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Top 10 Benefits of Endurance Training

Top 10 Benefits of Endurance Training

While some people still question the sanity of people leaving their couch cushions to lace up running shoes, dust off bikes, or snap on goggles, no one can deny that endurance sports are growing—and fast. Perhaps it’s in response to the obesity epidemic, increasing sedentary lifestyle, or just because it’s fun. Whatever the reason, people are leaving the weekend T.V. marathons in droves for the weekend marathon race, Ironman triathlon, or ultra-endurance 100-plus mile ultra races.

I’m guilty of this. While I was always a runner, I didn’t run my first marathon until I was 31 years old. That began my love affair with endurance racing. I am now in training for my first Ironman triathlon, so the relationship has grown stronger over the years.

So what are the benefits of endurance training? Why the appeal? What would make a presumably sane person want to spend hours running, swimming, or biking? While this list is not all-inclusive, here are the top ten benefits I enjoy as an endurance athlete.

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1. Healthier Body

Endurance sports create a stronger, healthier body. Muscles, cardiovascular system, bones, joints, and lungs all learn to adapt to the new task of sustaining a strong pace for hours. Endurance athletes also enjoy faster metabolisms due to more lean muscle mass, so we can indulge our sweet tooth more without the guilt. Sustained exercise also reduces the risk of most debilitating diseases. I lost several immediate family members to cancer, so this was one of the primary reasons I began running.

2. Clearer Thinking

While ramping up the mileage too fast or overtraining can cause mental and physical fatigue, exercise done properly has been shown by researchers to actually help with cognitive function. It was also found to be a preventative to Alzheimer’s in older people. For anyone who has done endurance sports, the best thinking time may be on the road on in the water. Exercise improves circulation throughout the body, and the brain benefits from this.

3. Better Self Image

When I don’t exercise, I struggle with my weight and self image. When I train and participate in endurance races, a very nice side effect is that my clothes fit better. This improves my confidence and interactions with others. After being both fit and overweight at different periods in my life, I certainly would choose the amazing results of endurance training any day over sitting on the couch eating ice cream.

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4. Better Mental Fortitude / Confidence

There is something to be said for surprising yourself and surpassing your perceived limitations. The great thing about endurance training is that you get back what you put in. When you train, you learn your body can do things you never believed possible. You also learn to push past pain and exhaustion to a whole new level of power. When I completed my first marathon, I felt I was invincible. That feeling spills into other areas of life. You learn that hard work and dedication pay off. So, you continue to push against all of life’s limits, not just the physical or fitness barriers.

5. Better Peace of Mind

Runners often joke that running is cheaper than therapy. There is truth to that. Many psychologists believe exercise works at the same level or better than antidepressants, and the studies back this up. It must be all those endorphin surges!

During my dark times, I turned to running and found mental relief from pain and depression. Even if you aren’t sad, running is also a great stress relief from the every-day emotional impacts of life.

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6. Better Sleep

Endurance training helps with better sleep. On days I don’t train, I often have trouble sleeping. However, when I’m on a daily training schedule, running, biking, and swimming hard in all that fresh air and sunshine, World War III couldn’t wake me up at night. I also start my morning refreshed and energized.

7. More Energy

If you can train your body to propel you forward for hours on end through all types of terrain and weather, getting through the day is easy. Your body becomes efficient, and you get more done, in less time, with more energy.

8. Fountain of Youth

Exercise increases production of HGH or Human Growth Hormone. HGH has been tied to many benefits, specifically anti-aging. All exercise increases HGH, but anaerobic exercise is especially helpful. Most endurance athletes also hit the weight room to remain competitive and keep their core strong to reduce injury.

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I’m not proud of this, but I can’t tell you how many times I have been beaten by people well into their 60s. When I speak to these racing veterans, I can’t believe it when they volunteer their age. They always look and act decades younger. I can only hope that I age as gracefully!

9. Amazing Friendships

Endurance sports draw a quality crowd. You meet the type of people who encourage you to pull out the inward athlete and readily share knowledge to help you get there. Some of my best friendships have been forged under the hot sun and glued together with blood, sweat, and tears. Pushing yourself past physical limitations rips away the layers you carefully construct for the world. You become raw and real, and that forms the best foundation for strong relationships. Also, no matter where you travel, when fellow athletes meet you, you often find yourself joining them in a workout. It’s a passionate commonality that connects us.

