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Published on December 18, 2020

15 Effective Workout Tips Backed by Scientific Research

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15 Effective Workout Tips Backed by Scientific Research

What if I told you that there are dozens of workout tips proven to aid in weight loss? Now, you might be thinking, “Yeah sure. I’ve heard it all before. Nothing I try works!” You may indeed have tried a lot of tips that just didn’t work. However, many of the so-called “workout tips” are more based on anecdotal experiences than science.

So, why do people follow and believe in those workout tips if they aren’t guaranteed to work? The same reasons people follow a fad diet—they saw it work for a friend or they hope it works for them. In this article, let’s end all the “I hope it works!” and the, “My friend said to do this!” and I’ll bring you actual tips proven by science.

Here are 15 science-backed workout tips to jumpstart weight loss.

1. Bring a Friend

A common complaint people have when they begin a fitness journey is that they have no one to workout with. But those complaints line up with the research. Several studies on motivation and exercise have shown that when you have the presence of a friend, you workout out harder.[1]

When your partner is stronger, your performance boosts. Your workouts become easier too. So, the next time you find yourself struggling to hold that one-minute plank or you want to run that extra mile, call a friend.

2. Carb Up Before You Workout

You might have heard people and even fitness gurus say to skip out on a meal before a workout. Some even recommend that you avoid carbs unless you’re doing specific exercises like running or weightlifting.

Each one has their own reasons why you shouldn’t eat. Unfortunately, you’ve been misled. Research supports the opposite of skipping meals. Before you perform any workout, you want to carb up. Carbs are your body’s primary fuel.[2]

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When you load up, you’ll put more of an effort in and it does wonders for muscle growth and caloric expenditure. Those who work out in the morning but hate breakfast can opt for something like toast or oatmeal.

3. Music Powers Your Workout

Everyone has their set playlist with their favorite workout songs. You may like to jam out to heavy rock or pop music and feel like it helps your workout. You’re not wrong! Several studies have been conducted on the power of music.

One study found that those who listened to music had higher levels of serotonin and dopamine, which aids in the recovery process.[3] Another study found that the type of music you listen to matters. This study showed that music levels of 130 to 140 bpm gave people a performance boost.[4] So, stick to the more heart-pumping songs over the slow, sad ones.

4.Drink Coffee and Chocolate Milk

When many start a diet, they usually have to give up some of their favorite foods and drinks. Coffee is often loaded with extra calories when you add the cream, sugar, or if you’re going to a chain shop. Provided you don’t go overboard with the extras, coffee can help your workout. This is a workout tip that’s rarely given, but it can work!

A study found that coffee not only provides energy but also gives you motivation and can increase your performance.[5] Another study on coffee and workouts found that drinking a few cups before a workout can make it more enjoyable. Another research also found that it helps burn more fat.

As a child, your mother may have told you to drink your milk. Chocolate milk might’ve been a treat. It turns out your mom was on to something. A study found that consumption of low-fat chocolate milk after workouts aided in recovery like commercial recovery beverages did.[6] The 4:1 carb to protein ratio helps stimulate muscle repair and energy repletion.

5. Water Is Key

Just about any diet or exercise tip includes drinking water. Water is one of the best beverages you can have for rehydration, and it’s free! The intensity of your workout will depend on how much water your body loses. How much you sweat affects it as well.

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But why does water matter? Let’s take a closer look.

Most of our body is made up of water. It’s not a surprise that you require a lot of it—and even more when you work out. Many people show to the gym already dehydrated, then workout and become even more dehydrated. This can cause quite a bit of negative effects. Your workout can become harder, you could suffer performance issues, and take a longer time to recover after it.[7]

Just 2% of water weight loss can cause this. Some people lose about 6 to 10% from a single workout. It’s recommended to drink at least ½ to 1 oz of water per pound of bodyweight a day. To combat water loss, some experts also recommend weighing before and after your workout.

6. Add an Incline

There’s surprisingly a lot of benefits to adding an incline when you walk or use a treadmill. One study found that it improves your hamstring, glute, hip, knee, and ankle activity compared to walking without an incline. Another study found that it reduces stress on your extremities and joints.[8] It also improves your lung function, and there’s the widely known notion that it increases the number of calories you burn per hour.

7. Interval Training: Short but Sweet

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has become a more popular workout and for very good reasons. Interval training has greater cardiovascular and fat loss compared to other workouts. A study found that just a quick 20-minute workout burned twice as many calories during a long run.[9] While you don’t want to completely stick with only interval training, it’s a great addition for when you’re short on time or a more relaxed day.

