6 Things That Happen To Your Body When You Give Up Bread

Eating low-carb has been popular since the Atkins Diet blew up back in 1972—and the current buzz about the benefits of the super low-carb ketogenic diet proves the low-carb trend isn’t going anywhere.

The question on many people’s minds: Would we all be better off without any high-carb foods? There’s no black-and-white answer, really; different people thrive on different types of diets. But there are some surprising side effects most of us can expect to experience after a breakup with bread and pasta.

1. You Lose Weight Quickly

Oftentimes people go low-carb because they want to lose weight—and when you cut out high-carb foods like bread, that happens fast. That initial drop on the scale those first few days is just water weight, though. “Carbs hold onto water like a sponge,” says Deborah Malkoff-Cohen, R.D., dietitian and certified diabetes educator in New York City.

When you stop eating carbs, your body starts using the carbs it has stored up in your body to keep functioning, ‘wringing out the sponge’ and releasing water as it does so. Start noshing on carbs again, and you’ll put that water weight right back on.

2. You Feel Tired At First

Carbs, which you break down into a form of sugar called glucose, are your body’s preferred source of energy. While you get a slow and steady boost from complex carbs (like potatoes and oats), which take longer to break down into glucose, simple, quick-digesting carbs (like white bread and rice) hit your bloodstream in sugar form fast, spiking your energy only to send you crashing later.

Regardless of whether you usually eat a lot of simple carbs—and ride the blood sugar rollercoaster that comes with them—or coast along the complex-carb freeway, cutting down on your total intake will probably leave you feeling pretty drained at first, says Toni Marinucci, R.D., registered dietitian in New York City.

When your body doesn’t have enough glucose to run on, it eventually turns to its backup generator—a state called ketosis—and burns fat instead. Your blood sugar and levels of stored glucose in your liver and muscles (called ‘glycogen’) have to drop significantly to get you there, though, and you’ll likely feel pretty awful as they do. (If you can hold out until you get there, most people feel better a few days into ketosis.)

Related: Want To Try Keto? Here’s What A Healthy Day Of Eating Fat Looks Like

3. And Crabby, Too…

You can expect not to feel your happiest when you’re depriving yourself of an entire food group—especially when you’re passing up on the bread basket during dinner out with friends. But the emotional impact of cutting carbs goes deeper than that: Eating carbs actually increases your brain’s production of the mood-regulating chemical serotonin (often called the ‘feel-good hormone’), says Malkoff-Cohen. The less serotonin you pump out, the more likely you are to feel bummed out.

4. You Might Even Feel Like You Have The Flu

Ever heard of something called the low-carb or ‘keto flu’? Yeah, it’s a real thing—and it’s not fun. When you cut down on carbs significantly, you might deal with flu-like symptoms like drowsiness, achiness, and nausea, says Malkoff-Cohen.

A lot of these issues have to do with your brain, which typically uses tons of glucose because it has so many nerve cells. When your brain doesn’t have enough glucose to run full-steam-ahead, but hasn’t transitioned to using fat, your neurons (nerve cells) don’t function properly and you feel terrible.

Plus, people on low-carb diets often lose out on electrolytes like sodium and potassium, which can lead to some of those flu-like symptoms, as well as issues like heart palpitations and muscle cramps, Malkoff-Cohen adds.

The low-carb flu should subside once you’re a few days into ketosis, but if you’re not quite low-carb enough to make the shift (like 20 to 30 grams of net carbs a day, ‘low’), symptoms might stick around.

5. You Have Trouble Going No. 2

Complex carbs, like whole-wheat bread and other whole grains, contain fiber, which keeps our digestive systems regular. If you cut out complex carbs and don’t make up for that lost fiber with other foods (like vegetables, legumes, and nuts), you might fall short of your needs and have a more difficult time going to the bathroom. (Men should aim for 38 grams of fiber per day; women should aim for 25.)

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6. Your Workouts Feel Pretty Meh

Just as putting the kibosh on carbs can tank your overall energy at first, it can also leave you feeling like garbage in the gym. Marinucci typically recommends snacking on something carb-y (like a granola bar or piece of toast) about 30 minutes before working out, to provide your body with quick fuel.

Lower-intensity exercise (like jogging) may not suffer much when you slash carbs, because your body can power it pretty easily with fat. However, you’ll likely have a harder time pushing through higher-intensity workouts (like strength training or sprint intervals), which rely heavily on carbs. Without those carbs, your body will have to use glycogen or even break down muscle tissue to scrounge up the energy you need.

Everything This Weight Loss Expert Eats In A Day

In my 16-year journey as a weight loss and fitness expert, I’ve tried just about every diet in the book, from bodybuilder-style macro-counting to high-fat keto. Though some experiments have proved more sustainable than others, each has helped me find the eating style that works best for me.

These days, my eating philosophy is to really listen to my body, eat whole foods in their whole forms (as little from packages as possible!), get enough satiating fat, and love what I eat. I keep a list of my five favorite healthy breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks, and a binder of all my favorite recipes—like slow cooker chicken chili—to make healthy eating easier when life gets busy. (And, trust me, it does when you have two kids, two dogs, a full-time job, and a hubby who works opposite hours than you do!)

Here’s what a full day of healthy—and delicious—eating usually looks like for me.

On a typical day, my alarm clock goes off at 5:20 in the morning and I enjoy the quiet with a cup of coffee—usually a cappuccino made with lots of whole milk and cinnamon—and my pup, Angus. I feel best following a modified intermittent fasting regimen and delaying my first full meal, so my frothy beverage usually counts as my breakfast.

Then I usually meet with a client in my gym, get my kids ready for school, and do a workout (often kickboxing or a run) of my own. From there, I’m off to work, running from private clients to speaking events to consulting meetings all over the place. I don’t eat my first real meal until around noon, but when I finally stop long enough to sit down and eat, I usually go for breakfast food, my favorite of which is an omelet (or some sort of egg dish).

I stuff two full eggs (the yolks contain all those vitamins, like choline) with vegetables like spinach, mushrooms, and onions—and, of course, cheese. I try to use seasonal veggies and different cheeses (like cheddar and goat cheese) and herbs to keep boredom at bay.

There are some days, however, that I’m crunched for time, so I go for a one-two punch of portable fruit and protein: yogurt parfait plus a banana and packet of nut butter (like Justin’s almond butter).

My yogurt bowls consist of two-percent plain Greek yogurt topped with raspberries, blueberries, two tablespoons of sliced almonds, and a tablespoon of sunflower seeds. I always recommend going for fuller-fat dairy because it’s more satisfying and swapping sugar-laden granola for nuts and seeds, which provide healthy fats, protein, and crunch. The bowl is low in sugar, but high in fiber and protein, so it really holds me over.

With that first meal, I take my supplements: a multivitamin to keep my nutritional bases covered, a probiotic to support a healthy gut, turmeric for an antioxidant boost, and collagen to keep my skin glowing and hair and nails strong.

I’m usually satisfied until late afternoon, when I grab a snack.

My afternoon munch pretty much always includes some dark chocolate, but I do have a few other staples, like apple slices and raw mixed nuts, hummus and sugar snap peas, a clementine and a cheese stick, and apple slices and nut butter. My criteria for a great snack: It must contain a fruit or vegetable for vitamins and fiber, and it should also provide some fat and protein. To make travel and portion control easier, I buy pre-made serving-size packets for nuts, nut butters, and hummus whenever I can.

Once work and after-school activities finish up, my family sits down together for dinner. So much research shows how vital this time can be for families, so we fight for it! We keep the TV off and put our phones away so we can focus on each other and eating mindfully.

Often, we all eat a slight variation of the same theme. My kids might have Italian-seasoned ground turkey over pasta with red sauce, while my husband and I might eat it over spaghetti squash, zucchini, salad, or steamed broccoli.

My goal at dinner is to fill half my plate with produce. Then I add a solid four-ounce serving of a lean protein like chicken or shrimp and some healthy fat like avocado, a drizzle of olive oil, or even a little melted butter. I always use a small plate to keep my portions in check.

During my own weight loss journey (I shed 65 pounds before starting my career in the industry), I realized that I snacked at nighttime just out of habit, and consumed hundreds of extra calories just to keep my hands busy while watching TV. These days, I don’t usually eat after dinner, and make myself a mug of one of my favorite teas—like decaf chai or Earl Grey, or Trader Joe’s Candy Cane green tea—instead.

If I’m truly hungry, though, I’ll go for a snack made of whole, natural foods, which are hard to overeat! My favorites are a sliced apple with a tablespoon or two of almond butter and baby carrots with hummus.

My personal eating style has evolved so much over the years, and right now this way of eating really works for my lifestyle, but I always keep my eyes open for areas where it might need to be tweaked. I truly believe that being willing to try new things and staying inspired are the keys to eating healthy long-term!


Liz Josefsberg is a weight loss and wellness expert with over 15 years in the industry, as well as a member of The Vitamin Shoppe’s Wellness Council. A mom, author, fitness enthusiast, and weight loss success story herself (65 pounds lost!), Liz consults all over the world. She loves testing every diet, exercise regimen, device, and piece of gear she can get her hands on. 

How Much Can Willpower Really Do For Your Health?

If you think saying ‘no’ to that chocolate cake is the only thing standing between you and shedding those last few pounds, you’re in good company: Surveys show most people identify a lack of willpower as the biggest obstacle in weight loss. But for as much as we toss the term around, does willpower really make or break our journey to a healthier lifestyle? The answer isn’t so black and white.

“When people think of willpower, they define it as denying themselves something they really want, but for whatever reason think they shouldn’t have,” says certified health coach Anna Dupree. But that approach can be problematic. Research shows that relying too much on willpower can backfire pretty easily, as the more you restrict yourself from certain foods, the more likely you are to crave them. So when you finally meet your temptation face-to-face—say at a happy hour or birthday party—you’ll end up eating three slices of cake instead of feeling satisfied with one.

“It’s not empowering and it’s not inspiring [to focus on willpower alone],” says Keri Glassman, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., founder of Nutritious Life. “It doesn’t help in the long run because when you don’t change your mindset, you just force yourself to do something, and eventually you wear out.”

Thinking things like I can’t ever eat a slice of pizza, or I won’t lose weight if I eat those chips, has the potential to destroy your relationship with food. It can also trigger a pattern of restrictive eating, which has been known to lead to certain eating disorders.

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

Plus, you use willpower in so many other moments throughout the day—like during your morning commute (you want to scream at the top of your lungs, but you know you shouldn’t) and in meetings at work (you want to tell your co-worker to pipe down, but you know you can’t)—that your mental muscle is often exhausted by the time you get home, making healthy food choices more difficult to stick to. And research shows that stress, insufficient sleep, and weight loss all increase your production of hunger hormones, making it physically harder to resist your favorite foods.

One review published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics points out that science has yet to answer whether it’s even physically possible to constantly suppress the urge to eat tempting foods. After all, your brain’s reward system (yes, the one that’s linked to sex, gambling, and substance abuse) plays a big role in food decisions, and it’s not exactly easy to fight.

And even after all that effort, willpower doesn’t have as much of an impact on your waistline or health as you might think. “People’s willpower does not predict their weight,” says Traci Mann, Ph.D., professor of social and health psychology at the University of Minnesota and author of Secrets from the Eating Lab. “It doesn’t matter how good or bad your willpower is; it’s not enough.”

Research shows that your physical environment plays a larger role in making and sticking to healthy lifestyle changes than a split second of mental strength, says Mann. So keeping chips and cookies out of your house is more important than turning down that bagel at a morning meeting.

The bottom line: No health, fitness, or weight-loss goal should ever rely on willpower alone. Use the following three tips to make your health journey less about willpower—and more about a lifestyle. Not only will you reach your goals quicker, but you’ll actually enjoy getting there.

1. Find Your True Motivation

Both Glassman and Dupree agree: Losing weight or getting healthy is all about mindset. Focus on your true motivation for wanting to make healthy lifestyle changes—whether it’s to be able to keep up with your kids or quit feeling so darn tired all the time. “It has to be something you have a deep-down desire to do,” says Dupree. “Instead of thinking about what you can’t have, think about what you’re trading it for.” For instance, you’re trading packaged foods (which might tank you energy or lead to weight gain) for nutrient-rich whole foods that give you more energy and help you feel fuller for longer so you can go on more family outings.

