5 Tips to Improving Your Relationship with Food

nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

The way you treat your body—and the food that you put into it—has the power to make or break your fitness goals. 

This can be especially true if you’re new to working out and dieting, but even those who have been at it for years tend to find that every so often, their eating habits get out of hand and wreak havoc on their diets. If this sounds like you, don’t despair! 

Here are five tips to improving your relationship with food and keeping those cravings under control so that you can achieve your fitness goals.

1) Go For Variety

When it comes to food, we often crave what we eat the most of. If you find yourself eating the same things day in and day out, mix it up! Add some variety to your diet by incorporating new fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. 

Not only will this help reduce cravings, but you’ll also get the nutritional benefits that come with eating a variety of foods. For example, if you want to cut down on your salt intake, add more leafy greens or cruciferous veggies like broccoli or cauliflower. These not only provide flavor, but they’re low in sodium as well.

2) Don’t Look at Junk Food Pictures

Studies have shown that looking at pictures of junk food can actually increase cravings for those foods. 

If you’re trying to reduce your cravings, or establish a healthier relationship with food, one of the best things you can do is avoid looking at pictures of unhealthy foods altogether. Especially if you’re following all those “foodie” accounts on Instagram, you’re not doing yourself any favors. 

You’ll find yourself craving the most delicious forms of all the foods you see online – and these delicious forms usually contain the most salt and sugar. Not to mention, junk food pictures are often enhanced to make them more appetizing. Do yourself a favor and unfollow all the food accounts you follow (except those featuring healthy recipes.)

3) Plan Ahead

One of the best ways to improve your relationship with food is to plan ahead. By taking the time to meal prep or cook in advance, you can take the guesswork out of what you’re going to eat and avoid making unhealthy impulsive decisions. 

If you have all your meals scheduled out for the week, it’s going to be easier for you to answer the age-old question “what do I want to eat?” that usually leads to suboptimal choices.

4) Stay Busy

It’s easy to turn to food when we’re bored, but finding other ways to occupy yourself can help reduce cravings. 

Try reading, taking a walk, or calling a friend when you start feeling the urge to snack. Not to mention, taking a walk has been associated with reduced cravings for sugar and fat. And on top of that, you’ll actually be burning some extra calories. 

Another way to avoid mindless snacking is by thinking about what you eat before going in for it. If it’s not something healthy or fulfilling, put it back! Sometimes willpower fails us and we end up eating something bad because our emotions get the best of us. If this happens to you, think about how it will make you feel afterward rather than during your momentary lapse in judgement!

5) Tune in to Your Cravings

Cravings are a normal part of life, but they can also be a sign that something is off balance. If you’re constantly battling cravings, it’s important to take a step back and assess your relationship with food. 

Are you eating when you’re truly hungry, or are you using food as a crutch? 

Once you identify the root of the problem, you can start to make changes. By tuning into your own cravings, you’ll start to identify patterns that will naturally lead you to find the trigger that causes you to crave certain foods. From then on, it’s cake. (No pun intended.)

The Best Sleeping Positions for Optimal Fitness

male fitness

Hey Angels and Alphas,

You might not think about it much, but what you do while you sleep has huge impacts on your health and fitness levels. 

Not only can the right sleeping position improve your quality of life, but it can also help you maintain or even achieve the results you want out of your training—even if you have to skip workouts sometimes! To make sure you’re getting the best fitness results possible, check out these tips on how to sleep for optimal fitness.

Understanding The Different Sleeping Positions

Most people spend the majority of their time sleeping on their backs, side, or stomach. Each position has its own benefits and drawbacks when it comes to overall fitness. 

For example, sleeping on your back allows your head, neck, and spine to rest in a neutral position. This decreases the chances of experiencing pain in those areas. Sleeping on your stomach, on the other hand, can put strain on your back and neck.

What You Should Know Before Switching Your Sleeping Position

Most people don’t think about their sleep position, but it can make a big difference in your quality of sleep and overall fitness. If you’re not comfortable, you’re more likely to toss and turn, which can lead to less restful sleep. You’ll also have to expend extra energy making the change. 

For example, if you’re on your back and want to switch positions, you’ll need to push yourself up into a sitting position before switching sides or flipping over. Plus, sleeping on one side can cause some serious issues with your neck because it puts pressure on the nerve bundle running from the top of the spine (C1) down through the shoulder blade and rib cage into the arm. 

There are many small notions you need to be aware of before you attempt to switch your natural sleeping positions. Today, we’re here to talk about a few of those notions.

Side Sleepers Are the Most Popular Sleepers

It’s no surprise that side sleepers are the most popular type of sleeper; after all, sleeping on your side is incredibly comfortable. But did you know that it’s also the best way to sleep for optimal fitness? 

Here’s why – when you sleep on your side, gravity provides a natural counter-pressure against your spinal discs. Sleeping on your back or stomach increases pressure and can cause disc degeneration over time. Side sleeping also promotes blood flow and circulation in the torso which can help with digestion and overall well-being!

Back Sleepers Also Have Benefits

Sleeping on your back allows your head, neck, and spine to rest in a neutral position. This decreases the chances of experiencing pain in those areas. Sleeping on your back also minimizes wrinkles and allows your face to recover from the day’s activities. Back sleepers snore less and are less likely to suffer from sleep apnea.

Stomach Sleeping is Dangerous

Stomach sleeping is the most common sleep position, but it’s also the most dangerous. Sleeping on your stomach puts a lot of pressure on your spine and can cause neck and back pain. It can also lead to wrinkles, since you’re constantly pressing your face into the pillow. If you want to achieve optimal fitness results, you should avoid stomach sleeping at all costs.

Your Body Weight Could Alter Your Sleeping Position

Most people don’t realize that the way they sleep can impact their fitness results. If you’re carrying around extra weight, it’s best to sleep on your side or stomach. This will help prevent pain in your back and hips. If you’re trying to lose weight, sleeping on your back allows your body to better burn calories. 

Changing Your Sleeping Position Requires Time 

Though it may not seem like it, the way you sleep can have a big impact on your fitness results. If you’re looking to switch things up and improve your results, start by finding the best sleeping position for you. This may take some trial and error, but eventually you’ll find a position that works best for you. Once you’ve found it, stick with it and enjoy the benefits of a good night’s sleep!

Mental Hacks for Pushing Through Difficult Training Sessions

male fitness

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Having a tough training session in the gym is normal, especially when you’re pushing yourself hard to see results. But if you’re consistently putting in the work and still not seeing those results, it can be really discouraging and can make it even harder to get through your next workout.

If this sounds like you, don’t worry! There are ways to change your mindset when it comes to working out and help yourself push through difficult workouts so that you can make progress towards your goals more quickly. Here are five mental hacks for pushing through a difficult training session!

1) Take it one set at a time

When you’re in the middle of a tough training session, it can feel like you’ll never make it to the end. But the key is to take it one set at a time. Don’t focus on how many sets you have left, just focus on getting through the next one. And before you know it, you’ll be done and you’ll be asking for more. 

At the start of your workout, you might do a hard set and think about how much more you’ve got left to do. When you focus on what’s in front and you tunnel vision on getting the next set done, you’ll find that it’s much easier to go through a difficult workout.

2) Accept imperfection

It’s okay to have an off day, or even an off week. You’re not perfect, and that’s okay. In fact, it’s perfectly normal. What matters is that you get back on track as soon as possible and don’t let one bad day turn into a bad month.  

We all experience ups and downs in our fitness levels, just like we experience bad and good workouts, but the most important thing is to not allow your emotions overtake you. Don’t focus on what could be better–focus on what IS good right now. Accept that sometimes, you might have a mediocre or even unproductive workout. And that’s okay!

3) Remind yourself why you’re doing this

It’s important to have a clear and concise reason for why you’re working out in the first place. Whether it’s to improve your overall health, lose weight, or get stronger, knowing your why will help you push through when the going gets tough. Break your goal down into smaller, more manageable pieces. 

When you have a huge goal, it can be daunting and overwhelming. But it can also be motivating and inspiring. You choose how to look at things and where to draw motivation from. Your goal is one of the best places to do so.

4) Set an endpoint for each set

1. It’s important to have an endpoint in mind when you’re starting a set. Whether it’s reps or time, knowing when you’ll be done will help you push through the tough moments. 

2. Set a goal for each set and don’t let yourself stop until you reach it. This will help you stay focused and push through any fatigue you’re feeling. 

3. Stay positive and repeat a mantra that will help you push through. The more positive self-talk you have, the easier it will be to push through a difficult set. 

4. Focus on your breathing and make sure you’re taking deep, calming breaths. This will help your body relax and make it easier to push through the stress.

5) Find a pumped up playlist

When it comes to working out, music can be a powerful tool to help you push through a difficult training session. It can help you get in the zone, distract you from pain, and give you the extra boost of energy you need to power through. 

So make sure to have a go-to playlist of pumped up songs that will help you get through even the toughest workout.

Get the Most Out of Your Rest Days: Tips for Proper Recovery

Hey Angels and Alphas,

When you’re training to reach your fitness goals, it’s important to understand how much rest you need between each workout. 

While this may vary depending on what you’re doing and how hard you push yourself, the most important thing to understand is that your body needs time to recover from the stress of training, and your time in the gym is not simply a matter of pushing yourself as hard as possible and then stopping when you are tired. 

You should listen to your body and allow it to recover sufficiently before pushing it again, or else your results will suffer in the long run.

What are rest days?

Rest days are an important part of any workout routine. They give your body time to recover from the stress of exercise and allow your muscles to grow. Without proper recovery, you may find yourself feeling sore and unable to continue working out at the same intensity. There are a few things you can do to make sure you’re getting the most out of your rest days.

How many rest days should I have per week?

Depending on how often you workout and how intense your workouts are, you might need anywhere from one to three rest days per week. If you’re just starting out, you might need more rest days than someone who’s been working out for a while. And if you’re training for a specific event, you might need more or less rest days than usual. The important thing is to listen to your body and give it the rest it needs.

What should I do on my off days?

First, it’s important to give your body a chance to recover from your workouts. This means getting enough sleep and eating a nutritious diet. Second, you can still stay active on your off days by doing light cardio or stretching. This will help keep your body loose and prevent stiffness. Third, take some time to focus on your mental health. Relaxation techniques such as meditation can help reduce stress and improve your mood. Fourth, make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Should I train the same muscle groups back-to-back?

No, you should not train the same muscle groups back-to-back. This can lead to overtraining and injury. Instead, focus on one or two muscle groups per day and give yourself at least 48 hours of rest in between workouts. This will help your muscles recover properly so you can hit the gym hard when it’s time to train again.

What happens if I don’t give my body proper time to recuperate between workouts?

You might be surprised to find that not giving your body proper time to recover can actually lead to a number of problems. For one, you might find yourself feeling more fatigued than usual and your performance in the gym may start to suffer as a result. Additionally, you might start to see an increase in injuries, as your body isn’t given the chance to properly heal. In extreme cases, you may even find yourself getting sick more often.

Am I losing gains by taking active recovery type activities on my off days?

No, you’re not losing gains by taking active recovery type activities on your off days. In fact, you’re actually helping your body to recover and repair itself so that you can come back stronger the next time you hit the gym. 

What should I actually do on my active recovery day?

1. First, you need to find a balance between rest and activity. Too much rest can lead to stagnation, while too much activity can lead to overtraining. 

2. Second, focus on quality over quantity. It’s better to do a few things well than to try to do everything at once and end up doing nothing well. 

3. Third, choose activities that will actually help you recover. This might include things like foam rolling, light stretching, light cardio, hiking, cycling, swimming, a trip to the beach, the possibilities are endless!

6 Ways to Intensify a Low-Impact Workout

male fitness

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Let’s face it – even though low-impact exercises have a ton of advantages, they are sometimes confused with “low-intensity” exercises and are therefore misinterpreted. 

Low impact, however, does not always imply low intensity. Low impact simply means that your training won’t include any hopping or jumping movements. 

Low-impact exercises are still excellent for gaining muscle and losing fat, and they also have the added advantage of reducing the risk of injury.

That’s why if you want to be getting more out of your low-impact sessions and you want to get that heart rate up, here are 6 ways you can do exactly that:

#1 Play around with your pace. Speed is what drives the intensity of a workout. If you’re doing more reps in less time, or more sets in less time, you’re guaranteed to rack up the intensity and boost up calorie burn. And slowing down reps works, too – try doing a push-up as slowly as you possibly can. This will also increase intensity on the muscles you’re working, so you can definitely play around and achieve a more optimal intensity that has you engaged yet in a safe range.

#2 Shorten your rest periods. Don’t let your heart rate drop between sets or rounds in order to increase it while performing a lower-impact workout. Simply taking shorter rest periods between activities may be sufficient. Another choice is to combine two strength-training exercises into supersets, rotating from one to the other as soon as your set of the first exercise is complete. You take a brief rest after that before starting over.

#3 Add intervals! If you really want to get your heart rate up and get those endorphins flowing, (yet you’re trying to stay away from all the bootcamp workouts with high-impact moves like burpees), you can create a similar effect by using a cardio machine or adding other types of cardio intervals in your workout. You can skyrocket your heart rate and perform efficient cardio while still maintaining low impact.  

#4 Incorporate compound movements. Which simply means performing exercises that use more than one muscle group at a time. Compound movements strengthen your entire body, boost your heart rate, and increase the overall demand on your muscles while still maintaining low impact. 

The best technique to boost training intensity, according to some experts, is to strengthen the mind-muscle connection. How does it function? You’ll get far more thoughtful and targeted work out of your training when you learn to use the muscles and muscle groups you wish to use rather than just briskly moving through the activity.

#5 Train on a different angle. We can work out in three different planes:

  • Sagittal (forward and back)
  • Frontal (side to side)
  • Transverse (rotational)

According to experts, a lot of conventional movements are done on the sagittal plane. Experiment with changing up your motions by working in a side-to-side motion or even adding rotation to what you’re doing. A lunge is a sagittal exercise, but you can make it more difficult, train your core, and work in the transverse plane by adding a twist over the front leg.

Many traditional strength training exercises such as the bench press, the squat, and the deadlift are compound exercises, and they’re absolute must-s in the workout regime of anyone wishing to get stronger and healthier.

#6 Add a pause or a pulse to your exercise.

You don’t have to bounce around to make your muscles tired. Here’s a quick change to turn any high-impact exercise into a low impact one: experts advise adding a pulse or pause at the end of an exercise to lengthen the duration you are under tension and so improve the movement’s burn and intensity. Jumping lunges become dead-stop lunges with a complete halt at the bottom, while jumping squats become squats with a pulse at the bottom.

The Many Different Causes of Foot Pain

male fitness

Hey Angels and Alphas,

When your feet aren’t hurting, you don’t truly appreciate how crucial they are.

You will probably have foot pain at some point in your life, whether you are a runner, walk a lot, or just spend a lot of time on your feet.

