10 High-Fiber Foods You’ll Actually Enjoy Eating

To keep things moving down there, one nutrient is key. Yeah, you know the one we’re talking about: fiber. Considering most of us don’t get enough of the stuff—and no one likes being constipated—the more fiber, the better.

Loading up on fiber (at least 25 grams a day for women and 38 grams for men) doesn’t seem so appealing, though, when you think of Grandma’s advice: prunes. But how else are you supposed to get your daily fill? Luckily, you’ve got more options than you think.

Tune up your fiber intake—and your digestive health—with a few of these tasty, smooth moves-promoting foods. We promise you’ll never have to contemplate prunes again.

1. Avocados

Believe it or not, this ever-trendy green fruit happens to pack a hearty dose of fiber. One serving (about a third of a medium fruit) offers three grams of fiber for 80 calories, according to Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D., author of The MIND Diet.

Plus, they are incredibly versatile—so have some fun beyond your basic avocado toast! “Avocados are rich and delicious, yet mild in flavor, so they go well in many dishes,” she says. You can blend avocados into smoothies, whip them into puddings, put them in omelets or soups, or mash them into guacamole, she recommends.

2. Chickpeas

Everyone knows that beans are filled with fiber (you can thank the childhood song “beans, beans” for that), and chickpeas are just as good.

“Half a cup of cooked chickpeas is 130 calories, and provides seven grams of protein and a whopping six grams of fiber,” says Moon.

Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas, are super easy to use. Keep a few cans stocked in the pantry and you’ll have a quick add-in for soups and salads ready at all times, she says. You can also blend them into hummus or bake them with spices like turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, and onion for a zesty crunchy snack, she says.

3. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are super filling and fun to eat, thanks to the gooey-sticky texture they take on when they’re combined with a liquid. And they win bonus points because they’re also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help protect your heart, Moon says.

Two tablespoons of chia are 140 calories and provide a whopping 10 grams of fiber. Talk about small but mighty!

Try blending them into smoothies, mixing them into oatmeal, sprinkling them into salad dressings, or soaking them in almond milk to make chia pudding, suggests Moon, who likes topping chia pudding with fresh fruit.

4. Hemp Seeds

Hemp is another seed that brings on the fiber, texture, and healthy fats.

For 120 calories, three tablespoons of hemp seeds pack nine grams of fiber, says Kelly Jones, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., L.D.N. They also provide about 16 grams of protein along with key minerals like magnesium and iron.

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Jones likes adding whole hemp seeds to oatmeal, salads, fall soups (like butternut squash), and homemade energy bars.

5. Lentils

Perhaps one of the most powerful plant proteins out there, lentils are also loaded with good ‘ole fiber.

“Lentils are one of my favorite plan- based protein sources,” says Jones. A half-cup of green lentils contains 15 grams of fiber and nine grams of protein.

Related: 11 Meat-Free Meals That Still Pack Plenty Of Protein

And there are tons of delicious ways to cook with this pulse. Try mixing them with salad greens, veggies, and your favorite vinaigrette, or subbing them in for meet in tacos or chili, she suggests.

6. Pears

Throw a pear in your bag and you’re guaranteed to have a more satisfying and fiber-filled lunch. With six grams of fiber in a medium-sized pear, they pack more fiber than many other types of portable produce we snack on—including apples, which supply just shy of five grams per medium fruit.

Jones recommends adding pear slices to oatmeal, toast, or salads, or just eating the fruit fresh with some almonds. And, if you’re mixing together homemade trail mix, try adding dried pears, which offer 11 grams of fiber per 40-gram serving, she says.

7. Berries

Another high-fiber fruit option: berries. These naturally-sweet bursts of goodness are also some of the most nutritious eats out there, because they contain antioxidants that fight free radical damage and aging.

“Berries are a great source of fiber, and raspberries are especially high with four grams per half-cup,” says Adina Pearson, R.D.

Frozen berries are great for making smoothies or sauces for pancakes or waffles, or just mixing into yogurt or oatmeal, she says. And, of course, there’s nothing better than eating them fresh when they’re in season.

8. Pistachios

All nuts are rich in fiber, but pistachios have the highest fiber count of all, says Tanya Zuckerbrot M.S., R.D., bestselling author and founder of The F-Factor Diet.

A one-ounce serving of pistachios (about 49 kernels) is 159 calories and offers three grams of fiber, she says.

Related: Stock up on a variety of nuts for healthy, satisfying snacking on the go.

Zuckerbrot likes to add crushed pistachios to salads for crunch or sprinkle them into yogurt or oatmeal. These nuts are also a great travel snack—just portion out one serving size into a baggie, she says.

9. Brussels Sprouts

One of our go-to’s for veggie side dishes, Brussels sprouts offer almost four grams of fiber per cup—for just about 40 calories. (Not to mention they also contain about four grams of protein, too.)

If you have any distaste for Brussels leftover from childhood, try balsamic-roasted sprouts, says Zuckerbrot. “Cut the Brussels sprouts in half, toss them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper, and roast at 425 degrees for 25 minutes,” she says.

Or, make a salad by shredding Brussels sprouts in the food processor and mixing the shreds with toasted slivered almonds, grated Parmesan cheese, and a dressing of fresh lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper, she suggests.

10. Edamame

A terrific plant-protein, edamame (a.k.a. soy beans) are also high in fiber to keep cravings at bay and boost your digestive system, says Zuckerbrot.

A one-cup serving of the green beans clocks in at about 190 calories, with an impressive eight grams of fiber and 17 grams of protein, she says.

Steamed edamame makes for a delicious high-fiber and high-protein snack or appetizer, says Zuckerbrot. You can even add a little sea salt or soy sauce for extra flavor. You can also buy them shelled and add them into stir-fries or Asian-inspired chicken salads, she says.

Pin this infographic to ensure you’re noshing on enough fiber throughout the day!

What Exactly Is ‘Metabolic Conditioning’?

Workouts touted as ‘metabolic conditioning,’ or ‘met-con,’ are popping up in gyms and studios everywhere. The science-y term definitely sounds cool (and maybe even makes us want to sign up for that new class), but what does it actually mean?

In non-scientist speak, ‘metabolic conditioning’ is a type of workout specifically designed to boost our body’s ability to make and use energy. These workouts help our bodies work more efficiently, so we can exercise at higher intensities, burn fat for fuel, and see better muscle gains and fat loss over time.

Here’s everything you need to know about the increasingly trendy training style, how it works, and how to tell if you’re already doing it (you might be!).

How Met-Con Training Works

Basically, there are three ways your body can produce and use energy: the phosphagen system (which covers quick, max-intensity work), the, glycolytic system (which covers moderate-intensity work), and the aerobic system (which covers long-duration, lower-intensity work). The point of met-con training is to challenge these systems so they become more efficient, helping you develop different aspects of your fitness, like power, muscular endurance, and cardiovascular ability, says Todd Nief, CF-L3, head coach and founder of South Loop Strength and Conditioning, a CrossFit studio in Chicago.

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Your body relies on the phosphagen system when you perform super quick, powerful exercises like all-out sprints or Olympic lifts. These rigorous exercises may last just 10 seconds or so, but require at least a few minutes of rest afterward because they’re so intense.

Your body relies on the glycolytic system when you perform more moderate exercise, like running intervals or lifting weights. You can perform these moves for about a minute or so and will need to rest for about twice that time.

And lastly, your body relies on the aerobic system when you perform lower-intensity exercises like running or biking at a pretty comfortable pace. You can perform at this level for at least a few minutes at a time and may only need a few seconds of recovery between sets.

What Met-Con Workouts Actually Look Like

Tons of workouts fall into the met-con category, including anything that’s labeled as HIIT, bootcamp-style class, and (probably the most iconic) CrossFit® classes, says David A. Greuner, M.D., F.A.C.S., F.I.C.S., of NYC Surgical Associates, who specializes in fitness and sports medicine.

Related: 9 CrossFit® Workouts You Can Do Pretty Much Anywhere

Typically you’ll rotate through a bunch of different exercises (like burpees, box jumps, and squats) and use different types of equipment (like kettlebells and rowing machines) for set periods of work and recovery. Which exercises you perform, how long you perform them for, how long you rest, and how long you work for overall determine which of your energy systems you’re really challenging, Nief explains.

Often, met-con workouts involve a variety of different work and rest intervals to challenge all of your energy systems, explains Greuner. (Cardio and strength training in one!) But the beauty of met-con is that every workout is a little different, and if you want to focus on a specific goal, you can! For example, a workout that emphasizes quick all-out sprints or lifts will develop power, while one that emphasizes longer intervals of rowing or lifting will develop endurance.

Because met-con workouts are designed to push your energy systems to the max, as long as you give work intervals your all you can see results without spending hours in the gym, Greuner says.

That said, met-con training demands a lot of your body, so start out slow when adding it to your routine. If you’re not used to high-intensity workouts, jumping right into met-con can leave you incredibly sore, burnt out, and increase your risk for injury, he says. Start with one or two sessions per week and add a third after you can crush and recover from those two weekly workouts.

Related: Add a recovery supplement to your routine to maximize the benefits of your workouts.

‘Mindful Eating’ Is Everywhere—Here’s How To Actually Do It

In the era of 10-second Snapchats and endless digital notifications, it can be tough to slow down—especially when it comes to eating. We often find ourselves scarfing down some sort of breakfast on the commute into work or devouring lunch at our desk between meetings.

No good can come of this. For one, we disconnect from act of eating, limit enjoyment of our food, and lose the ability to register our body’s appetite and fullness. And this mindless approach can cause us to pack on the pounds over time, says Emily Kyle, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N.

