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Do you feel like you are doing everything you can but are still not losing weight? Wondering what is going on? The answer might have to do with insulin.

Insulin could be what is preventing you from reaching your weight loss goal. Most people completely overlook insulin in weight loss because they assume that it’s something that only people living with diabetes need to worry about. Nothing could be further from the truth. Insulin is something that anyone who is trying to lose weight needs to pay attention to.

What Does Insulin Have To Do With Weight Loss?

Insulin is a hormone that’s produced in the pancreas. The role of insulin is to regulate the body’s blood glucose levels. When your insulin levels rise, any fat burning that your body is doing stops. The release of insulin encourages the storage of your incoming calories. Typically, the body will resort to storing those new calories as fat.

Why is this a problem if you’re trying to lose weight?

The constant signal to store fat from incoming food means that the body never gets a chance to begin burning off its own stored fat.

Which foods make insulin levels spike? Typically, foods high in carbohydrates are the worst culprits for elevating insulin levels. Being strategic with your blood sugar when planning meals can be a great way to ensure that insulin levels stay stable. Besides helping the body burn fat, stable insulin levels will also help you avoid the highs and lows of sugar crashes.

Let’s take a look at some tips for how to lower insulin levels for weight loss.

The First Step: Know Which Foods to Avoid

Which foods make insulin levels spike? First, it’s essential to know that an insulin-minded diet doesn’t necessarily have to be a “no carbohydrate” diet. It’s all about balancing your diet with the right types of carbohydrates to avoid spikes. Pairing carbs and protein can help you stay fuller longer without your body “holding on” to the energy instead of burning it off.

Generally, you’re trying to avoid any foods that have what is referred to as a high glycemic index when planning your meals. Having a high glycemic index means that a food is digested very quickly and easily by the body. You can understand what that means by thinking about how quickly you’re famished again after polishing off a big, fluffy wheat muffin for breakfast.

Some foods that are known to raise insulin levels include:

  • White grains. These include white bread, pancakes, muffins, bagels, pastries, and pasta. Choose whole-grain foods instead.
  • Sugary, sweet juices and sodas. Even diet sodas can be problematic as some sweeteners in diet soda have been found to cause insulin spikes in the blood.
  • Refined carbohydrates. Consuming too many refined carbohydrates can raise insulin levels. Examples of these include pizza, white rice, and breakfast cereals. 
  • Foods with added sugars. Avoid things like pies, cakes, cookies, and donuts.
  • Limit fast food. Popular foods from places like McDonald’s and Wendy’s often have high levels of sugar and saturated fats, which cause insulin levels to shoot up quickly.
  • Avoid large servings of starchy vegetables. Examples of these types of vegetables include potatoes and corn.

Generally, most kinds of candy, cookies, and desserts contain high levels of carbohydrates and sugars. Even some foods that are naturally insulin-friendly foods can cause spikes if they are prepared using sugar and additives. An excellent example of this would be anything ordered off the menu at a fast-food restaurant. While a grilled hamburger with some potatoes might be great for keeping insulin levels stable in a normal situation, the way that fast food is prepared means that everything from the bun to the burger probably contains high amounts of sugar.

Of course, cutting out refined carbohydrates doesn’t mean you have to only eat protein. There’s room in an insulin-friendly diet for tons of vegetables, fruits, dairy products, coffee drinks, and other things you don’t want to live without.

Be Aware of the Sleep Connection

Woman sleeping
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

Did you know that sleep deprivation causes blood sugar to increase? Most people don’t know this! The spike in blood sugar that happens when we don’t get enough sleep leads to increased insulin secretion. If you’re struggling with weight management, the problem may have at least some connection to your sleep schedule. Most people need anywhere between seven and nine hours of uninterrupted sleep every night to function at their optimal capacity.

Just a single night of sleep deprivation can induce insulin resistance in healthy subjects, according to a 2010 study. It’s crucial to guard your sleep as though your health depends on it.

While it’s very common for people to try to “steal back” hours by staying up late, the truth is that sleep deprivation makes all of the work you’re doing with dieting and exercise less effective. Claiming time for sleep helps to make the time you spend on your health create more significant results.

Embrace the Low-Carb Life

Carbohydrates are an essential source of energy. Research has shown that following a low-carb diet can help reduce insulin levels. However, carb-heavy foods can raise insulin levels quite dramatically. Eating low-carb foods can also help decrease hunger, helping you feel satiated and making losing weight easier. 

Low carb diets have other benefits that go beyond lowering insulin levels. There is evidence that low-carb diets may help reduce cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease. One large study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, examined the impact of a low-carb diet on the risk of heart disease in people who were overweight and obese. Study participants who ate a low-carb meal plan showed significant improvements in their cardiovascular disease risk factors.

Tip for going low-carb: The critical thing to remember is that any diet that you follow has to be sustainable for the long term. It’s essential to avoid plans that are too restrictive. Choose healthy meals that you enjoy eating that consist of plenty of protein and healthy fats.

Exercise Regularly

Athlete stretching
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Yes, exercise is terrific for regulating insulin levels naturally. Most of us know we should exercise using cardio and strength training several times per week to burn calories and build muscle. However, what many people don’t realize is that exercise can help with weight loss beyond these two benefits.

During exercise, the body burns a form of glucose called glycogen stored in the muscles. The body then needs to restore glycogen levels following exercise. It gets that new glycogen by taking glucose stores from the bloodstream in a way that helps to improve insulin sensitivity. The benefits increase as exercise intensity increases! Some great ways to balance insulin levels for weight loss include walking, running, resistance training, and strength training.

The Bottom Line on How To Lower Insulin Levels Naturally for Weight Loss

Focusing on insulin when planning your diet just means looking at your diet from a hormone-based perspective. Knowing how to lower insulin levels for weight loss requires awareness of how different foods affect the body. Ideally, you’re focusing on foods that help to stabilize blood sugar levels instead of creating constant spikes.

💡Important To Remember: Refined carbohydrates create a constant cycle of spikes and falls that can cause you to eat more than intended. That’s because spikes cause us to go from feeling full to feeling famished with very little “stabilization” in the middle.

How To Avoid Refined Carbohydrates

One of the best ways to avoid excessive refined carbs is to plan your meals ahead of time.

It’s easy to reach for what’s easy and delicious when we are hungry. This fact is especially true when it’s time to finally think about dinner after a long work day. Carbohydrate-heavy foods are easy to prepare quickly. However, they don’t offer the benefits of whole grains, lean protein, and leafy greens that you get from a carefully balanced meal.

If you’re worried about the connection between insulin and weight loss, it may be time to consider creating a formalized meal plan to get your body in the right cycle for burning fat instead of storing it. One way to get on track is by using meal prep to enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack options offering perfectly balanced nutrition. Waking up to a filling, protein-rich breakfast bowl instead of feeling like you have to reach for sugary cereal can set the pace for a completely different kind of day!

Lastly, it’s important to remember that “hacking” your insulin levels to lose weight isn’t just an issue of vanity. It’s truly a matter of getting your body in optimal condition to burn fat, have more energy, and feel better than ever. Plus, the same benefits that help you to lose weight when you’re taking insulin into consideration will help you to reduce your risk of developing diabetes.

Yes, you can enjoy delicious restaurant meals if you are trying to lose weight. Here’s how.

You’ve probably heard time and again that you should avoid eating at restaurants if you are trying to lose weight. But is eating out at restaurants off the menu just because you’ve committed to a diet plan? Not at all! It’s crucial for any diet plan that you choose to work as part of a well-rounded real-life experience. That means there needs to be room for the occasional lunch date, night out with friends, or splashy celebration at your favorite restaurant.

The case for eating out gets a little more challenging when you’re talking about ordering from restaurants every single day when trying to lose weight.

