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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
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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.

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.

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.

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.

Important Points

  • For years, researchers have known that exercise helps prevent or reduce the severity of chronic conditions like heart disease.
  • Now, recent research shows that it is also good for the brain. Exercise may help prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
  • There are many theories as to why exercise is beneficial in this regard. However, one theory has to do with iron.
  • Iron accumulation in the brain is associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Exercise helps the brain better metabolize iron, which may explain its beneficial role in preventing dementia.

Scientists have known for a long time that physical exercise offers a range of health benefits. It reduces the risk for chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease.

In recent years, researchers are revealing that exercise is good for the brain, too. Physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of issues like depression and anxiety.

Now, there is strong evidence that people can reduce their risk of later developing dementia by making key lifestyle changes, including exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet.

What Is Dementia?

Dementia is a disease that affects more than 55 million people worldwide. In most cases, it is progressive and leads to a deterioration in cognitive function. This deterioration goes beyond normal aging and affects memory, comprehension, and analytical skills.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is one of the most common causes of death among adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It currently ranks 6th as the leading cause of death among all adults. It is projected that the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease will continue to increase. According to the latest estimates, as many as 100 million more people will be diagnosed by 2050.

People tend to believe that Alzheimer’s Disease occurs later in life, but that is not necessarily true. Although the risk increases with age, symptoms can develop as early as when a person is in their 40s.

What We Know: Physical Activity Can Help Protect the Brain from Alzheimer’s Disease

Regularly exercising appears to be one of the best lifestyle changes that you can make to reduce the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Just like our muscles can become more fit with exercise, so can our brain.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, regular exercise can reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Over one-third of dementia cases are preventable through lifestyle changes, including physical exercise.

Why is that? Let’s take a look at what science says. 

What Does the Research Say?

A recent study found that exercise may prevent Alzheimer’s by helping the brain better metabolize iron. The study found that Alzheimer’s, and aging in general, are both associated with changes in the way the brain metabolizes iron. Researchers theorize that the accumulation of iron in the brain contributes to the formation of plaques found in Alzheimer’s and other dementias. These plaques contain a toxic protein called beta-amyloid, which is found in autopsies of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

How does exercise help the brain better metabolize iron? Researchers know that regular exercise improves iron metabolism and prevents iron buildup in the brain, but they are uncertain why this is the case.

Scientists don’t fully understand how physical activity lowers dementia and Alzheimer’s risk. There are probably a combination of factors that contribute. Experts suggest that aerobic exercise can help reduce the risk of dementia by improving vascular health. This likely lessens the damage of Alzheimer’s effect on the brain, encouraging neuron growth and survival.

Medical research demonstrates that dementia starts affecting the brain many years before symptoms show up. Experts suggest that making lifestyle changes and healthy choices in your 40s may make a big difference in your dementia risk down the road.

What Kind of Exercise Should I Do?

Cardio 

Aerobic exercise, in particular, may be especially beneficial for guarding against dementia. A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease compared the cognitive function of two groups of sedentary adults aged 55 and older with dementia symptoms. The goal of the research was to find out if aerobic exercise would reduce brain atrophy and plaque buildup, which are both early markers of Alzheimer’s.

The control group performed aerobic exercise for 30 minutes at least four times a week, while the other group only did flexibility exercises. Although both groups experienced some cognitive benefits, the group that performed aerobic exercise lost less volume in the hippocampus area of the brain, which is a region that tends to deteriorate as dementia worsens.

What Kind Of Cardio Should I Do To Get Brain Benefits?