10. Better Quality and Quantity of Life

No one can deny that regular exercise increases the quality and quantity of life. You reduce the risk of systemic disease and increase life expectancy when you begin endurance training. You enjoy better health, improved self image, clearer thinking, increased energy, mental toughness, better relationships, better sleep, stay younger longer, are happier, and enjoy amazing relationships. This translates into a better over-all existence on this planet.

So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to ditch the T.V. marathons for some real marathon training! Chose a race, find a club, and hit the road, gym, or pool to enjoy these benefits today.

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Sarah Hansen

A corporate-sales professional turned entrepreneur

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Last Updated on October 5, 2020

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss (The Ultimate Weight Loss Hack)

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss (The Ultimate Weight Loss Hack)

Intermittent fasting weight loss is a type of diet that’s rapidly growing in popularity and becoming the way to lose weight. Scientists and nutrition experts like it, too. New books and articles on the topic are being published daily. Intermittent fasting is also popular with followers of the Paleo diet since our ancestors appear to have eaten this way for thousands of years.

I’ve been following this type of diet myself for 2 years. Doing so helped me lose and keep off 70 pounds without ever having to count calories, limit carbohydrates, or eat 6 to 7 meals a day.

This article teaches you all about intermittent fasting weight loss and details why it is one of the best weight loss diet hacks around. Once you finish, you will be able to implement into your diet and experience the benefits it offers almost immediately.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

As you may have figured from its name, intermittent fasting weight loss is a diet plan where you set fasting periods during the day. This is usually between 16-20 consecutive hours, but it can be as little as 12 hours or as much as 24 hours (or even 36 hours).

While fasting you can eat and drink low calorie or calorie-free foods. Think coffee, tea, water, and vegetables.

The more time you spend fasting every day, the better your results. You can do these fasts as often as you like. Again, the more often you do so, the better[1].

Getting Started With Intermittent Fasting

Following this diet plan is super simple. All you have to do is choose a period of time during the day that you will fast. This should be between 16-20 hours.

The longer you fast each day, the better. Don’t worry about calorie restriction or measuring carbohydrates. Just focus on going about your day until it’s time to eat.

It’s best to choose a set period of time to conduct your fast. I like to fast from 8 PM to 4 PM the following afternoon. I’ll then have my first meal of the day and a snack or two a few hours later. Once 8 o’clock rolls around, it’s back to fasting.

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My experience with intermittent fasting is that it’s best to start with a 16 hour fast (i.e. 8PM one evening to 12PM the next day) for the first 1-2 weeks. Once you are comfortable with this schedule, you can increase the amount of time you spend fasting. Do this by adding 30 minutes to each fast until you get to where you are fasting for 20 hours at a time.

You don’t have to fast every day in the beginning either. You may be more comfortable breaking in slowly with 2 or 3 days per week, or trying alternate day fasting. Add additional days of intermittent fasting as you become more comfortable with this style of eating.

Tips To Make Intermittent Fasting Easier

1. Drink Plenty of Water

Squeeze a little lemon or lime juice into your water to help get rid of any cravings you experience. You can also drink coffee, tea, or other calorie-free beverages. After a few weeks, you will find that intermittent fasting keeps you from craving sugar entirely.

2. Take in Caffeine in the Morning and Early Afternoon

The caffeine in coffee and tea may actually make intermittent fasting weight loss a little easier since it’s good for curbing your appetite. Be careful not to overindulge as this may lead to you feeling a little too wired. I also recommend these natural energy boosting tips to keep you going during the day.

3. Avoid Artificially Flavored Drinks

One type of calorie-free drink that should be avoided are diet sodas and other beverages that use artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Sweet & Low. Studies show that the can actually stimulate your appetite[2] like a drink that contains sugar and cause you to overeat.

4. Don’t Gorge at Your First Meal

The first meal after your fast should be the amount of food you typically eat. Binging will only make you feel awful and diminish the benefits you get from the fast.

To avoid this, try creating meal plans, at least for the first few weeks. This will help you get into the rhythm of eating regularly portioned meals during your eating window.

5. Minimize Processed Carbohydrates and Sugars

While intermittent fasting does make it possible to eat a little looser than normal, you should still eat as little bread, pasta, rice, etc. as possible.

Focus instead on eating protein from beef, fish, or pork, carbohydrates from vegetables, fruit, and sweet potatoes, and healthy fats from foods like almonds, avocados, fish, and olive oil.

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You can find some carb sources that will aid your weight loss journey here.