2. Focus On Simple And Gradual Changes

Overhauling your routine overnight is bound to stress you out. Instead, slowly swap out foods you’d like to eat less of (like packaged cookies and snacks) for foods you’d like to eat more of (like apples and carrots). When you don’t completely restrict yourself from day one, you’re more likely to see the changes you make as positive.

3. Practice Self-Care

Even when you’ve got your mind right, eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep can still be tough—especially if your schedule is jam-packed! But you’re more likely to keep up with healthy lifestyle changes if you still make time to do things you enjoy, says Dupree.

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So swap that gym session for a fitness class you really love, turn off your phone to read after dinner, or make breakfast with your kids on the weekend. The more fulfilled you feel, the more motivated you’ll be.

I Put On 12 Pounds Just So I Could Try Keto

I was raised on low-fat diets, Weight Watchers, and the idea that eating fat makes you fat. Despite the decades of experience I have as a weight loss professional, some of these ideas from my own weight loss journey (I lost 65 pounds before making health and fitness my career) have been hard to kick.

So you can imagine my surprise (and slight anxiety) to see how popular the high-fat ketogenic diet has become throughout the past few years. Super low in carbs (we’re talking like 25 net grams a day), this trendy diet requires eating between 65 and 85 percent of your daily calories from fat in order to shift your body from burning glucose from carbs to producing and burning ketones from fats (a state called ‘ketosis’). That means saying goodbye to carbs like grains, starchy veggies, and most fruit—and loading up on fats like nuts, avocados, olive oil, and butter. The exact opposite of what the mainstream diet world has been telling us for the past three decades!

But with so many people boasting the energy and weight-loss benefits of the keto diet, I had to say: I was intrigued. I wanted to try it!

So, I did what any curious health and fitness expert would do: put my fears aside, purposely gained 12 pounds (yes, really!), and gave keto a shot.

Getting Started

I pored through the internet (relying heavily on Mark’s Daily Apple, Dr. Axe, and even keto Reddit boards) to gather information and plan out some easy meals for my first week.

My everyday diet embraced healthy carbs like yogurt, fruit, and potatoes, but shied away from too many fats, so I knew I’d have to do some meal prepping to make this massive change stick. I decided to make egg cups (eggs, cheese, bacon, and spinach baked in a muffin tin) for easy grab-and-go breakfasts, spinach salads topped with avocado, bacon bits, cheese, and ranch dressing for lunches, and cheese- and bacon-wrapped chicken for dinners. Lots. Of. Cheese. I snacked on macadamia nuts, enjoyed small pieces of dark chocolate, and even made ‘fat bombs’ (frozen balls of coconut oil, nut butter, and cocoa mixed together) to keep me satisfied and ward off cravings.

I loved the food (I mean, who doesn’t like smothering things in ranch and butter?), but I still worried I would gain a lot of weight.

To my surprise, though, my weight dropped those first few days. I learned that these quickly-lost pounds came from water (which is stored alongside carbs in our bodies), not body fat, but I wasn’t complaining. Plus, all the newfound fat in my diet was so satiating that I simply stopped feeling hungry. Within three days, my cravings disappeared and I felt balanced and energized.

Attack Of The Keto Flu

And then, around the end of week one…the ‘Keto Flu’ hit! A common experience for new keto eaters, the keto flu occurs your magnesium, sodium, and potassium stores become depleted as your body shifts from using carbs to fat as its main source of energy. (These vital electrolytes regulate your heart beat, balance fluid levels in your body, and perform many other important functions—and losing too much of them can be dangerous.) I couldn’t believe how quickly it came on. I felt extremely lethargic and thirsty, needed naps in the middle of the day, and couldn’t even get through a workout.

Related: 5 Mistakes People Make When They Go Keto

Following the guidance of my online gurus, I picked up a magnesium and potassium supplement (like Country Life’s Magnesium Potassium Aspartate), and started drinking chicken Boullion cubes (which contain more than a gram of sodium a pop) to replenish my electrolytes.

The struggle lasted on and off for about two weeks—and it seriously knocked me out.

Smooth Sailing

Once my body got used to being in ketosis and I nailed my electrolyte intake, the ‘keto flu’ passed and all of the perks I’d read about finally started raining down. I had incredible amounts of energy, zero cravings, and slept beautifully. My workouts got back to normal, too.

As the weeks passed, I experimented more and more with my meals. Eggs continued to be my go-to breakfast, but I tried out all sorts of recipes for lunches and dinners, including ‘meattza’ (pizza using a layer of ground beef as the crust) and Hasselback chicken (chicken breasts stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach). I enjoyed my broccoli with melted cheddar cheese on top, ate a lot of cauliflower (it’s relatively low in carbs), and loaded up on spinach (which provided much-needed potassium).

It's like Where's Waldo… can you find Gertie in the photo? 🐶🐾

A post shared by Liz Josefsberg (@lizjosefsberg) on

I lost weight steadily throughout those two months. By the end, I’d lost 15 pounds total, and my body fat percentage had dropped from 36 percent to 29 percent, meaning I shed fat but kept my precious muscle. (The only other time I’d seen such a significant body fat drop was during my high-protein bodybuilding days!) My results confirmed everything I’d read online: Once your body adapts to burning fat, it will turn to your fat stores for energy.

As impressed as I was with how keto changed my body, though, I don’t think it’s something I could maintain long-term. Since the diet is so restrictive and takes such an immense amount of work and attention to follow, I found it difficult to fully live life while on it. Knowing just one misstep could throw me out of ketosis and back into burning sugar, I stressed about social situations and eating out. Plus, I really missed fruit and wine.

I’m glad I did it, though! Keto taught me that fats are awesome—and I’m truly sorry I avoided them for so many years. Since my experiment, I’ve continued to eat a lot of healthy fats—and even though I’m not all-out keto anymore, my meals are more satisfying and my weight has been easier to maintain. It’s amazing how far a little whole milk goes in a cup of coffee!

 

Liz Josefsberg is a weight loss and wellness expert with over 15 years in the industry. A mom, author, fitness enthusiast, and weight loss success story herself (65 pounds lost!), Liz consults all over the world. She loves testing every diet, exercise regimen, device, and piece of gear she can get her hands on. 

How Much Should You Work Out If Weight Loss Is Your Goal?

We all cherish the endorphin rush that comes with a good sweat—but whether we want to address a health concern or fit into a favorite pair of jeans, there’s no denying that many of us have ulterior motives for working out.

We often consider exercise the make-it-or-break-it factor in weight loss, but there are a lot of mixed messages out there about how often—and how intensely—we actually need to sweat to change our bodies. To clear up the confusion, we asked top fitness pros to share what a weight loss-friendly workout routine should really look like.

The Big Picture

Believe it or not, research suggests exercise has a pretty limited impact on weight loss.

And while working out is important for your cardiovascular health, mood, bone density, mobility, and flexibility—and does impact your body composition (how much muscle versus fat you have)—it’s just one part of a winning weight-loss strategy.

Related: 7 Weight-Loss Myths That Can Sabotage Your Progress

“Successful weight loss is the result of several efforts: a foundation of strength training, appropriate cardio, a supportive nutrition plan, proper recovery and sleep, and stress management,” says Holly Perkins, C.S.C.S. and author of Lift to Get Lean.

Spend Your Time Wisely

Regardless of your weight-loss goals, how often you work out should be based on your current fitness level. Perkins recommends starting with four to five workouts a week: three full-body strength workouts (about 30 to 35 minutes) to increase metabolism-revving muscle, and two to three cardio workouts (between 35 and 40 minutes) to promote fat loss.

Once you’re used to this schedule, add one or two challenging interval cardio sessions (about 35 minutes) per week. Perform cardio after strength training—and feel free to mix it up by trying a new group class or swapping your usual elliptical session for a neighborhood run.

No matter how much gym experience you have—and how motivated you are to change your body—ample rest is also key to seeing results. “When we exercise, we break our muscle tissue and energy stores down, so we need rest, recovery, and proper nutrition to build them back up,” says LA-based trainer Shannon Decker, C.P.T. “I personally make myself take two rest days a week.” If at any point you notice less-than-stellar workouts or feel fatigued or dehydrated, add another rest day to your weekly schedule.

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In the long run, over-exercising can actually sabotage weight loss by elevating levels of the stress hormone cortisol. “Chronically elevated cortisol increases your appetite and food cravings, and decreases your ability to sleep deeply,” explains Perkins.

Extra Credit

Formal workouts aside, don’t forget that the physical activity you do throughout the rest of your day also contributes to your weight loss success! Not only does moving more mean burning more calories, but it also improves a number of general health and fitness markers, like mood, mental clarity, and energy, says Perkins. Add as much general movement—whether a morning yoga flow, a walk with your dog, or playtime with your kids in the backyard—to your day as possible, especially if you work a desk job.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, whether or not you squeeze in that extra workout won’t make or break your weight loss. “Losing weight takes time and dedication,” says Decker. “It’s a lifestyle change.” If you realistically only have time to work out three days a week, it’s okay! Just remember that what matters most is consistently living an overall healthy lifestyle.

6 Carbs That Can Help You Lose Weight

Carbs have it pretty rough. Meal after meal, they do their job, tirelessly working to fuel our bodies with the energy we need to thrive, be active, and, yes, even lose weight. And how do we repay them? By cutting them out of our diets.

“Many fad diets like the Atkins Diet have vilified carbohydrates as a dietary evil and blamed them for weight gain,” explains Georgie Fear, R.D., C.S.C.S., author of Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss. These fad diets (and the slew of best-selling books that accompany them) have used cherry-picked shreds of evidence to suggest that obesity is caused solely by carbohydrates—and as convincing as they may be, they’re wrong, she says.

It’s time set things straight: Carbohydrates are not the enemy.

Carbohydrates are our body’s primary energy source, helping to power everything from brain function to our workouts. The key is making sure that the carbs we eat are from whole, nutritious foods—straight from good ol’ mother nature, says Canada-based nutrition counselor Abby Langer, R.D. These carb sources, like whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, contain fiber, which increases satiety, regulates digestion, and is consistently linked to weight loss. (Men need 38 grams a day, while women need 25.) Studies have even shown that just increasing fiber intake can be as effective for weight loss as full-fledged dieting.

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To reach your daily fiber (and other nutrient) needs and hit your healthy weight for good, Langer recommends incorporating about half a cup of healthy carbs into each meal. Here are your six most weight loss-friendly options.

1. Potatoes

Potatoes are subject to tons of hate from the low-carb clan, but sweet potatoes, white potatoes—they’re all good. “I cannot say anything bad about potatoes. There’s nothing unhealthy about them,” says Langer. One particular perk: Potatoes are full of resistant starch, a type of fiber that literally resists digestion, filling you up but never making its way to your bloodstream. (It’s one reason potatoes are often identified as one of the most satiating foods around!)

Related: Why Everyone Needs To Stop Hating On White Potatoes

Carb up: Try serving up your spuds baked, and play around with healthy toppings like Greek yogurt, black beans, poached eggs, or cheese. Be creative; just don’t fry them or drown them in butter and sour cream.

2. Starchy Vegetables

Potatoes are technically starchy veggies, but the other carb-rich veggies out there—think carrots, squash, corn, and beets—deserve a shout-out too, Langer says. Starchy vegetables sometimes get a bad rap simply because they contain more carbs than non-starchy vegetables (think spinach or asparagus), but that’s not a bad thing! For example, a third of a medium carrot’s six grams of carbs come from fiber, plus a carrot packs a full day’s-worth of vitamin A.

Carb up: Exactly how you integrate starchy veggies into your meals depends on which you prefer. Fear’s personal favorite? Kabocha squash. “I love it cubed, tossed with olive oil and salt, and roasted,” she says. “It’s a great thing to toss on a salad to make it more filling than it would be with just leaves.” The cube, roast, and toss rule-of-thumb applies to pretty much any starchy veggie out there, whether it’s squash, beets, or parsnips.

3. Whole Grains

This is a big category, and includes everything from whole-wheat bread and brown rice to ancient grains like spelt, millet, barley, oats, freekeh, bulgur, sorghum, farro, quinoa, and amaranth. Unlike refined grains, these good-for-you grains all have one thing in common: fiber—and lots of it. Replacing any white carbs in your diet with whole grains can both reduce overall calorie intake and boost your metabolism, according to 2017 research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Carb up: If you regularly eat white carbs, swap them out for their whole-grain counterparts. Or, cook up your favorite ancient grain and mix in your favorite veggies and protein for a satisfying, balanced meal, suggests Langer.

