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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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How to Keep Yourself Awake at Work Without Caffeine

How to Keep Yourself Awake at Work Without Caffeine

Keeping yourself awake at work can be a real challenge when you’re bored, exhausted or sleep-deprived.

But before you reach for that can of Red Bull, bottle of Mountain Dew, or pot of coffee, try these healthy remedies to stimulate your 5 different senses and help you stay awake at work:

Sight – Visual Stimulation

The first thing you do when you wake up is opening your eyes, so your visual stimulation is very important to keeping your energy level high.

1. Maximize your exposure to light.

Your body’s internal rhythm is regulated by the amount of light you receive. The greater your exposure, the more alert you will feel.

Open the shades and let in the sunlight. Step outside or look out the window. Turn on all the artificial lights in your office or around your work space.

2. Exercise your eyes (or give them a break).

Roll your eyes up and down, side to side and diagonally. Rotate them clockwise and then counterclockwise. Squeeze them shut and then open them wide. Do this several times.

Reading and sitting in front of a computer screen for long periods can lead to eye fatigue.

Take regular breaks with deliberate blinking and looking out into the distance.

3. Take note of your environment.

Learn to enjoy people-watching. Observe their activities, speech, body language and interactions with others. Notice the details of building, trees and other objects around you, including their color, shape and size.

By doing this, you’re not only relaxing your eye muscles but also calming your mind.

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Hearing – Auditory Stimulation

What you hear or listen to have direct effect on your brain. This is why we feel so annoyed and sometimes angry when we hear construction noise when we’re working.

4. Engage in conversation.

Talk to a friend or colleague. Trade funny stories. Discuss your business venture, a creative idea, the latest political scandal, or any other topic that interests you.

Practice mindful listening to what you and the other person are saying. Tune into the tone, volume and content of the conversation.

Learn how to practice better listening from this guide:

Why Listen to Reply Instead of Understand Is the Key to Failure

5. Listen to upbeat music.

Try hip hop, rock or jazz to keep you alert. Instrumental, non-distracting music works best.

Sing, whistle, and hum along if you can. Plug in the earphones if you must.

Smell – Olfactory Stimulation

If you’re feeling sleepy and suddenly smell the coffee, you’ll probably feel more energetic. This is why smell is an influential stimulation.

6. Work your nose.

Aroma therapists recommend essential oils of peppermint (to boost energy), rosemary (to build awareness), eucalyptus (to increase oxygen), cedarwood  (to activate your mind), and cinnamon (to improve your reaction time).

If you don’t have essential oils on hand, you can use lotions or burning candles that provide the same scents.

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Citrus like lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges are also natural olfactory stimulants. Get a whiff of these citrus scents to stay awake.

Taste – Gustatory Stimulation

If you want an energetic day at work, you can’t let your tongue feeling plain and flavorless.

7. Have a good breakfast.

Start off with the most important meal of the day.

Think fresh, light and healthy: bran cereals, wholegrain breads, fruits, and yogurt.

Nix the heavy stuff like sausages, greasy eggs or pancakes.

Need some breakfasts inspirations? Check out these ideas:

20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time

8. Drink lots of water.

Keep a glass or bottle of H2O near you and sip from it throughout the day. Dehydration can leave you feeling tired, sluggish and sleepy.

So make sure you drink enough water throughout the day. Not sure how much to drink? This can help you:

How Much Water Should You Drink Each Day (and How Much Is Too Much for You)

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Think that you’ve been drinking too little water? Try these friendly reminders:

3 Best Apps To Help You Drink Much More Water

9. Eat energy-boosting snacks.

Nuts and fruits (like bananas, apples and strawberries) are sure bets. Pairings with staying power include baby carrots with a low-fat cream cheese dip; celery sticks with peanut butter; red peppers with hummus; and plain yogurt with granola.

Avoid carb-filled, sugary snacks that make you crash and leave you feeling tired.

Here you can find some healthy snack ideas:

25 Healthy Snack Recipes To Make Your Workday More Productive

Touch – Tactile Stimulation

Last but not least, your sense of touch will make you physically feel more energetic and less stressful.

10. Splash cold water on your face.

Do this in the morning, during bathroom breaks and in the afternoon. Being exposed to cold water pushes your body to adjust and regulate its internal temperature, which in turn keeps you alert.

This works the same as you take a cold shower to increase mood and alertness. Take a look at this article to learn more about it:

5 Surprising Benefits of Cold Showers

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11. Use acupressure.

Apply pressure to, massage, or tap on the stimulation points of your body. These include the top of your head, the back of your neck, the back of your hand (between the thumb and index finger), just below the knee and your earlobes.

Watch this video to learn about the acupressure points you can try:

12. Get moving.

Move away from your chair and stand, walk, run or climb the stairs. Feel the earth under your feet. Stretch and twist. Do jumping jacks, lunges, push-ups and back bends.

And if you need to move more discreetly, wiggle your feet, bounce your knee up and down, scrunch your toes, or cross your legs.

You can also try some simple stretches and exercises at your desk:

Unlike addictive caffeine fixes, these remedies activate your senses, engage your attention, amp up your energy and prevent morning grogginess and afternoon slumps without the side effects or health risks.

Pick a few ways from this list of suggestions and practice them consistently. And when you do this consistently, you’ll soon see the positive results — a more energetic and productive you at work.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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