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8 Highly Effective Weight Loss & Muscle Building Tactics

8 Highly Effective Weight Loss & Muscle Building Tactics

Have you ever learned something or had someone impart wisdom to you that didn’t make much of an impact at the time, but  then hit you like a sledgehammer later?

This happened to me when I was training for my first marathon.  My friend and coach, Steve, told me that once you hit 40 you can keep your body fat low, maintain and build muscle, and run great times—but that it just gets harder. Now, at age 52, I am definitely at the place he was talking about.  Even though I have worked out and eaten healthy all of my life, I do both better now.  This article is about some of the key strategies that I have found to make the most impact on weight and body fat, muscle mass, and energy level.

1. Eating More Often

Eating more often throughout the day will help you maintain both your energy level and your blood sugar levels.  I find that a plan that seems to work best is to eat three main meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and then add in several snacks or mini-meals. Each of your meals or snacks should contain some protein: an easy mid-morning or afternoon snack could be an apple and a small handful of almonds, for example.

On my workout days (5-6 per week) I will add in a sixth snack right after I exercise: this is usually a protein shake with about 100 calories, which works well to recharge me as I head back to my practice.

2.  Drinking More Water 

Drinking more water will help you feel and function better, and starting your morning with two glasses of water will help you to re-hydrate.  This has many health benefits and will also allow your muscles and ligaments to become more pliable and resilient.

Taking in a fair amount of water throughout the day also seems to help many people lose weight, or at least to maintain their weight.

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3. Eat the Majority of Your Carbohydrates Early in the Day.

The two best times to eat carbohydrates are in the early morning, and after strenuous exercise. Eating most of your carbs in the morning allows them to be used more effectively by your body over the course of the day, and will be less likely to store them as fat.

Do you  know what the worst time of day is to load up on high glycemic-index carbs? At dinner time, and during evening snacking. The most important foods to avoid are potatoes, white pasta (100% whole wheat pasta is a better option), white rice, bread, rolls, and chips.

Here is another Lifehack article to check out to help with your weight loss goals:

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/avoid-these-mistakes-if-you-want-to-lose-weight-fast.html

4. If It Comes in a Package or Already Prepared, Eliminate It.

If you really want to clean up your diet and start getting fast results, cut out processed foods.

This may take a little practice if you are used to preparing meals that come ready to heat and eat or almost prepared: if you’re a fast-food aficionado, you will have some major changes to make.

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A good example of a healthy meal would be a dinner of grilled fish (wild-caught is best), steamed vegetables, brown rice, salad with homemade dressing (olive oil, vinegar and mustard) and maybe a glass or two of red wine.  This could replace frozen, breaded fish fillets, white rice or potatoes, and other commonly-prepared side dishes.

5. Cut Out Refined Sugar.

Sugar, in many of its forms (especially refined), is just not good for us. Eating natural sugar with fiber  (like the fructose that occurs naturally in fruit) is much healthier. Unfortunately, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is found in many of the foods and beverages that many of us consume today: why is that?

Corn syrup is cheap and about three times sweeter that glucose, so it’s used liberally in the food industry. It has the potential to pack on fat pounds, increase blood pressure and override your brain’s ability to register “feeling full”. Try to avoid it as much as possible.

6. Eat Breakfast.

This really is the most important meal of your day: research has shown that eating a good breakfast will typically decrease the amount of total calories you take in during the entire day.

What makes for a good fat-burning and muscle building breakfast? Although I’m not much of a hot-cereal eater, whole grain oatmeal could be part of a healthy start to your day.  You could also toss some almonds or walnuts into your oatmeal for additional protein and healthy fat.

I will often have grilled salmon (I’ll grill extra on the weekend and have plenty for breakfasts and lunches during the week), left-over steamed veggies, almonds, and coffee for breakfast, with other favorites including turkey sausage, scrambled eggs (my #1 go-to breakfast), bacon, home-made protein bars and chicken sausage.

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7. Stop Trying to Spot-Reduce with “Crunch-Type” Sit-Ups.

Crunches have been shown to provide very little muscle activation to the muscles that make up your abs (abdominal muscles).  There are far more effective options you could do instead.

Try some of these to work your core: planks (front and side), mountain climbers, push-ups, hanging leg raises (hanging from a pull-up bar). Also doing full-body, compound exercise moves will work your core—a good example of this is the kettlebell swing.  This move, in my opinion, is the most effective all-over body move: try 10 sets of 20-30 swings (with the right amount of weight and good form) and you will feel what I mean by total body move.

Check out this Lifehack post to learn more about muscle building: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/10-workout-hacks-for-building-muscle.html

8. Lift Weights.

Adding weight-lifting to your exercise regimen will get your body into fat-burning and muscle-building mode faster than any other exercise. The biggest weight lifting mistake that I find people making is that they never start—beyond that, many women tend to lift weights that are too light to get significant results with fat loss and muscle-building.

Men, on the other hand, will often try to lift too much weight and end up with muscle, ligament or joint injuries.The key is to find the right amount of weight for each exercise that will allow you to perform 10-15 repetitions for 3-4 sets.  If you are new to weight training, I strongly suggest that you hire a personal trainer to at least get you started correctly.