But depending on the foot issue you’re having, you can be having a problem with your stride pace, your posture, or just overall foot health. These pains offer important clues to what’s happening in our health.

Today, let’s talk about the many forms unexpected foot pain takes, and what they all mean for our health:

# PAIN AT THE TOP OF THE FOOT. Without a doubt, this can be caused by many different things. But some experts suggest that the simplest remedy to this might be to unloose your shoe strings a bit. More often than not, runners end up with a burning pain at the top of their foot because their laces are too tight right where the tongue of their shoe is. Always keep this in mind when you’re going out for a run.

# PLANTAR FASCIITIS. When the plantar fascia ligament at the bottom of your foot becomes inflamed, this can cause pain and major discomfort. Plantar fasciitis can happen due to big jumps in running mileage, changing running terrain, or taking on a new challenge (such as, for example, hill climbing) that put too much stress and load on your foot.

# ANKLE SPRAIN. An injury to the ankle’s ligaments results in an ankle sprain. Ligaments, which join bones to one another, are strong bands of elastic tissue. If the ankle rolls, turns, or twists outside of its usual range of motion, an ankle sprain may result. Weak muscles, loose ligaments, unnatural foot positioning, uneven terrain, wearing spiked heels, and improper foot placement are all potential causes of ankle sprains. Depending on how severely the ligaments are strained or torn, a sprain may or may not cause swelling, pain, or bruising.

# ACHILLES TENDON PAIN. The largest tendon in the human body is the Achilles tendon. It joins the heel bone and the calf muscle. However, this tendon is also the most typical location for rupture or tendonitis, an overuse-related inflammation of the tendon. Overuse of the calf muscles and the tendon in the Achilles is the cause of tendonitis. Mild post-exercise soreness that gradually becomes worse, stiffness that goes away after the tendon warms up, and swelling are possible symptoms.

# HEEL SPURS.

A bone growth on the heel bone is known as a spur. It is typically found where the plantar fascia, a lengthy band of connective tissue extending from the heel to the ball of the foot, joins to the underside of the heel bone. During activity, this connective tissue serves as a shock absorber and holds the arch together. If the plantar fascia is overstretched from running, wearing poor-fitting shoes, or being overweight, pain can result from the stress and inflammation of the tissue pulling on the bone. Over time, the body builds extra bone in response to this stress resulting in heel spurs

# A SORE, SWOLLEN SPOT. If you have a spot in your foot where soreness isn’t diminishing or going away, and it’s a very specific spot on one foot, you might be experiencing a stress fracture. This will usually be accompanied by a slight redness or swelling of the area, and it could become painful when walking or sitting. This is a big sign to watch out for.

# ANY RECURRING PAIN/INFLAMMATION. Keep in mind every stride you take places huge pressure shocks on your feet. If you’re experiencing misalignment or poor shock absorption, your feet will react to it. If you have recurring issues, make sure to seek the help of an expert. 

Your Checklist to a Healthy Breakfast

nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

We’ve all talked about how important breakfast is. Not only for giving you energy that your body can use throughout the day, but also for balancing out your hormones and keeping your blood sugar steady while you’re on the go.

When it comes to weight loss, it can either set you up for success or destroy your progress. If you eat a rich, nutritious breakfast soon after you wake up, your metabolism is going to get a boost and give you energy throughout the rest of the day.

That’s why today, we’re talking about a few breakfast MUST DO’s for those of you who want to use their breakfast as a strategic fitness tool.

#1 – Prioritize the protein!

An abundance of protein at breakfast will assist you communicate to your brain that you are satisfied for a longer period of time, preventing any post-lunch cravings from developing. Protein is essential for muscle performance and recuperation in addition to making you feel fuller longer. At breakfast, aim for at least 15 to 25 grams of protein.

#2 – Always make sure to use a plate. 

Most individuals, if not all of them, eat breakfast while on the road. However, if you can, get a plate and arrange your breakfast on it. When you’re just grabbing something to eat before you head out for work, it’s quite simple to eat too little or too much. If you eat thoughtfully, every meal will be lot more satisfying and you’ll be aware of how much energy you’re putting into your body.

#3 – Buy whole milk yogurt. Yes, the one with more fat in it. 

You might want to think twice before consuming that carton of light or 0% yogurt in the morning unless you’re also eating some eggs or a teaspoon of nut butter. Consuming dairy fat in addition to a healthy diet may really aid with weight loss. 

According to a recent assessment in the European Journal of Nutrition, those who consume full-fat dairy products have lower body weights, less weight gain, and a lower risk of obesity. According to Dr. Mario Kratz, the primary author of the review, “None of the evidence demonstrated low-fat dairy is superior.” More and more studies are showing that replacing less fat in the diet with sugar or carbohydrates results in weight gain.

#4 – Don’t drink any calories. 

Remember to stay away from flavored creamers, white sugar, oils, and all the butter they put in bulletproof coffee because these can change your coffee from a cup of energy into a sweet treat. This serves as a fantastic reminder to include protein and healthy fats to your morning smoothie if you enjoy drinking them. You can consume fewer calories and use your energy more efficiently.

#5 – Sit down. 

Most of us eat breakfast while doing a million other things, and we forget we’ve even eaten breakfast at all. Take a step back, forget about your emails, your meetings, the kid’s crazy schedule, and take 5 minutes to focus on resetting your brain. Take a moment to savor each bite – notice the textures and flavors. Give your body the chance to register a feeling of satiation and wakefulness. 

Sit down with the entire family if possible. Why not make breakfast your family’s bonding meal since fewer of us have time for family dinner? Families who eat meals together have children with better eating habits, better grades, better mental health and more happiness.

What Should You Eat Before a Cardio Workout?

nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

It can be difficult to determine whether you should eat before working out. While some people think eating gives you more energy, others think it makes you bloated, causes digestion issues, and causes muscle cramps. Like always, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

It all comes down to the fuel (and amount of it) that you choose to take in before your workout. Not only that but eating before cardio is highly individual. Let’s take a look at what the experts have to say.

It CAN be important to eat before an exercise, especially if you want to increase your time and intensity. Your performance will undoubtedly suffer if you don’t have enough protein and carbohydrates in your system (to actually fuel the activity), for instance, if you’re working out to be able to walk a marathon, combining walking with various resistance training exercises, or doing interval training to increase your speed.For the people who aren’t quite sure if they should eat before a workout, here are some simple rules to follow: if your workout is going to be longer than an hour, you should definitely opt for a pre-workout meal.

Another vital aspect you must consider is timing. If your workout is set during your lunch break, or another time where you would usually eat as part of your natural eating patterns, you’ll probably want to have a snack so your body can function optimally.

If you’re tackling aerobic exercise (hiking, biking, HIIT), when you eat is just as key as what you eat.

Fuel up: Consider a smoothie made with almond milk, banana, and berries as your pre-workout meal if you want it to be low in fat and sugar, moderate in protein, and heavy in carbohydrates. Take it between 60 and 90 minutes before working out: To give functioning muscles nourishment, the meal should be digested. The last thing you want to do is have a full stomach when you get on the treadmill. You don’t need to have another snack if your exercise session lasts less than one hour.

Uncertain of what to eat? Consider having a slice of whole-wheat bread with some fruit, like an apple, a small dish of oatmeal with raisins, a banana, or some yogurt. If you require protein to keep going throughout a lengthy workout, consider drinking milk with your snack or consuming a tiny tuna sandwich.

Recovering from your workout: Your body has a 20- to 30-minute “metabolic window” after working out, during which time your muscles absorb nutrients most effectively. During this time, it’s crucial to refuel so that your body doesn’t run out of energy. Leah Kaufman, RD, a nutritionist in New York City, suggests putting carbs and protein first because “a snack with this combination will help improve muscle repair and lessen pain.” Choose something small, like a cup of chocolate milk; a research indicated that cyclists reduced their ride duration by an average of six minutes when they drank low-fat chocolate milk rather than sports drinks and zero-calorie beverages after exercising.

The bottom line is, if you’re exercising for more than 60 minutes, it may be necessary to take in that additional fuel for your body. The longer the duration, and the higher the intensity of your exercise, the higher the likelihood that you’ll need to fuel your body. If you do decide to eat before a workout, make sure you’re including healthy options in your menu such as Greek yogurt, granola, bananas, a piece of toast with nut butter, small portions of oatmeal, and similar easy-to-digest foods that will lead you to the energy boost you need to adequately perform your work out.

How Your Weight Affects Your Macro Needs

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

The vast majority of dietary recommendations give advice based on calories (e.g., ingest 2,000 calories per day), serving sizes (e.g., a serving of protein is the size of your palm), or percentages (i.e., fat should be 30 percent of total intake). 

While many people may find these recommendations helpful, athletes have a more specialized set of recommendations: grams per kilogram of body weight (g/kg).

By giving these kind of details, recommendations may be made that are tailored to an athlete’s particular dietary requirements. For instance, an athlete with exceptionally high calorie requirements who gets 15% of calories from protein may ingest considerably more protein than necessary. On the other hand, most athletes would have a severe energy deficit if they strictly adhered to 2,000 calories per day.

Depending on an athlete’s level and volume of training, a suggested daily carbohydrate consumption ranges from 4 to 12 g/kg.

The range of daily protein consumption is 1.6–2.2 g/kg.

Once protein and carbohydrate requirements have been satisfied, fat intake is permitted in amounts that cover the remaining demands, which may exceed the recommended 30 percent for non-athletes.

In addition to daily intake requirements, pre- and post-workout requirements are also provided in this format to guarantee the athlete is getting enough nutrition. Anyone heavily invested in their training should look at their intake in this way.

Here are a few instances of how adjusting consumption to account for body weight:

Example 1: CARBS BEFORE EXERCISE

Three hours before exercise, athletes are advised to consume 3 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight.

Athlete 1: 54-kilogram cyclist (118 pounds)

54 x 3 Equals 162 grams of carbohydrates, according to our equation.

An example of a meal is two cups of oatmeal with one banana, one cup of orange juice, and two tablespoons of maple syrup.

Athlete 2: An 83-kilogram cyclist (183 pounds)

83 times three equals 249 grams of carbohydrates.

Example of a meal: 2 slices of bread, 3 cups oatmeal, 1 banana, 1 cup orange juice, 4 tablespoons maple syrup.

The heavier cyclist would be more likely to perform poorly and even experience bonking if they consumed food based on what the lighter person needed. The lighter individual would probably feel lethargic and eventually gain weight if they consumed the heavier person’s quantities.

EXAMPLE 2: PROTEIN NEEDS

Many people believe that the body can only use a quantity of protein—roughly 20 to 25 grams—per meal.

This approach is suitable for a 110-pound runner who would eventually consume about 100 grams of protein between meals and snacks. However, if limiting meals to 25 grams of protein, a 200-pound lifter would fall approximately 50% short of the recommended 1.6-2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day. The breakdown of protein intake by body weight would appear as follows:

Athlete 1: 50-kilogram (110-pound) runner

The math is as follows: 50 kg x 1.8 g protein = 90 g protein/day = 30 g protein/meal.

Typical meal: 4 ounces of flank steak, 1 cup of cooked sweet potato, 2 tbsp. of peanut sauce, and 1 cup of broccolini

Athlete 2: 90-kilogram (200-pound) lifter

The calculation: 91kg x 2.2 grams protein = 200 grams protein/day = 67 grams per meal

Typical meal: 1 cup cottage cheese, 1 cup lentil soup, 2 hard boiled eggs, and a 6-inch turkey avocado sub.

EXAMPLE 3: FAT INTAKE

An average person’s daily calorie intake for fat should be around 30%. 

This equates to 66 grams of fat per day on a typical 2,000 calorie diet. It is crucial for athletes’ performance that they consume enough protein and carbohydrates before turning to fat for the remainder of their energy needs. 

After protein and carb needs are satisfied depending on individual caloric needs, fat is added to the diet to balance it out. This adds some complexity to the calculation. Instead of using grams per kilogram, the equation goes like this: Total daily calories desired – (carbohydrate g/kg x 4 + protein demands g/kg x 4) = calories remaining for fat.

Consuming nutrients based on body weight ensures you are fueling your muscles to perform, recover from training and maintain general good health. If this way of thinking about nutrition is confusing, get in touch with a sports dietitian who can make a nutrition plan to meet your needs. 

When you eat according to your macros, you can be sure that your muscles are getting the nutrition they need to work well, recover from exercise, and stay healthy in general. 

How to Progress from Walking to Running

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

As with any new habit, whether it’s drinking more water or starting a meditation practice, learning to love running takes time. It’s pretty uncommon for things to feel effortless and breezy the first time a runner laces up, especially because there are many factors at play, from the temperature to the route.

Still, there’s no denying embracing running as a part of your regular routine has a slew of total-body benefits, including easing anxiety, weight loss and weight management. Compared to walking, running offers a greater calorie burn in a shorter time, giving it more bang for your buck if you’re looking for a quick workout.

To pick up the pace of a leisurely walk and turn it into a run (or jog), take a cue from these expert-backed strategies:

1 – START SLOW

You don’t have to put any pressure on yourself to sprint out the door and complete a 5K that would win an Olympic gold medal. Some experts advise starting your running habit by including jogging intervals into your daily walking regimen. 

Walking for 30 seconds and then sprinting for a minute can be a terrific place to start. This increases endurance so you can run farther by challenging your heart rate. Start with 15 seconds if 60 seconds is too long for you to jog. As your fitness level increases, keep extending the running intervals and shortening the walking intervals.

2 – CHOOSE THE RIGHT GEAR

The best sneaker for running will probably be different than the best footwear for walking. “Some sneakers work great for walking but offer inadequate support for activities requiring more energy, such as running. Visit an athletic shoe store and speak with a salesperson there. 

They can offer advice on whether you should continue using what you now have or assist you in selecting the best running shoes. In order to minimize chafing when wearing layers, make sure they are made of sweat-wicking material. This will make increasing your speed easier and more fun.

3 – ADD STRENGTH TRAINING

You increase the strain on your muscles by quickening the speed. Aiming for your posterior chain, or the back of your body, regular strength training should be included at least twice a week to ensure that you are taking care of your body. Start with single-limb strength exercises like deadlifts and squats.

4 – FOCUS ON CADENCE

Numerous studies have looked at the connection between damage and cadence, or the number of steps you take each minute. According to research, increasing cadence helps lessen the pressure on the knee and hip joints, minimizing frequent running problems. 

Overstriding frequently results in a heavier heel strike, which slows down the cadence. According to her, you should be running at a cadence of between 160 and 180 steps per minute in order to avoid damage.

To stay on track, choose a pleasant music mix with roughly these beats per minute. A quicker cadence only means taking shorter steps; it doesn’t take more effort. The majority of people actually accelerate with less effort.

5 – SET A SMART WALKING TO RUNNING GOAL

When attempting to increase your running frequency, having a goal increases motivation. According to Kuhn, depending on your level of fitness, setting a goal of 5 kilometers a week for the first 2-3 weeks is a reasonable place to start. 