4. Legumes

Carb- and fiber-rich legumes (think beans, chickpeas, peas, and lentils) are all over your weight-loss goals. After all, a single serving provides about half your daily fiber needs, and according to one 2016 meta-analysis, simply adding about three quarters of a cup of legumes into your daily diet can directly contribute to weight loss. Not to mention, legumes are also a great source of plant-based protein, which makes your meals more satisfying and revs your metabolism. A cup of cooked lentils packs 18 grams!

Carb up: Stock up on canned legumes, rinse them to remove excess sodium, and then throw them on top of everything from salads to pastas to potatoes to open-faced sandwiches—the options are endless!

5. Fruit

Fruit—be it bananas, apples, or blueberries—can absolutely be a part of your weight-loss plan. Despite the fact that they’re rich in simple sugars, fruits are linked to better blood sugar control, which supports healthy weight loss.

Carb up: When you need a healthy snack, pair your favorite fruit with a source of fat and protein, like string cheese or peanut butter, for example. The combo will help slow digestion and keep you feeling fuller, longer, says Fear. Just stick to three or fewer servings of fruit a day and you’ll be golden.

6. Dairy

Aside from being a great source of vitamin D, calcium, and protein, dairy can help your weight-loss efforts. In fact, one Harvard University review found that dieters who ate a serving of yogurt daily lost more weight than those who didn’t.

Carb up: Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, and even regular cheese can all help you hit your goals. And, no, you don’t have to opt for low-fat; new research shows that full-fat diary might be more effective for weight loss, since fat is so satiating. As long as dairy doesn’t bother your stomach, feel free to incorporate up to one serving of full-fat dairy with each meal, Fear says.

Consider this infographic your quick healthy carbs guide:

How To Train And Supplement For Every Fitness Goal

When your workouts don’t reflect your goals, what you see in the mirror won’t either—and nothing is more frustrating than spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

How you spend your time in the gym—and which supplements you take to support your workouts—depends on whether you want to get strong, pack on muscle, shed fat, or boost your endurance. Use this quick fitness cheat sheet to make sure every rep you perform and supp you take accelerates your progress.

Goal: Strength

Training: When you’re training for absolute strength, you want your body to use the ‘phosphagen energy system,’ in which it breaks down a form of creatine to rapidly produce energy. Thing is, your body can’t produce energy like this for very long—we’re talking less than 30 seconds—so your workouts will need short periods of all-out work and long periods of rest.

To maximize strength gains, lift between 80 and 95 percent of your one-rep max and perform four to eight sets of just two to five reps, says New Jersey-based trainer Bryant Klein, C.S.C.S.  Rest for three to five minutes between sets.

Supplements: The more creatine stored in your muscles, the greater capacity those muscles have to churn out that fast and hard work when they need to—and research shows that how much you consume affects your stores. Studies have found that just two weeks of consuming between five and 20 grams of creatine a day can improve exercise performance and support strength gains.

“One study also showed that participants who took a daily creatine supplement while following a resistance training program significantly increased their resting testosterone levels after 10 weeks,” says dietitian Beth Warren, R.D.N., founder of Beth Warren Nutrition. Research suggests taking 20 to 25 grams of creatine a day for five days to increase muscle creatine levels, and supplementing with between two and five grams a day from there. Up your creatine stores deliciously with a powdered supplement like BodyTech’s Fruit Punch 100% Creatine Monohydrate.

Goal: Hypertrophy

Training: If you’re set on building muscle mass, you need to increase the amount of time your muscles spend under tension to tap into your body’s glycolytic energy system, which relies heavily on the glycogen stored in your muscles and is associated with stimulating muscle growth.

Related: 6 Possible Reasons Why You’re Not Building Muscle

To ramp up that time under tension, perform three to six sets of eight to 15 reps (about 90 seconds of work) with 65 to 75 percent of your one-rep max, recommends Klein. Rest for one to three minutes between sets.

Supplements: Whey protein, which is made from cow’s milk, can be a major player in a muscle-building diet because it contains a high proportion of essential amino acids (which cannot be made by our body) and branched-chain amino acids (which play crucial roles in the muscle protein synthesis process responsibly for size gains).

In fact, supplementing with whey protein while resistance training regularly is the ideal combo for promoting muscle hypertrophy and exercise recovery, says research published in Nutrition & Metabolism. Studies suggest that 20 to 40 grams of protein both before and after exercise offers the most muscle-building benefits. Optimum Nutrition’s Vanilla Ice Cream Gold Standard 100% Whey and BodyTech’s Rich Chocolate WheyTech Pro 24 both pack 24 grams of protein per scoop.

Goal: Endurance

Training: “Muscular endurance training improves performance swimming, running, and other sports that require you to reproduce force over an extended period of time,” says Klein. To train your muscles for endurance, you’ll need to tap into the oxidative energy system, which can utilize fat (with the help of oxygen) to help your muscles work for long durations.

Endurance workouts need to be lower intensity, so you’ll drop your weight down to 50 percent of your one-rep max, says Klein. Perform three to six sets of 15-plus reps and rest for a minute between sets.

Supplements: When it comes to muscle endurance, a few minerals can be particularly helpful: iron, copper, and zinc. According to Warren, these minerals play key roles in the flow of oxygen to working muscles and throughout the body, and warding off oxidative stress. And since many young athletes don’t get enough of them, supplementing can help boost performance and workout recovery.

The National Institutes of Health recommends adults get about 900 micrograms of copper, eight (women) to 11 (men) milligrams of zinc, and eight (men) or 18 (women) milligrams of iron, per day. A daily multivitamin can help you reach your needs.

Goal: Fat Loss

TrainingBurning fat requires a strategic combination of cardio, strength training, and nutrition—but to lose fat in a sustainable way, you also need to preserve (or build) muscle mass. The more muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate (the amount of calories you need to live every day), and the fewer calories you need to slash to support weight loss, explains Klein.

To maximize muscle mass and shed fat, you’ll strength train just like you would for hypertrophy (that’s three to six sets of eight to 15 reps with a couple minutes of rest in between).

Supplements: Carnitine, an amino acid-like compound our body produces and that we get from food, helps our body convert fat into energy by escorting fatty acids into our cells’ energy-producing machines (called mitochondria), says Warren. “When you increase levels of muscle carnitine, you support the fat burning-process because your body becomes more efficient at processing fuel,” she explains.

One 2016 Obesity Reviews meta-analysis found that those who supplemented with carnitine lost significantly more weight than those who took a placebo. BodyTech’s Carnipure Carnitine supports fat metabolism—and tastes like raspberries (win-win!).

11 Smart Tips For Cleansing Your System, Straight From Health Experts

When someone utters the word ‘cleanse,’ a few things might come to mind—hunger and suffering among them. Thankfully, expert advice (and horror stories) has shown us that putting ourselves through the misery of week-long liquid diets doesn’t do our bodies any good long-term. In fact, these intense cleanses often deprive us of the calories we need to function properly and leave us lacking in important nutrients like protein, essential fatty acids, fiber, and electrolytes, according to Harvard Medical School.

So, no, you don’t need to go hardcore to press the ‘reset’ button, but that doesn’t mean you can’t jump-start a healthier routine after slacking. To help you do it in a healthful, balanced way, we asked top health and fitness pros to share what they do when they’re in need of a clean slate.

In the Kitchen

Wake up with water. Every expert we talked to had the same top tip: drink more water. Why? “Your kidneys are your body’s natural cleansing organ, and they need water to make sure you’re flushing your system out so that you feel your best,” says Abbey Sharp, R.D., founder of Abbey’s Kitchen. It doesn’t matter so much how you drink it—whether it’s plain water, sparkling water, or lemon water—just that you do.

To make sure you’re getting enough, pay attention to your pee. “If you’re seeing bright yellow, it’s usually a sign that you’re not getting enough water,” explains Sharp. The goal is for it to be a pale-yellow hue—any darker and you need to grab a glass of H20, stat. “If you feel thirsty, you’re probably already really dehydrated,” she adds.

Add apple cider vinegar. If you want to level up your morning hydration routine, Molly Kimball, R.D., nutrition manager at the Ochsner Fitness Center in New Orleans, suggests spiking your glass with apple cider vinegar, which supports healthy blood sugar, and contains B vitamins, calcium, potassium, and antioxidants. She likes to add two to three tablespoons of ACV to warm water, green tea, or sparkling water every A.M. to start the day on a healthy note.

Related: What Happened When I Drank Apple Cider Vinegar Every Morning For 2 Weeks

Focus on fiber. If there’s one nutrient you should hone in on when hitting the reset button, it’s fiber. “It’s important for promoting a healthy gut, and also keeps us feeling full longer so we don’t get blood sugar spikes,” says Sharp. A few of Sharp’s fibrous go-to’s include: split peas (16.3 grams per cooked cup), broccoli (5.1 grams per cup), raspberries (eight grams per cup), pears (5.5 grams per medium fruit), and bran cereal (seven to eight grams per cup). Women should aim for 25 grams each day, while men should shoot for 38 grams.

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Juice your veggies. Though we’re definitely not suggesting you consume nothing but juice for days at a time, there are some upsides to keeping it in your daily routine. For instance, Kimball likes to drink cold-pressed veggie juice in the afternoon—typically a blend of greens (like spinach or kale), beets, turmeric, ginger, black pepper, and cilantro—to help her get in an extra serving of vegetables and feel energized for the rest of the work day.

Pro tip: If you don’t have a juicer or a quality juice shop nearby, Kimball recommends adding powdered greens (Amazing Grass is her favorite brand) to water or smoothies. Just peek at the label to make sure your powdered greens contain a variety of different-colored vegetables and no added sugar, she says.

Add collagen to your coffee. “Instead of adding sugar or drinking it black, I make my coffee pull double-duty as breakfast or a snack by adding a scoop of Vital Proteins collagen to it,” says Kimball. This protein is important for strong, healthy nails, hair, skin, and joints—and can make your usual cup of Joe more satiating.

Switch up your shopping. When Carrie Underwood’s trainer, Eve Overland, C.P.T., needs to revamp her healthy-eating routine, she heads to the farmers market or grocery store with three missions: Buy a vegetable you like but rarely cook with, one that you’ve eaten before but have never cooked with, and one you’ve never tried or seen before. Once you’ve picked your produce, “find some yummy recipes and go to town,” she suggests. “Doing this with friends can also be fun and motivating.”

Watch your language. Don’t worry, potty mouths—we’re not saying you can’t drop an F-bomb when necessary, but a crucial part of giving your health that fresh slate is getting rid of the ‘good food’/‘bad food’ language we often use, says Sharp. “When we label foods as ‘bad,’ we tend to feel so deprived that we want them even more and end up bingeing,” she explains. The best way to approach a healthy cleanse is to concentrate on choosing the foods that make you feel the best and celebrating those awesome choices. Focus on the following: fiber- and nutrient-rich green veggies (like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard), eggs (for satiating protein and a range of nutrients), nuts (for unsaturated fats, fiber, and protein), and Greek yogurt (for calcium, vitamin D, and protein).

In the Gym

Prevent procrastination. It’s easy to stay in bed, scrolling through social media until—boom—all of a sudden a half-hour has flown by and you don’t have time to exercise. That’s why fitness coach Tiffany Rothe uses the “1,2,3 Go” trick. “The first thing I do when I wake up is count ‘1, 2, 3,’ then I jump out of bed, brush my teeth, and work out for at least 10 minutes,” she says. “I’ll even sleep in my workout clothes if I have to.” Why? Working out in the A.M. means there’s no ‘I need to exercise’ cloud hanging over your head later in the day—and Rothe says it encourages healthy decisions and productivity all day long.

Do a fasted workout. After going off the healthy diet and fitness rails, Joey Thurman, C.P.T., co-host of Home Sweat Home, often schedules fasted cardio first thing in the morning when his body is primed to utilize fat for energy, rather than carbs. Exercising before breakfast can significantly increase fat-burning throughout the day, according to a small study published in PLoS One.

Thurman recommends intervals: “I do eight rounds of 30-second sprints, followed by one-minute breathers.” He follows up his morning sweat with some greens, fruit, and a protein source to fuel muscle recovery.

Step in the sauna. “I am a big fan of infrared saunas,” says Overland. “Nothing says ‘cleanse’ to me more than a good sweat.” Many people leave the sauna feeling renewed—likely from sweating out so much water—and Overland finds the heat can also soothe sore muscles and rejuvenate the skin. Research suggests saunas work their magic by increasing circulation, and that regular sessions can support heart health long-term. Overland hops in the sauna for 30 minutes at a time, and follows it up with a cool shower. Just make sure you’re well-hydrated, and listen to your body when you’ve had enough.