What are the benefits of weight lifting for both men and women? Loss of both weight and fat that lasts for many hours even after your workout; repair and building of muscle tissue; increased strength of bones and joints; decreased pain and improved balance.

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If you are interested in reading about more cutting edge, anti-aging information on exercise and weight-lifting, I highly recommend these books:

Younger Next Year (for men) and Younger Next Year (for Women).  Written by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, MD

Featured photo credit:  Couple of women at the gym stretching via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on November 20, 2018

10 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

10 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

A new year beautifully symbolizes a new chapter opening in the book that is your life. But while so many people like you aspire to achieve ambitious goals, only 12% of you will ever experience the taste of victory. Sound bad? It is. 156 million people (that’s 156,000,000) will probably give up on their resolution before you can say “confetti.” Keep on reading to learn why New Year’s resolutions fail (and how to succeed).

Note: Since losing weight is the most common New Year’s resolution, I chose to focus on weight loss (but these principles can be applied to just about any goal you think of — make it work for you!).

1. You’re treating a marathon like a sprint.

Slow and steady habit change might not be sexy, but it’s a lot more effective than the “I want it ALL and I want it NOW!” mentality. Small changes stick better because they aren’t intimidating (if you do it right, you’ll barely even notice them!).

If you have a lot of bad habits today, the last thing you need to do is remodel your entire life overnight. Want to lose weight? Stop it with the crash diets and excessive exercise plans. Instead of following a super restrictive plan that bans anything fun, add one positive habit per week. For example, you could start with something easy like drinking more water during your first week. The following week, you could move on to eating 3 fruits and veggies every day. And the next week, you could aim to eat a fistful of protein at every meal.

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2. You put the cart before the horse.

“Supplementing” a crappy diet is stupid, so don’t even think about it. Focus on the actions that produce the overwhelming amount of results. If it’s not important, don’t worry about it.

3. You don’t believe in yourself.

A failure to act can cripple you before you leave the starting line. If you’ve tried (and failed) to set a New Year’s resolution (or several) in the past, I know it might be hard to believe in yourself. Doubt is a nagging voice in your head that will resist personal growth with every ounce of its being. The only way to defeat doubt is to believe in yourself. Who cares if you’ve failed a time or two? This year, you can try again (but better this time).

4. Too much thinking, not enough doing.

The best self-help book in the world can’t save you if you fail to take action. Yes, seek inspiration and knowledge, but only as much as you can realistically apply to your life. If you can put just one thing you learn from every book or article you read into practice, you’ll be on the fast track to success.

5. You’re in too much of a hurry.

If it was quick-and-easy, everybody would do it, so it’s in your best interest to exercise your patience muscles.

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6. You don’t enjoy the process.

Is it any wonder people struggle with their weight when they see eating as a chore and exercise as a dreadful bore? The best fitness plan is one that causes the least interruption to your daily life. The goal isn’t to add stress to your life, but rather to remove it.

The best of us couldn’t bring ourselves to do something we hate consistently, so make getting in shape fun, however you’ve gotta do it. That could be participating in a sport you love, exercising with a good friend or two, joining a group exercise class so you can meet new people, or giving yourself one “free day” per week where you forget about your training plan and exercise in any way you please.

7. You’re trying too hard.

Unless you want to experience some nasty cravings, don’t deprive your body of pleasure. The more you tell yourself you can’t have a food, the more you’re going to want it. As long as you’re making positive choices 80-90% of the time, don’t sweat the occasional indulgence.

8. You don’t track your progress.

Keeping a written record of your training progress will help you sustain an “I CAN do this” attitude. All you need is a notebook and a pen. For every workout, record what exercises you do, the number of repetitions performed, and how much weight you used if applicable. Your goal? Do better next time. Improving your best performance on a regular basis offers positive feedback that will encourage you to keep going.

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9. You have no social support.

It can be hard to stay motivated when you feel alone. The good news? You’re not alone: far from it. Post a status on Facebook asking your friends if anybody would like to be your gym or accountability buddy. If you know a co-worker who shares your goal, try to coordinate your lunch time and go out together so you’ll be more likely to make positive decisions. Join a support group of like-minded folks on Facebook, LinkedIn, or elsewhere on the internet. Strength in numbers is powerful, so use it to your advantage.

10. You know your what but not your why.

The biggest reason why most New Year’s resolutions fail: you know what you want but you not why you want it.

Yes: you want to get fit, lose weight, or be healthy… but why is your goal important to you? For example:

Do you want to be fit so you can be a positive example that your children can admire and look up to?

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Do you want to lose fat so you’ll feel more confident and sexy in your body than ever before?

Do you want to be healthy so you’ll have increased clarity, energy, and focus that would carry over into every single aspect of your life?

Whether you’re getting in shape because you want to live longer, be a good example, boost your energy, feel confident, have an excuse to buy hot new clothes, or increase your likelihood of getting laid (hey, I’m not here to judge) is up to you. Forget about any preconceived notions and be true to yourself.

  • The more specific you can make your goal,
  • The more vivid it will be in your imagination,
  • The more encouraged you’ll be,
  • The more likely it is you will succeed (because yes, you CAN do this!).

I hope this guide to why New Year’s resolutions fail helps you achieve your goals this year. If you found this helpful, please pass it along to some friends so they can be successful just like you. What do you hope to accomplish next year?

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