8. Go Outside

When you were a child, your parents probably told you to go play outside. As you get older, outdoor activities become less frequent when work and real-life takes over. However, the great outdoors just might be what you need. A study found that people who did workouts outdoors were more energetic, rejuvenated, and less angry.[10] They compared this to those who only worked out indoors.

9. Switch Things Up Now and Then

Another important workout tip is to switch things up now and then. One major complaint people have is they get bored. For some, a routine keeps them in check and helps them stay on track. Others struggle or dread doing the same activities over and over again.

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There are dozens of exercises you can do like yoga, Pilates, HIIT, weightlifting, cardio, you get the idea. Even variants of the exercises you do help with your muscle gains. A study found that participants who did both a deep squat and a full squat achieved greater results than those who only did a full squat.[11] Now, you don’t have to change it up each time you workout but switching things up every so often eases your boredom and benefits your body.

10.Never Skip a Warm-Up

You often hear fitness experts emphasizing warmups or stretches before and after a workout. While it’s a solid idea and should be done, some don’t feel it’s necessary. Whether it’s a lack of time or they just don’t feel like it, many skip the warmups. But research shows that you shouldn’t.

Not only do stretches have benefits for your workout, but dynamic warmups do too. A study from Austin State University found that people who warmed up lightly with leg extensions and squats were able to put more power into their squats. On average, they were able to squat with 8.36% more weight than when they just did typical stretches. They also had increased stability with 22.7% lower body stability. [12] Warmups were also shown to increase blood flow and your range of motion.

11. Don’t Skip Out on Weights

Here’s a workout tip some people don’t want to hear: don’t skip out on weight. We all know that one person who swears by cardio only routine. While it might work great for the short term, it’s not beneficial in the long run. Your routine does need to include some type of lifting program. Why? Your metabolism slows making it harder to lose weight. A study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found that those who spent as little as 20 minutes a day gained less abdominal fat than those who stuck to cardio only routines.[13]

12. Get a Massage

A massage seems more like a treat than something you should receive daily, but it’s actually beneficial to your workouts. Research conducted by McMaster University in Canada found that massages help muscles decrease inflammation and increase mitochondria.[14] What does this mean? You get more power in your workouts and recover faster.

13. Sleep Well

Everyone knows that a quality night’s rest is essential for daily functioning. However, it’s crucial for your workouts, too. A lack of sleep hinders your performance, your caloric burn, and makes it harder for you to do better in your next session.

Why? Sleep helps your muscles and body recover from sessions, so not sleeping much can cause overtraining symptoms or plateaus.[15] While sleep doesn’t come easy for everyone, it’s recommended to get at least seven to nine hours each night.

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14. Indulge in Protein Before Bed

You often hear people following a diet where they stop food consumption after a certain time, swearing it takes off the extra pounds. While this is true in theory (calories in vs calories out), it’s not exactly healthy.

When you work out hard, your body needs time and adequate nutrients to recover properly. Protein helps rebuild muscles and is one of those essential food items you want to make sure you’re eating enough of. A study from the Netherlands showed that consuming food rich in casein before bed keeps your amino acid and protein synthesis going while you’re asleep.[16] Now, that’s not to say go crazy before bed, but a light snack of Greek yogurt or a cup of cottage cheese will help.

15.Cardio Gets a Bad Reputation

Cardio has an overwhelming amount of data that supports the health benefits you get. Regardless if you’re doing high-intensity or low-impact, you’ll still receive the benefits. However, it often gets a bad reputation and many actually skip cardio. But cardio itself isn’t bad to add to your routine if you’re a guy or someone who typically skips it. Why? Because it enhances muscle building.

If you’ve ever done cardio then tried lifting, you know it doesn’t end well. By the time you try to lift, your whole body has given up. However, if you want to get the benefits of cardio, squeeze it in after your lift session. You’ll have more energy, and you’ll burn more fat too.

A study from the Journal of Sports Science Medicine found that those who did high-intensity cardio sessions lasting longer than 30 minutes when into muscle hypertrophy. Those that performed low-impact exercises benefitted the most with more muscle growth over time.[17] It’s recommended that if you perform high-intensity workouts, to wait at least three hours before taking on a long cardio session.

Final Thoughts

While there are a lot more workout tips than what we listed—and I mean a lot—you, at the very least, gained some knowledge on what you might be doing wrong and how you can easily fix or switch up your routine. The journey to achieve the body you want isn’t always easy or fun, but it’s worth it in the end.