Sign up for class. “If you’re used to doing the same old workout routine, it may be more of a challenge to get motivated to go back into doing it,” says Overland. That’s why she suggests signing up for a group exercise class. “You know you have to show up at a certain time, there is a clear beginning, middle, and end, and you won’t be tempted leave early,” she explains. “The energy is high, the music supports you, and you don’t have to think. Just do.”

If group classes aren’t your thing, consider hiring a trainer or online coach. “It doesn’t have to be for forever or a huge financial commitment,” says Overland. “Just enough time to change up your protocol.” You’ll get a fresh perspective that supports your goals and a workout that’s designed just for you.

9 Possible Reasons Why Your Fat Loss Has Plateaued

Anyone in the history of the world who’s ever tried to lose weight knows the struggle that is hitting a plateau. At first, the pounds practically fall off and you feel great (like motivational speaker-level great)—but then your progress starts to slow and suddenly you find yourself completely stalled. It’s the worst.

Plateaus are a total bummer, but before you swear off the veggies and running sneakers, know this: What you’re experiencing is completely normal—if not expected. Why? The leaner you get, the fewer calories your body needs, explains certified weight management specialist Jessica Cording, M.S., R.D., C.D.N. Fail to adjust accordingly (and most of us do), and your fat loss peters out. Plus, as our bodies get fitter and adapt to our go-to workouts, the same routine won’t continue to do the trick.

Fire up your fat-burning engines and bust straight through that plateau by addressing these weight-loss saboteurs.

1. You Hit The Gym Without A Plan

When you walk aimlessly into the gym, you pretty much set yourself up for a ‘meh’ workout. “It’s hard to stay motivated when you don’t know what you’re supposed to be focusing on,” says Lisa Niren C.P.T., head trainer of CITYROW in New York City. “Having a plan ensures that you will be spending your workout time in the most strategic way.”

To get started, plan your workouts by the week. Aim for two to three days of strength training and two days of aerobic training (cardio) like a HIIT or kickboxing class, run through town, or interval workout on the rowing machine or stair-stepper. From there, use a notebook or an app to track the specifics, like how much weight you used for strength-training exercises or how fast you sprinted on the rower, she suggests. Tracking your progress will help you continue to push yourself—and know when it’s time to mix things up.

2. You Focus Too Much On Cardio

If you’re forcing yourself through endless miles on the treadmill or flights of stairs on the stair-master, chances are you’re sabotaging both your results and your sanity. While traditional cardio (in conjunction with a healthy diet) can help create the daily calorie deficit that’s essential to weight loss, it won’t keep you seeing progress long-term, says Danielle Bogarty, C.P.T.

The more lean muscle mass you have, the more calories your body burns at rest—and the only way to build significant muscle is strength training. If weight loss is priority number-one, those two to three strength-training sessions a week are essential, she says.

3. You Don’t Do HIIT

As nice as it is to zone out on the elliptical and watch TV for an hour, it’s not the most fat-loss-friendly cardio approach. To rev your results, switch out that steady-state cardio for high-intensity interval training (HIIT). By alternating between intervals of all-out effort and recovery, you push your body to its metabolic limits, meaning you burn more calories in less time and keep on burning for up to 24 hours afterward as your body repairs, Niren explains. For maximum plateau-busting effect, limit your rest periods as much as possible: “They should be just enough time for you to recover so you can go all-out in your next work interval,” she explains.

You can still have elliptical dates with your favorite Netflix show, just save them for recovery day. Speaking of which…

4. You’re Not Recovering Properly

As much as you may think that losing weight means never missing a workout, more exercise isn’t necessarily what you need when you hit a plateau. In fact, the muscle recovery that occurs between workouts is when the magic really happens. Without ample time to repair and grow back stronger, your muscles continue to break down and over time your total muscle mass may decrease. That’s bad news for both your performance and your baseline calorie-burning potential. Remember: Recovery means more muscle and more muscle means more fat loss.

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That’s why Barry’s Bootcamp trainer Ashley Rutkowski, C.P.T, recommends her clients incorporate two active recovery days into their weekly routines.

Related: 8 Things To Do On An Active Recovery Day

If you’re stuck in Plateau City and feeling extra burnt out, consider taking a full recovery week to catch up on sleep, try a yoga class, or just relax, Rutkowski says. That week off will also slightly decondition your body, so you’ll burn more calories when you get back on your workout grind.

5. You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep

Sleep and weight are so closely tied that research suggests missing out on just 30 minutes can increase your risk of obesity and diabetes and that just one night of severe sleep deprivation can reduce your insulin sensitivity by as much as 25 percent, making it harder for your body to process sugar.

Plus, missing out on sleep has also been shown to increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which promotes belly fat storage.

To power through your workouts, resist avoid cravings, and keep your hormones as balanced as possible, aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night, suggests Taub-Dix.

6. Your Portions Are Generous

Even when you eat healthy, disregarding portion sizes can push you into calorie overload and undercut your fat-burning potential—especially when you’re trying to lose those last few pounds. For example: Topping your pre-workout toast with jumbo spoonfuls of PB alone can add 700 extra calories to your diet per week.

For optimal weight loss, make sure you’re following proper portion sizes to a ‘T.’ Three big ones to remember: a serving of protein (like chicken or steak) is three ounces, or about the size of a deck of cards; a serving of cooked carbs like pasta or quinoa is half a cup, or about the size of a tennis ball; and a serving of fats like nuts is just one ounce, or about a palm-full, Cording explains. If necessary, measure out and weigh your food until you’ve got your portion sizes down enough to eyeball them.

7. You’re Not Eating Enough Calories

When we want to lose weight, calories often become the enemy. The thing is, our bodies need the energy they get from calories, so when we deprive ourselves, we often feel sluggish and cranky—making everything from sitting through meetings to hitting the gym more difficult and less enjoyable, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N, author of Read It Before You Eat It.

The fat-loss sabotage doesn’t end there: According to a study published in Psychosomatic Medicine, women who followed a 1,200 (or less) calorie diet produced more of the stress hormone cortisol, which has been linked to issues like trouble sleeping and fat storage around the middle.

Not to mention, your body reacts to calorie deprivation by slowing your metabolism, so you can function off the few calories you do consume, meaning you burn fewer throughout the day, Taub-Dix adds.

If your weight won’t budge and you feel sloth-like or just plain hangry all the time, it’s probably a sign of too few calories, says Taub-Dix. Instead of focusing on calories, just concentrate on eating more quality foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

8. You’ve Been Drinking A Lot

Alcohol’s ‘empty calories’ provide zero nutrition or health benefits, so it’s no surprise that it’s not a worthy part of a weight-loss plan. Your average bottle of beer packs close to 150 calories, a glass of wine comes in around 120, and a small rum and coke contains a whopping 155. Those liquid calories add up—and mess with your fat-loss efforts—real quick.

“If you’re going to drink, drink what you’ll be satisfied with the least of,” recommends Cording. For example, if you want a margarita, but opt for a vodka soda because it has fewer calories, you’re more likely to drink four of them to quash your cravings and end up consuming far more calories than you would have with a single marg.

9. You Eat Well 90% Of The Time… But Completely Lose Control The Other 10%

Indulging is part of life—and there’s nothing wrong with it! If you rarely allow yourself to indulge, you eventually hit a breaking point and spiral into a cookie binge instead of savoring one or two.

While one out-of-control eating fest won’t automatically derail your progress, it can damage your relationship with food and make living a consistently healthy, balanced lifestyle more difficult, says Taub-Dix.

Related: Cheat Meals Get A Lot Of Hate—Here’s How To Make Them Work For You

To manage cravings productively, keep track of what you crave long-term by keeping a food journal, suggests Cording. If you notice you’ve been craving bacon, make yourself a serving of bacon instead of continuing to feel deprived or going overboard on turkey bacon, or whatever ‘healthier’ food you eat instead. Stick to proper portion sizes and these treats will keep you sane without derailing your progress.

The Benefits Of Eating Frequent, Smaller Meals—And How To Do It Right

You know those days when it feels like you can never really stop eating? Sure, it might be an issue if you’re near-constant munching consists of the leftover donut holes and chocolate-covered almonds from the office kitchen, but grazing throughout the day can be a totally okay—and quite healthy—way to eat.

In fact, “eating more regularly can positively influence your metabolism, physical and mental energy levels, productivity, mood, and appetite later on,” says Kelly Jones, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., L.D.N. Of course, what you’re eating matters (we’ll get to that). Do it right and you may notice that eating smaller, more frequent meals could be just the mind and body-boosting routine change you need.

Read up on what our go-to nutritionists have to say about the mini-meal way of life—and how to make it work for you.

The Basics

Americans’ long-held ‘three square meals a day’ attitude towards eating often means people eat a lot at once. “We love big portions,” says Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D. Yet when we have so much food in front of us at a time, we often eat more than we need, and even more than we want—setting us up for bloating and food comas in the short-term and weight gain in the long-term.  

Plus, when we eat a full day’s-worth of calories in just a few sittings and go long periods of time without eating, our blood sugar drops, leaving us tired and more likely to reach for unhealthy foods (and too much of them), Rizzo says.

That’s where ‘grazing,’ or eating a bunch of mini-meals throughout the day instead of a few big ones, comes in handy. Grazers swap breakfast, lunch, and dinner (or lunch, dinner, and late-night snacks) for six balanced snacks throughout the day, says Rizzo. For example: Someone who eats about 2,000 calories a day would munch on six 330-ish calorie snacks instead of three 660-ish calorie meals.

The Benefits

One of the biggest potential benefits of eating frequently is that it can help keep blood sugar levels stable,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. In fact, research has even linked a ‘grazing’ eating style with lower fasting insulin levels—an indicator of healthy blood sugar function and metabolism. Meanwhile, the blood sugar roller-coaster often associated with infrequent meals and giant portions can contribute to weight gain and blood sugar control issues, like insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, over time, says Rizzo.

Stable blood sugar also helps us maintain steady energy levels and a balanced appetite throughout the day, making us less likely to impulse-eat foods that are high in sugar, fat, and sodium (like a sleeve of sandwich cookies or nacho cheese chips) and better able to maintain or lose weight, says Rizzo.

Need A Little Help Conquering Cravings?

Case in point: One study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that people who ate smaller, more frequent meals ate fewer total calories, had lower BMIs, and were more likely to choose healthy foods compared to those who ate fewer, larger meals.

Finally, eating more frequently can also make you happier. How? The drops in blood sugar that occur when you go hours without eating signal your body to release stress-related hormones like cortisol and epinephrine (a.k.a. adrenaline), which can contribute to sleep and mood issues. The more under-control these hormones are, the more likely you are to feel energized during the day and able to rest well at night. Plus, eating often supplies the brain with a steady stream of glucose, helping to bolster mental sharpness and productivity. All good things for both your work life and personal life!

Issues To Look Out For

First and foremost, regardless of when you eat, what you eat is hugely important. If you’re grazing on refined or sugary foods, you miss out on the balance of fiber, fat, and protein your body needs and experience the blood sugar spike and crash that grazing is meant to prevent, says Jones. To be as blood sugar-friendly as possible, avoid refined foods that contain white flour or added sugar, and pair carbs with protein and healthy fats.

Related: 9 Healthy Snacks Nutritionists Always Keep On Hand

Grazing can also go awry if you focus more on the digital clock than your body clock. If you tell yourself you need to eat every two hours or so, you can easily fall out of touch with your natural hunger cues and end up falling into a pattern of overeating.

To keep your mini-meals in-line with your needs, divide your total calories up evenly and plan out mini-meals that contain a balance of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs from whole ingredients like nuts, fresh fruit, roasted chickpeas, and low-sugar yogurt, says Rizzo. This way you set yourself up for the right amount of nourishing munching.

Then, tune into your body and let your hunger and satiety levels guide your grazing. Eat when you feel hungry, but don’t wait until you’re ravenous, says Jones. After each mini-meal, you should feel satisfied but not super full. If you’re still hungry (or just want to keep eating), wait 20 minutes or so and reevaluate your body’s signals before doing so.

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

8 New Year’s Resolutions Nutritionists Want You To Make

It’s that time again! Before you know it, we’ll be making and breaking (and then re-making!) another round of New Year’s resolutions.