However, there are ways to eat out without gaining weight if you’re willing to be mindful.

There’s no magic formula that changes the fact that you have to pay attention to what you’re eating when you dine away from home. Here are ten smart tips to help you do just that!

Tip #1: Look at the Menu Ahead of Time

When it comes to eating healthy when dining out, it’s essential to prepare in advance. It’s not uncommon to have to wait for a while before eating, especially if you are dining out on the weekend. This leaves plenty of time for you to become famished, even if you were not hungry when you left the house. You are more likely to overeat when you are really hungry. Also, when you are hungry, it’s harder to concentrate. So, you might have trouble making healthy choices. Therefore, take a look at the menu online before going to the restaurant. Find out what is available and think about what options might fit into your diet so that you are ready to order when you get there. If you use an app like MyFitnessPal to track your nutrients or calorie intake, you can plug the information into the app ahead of time for your meals.

Tip #2: Know What to Avoid

Nobody is saying that any food should be considered “forbidden.” Part of having a healthy relationship with food is feeling empowered to choose what you want to eat. However, anyone aiming to lose weight while enjoying the restaurant experience should try to avoid three common pitfalls. These pitfalls are sugar, alcohol, and deep-fried foods. This tip alone will help you avoid unnecessary fat and calories that will slow you down. What’s more, the truth is that nobody really ever feels great after loading up on these things anyway.

Tip #3 Eat a Healthy Snack Before You Go

Before you leave for the restaurant, munch on a healthy snack. It can take a while to get your food when eating out. If you are ravenous by the time the bread comes out, you may very well end up sabotaging your diet. A great way to prevent this is to eat a high-protein, high-fiber snack before you go. Protein and fiber help tame hunger hormones, which can help you feel more satiated.

Tip #4 Choose Unsweetened Drinks

Sure, water is the best choice to keep you hydrated. But, if you are craving something more, you might be tempted to give in and order a soda or margarita. Unfortunately, most restaurant drinks are packed with sugar. If you have been trying to figure out what you can drink, here are a few options: sparkling water, unsweetened tea, and water with lemon. Sipping on unsweetened tea or sparkling water can help you stay hydrated and help prevent overeating.

Tip #5 Don’t Stigmatize Salad

You might dislike the idea of ordering a salad at a restaurant because it screams that you’re on a diet. However, the truth is that many restaurants make spectacular salads. This can be both good and bad when trying to lose weight. The good news is that you can get an outstanding balance of protein and fiber-filled greens if you know how to order a salad the right way. Grilled chicken, grilled fish, lean steak, avocado, boiled eggs, and nuts can all offer healthy protein and fat. The bad news is that some salads have more calories than something like a sandwich simply because of all of the add-on ingredients. You want to be more careful when it comes to salads that toss in bacon, breaded chicken, or other “heavy” items that are likely to be fried in grease. Lastly, ask for olive oil and vinegar on the side instead of a creamy dressing.

Tip #6 Focus on Grilled Vegetables

One of the best low-calorie options when eating out is a plate of grilled vegetables. You’ll enjoy that you feel like you have a lot to eat without feeling like you’re filling up on greasy, fried foods. If you want to lose weight by eating out, consider vegan restaurants that prepare thick eggplant, portabella mushrooms, or zucchinis in ways that are similar to how other restaurants prepare cuts of meat. This allows you to enjoy a healthier meal that still has plenty of flavor and interesting texture.

Tip #7 Don’t Assume That a Portion Is Really a Serving

Know the difference between a portion and a serving size when eating out. Many restaurants pack plates with portions that represent anywhere from two to three or more servings of food. Create a visual of how much of your plate actually represents an appropriate serving before your fork digs in. This will allow you to eat at the right pace for how much you intend to consume. Another option is to ask for a to-go box when you receive your meal and pack up half right away. There’s no shame in boxing up the rest for home!

Tip #8 Avoid Sneaky Calories

A few slices of bread before your meal, an overflowing margarita, and that slice of raspberry cheesecake that you see as “extras” can easily exceed the number of calories in your actual meal. If you eat out often, you’ll generally want to avoid these things if you are trying to lose weight. However, indulging every once in a while is fine. One good strategy is to make a bargain with yourself that you’ll choose just one indulgence to add to your meal.

Tip #9 Make Fish Your Signature Dish

One of the best hacks for losing weight when eating out is to make fish your go-to dish. The reason why is because restaurants tend not to offer huge portions of fish. That means that you’ll get a very appropriate cut of a delicious fish that is rich in healthy fats, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. The flavor and richness of fish are likely to leave you feeling too satisfied to overindulge in side dishes.

Photo by Dana Tentis from Pexels

Tip #10 Rein In Your Sweet Tooth

Finally, don’t let your sweet tooth derail all of the effort that you have put into eating healthy while dining out. Instead, wait until you get home and end your meal with something healthier. Most restaurant desserts are enormous and easily more than one serving. If you decide to order dessert, share it with one of your friends or family members.

What’s the Best Strategy for How to Lose Weight by Eating Out?

The best strategy for losing weight when eating out may be to eat at restaurants only occasionally. For many people, eating out is a way to save time. However, there is another option that most people don’t think about — made-to-order, fresh foods. We are talking about foods that are prepared fresh using healthy ingredients like ginger soy chicken breast. These meals rival those you’ll find in restaurants, as they are prepared fresh.

Choosing meal delivery is a great option that is between relying on restaurant meals and cooking everything yourself. Many people use professional meal prep services to have healthy meals waiting in the fridge.

There’s another reason why you might want to focus on planning meals ahead of time instead of walking into a restaurant or takeout place. According to a study conducted by the United States the Department of Agriculture (USDA), each meal eaten at a restaurant adds 134 calories on average to a person’s daily intake. The number of added calories was even higher per day for people who were considered obese. What’s more, eating out was associated with eating nearly a quarter fewer servings of leafy greens, fruits, and whole grains.

The beauty of meal prep is that you can enjoy delicious, restaurant-quality foods without feeling like you’re getting derailed from your plan. When eating out, one problem that’s easy to run into is feeling “trapped” by a menu. Being in a rush means that many people settle for whatever they can get instead of prioritizing nutritional value. The best part is that getting serious with meal prep means that you’re covered for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks without any feelings of deprivation.

Strength training can help keep you healthy and strong for many years. Here’s how.

Stronger with age should be everyone’s motto. Focusing on staying strong into your golden years isn’t an issue of vanity. Fitness is necessary at every age to maintain the strength we need to stay healthy, active, and capable. There’s simply no expiration date on enjoying our bodies. Science supports this. In fact, researchers on aging have pinpointed resistance training as one of the most important factors for healthy aging.

How Aging Affects Our Bodies

Aging affects our bodies in various ways. Here are some common changes that you can expect as you age.

Loss of Balance

As we get older, we experience a loss of balance. Somewhere around the age of 40 to 50, our balance begins to decline. That is due to several factors, including changes in the inner ear, loss of coordination, and eyesight problems.

Loss of Muscle

We know that lean muscle mass naturally reduces with age. In fact, age-related loss of muscle mass is called sarcopenia. We begin to lose 3% to 5% of muscle mass per decade after age 30. The average person can expect to lose roughly 30 percent of their muscle mass during their lifetime.

Decreased Range of Motion

The range of motion in our joints also decreases with age. Between the ages of 55 and 86, we lose approximately six degrees of flexibility per decade in the hips and shoulders. That is mainly due to changes in muscles and connective tissue.

Why Strength Training?