Enter mindful eating, which promises freedom from diet rules and food stress, and encourages naturally healthier habits, she says. If you can figure out how to do it, that is.

What ‘Mindful Eating’ Really Means

Mindful eating is all about the mind-body connection. By tuning into how hungry you really are, the stimuli around you that may affect your meal, how you’re feeling, and what you really want to eat, you can become a more aware and balanced eater, Kyle explains.

“By turning our attention to how we feel physically and emotionally throughout a meal, we can learn more about what our bodies want and need from the food we consume,” she says. The more aware we become of our eating behaviors and patterns, the better we are able to control portions, keep from overeating, and maintain a healthy weight.

“Mindful eating is not about eating ‘perfectly’ all the time,” she says. “It’s about learning to listen to our bodies’ wants and desires and explore how those wants and desires make us feel physically and emotionally.” So, when we can quiet our cravings, slow down, and tune into our body, emotions, and the eating experience, we can better approach eating from a place of self-acceptance, health, and positivity.

4 Ways To Eat More Mindfully

Mindful eating sounds pretty great, right? After all, who doesn’t want to feel free and balanced about their food? Here are the experts’ four best pieces of advice to help you get there.

1. Check in with yourself before eating.

That glazed donut in the office might be staring at you, but before you grab it, ask yourself if you need it. If the answer is yes, go for it. If not, keep on walking. Regardless of your decision, asking yourself this question gives you the space to really think about your decisions instead of making food choices based on impulse, explains Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club.

“I always encourage my clients to ask themselves, ‘Does my body need this?’ before they eat something,” says Harris-Pincus. It’s okay if you make the choice to eat it, she says. If so, own it, savor it, and move on.

More often than not, though, asking yourself this question will help you make better choices. “It really creates enthusiasm for nutritious foods and discourages us from eating foods with empty calories,” Harris-Pincus says.

Related: Not All Calories Are Created Equal—Here’s Why

A few other questions Harris-Pincus recommends asking yourself before eating: Am I feeling tired? Stressed? Bored? Will I feel better or worse after eating?

One general rule of thumb: If you’re not hungry, don’t eat. Mindful eating is all about listening to your body, so you don’t have to eat lunch at noon just because it’s ‘lunchtime,’ says Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D. Eating only when you feel hungry will help you establish a healthier relationship with food and appetite, long-term.

If you’re ready to eat, continue this evaluative approach throughout your meal. Check in with yourself mid-meal by asking: Am I still hungry? Does my belly feel full? Am I still really tasting and enjoying this food? And, afterward, consider the following questions: Can I step away for 20 minutes to evaluate if I’m satisfied or still hungry? Was that an enjoyable meal?

Asking these questions will help you get into the routine of really connecting with your body and how you nourish it.

2. Eat without distractions.

At mealtime, turn off the television and put your phone down, so you can really focus on your meal and how you feel, says Rizzo. If you need some sort of ambiance, light a candle, put on some quiet music, or enjoy your meal with good company.

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“TV and technology keep us from really thinking about our food and hunger levels,” she says. “If we ditch the screens, it’s much easier to listen to our bodies and be mindful about our meal.”

3. Really ‘taste’ your food.

When you sit down to eat, take it bite by bite. “Think of eating like a wine tasting,” says Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D., author of The MIND Diet. You want to take your time and experience your food.

“Look at the food on your fork, smell it, appreciate it,” says Moon. “Then place it in your mouth and just let it be. Try to identify all the flavors you’re experiencing. Then, chew slowly and completely, noticing how the bite changes in your mouth.” Honing in on each step of the eating process will help you slow down, savor each bite, and better identify when you feel satisfied.

To go even further, put your fork down between bites, she says. Allow yourself to look around, breathe, and be still throughout the meal. Your plate’s not going anywhere!

4. Keep a satiety log.

To really see your mindful eating progress over time, keep a journal of your food, appetite, and satiety levels.

Write down when and what you eat, how hungry you feel before eating (on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being ravenous), how full you feel afterward (on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being Thanksgiving-level stuffed, and what time you feel hungry again, Rizzo suggests.

By laying out all of your eats and satiety levels, you’ll be able to see if and when you eat for reasons other than hunger, like boredom or stress, which can be common, she says. The next time you’re tempted to eat impulsively, ask yourself if an apple would satisfy you. If you still want a chocolate donut instead, it’s a sure sign you’re dealing with cravings, not hunger. In these moments, distract yourself by taking a walk, listening to music, popping in a stick of gum, or calling a friend or family member, Rizzo suggests.

The more you can acknowledge and accept the emotions or triggers that lead you toward food, the more you can separate hunger and cravings, and the more mindful and temptation-free you can become, she says.

Related: Sip away cravings with a mug of soothing herbal tea.

Your Guide To Cooking With Healthy Oils

Olive, peanut, canola, coconut… There are so many cooking oils out there, it can be hard to figure out which to use—especially if you’re trying to eat healthy.

To spare you from Googling “olive oil or canola oil?” during your next trip to the supermarket, we asked a few dietitians to weigh in on the best and worst oils for your health—along with how to properly use them. The right oil can not only do your body good, but it can also take that garden salad or stir-fry to a whole new level of deliciousness.

Before we get to the good stuff, take note of the not-so-friendly oils out there…

The Bad

First things first: Steer clear of any oils identified as ‘partially-hydrogenated.’ (Note: these are commonly vegetable oils.) These fats, which are chemically altered to have longer shelf lives, are sources of the infamous trans fat. You’ve probably heard that trans fats are no good, and that’s because these artificial fats have been linked to inflammation, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke, says bestselling author Tanya Zuckerbrot, M.S., R.D. They’re so bad that the FDA is rolling out regulations to have them completely removed from foods by 2018—but for now, look out! Most foods remove trans fats even margarine. By 2018 FDA has ruled all trans fats banned from foods.

The Iffy

Other oils you need to be careful not to overdo it with: those high in saturated fats, such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oil. “Coconut oil is made up of about 90 percent saturated fat, palm kernel oil about 85 percent, and palm oil about 50 percent,” says Zuckerbrot. While saturated fats play a number of roles in the body, eating them in excess can raise LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol levels, which increases your risk for heart attack and stroke, she explains.

Related: Finally, The Truth About Coconut Oil

For that reason, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that 10 percent or less of our daily calories come from saturated fat. So if you eat 2,000 calories a day, that’s a max of 200 calories (or about 22 grams) of saturated fat per day—about two tablespoons-worth of coconut oil.

You can certainly benefit from eating saturated fat in moderation. Coconut oil, in particular, offers two beneficial components: lauric acid and medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which may help to raise HDL (‘good’) cholesterol and boost our metabolisms, respectively. Just don’t consider it your ‘staple’ oil.

The Good

Most experts recommend opting for unsaturated fats—which support heart health and reduce inflammation—over saturated fats whenever possible. There are two types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

“Monounsaturated fats have been linked to reducing LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol and triglycerides, while raising HDL (‘good’) cholesterol levels,” says Zuckerbrot. Plant-based oils high in monounsaturated fats include olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, and sesame oil. Avocado oil is also high in monounsaturated fats—and it’s becoming more and more popular. The oil made from our favorite green fruit also offer vitamin E, which helps keep skin healthy, says Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D.N., author of The MIND Diet.

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Polyunsaturated fats also offer health benefits—with two particular fatty acids in the spotlight: omega-3s and omega-6s. “These two essential polyunsaturated fatty acids are found in plant oils and play a crucial role in brain function and normal growth and development,” says Zuckerbrot.

Related: All The Things You Didn’t Know Omega-3s Could Do For Your Health

Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in flaxseed, walnut, and cod liver oil, while omega-6 fatty acids can be found in soybean, safflower, sunflower, and grapeseed oil. “We need a balance of both types of essential fatty acids,” says Zuckerbrot. Here’s the thing, though: The average American gets plenty of omega-6s and not enough omega-3s, which are especially important for cognitive function, a healthy heart, and reducing inflammation, Zuckerbrot says. So if you don’t eat fish, grass-fed beef, eggs, walnuts, flax seeds, or chia seeds regularly, try to pick omega-3-containing oils whenever possible.

How To Cook With Healthy Oils

So which healthy oil do you use when? First and foremost, the method of cooking that you’re using will help you pick.

If you’re pan-frying, for example, you need an oil with a higher smoke point (above 375 degrees), says Elizabeth Ann Shaw, M.S., R.D.N., C.L.T. (Once an oil starts to smoke, it becomes ineffective, wrecks the flavor of your dish, produces harmful fumes and free radicals and may even set off your smoke detectors…) If you’re just sautéing something though, Shaw recommends a mild-flavored oil with a lower smoke point. For baking? A neutral-flavored oil. Dressings or drizzles? Something with a stronger flavor.

For Frying: When you need to crank up the heat, certain oils will work better than others. Some of your best options: avocado oil (smoke point of 520 degrees), safflower oil (smoke point of 450 degrees), and canola oil (smoke point of 400 degrees).

These oils all have a mild flavor, so they won’t take the spotlight away from your other ingredients. Moon likes using avocado oil to sear chicken breast or salmon, and make avocado or veggie tempura fries.

Related: Stock your pantry with a variety of healthy oils for all your cooking and baking needs.

Sesame and peanut oil also have high smoke points (410 degrees and 450 degrees, respectively), so they’re safe for high-heat cooking—but they’ll also add an extra layer of flavor. Zuckerbrot likes using them in Asian-inspired dishes.

For Sautéing Or Roasting: Zuckerbrot also likes canola oil for sautéing or roasting because its neutral flavor lets the flavor of your food shine through. Similarly, mild-flavored avocado oil also works well for sautéing veggies or making eggs, says Moon.