Think about it: How many years have you resolved to lose a bunch of weight, exercise every day, or never touch junk food again? And how many years have these big, life-overhauling plans fallen off-course after a few weeks? (It’s okay—us too).

As a dietitian, I help people reach their health goals every day, and I promise you that reaching yours can be much easier than you think. This year, I want you to try a different approach: Instead of making a grand, Hollywood-style New Year’s resolution about your health, focus on small, actionable changes that will make you feel accomplished on a daily basis, boost your health, and help you both feel and look your best.

Put the following eight mini-resolutions (straight from nutrition pros) to work for you and you’ll have your healthiest year yet!

Don’t look for a ‘new you’ in this New Year. There’s nothing wrong with the current ‘you’! Sure, we could all improve, but I encourage you to celebrate your strengths instead of focusing on your shortcomings. Breaking bad habits and forming healthier ones can be tough, but having the right attitude is half the battle—so I want you to applaud every little victory (like making time to eat a healthy breakfast, bringing lunch to work one day a week, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator). Keep a running list of even your smallest accomplishments to ensure you give yourself credit for every change and see just how much these little wins add up.

A good breakfast sets the tone for the rest of your day and fuels your body for whatever tasks you have coming your way. That’s why incorporating a healthy breakfast into your morning routine is a worth resolution this year, says dietitian Brynn McDowell, R.D. Take it one week at a time and make it easier by keeping your meal simple.

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Try plain oatmeal with a spoonful of almond butter stirred in or a slice of whole-grain toast topped with cottage cheese and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar. When a healthy breakfast is a part of your routine, you’ll have a fresh start every morning—even if a day ends with a late-night snack and an extra glass of wine.

Not only does protein helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer and less likely to reach for lower-nutrient foods, but protein-rich foods—including dairy, eggs, meat, seafood, legumes, and nuts—are packed with many other nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Your task this year: “Try eating enough protein (20 to 30 grams) at every meal and including some in your snacks,” says Elizabeth Ward, M.S., R.D. That’s roughly a three-ounce serving of meat (like chicken, which packs 21 grams of protein). Bump up your protein intake between meals by adding a tablespoon of chia seeds to your smoothie or dipping fruit slices in Greek yogurt.

“There are so many benefits to meal planning, including saving time and money, reducing food waste, and ensuring a healthier, more balanced plate,” says Jessica Levinson, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N. Start by planning out one day of meals per week and bump it up to two when you’re ready. As you start to see the benefits of thinking ahead, you’ll naturally want to plan out more, and before you know it you’ll be planning the whole week, she says. (Quick tip: Take stock of what you already have in the fridge, freezer, and pantry so you can plan meals that use what you already have on-hand. This way, you can save money on groceries and prevent food waste.)

No, you don’t need to ring in the New Year with a three-day juice cleanse. As many resolutioners know, fad diets and cleanses may seem to work in the short-term, but inevitably end in weight gain after we call it quits. That’s why dietitian Sharon Palmer, R.D., warns against getting caught up in fads—especially if they eliminate whole food groups. Instead, find a more sustainable way of eating by focusing on upping your intake of whole plant foods like whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

When we want to shed fat—as part of a New Year’s resolution or not—we tend to get caught up in calories in versus calories out. But not this year! “Fixating on the number of calories in food not only makes your overall eating experience less enjoyable, but can also welcome the wrong choices,” says Mandy Enright, M.S., R.D.N., R.Y.T., creator of Nutrition Nuptials. Instead, your food decisions should be based on the foods’ overall nutritional value. When considering what to eat, ask yourself: Does this food contain vitamins and minerals? Does it have fiber? And, does it add to my health? Taking this approach will encourage you to eat more healthy foods like veggies, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, beans, nuts, and seeds, and save the nutritionally ‘less valuable’ treats for special occasions.

Related: 6 Tips For Losing Weight Without Counting Calories

Your stomach is about the size of two of your fists put together—and it probably gets full before your mouth and mind are satisfied. It’s so common for us to eat more than our stomach’s natural capacity—which is easy to do when we’re scrolling through our phones or eating foods loaded with added sugars and fats—that many of us have lost touch with the sensations of hunger and fullness. So, this challenge is two-fold. First: When you eat, just eat—no distractions! And second: Focus on the feeling of fullness as you eat. When your stomach is satisfied, stop eating. The more in-tune you are with your body’s sensations, the more physically and emotionally satisfied you’ll feel after eating—without going overboard.

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

According to a 2016 Harris poll, 40 percent of Americans gather for family dinner three times a week, or even less often. As busy as we may be with work, after-school activities, doctor’s appointments, and more, finding the time to come together for family meals has major benefits—especially for kids. Family meals are linked to better eating habits, healthier body weights, stronger academic performance, and lower risks of disordered eating and substance abuse, says Liz Weiss, M.S., R.D.N., of Liz’s Healthy Table. Even if it means having breakfast together instead of dinner or focusing on eating together over the weekend, every meal families share together makes a difference, she says. To make meals as enriching as possible, involve the kids in meal planning and prepping and put phones away.

Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday HealthBetter Homes & GardensWomen’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You From Label To Table.

8 Cardio Myths It’s Time To Stop Believing

Cardio is a bit of a controversial subject in the fitness world. On one end you’ve got endurance die-hards who swear by the benefits of a nice, long run, and on the other end you’ve got strength training enthusiasts who limit cardio as much as they possibly can. Even if you don’t have a hardcore cardio opinion, you’ve probably got a few questions about this often-misunderstood form of exercise!

We asked three fitness experts to clear up the cardio confusion so you can save yourself time, energy, and loads of motivation. You’ll work out smarter, protect your health, and charge towards the results you really want.

Myth 1: Doing tons of cardio is the best way to lose weight.

When we want to lose weight, we think about burning as many calories as possible—and logging endless miles on the treadmill or flights of stairs on the stair-master seems like the way to do it. Though traditional cardio workouts will help you create a daily calorie deficit, they’re not your best bet long-term, says Lisa Niren C.P.T., head trainer of CITYROW in New York City.

The more lean muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn even at rest—meaning you contribute to that caloric deficit just by living—and to really build that muscle, you need to strength train. Cardio can actually burn both fat and muscle, so doing too much can actually decrease your muscle mass, slow your metabolism, and undermine your ability to lose weight, Niren says.

Related: Why Cardio Is NOT The Best Way To Lose Weight

A workout routine that supports lasting weight loss combines regular strength training (about two or three days per week) with some high-intensity cardio like interval sprints or kickboxing, suggests Christi Marraccini, C.P.T., head coach at Tone House in New York City.

Myth 2: You need to do at least 30 minutes of cardio for it to be worthwhile.

Any movement you can squeeze in does your body good, so don’t throw in the towel and stay on the couch just because you’ll only have 20 minutes to sweat. Maximize the health benefit of short cardio workouts by pushing yourself to keep your heart rate elevated to 70 to 85 percent of your max heart rate (220 minus your age) for at least 10 to 15 minutes, says Hannah Davis, C.S.C.S., creator of Operation Bikini Body Abs. Working at this intensity will help improve your aerobic capacity and burn more calories.

To really maximize your workout’s calorie-burning potential, swap steady-state cardio for high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Because HIIT involves bursts of intense effort, you’ll burn more calories in less time (and in the hours after you finish) than you would with steady-state cardio.

In HIIT workouts, you’ll alternate between bursts of all-out effort (they can last anywhere between five seconds and a few minutes) that rocket your heart rate to between 80 and 95 percent of your max and recovery periods that last long enough for your heart rate to drop back down to between 40 and 50 percent of your max, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. You can do HIIT workouts on cardio machines, or use bodyweight movements like burpees, jump squats, box jumps, and more.

Myth 3: You should do cardio every single day.

We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: if you want to lose weight, your workout routine will need to emphasize strength training, not just cardio! Plus, even if weight-loss isn’t your goal, hitting cardio every day can backfire. Why? When you work out, you break down your muscles so that they can rebuild to become even bigger, stronger, and more capable. To do that, though, your body needs ample time to recover.

Pushing yourself to exercise every day can actually lead to overtraining, a state in which your body doesn’t have enough time to recover and rebuild muscle, and you experience issues like muscle breakdown, fatigue, and moodiness. That’s why Marraccini recommends one to two days of active recovery per week.

Supps That Support Recovery

If you’re feeling uncharacteristically unmotivated, moody, tired, or sick, skip the cardio and take an active recovery day instead.

Myth 4: Yoga doesn’t count as cardio.

Yogis will be glad to know that according to research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, yoga can provide benefits similar to those of traditional lower-intensity cardio workouts, like decreased risks of metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, and poor cholesterol, as well as improved triglyceride levels and lower body mass.

Not all yoga classes are created equal, though. If you want to swap your light swim, walk, or bike ride for yoga, look for a class described as ‘power, ‘fast,’ or ‘hot,’ which will be more intense and boost your heart rate, according to yoga teacher and ICE NYC mobility instructor Gabrielle Morbitzer. At the end of the day, though, while can sub yoga in for lower-intensity workouts, it won’t have the same body and fitness effects of more vigorous workouts, like HIIT.

Myth 5: Fasted cardio torches the most fat.

If your body doesn’t have any calories from food to burn for exercise, it’ll dip further into your fat stores to power you through, right? As logical as the theory might sound, it’s not quite true in practice. Research shows that people burn the same amount of fat during steady cardio regardless of whether or not they ate beforehand. Plus, research has also shown that skipping a pre-workout snack can increase muscle breakdown, which sabotages your metabolism and ability to burn fat.

To perform at its best, your body needs fuel—so when you work out on an empty stomach, you may not be able to push yourself as hard. “That means your intensity may drop and your calorie burn ends up being lower than it could have been,” says Davis.

If working out first thing in the morning works best for your schedule, stick with it—but don’t force early-A.M. workouts or starve yourself before hitting the gym in the name of fat-burning. If you have time, eat a snack that contains some carbs and protein about an hour before getting sweaty.

Myth 6: You have to stay in the ‘fat-burning zone’ to burn fat.

The ‘fat-burning zone,’ which you’ve probably seen identified on cardio machines as being between 50 and 65 percent of your max heart rate, sounds like the place to be if you want your cardio workouts to help you lose weight. When you work at this intensity, you primarily use your aerobic energy system and burn fat for energy, explains Niren. Though a higher number of the total calories you burn will come from fat, you burn far fewer calories than you would exercising above your aerobic threshold, at 70 to 80 percent of your max heart rate. The higher the demand you put on your muscles, the more damage you inflict and the harder your body has to work to recover (all of which takes calories), says Davis.

Myth 7: You can skip leg day if you do cardio activities like cycling and running.

Cardio lovers and marathoners who avoid the squat rack, know this: Traditional cardio doesn’t build muscle or challenge your muscles through a full range of motion—both of which prevent injury—like strength training does. In fact, when you focus just on cardio, your body adapts and requires less and less energy to get through your usual routine over time—leading you straight into a plateau. While this is good news if you need to ration energy to get through a marathon, it’s bad news if you want to lose weight or build strength, says Niren.

Related: 6 Reasons You Should Never Skip Leg Day

Incorporate leg-strengthening exercises like squats, deadlifts, and lunges into your workout routine regularly in order to burn more calories, build strong legs, and lose weight more efficiently.

Myth 8: You should always do cardio before strength training.

Everyone and their mother has their own ideas about how you should structure your workouts, but whether you hit cardio or weights first really depends on your goals. “If you’re training for a race, I recommend doing cardio before strength” says Davis. In that case, your cardio pace and performance are higher priority than how much weight you use in the squat rack. If you’re not training for anything, though, strength train first so you’ll be as fresh as possible to lift heavy and maintain proper form and technique, Niren says. Plus, if you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll use glycogen fuel your strength training and more likely to burn fat for fuel during your cardio.

6 Ways To Burn More Calories During Your Workouts

Whether you’re peeling yourself out of bed to hit the gym on a Saturday morning or lacing up your sneakers after a long day at work, you want your workout to really pay off—and chances are that means torching tons of calories.

A number of factors—like the type of workout you do and how long and hard you go for—determine how many calories you may burn. But there are a few things you can do during your workouts—no matter how crunched for time you may be—to turn up your burn.

These expert-backed tips will boost your sweaty efforts—without taking much effort themselves! Keep these strategies in mind when you work out and you’ll shed more fat and perform better than ever. And who doesn’t want that?