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

The conversation about strength training often focuses on all the ways that strength training can help you to stay looking fit and attractive as you age. This is certainly a big perk. However, it’s not the only motivation for challenging your muscles. Strength training also offers a myriad of whole-health benefits that can help you to prevent disease and dysfunction. Research suggests that strength training can reduce the signs and symptoms of a number of chronic conditions that tend to progress with age. This includes back pain, obesity, arthritis, heart disease, and depression. Here’s a roundup of the life-enhancing benefits of strength training:

Builds Lean Muscle Mass

While losing muscle mass is considered a natural part of aging, it’s not necessarily an unavoidable part of aging. Strength training is one of many tools for preventing muscle loss with age. Nutrition can also play a role in staving off dreaded age-related muscle loss. People can preserve lean muscle while maintaining strength and energy levels using high-protein diets. Healthy, lean proteins from both animal and plant sources are incredible for fitting in the protein needed to maximize muscle protein synthesis.

Stronger Bones

According to a 2018 study on the effects of resistance exercise on bone health, resistance training may be one of the best ways to improve bone and muscle loss in both the middle-aged and older population. Multiple studies confirm that strength training can help to slow bone loss. There’s also evidence that strength training can help us to build bone. Another study on the effects of progressive resistance training on bone density found that this form of exercise offers the benefit of influencing multiple risk factors for osteoporosis.

Better Weight Management

As you get older, it gets harder to lose weight. Your body doesn’t respond to weight-control efforts in the same way. That is because age-related changes, like a slowing down of your metabolism, can make it harder to lose weight. Strength training can help you lose weight or more easily maintain a healthy weight by increasing muscle mass, which leads to more efficient calorie burning.

Enhanced Quality of Life

According to a 2019 study on the effect of resistance training on health-related quality of life in older adults, strength training can significantly increase quality of life scores. One of the biggest reasons strength training increases the quality of life is that it allows older adults to continue doing everyday activities.

Prevents Joint Injuries

Strength training’s positive influence on the musculoskeletal system can help you to prevent joint injuries. Strength exercises can also help to promote growth and vitality in connective tissue, ligaments, tendons, bones, and cartilage.

Reduces the Risk of Falls

Dangerous falls can occur due to loss of balance as we age. Strength exercises that contribute to better balance can cut your risk of being injured by a slip or fall. In addition, exercise helps your reflexes to stay sharper.

Cognitive Boost

“Strength training can help protect the brain from degeneration,” according to data released in 2020. A long-term study found that strength training led to overall benefits to cognitive performance among Alzheimer’s patients. What’s really interesting is that strength training is specifically credited with protecting specific regions within the hippocampus that are associated with both Alzheimer’s and cognitive impairment from degeneration. This may mean that strength exercises can improve learning and memory.

Better Sleep

Better sleep is something anyone of any age can appreciate. Data shared with the American Heart Association by researchers at Iowa State University found that regular resistance training exercises helped with staying asleep longer and falling asleep faster. Plus participants who participated in strength training felt more rested and refreshed the next day compared to those who did not work out, as well as those who just did aerobic exercises. It turns out that counting reps may be more effective than counting sheep when it comes to improving sleep quality.

Is Strength Training or Cardio Better?

Both strength training and cardio are essential for fitness as we age. Cardio improves cardiac functioning, which is really important as heart disease is the number one cause of death for both women and men in the United States.

However, strength training is equally important as we age. Lifting weights can improve cognitive functioning, mobility, as well as our metabolic health. Plus, resistance also helps improve cardiovascular health, as well. One study found that lifting weights for just one hour each week reduced the risk of a heart attack or stroke by as much as 70 percent.

Studies have also found that strength training helps boost confidence and motivation in older adults. This can make it much more likely that we even will show up at the gym.

What Age Should You Start With Strength Training?

Hint: It’s never too early or too late.

Saying that strength training is crucial as we age isn’t the same as saying that strength training should wait until the signs of aging creep in. There is no start date for strength training that’s better than today. That’s because all of the benefits of strength training that help older adults to enjoy strength and vitality can help you to start filling up your vitality piggy bank today if you’re still 20, 30, or 40.

It’s also never too late to start strength training to your fitness routine. Research has found that older individuals with no strength training experience are able to effectively build muscle. So, even if you have never tried strength training before, you can still get the benefits. It’s just important to make sure you are training safely.

Tips for Strength Training Safely for Older Adults

Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind when doing strength training exercises for seniors.

  • Talk to your doctor first. Your physician can help you identify the right strength training program for you. They can advise you on any modifications that you may need to make.
  • Start light. Start with the smallest amount of weight that you can. Increase your weight as you get stronger.
  • Aim for at least three days per week. Ideally, you should aim for at least three days of strength training per week. Alternate the days that you perform strength training with cardio.
  • Be gentle on your joints. Gradually ease into strength training. Never stress your joints to the point where it hurts.
  • Give your body plenty of time to recover. As you get older, it takes longer to recover. Give your body plenty of time to rest between strength training sessions.
  • Watch out for pain. It’s normal to expect a little muscle soreness after strength training but you should not feel pain. If the exercises are causing pain, stop and talk to your doctor.

A Note on Nutrition

Proper nutrition is essential when it comes to strength training. Make sure you are fueling your body with the right nutrients and minerals. Food prep can make it easy to make sure you are on track with the proper nutrients and lean protein sources needed to support your body through strength-training sessions.

Related article: How Good Nutrition Supports Athletic Performance

Final Thoughts

It’s impossible to ignore the unique benefits that strength training offers for both the mind and body as we age. Strength training is part of a “whole package” lifestyle that includes being aware of what your body needs with age, staying active, and staying prepared with healthy meals.

Okay, so you know that you should go to the gym. You’ve heard about the many benefits of exercise. New research even suggests that it can even ward off depression. There’s a whole laundry list of reasons to hit the gym. However, sometimes we find that the last thing that we want to do is work out. Despite the money spent on a gym membership thinking it would provide the motivation to hit the treadmill hard every day, we might find that we only set foot inside a couple of times. In fact, many of us can think of a million things we’d rather do, and none involve a treadmill.

Love It or Hate It

If those of us with an unused gym membership exist on one end of the spectrum, on the other end you’ll find those who can’t seem to live without the gym. They talk about how exercise gives them a “Runner’s High.” For them, exercise seems to be addictive. They don’t give being active a second thought. It’s just something they do every day without even thinking about it. You have read dozens of articles on how to develop workout motivation. You’ve tried all of the tips. Yet, nothing is working. So, how come exercise motivation comes so easily for some people and not others?

Most online articles that give advice on workout motivation contain good information. But, they miss the mark when it comes to workout motivation. As someone who has spent years studying motivation and has also been a certified fitness instructor, I truly understand why workout motivation comes easy for some people and not others.

Finding the motivation to work out consistently really comes from making it a part of your daily life. That is the key to getting and staying motivated when it comes to working out.

First, Choose Something You Love

This seems easy enough. But, how many times do you hear people talk about begrudgingly going to the gym like it’s some form of punishment? If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t be motivated to do it. You don’t have to be happy doing it all the time, but it should be something that leaves you feeling good on most days.

There’s tons of advice on exploring new types of fun new activities. You might be told to try pilates or join a workout class. But what one person enjoys might be boring or torturous for the next. Our personalities and interests largely impact the kind of fitness activity that we will enjoy long term.

People who are extroverted may feel at home in a group fitness or dance class, while a person who is introverted may enjoy solitary early morning runs. Whatever it is, it has to be something that you enjoy. You may have to try many different types of movement. The thing is to keep trying until you find something you genuinely enjoy.

Then, Make it Easy

The first piece of the puzzle when it comes to workout motivation is choosing something that you love. The second piece is finding a way to make it easy to do the type of workout you like. You have to incorporate daily movement into your life in a way that is seamless. It must become a part of your daily schedule or routine. This is called automaticity.