This offers you a concrete objective to help you adhere to a training schedule. Depending on how your body reacts and recovers, you can increase the objective once you can regularly cover that distance. A reasonable guideline is to increase your distance by no more than 10% of the total from the prior week.

The Many Benefits to Training with Battle Ropes

male fitness

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Battle ropes are not just a passing trend. 

Since the middle of the 2000s, interest in them has grown significantly to the point where almost every gym has a set. And there is a justification for its broad use. Throwing these big, heavy ropes around is a brutally efficient workout in addition to looking impressive.

The use of battle ropes results in increased strength, weight loss, a challenging cardio workout (perfect for Tabata training), and the development of muscle endurance. You just can’t go wrong with battle ropes.

If you’re a professional athlete, you’re no stranger to the ropes. 

You know that they’re an incredibly effective, always dynamic training tool. And they’re super flexible, too! You can change up the diameter and length of the ropes and create different levels of challenge. (The thicker the rope, the higher the emphasis on strength and grip power).  

Additionally, it is a simple to obtain piece of equipment that requires little storage space and can be easily set up outside. We suggest a combat that has five anchor choices that allow you to attach the ropes to any acceptable pole with the addition of a strap in addition to having ropes of various lengths to meet your experience and space available. 

Once you begin employing battle ropes, you’ll train both your upper body and your lower body. They’re great for your thighs and calves, so they’ll eventually make you faster and more agile in general. This is particularly true if you are a football player or runner who must sprint quickly on the field.

Today, we’re here to talk about the benefits of battle ropes as a training method, so even the newcomers can start seeing the beauty of this age-old boot camp practice!

First of all, they’re versatile. There are dozens of different exercises you can perform with the battle ropes – for your upper body, lower body, for strength, for endurance, you name it. They’re also a great exercise tool for the outside, and a great way to spark up your routine (and your heart rate).

Second, they’re high-intensity, low impact. Once you start swinging the ropes, you decide how much intensity you want to put into your movement. And even though you can get your heart rate up pretty high, ropes have virtually no negative impact on your joints! If you have joint problems, the battle ropes should be one of your go-to’s.

Third, they’re extremely demanding. If you’re new to the gym and you jump on the battle ropes, you’ll barely last a minute. Battle rope training has enormous oxygen demands! This makes it a tremendous fat-burning tool. A fat-burning tool that also makes you stronger and improves your endurance. Not to mention, battle ropes are great for engaging your core. If you want to keep your balance and prevent injuries, core training is crucial. You can improve your abs, back, shoulders, and arms using combat ropes. They are undoubtedly a full-body workout. 

Fourth, they improve your balance and coordination. Your fitness regimen may suffer greatly if you are unable to balance well. If you want to exercise with proper posture and balance, you need a strong core. Due to its ability to combine upper body activities with strength training, battle ropes are perfect for treating posture issues.

And finally, they’re really great at helping you develop mental toughness. While that’s true for any exercise, the ropes are a little different. When you’re approaching peak intensity, the only thing you have to do is drop the ropes – and it’s over. But with every second you hold on, you’re developing a massive amount of not only physical, but mental resilience.

Here’s Why You Should Train in the Morning

male fitness

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Do you start your day off in the gym, or do you end it there? Regardless of what any one expert says, there’s no best time to work out. Whenever works for you is the only time you should care about.

However, there’s no denying that training in the morning has its benefit that differ it from evening workouts when it comes to the way your body responds to the stimulus of your workouts.

Today, I’m here to list these benefits and show you that one less hour of sleep every morning can help you reach your fitness goals faster. 

First, you’ll be way more active all day long! 

Once you get your morning workout done, you’ll have way more energy throughout the day. If you get that blood circulating around your body early in the morning, you’ll gain a lot of momentum toward generating energy for the rest of the day. 

Fun fact: In the morning, your body naturally creates more cortisol, the stress hormone. You feel more awake and prepared for your workout as a result. It might be more difficult to persuade your brain that it’s time to go, go, go in the evening since your body produces less cortisol.

Second, you’ll burn more fat! 

Regardless if you decide to eat breakfast before you head for the gym, morning workouts will help you burn more fat. In 2013, the British Journal of Nutrition found that working out on an empty stomach resulted in 20% more fat loss for study participants. Fasted cardio is the term for exercising without eating first thing in the morning and is frequently encouraged by people trying to reduce weight. 

The theory behind it holds that as you sleep at night, your organs exhaust the liver’s glycogen reserves. Your body is compelled to use fat as a fuel source if you exercise thereafter without giving it any additional carbohydrates. 

Therefore, you will burn more calories from fat in the near term (i.e. during your activity) than you would if you ate a source of carbohydrate before working out.

Third, you’ll easily make it a habit. 

According to the principles of habit formation, it is preferable to integrate a new habit with an already existing, long-standing one. It’s also simpler to fit in a workout in the morning as most of our daily routines (such sipping coffee, brushing your teeth, cleaning your face, etc.) occur then. 

For instance, you might choose to charge your wearable next to your toothbrush so that you can quickly put it on and go for your morning exercise. 

Because you know you’re going to get it in exactly after you’ve taken care of your dental hygiene, period, it also significantly reduces overthinking and decision fatigue.

Fourth, morning exercise has been shown to protect the body against glucose intolerances, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, as well as a variety of conditions such as type 2 diabetes. According to research, people who have high blood pressure may also benefit from early workouts (HBP). 

According to research, doing out in the morning as opposed to the evening can help your HBP. The American Heart Association (AHA) investigated both men and women between the ages of 55 and 80 for the 2019 research. The study also revealed that frequent, brief morning walks may be even more advantageous when combined with early morning workouts. So remember that.

Fifth, you might actually get better sleep! Exercise—and particularly moderate to high-intensity exercise—increases your cortisol levels, which is a drawback to working out at night. While doing so can help you feel awake and prepared for the day in the morning, it may have the opposite effect in the evening and make it difficult to fall asleep. 

Research on this topic is contradictory, while some studies claim that if you work out 90 minutes before bed, you should be able to achieve deeper sleep.

Your Fitness Progress Tracking Checklist

male fitness

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Whether you’ve been going to the gym for a while or you’re just stepping in it for the first time, you probably realize that keeping track of your gym progress is one of the most important things you can do to increase your results.

Professional athletes and experts use a ton of different metrics when it comes to measuring how much they’ve improved, from simple ones like their BMI and FFMI to more complex speed, volume, and weight formulas.

As the saying goes, what gets measured gets managed. Most regular gym-goers only stick to the basics, and that’s completely okay. But there’s no denying that merely keeping track of a few key metrics can give you profound insights when it comes to your health and the way your body works.

Today, I’m here to show you that keeping track of your progress doesn’t have to be that hard! You only need a few minutes a day to reap all the benefits of detailed, sophisticated progress tracking.

Here are my three steps for simplifying the whole process and putting some numbers behind those gains you’ve been making!

Step #1 – Get a journal. 

A log, a notebook, anything will do really. This is one of the best things you can do for your body outside of training and nutrition. What’s more important though is not what you write on, but what you write in it.

Maintaining a workout log is enjoyable, and it’s a terrific method to monitor your body’s development. There isn’t a single workout that works for all types of bodies. A individual who wants to track their weight reduction will keep a different journal than someone who wants to chart their strength gains. For an accurate evaluation of your fitness improvement, it’s crucial to record every last minute of your workout.

A workout template can be written down in a book, or you can simply use a more practical digital format, such an excel sheet. If you’re unclear of how to format your notebook, browse through different exercise templates and alter one to fit your fitness objectives.

Step #2 – Choose your metrics. 

Whether you’re a gym-goer or an athlete from another sport, there are always a few key metrics that you have to keep track of. But the idea here is to only write down what’s most important to your progress based on your current goal. 

Here are a few ideas: divide your training and diet sections. Divide them into weeks, then start tracking your reps, sets, weight per set, how much time you spent at the gym that day, what meals you had, what your macros are, and how much water you drank.

Step #3 – Write down daily, measure weekly! 

Put in your measurements in every day, and you’ll start seeing day-to-day as well as week-by-week patterns that will help you track and learn a lot about abilities, growth, and your body’s natural cycles.  

One of the most obvious tracking techniques is the following. The training volume formula (workout volume = set x reps x weight) can be used to quantify this.

Record your development over time by keeping track of the weights you lifted per exercise each week, the number of reps you felt comfortable performing, and other factors.

You must evaluate your improvement from low intensity (heart rate less than 50% of maximum heart rate) to moderate intensity (heart rate between 50% and 70% of maximum heart rate) to high intensity (heart rate greater than 70% of maximum heart rate) cardio workout in order to chart your development.

Mindset Factors that Affect Dietary Decisions

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

I hope we can all agree that having full control over your diet is one of the most useful skills and habits you can develop on your weight loss journey. When they’re trying to lose weight, a lot of people naturally start gripping to the nearest food trends and diets, hoping to get that control. 

But sometimes, we all make wrong decisions simply because of the fact that there’s so much generalized misinformation out there about fitness and nutrition.

Ultimately, our decision-making process on what to eat (and what not to) will be decided by two main factors: internal factors and external factors. 

First, there are internal factors. 

These have everything to do with your lifestyle and your knowledge base about nutrition. 

Your age, height, weight, sex, fitness level, culture, workout intensity, your taste in food, as well as your way of managing time. These all have to do with your responsibilities to yourself – your training, your diet, your stress relief practices, your mindfulness, everything that has to do with your journey as an individual.

Even though taste is one of the more critical factors from an individual standpoint (because even if you’re genetically pre-disposed to liking some foods), external factors can still have a massive impact on whether or not you actually consume them. And when it comes to managing time, some people just don’t have the ability to cook for an hour a day. 

Determining your individual tastes, goals, and abilities is the first step to creating a productive and healthy meal plan. Whether you’re just starting out your journey or you’re someone who has been trying to achieve a fitness goal for a certain amount of time, creating a plan that takes into account your individual tastes and preferences will help steer your entire journey.

Then, you have to take into account the external factors. 

These include marketing, advertising, social, and economic status, everything that has to do with your unconscious perception of certain foods.  

Your beliefs (for example, chocolate is bad) get reinforced every day by what you see online. But if you want to follow a productive plan that will get you where you want to, you have to clear your mind of all these generalized beliefs and look at things from your individual perspective. Don’t go cutting all of your favorite foods just because the TV said so. 

Your external beliefs therefore include a lot of your societal programming about weight loss, fitness, and what it means to live a healthy lifestyle as a whole. Many people will try to project their view on the world on you and say that theirs is the right (and usually only) way to do things. 

This is where you have to take into account the internal factors and decide your tastes and preferences so you can find out if what is promoted is in line with your individual goals.

Always remember to focus on both of these factors when planning your nutrition! If you only listen to yourself, you won’t be learning enough to grow. But if all you do is take in information, soon enough you’ll be blindly following fitness trends without making any progress.

Listen to yourself first, but always keep the external factors on your mind.  

If you want to develop more discipline and develop a healthier relationship with food, you should never ignore your individual preferences. 

That being said, you should also never forget that people and organizations will always try to promote their concept of healthy nutrition, so don’t allow yourself to be pushed into following any specific diet, plan, or routine. 

Be flexible with your approach until you develop your own internal hierarchy of fitness and nutrition values that will reflect what you want to achieve.

Why You Need More Antioxidants (and Where to Get Them)

Hey Angels and Alphas,

What do we all know about antioxidants besides what we’ve heard on the web? Everyone nowadays portrays antioxidants as a way to shield your body from disease, improve your sight, and even slow aging. 

Many large-scale studies have been done that prove the benefits of certain diets rich in specific antioxidants. However, most of the smaller controlled trials that have been testing the effectiveness of certain antioxidants but have mostly failed to back up these results. 

Recent study findings point to the lack of benefits when it comes to consuming antioxidants in pill form, but these reports also point to the fact that people whose diet is rich in certain antioxidants have stronger immune systems, lower risk of disease and lower overall mortality rate.

So what are antioxidants? How do they work, and how do they grant your body all these health benefits?

When scientists realized that free radical damage played a role in the early stages of artery-clogging atherosclerosis in the 1990s, antioxidants gained widespread attention. It was also connected to a number of other chronic illnesses, including cancer and visual loss. 

According to several research, persons who consume fewer antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables are more likely to acquire certain chronic illnesses than people who consume a lot of these foods. 

Clinical research started examining the effectiveness of individual nutrients taken as supplements, particularly beta-carotene and vitamin E, in the fight against chronic illnesses.

Technically, a lot of foods and nutrients can be antioxidants. It’s a term that defines compounds which have the ability to counteract harmful free radicals. Hence the term describes a chemical property rather than a nutritional one.

Free radicals are a natural byproduct of smoking, ultraviolet rays, air pollution, as well as just your body’s natural energy metabolism. They have a reputation for causing cell damage and they essentially “steal” electrons from nearby molecules. 

They can sometimes be helpful as well! Your immune system produces them to ward off viruses and bacteria.

Essentially, antioxidants are the nutrients that can neutralize them by giving them some of their own electrons. This way, they essentially save your more important cells and proteins from harm! 

Where should we get antioxidants?

Because antioxidants frequently function best in combination with other nutrients, plant compounds, and even other antioxidants, this may be one explanation for why many studies on antioxidant supplements fail to demonstrate a health effect.

As an illustration, a cup of fresh strawberries has roughly 80 mg of vitamin C, which is a nutrient with significant antioxidant activity. 

The plant compounds (polyphenols) naturally present in strawberries, such as proanthocyanins and flavonoids, which also exhibit antioxidant activity and may collaborate with vitamin C to combat disease, are not present in a supplement containing 500 mg of vitamin C (667 percent of the RDA). In addition to their capacity as antioxidants, polyphenols possess a wide range of additional chemical characteristics.

Increased consumption of antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables, and legumes is linked to a lower risk of chronic oxidative stress-related illnesses like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality, according to epidemiological prospective studies. 

It is thought that a plant-based diet can guard against chronic illnesses brought on by oxidative stress. It is unclear if the antioxidants, other ingredients in the foods, or a mix of both are responsible for this beneficial impact. 

The following nutrients have antioxidant activity, along with the meals that contain them:

Vitamin C: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, leafy greens (turnip, mustard, beet, collards), honeydew, kale, kiwi, lemon, orange, papaya, snow peas, strawberries, sweet potato, tomatoes, and bell peppers (all colors)

Vitamin E: Almonds, avocado, Swiss chard, leafy greens (beet, mustard, turnip), peanuts, red peppers, spinach (boiled), and sunflower seeds

Selenium: Brazil nuts, fish, shellfish, beef, poultry, barley, brown rice.

Zinc: Beef, poultry, oysters, shrimp, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, lentils, cashews, fortified cereals

Phenolic compounds: Quercetin (apples, red wine, onions), catechins (tea, cocoa, berries), resveratrol (red and white wine, grapes, peanuts, berries), coumaric acid (spices, berries), anthocyanins (blueberries, strawberries)

3 Steps to Kick Any Bad Habit You Have

Hey Angels and Alphas,

People are habitual, pattern-loving creatures. 