More Workout Tips

Featured photo credit: Benjamin Klaver via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] PubMed.gov: Influence of competition on performance and pacing during cycling exercise
[2] PubMed.gov: The use of carbohydrates during exercise as an ergogenic aid
[3] PubMed.gov: Effect of different musical tempo on post-exercise recovery in young adults
[4] NCBI: Effect of music tempo on exercise performance and heart rate among young adults
[5] American Physiological Society: Caffeine consumption around an exercise bout: effects on energy expenditure, energy intake, and exercise enjoyment
[6] PubMed.gov: Chocolate milk: a post-exercise recovery beverage for endurance sports
[7] NCBI: Water, Hydration and Health
[8] PubMed.gov: The influence of incline walking on joint mechanics
[9] NCBI: Exercise Intensity and Energy Expenditure of a Tabata Workout
[10] Time: Why Spring Is the Perfect Time to Take Your Workout Outdoors
[11] Taylor and Francis Online: Full squat produces greater neuromuscular and functional adaptations and lower pain than partial squats after prolonged resistance training
[12] PubMed.gov: Potentiation Effects of Half-Squats
[13] Science Daily: Weight training appears key to controlling belly fat
[14] McMaster University: Massage is promising for muscle recovery: McMaster researchers find 10 minutes reduces inflammation
[15] PubMed.gov: Sleep and athletic performance: the effects of sleep loss on exercise performance, and physiological and cognitive responses to exercise
[16] PubMed.gov: Protein ingestion before sleep improves postexercise overnight recovery
[17] NCBI: Moderate Intensity Cycling Exercise after Upper Extremity Resistance Training Interferes Response to Muscle Hypertrophy but Not Strength Gains

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Dan Barcelon

Health & Fitness Editor of "Fitness for Non-Athletes"

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Last Updated on October 4, 2021

5 Best Exercises for Weight Loss at Home

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5 Best Exercises for Weight Loss at Home

With the lines of work and home becoming increasingly blurry, it’s no wonder why we struggle to find the time to prioritize our health. Particularly with weight loss, it’s often difficult to manage the ever-present constraints around work, children, time to exercise, and the feeling of exhaustion at the end of the day.

Taking the effects of stress and the rise of remote work and work-from-home situations, we need to be far more tactical in our weight loss pursuits. Quite often, these exercises for weight loss at home aren’t even fitness-related.

Firstly, let’s look at a standard day in the life of a busy professional or parent to really understand the battlefield in which we need to operate.

We all have 24 hours in a day to work with. Knowing how we spend that 24 hours is crucial when learning where time will be best spent for our weight loss journey. Setting unrealistic expectations can be a quick way to end up back at square one.

  • Sleep: 8 hours (parents, if you’re lucky)
  • Work: 8 hours (sometimes more)
  • Children: 2 to 4 hours (includes pickups, drop-offs, and play)
  • Meal Preparation: 1 hour (at a minimum)
  • Household Activities: 1 to 2 hours (because someone’s got to do it, right?)
  • Total: 20 to 22 hours

Taking into account that switching between tasks takes time and cognitive space, we can start to understand why people just want to sit and scroll through social media at the end of a day. We also haven’t factored in the work commute if you have to report to the office.

Just realized you now have minimal time to yourself? This might start to explain why you struggle to gain momentum in your weight loss journey. Let’s work out how to take back the initiative:

  • Automate – Are there any tasks you can automate? If you’re fortunate enough to be gainfully employed, maybe it’s time to hire a cleaner or have ready-made meals delivered to your door. It doesn’t have to happen every night, but removing the decision of “what’s for dinner?” can be a great way to reduce stress and free up brain space and time.
  • Optimize – If you’re time-poor with kids, it’s time to optimize your activities. Turn screen time into playtime outdoors, and get them to join in on your activities. If your children are old enough, it might be time to start offering pocket money for chores and meal preparation. This strategy helped me stay fit as a single parent. By getting out and active with my son, I doubled my return on investment by staying fit and enhancing my relationship.
  • Eliminate – We’re only human. Sometimes, we simply have too much on our plate due to our high expectations. Take a look through your daily tasks and work out what can be removed.

Now, go through this exercise yourself. What potential spare time do you have to work with? If the answer is none, you might want to keep reading.

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Exercise Selection: It’s Not All About the Burn

No equipment? No problem.

So, we’re finally tracking the elements that matter. It’s time to start leveraging exercise to accelerate our weight loss journey. Alongside focusing on individual exercises that help with weight loss at home or caloric expenditure, we’re going to focus on another method to help keep you consistent and accountable for the long term: interest.