Automaticity refers to the idea of doing something automatically, without thinking. It’s like remembering to brush your teeth every day. It’s not hard because you are used to doing it every day.  A research study conducted by fitness giant Les Mills found that automaticity is the key to sticking to a workout routine. In the study, participants were divided into two groups of people. One group was comprised of people who are regular exercisers. They worked out on average 150 minutes per week over the last ten years. The second group consisted of people who rarely worked out. The critical difference between those who worked out regularly and those who didn’t was automaticity. All of the participants, 100 percent in the active group, said that exercise is part of their routine. Among the inactive participants, more than 92 percent said that fitness was NOT a regular part of their routine.

So, how can you make exercise automatic? A part of your daily routine? Here are some tips.

#1 Find A Time that Suits Your Internal Clock 

Some articles suggest working out first thing in the morning. They say that people who work out first thing in the morning are more likely to follow a fitness program — that’s it’s all about finding the willpower to just do it. If you are not a morning person, this simply won’t work for you.

For those who are NOT early birds, advice to wake up early to get in some gym time won’t work. Some people are just genetically programmed to not function at their best early in the morning. There are hundreds of genes that influence whether a person prefers mornings or evenings. Trying to go against your genetics will get you nowhere. You’ll just end up feeling like a failure when you’re unable to pull yourself out of bed for those 5 A.M. workouts. So, identify what times of the day are best for you, whether that’s mornings, lunchtime, or in the evening.

#2 Schedule It

How often have you made plans to go to the gym and canceled at the last minute when something else came up? Schedule your workouts just as you would any other appointment. I use apps like Mindbody and ClassPass, to schedule workouts ahead of time. I’ve found that this makes it much harder to blow off workouts, especially since there often is a cancellation fee associated with not going most of the time.

Putting your workouts into your calendar in this way can give you the motivation that you never knew you had.

#3 Make it Effortless

Contrarily, If you struggle with scheduling your workout sessions during the day and following through, try to do it first thing in the morning regardless of your routine. Make it as easy as possible to work out by removing any obstacles. For example, keep an exercise bike  in your bedroom room you can hop on as soon as you wake up.

​​​#4 Be Prepared

After you have your workouts scheduled, make sure you are prepared with the things that you need. If you are working out at home, pick up any equipment you need for your workouts. If you plan to do yoga after work, make sure you have a yoga mat, towels, and other essentials like an eye pillow in your bag. Cycling to and from work each day? Pack waterproof gear so that you will be ready no matter the weather. Also, pack some healthy snacks for your gym bag to replenish your energy after your workout.

Related article: How Good Nutrition Supports Athletic Performance

#5 Up the Stakes

Another way to ensure that you keep up with your workout routine is to put some money behind it. You can sign up for a subscription to a workout subscription app, like Pelaton or Apple Fitness Plus. This makes it more likely that you will make working out a part of your everyday life.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

You Are On a Roll, What Now?

Sticking to a workout routine is really about playing the long game. At first, you’ll be motivated and excited. However, it won’t always be this way. It will take months — maybe even years of hard work to make it a part of your life. There will be times when you feel ​​unmotivated, discouraged, or overwhelmed. Here’s how to deal with these feelings.

#1 Cut Yourself Some Slack

There will be days that you won’t be able to get your workout in, even with the best planning. That’s completely fine. Some days, you just won’t be feeling good. Even the most motivated people have days that they don’t want to work out. Avoid reading too much into it. Simply move past it, and get back to your workouts as soon as possible.

#2 Get Back on Track

Everyone falls off track sometimes when it comes to working out. This can happen for various reasons, from schedule conflicts to injuries. During COVID-19, many people who regularly worked out stopped. According to research, physical activity levels dropped significantly after the pandemic struck. Even people who exercised every single day stopped working out.

Keeping up with your daily workouts is a habit. Once you get out of the habit of working out, it’s easy to fall into a rut. The key is to get back into the habit of exercising again as soon as you realize that you have become off track. Don’t wait until the perfect time. Just start.

#3 Pay Attention

When you notice that you are working out more than usual, take a moment to pay attention and think about why. Try to figure out what’s behind your motivation. For instance, perhaps you get more workouts in when you sleep better. Or, perhaps you work out more often when you attend a specific fitness class. Search for your motivation and take actions that support it.

Final Thoughts

The motivation to work out comes from making fitness a daily part of your life. You can’t think of it as punishment. You have to decide to make movement an essential part of your routine. Do that and staying fit will be easy.

Better performance starts with better meals. The equation seems simple enough. It makes sense that nourishing our bodies with healthy, nutritious ingredients will provide the energy needed to fuel muscle activity and physical propulsion. However, life has a way of making us forget just how important the right stuff is. As a result, many people reach for what’s fast instead of what’s optimal. Unfortunately, this can backfire pretty quickly if you’re living an athletic lifestyle. Here’s how poor sports nutrition can affect athletes:

  • Poor performance
  • Longer recovery times
  • Immune suppression
  • Weight gain
  • Malnourishment
  • Hormonal imbalances caused by nutritional deficiencies

Being reminded of how good nutrition supports athletic performance becomes very important once you consider what’s at stake. A good diet isn’t just going to set you up for success on the track or field today. It will insulate your body against injury and disease for the rest of your life. Take a look at what science reveals about plating up for life on the fast track.

Performance Nutrition: Here’s What’s Essential When You’re Eating for Athletic Performance

Eating properly for sports nutrition really comes down to balance. What should your plate look like when you’re eating for power? Here’s a look at the essentials that athletes need to have in their diets based on a thorough analysis of sports nutrition for young athletes published in 2013:

  • Macronutrients: Athletes can enjoy strength and endurance using carbohydrates, protein, and fats that fuel physical activity. Yes, they’re all necessary when you’re going hard. Of course, eating the right proportions is everything.

Related Article: Beyond the Basics: Why Tracking Your Macros Matters

  • Carbohydrates: While some people malign carbohydrates because they assume any carbohydrate is a simple carbohydrate, the truth is that complex carbohydrates from whole, healthy sources are vital for performance. Some healthy sources of carbohydrates include whole grains, fresh fruits, milk products, vegetables, and yogurt.
  • Protein: This is a big one. While everyone needs protein, athletes need it direly because protein helps to build and repair muscle. There’s also a “vanity” aspect to eating enough protein because protein helps to keep hair, skin, and nails healthy and glowing. Some excellent sources of tasty, nourishing protein for athletes include fish, eggs, poultry, nuts, beats, and dairy.
  • Fats: Fat is critical for helping athletes to absorb essential fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K. Consuming healthy fats is essential for organ function, insulation, and energy. Adding healthy fat sources to a meal also helps to prolong satiation. This is so important when you’re crafting a tailored diet because feeling full and satisfied for a longer period allows you to keep going without giving in to cravings caused by starvation cues from a lack of fat in your diet. Some ideal sources of fat for an athlete’s diet include lean red meat, poultry, fish, seafood, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, and dairy products.

Deciding on portions is all about balance. When athletes attempt diets that are too restrictive, they rob their bodies of the essential nutrients and fuel needed to perform at their best levels. They also risk turning to foods that aren’t on the plan out of sheer desperation because they are depleted. Of course, the opposite is also true. There is actually such a thing as “too much of a good thing” when eating an athlete-friendly diet.

A good example of this is protein intake. While protein is pushed as the perfect fuel for athletes, the truth is that it’s very easy to eat too much protein. According to experts, most Americans are already eating twice as much protein as they need for proper muscle development. There isn’t as much of a concern about overloading on protein if you’re an active person. However, it’s still important to know about the dangers associated with extreme protein diets. Consuming more protein than you need can lead to:

  • Storing increased excess protein as increased body fat.
  • Greater risk for dehydration caused by fluid loss.
  • Calcium depletion.
  • Kidney issues stemming from burdened kidneys.

