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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 July 2, 2020

Simple Hacks on How to Relieve Neck Pain Fast (and Naturally)

Simple Hacks on How to Relieve Neck Pain Fast (and Naturally)

There is very little in life as annoying or distracting as neck pain. Most people find that neck pain is temporary. What can you do if your neck pain seems chronic or if it comes and goes with no obvious source?

Whether you have simply slept on your neck wrong or you are working late, hunched over a keyboard half the night, neck pain is, well, a pain in the neck!

What most people are unaware of is that there are little known hacks that can help you find relief from neck pain fast and naturally. This means no pills or expensive exercise equipment to buy.

How can you get relief from neck pain?

There are several easy steps to follow to find the perfect hack for solving your neck pain fast and easy.

How Did I End Up With This Pain in the Neck?

Neck pain often has an I-was-looking-right-at-it source that we don’t recognize at first glance. Once you identify the source of the pain, you can take the best corrective measure, or several measures if need be!

Ask yourself these questions to find a possible source:

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  • Do you spend much of the day sitting (desk job, typing, etc.)?
  • How old are your mattress and pillow?
  • How much exercise do you work into an average day?
  • How do you manage stress?
  • Have you been injured or in an accident (no matter how small) lately?

Perhaps one last question to ask yourself might be, “Is my pain a regular occurrence, or is my neck pain something that has just cropped up?

Once you know the answers to these questions, you can start searching for answers.

Remedies for Neck Pain

Once you know the source, try tapping into one (or several) of these solutions to start healing your neck pain now.

1. Everyday Activities

One of the important factors with neck pain will be your everyday activities. Other than an injury or accident, one of the largest factors for neck pain includes working overtime in an office and the stress that work entails[1].

Due to the coronavirus, many people find themselves working from home, in kitchens, basements, using a barstool, and/or other equipment that was not designed for humans to spend hours on end, typing and looking at a computer screen.

If you find that your neck pain has occurred during the past few months due to a job change, or if you suddenly began working from home, your issue may be due to ergonomics. Invest in an adjustable office chair to help make your workspace more neck-friendly.

2. Age of Mattress and Pillow

The age of your mattress and pillow should also be considered. Pillows, on average, should be changed every 3 years, and a mattress every 7-10 years. No matter how good or comfortable you think these items are, the truth is that they are hurting your neck and back with a lack of support.

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A good mattress is well worth the investment, and pillows are always on sale, as well as wallet-friendly. If you haven’t tried them, a water-filled pillow can be comfortable for many people.

3. Exercise/Movement/Stretching

It’s that old exercise question that no one wants to hear. This time around, it has been difficult for many people to get in good exercise since they have been housebound due to the quarantine. There are plenty of ways to get in some good, old-fashioned exercise.

Stretching exercises are even more important than before since many people do not get enough movement while sitting at home. There are hundreds of at-home exercise, dance, and yoga videos that require little to no equipment, so even if you’re a beginner, give it a go.

4. Stress and Stress Management

Stress is a hidden danger that robs more people of health than even most doctors realize. While everyone has stress, not everyone recognizes it, nor do they have a means of managing it. Exercise is one of the best ways to release stress, with meditation and yoga being the best ways to manage and relieve stress. All of these will remove tightness in the muscles and relieve neck pain.

5. Accident or Injury

If you have been involved in an accident or injured yourself lately (falling down, or having something fall on you, for example) and your neck pain began after this incident, you should speak with your doctor about this as soon as possible.

6. On-Going Problem or Sudden Occurrence

Finally, if your neck pain is something that has occurred recently, it could simply be that you slept on it wrong or turned your neck too hard. That will make this a very temporary condition. You can try some easy stretches for pain relief .

An on-going problem, however, might respond better to some other alternative methods, including:

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  • Slowly moving and stretching your neck. Do not move too quickly or too far. Roll your head from side to side, shoulder to shoulder, to the front and to the back.
  • Ice packs work well for some people, while heat works best for others.
  • Be aware of how you use your cell phone or tablet. If you keep your neck bent downward for too long to look at it, you can develop an annoying pain called text-neck or tech-neck. Take breaks and look up to stretch those neck muscles.
  • Long hours driving can also be hard on the neck. Look from side to side as far as you can, as well as up and down to prevent a stiff neck.

 

Still Have Tight Neck Muscles? 3 Tips for Finding Relief

When tight neck muscles are not responding to the typical heat, ice, or massage treatments, you might want to give the following a try:

1. Gua Sha

This is an ancient Chinese practice that might seem a bit odd, but it works for many people. In this practice, a trained individual uses a spoon or other object and makes short strokes down the neck. It is believed that poor blood circulation causes it to become stagnant, if you will, and blocks the positive energy needed for life, called qi.

Fresh blood will indeed allow oxygen and nutrients to feed the tissues in a given area, and one study found that gua sha worked where traditional methods, such as heat therapy, did not[2].

2. Swimming

You probably know that swimming is a terrific low-impact exercise that works wonders for those with back and knee pain, but did you know that it also works well for neck pain and tight muscles? It helps if the water is tepid and not cold, but even just floating on your back can offer tremendous relief since most of the body weight is suspended by the buoyancy of water.

3. Chiropractic Massage

Not your typical day spa massage, chiropractic massage is performed under the guidance of a chiropractor. A trained massage therapist will still do the massage, but this time, the chiropractor will have discussed your neck pain and any problems you might be having with them. Many people have found real relief from neck pain through chiropractic massage.

The Best Treatment for Neck Pain

When you need to find relief from neck pain and nothing you have tried previously seems to give you more than a few minutes of relief, spending some time with a chiropractor often times can fix this issue, and it doesn’t often return if you follow a healthy lifestyle.

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I’m certain that many of you are thinking about those awful videos with those loud cracking noises you’ve seen on social media, or you are recalling a news story which might have suggested that allowing a chiropractor anywhere near your neck might be a health hazard[3]. Nothing could be further from the truth.

You should try the other suggestions in this article before you head off to the chiropractor, but when all else fails, don’t let neck pain nag you day in and day out. Take steps to make an appointment, and you will be surprised at the results.

What Can a Chiropractor Do for Neck Pain?

Many people mistakenly believe that the only technique a chiropractor will use is a neck adjustment. Chiropractors are trained in a variety of methods that are designed to help you find the pain relief you are seeking.

A few of the methods a chiropractor might use include:

  • Cervical Manual Traction
  • Flexion-Distraction
  • Cervical Mobilization
  • Ultrasound
  • Cervical Drop Technique
  • Trigger Point Therapy

There are many more options, but your chiropractor should explain to you which techniques s/he intends to use and why[4]

The Bottom Line

If neck pain wreaks havoc in your life regularly, the best way to stop it is to identify the source and attack it from that angle.

Getting plenty of exercises, having a proper posture, and buying an office chair that provides plenty of support, as well as a regular stretching program, will keep your neck strong and flexible for many years to come.

More Tips on Healing Neck Pain

Featured photo credit: Christopher Campbell via unsplash.com

Reference

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