Everyone has their habits! Maybe yours is drinking coffee in the morning, staying up late, or smoking. Everything you do consistently is a habit. Going to the gym is a habit for most of you. 

But going to the gym is a good habit, a productive one. When it comes to our more negative habits, such as maybe smoking or binge-watching Netflix, they’re not logically doing any good to us. 

According to experts, habits take time to develop and must be broken the same way they were formed. But to learn how to break any bad habit, we must first answer one very important question.

Why is kicking a bad habit so hard?

Sometimes, the original vice will have a bigger biological “reward” than its replacement, even if you replace the “bad” habit with a beneficial one. Your brain, for instance, is aware that chewing gum is not nicotine, therefore it won’t have the same euphoric effect as smoking a cigarette. The value of having an inner motivation becomes clear in this situation.

Intellectually, we are aware that giving up smoking is excellent for our health and that reducing the number of burgers we eat may aid in weight loss. However, the motivation for changing a behavior must be particular and personal. For example, quitting smoking permanently may allow you to spend more time with your family, while eating well may give you the energy you need for the outdoor activities you used to like.

Though challenging, breaking a harmful habit has advantages. And if you’re prepared to change, I’m willing to support you in taking the first step toward quitting that one terrible habit you’ve had for so long!

The first step – making a commitment. 

You can’t imagine how powerful a commitment becomes when you write it down and look at it every day. I want you to sit down, grab a pen, and vent out precisely what your goal is. Make your list of “reasons why I should stop doing this” as long as you can. 

The second step – creating a plan. 

Many people get stuck on that commitment stage, and never really take action toward breaking their bad habit. Once you have your goal written down, write down exactly how you plan on achieving it. You need your plan to be specific, measurable, and timed. If you want to break that bad habit, you need to know exactly how you’re going to break that bond between you two and set a deadline for when that has to happen. 

The third step – find your triggers. 

This is the most crucial part of your habit-breaking journey, and it’s going to help you when creating your plan. Every habit has a starting point – an event that sets off the alarm in your brain. If you start your day off with a cigarette and a coffee every day, pretty soon you won’t be satisfied with just either. Coffee can become a trigger for smoking and vice-versa. Once you become aware of these triggers, their effectiveness starts falling apart. 

Keep in mind that finding triggers is the first step in creating a habit. The first step in overcoming your repetitive habits is to recognize the triggers that lead to them.

Track your habit for a few days to determine whether it exhibits any trends.

Note details such as:

  • When does the trigger conduct occur?
  • When in the day?
  • How does it make you feel at the time?
  • Exist other participants?
  • Does it follow another event immediately?

Let’s assume you want to cut back on staying up late. After observing your behavior for a few days, you notice that if you start watching TV or talking to friends after supper, you tend to stay up later. However, if you read or go for a walk, you can naturally start falling asleep earlier.

Remember – kicking bad habits is supposed to be difficult. Stay on course, get rid of your triggers one by one, and make that commitment written. Pretty soon, you’ll have the power to kick out all the bad habits you never even realized you had!

5 Tips for Budget-friendly Summer Meal Prepping

nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

If you’ve taken a lot of trips to the grocery store lately, you’ll be the first to notice – the dollar isn’t what it used to be!

In the United States, fish, eggs, meats, and poultry, have increased nearly 15 percent in the last year, while fruits and veggies have jumped nearly 8 percent. 

But just because store prices are raising doesn’t mean you should stop putting healthier food choices in your cart. For example, by buying in bulk or purchasing in-season produce, you’ll be able to save some money without sacrificing your health in the process. The fact is, you can eat healthy and balanced diets regardless of what your budget is. With that said, let’s take a look at 5 tips you can use today to start keeping costs low at the grocery store.

A note about meal prepping… 

By batch prepping all your meals for the week ahead, you’ll make sure that food doesn’t get to sit around in your pantry unprepared. If you’re not wasting food, you’re not wasting money either. For smoothies, you can place ingredients in your freezer container so that they’re ready to blend. Burritos, wraps, and sandwiches can be frozen and then thawed out for easy consumption. 

And cooking a whole grain at the beginning of the week and adding that to your soups and salads is a very cost-effective way to save some time. As a general rule, you should be meal prepping. 

This will ultimately help you better manage all the resources that go into your healthy meal prep, including time and money.

TIP #1 – DON’T HOLD BACK ON REWARD PROGRAMS AND COUPONS

Grocery stores love having you as a customer. They go as far as incentivizing you to come back through rewards, memberships, discounts, and more. Make sure you’re all signed up for these! 

And here’s an old but useful tip: look to your grocery store’s flyer for the weekly discounts. And if you want to keep things digital, plenty of apps can help give you cashback and savings at the grocery store.

TIP #2 – ORGANIC ISN’T ALWAYS BEST

When one of your priorities is keeping your budget in check, you should have a more holistic focus on your diet. Are you getting enough fruits, veggies, and protein every day? 

If you can answer this with a resounding yes, even if it’s with conventionally grown produce and meats, is ultimately better for you than going without these things.

If you’re trying to make the switch to conventional produce, you should remember to wash and scrub under running water to decrease the pesticide residue that may still be around. You should also consider cutting all the exterior leaves out of leafy veggies to cut down on contamination.

TIP #3 – FREEZER PRODUCTS HAVE LOWER PRICES

Frozen veggies and fruits will often come with a lower price tag, especially if that produce is typically out of season. This can be very helpful when Autumn and Winter roll around.

Since it’s picked and frozen at its peak ripeness, frozen produce can also hang onto its nutritional benefits for a much longer time. And while you can’t really put your finger on it, there’s something about frozen fruits that makes smoothies, cobbler, and yogurt taste amazing.

TIP #4 – CHOOSE COST-EFFICIENT PROTEINS

Poultry and meat have both been inexpensive ways to get protein into your diet. But with their prices soaring around the globe, they’re no longer so easy to justify during weekly grocery orders. 

To make sure you’re getting enough protein, don’t forget to include bean and lentil dishes into the mix. Peanut butter, milk, and yogurt are all amazing sources of quality protein that can easily be added to any protein smoothie.

TIP #5 – ALWAYS TRUST THE FLAVOR STAPLES

New recipes can usually call for unique ingredients and spices, but if you’re prioritizing your budget, look at all the essential seasoning needs you have and stack up on them. 

Salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika will go a long way to enrich the taste of chicken and fish. Chili powder and paprika are also amazing in chilis and stews, while garlic and ginger powders will brighten almost any plate of homemade curry.  

Diet & Nutrition Tips for Reducing Bloating

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Whether you’ve felt it when you were at home, at the gym, at another public place, or pretty much anywhere, everyone knows that annoying feeling of being bloated. It’s a rather uncomfortable feeling that can sometimes feel like an inescapable part of life. 

And while we can’t really take away bloating from our lives forever and forget it was ever there (like we would if we could,) there are some specific ways in which we can adjust our diets, so we minimize bloating and feel as good as possible at all times.

In this article, we’re going to talk about three science-backed nutrition tips that can help you reduce bloating (as well as how to solve the core problem behind each type of bloating.) 

Let’s get started.

#1 AVOID RAW FRUITS AND VEGGIES

Avoiding raw fruits and veggies can sound counterintuitive, but certain fibers contained within them are extremely difficult for the body to break down when they’re consumed raw. Not only that, but many common salad veggies like tomatoes and cucumbers contain seeds which can irritate your stomach and also be hard to break down. If you still love these veggies, your best option would be to remove the seeds and peel the skin off so you’re left without anything that’s too difficult to digest.

Moreover, a lot of veggies have cellulose, which is especially hard for our digestive system to handle. That’s why cooking your fruits and vegetables is almost always a better alternative – baking, steaming, boiling, all of this will make foods more easily digestible and still provide you with all their healthy nutrients.

#2 AVOID PROCESSED FOODS

As a surprise to absolutely no one, processed foods can be tough on our body and can end up being one of the primary reasons for bloating. While processed foods are more convenient (and most of the time, tasty), they have an unnaturally long shelf life, and that’s precisely what makes them so detrimental to your body.

Snacks contain harmful fats, synthetic ingredients, and have a caloric value that’s out of this world. Switching to gluten-free snacks might be one of the best decisions you can make for your belly bloating because gluten often leaves some people’s intestines inflamed. This, however, doesn’t mean that all gluten-free foods are healthy. 

#3 IF YOU CONSUME DAIRY, MAKE SURE IT’S GRASS-FED

Grass-fed dairy has been a gamechanger for a lot of people who normally don’t tolerate traditional store-bought dairy. It might seem like a small change, but it will have a massive impact on how you feel. If you’re into dairy to begin with, you might want to stick to grass-fed dairy because it’s way healthier than the stuff you typically find at the grocery stores. 

There are plenty of arguments for removing dairy from your diet altogether, so make sure that if you are a consumer, you’re at least making the right choices as to the type of dairy you buy, and you’re only consuming ingredients that are easier to digest.

The true cause of bloating is somewhere in your diet…

But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s linked to a specific food. Sometimes, it’s things like yoga poses, going for walks, peppermint capsules, essential oils, abdominal massages, warm baths, and other lifestyle implementations that allow people to alleviate bloating or eliminate it altogether. 

That’s why even though reducing the number of processed foods (and foods that are difficult to digest) in your diet will help alleviate bloating, it’s likely not going to take care of the underlying problem. If bloating becomes too common or uncomfortable, you can consult a specialist on what would be the best ways to reduce it.

Spreading Out Daily Protein the Correct Way

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Carbohydrates usually steal the spotlight when it comes to the body’s needs for energy. They’re amazing for fueling an athlete’s performance. However, protein is just as vital to an athlete’s overall health. 

While this macronutrient won’t contribute as instantly to performance as an energy source as carbs tend to do, it is absolutely vital for almost every other function inside the body including, some of the favorites, like muscle tissue growth, maintenance and recovery. Whether protein is necessary isn’t up for debate, but exactly how much one needs daily is currently being reinvestigated by the nutrition community.

The Dietary Reference Intake has your daily protein needs put at around 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.

That being said, an athlete’s needs might be better met when they approach up to 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight every day. 

And how much protein to consume is just the beginning of the nutritional equation. Let’s explore the concept of optimal protein timing and how you can achieve better success in timing your protein for better performance.

OPTIMAL PROTEIN TIMING

In the past, all emphasis was put on acquiring enough protein, and enough was basically arbitrary, regardless of the details. 

Athletes looking to boost muscle mass, become leaner, or make gains in power are likely to need higher amounts of protein every single day. That being said, evenly spreading out the consumption of protein throughout the day appears to be one of the most important factors in promoting muscle protein synthesis and protein utilization inside your body.

One study suggests getting roughly half a gram per kilogram of body weight (36 grams for a 160-pound person) up to four times a day was the most beneficial amount for enhancing muscle synthssis. 

Snacks matter, as well! Having protein approximately every 3 hours was found to increase muscle gains when compared to consuming protein less frequently at usual 6-hour intervals. This happened even when the total protein consumed daily was about the same. The biggest benefit of eating protein evenly at meals is that it can promote better satiety, leaving you with more energy throughout your entire day.

SOME CONSIDERATIONS FOR OLDER ATHLETES

More does not always equal better when it comes to protein.

Another factor to consider is that with age, the body’s ability to process protein declines. Even if you’re looking to gain muscle and you’re spreading your intake throughout the day, there does appear to be a cap at how much protein can be used to stimulate muscle gains. 

One study in particular found that there was no statistically beneficial result from consuming 20 grams of protein when compared to 40 grams of protein. For an athlete’s reaching their 50s and beyond, this way to spread out protein may be even more crucial. If the body can’t adequately utilize the ingested protein for tissue needs, it’s likely going to be stored as fat. Besides protein synthesis, having extra protein shortly after a workout will help support the rapid muscle recovery, providing even more reason to consume small amounts throughout the day.

Tracking your protein intake is one of the best ways you can ensure you’re never overloading on protein one meal and then skimping protein at other meals. Spacing out your protein intake can be a great way to help you optimize your intake and reach your health and fitness goals. 

That being said, it’s just one part of the equation. If you can optimize your efforts by consuming a variety of high-quality plant and animal proteins (and not relying on powders,) increasing workout intensity, and listening to your body’s natural hunger cues and signals, you’re going to have much better results in the long run.

Your Macros Essentials Checklist

nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Macros have become a sort of bucket term for the nutrients that make up the bulk of what we eat: protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Our bodies require specific amounts of each to properly function. Macronutrients are augmented by micronutrients, a.k.a minerals and vitamins, so they can meet all our nutritional needs. 

But what is the individual role of each of these macros in our diet, and where do we find healthy sources that we can use to develop a framework for overall healthy eating? Let’s answer both these questions right now.

Where do you find healthy sources of macros?

Whether you’re using macros to improve your food choices or you’re just trying to eat a balanced diet, it’s good to know which foods contain more of which specific macros:

High-carb, low-protein: mostly fruits and vegetables.

High-carb, low-fat: options include pasta, rice, cereal, bread, legumes, fruits, vegetables.

High-protein, low-carb: sources include eggs, meat, fish.

High-fat, low-carb: healthy options include nuts, seeds, olive oil, cheese.

High-protein, low-fat: nonfat Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, chicken or turkey breast, lean ground beef, and whey protein powder.

High-fat, low-protein: healthy sources can be avocado, olive oil, coconut milk.

NOT ALL MACROS ARE CREATED EQUAL

Yes, 100 grams of salmon and 100 grams of chicken wings may essentially have the same macronutrient profile (as both are around 60% protein and 40% fat.) 

But they’re hardly equivalent. Jelly beans and sweet potatoes may both be about 100% carbohydrates, but once again, there’s no way you can compare the two when it comes to their real nutritional value. 

Could you lose weight eating nothing but hot wings and jelly beans, as long as you’re still burning more calories than you consume? Probably. But most people who start doing IIFYM quickly realize they would prefer to spend their macros on fruits, veggies, nuts, healthy fats, and lean proteins, instead of wasting them to quick snacks. 

While we know a calorie isn’t just a calorie and we all realize the quality of the food you eat matters a bunch, IIFYM may actually help people who are jaded by choosing “healthy” food all the time. After all, no nutritional solution is a one-size-fits-all. If you’re a healthy individual, it’s still helpful to explore different options and find the one that works for you.

If you’re new to using calorie and macros calculators, here’s how you can determine the best macro breakdown for yourself:

#1 SET YOUR CALORIES

The first step is to establish a target calorie intake based on your current weight, age, height, activity levels, and goals. That’s the first thing you’d usually do when you go to any calorie calculator.  

