfortunately) less effective. If you push yourself to new levels of strength or exhaustion, you’ll almost certainly see a shift. Here are some ways you can challenge your body:

  • Swap your jog for a bike ride.
  • Try weights with your cardio routine. (ChaLEAN Extreme® or RevAbs® can help you do this.)
  • Add intervals of high intensity to really make you sweat. (INSANITY® is a great workout for this.)
  • Drop to the floor for 10 push-ups right now!The idea is to try something different. According to Edwards, “The better you get at something, the easier it becomes. That’s why we’re always telling you to add more weight as you get stronger, and to move faster and jump higher as our programs progress. But it’s also why all of our programs have phases of training. As your body adapts to stimulus, you need to change that stimulus in order to keep results happening.”

    3. Eat some almonds.
    Almonds are a great snack, plus there’s some research that indicates that they can help you burn fat. That’s because they contain fiber and fatty acids—the good kind of fat that helps you lose weight. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity compared two groups of people who ate a 1,000-calorie-a-day diet. As part of their daily diet, one group ate 3 ounces of almonds every day. The other group ate a mix of complex carbs. What happened? The group that ate the almonds lost more weight.

    So next time you grab a snack, try a small handful of almonds, or as Edwards says, “Any nut, really. While almonds are one of the better nuts, all of them have a similar nutritional profile and make excellent snacks. That research probably would have turned out similarly if they’d used walnuts or filberts or whatever.”

    4. Get more sleep.
    This may seem like the opposite of number 2, but the truth is is that you could be training too hard, which is about the quickest way to hit a weight loss plateau, because an over-trained body holds on to weight as if it were starving to death. There’s no better way to test this than to try and sleep more. The reason is that your body recovers much more quickly from exercise while it’s asleep, and if you’re burning the midnight oil while trying to do INSANITY, you could easily plateau from lack of recovery time.

    In a recent study at the University of Chicago Medical School, researchers found that during a period when study participants were deprived of sleep, they metabolized glucose less effectively. Additionally, they had higher levels of the hormone cortisol, which has been shown to impair memory, increase insulin resistance, and slow recovery in athletes. “There’s a good reason why five-time Tour de France winner Eddy Merckx said, ‘The Tour is won in bed,'” says Edwards. Your body’s recovery response during deep sleep is only rivaled by performance-enhancing drugs. When you’re on the borderline of overtraining, getting more sleep is the first thing anyone should try.”

    5. Relax.
    Believe it or not, the one big thing besides diet and exercise that can cause you to plateau is stress. When you’re stressed, your body sends out higher levels of the hormone cortisol that, as stated in number 4, can encourage your body to hang on to fat. “Cortisol is actually a performance-enhancing hormone,” says Edwards. “But it’s gotten a bad rap because we’ve begun living our lives at too high a volume. Cortisol is released at times when the body is in an emergency state. It increases performance, but only over a short period of time. When cortisol is released and forced into action at regular intervals, it causes your body to wear down and switch to more drastic means of survival, like holding on to excess amounts of body fat. Your life shouldn’t feel like one big emergency. As a society, we need to learn to be more tranquilo, as the Spanish say.”

    We get stressed for many reasons, almost all of which are influenced by the society around us. One of the best ways to combat stress is to get some alone time to chill. If you’re the type who can’t let go, try some forced relaxation techniques, of which yoga seems to be one of the most effective. There’s something special about the mind/body interaction of yoga that forces a relaxed state even from the most stressed of us.

    If you feel you need a lot of help, dig into an intense course, like P90X Yoga X. For others, something lighter, like Yoga Booty Ballet® Pure and Simple Yoga, will do the trick. If you’re not into yoga, then consider at least adding some stretching into your schedule. Most of Beachbody’s programs have at least one stretching session. TurboFire® even has two!


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