While you should always talk to your doctor about how much and what kind of cardio exercise is right for you, we recommend aiming for 30-minutes of aerobic exercise at least four days per week. Try:

  • Aerobic Dance or Zumba Dancing is especially great for the brain as it requires you to learn complex choreography, which keeps the brain working. Dancing is also a social activity, and studies have found that social connection has been linked with a lowered risk of developing dementia.
  • Swimming – Swimming incorporates both cardio and strength. This is a great way to get both types of exercise in at once. It’s perfect if you struggle to find the time in your schedule to commit to both cardio and strength training.
  • Gardening – When people think of exercise, they often forget about gardening. But, this activity is a great way to get your cardio in. It counts as moderate to high-intensity exercise. Not only can it help guard against dementia, but spending time outdoors gardening can be a great way to de-stress after a particularly stressful day at work.
  • Walking – Walking is great for anyone. It suits all fitness levels and abilities. You don’t need any special equipment, and it can be done anywhere. Walking outdoors also provides unique benefits, including improved mood. Walking outdoors has been shown to reduce the risk of depression compared to walking indoors. So, it can be an excellent exercise for protecting against Alzheimer’s disease and reducing symptoms of depression.

Strength Training

Many strength training exercises, like boxing, can benefit brain health. Scientists say that just six months of strength training can help protect brain areas vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease long term. They say that the beneficial results of regular strength training on the brain can last up to one year later.

What Kind Of Strength Training Should I Do to Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?

  • Weight lifting – Weight training is especially beneficial when it comes to dementia. Animal studies have found that weight training helps promote the creation of new neurons in the brain’s memory centers.
  • Boxing – This exercise is helpful because it incorporates both strength and cardiovascular exercise.
  • Dancing – Like boxing, dancing is great because it enhances strength, cardio fitness, and flexibility.
  • High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)-  The fitness giant CrossFit conducted a case study on the effect of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) combined with memory training and a ketogenic diet in treating mild dementia. They found that HIIT, together with memory training and a keto diet, had a beneficial impact on cognitive function and overall metabolic health.

Like exercise, eating healthy also reduces the risk of dementia. Research has shown that nutrition and dementia are related. A diet high in vegetables, fruits, and seafood can reduce the risk of dementia. A healthy diet plus exercise is the path to better health. These things can reduce the risk of high blood pressure and cholesterol, two factors related to heart issues, which can cause dementia. Therefore, a lifestyle that incorporates a healthy diet plus exercise is best.

How Often Should I Exercise?

All that it takes is just one workout to make our brain’s memory more fit. Of course, to get the most benefit, you should exercise regularly. Studies have shown that the cumulative effects of exercise can lead to long-term improvements in how our brains work and remember information. Therefore, coming up with a long-term exercise routine is best to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Final Thoughts

Although exercise or a healthy diet alone will not prevent Alzheimer’s disease, there are lifestyle factors that you can make to reduce the risk. The research on exercise and dementia shows that physical activity lowers the risk of developing dementia. It also helps improve dementia symptoms in people who have mild cognitive impairment. It is likely a combination of factors, including a healthy diet and regular physical activity, that is the most beneficial for dementia prevention.

Stop Worrying About BMI

Like many, you’ve probably strolled into the doctor’s office for a simple checkup and had a few measurements taken. One of these measurements may have been your Body Mass Index or BMI. This is a measurement that records your height and weight, then categorizes your weight status as either underweight, healthy, overweight, or obese.

The problem with BMI is that it’s very antiquated. This measurement has been used since the 1800’s and doesn’t take very much into account, yet it’s still used today. The amount and location of body fat isn’t even taken into consideration with BMI, which means that an individual with a higher weight, yet lower body fat, may still be categorized as overweight or obese. A BMI this high on an athletic individual is obviously misleading.

So, why is BMI still a thing? Despite there being other, more accurate options for measuring your weight status or health, why is it still used today? That’s exactly what you’re going to be learning more about in this post. You’ll also walk away with some other fantastic options that can be used for checking your health!

A Brief History of BMI

Before dropping into some of the ways that BMI misses the ball, let’s talk about its origins.

The BMI measurement was created in the 1830’s by a mathematician named Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet. What’s interesting about the creation of BMI is that it wasn’t even created by a physician, yet it’s used regularly in a physician’s protocol. The aim of the number was to determine whether a person is of a healthy weight by dividing their weight by their height squared. This number was then used as a statistic for a general population that would aid the government in allocating resources. What it didn’t do is pinpoint exact measures of health or weight status.