Stir-frying veggies? Sesame oil can add robust Asian-inspired flavor and take the meal to the next level, says Zuckerbrot.

Olive oil is another popular choice for the sauté pan or roasting sheet—just keep in mind that extra-virgin olive oil has a lower smoke point of 320 degrees. But despite its low smoke point, EVOO offers more brain, heart, and skin benefits than more refined olive oils, so it’s still worth picking, Zuckerbrot says.

For Baking: Coconut oil, walnut oil, and canola oil are all great options for baked goods. Coconut oil’s nutty flavor works particularly well in cakes and frostings, says Shaw. Since it has a bolder flavor though, consider using walnut or canola oil in milder recipes. Zuckerbrot likes using walnut oil in desserts like pound cake and cookies because of its nuttier flavor, which often becomes bitter when heated too much in other cooking methods.

For Dressings, Drizzles, And Extra Flavor: Looking for a milder oil to use for a simple, healthy salad dressing? Zuckerbrot likes pairing walnut, olive, and grapeseed oils with herbs to top fresh greens with. Grapeseed oil tastes light and a little sweet, while olive oil can vary from floral to fruity to herbal to bitter, depending on the variety, says Moon. Try drizzling your favorite olive oil over grains and salads or adding it to basic soups and sauces.

And, of course, peanut and sesame oils also add tons of flavor to Asian-style dressings and sauces, whether you’re topping fish, chicken, or a salad.

The Right Balance

While these healthy oils do offer some benefits, they’re still calorically dense. All fats, including oils, contain nine calories per gram, Zuckerbrot says. (That’s twice as calorically dense as carbs and protein.) One tablespoon of any oil—healthy pick or not—is about 135 calories. To prevent over-oiling, try putting your favorite oils in spray bottles to coat pans, baking sheets, veggies for roasting, or salads.

Save this infographic for a quick cooking oil reference:

How Much Does One Night Of Pigging Out Really Affect Your Body?

When a scoop of ice cream turns into a pint, or a slice of pizza turns into four, we’ve probably all asked ourselves, ‘What have I done?’ And, often, we feel pretty dang guilty.

But does the once-in-a-blue-moon pig-out really affect more than our conscience?

Breathe easy—you can’t actually gain weight from just one double cheeseburger, nacho fries, and a chocolate milkshake kind of meal. So nix the guilt, enjoy your indulgence, and resume a healthy diet the next morning, says Kelly R. Jones M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., L.D.N. “With 3,500 calories in a pound, it would take a very unhealthy binge to gain real weight in one sitting,” she says.

But, still, that doesn’t mean a night of junk doesn’t affect your body in other ways.

What Qualifies As A Pig-Out?

You’re probably wondering exactly how many calories it takes before a treat turns into an all-out nosh fest. We all have individual calorie requirements, but it’s safe to say that eating 1,000 calories in one sitting qualifies as a pig out, says Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D.N., author of The MIND Diet.

And it’s easier to get there than you might think. A big drive-thru burger with a medium fries and soda comes in close to 1,100 calories, while even salads at some chain restaurants break that 1,000-calorie mark, says Moon. Yep, we’ve definitely done it more than a handful of times.

Why You Feel So Crappy After A Pig Out

Immediately post pig-out, you’ll probably deal with an array of digestive issues. (Let’s be real: You might start feeling crummy even before you put your fork down.) Big meals slow your digestion, so your food spends extra time processing in your system, and often makes you gassy, Moon says.

And then there’s the heartburn. “The stomach secretes hydrochloric acid to begin the digestive process and to kill as much bacteria as it can before the food moves on through the digestive system,” Jones says. The more food you eat the more acid you produce, and some of that extra acid can find its way back up the esophagus and cause discomfort, she says.

As your body calls all-hands-on-deck to digest your junk, it sends more blood to your GI tract, which means less blood is available to transport oxygen and nutrients to other parts of your body, Moon says. This can leave you feeling sluggish and maybe even light-headed, she says.

And, beyond the stomach upset, an all-out eat fest will spike your blood sugar—especially if your food was high in carbs or sugar—giving you a quick energy boost. When your blood sugar rises like this, you release the hormone insulin, which ensures the nutrients you’ve consumed are taken up by our cells to be used, Moon says. But when you overeat, you release too much insulin, which signals to your body that you don’t need all of the energy as fuel—and so you store some as fat. And as quickly as that blood sugar rises, it crashes—making you feel like a sloth.

This barrage of discomfort often leads to a crummy night of sleep, especially if you have acid reflux. “Lying down after eating a big meal can really exacerbate your discomfort,” she says. And the aftermath of that poor sleep can throw off your entire next day.

All the insulin that your pancreas churned out the night before can actually set off hunger cues and eventually make you feel even hungrier than you were before. “This can obviously lead to overeating,” Moon explains. And when your blood sugar dips too low after spiking, you may experiences headaches, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and brain fog, because your body needs glucose (a.k.a. sugar) to fuel itself, she says.

Related: Is Sugar Really All That Bad For You?

Finally, while that one trip through the drive-thru won’t make you actually gain a pound of fat, it will lead a couple pounds of bloating and water retention, says Moon. So when you step on the scale the next morning and notice it ticks upwards, it’s because your body is holding onto water after taking in excess fats, salt, and sugar. Basically, when there’s too much sodium in your system, for example, your body retains water to dilute its concentration, she says.

What Are The Long-Term Effects?

An occasional Saturday night pizza run with friends won’t do much damage, but if pig-outs become a habit, you may be in for some pretty gnarly side effects.

Like, yes, stretching your stomach. “The average stomach is about the size of a fist and can hold less than a cup when empty, but it can expand about five times that size to hold more than four cups of food and drink,” says Moon. YIKES. Pigging out too often and stretching out your stomach can actually disrupt your hunger and stopping-point cues, which can lead to a cycle of overeating, she says.

Plus, when you chronically spike your blood sugar levels, you promote fat storage, says Jones. This weight gain may increases your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, Moon adds. Basically, when you put too much demand on your pancreas to churn out insulin over and over again, it struggles, leading to higher blood sugar—a condition known as insulin resistance, she explains.

Going too hard on the junk food too often can also change the bacteria in the gut, which can lead to worsened digestion over time, Moon explains. Whole foods—especially plant foods that contain fiber—are the ideal food for the good bacteria in your gut, she says. That pint of ice cream or cheese-steak? Not so much.

Perhaps most scarily, eating super large meals at night can increase your risk of obesity and heart disease, says Moon. (Sad but true: A recent review published in Nutrients supports backs this up.)

Get Back To Business

When your eat fest is over, the best thing you can do is move on. Moon recommends doing 15 minutes of light exercise, whether it’s a walk or light housework, and sipping on water, which can move digestion along after you’ve let your belly settle enough to get moving.

Also, stay away from booze, which can further delay digestion and make you hungrier, she adds. Spend the next few days loading up on high-fiber foods (like fruits and vegetables) and water to nourish your body, keep your digestive tract chugging along, and flush out your system, Moon says. As long as you get your healthy eating back on track, any water weight you gained after noshing should disappear, says Jones.

Related: Try a fiber supplement to help get things moving. 

Keep in mind that while some people might recover in 24 hours, others might need up to three days to get rid of the sugar, salt, and carb bloat, says Jones. Sticking to clean eats and being mindful of your body and how it responds will help you bounce back from your pig-out and keep you from going overboard in the future.

So You’ve Lost The Weight—Now What?

If you’ve been watching what you eat and getting your sweat on to tone up and slim down, you deserve some major kudos when you hit your goal—whether that’s fitting into your favorite pair of jeans, setting a new personal best in the gym, or just feeling more confident in your own skin. But once you cross that major goal off your to-do list, you may wonder: Now what?

Hustling to get those strong, toned legs or slim midsection was hard—and now that you’ve got ‘em, you want to keep ‘em! At this point, you’re entering what’s called the ‘maintenance phase.’ That means staying smart about eating healthy choices and working out so you can hold onto your hard-earned progress forever and ever.

Here, experts share the next-steps that will help you eat and train to make your recent health accomplishments sustainable.

The Food: Fuel Yourself Right

When it comes to your grub, take a flexible but focused approach. Turning down ice cream, a glass of vino, or an extra-cheesy slice of pizza 24/7 is just exhausting. Besides, you can maintain your weight and enjoy the good stuff as long as you indulge with a strategy. Take an 80:20 approach to your eats: Focus on nutrition and eating for your goals 80 percent of the time, and on enjoying your favorite indulgences the other 20 percent. That might mean having a piece of dark chocolate after dinner every night, or saving treats for a special meal on the weekends, Trattner explains. Go with whichever approach keeps you sane and satisfied.

And whether you’re eating for your goals or for the pure bliss of your go-to comfort meal, keep an intuitive attitude. Any successful weight management nutrition plan should focus on hunger cues over calories, says dietitian Ilyse Schapiro M.S., R.D., C.D.N. Eat when you feel hungry and stop when you’re about 80 percent full so you don’t get stuffed or end up overeating. Also, keep proper portions in mind, she says. This way you can eat in moderation, indulge occasionally, and stay healthy and trim.

During that 80 percent of your eating (when you’re focused on clean eats and fueling your body right), be sure to eat a balance of lean protein, healthy fats, complex carbs, fiber, and drink plenty of water. Schapiro recommends eating 30 to 50 percent of your calories from carbs, 25 to 35 percent from protein, and 25 to 35 from fat for weight maintenance.

A food-tracking app, like MyFitnessPal, can help you understand how much of your total calories come from which macronutrient (carbs, protein, and fat), but the following guidelines should land you in that healthy balance.