How Intermittent Fasting Helps You Lose Weight

Eating this way has many benefits with regard to weight loss. The first is that when you’re fasting, your body will be forced to use its stored body fat for energy. Burning calories this way, instead of from the food you’re eating throughout the day, will help you experience significant weight loss, but specifically lose weight from any excess body fat you’re carrying.

This means that you won’t just be thinner, but you will also look better and be much healthier than if you lose weight the old-fashioned way[3].

Intermittent fasting can help optimize the release of the key fat-burning hormones in your body. This is especially true for the two most important hormones: human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin.

Human growth hormone plays a key role in turning on your body’s fat-burning furnace so that it gets the calories you need to work and play from stored body fat. Studies show that fasting can significantly increase the production of HGH[4].

The influence intermittent fasting weight loss has on insulin is just as impressive and possibly more important. Keeping your insulin levels low and steady is key to losing excess fat and keeping it off.

Diets that are rich in processed carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice) and simple sugars (candy, cookies, and soda) have the opposite effect. They cause your insulin levels to rapidly spike and then crash every time you eat one of these foods. The net result of this phenomenon is that your body will store more of what you eat as excess body fat instead of burning it off as energy.

Chronically elevating your insulin levels like this can also lead to the development of type II diabetes, obesity, and other chronic health problems. Intermittent fasting easily solves this problem.

One study found that men who participated in intermittent fasting had “dramatically lower insulin levels and significantly improved insulin sensitivity”[5].

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This happens because you’re not giving your body food, so it will not produce insulin, allowing insulin levels to balance out until you eat again. This helps your body stay in a calorie and fa-burning state. You’ll also find that it gives you more energy throughout the day.

Another great weight loss benefit of intermittent fasting is that hunger pangs and cravings that may normally plague you throughout the day will be reduced, if not altogether eliminated. This is probably due to its ability to balance your insulin and blood sugar levels and, in turn, help correct other hormonal imbalances.

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss FAQs

Now that you know what intermittent fasting is and how to get started, it’s time to answer your other questions.

Below are answers to the questions frequently asked about intermittent fasting. These answers should help you and make getting started a lot easier.

How Much Weight Will I Lose?

The amount of weight you lose with fasting is determined by how often and long your fasts are, what you eat afterward, and other factors. Fasting for 16-20 hours a day can help you safely lose 2-3 pounds of fat every week.

While losing this much weight every week is great, it’s how it makes it happen that’s really cool. Losing weight with intermittent fasting means that you will never have to count calories or plan and prepare several meals a day.

Can I Work out While Fasting?

Yes, you can. In fact, doing the right type of workout while fasting will help you lose weight faster and even build muscle.

The best workouts to do while fasting for weight loss are 3-4 intense strength training workouts weekly. This means anything from standard strength training to kettlebell or body weight workouts.

Focus on doing 3-4 total body exercises per workout with as little rest as possible between sets. Doing this will help you burn more calories during and after your workout. You’ll also build muscle, which will help you look and feel better as the weight comes off.

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Won’t I Lose Muscle When I Fast?

First of all, you aren’t fasting long enough for your body to start breaking down muscle for energy. You have, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of calories from your stored body fat to use before that will begin to happen. Studies actually show that even after fasting for 3 days, no muscle is lost.

Is Fasting Safe?

As long as you are healthy, not pregnant, and aren’t taking medications, fasting is safe. Like all diets, you should discuss it with your doctor before beginning an intermittent fasting style of dieting.

I also feel that it may not be smart to follow this type of diet when you’re especially stressed. Since this diet can be a little stress-inducing at first, doing so when your ability to be relatively stress-free and rested probably isn’t a good idea.

Are There Any Supplements I Can Take to Make Fasting Easier?

As with any other weight loss plan, it’s a good idea to take a few nutritional supplements to ensure that your daily requirements are met. This includes a once or twice daily multi-vitamin, fish oil, and vitamin D.

I’ve also found taking 10 grams of branch chain amino acids before and after my workouts really helps, too. They’re great for giving you more energy during your workout and decreasing post-workout muscle soreness.

For supplements to specifically help with digestion, check out this article.

Conclusion

Now you know what intermittent fasting is and how it can help you lose weight quickly, safely, and pretty much effortlessly.

If you want to give it a try, find a fasting schedule that fits with you lifestyle and give it a go.

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Featured photo credit: Toa Heftiba via unsplash.com

Reference

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