The scale of your BMI runs in ranges and places you into categories, which are still used today. You can see these below:

Below 18.5Underweight
18.5-14.9Healthy
25.0-29.9Overweight
30.0 and aboveObese

Why BMI Misses the Mark

Now, is BMI accurate? In reality, using BMI as a measurement of health or weight status can be misleading. When you have an individual with higher amounts of muscle mass, their BMI may be inaccurate. Due to extra muscle contributing to their overall weight, they may be classified as overweight, even though they’re in great shape with a low percentage of body fat. This is due to the fact that BMI doesn’t take actual body fat percentage (or muscle mass) into account. These numbers are huge variables when it comes to determining the health of someone and they’re totally left out in this form of measurement.

Athlete working out with dumbells

The point of BMI is to keep up with weight and the rate of obesity, but can this really be used as a true indicator if it’s mislabeling healthy individuals as obese? In turn, it becomes an indirect measurement of obesity, and this can be seen in a study measuring trained and untrained individuals. The trained group, even though in better shape, had more individuals categorized as overweight than the untrained group. Therefore, some categorizations of people having their BMI measured are in fact wrong.

Even for an individual who does contain a higher percentage of body fat, BMI can still be slightly misleading. BMI doesn’t take the location of body fat into consideration. It’s no secret that an abundance of fat tissue in the midsection is bad for your health, but what if you carry it evenly throughout the body? When body fat is distributed throughout in an even manner, it’s detriment to your health may be reduced (but not eliminated). If you’re looking at BMI as a marker for health, it could be misleading due to the information it isn’t considering.

BMI may categorize you as overweight, or even obese, in cases where you may actually be in great shape. While it may be an accurate measurement for some scenarios, it doesn’t take everything into account, which limits the credibility of it.

So, why is it still used today?

BMI is a fast way of coming up with a supposed range of health in regard to weight. The number can be found out quickly and it’s been used for so long that it’s just stuck. It’s also still used because there is a large proportion of the population that isn’t athletic. Due to this, the ranges given can have some indication of actual weight status.

This, however, doesn’t mean that it’s an accurate measurement and there are much more effective ways of measuring your body composition, weight loss, and overall health.

Other Ways to Measure Health

DEXA Scans

DEXA scans are imaging tests that measure your bone density. While these are used to look for things like osteoporosis, they also show your body composition. This means that you get to see your other tissues like body fat and muscle mass. Using this information, you can differentiate what your weight is actually comprised of. Whereas with BMI an athletic person could be classified as overweight, a DEXA scan might show quite the opposite.

The only downside to the DEXA scans is that they can be slightly pricey. However, if this isn’t a concern for you, it’s a fantastic way to get an accurate read on your body.

Calipers

Body fat calipers being used to measure a women's body fat.

Body fat calipers are tools used for physically measuring the amount of fat present on your body. The process can range from just a few measurements to a full-on exam. This process requires assistance to reach all the locations, and they measurements are often taken from places such as your arms, legs, and stomach. These measurements are put into an equation that eventually produce your body fat percentage. When compare this method to BMI, it may offer you a much better idea of proportion of your weight is actually fat versus lean tissue.

The more places you have tested, the more accurate this outcome can be. There is, however, the chance of a user error in this test so this should be taken into consideration as well!

How Your Clothes Fit

While not an actual test, it can be extremely helpful. As you’re trying to see if things are changing for your body, you can always keep tabs on how your clothes fit. Let’s say the scale hasn’t changed for you, but you’ve been hitting the gym and eating better. However, you have noticed that you had to go down a belt loop for your pants to stay up! This is a good sign and shows that you’ve lost inches. Losing inches is often attributed to a loss in body fat that may accompany a gain in muscle mass. These changes may not show up with a BMI measurement, when in reality a lot is changing.

While not numerical data to use, it’s a great way of self-measuring some changes to your body.

Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

If you really just want to keep up with your health markers, this is where you should be checking. While BMI may give you some inclination of your weight status, these are measurements that can truly make a difference for your actual health. In many cases, some individuals may have a high BMI but be in fair health when looking at blood pressure and cholesterol. This isn’t always the case, but it can be a reality.

You’ll more than likely have these checked at the same time as your BMI, but maybe keep an eye on these instead of worrying about the outdated BMI you just received.  

How You FEEL!

Happy woman after working out.

At the end of the day, no matter what that BMI says, how do you feel? Do you have energy? Can you do the things you enjoy doing? Are you happy? These are great measurements of health that often don’t get the recognition they deserve. We may look at an odd BMI measurement and completely forget that we were able to run a mile today. If you’re on a health journey, this is also a great place to focus your attention. Are you feeling better as you make these changes? While not a statistical date point, it carries a ton of value when actually tracking your wellness.

Conclusion

There are a ton of different ways in which you can measure your weight, body fat, muscle mass, and health. However, you still get the same old BMI score at the doctors office. It’s an outdated measurement that is still in play today, but don’t let it get you down. That number doesn’t carry as much value as you would assume it does. There is a lot that goes unrecognized in that measurement and this can make it inaccurate. BMI is outdated and isn’t something to fret over. You can always try something like a DEXA scan or body fat test that will provide you with an accurate measurement. In addition, you can try things that aren’t number based and truly go off how you feel!

Use what is relevant to you and your situations and keep moving forward!

Does life feel like a stress factory? It turns out that the way to slow down stress is to rev up your gears. While it may seem counterproductive, doing more is the best stress-management technique if that “more” involves your workout. Yes, regular exercise is the stress-busting secret that everyone needs to remember when they feel tense, anxious and overwhelmed. Do you need a stress escape plan? Take a look at the secret to managing stress with exercise.

Your Brain Supplies You With Your Own Stress-Management Coaches: Meet the Endorphins

Most of us know how good that post-workout glow feels. It can feel like we’ve discovered the secret switch for suddenly feeling more energized, confident and motivated. However, we can just as easily forget how good working out feels once our schedules fill up with work commitments, home-life commitments and distractions. Once you know the science behind why working out leaves you feeling like you’re on top of the world, it’s pretty hard to skip a workout.

It’s all thanks to endorphins. Endorphins are your body’s feel-good neurotransmitters. You’ve definitely already met endorphins if you’ve ever worked out hard, went for a run or simply danced around! Endorphins are natural analgesics that help to diminish pain. Your body releases them during workouts because it knows that you’re “feeling the burn.”

Because endorphins act on the brain’s opioid receptors, they create the feeling of a natural “high” that can reduce pain, increase pleasure and leave you with a general sense of increased well-being. Researchers have known about the link between exercise and the stress-reducing benefits of endorphin release for decades. However, the stressful pace of modern life has more and more researchers looking at the benefits of exercise for stress relief. If you really want to ramp up the feel-good, stress-busting hormones, you may need to ramp up your workouts. While any form of exercise can positively affect mood, people going hard against stress are going hard in the gym. Next, take a look at the emerging research on moderate versus heavy exercise for stress relief.

How Heavy Exercise Can Help With Stress Reduction

First, it’s helpful to know the baseline recommendation for using exercise and physical activity for wellness. The current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggest that adults should strive to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise weekly. If you’re doing vigorous-intensity workouts, the recommended time drops down to 75 minutes weekly. Keep in mind that this is the recommendation simply for improving and maintaining physical health. People seeking to use workouts to improve mental health may want to tweak this suggestion a bit to create more of a “therapeutic” schedule. In fact, research supports this.

In a 2018 study, researchers looked at opioid release after high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to gauge the positive effects of physical exercise on mood and stress levels. They found that HIIT leads to a strong endorphin release in the brain that likely alleviates both physical and emotional stress. Here’s a closer look at the data roundup:

  • HIIT substantially increased the release of endorphins and opioid peptides in areas of the brain that control pain and emotion.
  • HIIT’s ability to reduce “negative feelings” actually boosted endorphin release. Consider this confirmation that the no-pain-no-gain theory might be more valid than we thought!
  • Researchers were left to conclude that both negative and positive feelings created by physical exercise impact the opioid system.