Protein: Eat at least three servings of protein a day, recommends weight-loss specialist Elizabeth Trattner A.P., L.Ac., N.C.C.A.O.M. Healthy options include four to six ounces of fish or lean chicken, three to four ounces of red meat, a cup of unsweetened plain Greek yogurt, an ounce of nuts, and two tablespoons of nut butter. Eating ample protein is huge for weight management because it’ll keep you feeling full and help prevent mindless munching throughout the day, she explains.

Produce: Shoot for seven to 11 servings of produce—about eight servings of veggies and three of fruit—per day, Trattner says. And the more green veggies the better. Eat a variety of veggies, such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach, kale, and carrots, and enjoy fruits like apples, berries, pears, kiwi, and bananas. The great thing about fruits and veggies? They add lots of volume—but not a lot of calories—to your meals.

Fruits and veggies are packed with fiber, which slows your digestion and keeps you satiated, and helps keep your bathroom time regular, Trattner says. She recommends shooting for up to 40 or 50 grams of fiber per day.

Related: Add a supplement to your routine to get your daily fiber fill.  

Healthy Fats: Aim for three to four servings of healthy fat per day, she recommends. (Think half an avocado, ten olives, or one ounce of walnuts). Like protein and fiber, healthy fats also help us feel satiated—plus, unsaturated fats (like those in olive oil and nuts) are heart-healthy, according to Harvard Medical School.

Carbs: We may think of carbs as lean physique enemy number one, but that’s not necessarily the case. Our muscles store carbs for energy so we can power through workouts (as well as recover from them!) and move throughout the day, Trattner explains.

Related: Are You Eating Too Few Carbs?

To get the most fiber—and other nutrients—possible, eat your carbs from complex, whole-food sources, like quinoa, whole-wheat bread, black beans, sweet potatoes, root vegetables, and squash, says Trattner. Start with a quarter to a half a cup at each meal and gauge how you feel. If you trudge through your workouts and feel fatigued often, you may need to add more.

Water: Drinking enough water helps keep you regular, prevents you from eating when you’re not really hungry, and can ward off swelling and bloating, Trattner says, She recommends drinking at least 64 ounces of plain water, oolong, green, white, or herbal tea, or seltzer water per day.

The Workouts: Sweat With A Purpose

Nutrition is super important for weight management, but it needs a trusty sidekick. Enter exercise.

Chances are, regular dates with the gym were a big part of your get-fit journey—and you will need to keep up with them to maintain your fitness long-term. But if you hate working out every day, don’t worry, you should be able to hold onto your results with three or four solid workouts a week, says Andrea Fornarola, C.P.T. and founder of Elements Fitness Studio in NYC.

To make sure those three or four workouts get the job done, though, you’ll need to mix them up and give them your all. “Mixing interval training, cardio, and strength training and toning is your best bet,” says Fornarola. You might go for a run or do intervals on the treadmill in one workout, lift weights in the next, and take a Pilates class in the last, she suggests. Not only will this variety keep you motivated and excited for your workouts, but it will also challenge your body in different ways so you’ll continue to adapt, get fitter, and continue to see results.

Strength training with moderate-to-heavy weights can help you build muscle, which boosts your metabolism and helps ward off fat-gain, says Fornarola. And the muscle you build gives your body more shape and definition. Focus on compound movements, like squats, that work multiple muscle groups at once, to get the most benefit. The bodyweight resistance you use in Pilates and yoga—and in exercises like pushups and bodyweight squats—can also help you build strength and endurance.

When it comes to cardio, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is a particularly effective way to reap major benefits without spending hours in the gym, she adds. By alternating between quick bursts of all-out effort and rest, you push your aerobic and muscle capacity to the limit, and burn a ton of calories in a short amount of time—and throughout the rest of the day. HIIT workouts offer more metabolic benefit for your time than steady-state cardio, which is a huge plus if you’re trying to maintain your weight.

Related: 7 HIIT Workouts That Incinerate Fat

Just limit HIIT to a few sessions a week, because the max effort required to charge through it (and recover) can lead to fatigue and muscle exhaustion if you hit it too often, she warns. But that doesn’t mean you need to give up steady cardio cold-turkey. Steady-state cardio still challenges your aerobic capacity (how efficiently your body can get oxygen to your working muscles) and puts less stress on your system than HIIT does, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Finding a balance of different types of training that you enjoy—and that fits your lifestyle—is key to staying active long-term.

The Max Amount Of Calories You Should Cut And Burn In A Day

If you’re on track to shed some serious pounds, you still need to watch your pace. (Insert inspirational ‘it’s a marathon, not a sprint’ quote here.) While it’s tempting to go all in, cut back on calories, and crank up your workouts, a hardcore approach to losing weight often leaves you stressed beyond belief and physically burnt out. And, dropping too many pounds too fast can actually backfire on your goals—and your health.

Do your grumbling tummy, your metabolism, and your waistline a favor: Read on to make sure your weight-loss pace is healthy and sustainable—and free yourself from the whiplash of ‘yo-yo dieting’ forever.

How Much Is Too Much?

The number of pounds you can safely lose per week depends on your body size—but for most people, losing more than one or two pounds a week is overdoing it, says Partha Nandi, M.D., F.A.C.P., leading physician and author of Ask Dr. Nandi.

“The more body fat you carry, the more you’ll be able to safely lose per week,” he says. Generally, you can lose about one percent of your total body weight per week, which is about a pound and a half per week for someone who weighs 150 pounds and two pounds a week for someone who weighs 200 pounds.

Crash Dieting 101

Losing more weight per week requires some extreme measures (like swearing off carbs and overdoing it at at the gym) that drive your willpower into the ground—and ultimately aren’t very healthy for your body, Nandi says.

Even when you’re doing it the healthy, slow-and-steady way, losing weight is a numbers game. To lose a pound a week, you need to create a 500-calorie daily deficit, according to Nandi. To bump that up to two pounds per week, you need a 1,000-calorie daily deficit.

In order to accomplish that, you need to consistently burn more calories in the gym and put less on your plate. So if you normally eat 2,000 calories a day, you’d need to cut 500 calories out of your grub and burn another 500 through exercise—every day.

That sounds tough enough as it is, right? To lose any more than that per week, you’d need to create a caloric daily deficit closer to 1,500 or 2,000 calories, which would likely require a dangerous combination of calorie restriction and over-exercising, Nandi says.

First of all, when you cut calories this hard, you end up missing out on the nutrients you need, he explains. But beyond falling short on important vitamins and minerals, you also don’t give your body the calories it needs to fuel your day, which becomes an even bigger problem if you’re cranking up your workouts, says LA-based celebrity trainer Astrid Swan.

Getting ample calories—and the carbs, fats, and protein they provide—is crucial for powering through and recovering from exercise. So if you try to go hard at the gym while on a very low-cal diet, chances are you’ll feel exhausted while you’re there, crazy sore afterwards, and possible even land yourself with an injury, she says.

Related: Not getting enough protein? Try a powder or bar.

And, ultimately, crash dieting wrecks your metabolism (which determines how many calories you need), backfiring on your weight-loss efforts, says Nandi. “Drastically cutting your calorie intake will slow your metabolism to a point where your calorie deficit is significantly smaller than what you planned it to be,” he explains. Basically when you give your body too few calories it adapts by slowing your metabolism down so you can survive on the calories you are getting. (Ever heard of ‘starvation mode’? Yeah, this is it.)

With that slower metabolism, your weight loss stalls—and you’ll put pounds back on as soon as you go back to your old ways. So begins the vicious cycle of “yo-yo dieting,” many people get trapped in, Nandi says.

Are You Digging Yourself Into A Calorie Deficit Hole?

If you’re losing weight too rapidly, your body will let you know. You’ll probably feel fatigued 24/7, and may notice a slew of digestive issues, like nausea, diarrhea, and constipation, says Nandi. You may also feel lightheaded and sick to your stomach when working out. These symptoms all indicate that your body is running on empty—and constipation in particular can signal that you’re not getting enough fiber or calories to keep things moving, Swan says.)

You may even have trouble sleeping and experience mood swings, according to Swan. Eating too little and exercising too much can affect your hormones and blood sugar, which then leave you tossing and turning at night and stressed out during the day. The stress on your body and the mental and emotional stress of depriving yourself and working so hard make for a slippery slope to feeling pretty terrible. In extreme cases, this stress can even make your hair fall out, says Swan.

Get Your Sanity—And Your ResultsBack

First things first, make sure you’re getting enough calories to lose weight safely. “The average woman needs to eat about 2,000 calories per day to maintain weight, and 1,500 calories per day to lose one pound per week,” says Nandi. “The average man needs about 2,500 calories to maintain, and 2,000 to lose a pound a week.”

Nandi recommends meeting with a dietitian or doc to determine how many calories you need for your body size, lifestyle, and goals. From there, you’ll begin to add calories back into your diet to ensure your body gets the nutrients it needs to thrive.

You may also need to rethink your workout routine. If you’re not taking a rest day, make sure to add one, says Swan. “When I am working with clients, they are shocked to see that when they eat more calories (and the correct nutrients), and take a rest day, their results improve,” she says.

Focus your workouts on strength training, which builds muscle and supports your metabolism, and turn to HIIT for cardio, so you can reap extra benefits in less time, Swan recommends.

Related: 7 Natural Ways To Kickstart Your Metabolism

 

8 Tips For Picking The Healthiest Packaged Foods Possible

We’ve all been told to eat lots of whole foods—like fruits, veggies, meat, poultry, and dairy—and to watch our intake of processed foods. But let’s be serious: Most of us aren’t about to blend up our own mayo. Avoiding supermarket aisles stocked with jars, bag, cans, and boxes just isn’t always doable.