#2 SET YOUR MACROS

Next, you will want to determine how you’re going to be dividing portions among the three major macronutrients. Most calculators automatically set your macros for 50% carbs, 30% fat, and 20% protein. But you can tweak this distribution as you like – the app will translate percentages into grams for each macronutrient.

#3 START TRACKING YOUR DIET

You can enter as many meals and snacks a day into your food diary, and calculate your total grams of carbohydrates, fat, and protein. It’s key to plan your meals ahead of the day, or you may find yourself at dinnertime with a ton of protein left that you need to consume. This combination can lead to some strange midnight meals!

#4 RINSE AND REPEAT

With time, when you combine proper planning with proper execution, you’ll start developing a macro trend that you can easily keep up with. You can always refine the exact percentages based on your specific goal at the current time, but once you develop this habit, you’ll be able to consume a healthy amount of each macronutrient (and from healthy sources) for the rest of your life. 

The Differences Between Training for Size and Strength Training

male fitness

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Nowadays, it seems like every program is here to help you get bigger and stronger. Even though people are starting to realize that muscular hypertrophy doesn’t always mean strength gains, people are still unsure as to how the two differ.

In this article, we’re going to cover the differences between the training approaches when you’re focused on developing strength and when you’re purely determined to gain muscle size. Some of you might already know this, but there are massive differences to the two training methods. 

The adaptations you’re focused on developing progressively are totally different, and with that, so should be your approach. Let’s get started.

THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN SIZE AND STRENGTH

If you’re a male bodybuilder and you’re in the off-season, chances are you’re aiming at gaining muscle size. And after a few months of heavy lifting and heavy eating, you’ll most likely have increased your fat-free mass index by a few pounds. Hurray!

However, if you’re a powerlifter preparing for a meet, you’re on a different program, also lifting and eating heavy. This time, your purpose is to increase your 1 rep max. 

However, something might happen at your meet – any slight discomfort or psyching out might mean that you don’t hit a new personal best at the competition. Or you might have become overly fatigued the last few days before your meet, causing you *not* to have a recorded increase in strength.

Does that mean your program failed you? No. Maybe a dozen years from now, we’ll have the ability to track more variables and detect hidden adaptations that will reveal how much strength you gained (adaptations such as more muscle size, greater tendon stiffness, and higher lateral force transmission inside the muscle). 

Only then could we “technically” predict their “real strength” without actually testing it. All of this means that not only are strength and muscle size different when it comes to training approach; they’re also different when it comes to how we measure them.

If you’ve gained size, it’s obvious, regardless of external factors. While this is not applicable to most natural bodybuilders, size gains can happen regardless of the weight used since hypertrophy is all about creating consistent adaptations.

If you’ve gained strength, however, that’s a little bit harder to define. Strength is only displayed and measured on certain occasions and has many environmental and external variables affecting it. You might improve your ability to produce muscle force, but you might fail to display that during testing. Even then, you might get stronger at a specific exercise (say the bench press) and you’ll develop strength in some specific movement, but this doesn’t mean you’ll overall be stronger than someone.

Ultimately, if you’re a strength athlete, it will be way more difficult for you to assess the quality of your training program. Never get discouraged if your program seems to be missing the mark. Give it (and yourself) time.

Most traditional programs that focus on developing strength will have you focused on trying to push your one-rep-max as high as possible for specific movements. That’s why a lot of these programs separate sets into “sets designed to warm me up” and “sets designed to make me stronger” with the latter variation usually consisting of exercises done at a single repetition. 

On the other hand, training for muscle size will often have you chasing hypertrophy, the enlargement of specific muscles by overloading them progressively. That’s why you’ll see most programs targeting exercises anywhere in the range of 6 to 12 reps, with the rep counts getting lower and lower after every set. 

This is done to tire out the muscle as much as possible and create the adaptations necessary to enlarge the muscle. This is very different from the approach of becoming stronger at one specific movement, where the ultimate outcome is max force produced on a single rep.

Strength Training Tips That Have Nothing to Do With Lifting More Weight

male fitness

Hey Angels and Alphas,

While strength is always one of the main goals for an athlete in the gym, the idea of lifting hundreds of pounds over your head should be left only to hardcore strength lifters. In all the rush to keep increasing the weight you put on the bar, you might be forgetting that strength gains are not all about the number on the plate, or the number of your plates.

Today, we’re here to talk about three very important concepts that you need to be aware of in order to maximize the benefit you’re getting from your workouts. These will help you bust through plateaus and experience new improvements and adaptations in a short amount of time… all without having to add any weight to the bar!

Let’s get started.

#1 ISOMETRICS

In isometric exercises, you’re essentially holding your body in a specific position. This can be simple – just as adding a 2-second pause to your bench press and squat in key moments just before the concentric part of the exercise. 

Doing isometric exercises will help you strengthen key areas of your body that you might be otherwise lacking – ones that could hold you back from breaking through a plateau, for example.

If you want to maximize growth potential, implementing these isometric holds in your exercises is crucial! Not only does it help you develop a stronger mind-muscle connection, but it allows for a more optimal contraction of the vital working parts of the muscle. This will allow for more adaptations to happen over the long run. 

#2 TIME UNDER TENSION

The longer a muscle is working to support an exercise, the more opportunity it has to grow. (And by growing, we’re talking about breaking down and recovering back stronger). One way to do this is during the eccentric phase of the rep, which is often overlooked, especially by beginner lifters. 

If you’re benching and you’re letting the weight drop down on your chest before you push it up, you’re missing out! In fact, you’re missing out on the part of the lift that actually helps you build strength. You’ll find that, if you start focusing on the eccentric portion of your lifts, you’ll see a jump in strength unlike that of any beginner. 

For example, if you’re only doing the “pushing” part of the bench press and you’re effortlessly allowing the bar to then fall your chest before the next push, you’re not utilizing all the muscles you could. 

Therefore, you’re acquiring less adaptations and slowing down your progress. Instead, if you allow the bar to slowly lower down while you control it with your chest, shoulders, and triceps, you’ll be able to engage more parts of the muscle. And by maximizing time under tension (for example, by holding the bar before the final eccentric phase of the rep) you’ll be using that muscle capacity to its very maximum.

#3 PLAY AROUND WITH YOUR REP RANGES

For those of you who love consistency and routine, this might sound like a nightmare. And I get it, we all assume lower reps call for more sets, and more weight calls for more muscle fiber response. Higher reps mean less weight, but a longer time under tension. Both of these work toward muscle growth, so mixing up your rep ranges keeps giving the body something to adapt to. 

Don’t be afraid to play around and even try out powerlifting rep ranges (1 to 6) for a week to see what new adaptations you can create by adjusting your workout this way. Never allow your routine to stagnate you and stop you from creating the new experiences your body needs to go through in order to grow. 

Is Creatine Really the Safest Supplement For Athletes?

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

In the past decade, athletes have been increasingly taking creatine supplements as part of their training regimen. Nowadays, it seems like almost every single athlete you see on TV is taking creatine to improve their performance and overall health. But, does it really live up to all the hype? Is creatine safe for your body? This guide will give you everything you need to know about creatine supplements, so you can make an informed decision about whether or not it’s right for you!

How does creatine work?

According to WebMD, creatine is a substance that’s found naturally in your body, mostly in your muscles. It helps your muscles store energy so they can work harder. You can get creatine by eating meat or fish. You can also take it as a supplement. So, how does it work? Well, when you work out, you use up ATP (adenosine triphosphate). This is what provides your muscles with energy. Creatine works by supplying your muscles with more ATP so you can work out longer and harder.

What’s the role of ATP in our workouts?

ATP is essential for our muscles to contract during workouts. It’s what gives us the energy to push through when we’re feeling tired. However, our bodies can only produce a limited amount of ATP on their own. This is where creatine comes in. Creatine is a molecule that helps our bodies produce more ATP, giving us more energy to power through our workouts.

Does it have side effects?

While creatine is one of the most popular supplements on the market, some athletes worry about its safety. Although it is generally considered safe, there are a few potential side effects to be aware of. These include weight gain, muscle cramps, and gastrointestinal issues. Overall, however, creatine is a safe supplement for most athletes when used as directed. As long as you don’t exceed recommended dosages or use this supplement in combination with other stimulants, you should have no trouble avoiding side effects.

What are the best forms of creatine to take?

You’ll most likely find creatine in the form of creatine monohydrate, liquid creatine, or creatine ethyl ester. Each form has its own pros and cons, so it’s important to do your research before deciding which one is right for you. 

Creatine monohydrate is the most popular and most researched form of creatine. It’s also the least expensive. Liquid creatine is absorbed more quickly by the body, but it’s also more expensive. Creatine ethyl ester is a newer form of creatine that’s said to be more easily absorbed by the body, but there is less research to support this claim.

Should you take creatine?

If you’re thinking about taking creatine, you might be wondering if it’s really safe. Although it’s one of the most popular supplements on the market, there’s still some debate about its safety. So, what does the research say? 

Ultimately, creatine is a compound that’s found naturally in your body, as well as in certain foods like meat and fish. It’s also sold in supplement form and is often taken by athletes and bodybuilders to improve performance. Some studies have shown that taking creatine can lead to an increase in muscle mass, strength and power. It may also help improve your recovery time after exercise. 

However, there are also some concerns about creatine supplementation. Some people report side effects like weight gain, cramping and bloating. It will all come down to personal preference – do you want to gain more strength and endurance with the (extremely low) risk of some gastrointestinal issues? Most athletes would take that “risk” any day of the week.

The 3 Keys to Productive Short and Long-term Recovery

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Many regular gym-goers spend an immeasurable amount of time stressing over how fast they recover. And while that’s all well and good, they rarely pay attention to how productive their recovery actually is.

If you’re constantly banging out sets after sets and giving your body no rest with every workout, this exhaustion accumulates over time, and your body will focus its energy on repairing the damages instead of growing new muscle. 

Just because you gave your body 48 hours of recovery, doesn’t mean that stress isn’t slowly building up inside your body. The trick is to always work out hard enough to push yourself to your edges and doing more than you did last time, but not demolishing yourself completely. 

That being said, I want to give you 3 practical tips on how to make your recovery smoother, more comfortable, and more productive. I’m sharing this with you to hopefully help you break through a plateau and start making steady progress, or to just help you recover better from your last intense workout. 

In this article, we’re not just going to be talking about the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) you experience after a workout. 

These are tips you can use to alleviate the built-up stress that accompanies long, stretched out periods of daily training.

#1 POST-WORKOUR COOLDOWN.

Even though this is only one part of the equation, it’s a big one. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing cardio or banging off sets with the weights – you have to make sure you spend at least 10 minutes before a workout to warm up, and 10 minute after a workout to stretch your muscles and cool off before you head over to the locker room. 

Stretching will ultimately help reduce the post-workout muscle soreness you experience. Another option you can add to your post-workout cooldown routine is foam rolling, proven to decrease muscle soreness and improve recovery. If you are able to add these elements to a routine and perform it consistently, you’re not only going to be decreasing the soreness you experience after a workout, but you’ll be able to decrease the amount of stress that’s ultimately building up inside your body.

#2 ACTIVE REST.

On your rest days, your give your body a chance to get a break from the gym. 

On those days, it’s a great idea to perform some light physical activity like going for a walk, riding a bike, or swimming a few laps. This is known as active recovery, and it helps you relieve muscle tightness and stimulate blood flow and circulation in the body – both critical factors in your recovery process. 

Once again, this will not only help you decrease muscle soreness, but it will also help alleviate a lot of the physical and mental stress that builds up in your body when you go long periods without a break or deload.

#3 PUT YOUR NUTRITION ON LOCK.

Your pre and post-workout nutrition play a major role in your recovery and the tissue-rebuilding process after your workout. So choose your foods wisely. 

Focus on high-quality protein and complex carbohydrates around two hours before a workout session to make sure you’re giving your body enough time to digest them effectively. Many reports also show that taking BCAAs before/after a workout encourages efficient absorption in the muscles. 

THE BOTTOM LINE IS…

And so between active rest, stretching, and proper nutrition, few things make for a quicker, more productive recovery process. Gone are the days of muscle soreness, post-workout tightness, and overtraining plateaus… and for you, it can be as simple as a pre-workout meal and a few minutes of foam rolling. Just keep those three tips in mind when you’re planning an intense workout – thank me later!

The Most Common Seasonal Body Transitions

male fitness

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Seasonal body transitions, such as the one from winter to spring and the one from spring to winter, can be a very significant (and sometimes harsh) shift for a lot of people. This can be due to hormonal changes, metabolism changes, or even lifestyle changes. The physical and emotional effects of different seasons can start to linger off into other months. 

For example, Winter’s effects can sometimes creep up on the warmer months and get many people to feel hazy, down, or even depressed. And what you should know is… that’s completely okay! 

With Summer basically at our doorstep, we’re here to talk about a few tips you can leverage to thrive in an environment of changing seasons. We often think of Summer as a time when we’re full of energy, outgoing, and looking forward to warmer temperatures, stacked beaches, family barbecues, and so much more. (Unless you’re from Australia.) 

But for all of you reading who are living in countries where Summer is still hot and Winter is still cold, here are a few tips you can use to survive (and thrive) seasonal body changes. 

First of all, it won’t hurt to start this season off with a little detox. 

With raging parties and family barbecues making up a significant amount of our Summer nights, a little focus on gut health wouldn’t hurt. In fact, it could only help us thrive past the Summer season and make significant progress toward our health and body goals. 

That’s why you should start this season off by cleaning up your diet of any foods that could potentially cause inflammation – trans fats, sugar, and refined carbs. Try ditching all of them for a week to give your body the much-needed rest it deserves. After that, you can make an effort to add a probiotic supplement to your diet, as well as start cutting off the foods you’d usually consume in the Winter/Springtime. 

Then, gradually, start introducing more and more fruits and veggies into your menu. You’re going to need them not just because they’re chock-full of micronutrients that keep our body functioning properly, but because they’re absolutely vital to proper hydration. While this isn’t a traditional detox, it’s only going to help you adjust to the seasonal changes as these transitions are going on around you.

Second, make sure you thaw out slowly!

This might be more of a minor point but it’s still one that should be discussed. One of the worst things you can do in terms of managing seasonal transitions is to go from heavy jackets to shorts and sandals in a matter of days.

Just like you gradually add more and more clothing when temperatures outside drop, you should gradually remove clothing as temperatures start rising. 

Instead of shocking your body, give your body a chance to adjust because sudden, sharp temperature changes will do nothing but slow you down.

And finally, stay on track with your training and cardio.

Cardio is the perfect way to boost your heart rate and get yourself sweating – helping you take stagnant energy off your body. 

Keeping active during seasonal changes is a must, as it will help you become more aware of the internal changes going on in your body and better adjust your metabolism to warmer temperatures. 

There has always been a significant amount of people in the fitness community who are training for the Summertime. While this mindset is still better than no training at all, it misses the bigger picture – you should be training regardless of what the weather is, regardless of the changes going on in and around your environment. 