There’s also a risk that you’re trying to replace carbohydrates with protein. The truth is that carbohydrates are necessary for athletes. The simple solution is to strive for a healthy balance instead of leaning on one food group as a way to try to cut out another food group. What does balance look like when you’re trying to get enough protein while also peppering in some good carbohydrates? Something like a hearty burrito bowl with Spanish rice, cherry tomatoes, shredded cucumbers, carrots, hummus, and tzatziki sauce on the side checks all the boxes. The same goes for chicken fajitas with sautéed chicken thigh seasoned with a blend of spices, bell peppers, and red onions with steamed rice on the side.

Hydration: The True Powerhouse of an Athlete’s Diet

Photo by Ivan Samkov

Healthy meals get results. However, even the most perfect meal plan in the world will go sideways if it’s not followed up by a great hydration strategy. Water is so crucial for athletes. In addition to keeping your body hydrated, water keeps the body at the right temperature. It’s very easy for athletes to lose water with just one workout. Just one grueling workout session can cause your body to lose several liters of sweat in just an hour!

How do you know if you’re fully hydrated? The simplest answer is that you’re producing clear urine. If you’re seeing anything else, it’s time to increase your water intake. Here are some tips for sticking to the all-important task of staying hydrated as an athletic person:

  • Drink fluids with every meal! While water is best, any fluid will provide you with some hydration.
  • The general hydration rule to have in your mind is that you want to drink two cups of water roughly two hours before a workout. Never work out without enough water in your body!
  • It’s OK to sip while you work out! Drink up to a cup every 15 to 20 minutes. If you’re going hard past an hour, consider switching from water to an energy drink to keep your electrolyte levels at a safe place.
  • Remember that drinking isn’t just an activity for when you’re thirsty. In fact, you’re probably already dipping into dehydration territory if you’re feeling the physical sensation of thirst.

Water is always the preferred option for hydration. However, it’s important to remember that enjoying hydrating treats can be a great way to introduce extra hydration into your life. Something like fresh-pressed juice is a tasty way to get hydrated. A healthy smoothie that provides refreshing hydration with the added benefit of plant-based protein and natural carbohydrates can fulfill some of your liquid requirements while also providing pure fuel.

Getting Smart About Meal Prep When You’re an Athlete

If you’re already busy, trying to squeeze in an athletic lifestyle can push you to the brink with managing your time. This is where many aspiring athletics types run into trouble. They get sick, hurt, or simply give up out of exhaustion because they don’t eat the right foods to fuel what they are trying to accomplish. Planning is everything.

When it comes to performance nutrition, timing is key. You need to have meals readily available during the strategic points during the day when you should be fueling up both as a form of repair and preparation. Generally, you should be eating about three hours before a big workout session or event to allow for good digestion. Rushing to eat whatever you can before a session sets you up for gastrointestinal distress during your activity.

While fat is vital for fueling up, it’s also important to know that high-fat meals should generally be avoided just before exercise because they can delay gastric emptying. That leads to you being slow, sluggish, and moody. Going on a long run in the morning? Breakfast is essential once you’re done. Having avocado toast or egg white frittata waiting for you after the finish line is the best way to ensure that you have the energy and stability to tackle the workday that comes after the workout.

Timing your meals is important. However, planning ahead to know exactly what you’ll be eating is even more important. It’s very hard to have reliable output when you don’t have reliable intake. That’s why serious athletes schedule a whole week of meals ahead of time. This lets you map out nutrient levels to ensure you’re getting the fuel you need based on your training days. Yes, meal prep is also essential for helping you steer clear of temptations that will make your workouts more challenging. We are all only human and thus susceptible to eating unhealthy foods when in a hurry or stressed. That’s why it’s crucial to have a good meal plan in place to ensure that indulging in goodies is a choice instead of a trap.

Tweaking your diet is an easy lifestyle change that you can make to help with anxiety.

Does diet impact mental health? Are there certain foods to calm anxiety? These are questions that many people who have anxiety are increasingly asking as they learn more and more about the link between diet and wellness. It turns out that researchers have been asking the same question. Learning how to balance nutrition may help some people better balance their mood. Take a look at the main things to know about eating a diet to help manage anxiety.

What Does Your Diet Have to Do with Your Mood?

Many people are surprised to learn that diet does, in fact, impact mood. There are many diet-related factors that can trigger anxiety. Poor hydration is one of them. Studies have found that even mild dehydration can impact mood

Low blood sugar is one factor that often triggers anxiety. Low blood sugar, called hypoglycemia, is most usually caused by diet or exercise habits. When your blood sugar drops below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), your body increases its production of epinephrine, which makes your palms sweat and your heart race. This can make you feel anxious.

Another factor that might be related to anxiety is your gut health. An understanding of how diet impacts mood starts in the gut. Many people assume that the “mind” and “stomach” are two separate things. Discoveries in research are proving just how misguided this viewpoint really is.

“The gut-brain axis is also very important, since a large percentage (about 95%) of serotonin receptors are found in the lining of the gut,” according to information provided by Harvard Health. While we think of serotonin as being a “brain” chemical, the truth is that what happens in our gut ultimately determines how much natural serotonin we have to work with. This is important because serotonin levels can directly impact our experiences with anxiety and depression.

Most people know serotonin as a “happiness hormone.” In fact, many common antidepressant medications are designed to increase serotonin levels. Serotonin is a chemical messenger that helps stabilize mood in both direct and indirect ways. Some of the areas of wellness influenced by serotonin include:

  • Mood
  • Cognition
  • Reward centers
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Sleep patterns

One of the best ways to naturally increase serotonin levels is to fortify the gut against unhealthy bacteria. The gut can become overtaken by bad bacteria due to illness, poor diet, and the use of antibiotic medication. We can undo this problem by increasing the levels of healthy bacteria in the gut.

Healthy gut bacteria levels are built up by eating probiotics and prebiotics. While probiotics contain the “good bacteria” that the gut needs to fight off harmful bacteria linked with illness, prebiotics feed good bacteria to allow them to proliferate. Examples of probiotics that people can easily eat include yogurt, kombucha, and sauerkraut. Prebiotic fibers are found naturally in legumes, vegetables, berries, oats, bananas, onions, and wheat bran. Of course, building up good bacteria in the gut is only part of the picture when it comes to reducing anxiety through diet. Food type, quality, and frequency can also impact mood.

What Are the Best Foods to Calm Anxiety?

There are two ways to look at an anti-anxiety diet. The first is to focus on specific foods that have been proven to reduce anxiety. The second is to look at essential vitamins and minerals found in foods that have been proven to reduce anxiety. Take a look at some “best bets” when it comes to nourishing your mental health.

Magnesium

Beefing up your magnesium intake may be one of the best ways to holistically approach anxiety. One study published in 2012 links low-magnesium diets with increased anxiety. Luckily, magnesium is relatively easy to get just by eating everyday staples like leafy greens, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.

Zinc

A 2013 study found that higher zinc intake helped reduce signs of anxiety. The reason why researchers think zinc is so beneficial for “bringing the calm” comes down to its impact on something called the vagus nerve that transports soothing messages between the brain and body. Zinc is readily found in many common foods like fish, pine nuts, peanuts, cashews, almonds, peas, shiitake mushrooms, sweet corn, and beet greens.

Vitamin B

A 2019 study found that vitamin B can positively impact mood for people at risk for depression and anxiety. While B vitamins have many different positive effects on the body, their ability to support the adrenal glands is credited with why they help stabilize mood. Salmon, leafy greens, milk, egg, beef, oysters, and legumes are all vitamin-B superstars.