When we buy food from a bag, box, or jar, it can be tricky to tell just how healthy (or unhealthy) it really is. After all, plenty of packaged foods contain terrifyingly long lists of ingredients, which often include preservatives and additives we don’t recognize and can’t pronounce. (What the heck is ‘dextrin,’ anyway?) Not to mention, many packaged foods come with a boatload of extra calories—on top of added sugars, fats, and sodium, says Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D.N.

To save you from spending 20 minutes trying to pick between two jars of tomato sauce or boxes of crackers, we asked dietitians for their supermarket navigation tips.

1. Check the sugar content.

Natural sugars that are found in whole foods like fruit and dairy have a place in a healthy diet, but sugars added to many packaged foods and drinks can lead to weight gain and health concerns, , says Amidor. So how much sugar a food contains—and whether it’s naturally-occurring or added—is something you’ll want to look at.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends limiting added sugars to just five percent of our total daily calories, which is 100 calories or 25 grams. So if a food contains more than 10 grams (or 40 calories) of added sugar per serving, it should probably be a no-go, Amidor says.

And don’t expect that added sugar to reveal itself willingly in the ingredient list: “Added sugars can show up on food and drink labels under names like anhydrous dextrose, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, crystal dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, liquid fructose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, pancake syrup, raw sugar, sugar, syrup and white sugar,” says Amidor. Yikes.

Related: Is Sugar Really All That Bad For You?

That said, you don’t necessarily have to nix a food because it contains a little added sugar. If the other ingredients are simple and offer health benefits like fiber or other nutrients, you can cut yourself some slack.

2. Feel out the fat.

One of the reasons packaged snacks can be so dang addicting: They contain added fat for enhanced flavor, says Amidor.

And while fat can be healthy (think of the unsaturated fats in avocados, nuts, and olive oil), many packaged foods are higher in saturated fats and contain trans fats.

Trans, or ‘hydrogenated’ fats have been linked to heart disease and should be avoided as much as possible, says Amidor. Meanwhile, the USDA 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting saturated fat to 10 percent or less of your daily calories, since excess consumption can affect cholesterol, she says.

So when you’re deciding between two packaged foods, compare the amounts of saturated fat per serving and go with the product that has less. Stay away from anything that contains 15 percent of your total daily allotment of saturated fat, Amidor suggests.

3. Beware insane amounts of salt.

The recommended daily max for sodium is 2,300 milligrams, or about one teaspoon of salt, but many packaged foods are bursting with the stuff, sometimes packing half your daily allowance in one serving.

Ideally, though, you want somewhere around 200 milligrams of sodium max per serving, says Benjamin White, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., L.D.N. So look for foods labeled ‘low-sodium’ or ‘no salt added’ and add flavor with herbs and spices at home.

4. Count the ingredients.

To keep your eats as clean as possible, pick packaged foods that contain as few ingredients as possible, says White. A food with few ingredients is less processed, and often healthier, than one with a long laundry list, he says.

And, since ingredients are listed in order of the amount contained in the food (high to low), looking at the first three can tell you a lot about what you’re eating, White adds. If one of the food’s first three ingredients is a sweetener, non-whole-grain flour, or oil, it’s probably not a great choice.

5. Do some quick nutrient math.

To make our snacks and meals as filling and waistline-friendly as possible, make sure they pack two things: fiber and protein. (You generally want at least three grams of fiber and seven grams of protein, White says.)

To figure out if a packaged food has enough of this good stuff to outweigh the bad stuff that may also be lurking, add up the grams of protein and fiber on the Nutrition Facts. Then add up the grams of total fat and sugar. If the total grams of protein and fiber are higher than the total grams of fat and sugar, you’re good to go, White says.

6. Look for added nutrients.

According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, there are four nutrients in particular that Americans fall short on: vitamin D, calcium, fiber, and potassium. (Vitamin D, calcium, and potassium are found in milk and many dairy products, while potassium and fiber can be found in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, according to Amidor.)

Related: 9 Nutrients You May Be Short On If You Don’t Eat Dairy

But since so many of us miss out on these four nutrients, they’re often added to packaged foods (like breakfast cereal) to help us get our fill. So if a food packs a boatload of these important nutrients despite having some rather unappealing qualities—like some added sugar—it might still be worth eating, she says. Just make sure the food provides at least 10 to 19 percent of your daily value of one or more of these nutrients per serving.

7. Cut out artificial colors and flavors.

You’ll want to avoid as much artificial anything as possible, and nixing artificial colors and flavors is a good place to start. “Color additives are used for aesthetic purposes, and do not provide any nutritional value to the food,” says Amidor. The same goes for artificial flavors. So go ahead and leave that cupcake icing colored with ‘blue number whatever’ or artificially-flavored nacho chips on the shelf.

8. When in doubt, use an app.

If you just can’t decide whether to put a product in your cart or leave it on the shelf, let your phone do the thinking for you. An app like the Environmental Working Group’s Food Scores, gives you quick feedback on the overall quality of a food, says White. “The app gives a rating for thousands of foods based on their nutritional value, ingredients of concern (like additives), and the extent to which they’re processed,” he says. The closer to a rating of ‘1,’ the more worthy the food.

Related: Check out a selection of packaged staples and snacks that keep your health in mind.

Pair These Nutrients Together For Maximum Absorption

It’s important to get your greens in, but keeping a healthy diet doesn’t always mean you’re getting all of the nutrients you need. Some nutrients actually maximize or interfere with one another’s function within your body—so depending on what you eat and when, you may be boosting or missing out on the benefits of those healthy foods (and supplements!).

To get the full nutrient bang for your buck and prevent wasting any of the good stuff, you’ll want to pair some nutrients together and avoid eating others together.

Perfect Pairings


There’s a reason you find many bone support supplements combining vitamin D and calcium. These two nutrients work together in our bodies, says Rebecca Lewis, M.S., R.D.N., dietitian for HelloFresh.

Here’s what’s going on: “The majority of the calcium in our body is stored in our bones, and vitamin D helps absorb, carry, and deposit that calcium into our bones,” she says. So if you’re short on vitamin D, your body won’t be able to carry the calcium into the bones to be absorbed and stored, she adds.

Vitamin D can be found in animal-based foods like eggs, fatty fish, dairy, and fish oils, while calcium can be found in dairy, beans, and kale, she says. You can knock out both of these nutrients at once by eating dairy—but otherwise try to pair calcium-rich foods with vitamin D-rich foods. (Good to know: A lot of foods, like milks and cereals, are fortified with vitamin D.)

Another way to better absorb calcium: Pair it with inulin-type fructans (a type of nondigestible carb), suggests research published in The Journal of Nutrition. You can find insulin-type fructans in wheat germ, bananas, garlic, onions, and leeks. So consider adding some wheat germ or banana slices to your morning yogurt.


In addition to pairing vitamin D with calcium, one of the best ways to increase your absorption is to ensure you are getting enough dietary fat, says Andrea Conner, M.P.H., R.D.N., C.D.E.

“Vitamin D is fat-soluble, meaning it needs fat to be absorbed,” says Conner. For that reason, she always recommends pairing vitamin D-rich foods with a high-quality fat, like olive oil, flax seeds, avocado, fish, chia seeds, or nuts. Just a couple teaspoons of oil or a handful of nuts will do the trick, she says.

Those healthy fats will also help you get the most benefit from carotenoid-packed foods (think yellow, orange, and red produce, like peppers, carrots, and tomatoes), according to research out of Ohio State University. The fats make plant compounds like beta-carotene (which we convert into vitamin A) and lycopene more available to our body.

Related: 7 Fatty Foods That Are Good For Your Health


Iron can both enhance and mess with the absorption of other nutrients, says Kelly R. Jones M.S., R.D.N., C.S.S.D., L.D.N. So, while the mineral is a pretty important staple in our diet, what you eat iron with is especially important. 

The biggest concern about iron absorption is whether you’re getting it from plant or animal sources. “Iron from animal foods, like beef, is much more absorbable than iron from plant foods, like spinach, beans, and whole grains,” says Jones. That’s because other factors in plant-based sources can inhibit your uptake of iron—like oxalic acid in spinach, she says. So vegetarians and vegans who get their iron from plant-based sources should be extra vigilant about what they eat it with.

This is where vitamin C comes in handy, Jones says. (You’ll find vitamin C in all sorts of citrus fruits, red peppers, kale, and broccoli.) The vitamin enhances your absorption of iron, so Jones recommends that vegetarians pair the two together whenever possible. “It can be as simple as adding lemon juice to their water while eating a plant-based meal,” Jones suggests. Or just make sure vitamin C-containing veggies make it onto your plate along with those beans or whole grains.


As with iron, any acidic food can also help increase your absorption of vitamin B12, says Jones.

“We all produce stomach fluid in response to hunger and smelling and eating food, and part of that stomach juice is hydrogen chloride, which helps us break down protein and absorb B12,” explains Jones. Adding acidic foods, like vitamin C-containing citrus fruits, can help boost the acid in your stomach needed to absorb that B12, which is found in organ meats, fish, eggs, and feta cheese. Jones likes to spritz lemon on fish or add it to salad dressings to help that B12 get to where it needs to go. You can also sip on some apple cider vinegar and water to boost that acid, she suggests.

 

Sparring Sources


All three of these nutrients are essential for a healthy diet, but they can interfere with one another’s absorption if consumed together in high amounts, says Jones.

“Because the same receptors in the digestive tract absorb zinc, iron, and copper, if there is an excess of one nutrient, it crowds out the others from making it through the intestinal wall,” she explains.