1. Hit The Weights

While many people might think that cardio is king when it comes to calorie burn, skimping on strength training is a sure way to stall your progress. Why? Unlike cardio, strength training signals your body to build muscle, and increasing how much muscle you have can boost your metabolism, according to Todd Nief, CF-L3, head coach and founder of South Loop Strength and Conditioning in Chicago.

Muscle is ‘metabolically active tissue,’ meaning you use calories just to maintain it. Having more muscle versus fat increases how many calories your body burns throughout the day—even when you’re resting—making it progressively easier for you to shed fat and get fitter.

Related: 6 Ways Building Muscle Benefits Your Health And Well-Being

You don’t need to quit your beloved cardio cold turkey, though. For maximum calorie-torching effect, Nief likes to combine strength moves with cardio in circuit-style workouts. Create your own combo workout by jumping back and forth between weighted exercises (like barbell squats, dumbbell presses, or kettlebell swings) and cardio bursts (like burpees, jumping jacks, or skaters).

 2. Focus On Compound Exercises

You can bicep curl until the cows come home, but if you want to burn major calories with strength training, you need as much of your workout as possible to involve as many muscles as possible.

While bicep curls isolate a single muscle in your arms, moves like squats and deadlifts (called ‘compound exercises’) require a bunch of your muscles, like your core, glutes, quads, and hamstrings to get working.  The more muscles you’re using in a single move, the more calories you’ll burn, says Tyler Spraul, C.S.C.S., head trainer at Exercise.com.

Try to hit as many muscles as possible in a given workout by incorporating moves like pullups, squats, lunges, and pushups.

3. Try Interval Training

If you normally work out at a steady pace, mix things up—and torch more cals—with interval training. Research shows that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can improve aerobic and anaerobic fitness, increase muscle, and promote fat loss more effectively than steady-state cardio.

When you alternate between periods of all-out effort and recovery, you put greater demand on your body and continue to burn calories long after you hit the showers. The experts call this ‘excess post-exercise oxygen consumption,’ or EPOC.

Give Your Workouts A Boost

To boost the intensity—and benefit—of your workouts, try intervals like Tabata (20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of recovery) or AMRAPS (performing ‘as many reps as possible’ of a move in a certain amount of time), suggests Nief.

You can play around with HIIT by adjusting how long you work and rest for, but the key is to keep your rest intervals short. “Since you’ll have less time to recover, you’ll be spending more time with an elevated heart rate, which translates into additional calories burned,” says Spraul.

4. Use A Fitness Tracker

Tracking devices, which can sometimes be inaccurate, are a little tricky. Use them wisely, though, and they can both motivate you and help you work out smarter.

Trackers’ estimates about how many calories you burn may be a little off, but having a number to shoot for can encourage you to push yourself and burn more calories during your workout, says Nief. Just consider that number with a grain of salt and don’t use it to justify post-workout calorie overloads.

Devices that track your heart rate, though, can be incredibly helpful during your workouts, says Nief. If you’re doing a HIIT workout, keeping close tabs on your heart rate can motivate you to go harder during your sprints and ensure you get enough rest during your recovery periods.

5. Down Some Joe Before Working Out

You count on coffee to get you through Monday (and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday) mornings, but that sweet, sweet caffeine can also power you through your workouts.

“Caffeine is one of the few proven ergogenics, or exercise performance enhancers,” says Nief. If you’re able to move faster and work with greater effort and intensity with a little help from caffeine, you’re going to blast more calories and see better results.

Drink a cup of coffee (typically somewhere around 120 milligrams of caffeine) about 30 minutes before working out and it’ll kick in just in time for you crush every squat or sprint. Just keep it black or limit add-ins to just a splash of milk. Slugging a sugary, creamy drink before sweating will just make you feel sluggish and crampy. If coffee isn’t your style, try a pre-workout supplement that contains caffeine.

6. Switch Up The Temperature

Sure, we all prefer to exercise in the perfect-temperature setting—not too hot, not too cold. But research suggests that working out in a hot or cold environment can benefit your health and boost your results. We’re not talking either a desert or tundra-level extreme here—just hotter or colder than you’d like.

When you get moving in a hot environment, your heart and body have to work harder to regulate your body temperature and keep you from overheating, which requires extra energy and burns through calories, says Nief.

On the flipside, when you work out in the cold, your body begins to shiver to produce heat and increase your body temperature, which requires energy, too. Research published in Cell Metabolism shows that cold exposure also stimulates hormones and activates genes that boost fat burning

 7. Drink Cold Water

Okay, you probably don’t want to sip on a warm mug of tea during a workout, anyway, but filling your water bottle with ice cubes can give your calorie-burning a little lift.

For every icy glass of water you down, you’ll burn about eight calories, says Nief. As the ice chills your insides, your body burns through a little energy to warm itself back up. Eight calories a glass isn’t much, we know, but every little bit counts, right? And considering how crucial it is to stay hydrated when you exercise, we consider it just another reason to keep our water bottles handy in and out of the gym.

Pin this checklist to maximize your burn every time you hit the gym:

What One Serving Of 7 Popular Healthy Snacks Looks Like

When your stomach grumbles between meals, a healthy snack will keep you sane—and prevent you from downing half a pizza once dinnertime finally rolls around.

Serving sizes still count for even the healthiest of snacks, though, and you can still dig yourself deep into a calorie hole if you overdo it on the good stuff. (Okay, maybe you can’t overdo celery, but…). That’s why nutritionists recommend reaching for snacks that clock in between about 100 and 200 calories—which should be enough to satisfy you without becoming a full-on meal.

We know keeping portions in check can be tricky—so we did the work for you. Below are eight nutritionist-approved snacks, exactly how much of each will land you in that 100 to 200-calorie range, and what that serving actually looks like. Follow this guide and your snacks are guaranteed to fill you up (but not out) the next time hunger strikes.

1. Roasted Edamame

Have a hankering for chips? Reach for edamame instead. “If you are craving something crunchy and salty, this snack is a home run,” says Keri Gans, R.D.N., author The Small Change Diet. “It’s packed with fiber and protein, two necessary nutrients to help keep you full.”

One serving: 1/3 cup roasted edamame

171 calories, 17 g protein, 14 g carbs, 5 g fat, 12 fiber, 3 g sugar

2. Almonds + Apple

Nuts pack a lot of calories, so they’re a real doozy if you eat too many. But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid them! Nuts are packed with healthy fats, along with other nutrients. “Almonds are a great source of vitamin E, which protects your body’s cells from damage,” explains Rachel Meltzer Warren, M.S., R.D.N., author of The Smart Girl’s Guide to Going Vegetarian.

Healthy Snacking Staples

“Nuts also pack protein, which, especially combined with the fiber in the apple, makes this snack a filling combination,” she says.

One serving: 1/4 cup almonds + one small, fist-sized apple

237 calories, 6 g protein, 28 g carbs, 13 g fat, 7 g fiber, 16 g sugar

3. Cottage Cheese + Berries

Cottage cheese and fruit is a naturally sweet and creamy combo. Plus, cottage cheese is packed with filling protein (more than 20 grams per cup!), calcium, and B vitamins, while antioxidant-rich blueberries add a dose of fiber, says Gans.

One serving: 1 cup two-percent cottage cheese + 1 cup blueberries

253 calories, 23 g protein, 27 g carbs, 6 g fat, 4 fiber, 21 g sugar

4. Crackers + Nut Or Seed Butter + Banana Slices

This crunchy, creamy, sweet, and salty snack is the ultimate trifecta of good-for-you ingredients.

“The combination of fiber from the crackers and banana and protein from the sunflower seed butter makes for a satisfying snack,” says Meltzer Warren. Sunflower seeds are also a good source of magnesium, an important mineral that many of us fall short on.

One serving: 2 high-fiber crackers (like Wasa whole-grain crispbreads) + 1 tablespoon of sunflower seed butter + 1/2 a banana

213 calories, 7 g protein, 31 g carbs, 9 g fat, 8 g fiber, 9 g sugar

5. Yogurt

Yogurt is a great calcium-packed snack—but it’s hard to find a flavored option that’s not jammed with added sugar, says Ansel. That’s why she recommends reaching for skyr, an Icelandic-style yogurt that contains more protein and less sugar, instead.

One serving: 1 cup of low-fat skyr, like Siggi’s Non-Fat Vanilla Icelandic Skyr

110 calories, 15 g protein, 12 g carbs, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, 9 g sugar

6. Air-Popped Popcorn

Popcorn is a whole grain, so when you eat it you’re not just scratching that snack itch, but you’re also giving your body fiber and valuable nutrients, says Meltzer Warren. Thing is, though, many packaged varieties are cooked in tons of oil and topped with a hefty dose of salt, so you may end up eating a lot more calories than you expect.

The solution: Make your own! “I love air-popped popcorn drizzled with a little olive oil and some spices,” says Meltzer Warren. Just as satisfying as pretzels or chips—but much more health and waistline-friendly.

One serving: 3 cups of air-popped popcorn + 1 tablespoon olive oil + pinch of sea salt

249 calories, 2 g protein, 13 g carbs, 22 g fat, 2 g fiber, 0 g sugar

7. Veggies + Guacamole

For a savory crunch, munch on vegetables and creamy guacamole, suggests Keri Glassman, M.S., R.D., founder of Nutritious Life. Avocados are a great source of heart-healthy fats that can help tame your hunger.

Glassman likes to dunk brightly-colored veggies—like carrots and red pepper slices, which are great sources of beta-carotene—into guac. This plant pigment converts into vitamin A, which is great for your vision, immune system, and skin. These veggies are also super low in calories, making this an ideal snack if you’re looking to lose weight, according to Glassman.

One serving: ½ cup sliced carrots + ½ cup sliced red peppers + 4 tablespoons guacamole

119 calories, 2 g protein, 17 g carbs, 8 g fat, 7 g fiber, 7 g sugar

How To Boost Your Post-Workout Calorie Burn

When you think about burning calories, you probably think about burning calories during your workouts—like while you’re on the treadmill or under the squat rack.

Depending on your workout, however, you also continue to burn calories after you leave the gym—especially important if you’re trying to shed fat. These calories, which you’ve probably heard referred to as the ‘after-burn,’ come from excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC.

EPOC, simply put, is the amount of oxygen (and therefore calories) that your body churns through after your workout to restore your body to its previous state. Your body uses this post-exercise oxygen to restore the glycogen (energy) in your muscles, lower your body temp, and repair damage to your muscles, says Pam Geisel, M.S., C.S.C.S., C.P.T., exercise physiologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery’s Tisch Sports Performance Center in New York City. EPOC gives your metabolism gets a nice little boost, which can last anywhere from three to 24 hours after you leave the gym.

The Higher Your Intensity, The Higher Your EPOC

To really ramp up your EPOC, how hard you work out is more important than how long you work out for and what type of exercise you choose.

For instance, according to one 2016 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, when guys performed sprints and other high-intensity intervals, they burned 110 and 82.5 calories in the three hours after their workouts, respectively. Meanwhile, when they performed longer bouts of steady-state cardio, they burned just 64 calories in the three hours afterward.

“Think of intense exercise like trashing a hotel room and jogging like dropping the TV remote on the floor,” says Anna Swisher, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., director of education and performance at Eleiko. “It will take hours to repair the whole hotel room, but just a few seconds to pick up the remote. More damage takes more energy to clean up.”

Related: 7 HIIT Workouts That Incinerate Fat

While your age, sex, and fitness level do affect how long your after-burn lasts, exercise intensity is still your best tool for maxing it out. Incorporate these six must-try strategies into your workout plan to really ‘trash the hotel room.’ (Just take it slow if you’re used to lower-intensity, steady-state exercise, and think about ramping up bit by bit from week to week.)

1. Focus On Your Body’s Biggest Muscles

Moves that work larger muscles, like squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and pullups, require more energy to perform and create a greater EPOC compared to moves that hit just one or two smaller muscles, like bicep curls, Swisher says. So focus your strength training efforts on these large compound moves as much as possible.

2.Lift Heavy

One Sports Medicine review found that when exercisers performed three sets of eight moves with 80 to 90 percent of their 1RM (one-rep max, or the most weight they could lift for a single rep), they had significantly greater EPOC compared to when they performed four sets of eight moves with 50 percent of their 1RM.

Supplements That Support Your Training

What that means for you: When performing these big lifts, make sure you’re picking up something (really) heavy, Swisher says. You should only be able to pull off four to eight reps per set.