The most exciting part of this study comes next. The impact of HIIT on the brain’s opioid system was compared to regular aerobic exercise. Researchers concluded that a traditional one-hour session of aerobic exercise did not produce the same endorphin release as HIIT. Of course, that’s not to say that “normal” aerobic exercise isn’t helpful for stress relief. While traditional exercise did produce feelings of pleasure and euphoria associated with endorphin release, the intensity of the results could not touch what study participants who endured HIIT experienced.

Tweaking Exercise Intensity Levels for Stronger Stress Relief

Photo of athlete performing rope climbs in the gym.

Let’s back up to cover precisely what the correlation between high-intensity workouts and endorphin release means for people trying to learn how to use exercise for stress relief. First, the thought that some exercise is better than no exercise still applies. Someone who cannot participate in high-intensity aerobics for any reason should not assume that they should skip working out because it doesn’t offer any benefits. Any mildly intense physical activity should get you a decent-sized endorphin release that can take the edge off. If you’re looking for intense stress relief, the answer is intense physical activity.

Knowing that high-intensity workouts lead to better stress relief is half the battle. The irony of using intense workouts for stress relief is that the endorphin rush that you’re trying to invoke in your opioid receptors can only be created by creating unpleasant feelings. That’s because your body releases endorphins in response to pain and physical stress during workouts. To stay on track with using exercise for meaningful stress relief, you have to get in a mindset of getting rid of the bad feelings caused by stress by taking on even more bad feelings during a grueling workout before reaching the point where the pain turns to pleasure.

Getting the motivation for this can be challenging for anyone. Negative feelings associated with intense exercise discourage exercise in a considerable percentage of the general population. This is where consistency and planning become so important. You need to build a mindset that allows you to take on the physical and emotional demands of putting in a workout.

How To Stay Motivated

Here are some tips for staying motivated to get your workouts in — even if you know they might make you wince:

Set of workout clothes ready to go.
Keep your workout clothes ready to go!
  • Get your workout in early. If your schedule allows, make your workout the first thing you do every morning. Scheduling your workout for later in the day gives you most of the day to try to talk yourself out of doing it. What’s more, unexpected things can pop up during your day to rob you of the time you’ve set aside for your workout. Exercising first thing also gives you the confidence boost and optimism that come with accomplishing something very hard before more people have even rolled down the top sheet! If you’re having a hard time getting started in the morning, you can gradually adjust your workout time to be earlier and earlier every day until you can get there.
  • Make sure there’s a “treat” waiting. Don’t put yourself in the position to be desperate for anything you can get your hands on after you finish an intense workout. While it doesn’t necessarily have to be a treat, giving yourself a snack or meal to look forward to when your workout is complete can be a big motivator. Of course, you’ll want to make sure that the food or beverage you select will replenish and restore you without undoing any of your hard work. If you’re planning morning workouts, consider having something like healthy banana pancakes or a keto egg scramble waiting for you in the fridge!
  • Keep your workout clothes ready. The goal is to make sure you never have excuses. Following each workout, prepare your workout clothes and gear for the next workout! This will ensure that they are always waiting for you.
  • Discover exercises you enjoy. HIIT workouts come in many forms! You don’t have to commit to just one option. In fact, many HIIT workout programs out there combine traditional cardio with yoga, boxing, ballet and more!
  • Bring a friend along. If you’re desperate to relieve stress, there’s a good chance that the people you live or work with also need some stress-busting tools. Why not get a partner or group? Studies show that having a workout partner increases the amount of time spent working out!
  • Just remember that even a small amount of exercise helps. Exercise in almost any form or intensity level can be a stress reliever. So, if you are out of shape, start by gradually building up your fitness level. You’ll still get the stress relieving benefits of exercise while slowly becoming healthier.