You know you’ll find iron in meats, spinach, beans, and whole grains. But what about copper and zinc? Copper is found in shellfish, organ meats, whole grains, beans, and nuts, while zinc is found in oysters, red meat, and poultry. You’ll want to avoid eating too much of these foods at one time, but the real concern here is with iron supplements. If you take an iron supplement, leave a few hours between popping your pill and eating a meal that includes zinc or copper-containing foods, says Jones. She recommends taking your supplement with a piece of fruit, crackers and hummus, or avocado toast, which are all low in zinc and copper.


Like with copper and zinc, iron competes with calcium to be absorbed in your intestines, so these two minerals reduce each other’s uptake in your body. (And this impairment can occur in either supplement or food form, according to research published in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research.)

The competition between these two nutrients is particularly serious for people with certain health conditions. Many people with anemia are told to avoid taking their iron supplements for up to four hours after eating something high in calcium (like a bowl of yogurt or cottage cheese), says Jones. Similarly, women with osteoporosis should avoid taking calcium supplements within a few hours of eating foods high in iron (like beef, spinach, or beans.)

So, you might want to consider avoiding combos that go heavy on meat and cheese, especially if you’re suffering from one of these health conditions.


Sadly, there are a couple circumstances in which you should turn down avocado toast: If you’ve just taken a vitamin K supplement or noshed on a bunch of cruciferous veggies. Why? Vitamin E (which is found in avocado) can mess with vitamin K (which is found in cruciferous veggies and many supplements).

“Excess amounts of vitamin E can actually reduce the absorption of vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting, calcium metabolism, and bone mineralization,” says Elizabeth Ann Shaw, M.S., R.D.N., C.L.T. While moderate amounts in combination—like spinach (vitamin K) and oil-based salad dressing (vitamin E)— shouldn’t do much harm, higher doses can be problematic, she says. Just be sure to stick to a tablespoon of oil in your salad dressing, she adds.

Foods rich in vitamin E include wheat germ oil, grains, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, avocado, and dried prunes, while veggies, like broccoli, kale, spinach, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts are high in vitamin K.

Related: Check out a number of vitamins, minerals, and other supplements to fill in nutritional gaps.

It’s Super-Trendy To Strength Train Underwater—Should You Try It?

Waterlogged strength training is trending this summer, boasting a low-impact way to boost your heart rate and build muscle. So should you swap your usual workouts for underwater jump lunges and pistol squats?

Strength training and swimming both have their own clear benefits, so combining them can certainly lead to a solid workout, says Tyler Spraul, C.S.C.S.

Consider the benefits of strength training: When you put resistance on your muscles—whether it’s your body weight in a pushup or a barbell in a squat—you trigger muscle protein synthesis and build lean body mass, which boosts your metabolism and the number of calories you burn throughout the day.

Water offers 12 times as much resistance as air, and because it’s so difficult to move through, it really challenges your muscles, according to The Cleveland Clinic. Given the effort it takes to move your body through the water, it’s no surprise that research has shown regular swimming improves physical strength, endurance, and body composition (a.k.a. how much lean mass versus fat you have).

On top of all this, water also supports some of your body weight, so it’s kinder to your joints than land is. “Water-related exercise is an excellent way to work out while reducing the joint stress that comes from regular workouts outside the pool, whether it’s pounding the pavement or lifting heavy weights,” says Spraul.

Working out in the water is also especially beneficial for anyone with an injury, arthritis, back pain, degenerative spine or disc issues who may have a limited ability to exercise, says Chris Kolba, Ph.D., P.T., C.S.C.S., physical therapist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

With a little creativity, you can do all sorts of exercises in the water—just expect to move quite a bit slower than normal.

To switch up your resistance training routine, you can perform moves like lunges, squats, step-ups, pullups, pistol squats, and inclined pushups in the pool.

Looking to kick things up a notch? Try traditional HIIT moves, such as bounding (running with long strides), squat jumps, plyometric lunges, or tuck jumps, says Spraul. Because the resistance of the water won’t let you move as fast as you normally would outside the pool, these explosive movements will actually be more difficult, he says. And that added resistance will force you (and your muscles) to really work.

Related: 7 HIIT Workouts That Incinerate Fat

A lot of gyms and studios with pool access even offer aquatic boot camp circuits, plyometric, and interval classes. We’re not talking old-lady water aerobics; we’re talking workouts involving underwater cycling and jump lunges—like those offered at New York City’s AQUASTUDIO or select LifeTime Fitness locations. (One of our editors even tried them out.)

The Downside

Here’s the thing: That doesn’t mean you should always opt for the pool over land. Performing these moves won’t make for as athletic of a workout as they would if you were performing them with higher intensity and speed on land, says Spraul.

The force produced when we exercise on land is crucial for our ability to strengthen our bones and muscles, says Kolba. And working out on the ground better prepares our bodies for the functional movements and activities we do throughout our everyday lives.

Kolba recommends that if you’re injury-free and can strength train on land, you should continue to do so. “A land-based resistance program will maximize strength, balance, and bone-loading—which is especially important as we age,” he says.

But taking your workout to the water does have a place on recovery days, or when you’re craving a little variety. “When you’re doing strength training or HIIT-style exercises in the pool, the water will help take some of the load off, so you don’t put as much stress on your muscles and likely won’t feel as tired or sore afterwards,” says Spraul. After all, you can’t go all-out every day of the week—and overexerting yourself can lead to injury—so if you wake up feeling a bit sluggish, consider hopping in the pool for an easier (but still challenging) workout.

Related: Find a recovery supplement to help you bounce back from tough workouts.

6 Exercises Top Trainers Want You To Stop Doing

There are plenty of exercises we have love-hate relationships with. Walking lunges shape our legs and glutes so dang well—but man are they dreadful. And we’d be lying if we said deadlifting doesn’t give us some pre-workout anxiety.

As godly as they may seem in the gym, even trainers have moves that cramp their style—but not necessarily for the same reasons as us regular folk.

We asked three trainers to share their least favorite exercises—whether it’s because they’re not worth the time, are bad for your joints, or are always done improperly—and how to fill the void.

1. Single-Leg Deadlifts

The deadlift is one of our go-to strength-training moves—and for good reason. The move lights up pretty much all the muscles on the backside of your body. But the single-leg deadlift is so often done incorrectly that it doesn’t offer much benefit, says Rebecca Gahan, C.P.T., founder and owner of Kick@55 in Chicago.

The common issues with the single-leg deadlift? First: not enough weight. “A single 10-pound dumbbell does not create enough resistance,” Gahan says. Your legs and glutes are some of your largest muscles, so they need serious weight to benefit from resistance training. (Like a minimum of 45 pounds, not 20, according to Gahan.) Beyond that, there’s improper form. “Most people bend all of the way over, pulling at their lower back and potentially increasing their risk of injury,” she says.

Related: 3 Ways To Improve Your Deadlift And Crush Your Next PR

To work those posterior muscles as effectively as possible, Gahan’s go-to is a Romanian deadlift with a barbell. “Plant both feet on the ground, and grasp the barbell with shoulders back and chest out,” she says. With legs straight, push back through your hips and lower barbell to mid-shin so your back is parallel with the floor. Then drive your hips forward to lift the bar back up into starting position. Gahan recommends using a weight you can perform a maximum of three to four sets of 15 reps with. If you get through those 15 reps easily, up your weight.

2. Tricep Kickbacks

Here’s the thing: Defined arms are coveted by guys and gals alike—but that doesn’t mean your gym time needs to be dedicated to sets and sets of isolated arm moves.

Gahan isn’t a fan of tricep kickbacks for two reasons: Most people don’t use enough weight to seriously work their triceps, and even when done effectively, the move only hits that one muscle group.

Turn up the burn of your workout by focusing on moves that work multiple muscle groups—including your triceps. Take the pushup, for example. This classic move engages your chest, triceps, and shoulders.

Make the most of your pushup by perfecting your form. Start in a plank position with your core tight. Look at the floor about a foot in front of you and bend at the elbows to lower your chest toward the ground. Focus on using your upper body—not hips and pelvis—to push back up from the floor, Gahan says.

Related: 9 Moves To Step Up Your Pushup Game

To really turn up the intensity for your triceps, modify your usual pushup for a tricep pushup. In this variation, position your hands directly under, or just wider than your shoulders (instead of the wider hand placement you’d use in regular pushups). As you lower down and push back up, keep your elbows tucked straight back and in toward the sides of your body, says Gahan. “The closer [your elbows] remain to your body, the greater resistance applied to the triceps,” she explains.

3. Front Lunges

No one can deny that lunges deserve a spot in your workout routine. But the front lunge can be hard on your knees—and not to mention monotonous. But one simple change—swapping front lunges for reverse lunges—can change up your routine and challenge your legs and butt in a different way, says celebrity trainer Adam Rosante, C.P.T., C.S.N. Plus, it develops the gluteus maximus (the biggest muscle in your butt), your quads, inner thighs, and calves. And, since the reverse lunge is more of an up-and-down movement, it tends to be easier on your joints (and easier to do), Rosante says.

Stand with feet hips-width apart, bend your right knee, and step your left foot back behind you. (Your torso can lean slightly forward toward your right thigh.) Keep the weight in your front heel as you bend your back knee to hover just above the ground. Then drive back up through your front heel to return to start.

4. Bicep Curls

While barbell bicep curls can build upper-body strength (particularly in those biceps), they’re done incorrectly all the time, says Chris DiVecchio, C.P.T., founder of Premier Mind and Body. And that can affect your results—and your range of motion.

Most people tuck their elbows into their sides and don’t extend their arms beyond a 90-degree angle—so they only really work the upper half of the bicep, he says. Plus, tons of people let their upper arms and elbows swing backward and forward as they curl and uncurl. (That’s cheating!)

If you’re going to do barbell curls, keep your arms extended out in front of your body and keep your upper arms in the same position throughout the entire movement, bending only at the elbows, DiVecchio says. (Or use dumbbells to make sure you’re using each arm equally.)