Bananas

Everyone should know about the power of bananas for improving mood. Yes, the banana contains several key elements needed for natural food-induced happiness. Bananas are bursting with an amino acid called tryptophan that’s associated with mood. However, the natural carbohydrates in bananas make it easier for the brain to absorb tryptophan. In addition, the abundant levels of vitamin B6 in bananas then help to convert tryptophan to serotonin.

Fatty Fish

Fish is one of the most powerful “mood foods” out there. That’s because fish contains omega-3 fatty acids that can only be obtained through diet because they aren’t produced naturally by the body. Salmon and albacore are the two superstars for omega-3 fatty acids. In studies, supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids has been associated with improved outcomes for people with psychiatric disorders.

Chocolate

This one almost feels like a gift! Yes, dark chocolate is excellent for mental health. However, it should be said that focusing on small portions of quality dark chocolate that don’t contain fillers like sugar and artificial flavoring is essential for retaining the “brain benefits” of dark chocolate. How does dark chocolate help to improve mood? First, the sugar in dark chocolate may create an “instant” mood improvement because the brain can use it as a pick-me-up fuel source. In addition, dark chocolate has a natural “feel good” concoction made of caffeine, theobromine, and N-acylethanolamine. What’s more, dark chocolate serves up natural compounds called flavonoids that are known to increase blood flow to the brain. Researchers have found that supplementation with cocoa is linked with acute cognitive effects.

Oats

Yes, an ordinary bowl of oats can be extraordinary for your mood! This whole-grain breakfast option serves as a great source of fiber. The link between fiber intake and mood is often overlooked. However, fiber’s role in slowing the digestion of carbs allows for a more gradual release of sugar in your bloodstream. This results in stable energy levels that can facilitate a stable mood. Many people describe the feeling of becoming overly hungry as being “hangry.” For some people, this personality “crash” that happens can result in a racing pulse, mood swings, irritability, and anxiety. One study shows that people who consume 1.5 grams to 6 grams of fiber at breakfast experience better mood with higher energy levels due to stabilized blood sugar levels. Yes, that means a timeless, filling favorite like overnight oats can be the secret to a high-energy day without the familiar anxiety and emotional volatility of a post-breakfast crash.

What Role Does Antioxidants Play in Anxiety?

Antioxidants may play a significant role in naturally addressing anxiety symptoms. The influence of antioxidant consumption on mood is so powerful that researchers involved in a 2012 study looking at the role of antioxidants in generalized anxiety disorder and depression found that antioxidant supplement therapy is helpful for patients with stress-induced psychiatric disorders. What foods have the highest amounts of antioxidants? The list of the best antioxidant foods includes small red beans, strawberries, raspberries, artichokes, cranberries, black beans, pecans, blackberries, and most apple varieties. Leafy greens are the true champions in this category.

Are There Any Foods to Avoid With Anxiety?

Generally, any food choices that spike blood sugar to facilitate a “crash” would be considered poor choices for someone looking to manage anxiety using diet. This can include things like energy drinks, fruit juices, refined carbohydrates, and processed meats. Sugary drinks and refined carbs can be so bad for mood because they trigger the body’s release of insulin to help absorb excess glucose. This creates feelings of “highs” and “lows” that can leave you feeling irritable and anxious.

Finding Mood Balance Through a Balanced Plate: A Good Plan Is the Brain’s Best Friend

First, a healthier menu is never intended to replace the guidance of a trained psychiatric professional. Never assume that it’s safe to discontinue medication just because you’re switching to an anxiety-focused diet. However, focusing on feel-good foods packed with the natural vitamins and minerals known to fight anxiety can be a great way to supplement other forms of self-care.

Preparation is everything when you have anxiety. For many people using food “therapeutically” to manage anxiety, meal prep is the easiest way to stay on track. Meal delivery that covers breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks ensures the right balance for mentally feeling your best every day! It’s important to plan to have access to regular healthy meals to avoid the trap of reaching for “convenient” foods when it’s time to stop your busy day to eat.

What secret does your heart rate reveal about your health? When it comes to heart rates, a low heartbeat score may help you beat some disease risks. A healthy resting heart rate

(RHR) can be beneficial for your health. Take a look at what we know about the connection between a lower resting heart rate and a higher level of health. Knowing the full picture of the heart-health connection can help you get motivated to live a life with healthy meals, appropriate amounts of activity and all of the other factors that go along with getting into the correct heartbeat zone.

How Often Do You Think About Your Resting Heart Rate?

Resting heart rate refers to the number of times your heart beats per minute while you’re at rest. Most people you might poll on the street aren’t likely to know their own stats for resting heart rate. It’s simply not something we talk about enough! Do you know your resting heart rate? It’s easy to figure out. While there are many apps and devices that can help you to track your heart rate, you can also measure it using the following wrist technique:

  • Place your second and third fingers from one hand on the inside of the wrist of the opposite hand just below the base of your thumb.
  • You should be able to feel the movement of your pulse.
  • Next, count the number of beats that occur in a 60-second span.
  • Repeat a few times for accuracy.

A healthy resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. However, many factors can impact heart rate. People who are fit tend to have lower resting heart rates than people who don’t exercise regularly. In addition, factors like health conditions, medications and genetics can all influence your resting heart rate.

Making Sense of Your Resting Heart Rate

Focusing on the range for your resting heart rate can be much more important than obsessing over a specific number. A normal resting heart rate for women and men is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. However, trying to get to the extreme on either end isn’t necessarily something to strive for.

When your heart rate is lower, your heart can pump more blood with each contraction. This leads to a steady heartbeat.

However, bradycardia is a condition where the resting heart rate is considered too slow. Generally, it refers to a resting heart rate under 60 beats per minute. Before feeling alarmed, what is considered too slow is dependent on many factors including age and physical health. Many athletes and physically active adults have RHR under 60 beats per minute. And it’s not uncommon for a person’s heart rate to slow down below 60 BPM during sleep. A sign that a slow RHR is potentially too low is when you’re experiencing dizziness and shortness of breath when resting.

The opposite of a low resting heart rate is a high resting heart rate. When your resting heart rate is consistently above 100 beats per minute, your risk for a cardiovascular event is higher. When your heart rate is high, your heart is working harder to finish every contraction. As a result, your heart could potentially become overstressed.

How Your Resting Heart Rate Impacts Your Health

Resting heart rate is something that researchers studying cardiovascular health have been focused on for years. There are mountains of data pointing to the connection between heart rate and health. In a 2013 study, researchers tracking 3,000 men over a period spanning 16 years discovered that a high resting heart rate was closely linked with the following:

  • Lower levels of physical fitness.
  • Higher blood pressure.
  • Higher body weight.
  • Increased levels of circular blood fat.

The most concerning finding of this study was that a higher resting heart rate increased the risk for premature death. When heart rates reached between 81 and 90 beats per minute, the risk of death doubled. For participants with resting heart rates above 90, the risk for death was tripled.

Getting in the Zone: Are There Ways to Reduce Resting Heart Rate?

A healthy resting heart rate is the result of a complicated amalgam of health-related factors. The good news is that most people can make strides with reducing resting heart rate to reach an optimal zone after struggling with high resting heart rates. If you’re just now discovering that your resting heart rate is slightly higher than what would be considered ideal, it’s essential to know about some outlying factors that can be inflating your heart rate.

Stress and anxiety are two contributors to high resting heart rates that are often overlooked. When we’re feeling stressed and anxious, the adrenal gland releases a “stress hormone” called cortisol as part of the body’s natural “fight or flight” response. While this response is designed to keep us alive by throwing our response into overdrive at the sign of danger, it robs years from your life if you allow stress levels to stay elevated. That’s because cortisol causes both your heart rate and blood pressure to stay elevated. While it may not seem like the most satisfying answer, the reality is that taking steps to become more relaxed is vital for stabilizing your resting heart rate.