Interest has been linked as one of the key motivating factors to maintain consistency towards a goal. By choosing a form of exercise that your body and mind can enjoy, your chances of weight loss success are far greater.

Here’re the 5 best exercises for weight loss at home:

1. Low-Intensity Interval Training (LIIT)

Maybe the body isn’t what it used to be, and intense forms of training simply just aren’t safe anymore. Also considering the body’s response to stress, it might be in our very best interest to choose low-intensity activities that we can repeat daily.

Mobility and movement flows have risen in popularity in recent years. This form of exercise focuses on restoring range of motion (ROM), improving stability, and returning people to activity. Some exercise options include:

  • Quadruped Rocks
  • Frog Stretch
  • Hip Prying
  • Scapula Push-ups
  • Hindu push-ups

Below is a 10minute warm-up flow that shows you how to put all of this together:

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2. Yoga

Yoga is another perfect example of LIIT methodology that can be advanced as your ability improves. Focusing on mobility, stability, and range of movement using only your body weight, it’s a perfect entry-level activity for those that may have lost their way on their weight loss journey.

3. Calisthenics

Strength training at home can be difficult when you lack equipment or experience. An obvious path to building strength at home is calisthenics. Starting with just the following basic bodyweight movements:

You can begin your journey with no equipment and build to quite an advanced level. Here are five movements you can look to master over time are:

Depending on your ability, choose movements that allow you to progress safely over time. There is also gymnastics-based training you can move towards if your body is ready for a more demanding form of training.

4. Aerobic Exercise

Another underrepresented form of exercise, aerobic exercise is often overlooked for its sexier counterparts like strength and HIIT. With the prevalence of obesity nearly tripling between 1975 and 2016 and the major cause in adults being cardiovascular disease, it makes sense to focus on activities that improve cardiovascular or heart health.

Another benefit is that it can be as simple as getting your steps in, going for a swim, or going for an easy ride or run. Phil Maffetone pioneered the Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) Method that almost anyone can adopt regardless of fitness level and experience.[1]

Here’s a 30-minute session of aerobic exercises you can try:

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5. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High-intensity interval training is a great way to elevate the heart rate and get the endorphins flowing. It can also be super time-effective, giving you a great bang for your buck. Try sequencing some of the movements and exercises above together with minimal rest to keep your heart rate elevated. Be sure to select movements that suit your current level of fitness and ability.

Here’s a HIIT workout that takes little time and is suited for any level:

Chipper 60

Complete all reps of every exercise for time. Exercises can be done in any order and repetitions to complete the workout.

If you can’t do jump squats, regress to normal squats, and don’t be afraid to change the leg raises to a 60-second plank if you need to. Finish up with some light stretching or foam rolling.

What Also Matters: Sleep, Stress, and Stimulants

Sleep, stress, and stimulants, also known as the hamster wheel of death. Tracking these elements gives us the power to finally stop relying on our ever-depleted stores of discipline and motivation to get the job done. It will also highlight the self-destructive habits that sabotage your weight loss journey.

Simply put, stress affects stimulants, sleep affects stress, and the vicious cycle continues.

Sleep

Are you getting enough sleep? It’s well documented that sleep is an important factor in weight loss and recovery.

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“Restricted sleep and poor sleep quality may lead to metabolic disorders, weight gain, and an increased risk of obesity and other chronic health conditions.”[2]

Start this journey by tracking how much sleep you’re getting. Certain wearables can also track the amount of movement and time you spend awake or in lighter sleep cycles. Getting enough time in REM or deep sleep is critical for weight loss.

Stress

We don’t need to be fancy. A simple daily measurement out of ten indicates how much stress we think we are under. Using this number, we can observe the effects that sleep, stimulants, and exercise have on our stress levels, allowing us to deploy the right strategy for our weight loss goals.

Stimulants

Stimulants can be classified as anything we put in our mouths. Tracking calories, alcohol, and caffeine is a great way to observe, predict, and avoid trends or at-risk periods of overeating and destructive behaviors. Tracking this is aligned with how well we sleep, and our stress response gives us enough information to start forming better weight loss habits.

Work to identify the trigger, observe the response, and then look to adjust.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re fighting fit or returning to activity, the best exercises for weight loss at home are the ones that you can do day in day out that you enjoy. Think of exercise for weight loss as we do for compound interest. Consistently and regularly making deposits may not show immediately, but with time, they give you the momentum you need to reach your goals.

Featured photo credit: Olivia Bauso via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] PhilMaffetone: Maximum Aerobic Function
[2] SleepFoundation.org: Why is sleep so important to weight loss?

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