Or, try a compound move that’ll challenge your biceps, along with a few other muscle groups—like the slam ball squat throw. “The slam ball squat throw is a full-body move that not only works the biceps, but also works the core and legs,” says DiVecchio. This move is a power-conditioning combo that gets your heart rate up while benefiting your muscles.

Make sure you have enough room to throw a weighted ball straight in the air. Place the slam ball between your feet and squat down with your feet wide, toes pointed out, and butt low to the ground. Grab the ball so that your hands are close to the ground. Push through your glutes and legs to extend out of the squat and launch the ball straight up into the air. Catch the ball and drop back down into your squat.

5. Crunches

Quit crunching your life away. When it comes to building a strong core, crunches will only get you so far, says Rosante.

Rosante suggests trading in those crunches for something better “Focus on strengthening your core with anti-rotational moves like the plank, which prevent any pulling on the back of the neck, as is common with crunches,” he says.

Related: The 5 Most Effective Abs Moves

To get your plank on, start on the ground on your hands and knees. Step your feet back to the top of a pushup position, then lower your forearms to the floor so your elbows are under your shoulders. Pull your belly button in and squeeze your abs tight, maintaining a straight line from your head to your heels. Set a timer and hold until your form breaks. That’s your time to beat.

6. Flat-Ground Sprints

Any sprint is hard work, so we’re not here to hate on regular ol’ sprints—but if you’re going to go all out, you might as well get the biggest ROI possible, right?

To do that, try swapping flat sprints for hill sprints, says Rosante. “When you run hill sprints, your body is naturally placed at an angle which decreases impact and lessens your risk of injuring your hamstrings, Achilles’ tendons or knees,” he says. What’s more, they also do more to build muscle while burning fat, he adds.

Trade the treadmill for a hill (or just crank up the incline) and perform your sprints in the following pattern: Go hard for one minute, then recover until your heart rate is about 60 percent of your max. (Your max heart rate is roughly 220 minus your age.) Then repeat.

Related: Shop performance supplements to help you go hard and see results.

5 Healthier Noodles (That Aren’t Zoodles) For When You’re Craving Pasta

Some nights you just really need a comforting, hearty bowl of pasta. We’re talking about that good sauce, fresh basil, and a hefty grating of Parmesan. But when you’re cutting back on carbs or watching your weight, those heavenly noodles can really add up.

A two-ounce serving of regular pasta is about 200 calories, with 42 grams of carbohydrates, seven grams of protein, and just two grams of fiber, says Ashlee Wright, R.D. Even whole-wheat pasta still comes in at around 180 calories, with 39 grams of carbohydrates, and (a more impressive) eight grams of protein and seven grams of fiber.

Luckily, there are tons of healthier pasta alternatives to choose from to satisfy your pasta cravings while saving you a boatload of calories—and we’re not just talking about zoodles. These dietitian-approved noodles are versatile, nutritious, and less calorie-dense than your average spaghetti, so you can treat yourself without a shred of guilt.

1. Shirataki Noodles

These Japanese, noodles, which translate to ‘white waterfall’, are pretty much calorie-less, so it’s no wonder they’re such a popular pasta swap. They’re made with an Asian Yam (a root) called konjac, or konnyaku, and water, explains Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club.

These noodles are thin, translucent, and gelatinous, and have a glossy, white appearance. A serving of regular shirataki noodles has zero calories and under a gram of carbs, Harris-Pincus says. (You can also find tofu shirataki noodles, made of konnyaku and tofu, which have about 10 calories, three grams of carbs, and two grams of fiber per serving.)

Shirataki noodles come in several varieties, so you can have fettuccine one night and spaghetti another. The best part? No prep necessary! Shirataki is pre-cooked, so you just have to drain the water out of the package, rinse, microwave briefly, and pat the noodles dry.

Shirataki noodles make the perfect healthier Pad Thai. Just toss them with peanut sauce, shrimp, and a bunch of vegetables (like broccoli, bok choy, mushrooms, and asparagus), suggests Kelly R. Jones M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., L.D.N.

2. Edamame Noodles

Made from green soybeans, a serving of edamame noodles is about 210 calories. But for those calories you get 22 grams of carbs, 25 grams of protein, and 11 grams of fiber, says Jones. Yep, that’s the same amount of protein as a serving of chicken breast. And all that fiber is sure to keep you feeling full!

“Edamame noodles are a fabulous source of plant-based protein,” says Harris-Pincus. Because the noodles contain so much protein, you don’t even need to add extra to the meal. What’s more, they also supply a quarter of your daily potassium needs and a third of your daily iron needs.

You’ll prepare edamame noodles just like you would regular pasta. Jones recommends tossing them with a no-sugar added tomato sauce and a serving of vegetables for a quick weeknight meal. (Harris-Pincus likes hers with a garlicky pesto sauce.)

Related: 7 Vegetarian Protein Sources

3. Chickpea Pasta

Chickpeas can do so much more than hummus. A serving of chickpea pasta is about 190 calories, with 32 grams of carbs, 14 grams of protein, and eight grams of fiber, says Jones. They’re also a good source of iron.

The flavor and texture of chickpea pasta is similar to whole-wheat pasta. It’s available in a bunch of pasta shapes and cooks up just like normal pasta. The ingredient list is pretty slim, too, typically just chickpea flour, tapioca, pea protein, and xanthan gum (for binding purposes), says Wright. Jones likes to use shell or elbow-shaped chickpea pasta for homemade macaroni and cheese or summer pasta salads.

4. Black Bean Pasta

Black bean pasta is made from just black bean flour, and offers 14 grams of protein, a whopping 15 grams of fiber, and 35 grams of carbs per 200-calorie serving, says Wright.  Like edamame noodles, black bean pasta is higher in calories—but those calories are more balanced with protein and fiber than plain old pasta. Plus, it provides about a quarter of your daily iron needs, says Wright.

Black bean pasta is perfect for a quick weeknight Mexican dish. “While the pasta is cooking, sauté garlic, onions, some frozen corn, and spinach in a sauce pan,” suggests Jones. Toss your veggies into the pasta and top with salsa and avocado.

5. Buckwheat Pasta

You’ll often hear buckwheat noodles referred to as Japanese soba noodles, says Jones. And despite its name, buckwheat doesn’t actually contain wheat—it’s a seed! (Many mainstream soba noodle brands do contain traces of wheat flour, though, so check your labels. Look for a brand that’s made from just buckwheat flour and water, suggests Jones.)

At 200 calories, with 43 grams of carbs, six grams of protein, and three grams of protein per serving, soba noodles are the closest to regular pasta calorie-wise, says Jones. But because buckwheat is naturally high in phosphorus (important for our bones) and zinc (important for our immune and nervous systems), it has a bit of a nutritional edge over the other stuff, says Jones.

Soba noodles work well in Asian-inspired dishes like stir-fries. “Add your favorite stir-fry sauce, vegetables like broccoli and peppers, and a protein like shrimp, chicken, or tofu,” says Jones.

Related: Shop a full selection of healthy kitchen ingredients.

What A Day Of Sugar-Free Eating Looks Like

There’s no getting around it—eating too much sugar can be really bad for your health.

High consumption of the sweet stuff is associated with type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Recent research published by the AHA even found a connection between drinking sweetened beverages and higher risks of dementia and stroke.

While the AHA recommends that women consume no more than six teaspoons (or 24 grams) of added sugar per day, and men consume no more than nine teaspoons (or 36 grams), the average American takes in a whopping 22 teaspoons of added sugar in a single day.

Considering sugar is hiding in tons of packaged foods and drinks under names like malt, molasses, fruit juice concentrates, corn syrup, and anything ending in “ose,” it’s no wonder we’re taking in so much of the stuff. Take a look at your ingredient labels and you’ll often find added sugar in everything from flavored yogurt to granola to cereal to bread to condiments like sriracha and barbecue sauce.

Related: 8 Foods That Pack A Surprising Amount Of Sugar

The best way to slash added sugar is to stick to a diet of whole, fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and meat, says Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D.N., author of The MIND Diet. We know that’s easier said than done, so we asked a few nutrition experts to walk us through a day of sugar-free eating—and it’s much simpler (and tastier) than you might think.

Breakfast

With sugary cereals, instant oatmeal packets, and coffee shop pastries dominating the standard American breakfast, the best way to start the day off added-sugar-free is to whip up something quick at home.

Try this option: Make a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal (you can prep it in bulk for the week), and stir in a spoonful of peanut butter. Then top with strawberries and a sprinkle of hemp hearts. “It’s a hearty breakfast that supplies whole grains, healthy fats, naturally sweet berries, some protein, and heart and brain-healthy omega-3s,” Moon says.

And, if you’re not in the mood for oatmeal, go for yogurt or eggs, which are both high in protein to keep cravings at bay.

Rizzo likes to mix a cup of fruit (like papaya or berries) into a cup of plain Greek yogurt and top it all with a teaspoon of unsweetened shredded coconut for healthy fats. Not only does yogurt pack protein, but it also contains probiotics to improve digestion and keep you regular.

If you’re making eggs, just add some veggies and extra protein (like low-fat cheese, avocado, black beans, or smoked salmon) to the mix, Rizzo says.

Related: 8 Breakfasts That Pack Between 20 And 30 Grams Of Protein

A.M. Snack

When you’re stomach starts growling mid-morning, don’t reach for a sweetened granola bar to hold you over. If you usually go on a coffee run before lunch, have a latte made with just unsweetened almond milk to avoid sipping on added sugars, suggests Moon. And for your mid-morning snack, grab a piece of fruit (like a nectarine) and an ounce of almonds, pistachios, or walnuts. The sweetness of the fruit satisfies any sugar cravings, while the nuts provide protein and heart-healthy fats to fill you up, Moon says.