It’s also known that keeping cholesterol levels healthy can help with maintaining a low resting heart rate. That’s because cholesterol restricts blood flow through the blood vessels and arteries. As a result, your heart needs to try to operate much faster to keep blood moving. Unfortunately, this can tax your heart to its breaking point. Cholesterol levels are closely linked with diet. In fact, diet is one of the most powerful tools we can use to achieve a lower heart resting heart rate.

Which Foods Can Lower Your Heart Rate?

First, cutting out sodium is a great way to naturally bring down your heart rate without any drastic lifestyle changes. Many people find that switching from processed foods to naturally flavorful foods helps them to reduce salt intake without feeling deprived. It’s also known that foods high in potassium can reduce the impact of sodium on blood pressure. Some potassium-rich foods to add to your heart-healthy diet include:

  • Avocados.
  • Dairy.
  • Bananas.
  • Melons.
  • Leafy green vegetables.
  • Potatoes and sweet potatoes.
  • Tuna.
  • Salmon.
  • Beans.
  • Nuts and seeds.
Try our avocado toast!

Reducing your intake of processed sugars and refined carbohydrates is also vital for achieving a healthy heart rate. It’s also known that eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce heart rate. One meta-analysis published in 2012 found that consumption of omega-3 fatty acids significantly reduced heart rate. Fish is considered to be the best source of natural omega-3 fatty acids. That means that entrées like Broiled Blue Circle Salmon or Tilapia With Grits and Walnuts are perfect for someone looking to stay satisfied without making a heartbeat blunder. For those who aren’t fans of fish, there are still plenty of ways to get in those omega-3 fatty acids naturally through diet. Avocados are very high in omega-3 fatty acids. That makes options like guacamole and avocado toast very attractive.

Don’t Forget Exercise

Nutrition is primarily considered to be the most important factor in a good resting heart rate. However, peppering in some regular exercise while staying on track with meal prep can only make things better. How much exercise do you need to reduce your heart rate? First, knowing the type of exercise that makes the biggest impact is important. According to one study, the average 55-year-old adult only requires one hour per week of high-intensity aerobic training to significantly lower resting heart rate. We also know that keeping up with exercise is the key to keeping the heart stronger. That’s because the heart becomes stronger with more exercise. Using exercise to “train” your heart to get to a place where it pumps more blood with each beat means that your heart doesn’t need to work harder to catch up! This is where you get a lower resting heart rate.

When you don’t know where to start with an exercise plan, there’s one thing to know—simply following the American Heart Association’s recommendation of getting in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week should be enough to keep your heart fit. If you’re pressed for time, consider the American Heart Association’s alternate recommendation of fitting in 75 minutes of vigorous activity every week.

Final Thoughts: Achieving A Good Resting Heart Rate Resting Heart Rate Comes Down To Lifestyle

Are you unhappy with your resting heart rate? Change is possible. Remember that giving your heart a rest through diet is the best way to speed up your vitality! Consider doing meal prep to ensure that you have low-sodium, heart-healthy foods waiting for you at every meal to avoid the trap of grabbing for foods that are quick and easy.

There are many different hormones found in the body, all with different roles and functions. Leptin and Ghrelin are the main hormones involved in controlling your appetite and impacting your hunger levels. Leptin is considered an appetite suppressant, while ghrelin is considered an appetite stimulant. It’s the role of these two hormones to communicate with your brain, letting you know when it’s time to eat to fuel your body or to stop eating when your body is full.

Read on to learn more about leptin and ghrelin and how you can support healthy hormone function with simple diet and lifestyle tips!

Leptin

Leptin means “thin” in Greek. The role of leptin is to communicate with the hypothalamus, the portion of your brain that controls your appetite and food intake. Lectin is released by your fat cells when your body has had enough fuel, letting it know to stop eating and start burning fat to create energy!

Because leptin is produced by fat cells, the amount of leptin released is directly related to the amount of body fat a person has. Those with more body fat will have more leptin circulating in their blood than a person with less body fat. Leptin levels increase if an individual increases their body fat over time and decreases if an individual decrease their body fat over a period of time.

Unfortunately, our hormones, leptin included, are not always in perfect balance. Diet, sleep, lifestyle, and health conditions can all throw your hunger hormones out of whack.

Tips for Healthy Leptin Levels

  • Consume healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, chia seeds, or fatty fish. Snacking on nuts and seeds throughout the day and switching from butter to olive oil when cooking are easy ways to incorporate more healthy fats into your diet.
  • Try to limit your consumption of inflammatory foods such as sugar, artificial trans fat, vegetable and seed oils, refined carbohydrates, alcohol, and processed meats. Inflammatory foods can easily hide in processed snacks and fast food. Planning your meals ahead of time can ensure you have healthy meals ready to go, so you are not tempted by unhealthy food options. If meal planning feels overwhelming, but you still want to enjoy fresh, healthy meals, shop our customizable meal plans and get healthy meals delivered right to your door!
  • Eat more anti-inflammatory foods such as turmeric, berries, broccoli, green tea, avocados, and mushrooms. Sipping green tea or adding turmeric to your cooking can help lower inflammation, so your body can function as it should.
  • Exercising regularly can help improve leptin sensitivity, as well as improve your overall wellbeing. Exercise will look different for everyone, but even 20 minutes of yoga or a walk around the block can help keep your hormones healthy. You don’t have to visit a gym every day to exercise. Focus on moving your body in a way that motivates you and brings you joy.
  • Manage stress. Chronic stress can cause inflammation in the body, gut imbalances, and hormone imbalance. We all encounter stress from time to time. While stress is inevitable, there are things you can do to reduce stress in your day-to-day. Practicing morning yoga or stretching, meditating, journaling, going for a walk, or calling a friend can all help boost your mood and lower stress, leaving you feeling your best! Find the things in life that help you relax and do them often!
  • Get adequate sleep. Insufficient sleep leads to a drop in leptin levels and increased appetite. Have you ever been up late and all of a sudden needed a midnight snack? Aim to get 7-9 hours of restful sleep each night. This may seem like a struggle if you’re always on the go, but 7-9 hours is ideal for giving your body the rest it needs. If you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep, try to create a calming environment with low lights and a clean space. Limiting screen time before bed can help keep your circadian rhythms in check, letting your body know when it’s time to sleep. Instead of scrolling late at night, read a book before bed to help you unwind. Work to create a nighttime routine to help you relax and prepare your body for sleep.

Ghrelin

Ghrelin is a hormone that increases appetite. It is produced and released mainly by your stomach but can also be released in small amounts by the small intestine, pancreas, and brain. Once released, ghrelin travels throughout your blood to signal to your hypothalamus that your body needs fuel and to conserve energy. Ghrelin levels are highest just before eating, lowest about an hour after you have eaten, and remain low for about three hours.

Just like with leptin, your ghrelin levels can get thrown off when your body isn’t functioning optimally.

Tips for healthy ghrelin levels

  • Try to limit your consumption of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, which can impair ghrelin’s decline after eating. If you crave a sweet treat after a meal, grab a piece of dark chocolate instead of a sugary snack.
  • Once again, get adequate sleep! Sleep is crucial for almost every function in the body. If you are someone who gets less than 7-9 hours of sleep per night, you may be surprised by how much your health can improve from more rest.
  • Eat balanced meals. Ensuring your body has the fuel it needs throughout the day will help keep your hormones and blood sugar balanced. At Local Foodz, we offer a meal plan specifically geared towards balanced meals. Each meal is packed with a variety of proteins, vegetables, and carbs to keep you energized throughout the day!
  • Stay hydrated! Adequate water intake can improve your health in many ways. It also helps to fill your stomach, turning down the ghrelin signal. Start your day with a glass of water before your coffee and aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day!
  • Manage stress. Just like with leptin, it’s important to manage stress for healthy ghrelin levels. Chronic stress can lead to overeating, poor food choices, increased alcohol consumption, and inadequate sleep. Elevations in ghrelin during stress may be our body’s way of trying to cope. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, do you immediately reach for your favorite comfort food?

