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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 March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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