Lunch

A green, nutrient-rich salad is a favorite lunch for many nutrition experts. The key is to make your own dressing and choose toppings wisely to avoid added sugar.

Start out with a mixture of romaine, kale, and spinach, and top it with a serving of quality protein, like grilled chicken breast or salmon, recommends Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D. Then add in a serving of avocado (a third of a medium fruit) which adds creaminess and helps your salad fill you up for just about 80 calories. Top your salad with a drizzle of olive oil and your favorite vinegar for a dose of healthy fats and a punch of acidity to tie everything together.

You can even make a satisfying salad without the meat by topping mixed baby greens with quinoa or farro for fiber and edamame for plant-based protein, suggests Moon. From there, add your favorite colorful veggies, like red bell peppers, avocados, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, and more. Then drizzle with olive oil, your favorite vinegar, and a small pinch of salt and pepper. Tons of flavor, zero added sugar.

P.M. Snack                           

Afternoon cravings are often the undoing of our sugar-free eating efforts. Trade the trip to the vending machine for a nutritionist-approved snack like air-popped popcorn with a dash of sea salt, suggests Rizzo.

If you need something a little more substantial, munch on a handful of unsalted peanuts and a few raisins. The combo tastes just like peanut butter and jelly, says Rizzo. Or, munch on a cup of steamed edamame or roasted crunchy chickpeas. Both are packed with fiber and sugar, she says.

And if you typically reach for a soda in the afternoon, go for a refreshing naturally-flavored sparkling water instead, says Moon. Just avoid any sparkling beverages that use artificial sweeteners and flavors. (We love LaCroix’s fun flavors.)

Dinner

A mix of whole-food complex carbohydrates, vegetables, and protein at dinner is all you need at your evening meal.

To keep things simple, you might have a serving of grilled fish (like salmon or halibut) with a side of green vegetables (like green beans or Brussels sprouts) and a serving of either brown rice or beans, says Rizzo.

When you’re in the mood for something heartier, toss whole-wheat pasta with shrimp and sautéed broccoli florets and top with a fresh tomato and white wine sauce, suggests Moon. (Make the sauce yourself, since the canned stuff often packs added sugar.)

Dessert

If you feel like you need some sweetness at the end of the day (hey, we all do!), it is possible to get your dessert in without added sugar coming along to the party.

Try this: Drizzle a tablespoon of warmed all-natural peanut butter and a teaspoon of sliced almonds over frozen banana slices—it’s a favorite of Elizabeth Ann Shaw, M.S., R.D.N., C.L.T.

Or, top a plain rice cake with a third-cup of plain cottage cheese (mix in cinnamon or vanilla extract for extra flavor) and a teaspoon each of dried blueberries and chopped walnuts, Shaw recommends. This sweet and texture-filled dessert provides protein and heart-healthy fats, she says.

Related: Shop a number of pantry staples for a healthier kitchen.

Consider this infographic your sugar-free menu: 

Is Your Fitness Routine Missing This Key Component?

You might think it’s enough to make it to that 6 o’clock spin class (because, let’s face it, sometimes that’s tough), but the truth is, what you do in the hours and days following that workout are just as important for maintaining your fitness.

Without adequate recovery time, your body might not be able to properly rebound from a workout—essentially stealing the benefits of working out in the first place! And if you’re too sore or tired to make it out the door, you may not even make it to that next workout.

To keep your fitness performance—and results—going strong, your recovery plan needs to be just as much a part of your routine as your gym sessions themselves. Here, experts share the key components for effective recovery, so your body can bounce back post-workout and better prepare for the next one.

Cool Down

As tempting as it is to plop right down on the couch immediately after finishing a run or to get right into the car after nailing your last rep at the gym, spending a few minutes to cool down really will do your body good. Cool-downs help keep oxygen and nutrients flowing to your just-worked muscles to start the recovery process and ease your body back into normal everyday movement, says Ngo Okafor, personal trainer, NIKE+NYC coach, and creator of FitMatch.

When you finish up a workout, your heart rate is elevated, your body temperature is higher than usual, and your blood vessels are dilated—so if you stop moving too quickly you might end up feeling dizzy or sick to your stomach, according to the American Heart Association.

Related: Are You Doing Too Much HIIT?

Try to spend at least 10 to 15 minutes cooling down by walking or moving through a few drills, like planks or lunges, which still engage the muscles while allowing the heart rate to come down after high-intensity work, Okafor says.

Get Your Fluids In

Your body needs ample water to maintain even its most basic functions, so you’ll want to drink up after a workout—especially if you got super sweaty.

Make sure you’ve got a full bottle handy before and after you exercise, and that you’re hydrating regularly throughout the rest of the day. Okafor recommends that active men shoot for close to four liters of water a day, and active women shoot for close to three liters.

To really replenish after a grueling workout, you can also add some electrolytes or adaptogenic herbs to your drink, suggests CrossFit coach and nutritional therapy practitioner at Reebok, Emily Schromm, C.P.T. You’ve heard about electrolytes a hundred times, but in case you need a refresher, electrolytes are minerals like potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium, found in your bodily fluids (like sweat) that help to maintain your blood and muscle function.

Meanwhile, adaptogens are compounds found in a number of plants that help your body react and adapt to stress, supporting energy and vitality both in the short-term and over time. (You can find adaptogens and electrolytes in a few forms, including powders, capsule, and liquids.)

Massage It Out

Okay, you probably won’t need much convincing to get behind this recovery technique—but massages are as helpful for recovery as they are wonderful. When you directly stimulate the muscles, you boost circulation and promote relaxation, which can help ward off soreness and risk for injury, says Okafor.

Sure, you can book yourself a full-body massage (you’ve earned it!)—but you can also get the job done on your own. Here’s what to do: Gently roll a lacrosse ball, massage stick, or foam roller, over your major muscle groups. Pay special attention to big muscles, like your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and lats, says Schromm. Because these muscle groups do so much of the work when you exercise, they really tend to tighten up after an intense workout.

If you find a trigger point or ‘knot,’ which is essentially an extra-taut band of muscle, apply direct pressure until the discomfort fades away, Okafor says. Continue to work on that spot until the intensity of the discomfort lessens.

Although it may be uncomfortable at times, especially if you’re tense, Schromm recommends performing self-massage daily—especially both before and after tough workouts.

Refuel Right

After a workout, there are two nutrients you definitely want to stock up on: protein and carbohydrates. Without them, your body won’t have the tools it needs to bounce back and grow stronger.

Carbs restore the energy stored in your muscles (called ‘glycogen’) that you burn through when you work out. Research shows that when carbs are consumed immediately after exercise, they’re more effectively stored in muscle as glycogen, where they help prevent muscle breakdown and set the body up for optimal performance, according to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Medicine.

Meanwhile, protein provides the body with the amino acids it needs to rebuild muscle in the process of protein synthesis—which is crucial for ensuring you benefit from your workouts and build muscle, instead of lose it.

Both Okafor and Schromm recommend consuming both carbs and protein within an hour after finishing your workout in a ratio of about four parts carbs to one part protein.

There are plenty of ways to refuel with this carb-protein combo: A banana with nut butter, Greek yogurt topped with chopped nuts and berries, lean grilled chicken with some rice or beans, or crackers with hummus all make great post-workout snacks. And in a pinch, you can always slug back a protein shake or blend up a smoothie with a scoop of protein powder, frozen fruit, and water.

Related: Find a protein supplement to keep your body well-fueled.

Once you nail your post-workout grub, just keep in mind that getting ample protein throughout the entire day also helps your muscles stay in tip-top shape, says Okafor. He recommends aiming for between one and 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight each day if you exercise frequently.

Sleep It Off

This one seems like a no-brainer, but considering so many people get just six hours (or less) of shuteye per night, it’s worth driving home yet again, says Okafor.

Sleep is your body’s opportunity to restore itself. During this time, your body produces more anabolic (a.k.a. muscle-building) hormones and fewer catabolic (a.k.a muscle-wasting hormones), says Okafor. One of these catabolic hormones is the stress hormone cortisol, which spikes after a workout. Without ample sleep to help bring cortisol levels down, they can stay elevated and lead to a host of issues, like higher-than-usual blood pressure and weight gain.

Not to mention, regularly missing out on sleep can crush your mental drive to train, Okafor adds.

We all have slightly different sleep needs, but Okafor recommends shooting for between seven and nine hours a night. To set yourself up for better shut-eye, power down at least a half-hour before bed, keep screens out of the bedroom, and try to stick to a regular sleep schedule, Okafor says. You can even try eating a bedtime snack that’s high in magnesium, a mineral that has a soothing effect on the body, he says. (A handful of nuts or anything with peanut butter are two of our favorite magnesium-packed snacks.)

Take Actual Recovery Days

When you go hard day after day without adequate rest and recovery, you end up in a state of overtraining in which your body enters breakdown mode. At that point, you may lose muscle mass, risk serious injury, and feel so depleted that you’re zonked out all day long, Okafor says. On top of all that, your workout performance tanks—which totally defeats the purpose of training, right?

Related: 6 Ways Building Muscle Benefits Your Health And Wellness

Remember: When you work out, you are breaking down muscle and depleting the energy your body has stored up. So, sometimes a full day off is necessary. Schromm recommends dedicating one day each week to recovering. Some people may be able to go for a walk or leisurely hike that day—but others may need a day of complete chill time, she says. If you start to notice any of the warning signs of overtraining (like chronic muscle soreness, elevated resting heart rate, irritability, and insomnia), pump the brakes and make sure you’re getting in one full rest day a week.