If you feel your hunger hormones aren’t working as they should, try these diet and lifestyle tips to get you back on track! 

Drinking water, getting adequate sleep, and ensuring your body is fueled with the nourishment it needs are foundational in controlling your hunger hormones and keeping your body functioning as it should.

Have you noticed that as you get older, you can no longer eat the same way that you did when you were younger? Does it seem that you gain weight just by “looking at a muffin?” This is because your metabolism slows down with age. When your metabolism slows down, this makes it so much easier to gain weight and more difficult to lose weight. So, when does your metabolism slow down and why?

The truth is that there is so much the medical community is learning about human metabolism all the time. Scientists do know that metabolism and aging are closely related. Let’s take a deeper look at how metabolism changes with age.

What Is the Metabolism?

Everyone has a metabolism. Your metabolism is the process used by your body to convert what you eat and drink into energy. Your body is constantly converting the things that you eat and drink into usable energy with the help of oxygen. The energy that is created is used for every single process and system within your body. Energy from food and drinks is used for breathing, balancing hormone levels, circulating blood, repairing cells and tissue and growing new cells. Every person has a base metabolic rate that is needed to maintain essential bodily functions. We generally consider this to be your “metabolism.”

What Influences Metabolism?

We’re still learning a lot about what makes each person’s metabolism unique. In some cases, there may be no clear answer regarding why two people with similar genetic profiles may have wildly different metabolisms. However, there are some general factors that seem to contribute to metabolism. They include:

  • Body size and composition. People with larger builds seem to burn more calories both at rest and during activity. People who are more muscular also tend to burn more calories by default.
  • Gender. Generally, men tend to have less body fat when compared to women. They also tend to have more muscle than women. As a result, men generally burn more calories than women.
  • Age. Yes, metabolism appears to slow down with age. This is likely linked with a decrease in muscle mass that often occurs with age.

While a person’s default metabolic rate plays a big role in how many calories are burned daily, it’s not the sole determiner of how your body manages calories. Something called thermogenesis also plays a role in this. Thermogenesis refers to the process of how food is digested, absorbed, transported through the body and stored. Roughly 10% of all calories consumed from protein and carbohydrates are used by the body to digest and absorb nutrients.

Another significant factor in how the body manages calories is physical activity. The amount of physical activity completed daily dramatically impacts the number of calories burned by the body daily. While some bodily processes automatically burn calories, activities like running, walking, swimming and playing sports can burn hundreds of extra calories per hour above a person’s baseline rate for burning calories.

When Does Your Metabolism Slow Down?

Younger athlete and older athlete jogging together.

“Putting on weight” is a common complaint as people reach their 30s and 40s. Many people feel a “shift” in the way their bodies handle foods that they could eat without problems just a few years earlier. Yes, the evidence does show that metabolism may shift with age. Therefore, eating habits may require adjustment as we age.

According to a study published in August of 2021, metabolism peaks fairly early in life. We are then on a constant trajectory of keeping up with a shifting metabolism. The study also found that our metabolisms operate at “super speed” from the time we are born until the end of our teen years. However, we may not notice that our metabolisms are slowing down by about 3 percent annually until we reach age 20. At age 20, there is generally a significant “leveling off” that occurs as the metabolism reaches a new normal. The metabolism also slowly trickles down from middle age into a person’s “golden years.” A person in their 90s requires 26% fewer calories than a person in middle age.

Metabolism and Weight Gain

The most straightforward formula for gaining weight is taking in more calories than the body needs to function based on your activity levels. However, maintaining a stable weight can be complicated by a number of different factors, including your metabolism. It’s believed that the following mix of factors influences weight:

  • Genetic makeup.
  • Hormonal balance.
  • Diet composition.
  • Sleep.
  • Stress.
  • Underlying illnesses.
  • Environmental factors.
  • Decreased metabolism.

While the “surest” way to maintain a healthy weight is to eat the right amounts of calories and fat for your body type and lifestyle, choosing the right types of foods is also essential. The truth is that not all food is created equal. It’s important to eat whole, nutrient-filled foods that assist with things like promoting better sleep, keeping blood sugar stable, enabling the body to produce the right amounts of hormones and allowing you to stay full and satisfied for more extended periods. 

How Can You Prevent Your Metabolism From Slowing Down?

Focus on Muscle Mass

Dumbells

Muscle mass plays a very important role in metabolism as we age. Muscle simply burns more calories than fat when we are in a resting state. That is because muscle burns more calories than fat. So, even while you sleep, your body will burn more calories. This means that having a lifestyle consisting of muscle-building foods combined with muscle-building workouts is a “metabolism hack” at any age. Being a muscle-minded person becomes non-negotiable as we age if we want to enjoy strength, energy and a healthy weight.

Age-related loss of muscle mass is a well-documented fact. People begin to lose between 3% and 5% of muscle each decade after turning 30. Researchers call the natural decline in muscle mass that occurs with age sarcopenia.

Researchers aren’t completely clear on why muscle declines so aggressively with age. One strong theory is that the natural decline of testosterone contributes to muscle loss. That’s because testosterone is considered a “muscle builder” that stimulates protein synthesis for muscle formation.

Get the Right Amount of Protein to Support Muscle Growth

While eating a muscle-minded diet is essential at any age, it becomes increasingly important as we age. Getting adequate protein levels in our diets is one of the most important things we can do to reduce muscle loss. Resistance-training exercises are also very beneficial for helping to promote healthy muscle mass as we age. Of course, having adequate protein levels in your diet when doing strength training is essential for being able to give your body the fuel it needs to keep up with workouts without becoming depleted.

Protein is pure muscle food. When we consume protein, it is broken down into amino acids used by the body to put on muscle. However, a common phenomenon known as anabolic resistance can throw a wrench in your plans even if you are eating what would be considered a balanced diet. Anabolic resistance reduces the body’s ability to break down and synthesize the protein we consume. The solution is to eat more high-quality protein. Some tips for optimizing muscle protein synthesis:

  • Divide protein equally between meals throughout the day.
  • Use protein from animal sources as the easiest way to get proper ratios of amino acids.
  • Avoid processed meats and foods that are full of additives and saturated fats.

It’s also important to be consistent with protein levels daily. Relying on sugary snacks that are easy to grab often leaves us going hours without a good protein source during the day. A consistent meal plan ensures that you’re getting in the healthy, whole protein sources needed to optimize protein use without significant gaps during the week.

Athlete using a dumbbell for strength training.

Do Strength Training

Along with diet, strength training is one of the most important ways to maintain muscle mass as we age. In addition to helping you burn calories more efficiently, strength training can help keep your bones strong as you age. If you have not been active recently, it’s always a good idea to check in with your doctor before beginning any strength training program for guidance on what activities you can do.

Minding Your Metabolism: Everyone Has the Power to Fuel Their Bodies the Right Way

It can feel like metabolism is simply all about the luck of the draw. However, nobody can escape the realities of the declining metabolisms and reduced muscle mass that come with age. The good news is that orienting our diets to work with the natural flow of the human metabolism is an easy way to control weight while nourishing the body to fight back against muscle loss.

At the bare minimum, make sure you’re getting at least .8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight, the recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). Remember that quality, lean protein sources are best! It’s also wise to break up protein evenly throughout the day to ensure that your body isn’t “starved” for protein at any point. This could look like starting your day with a whole-egg scramble bowl before moving on to a lunch consisting of a smoked paprika chicken breast salad, a dinner consisting of chimichurri steak and a snack consisting of organic strawberry chia pudding.