If you keep your training and cardio up to speed (no pun intended) regardless of the seasonal changes going on around you, you’ll have no problem making consistent progress toward your health and fitness goals. 

Are Isolation Exercises Causing You to Overtrain?

male fitness

Hey Angels and Alphas,

When most people first enter the gym, they naturally start gravitating toward machines. They’re easy, comfortable, self-explanatory (for the most part,) and they allow you to really target the areas of your body you feel need the most work. 

That being said, building your entire workout around exercises that you’re comfortable with is far from an effective fitness strategy.

On the other hand, other people go straight for the dumbbells and bars. They just feel better working out with free weights, having more control of their body, and they like to engage more of their body with each exercise. These people use machines solely for isolation.

This has naturally led to people classifying exercises as either (1) compound exercises or (2) isolation exercises.

Compound movements engage more than one muscle group (usually a large primary one and a second smaller one). Isolation exercises focus on one muscle group and tend to avoid engaging other ones.  

Both of these methods serve their own purpose in workout routines. 

If you’ve been in the gym for a while and you’re looking to look and perform better, you’re most likely basing your routine on compound movements and sprinkling isolation exercises when there’s something you want to focus on! 

Although that’s an excellent strategy, here is where a problem might occur. When doing compound exercises, it’s easy to unknowingly train specific muscle groups more than you’d like because of their secondary use nature. 

This, of course, can cause some muscles not to get enough recovery time. If you’ve set up your routine in a way that gives all major muscle groups a lot of attention, you might be working out too much without even knowing it! This makes overtraining more common than people believe.

For example, training arms the day after you train your shoulders means you’ve trained your triceps twice in two days. This means your triceps haven’t had enough time to recover, and your performance and growth are naturally going to decline.

Challenge yourself to take a look at your routine right now and determine your real volume per muscle group.

Not just the direct volume you’re giving to each muscle, but also the indirect volume your muscles are receiving by being secondary use in compound exercises. 

Remember: All chest exercises engage either the shoulders or the triceps. All back/pulling exercises also put pressure on the biceps. Take that into account when creating your routine.

Whether you’re doing the general push/pull/legs routine or you’re someone who does circuit training with free weights, it could be very easy for you to stack up unnecessary volume that makes it hard for certain muscle groups to recover properly. 

For example, if you start your workout off with the bench press, you’re instantly adding volume to your chest, your shoulders, and your triceps. If you do more than one variation of the bench press (e.g. incline or decline,) you’re racking up so much volume that it could be easy for you to overtrain certain muscle groups. 

Even though smaller muscle groups like your biceps and triceps could handle larger amounts of volume, you should still be wary of this. 

There are many professionals in the fitness world who don’t do more than a couple of sets of triceps/biceps isolation every week. This is because they know very well that all of the compound movements they perform rack up volume in these smaller muscle groups. 

So instead of trying as hard as possible to get those juicy triceps pumps, get in touch with yourself and discover the most optimal volume for each of your muscle groups.

When Is the Best Time to do a Deload?

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Deloads are one of those things that are often thrown around in the strength and fitness community, but few people actually pay attention to them because most people follow a “no pain no gain” mentality. 

This mentality is ultimately counterproductive, because as we all know, growth happens in the periods of rest between workouts. 

That’s why deloads are something most regular gym-goers don’t really take into account when creating their routines, but they’re also something that gym professionals take very, very seriously. And with good reason. A deload, defined as a period of time in which you reduce your training volume, can be one of your most useful tools when it comes to proper recovery, breaking through plateaus, and so much more.

Today, we’re here to talk about deloads – what they are, how powerful they are, and when you should (and shouldn’t) be doing them.

Let’s get started.

What’s a deload?

Deloading is essentially a period of rest or lower intensity workouts in which you allow your body to recover and revitalize. 

Of course, things such as your nutrition, supplements, stress management, and sleep are going to be major factors in your day-to-day recovery. But at some point, the stress your body goes through in and outside the gym can add up, block your progress, and get you sick or injured.

Deloading helps you reduce the amount of stress in your body and recharge both your physical and your mental “batteries.”

What could a normal deload look like?

A deload can be 5 days off the gym, 5 days of only foam rolling and light cardio, 5 days of working out with decreased intensity and weight, you name it! Many people have their own idea of what deloading is, but as long as it’s a time when you pull back and rest, I say go for it! A deload is, by definition, any period in which you train at lower intensities in the effort of reducing the overall load your body is experiencing over a longer timeframe, say a month.

That being said, a deload has nothing to do with halting your training altogether.

A deload is defined as a period of time, usually about a week, throughout which you significantly reduce the amount of weight (and subsequently, volume) that you train at. This deload will provide your body with a break from your workouts so, for the period in which you’re deloading, you can recover faster and better. This will, simultaneously, allow your mind some rest time as well.

So when exactly should we do a deload and prioritize rest?

The word on the street in the fitness community is that deloading should be done every 4, 6, 8, 10, or 12 weeks. Some people schedule them that way, and some people go by their performance in the gym. 

Experts have long said that you should do a deload when you’re feeling overwhelmed and tired, when you’re experiencing more soreness after workouts, when you’re lacking motivation, when you’re not performing at your best several workouts in a row, when your appetite swings back and forth… or when you just feel like you need a little break!

Ultimately, deloads are one of those tools that you can use to your advantage to create even more growth. Contrary to what the regular “gym bro” will tell you, deloads are there to create more growth – not stagnate it. And let’s face it – if you’re in fitness for the long run and you’re trying to maximize the sustainability of your training, a deload is, sooner or later, going to become necessary.

Remember – being fit is a marathon, not a sprint. Do a deload, revitalize, recharge, and get back on that track!

Should You Care About the “Anabolic Window”?

sport nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Have you noticed that whenever someone new enters the world of fitness and nutrition, often the first thing they do is start learning about the core mainstream fitness concepts like diets and training splits?

That’s all well and good, but in the midst of these mainstream concepts are also misconceptions like the ”anabolic window” – the idea that consuming a meal/protein shake immediately after a workout is detrimental to recovery, strength, and hypertrophy gains.

This concept had its origins in the late 1980s when a study concluded that delayed carbohydrate consumption related to slower glycogen re-synthesis. This basically meant that recovery was slower if one didn’t consume carbs after a workout. Right there and then, the anabolic window myth was born.

Later research did make the idea obsolete, and the anabolic window was essentially disproved because all of the research done focused on short-term, not long-term effects.

Let’s explore the concept of the anabolic window and see if there’s any truth to it, and whether or not it even exists.

The theory of the anabolic state.

The anabolic window theory is initially based on your body’s natural anabolic response. Anabolism happens when small molecules grow into bigger, more complex molecules. These molecules subsequently form into new body tissues and cells, including muscle tissue. This phenomenon is the opposite of catabolism, the state in which larger molecules break down. 

Shortly after a strength training session, your body enters an anabolic state. This involves various cellular processes that facilitate the growth and repair of muscle tissue. These processes are fueled mostly by carbs and protein.

According to the anabolic state theory, this natural body response happens inside a limited time frame of about 30 minutes. It also claims that eating protein and carbs immediately after training is fundamental to replenishing muscle glycogen, reducing muscle protein breakdown, and fueling protein synthesis.

According to a 2018 study, muscle protein breakdown rapidly increases in response to bouts of strength training. Muscle protein synthesis also improves, although to a much greater extent. The natural balance between these two phenomena determines muscle growth. There’s a term for the balance between the two, it’s called “net muscle protein balance” (NBAL.)

Post-workout nutrition can indeed affect these body processes. 

Protein intake limits protein breakdown and supports protein synthesis. Carb intake inhibits protein breakdown and improves glycogen resynthesis. 

After training, it might seem logical to immediately eat protein and carbs so you can suppress muscle breakdown. Experts assume that this will lead to increases in muscle mass by increasing your total NBAL. 

That being said, this is an oversimplification. 

Changes in muscle size will depend on myofibrillar proteins. To increase your muscle mass, the suppressing of MPB would have to target these proteins alone. But MBP affects many different types of proteins. 

Moreover, there are many factors that affect recovery and growth, including your training, hormones, age, and more. There is also no evidence that this “anabolic window” is only 30 minutes. Nobody really knows where this timeframe came from.

There also isn’t hard evidence that says the anabolic window is only 30 minutes long. It’s not clear where the suggested time frame came from.

So while I believe there’s no harm in eating a meal before or after your workout, there’s one key takeaway I want to share with you today; relax.

Don’t worry about drinking your protein shake the very moment you finish working out. We’re in fitness for the long run, and in the long run, things like that hardly matter. If you train daily, eat your proteins and carbs, and do it over a long enough period, you will have absolutely no problem making progress regardless of your nutrition timing.

What Is It About Some Songs That Makes You Want to Move?

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Music by itself has always been used as a way to entertain ourselves, relax, become more self-aware, and overall just enjoy other people’s artistic and creative expressions. 

With that said, it’s only in the last few decades that we have had conclusive research on music and physiology that has left us with some pretty fascinating connections between the two.

When it comes to training and music, people are sort of 50-50 about it. 

We all know this one person who always carries their headphones in the gym religiously (might be you,) while other people wouldn’t care less what music is playing while they’re banging out a workout. 

Today, we’re here to talk about the latest science and research behind music, and explore the scientifically proven benefits music has on your training:

#1 MUSIC WILL MOTIVATE.

What is motivation, really? Is it entirely mental? Or it is something that our bodies can produce on demand when exposed to certain frequencies of music? We all have those songs that just pump us up and make us want to get up and do, dance, lift, jump, you get the idea. 

There’s nothing like putting on your favorite pump-up tune and squashing your previous weightlifting PR, am I right? But why is that? Well, music has been proven to directly stimulate motor function in the brain, all while releasing mood-enhancing hormones that help you fill up your entire body with the desire to move. And all of this while reducing your pain threshold.

#2 MUSIC WILL FOCUS.

When you’ve got your headphones on, you’re in your own isolated bubble of sound frequencies. You’re in your own little world where you decide what to listen to. When you create this bubble around yourself, it’s much harder to get distracted.

Putting your headphones on will eliminate all environmental distractions, help you zone-out, and bring that “laser focus” on whatever is in front of you. Studies have discovered a neural connection between areas of the brain responsible for focus and coordination in people who are actively listening to their favorite tracks. 

Imagine what this could do for you in the gym – help you active your mind-muscle connection better, help you manage your rest periods better, the possibilities are endless!

#3 MUSIC WILL CREATE RHYTHM.

Finally, music will help you keep, maintain, or create a pace for your entire body. Scientists have invented a fancy term for a song’s ability to make you want to move, and it’s called the “call rhythm response.” 

This call rhythm response is the reason you tap your foot or nod your head when you hear a nice beat. Listening to music while working out helps you tune in to your call rhythm responses in the form of “time signals” (like beat drops), allowing you to synchronize your body to the music and helping your body use energy more efficiently. 

THE BOTTOM LINE…

Music can help you feel pleasure or displeasure, it can alter your thought process, and it can cause direct changes in behavior. The phycological effect of music can be explored directly by looking at the physical changes in hormone levels and brain activity. 

For example, one 2012 study showed that participants who listened to music that they perceived as “pleasing” had higher levels of serotonin, also known as the feel-good hormone. 

Even though it might be difficult to prove its effects, this study suggests that the pleasurable experience of listening to a song will ultimately result in an increase in serotonin levels, putting you in a better mood for the entirety of your workout.

Should You Try Out Cluster Training?

male fitness

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Cluster training is a concept that’s gaining popularity in recent years among female and male fitness enthusiasts. It’s gaining popularity because clusters sets are one of the best ways for us to increase the total load in our workouts. 

Cluster sets are smaller sets built-in a larger set with rest periods in-between that range from 10 to 30 seconds. They’re a very easy way to add more volume and load in every workout you do, and subsequently, increase the amount of stress and tension you’re putting in your muscles. This, combined with high-quality recovery, can lead to better strength gains and more hypertrophy.

Cluster training can take different forms, and there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to doing it. You can implement cluster sets in pretty much any part of your training, from hypertrophy to raw strength gains.

To perform a cluster set, choose a compound movement you can do for 5 reps. Rather than performing the entire set at once, cluster sets let you break the set of 5 reps into 3-4 smaller sets of 2 reps with 10 second periods of rest in-between them. This will potentially allow you to perform a total of 7-8 reps using the same amount of weight.

Today, we’re going to talk about three facts about cluster training (and the benefits that they can bring to your workouts.)

First of all, a 2013 study proved that cluster training leads to more strength gains. 

In the study, one subject group followed traditional sets (4 x 10), and the other was focused on intra-rest interval sets (8 x 5). They concluded that both groups saw an increase in strength and a shift in muscle fibers, yet the intra-rest set group developed more strength in the same period. This study was one of the first of a series of studies that proved the efficiency of cluster sets in providing better strength improvements.

Second, as mentioned above, it’s one of the best ways to increase your total training volume. 

Essentially, by working with higher intensities, a high rep count can create an actual limitation in your body. Cluster sets are focused on stretching a lot of work over smaller sets, allowing you to hit more reps. 

A study done in 2015 concluded that cluster training promoted greater work volume and higher average strength gains. If you’re one of those people who finds it difficult to get a great pump in the gym, or you’re someone who is short on time and wants to maximize the amount of load you can experience in a short workout, cluster sets can help you achieve both of those things. 

Not only will they help you target and impact your muscles in a more significant way, but they will also allow you to get a more intense workout in a short amount of time – perfect for the people with busy lifestyles who still want to get very intense training sessions.

Third, they have been noted to be great for busting through strength training plateaus. 

Honestly, if you’ve been stuck at a certain weight on a particular lift for a long amount of time, cluster sets are one of your best options moving forward. Because they can easily lead to adding more load to your workouts, this means they can lead to more optimal training volume to your workouts. Technically, their sole purpose is to allow for higher training volume. This alone can help you break through your plateau since the added intensity could be just what you need to trigger progressive overload. 

What Are The Proper Rest Periods Between Bouts of Bodyweight Training?

Hey Angels and Alphas,

During the pandemic, many gym-goers around the world started rediscovering the benefits of bodyweight exercises due to being mostly at home and the majority of gyms being closed. 

Now, we already know how powerful bodyweight workouts can be when it comes to building muscle and losing weight – especially with Summer right around the corner. But all of this begs the question – how is resting between bodyweights workouts any different than resting between everyday resistance training at the gym?

Now, first of all, we have to say that resting and recovering between stretches of physical activity is important regardless of what type of workout we did or its intensity. 

If proper recovery does not take place, your muscles won’t be able to replenish their energy stores and perform at their best next time.

Not only does this mean that you won’t be able to reach your maximum workout potential, but it also means you might be risking injury or overtraining. In short, we have to stay on track with our recovery to guarantee that we’re reaching our fitness goals.

And even though bodyweight workouts don’t seem as “difficult” as lifting heavy weights, you still need a lot of rest. 