3. Perform Isolation Moves As Supersets

Isolation work—like bicep curls and tricep extensions—can still have a place in your routine. To reap the most EPOC benefit, save them for the second half of your workouts, after you’ve given your more demanding lifts your all. Superset moves that work opposing muscle groups and perform them back-to-back, with no rest in between, to up the intensity, suggests Geisel. (Since isolation moves tend to put all their stress on one joint, use a weight light enough that you can perform more than six reps.)

4. Slow Down Your Lifts

Performing strength exercises slowly and under control cuts down on how much momentum you use and increases the demand placed on your muscles to boost your after-burn. Eccentric movements (a.k.a. the lowering or ‘negative’ part of a move) cause greater muscle damage, and can increase both the intensity and duration of your EPOC, according to one ISRN Physiology review. Pay special attention to slowing down the eccentric phase—like lowering into a squat or raising the lat pulldown bar back to start—of each exercise.

5. Increase Cardio Speed And Resistance

If you’re more into cardio than weights, swap your regular steady-state jogs for all-out sprints or turn the nob on your spin bike way to the right. Doing so increases the resistance against which your muscles have to work—and how hard your body will have to work to recover, Geisel says.

6. Cut Back On Rest Intervals

Whether you’re a lifting lover or a cardio bunny, reducing the amount of time that you rest between sets and sprints ups how hard your anaerobic energy systems have to work to fuel your workouts, Geisel says. As a general rule, your rest periods should be just long enough that you’re able to give each set or sprint your all while maintaining proper form, she says. Any longer and you’re limiting your EPOC potential.

Related: Add a protein supplement to your post-workout routine to support strong muscles.

5 Mistakes People Make When They Go Keto

There are lots of misconceptions about the ketogenic diet swirling around out there—you know, like the idea that eating tons of bacon is totally okay, or that you can slather absolutely everything in oil. Or that keto’s just about cutting out bread. But this increasingly trendy diet is a tad more complicated than that.

Here are the basics: Keto requires eating close to 80 percent of your calories from fat, about 15 percent from protein, and just five percent from carbs. This shifts the body into a state called ‘ketosis,’ in which the body burns fat (in the form of ‘ketones’) for fuel instead of sugar. (You can learn more about the keto process here.)

First developed to treat epilepsy and now used as part of treatment plans for health conditions like PCOS, infertility, diabetes, epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s, the ketogenic diet has been said to improve energy, mental clarity, and focus. It’s also become a popular means of maintaining a healthy weight for some people.

Eating keto means cutting out processed foods, sugars, and starches—including bread, potatoes, and most fruit—and eating way more healthy fats than you’re probably used to. Foods like meat, fish, eggs, non-starchy veggies, and all sorts of fats are game—in the right amounts.

With so many foods off the table and such a high fat quota to hit, it’s no wonder so many keto newbies have trouble making the diet sustainable. It is doable, though! Make your keto lifestyle more balanced and successful by avoiding these common mistakes.

Mistake #1: Approaching It As A Temporary Fad Diet

Once you’ve nailed down your reason for going on the keto diet—whether you’re managing an illness, want to fuel your distance running differently, or want to lose weight—you have to seriously consider how realistic keto is for your lifestyle.

“Ketogenic dieting is not a halfway pursuit; it’s all or nothing,” says Kristen Mancinelli, M.S., R.D.N., who specializes in low-carb diets. Especially considering the fact that it takes more than cutting out bread and sugar for a week to shift your body to ketosis. It can actually take up to a few weeks to shift into using fat for fuel (during which you may feel tired and moody)—and because your body’s instinct is to use sugar for fuel, all that hard work can be undone with just one higher-carb meal. So keto really isn’t one of those diets you can follow Monday through Friday and ditch on the weekends.

Plus, if you use keto for weight loss and end up restricting your calories, you’re even more likely to regain lost weight (and then some) when you go off keto, according to Nancy Clark, M.S., R.D., author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook. This is even more likely if you’re using keto to keep yourself from going overboard on foods you consider weaknesses (like pizza or slice-and-bake cookies), because you’ll likely dive face first into these foods the minute you’re ‘done’ with keto.

If thinking of keto as a long-term lifestyle doesn’t seem sustainable for you—or enjoyable, for that matter—it may not be right for you.

Mistake #2: Eating Too Many Carbs

Even if you think you’re slashing carbs, they can often creep into your diet and throw you out of ketosis. This can happen if you don’t measure your portions, eat something without knowing its exact ingredients, or don’t track your carb intake closely, says Sarah Jadin, M.S., R.D., C.S.P., C.D., C.N.S.C, of Keto Diet Consulting. (The experts aptly call this issue ‘carb creep.’) Even medications and supplements, which commonly use carbs as fillers, can push your intake over the edge.

Keto done right means just about 20 to 50 grams of carbs total per day. To stay in that range, your carbs would have to come from non-starchy vegetables like leafy greens, broccoli, and cauliflower, according to Mancinelli. (A cup of broccoli, for example, contains four grams of carbs.) Even these a-okay veggies can push you over your carb limit if you’re not careful, though. While a cup of kale contains just about five-ish grams of net carbs (total carbs minus fiber), a typical kale salad packs three or four cups of kale and clocks in at close to 20 grams.

As little as just a quarter cup of sweet potatoes (20 grams of carbs) or a medium apple (23 grams of carbs) could max out your carbs—or push you overboard—for the day.

Keto-Friendly Supps

Mistake #3: Mismanaging Your Veggies

Given the carb issue, maintaining a balanced intake of veggies on the ketogenic diet can be tricky. With many nutritious, higher-carb foods like sweet potatoes, lentils, beans, and quinoa more or less off the table, you’ll have to work a little harder to build a balanced diet with the foods that are a-okay. If you ditch all veggies in favor of fat, you’ll just leave yourself wanting for a number of important vitamins and minerals, says Megan Ware, R.D.N., L.D., owner of Nutrition Awareness.

To keep your eats as nutritious as possible, look up the net carb content for the 10 vegetables you eat most often, so you can see how they’ll fit into your keto lifestyle, recommends Mancinelli. On top of that, try to incorporate nutrient-rich greens, like baby kale and spinach, into every meal, adds Ware. As always, use a food tracker to monitor your carb intake, and keep portion sizes in mind. To fill any remaining nutritional gaps, people living the high-fat life may also want to consider a multivitamin.

In the first few weeks of keto, when you lose water weight from slashing carbs, your electrolyte levels may drop a bit and you may be hit with what the community calls the ‘keto flu.’ If you experience any fatigue or muscle issues, Mancinelli recommends supplementing with electrolytes like sodium, magnesium, and potassium. Spinach, baby kale, and avocado also provide potassium, while hemp seeds, spinach, and oysters offer magnesium.

Mistake #4: Eating Too Much (And The Wrong Types Of) Protein

Many healthy eaters and fitness enthusiasts tout the benefits of high-protein diets—but too much protein is a major (and overlooked) no-no on the ketogenic diet. Your body can actually turn protein into glucose, so eating too much of the stuff can pull you out of ketosis and back into sugar-burning mode, says Mancinelli.

Keto allows for moderate protein intake, which would be about 0.5 to 0.75 grams of protein per pound of body weight a day for an active dieter (between 75 and 112 grams for someone who weighs 150 pounds). For reference, a small piece of chicken or three eggs provides about 20 grams of protein.

Though you’re trying to load up on fat, you still need to take care of your heart health, so your protein should come from sources like chicken, turkey, and fish, instead of processed foods like bacon, says Clark.

Mistake #5: Not Eating The Right Fats

When fat needs to make up about 80 percent of your total calories, it’s all too easy to add coconut oil to everything or eat nothing but nut butter—but maintaining a balance and eating the right types of fats is key to a healthful keto diet.

It’s crucial to get plenty of unsaturated fats, says Jadin. Nuts (like peanuts, walnuts, and pecans), seeds (like flax, chia, and hemp), avocados, fatty fish (like salmon, trout and sardines), are all great sources of unsaturated fats. Plant oils like avocado, flax, grapeseed, and hemp oil, all also provide unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats have been shown to reduce risk of heart disease and stroke.

Related: Why Is Everyone Talking About MCTs?

What about saturated fats, which you’ll find in your beloved coconut oil? There’s been a lot of back-and-forth here recently, with some research questioning just how they impact our health long-term. As much as we love our coconut oil, the Harvard School of Public Health still stands by the advice that emphasizing unsaturated fats over saturated fats in your diet better supports your heart health long-term. For now, spoon out your coconut oil in moderation and keep your saturated fat intake to about 10 percent of your total calories (that’s 22 grams in a 2,000-calorie diet).

7 Healthy Foods You Might Be Overeating

Let’s face it: Eating healthy all the time can be tough. Nearly half of Americans fall short on the daily recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains put forth by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. On top of that, many of us regularly chow down on processed and sugar-laden foods that can wreak havoc on our waistlines. So if you’re already swapping out French fries for carrot sticks and double cheeseburgers for quinoa bowls, you’ve achieved a major victory.

As healthy as your grub may be, though, you do still need to consider calories. While experts agree that calories are not all created equal (a handful of high-fiber, high-protein almonds contains as many calories as six sugary ginger snaps, for example, but the almonds keep you fuller longer and ward off overeating later), our bodies still like to stay in a state of energy balance. This means that the calories we eat and drink should equal the number of calories we burn through living and breathing, digesting food, and being physically active.

Take in more calories than we burn and we often gain weight—even if those extra calories come from healthy, nutrient-dense foods. The following seven good-for-you foods are some of the easiest to overeat, so double-check your portions to keep your healthy diet on point.

1. Granola

A staple for yogurt lovers everywhere, this delicious combo of oats, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit adds a satisfying crunch to your breakfast or snack, along with some fiber, protein, iron, potassium, and heart-healthy fats. But that doesn’t mean you can treat hearty granola like regular cereals.

While a serving of regular cereal is about one cup, a serving of most granolas is just about a quarter cup, says Marjorie Cohn, M.S., R.D., personal trainer and owner of MNC Nutrition. Granola is very calorically-dense, so that quarter cup often packs between 120 and 150 calories, while a full cup could clock in at close to 600.

While a quarter cup may not look like much, it goes a long way in satisfying your hunger. To get the most bang for your buck, look for a granola that lists added sugar as far down in the ingredients list as possible, Cohn says. If you need more crunch than a serving of granola can provide, try adding some low-sugar cereal to your yogurt.

2. Quinoa

This trendy superfood is definitely wearing a health halo right now. After all, one cup of cooked quinoa packs almost 10 grams of protein—nearly double that of grains like barley, couscous, and brown rice—while coming in around 200 calories per cup, which is calorically equivalent to other whole grains. Yes, it’s got more protein and sometimes more fiber, but you can still overeat it and it can still contribute to weight gain, says Cohn.

For example, many popular quinoa bowl recipes contain close to a cup and a half of quinoa, in addition to other ingredients, like avocado, black beans, chicken. These meals can clock in at more than 800 calories, with nearly half coming from the quinoa. So, quinoa super-fans, stick to a serving of one cup to keep calories in check while still getting its good-for-you nutrients.

3. Hummus

No party—or fridge—is complete without hummus. This creamy chickpea-based dip contains fiber and protein—a nutrient combo sure to help keep you satisfied. The problem is that it’s so darn addicting, making it way too easy to overeat.

Two tablespoons of hummus, depending on the variety, come in at somewhere between 50 and 70 calories. “I’ve seen people at parties scoop that amount of hummus with a cracker in one dip,” exclaims Cohn. While hummus is nutritious, be weary of how much you scoop up (a 10-ounce tub contains upwards of 500 calories). Kick-up your hummus game another notch by dipping with vegetables—like cucumbers, carrots, celery, sugar snap peas, or broccoli—which are more nutrient-dense than crackers and save you both salt and calories.

4. Coconut Oil

A superstar at health-food stores everywhere, coconut oil has become a popular cooking staple after a number of studies found that a specific type of fat it contains—medium-chained triglycerides (MCTs)—is used as a source of energy, bolsters “good” HDL cholesterol, and supports a healthy weight.

Related: Why Is Everyone Talking About MCTs?

However, not all experts agree on these touted benefits. “Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, and while this plant-based fat may not be as harmful for heart health as animal-based saturated fats, the jury’s still out on its overall health impacts,” says Jen Bruning, M.S., R.D.N., L.D.N., National Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.