The research is becoming more apparent on one thing. Pain may be the only way to gain peace of mind when it comes to your workout. If you’ve fallen into a sedentary way of being, the argument for getting out there to feel the burn has never been stronger. If you’re already exercising without getting the stress-relieving benefits that you want, the answer may be to ramp things up.

Let the Stress Reduction Begin!

If you’re feeling motivated to reduce stress using high-intensity workouts, make sure you’re setting yourself up for success. It’s essential to get proper nutrition through complete, healthy meals when doing intense workouts because your body needs the right fuel to perform—as always, using a meal prep service is an excellent way for busy health-minded people to stay on top of things without feeling vulnerable to hunger, cravings and low energy.

Many of us have been there before— trying out another fad diet, feeling restricted and unsatisfied, and finally giving up and feeling guilty, only to start the cycle over again. Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of health. We need to fuel our bodies to function our best, but dieting doesn’t always leave us feeling that way. Intuitive eating teaches us to let go of restrictions and rules and listen to what our bodies and minds need. It helps us build a healthy and positive relationship with food and our bodies. Gentle nutrition is the final step in intuitive eating. It focuses on taking care of our bodies and minds and feeling satisfied while eating a balanced diet that gives us all the nutrition we need.

Nutrition should be a lifelong commitment, not a fad. To build these lifestyle changes, they need to be not only healthy but also sustainable. The fact is food is meant to be enjoyed and is not just there for survival. We need a balance. So, how can we be sure we’re supplying our bodies  proper nutrients in adequate amounts without counting, measuring, or obsessing? Cue gentle nutrition. Here are some ways to better understand gentle nutrition and how to get started.

Understand Your Food

Before we can eat intuitively and make healthy dietary choices without needing to read labels, we need to have at least a basic understanding of our food choices. For example, whole grains are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates, while white bread is a simple carbohydrate that is not as rich in fiber and micronutrients. Take note of some healthy sources of fats and good protein sources, understand antioxidants, and so on. Learn about fiber and probiotics. You don’t need to get into the details, but you should have a general idea of what different categories of foods have to offer. Once you understand that, it’s easier to eat a balanced diet without paying attention to the nutrition label. Try our Balanced Meal Plan to make meals easier for you. We do the macro calculations, and you sit back and enjoy your food!

Take Note of How Foods Make You Feel

Friends enjoying a run

With intuitive eating, we try to let go of the idea that there are good and bad foods. As soon as you set limits on yourself, labeling foods as “bad” or off-limits, you start to feel restricted and fall into the pattern of dieting. Take notes of how you feel after eating your meals. It helps to write it down— what did you eat, and how did you feel afterward? You can use a food diary. This makes it easy to identify whether certain foods make you feel bad or good afterward. Everybody is different, and that is why no one diet works for everyone. You might have some intolerances or allergies that make you bloated or sick. Some foods might make you feel sluggish and heavy, while others give you energy and make you feel good. Write it all down until you notice patterns. That way, you’re not eliminating or restricting foods because someone told you to, but because you know they don’t make you feel good, and you don’t want them. You may still choose to treat yourself, and that’s fine! The reasons behind your food choices should always be positive and come from a place of self-care. You can still avoid certain foods or choose to eat plant-based, keto, or sugar-free, but your “why” is what makes the difference between dieting and gentle nutrition.

Differentiate Between Being Full and Satisfied

A big part of intuitive eating is tuning into your hunger cues and honoring them. If you’re hungry, eat. However, sometimes we eat a full meal, and while we no longer feel the physical hunger, we still aren’t satisfied. Intuitive eating focuses on both feelings because we don’t eat to simply be full— we also eat for enjoyment.Honor your cravings and eat in a way that leaves you satisfied both physically and mentally. When we don’t honor cravings, feelings of restriction start to pour in, and we don’t want that. If you eat a bowl of veggies but feel unhappy and want some pasta, then go for it! Pay attention to your food, try not to multitask while eating, and truly enjoy the experience of mealtime. This will also tremendously help with understanding and listening to your body and what it needs.