Many people believe bodyweight training is easier because they’re not familiar with the bazillion exercise options available to them. That being said, less options doesn’t mean less challenge.

If you’re training your entire body in the gym, you might need up to 48 hours to recover between workouts. If you’re doing a split, you can do your workouts on back-to-back days since you’re targeting different muscle groups every time.

The same goes for bodyweight training. Give every muscle group you’re training at least 48 hours of rest before jumping back into it. I know you might be tempted to do a little bit of everything every day, but you have to remember to give your muscles the necessary rest they need to grow. If you don’t, you’re not just risking losing the gains you work so hard for – you’re also risking injury that could take you away from the gym (or park) for a long time. 

Another factor you should take into account is how intense your bout of exercise was. 

People who train to failure when doing bodyweight training should always give themselves (and their muscles) at least 48 hours of rest between training bouts. 

But if you’re the type of person to do a few sets of pushups and crunches while you’re at home, you can freely and safely do this every day without having to worry about adding too much stress to your body. 

Ultimately, it’s going to come down to how your muscles feel the day after your training. Do you feel like you can do the exact same workout the next day? If the answer is yes, you probably could, and this probably means that your training bout wasn’t focused as much on intensity. 

If you struggle to find the energy or motivation you need to do the exact same workout the next day, it’s likely because you’ve given it your all and you should give your muscles another 24 hours to rest before doing another bout. 

Your rest periods between bodyweight workouts should also take into account your recovery methods.

Many people started discovering traditionally unconventional recovery methods in recent years, be it foam rolling, ice bathing, you name it. 

Whether you choose foam rolling, stretching, a low-intensity day of walking, or just all-out rest, keep in mind to experiment on different recovery options and find one that works best for you. If you’re staying at home right now, keep trying different things and see what makes you feel and perform at your best. 

But always remember the golden standard – give your muscles at least 48 hours of rest between workouts, especially if you’re the type of person to train until failure. More often than not, 24 hours will not be enough for you to properly recover, regardless of your recovery method.

Nutrition Extras for Improved Physical and Mental Performance

nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

I hope we can all agree that eating a diet focused on whole-food macronutrients as its foundation is vital to good health. 

No magic supplement can replace the importance (and the benefits) of this fundamental dietary foundation. 

But when it comes to a high-performance lifestyle, people are always looking for ways to go above and beyond, and to do this, they generally add additional phytonutrients in their diet. 

The right nutrition extras can indeed help you boost your physical and mental performance, and today, we’re going to learn exactly how.

Let’s take a look at each individual fitness goal you might have right now – be it better endurance, strength, hormone control, etc. – and some specific food options that can help you get the job done.

GOAL: BUILD ENDURANCE

NUTRIENT: SPIRULINA

This blue-green algae is more than just a wellness ‘woo-woo’ superfood that recently gained popularity. It’s actually loaded with phytonutrients that can benefit all forms of athletic endurance by slowing down fatigue. The research on it suggests the antioxidant powers can lead to postponed time to exhaustion during training. Just add a pinch to your smoothie and see how your body reacts.

GOAL: BOOST ENERGY

NUTRIENT: COENZYME Q10

CoQ10 is a compound that is paramount to the vital mitochondrial function and generating energy by producing ATP. Both of these things are important to energized performances. Your body naturally produces these compounds, but age, heavy training, and restrictive diets can put you at risk of not getting enough. Supplements are most effective because foods such as spinach, organ meat, and soy only contain small amounts.

GOAL: QUICK RECOVERY

TRY: COFFEE

If you’re only drinking your cup of coffee in the morning or before workouts, you’re most likely not reaping the full benefits of this compound. Caffeine has been shown to increase muscle glycogen by speeding up its refueling. To reap the full benefits, consume caffeine along with carbohydrates within an hour of finishing your training. 

GOAL: BURN MORE FAT

NUTRIENT: GREEN TEA

Green tea is known as one of the healthiest beverages. Green tea, like matcha, has been linked to improvements in many conditions such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, even obesity. Most important for athletes is the potential of green tea to stimulate and improve overall metabolic activity. The ability for the body to switch between using carbohydrates and fat as its energy source. Research has shown mixed results, but the evidence suggests that chronic consumption of green tea can increase fat oxidation by 20 percent.

GOAL: IMPROVED INTERVALS

NUTRIENT: BETA-ALANINE

Your body can naturally produce its own supply of this non-essential amino acid, or it can get it from animal proteins. That being said, athletic bodies may have higher demands for beta-alanine than the body can produce without supplementation. Vegetarian athletes are especially at risk of not producing enough to meet their dietary needs. There is evidence that beta-alanine can improve high-intensity training bouts by reducing muscle acidosis. One study showed a 20 percent improvement in HIIT and another showed improvement in 10K runs with supplementation of beta-alanine.

GOAL: IMPROVED FOCUS

NUTRIENT: CHOLINE

Choline is essential to the brain’s ability to send messages to cells throughout the body – it may also be key to staying focused during endurance training. While most adults get plenty of choline through food sources such as egg yolks, fish, peas, and muscle meats, endurance training will deplete these stores.

GOAL: BUILD MUSCLE MASS

NUTRIENT: LEUCINE

Leucine is an essential amino acid. This means your body doesn’t make enough of it – you have to get it through your diet. It helps your body build and maintain muscle mass. When compared to other aminos, leucine has been shown to be rapidly digested. This makes it an efficient way for athletes to stimulate muscle synthesis. Some of the best sources of leucine include eggs, beef, tuna, and tofu.

Dieting With Purpose – Gym Performance

nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

We all need food not just so our bodies can function, but so we can adjust what we’re eating in order to achieve better performance inside (and outside) the gym. 

Today, we’ve compiled six of the best tips by sports nutritionists that will help you do exactly that – leverage nutrition to perform better in the gym, and subsequently, have more energy in your everyday life.

Let’s get started.

#1 START WITH YOUR GOALS

First off, you should identify one or (maximum) two areas you’d like to initially work on. Start with them. If your goal is to improve your current fitness habits, you don’t need a complete overhaul. Take note of what your current habits look like right now and see if you can identify any opportunities for improvement that are in line with the goals you have for yourself. Start with small changes and see what a difference this is going to make if you’re consistent.

#2 BOOST ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE WITH PROPER PROTEIN INTAKE

Dividing your intake of protein across several meals is likely to be more impactful for your health and muscle growth in comparison to consuming all your protein in one meal. For many athletes, this can mean consuming between 20 to 40 grams of protein in every meal. If we use an example of a 165-pound athlete, they may benefit from consuming 30 grams of protein for their three main meals, plus an additional 30 grams of protein divided into two snacks. This would help reach their daily goal of 150 grams of protein.

#3 IMPROVE BLOOD PRESSURE WITH NITRATE-RICH VEGGIES

You have some leafy greens out there like spinach, lettuce, arugula, and other veggies such as beets, that have been linked to reduced blood pressure. This is partly due to their nitrate content that is eventually reduced to nitric oxide inside your body. Nitric oxide can act as a vasodilator, allowing blood to flow more easily through your blood vessels so your heart doesn’t have to pump as hard. In addition to lower blood pressure, nitrate-rich foods have been linked to improved performance in the gym in high-intensity exercise. Set yourself the goal of adding at least one extra serving of nitrate-rich leafy greens to your diet every day.

#4 INCREASE LEAN MUSCLE MASS WITH CREATINE MONOHYDRATE

While guys may seek out the latest and greatest in fitness supplements, creatine will always remain one of the most well-researched and effective supplements available. Creatine is usually found in meat as well as produced inside your body, but in miniscule amounts compared to what is found inside a creatine supplement. Supplementing with creatine has been linked to improved muscle mass, spring performance, strength, recovery, and so much more. Supplementation typically calls for a loading phase of 10-15 grams a day, followed by a daily supplementation of around 3-5 grams.

#5 SUPPORT YOUR MUSCLES WITH OMEGA-3s

Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid. It’s found in fatty fish such as herring, sardines, salmon, as well as some plant-based sources. Both in adults, and within the setting of college athletes, the omega-3 index has indicated that most individuals are not meeting their ideal intake of omega-3s. Alas, this fatty acid has been linked to many potential health benefits, as well as improved recovery for athletes. Omega-3 may also aid in the preservation of muscle mass during times of injury. You should aim to consume at least 2 servings of omega-3 rich fish every week or consider supplementing.

#6 BOOST ENERGY WITH CAFFEINE

Whether you’re an early riser who works out in the morning or someone who works out after a long day at work, it’s not uncommon to turn to coffee, energy drinks, or a caffeine-rich pre-workout supplement. Caffeine has always been linked to improved endurance, muscular power, and strength gains. But you may not need as much as you think. Relatively low doses (2-3 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight) can be used for a performance benefit. This is the amount you’d find in 1 or 2 cups of coffee. Doses beyond this are unlikely to provide any further benefits. 

Break Through Your Weight Loss Plateau Before Summer

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Whether you’ve been exercising a few months or a few years, you’ve probably already reached your first weight loss plateau. Maybe you’ve even broken through your first weight loss plateau, too! 

You joined a gym, burned off some extra calories, and you’re seeing your efforts pay off. You’ve stopped drinking soda, and if you’re stopped ordering Pizza every other day. But for some reason, you feel stuck – you’ve reached a plateau in your weight loss results.

And with Summer right around the corner, you want to be looking (and feeling) your best. That’s why today, we’re going to talk about the 3 easiest ways you can push forward on your weight loss efforts and get that perfect bod you wanted for the hot season.

You might be at a great, healthy weight right now, but you just have trouble eliminating the 10-15 extra pounds that are still lingering. As you’re losing weight, it can be very tempting to cut calories to the maximum lowest so you can lose weight even faster. But the downside to this technique is that your muscles can also be used as energy and this will gradually slow down your metabolism to spare energy. 

So whether you’re just above your dream weight right now or you’re dedicated to start losing weight, here are 3 quick ways to overcome your weight loss plateau. 

#1 – Prioritize sleep. 

A full night’s sleep is essential to your body losing fat. That’s because it serves as a reset to your hormones. Even the slightest bit of sleep deprivation leads to increased cortisol levels, and when that happens, say hello to more fat accumulation in the midsection and say goodbye to your weight loss results. 

Not only has poor sleep been linked to higher hunger hormone levels, but it also leads you to retain more fat. Especially if you’re the type of person to have a midnight snack or get up in the middle of the night looking for something sweet, you should know that this could ruin your sleep and be detrimental to your weight loss progress. 

Instead, focus on getting a full, uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep and see how much better you’ll feel. 

#2 – Focus on low-energy-density foods. 

Busting through a weight-loss plateau doesn’t really happen by eating less than you’re eating now – it happens by cutting out processed foods and focusing on whole foods like veggies, beans, high-fiber fruits, lean proteins, and other high-water, low-energy-density foods that help your body receive less calories (but higher quality calories) with each meal. 

This way, you’re ultimately eating less calories, but you’re getting in all the important phytonutrients you need to keep your body functioning optimally. If you make at least a third of your plate full of green veggies, high-fiber fruit, or other high-water foods, you will be filling up on micronutrients without racking up calories aimlessly. Which brings us to our final tip…

#3 – Ultimately, it all comes down to calories in vs calories out. 

If you’ve been watching what you eat and exercising more, but your weight isn’t dropping, there’s probably an underlying reason that you’re not getting your numbers right somewhere along the way.

Poor sleep and high-energy foods are just two of the reasons this might happen, but if you want to be sure, consult with a nutritionist or physician so you know for certain you’re getting your calories counted up right. 

If you can set up your calorie intake in a way that leads to more calories coming out than calories coming in, and you do it through setting your body up right with proper sleep and low-energy-density foods, you should have absolutely no problem to bust out through your weight loss plateau and make this your hot bod Summer in no time.

Self-care Strategies that Improve Your Health and Fitness

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

With a worldwide pandemic, uncertainties and insecurities in the world, and so many things going on that we can’t even wrap our heads around what’s happening, it seems like now’s the perfect time to finally settle down and start developing some new healthy habits that help us become more mindful, balanced, and grounded.

However, given the number of stressors we have to deal with, shedding the pounds and developing new fitness and wellness habits can be a major challenge.

Cortisol, a hormone released when we’re stressed, is now coursing through the veins of everyone around us, and this can make weight loss very difficult. 

Moreover, when we’re stressed and anxious, it’s a common practice to reach for food to numb the discomfort. This is where making time for self-care rituals becomes an essential part of fitness success.

Today, we are here to explore 3 self-care practices you can use to keep your spirits up and stay anxiety-free.

First, start your days with a mindfulness ritual. 

Starting your day off with a mindfulness ritual is a game-changer. Observing your thoughts and feelings silently is a powerful skill to develop when you’re trying to become mentally disciplined. Plus, it’s a great way to bring some structure in your thought patterns. 

Before you pick up your phone early in the morning or turn on the TV, just take 10 minutes to sit down, relax, and observe the thoughts that arise through guided meditation. Developing this ritual will allow you to relax, ease your mind off, and cool down after a long day of having your mind race.

Second, create an eating schedule. 

Our brains and bodies thrive on routine. We all know and understand this. Routines keep our moods in check, tell us when to sleep, when to release certain hormones, and more. Without the built-in routine of your typical workday, it’s easy to get stressed and graze up all day without no real plan. 

To support your mental health and well-being, create a schedule for your meals and snacks and stay mindful of what you’re putting inside your body. This will not only make it easy for you to plan and schedule your meals, but it will free up a massive amount of mental energy you can use toward something more productive.

Third, take mini movement breaks. 

Whether you’re working from home right now or you’re still staying in an office for the majority of your day, you should make a habit out of take mini movement breaks. Not just because it’s a great way to get your metabolism moving and burn calories, but also because changing up your environment and going for a mindful walk can help you de-stress and bring calmness to your mind. 

When it comes to self-care in the context of weight loss, almost all movement can have an even stronger effect on burning calories while also helping you de-stress!

This doesn’t have to mean hardcore workouts every day – simply getting up, moving around, and doing something unexpected with your body like jumping around can boost your energy, mood, and give you much-needed stress-relief.

Bringing it all together…

Whether you feel stressed or not, throughout the day, your brain will have to tackle challenges and stressors that ultimately build up and lead to racing thoughts and anxiety. 

That’s why, now more than ever, you have to make sure you’re adopting the proper self-care rituals that will help you lower stress and perform at your best. 

Just the fact that you’re lowering the amount of stress you experience on a daily basis can cause you to lose more weight, look better, feel better, and keep your mind in a place where it can be focused and productive the whole day. 

How Does Serotonin Regulate Your Mood and Appetite?

nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

We’re all aware that our bodies are chock-full of hormones, helpful messengers that allow our body to function – and function optimally. 

These miniscule substances travel throughout our tissues and organs where they keep all our vital and essential bodily processes humming along. 

One of these hormones, and one of the most often talked about hormones, is known as serotonin – a hormone vital to many key functions in the body.