Zoom Out

Stop stressing about each meal and trying to balance out every plate with enough carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats. Look at the bigger picture. You can reflect on your food choices at the end of the day— did I eat a balanced diet today? Put all the meals together. Maybe your breakfast was primarily carbohydrates, but your dinner had lots of protein and veggies. As long as you feel good, that’s what matters. You may even wish to assess weeks at a time so that it feels less intimidating. Nobody’s perfect and intuitive eating embraces that. The goal of gentle nutrition is to eat a balanced diet overall, which means you don’t need to stress over each thing you eat but rather look at the big picture.

Prepare and Plan

Grocery Shopping

Although intuitive eating focuses on listening to your body, sometimes the easiest way to start with any lifestyle change is to plan and prepare. Have a rough idea of what meals you’d like to eat throughout the week or month, or at least what ingredients you want to have in your kitchen. Not only will this help you stay organized and save you time, but it will also help you plan balanced meals. When you go to the grocery store, try to cover all your bases— fruits, veggies, carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. That way, you have everything you need to make your nutritious meals. If you don’t have enough ingredients, eating intuitively while balancing meals can be tricky and intimidating.

Try New Things

The easiest way to eat a balanced diet and ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need is to diversify your grocery list. Every week, or however often you go grocery shopping, pick out a fruit or vegetable that you haven’t had in a while (or maybe ever). Not only will this allow you to get creative in the kitchen, but eating a variety of produce helps you get all the different vitamins and minerals that you need. Try to pick a variety of colors when you choose fruits and veggies, as the colors often correlate with different antioxidants and micronutrients. Eating the rainbow will brighten up your plate and is a fun way to ensure you’re getting a broad list of micronutrients. Aim for at least three colors on your plate. Try to incorporate different sources of protein, as well. Instead of having chicken every night, get creative and make a plant-based dinner with tofu or chickpeas. Our Plant-Based Meals can inspire you to try some new foods you may not have had before.

Cook At Home More

Cooking at home

While we don’t want to restrict anything, it’s a known fact that homemade meals are generally healthier than eating out constantly. You shouldn’t be afraid to eat at a restaurant with friends, but you should get to know your kitchen well. When time and your schedule allows, cooking can help build a healthy relationship with food because you can put love, time, and creativity into everything you eat. The why of intuitive eating and gentle nutrition is the most important part— if you’re doing something to care for your body and mental health versus having the mentality of restricting and guilt, then you’re on the right track.

Add to Your Favorite Meals

Instead of restricting, switch your mindset to adding. What can I add to this meal to make it even more nutritious while still tasting delicious? If you don’t like the taste of your new dish, feel free to stick to the original. Remember, it’s all about balance. One chocolate ice cream dessert won’t change anything, but if you can make it with bananas or avocado instead of heavy cream and still love the taste— why not? Get adventurous and find your love for cooking and improvising in the kitchen. Add some green peas to your mac and cheese, blend some spinach into your morning smoothies, or add some nuts and seeds to your muffins for some added omega-3 fats and protein.

Be Easy on Yourself

Enjoying ice cream

Remember that eating intuitively should make you feel good and improve your relationship with food. The principle itself is called “gentle” nutrition. You shouldn’t feel guilty for eating that piece of chocolate cake, eating white bread instead of whole wheat, or not having any protein in your dinner. The point of gentle nutrition is to guide you to a balanced diet and to help you let go of any negative feelings towards food. This is the final step in intuitive eating for a reason— if you’re stuck in a “diet” mentality and haven’t fully fixed any negative relationship with food you may have, focusing on nutrition can be a step backward.


Sources:
https://colleenchristensennutrition.com/getting-started-with-gentle-nutrition/
https://karalydon.com/intuitive-eating/practice-gentle-nutrition-intuitive-eating/
https://nourishrx.com/6-strategies-for-embracing-gentle-nutrition/
https://www.rachaelhartleynutrition.com/blog/how-to-practice-gentle-nutrition-in-intuitive-eating