Let’s take a deeper dive into serotonin and figure out how exactly it impacts our bodies, our appetite, our mood, and subsequently, everything we do.

What does serotonin actually do, and what happens when our serotonin levels get too low?

Serotonin plays a vital role in regulating our mood, appetite, memory, and even our sleep schedule. It also plays a key role in many other processes in our bodies, including our heart function, digestion, all the way down to our bladder control.

Major life events, lack of exercise, aging, a poor diet, all of these things can throw all our hormones out of whack, including serotonin. When your serotonin levels start running low, you may feel more irritable, anxious, sad, and have trouble sleeping. 

One approach to actually treating serious conditions like depression is to take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, also known as SSRIs. This is a type of prescription medication that works to increase the levels of serotonin function inside your body. Common SSRIs include citalopram, sertraline, and fluoxetine.

Low serotonin levels will easily lead to changes in your appetite. When you’re either overly hungry or you have absolutely no appetite. Whether you eat too much or too little may also depend on other factors, including emotional responses to food, mood changes, stress eating, and more.

That being said, there are ways you can naturally increase your serotonin without any prescription medication.

#1 STOCK UP ON SEROTONIN-BOOSTING INGREDIENTS AND FOODS.

Believe it or not, eating certain foods may actually increase serotonin levels in the body. Namely foods that are rich in tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that gets converted to serotonin in the brain. You can find tryptophan in protein-based foods such as tofu, dairy, meats, nuts, seeds, turkey, salmon, and so much more!

#2 GET MORE EXERCISE. 

Physical movement is a massive predictor for healthy serotonin levels… and a good mood! If you can exercise at least 30 minutes a day, you will be naturally be releasing this hormone and increasing your endorphins. Endorphins are also feel-good hormones.

In fact, exercise may be just as effective for treating symptoms of depression as the prescription medication we talked about. The type of exercise you do doesn’t even seem to matter. Find activities you enjoy and do them regularly. Your entire body will be grateful.

But what happens when serotonin levels get too high?

Sometimes, some people may develop something called serotonin syndrome, understood as an excess of serotonin. This occurs very rarely, and most often happens when you take the medications we talked about earlier.  Too much serotonin can cause mild symptoms like sweating, shivers, confusion, headaches, high blood pressure, and digestive problems. That being said, it’s not something you should worry about if you’re not on this type of medication.

Bringing it all together…

If you feel that lately, you’ve been feeling depressed, anxious, irritable, or you’re experiencing any other symptoms of low serotonin, the best thing you can do is to seek professional advice. 

Low levels of serotonin can lead to bouts of depression, but if you’re someone who gets plenty of exercise, has a healthy relationship with food, and keeps their circle positive, your serotonin levels should naturally be inside healthy levels.

How Snacking Is Sabotaging Your Weight Loss Efforts

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Nobody can deny the sweet goodness of a stellar snack. At their best, these snacks can be the ideal pre-workout fuel, or a way to keep your blood sugar levels steady and stable until your next meal. 

But snacking isn’t automatically a good decision. More often than not, snacking could be the culprit for diminishing your healthy weight loss progress.

When it comes to macros, snacking can often be the downfall of even the most diligent dieter. macros are the three key nutrients that make up the calories in the food we eat: protein, carbohydrates and fat. In order to lose weight, we must create a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories than we burn. However, when we snack between meals, we are often taking in additional calories that can quickly add up and sabotage our weight loss efforts.

One way to avoid this problem is to be more mindful about the most common snacking mistakes that gym-goers and athletes are probably making. Today, you’re going to learn all about them… as well as how to fix them. 

#1 – SKIPPING SNACKS.

People who are trying to lose weight or gain muscle are often told to avoid snacking. The thinking is that by eating fewer meals, they will consume fewer calories and see better results. However, this advice is misguided. In reality, snacking can actually help you reach your fitness goals.

When you go long periods of time without eating, your blood sugar levels drop and your body starts to break down muscle for energy. This can lead to hunger cravings and overeating later on. Snacking helps to keep your blood sugar levels stable and prevents your body from going into “starvation mode.”

Moreover, frequent meals throughout the day can actually help to increase your metabolism. When you eat small meals more frequently, your body has to work harder to digest the food, which means you burn more calories. 

The best way to approach this? Instead of snacking on low-calorie meals, add a spoon of peanut butter or hummus to your carrot sticks, and you’ll make them much more nutritious and satiating. 

#2 – SNACKING WHEN YOU’RE NOT HUNGRY. 

If you find yourself snacking more often than you’d like, it may be helpful to do a “hunger check.” Ask yourself how hungry you are on a scale of 1 to 10. If you’re not actually hungry, then the snack is probably more for pleasure than for fuel. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s worth being aware of. If you are hungry, then consider what kinds of macros you’re looking for in a snack. 

Maybe you need some protein and fat to tide you over until your next meal, or maybe you’re looking for a quick burst of energy in the form of carbs. Once you know what you’re looking for, it’ll be easier to make a decision about what to eat. And if you’re still unsure, remember that there’s no shame in grabbing a piece of fruit or veggie instead of something processed. 

#3 – NOT CONSUMING ENOUGH FRUIT! 

Some people forget about fruit, and some people even think natural sugars are obstacles to weight loss. But in the process of foregoing fruit, you’re reducing your intake of fiber and many other healthy micronutrients. Fiber provides you with satiety and can prevent overeating. If you’re going to snack, always make sure you’re incorporating some type of fiber-rich fruit in your snacks.

So, if you’re looking to snack on something satisfying, always make sure you’re incorporating some type of fiber-rich fruit into your snacks. In addition to promoting weight loss, eating fruit can also help to improve digestion and prevent constipation. So, don’t forget about fruit the next time you’re looking to make a healthy change to your diet!

3 Tips for Losing Weight (Unrelated to Dieting)

nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Dieting has become a pretty dirty word in the fitness and weight loss communities. That’s because most people equate losing weight with dieting, small portions, limitations, feelings of guilt, off-limit foods, and more.

If you’re looking to lose weight, you might be feeling a bit discouraged by the word “diet.” It seems like every weight loss plan out there is restrictive, difficult to follow, and full of foods you can’t eat. 

But shedding pounds doesn’t have to be restrictive. There are countless habits you can add to your life that will instantly aid your weight loss efforts, and today, we’re here to take a careful look at 3 of them.

#1 SETTING A SPECIFIC BEDTIME. 

The connection between sleep and weight is more than clear – if you don’t get enough quality sleep, you’ll find yourself fueling daytime hunger, cravings for high-sugar foods, and overeating. 

That’s why one of the best things you can do for your weight is to create a bedtime routine that allows you to go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time every morning. This way, you’ll keep your hormones in check and you’ll have a much easier time with overall weight management. 

Furthermore, lack of sleep can have a major impact on your weight. When you don’t get enough rest, your body starts to crave high-sugar foods and macros, which can lead to overeating. That’s why it’s important to create a bedtime routine that allows you to go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time every morning. 

By getting enough quality sleep, you’ll be able to better control your hunger and cravings, and avoid overeating. In addition, you’ll find yourself feeling more energetic during the day, which can lead to increased activity levels and further weight loss. So if you’re looking to drop a few pounds, be sure to get plenty of rest.

#2 LIST OUT YOUR MOTIVATIONS.

Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows that it is not an easy task. There are countless temptations and challenges that can derail even the best-laid plans. One of the biggest obstacles to weight loss is a lack of motivation. It is all too easy to give up when the going gets tough. This is why it is so important to have a solid motivator for why you want to lose weight. For some people, this may be a health concern. carrying around extra weight can put strain on your heart, lungs, and joints. For others, it may be a matter of vanity. Whatever your reasons, it is important to have a clear idea of why you are embarking on this journey.

A common mistake that people make is relying on the scale as their only motivator. This can be a dangerous trap because your weight can fluctuate for a variety of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with how much fat you are actually losing. As a result, you can easily become discouraged if the number on the scale does not drop as quickly as you would like. Instead of fixating on the scale, focus on other indicators of progress, such as how your clothes fit or how much energy you have.

Using the scale as your only motivator will, most of the time, end up with you feeling guilty and disappointed. To keep your weight-loss motivation going, create a list of reasons why you want to reach your fitness goal, like for example, boosting your stamina, becoming stronger, or being healthier for your family. 

#3 DRINK BEFORE A MEAL.

A lot of people think that they need to cut down on calories in order to lose weight, but that’s not necessarily true. Instead, it’s all about macros – meaning, the balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates that you’re eating. And one super easy way to help make sure you’re getting the right macros is to drink a glass of water (or two) around 10 minutes before you start your meal. 

By doing this, you’ll avoid mistaking thirst for hunger, and you’ll be less likely to overeat. Plus, you’ll stay hydrated, which is essential for optimal health. 

So next time you sit down to eat, make sure to drink some water first – your body will thank you!

Should You Make Up for Macro Mishaps the Next Day?

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Protein, carbs, and fat. The three big nutrient groups that make up the majority of what we consume on a daily basis. All of us know that they’re absolutely essential to a healthy, balanced diet, and many people choose to track their macronutrient intake in order to achieve their health and fitness goals faster. 

Many people in the fitness community follow a way of eating called IIFYM – if it fits your macros – which entails that you allot yourself a certain amount of each of the major macros every day, based on your overall calorie goal, and then you consume various foods as long as they stay inside the limits you set for these macros. 

But if you happen to consume too many (or too little) of your given macros for the day, should you make up for the difference the next day?

If you’re macros-focused when it comes to your diet, you’re likely very in tune with the numbers game of macronutrients. And if you’re adhering to a macros plan, more power to you— research shows that people who are aware of and track macros tend to be more successful in weight loss endeavors. 

But what about those off days, cheat days, or holidays when your macros intake is less than perfect? Do you find yourself feeling guilty and wondering if you should adjust your macros for the rest of the week? 

Here’s the thing: as long as you return to your macros plan and don’t let one day of indulgence turn into a week (or month!) of consistent overeating, then you shouldn’t need to adjust your macros. Just get back on track and resume counting those macros— everything will balance out in the end. 

And if it really threw your macros off for the week, then take a look at your total macros intake for the week and make adjustments accordingly. From there, just keep pressing forward towards those fitness goals.

If you happen to consume too many or too little of any given macros on your day off, this doesn’t mean that you have to make up the difference. It just means you should do your best to get back on track as fast as you can.

If you find yourself overindulging on your day off, there’s no need to worry. Although it’s important to stick to your macros in order to hit your fitness goals, one day of overeating isn’t going to make a significant difference in the long run. 

It’s also important to remember that macros are a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. If you go over or under your macros on occasion, it’s not the end of the world. The most important thing is to be consistent with your diet and exercise routine over the long term.

When it comes down to it, consistency will always beat perfection. 

Whenever you’re following a macros diet, it’s important to be as consistent as possible. That means that if you have a cheat day or a day where you don’t hit your macros goals, you shouldn’t freak out. Instead, just do your best to get back on track as soon as possible. That doesn’t mean you need to make up for the macros you missed, it just means you should try to hit your goals for the next day. If you’re consistently following your macros diet, one off day won’t make a big difference in the long run. So don’t stress about it and just get back on track as soon as you can.

If you’re serious about counting your macros and achieving your fitness goals, you shouldn’t worry about adjusting your macros after an offday. 

Instead, you should take advantage of the opportunity and break down what exactly happened – why were your macros off, and how can you prepare for similar situations when they happen? 

Maybe you forgot to prep your meals, maybe you slept poorly and found yourself craving high-carb foods, or maybe you just had no energy on your day off. It doesn’t matter – if you find yourself missing your macro targets one day, don’t try to overcompensate the next. Just do your best to identify where you went wrong and make sure it doesn’t happen again. 

Counting macros isn’t for everyone, and while it allows for some flexibility, it absolutely requires a lot of accountability. 

You have to stay dedicated to the habit of doing it, and the best way to do this is not to overcompensate – it’s to stay consistent with whatever works for you.

A Healthy Transition Toward Intermittent Fasting

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Hey Angels and Alphas,

Intermittent fasting has become one of the most prominent (and actually research-backed) trends in the diet and fitness world. And with good reason! It has been touted to promote everything from weight loss to improved longevity. 

People who promote intermittent fasting often claim that it helps weight loss and can even boost your energy and mood. 

But if you’ve just decided to try intermittent fasting by limiting your eating to a certain timeframe (and you have trouble adjusting), it’s likely because this style of eating is different from your previous dietary habits. 

That’s why if you’re going to be making this transition, you have to be aware of all the most common mistakes people make when trying to implement it. Intermittent fasting has enormous benefits but must be done right. If not done right, you will not only fail to reap its benefits, but you will also negatively impact your entire relationship with food.

Let’s talk about some of the most common blunders people face when trying to adopt the intermittent fasting lifestyle, and what you can do to overcome these roadblocks.

#1 – REFRAIN FROM MAKING ANY DRASTIC CHANGES

Drastic changes are a massive no-no when it comes to anything related to dieting or training. Your body, mind, and soul will resist new things with all their capacity. And especially when it comes to changes as big as restricting your time window, you have to make sure you do this gradually and slowly. 

This is the only way you will provide your body with the time it needs to adapt to this new way of eating. If you don’t do this, you’re setting yourself up for failure, and you’re going to impact your entire relationship with food in a negative way.

If you normally eat every 3-4 hours and you’re used to snacking on the side, and then you suddenly shrink your eating period to an 8-hour window, you’ll feel hungry all the time and you’ll be very discouraged to continue. 

What you should do is gradually stretch out the number of meals you intake first to a 12-hour window, then a 10-hour window, and so on until you reach your desired destination.

#2 – DON’T OVEREAT WHEN YOU’RE DONE WITH YOUR FAST

This is a big problem for people experimenting with intermittent fasting because it can be easy to overeat when your initial fast ends. Especially if you’re someone who has rushed into intermittent fasting instead of gradually implementing it, your relationship with food will most definitely be impacted in a negative way. You will experience food cravings and you have to stop yourself from giving into them, especially near the end of your fast.

Whether it’s because you’re feeling ravenous or you want to justify making up for lost calories, overeating will definitely backfire on your weight loss efforts and cause a variety of other problems. If you want to avoid this, make sure you’re planning ahead. 

Prepare a healthy meal for when your fast ends and include ingredients such as healthy carbs, whole grains, lean proteins, and plenty of fruits and veggies.

#3 – STOP RELYING ON JUNK FOOD

Intermittent fasting focuses on when to eat, but largely ignores the importance of nutrient quality. 

If you’re experimenting with intermittent fasting, you still need the same nutrients you did before, so if you stick with processed foods instead of transitioning to whole foods that comprise a healthy, balanced diet, intermittent fasting won’t help you lose weight. 

If you’re going to be restricting the number of calories you consume or just restricting all your eating to a certain time window, you have to make sure that all the food you’re eating is of high quality. You can’t restrict your eating patterns and then continue consuming junk food that provides you with little-to-no quality. 

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