For now, use coconut oil in moderation and remember that this oil—like all other fats—contains a whopping nine calories per gram. The U.S. government recommends limiting saturated fats to less than 10 percent of our daily calories (that’s 200 calories on a 2,000-calorie diet), so keep in mind that two tablespoons of coconut oil contain 240 calories and plan your daily grub accordingly.

5. Chicken Breast

Skinless chicken breast is a lean, high-protein meat choice that’s easily paired with a side or two for a quick, delicious, and healthy meal. But if you eat the whole breast, or even two-thirds of it—which is common if you’re cutting back on carbs or ramping up your protein intake to build muscle—you may be getting more of it than your body can handle at one time.

A cooked whole chicken breast is typically around 10 or 12 ounces, according to Cohn. That’s about 500 calories and 103 grams of protein. That’s a lot of protein. Experts recommend active individuals eat about two grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (about 136 grams for a 150-pound person) throughout an entire day.

The issue is, our bodies lack a storage system for protein outside of our muscles, so if we eat more than our body can use at one time, that surplus protein is just extra calories that can be stored as fat, explains Cohn. Even eight ounces still packs 334 calories and 69 grams of protein, which is a little much for one meal.

That’s why research suggests splitting up your protein needs throughout the day to maintain and build muscle. According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, people who ate 30 grams of protein (about four ounces of chicken) at each meal synthesized 25 percent more proteins in their muscles than people who ate 90 grams of protein primarily at dinner.

Sick Of Chicken? Try These For Protein

Follow this protein rule of thumb: Stick to between three and six ounces of chicken—about the size of the palm of your hand—per meal, suggests Cohn.

6. Bean Chips

A newcomer to the snack aisle, bean chips are a healthier alternative to potato chips because they contain more fiber, protein, and less fat per serving. That said, they’re not exactly a ‘health food’ and they don’t provide the same benefits as eating actual beans, says Cohn.

Whether made from potatoes or beans, a serving of chips still typically clocks in around 150 calories. So while bean chips are a better alternative to greasier varieties when your salty cravings hit, stick to a snack bag-full per sitting—not a party bag-full.

7. Avocados

If you’re an avocado super-fan, this is going to be guacward. Yes, your beloved avocados are full of heart-healthy unsaturated fats, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber—but those benefits come with a higher calorie count.

An entire avocado packs about 322 calories, while a serving of fat equates to just about an eighth of a fruit, which is about 40 calories, says Cohn. Not much, we know! Sadly, this means you can easily down a day’s worth of fat in one chips and guac snack sesh.

To keep your serving size under control, spread your guacamole on toast or bulk it up with larger chunks of chopped peppers and tomatoes.

Related: Shop a variety of heart-healthy cooking oils, like avocado oil.

What It’s Really Like To Have Weight-Loss Surgery—And Drop 140 Pounds

I’ve always been chubby. Food was comforting, sentimental even. When my grandmother cooked cakes, brisket, and roast beef, she’d cut off tiny “ah-ahs” and feed the kids like an aquarium seal trainer. I learned early to associate food with comfort.

Before I was 10, my parents separated and I started packing on the pounds. Food was there when no one else was, literally. I gained most of my serious weight over the course of hundreds of afternoons while my mother worked the night shift at her second job. The first thing I’d do after school was put on a pot of water to boil. I’d make rice or pasta as an afternoon snack, then later, more rice or pasta with a steak for dinner.

I was proud of my cooking. I thought it showed that I was self-sufficient and Mom wouldn’t have to worry about me. I could take care of myself. But as I kept cooking, my clothes stopped fitting. I had to start shopping at big and tall stores. There, I discovered that overweight people apparently aren’t allowed to live in the same fashion conscious world as everyone else. Everything was loud, obnoxious colors with elastic waistbands and illustrations of dogs wearing sunglasses.

I got called names like “Fatboy” by other kids. Adults called me “Big Guy,” which is kind of the Diet Coke of fat shaming. Note to adults: The sting doesn’t hurt any less, in case you were wondering.

When my grandmother cooked cakes, brisket, and roast beef, she’d cut off tiny “ah-ahs” and feed the kids like an aquarium seal trainer. 

When I first heard about bariatric surgery I was in my early 20s. It felt inevitable—a looming certainty in the distance. I’d researched it and read success stories online, bringing myself to tears looking at before & afters. I was a walking “before picture.”

I’d even gone as far as scheduling the surgery twice. I cancelled both times after seeing older, heavier people in doctors’ waiting rooms and convincing myself, “I’m not as bad as that guy.” 

By the time I hit my 30s I’d ballooned up to more than 300 pounds, though. And in early 2016 I was heavier than I’d ever been before. My joints ached, I had sleep apnea, and because I wasn’t sleeping right I had no energy throughout the day. My boss was even threatening to fire me for falling asleep in meetings. I had a three-year-old boy I couldn’t keep up with and my self-confidence was at an all time low. Something had to give.

It was about 140 pounds ago that I sat in my car at an Exxon gas station, sweating as I struggled to lean over far enough to pull the lever that opened my gas tank. In that moment, I made a decision that changed my life forever. That was the day I decided to get weight loss surgery (WLS).

Surgery Prep

There are a some practical matters that need to be sorted out before this type of surgery. First off, the finances. I’d heard a lot of horror stories about the insurance approval process, and mine was difficult—but not impossible. My carrier (Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield) covered the procedure at 80 percent, which meant my out-of-pocket came to about $2,500 altogether. 

There are a few different types of WLS, but the common ones are called Lap Band, Gastric Bypass, and Gastric Sleeve. Most of the people I met along the way were getting the Gastric Sleeve surgery, which is what my doctor recommended for me. The procedure, he explained, involved removing a part of my stomach, creating a “pouch” about the size of a small banana. This forcibly limits your food intake, leaving you feeling full after eating much smaller portions.

I’d researched it and read success stories online, bringing myself to tears looking at before & afters. I was a walking “before picture.”

I was required to sit through multiple seminars and meetings with nutritionists, psychologists, and doctors, who tracked my weight over a six-month period as I attempted (unsuccessfully) to lose the weight on my own. After jumping through all the hoops (and not losing weight), I was finally approved with a surgery date. I was ready.

The day of the surgery, my wife took me to the hospital and she and my father stood at my bedside until the moment the nurse wheeled me away. This was it. It was really happening. I thought I’d be nervous but I wasn’t. It was more like standing outside the gates of Emerald City, knowing something incredible waited for me inside.

The doctor administered the anesthesia and as I counted backwards from 10, the world faded away.

After the Surgery

Just a few hours after I regained consciousness, the nurses were encouraging me to get up and start walking around. This helped to relieve the gas pressure caused by the anesthesia. (A weird side effect: The anesthesia caused blood vessels to burst in my right eye. My son would call me “Blood Eye Daddy” for the next week and a half.)

There were five small scars from the incisions but they didn’t hurt very badly. The hardest thing was drinking water. I just couldn’t take in much as my newly smaller tummy got its bearings. Just a few small sips at first. I was able to drink about a cup by the time they discharged me.

I got home, sat on my couch, and let it sink in like a new tattoo. I’d followed through. This was a Decision with a capitol D. Irreversible. But it’s not like you have the surgery and suddenly life is a bunch of fluffy ducks.

I’ve heard people say that weight loss surgery is “taking the easy way out.” In my experience, that’s the furthest thing from the truth.

Here’s what it really feels like: You’re still 300 pounds but the weight feels impermanent—like it doesn’t belong to you anymore. You begin to think of your body as a temporary shell from which the real you will eventually emerge. You obsess on everything you need to do to reach your goal. It’s all you think about. It’s all you talk about. For a while, it’s all you are.   

The next few weeks were the most radical in terms of dietary changes. For 14 days I could only have clear liquids as my pouch began to heal. Water, protein shakes, and chicken broth (I couldn’t stand the beef broth—ugh, gross). Then another two weeks of soft solids and mushy foods like sugar-free Jell-O, cottage cheese, and loosely scrambled eggs. 

It. Was. Miserable.

If I had to pinpoint the hardest part of the whole experience, it would be those first few weeks after surgery. That’s when I realized that I didn’t have a problem with food but an issue with my entire lifestyle. I’d built routines that gave me comfort. Tough day? Eat heavy and watch TV late at night. Feeling bad about myself? Drown my sorrows in candy and root beer.

Related: Check out Nu Life’s new line of bariatric support products

Now, without those crutches, I was forced to deal with my issues head-on. I can only imagine this is similar to what drug addicts feel when they go cold turkey. There were nights I laid in bed, crying because I physically couldn’t eat the way I wanted to. There were days I sobbed to my wife on the phone, cursing the doctors and regretting my decision. Sometimes I dealt with it by taking bites of the foods I missed, savoring the feel of them in my mouth and then spitting them out.

But the weight started coming off.

Then, slowly, I began introducing more solid foods: fish, hard-boiled eggs, sliced meats. I found ways to mix it up. Eventually, I was cleared to start eating normally and healthier patterns took root.

Through the Looking Glass

It’s been 16 months since the surgery and the world I live in today bears little resemblance to the one I grew up in. When someone laughs, I don’t assume they’re laughing at me. If people are nice, I don’t assume they feel sorry for me. My clothes fit and I don’t have to shop at big and tall stores anymore. I can chase around my toddler and play on the floor with my new baby boy—and feel no pain. I’m more confident, I smile in pictures, and I’m not embarrassed to eat in front of other people. I can even wrap a bath towel all the way around my body.

For those of us who have battled with weight issues all our lives, it’s difficult not to tie our self-worth into how we perceive our appearance.

Are there negatives? Sure. I miss eating a juicy hamburger and a mound of fries. But I’ll still eat about half a burger and a fry or two. I don’t deny myself the things I love—it’s more about moderation and making better choices consistently.

Nowadays, I’ll have a protein shake for breakfast, turkey and cheese roll-ups for lunch, and then I try my best to eat a balanced, normal-sized dinner (that’s protein, vegetables, and a small amount of carbs). Switching to smaller plates helps control portions and makes it look like you’re getting more. Multivitamins and calcium are a must to get in the nutrition I need due to the reduced amount of calories I take in. (Every day is a struggle to take in the 65 grams of protein and 64 ounces of water my doctor recommends.) I work out at least three days a week and now that my body doesn’t creak and groan with every step, I actually enjoy it.

Last Thoughts

I’ve heard people say that weight loss surgery is “taking the easy way out.” In my experience, that’s the furthest thing from the truth. It isn’t a cure—it’s a tool. Total body transformation requires discipline, struggle, and support. My diet’s not perfect. I don’t always get to the gym and I’m still searching for those elusive abs (they’re in there somewhere!).

For those of us who have battled with weight issues all our lives, it’s difficult not to tie our self-worth into how we perceive our appearance. Whatever shape you are, my hope is that you have the courage to love yourself—whether that means taking pride in the person you are or working to transform yourself into who you’re meant to be. 

My journey is far from over. I’ve got a long way to go and my goals are always evolving. Today, I feel better than ever before and every day I’m one step closer to my best self.

 

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Your Guide To Surviving Holiday Calories

There are so many reasons to get excited about the holiday season: friends, family, delicious meals, office parties, classic movies, colorful decorations, and more. Not on the list, though: all those extra calories packed into a steady flow of wine, homemade stuffing, pie, and peppermint bark.

The endless eating and drinking that continues through November and December can be pretty anxiety-inducing—especially if you’ve been busting your you-know-what to eat your veggies and keep your body in tip-top shape.

With a little will-power and strategy—along with help from products designed to conquer sugar and carb cravings, control your appetite, and support a healthy weight—that once-daunting ugly sweater party transforms into an opportunity to blissfully bust a move to Mariah Carey.

Consider these 12 supplements just the reinforcements you need to keep your healthy habits going strong this holiday season.

1. Crave Crush Spearmint Lozenges, $7.99 for a 15-pack

When turning down that second (or third) piece of pie seems downright impossible, Crave Crush will stop your sweet tooth in its tracks. By blocking the sweet taste buds on your tongue, these minty suckers can help you enjoy your favorite holiday flavors without spiraling yourself into a food coma. Sail through all the parties and cookie exchanges on your calendar with these bad-boys.

2. Garden Of Life Vanilla Raw Organic Fit Meal, $33.59 for 10 servings

With all the hustle and bustle—and never-ending supply of sweets and treats—during the holiday season, having quick and portable healthy snacks can make the difference between making it to January feeling fit and healthy and falling off the bandwagon. Garden of Life’s Fit Meal packs 28 grams of raw, organic plant-based protein, six grams of fiber, and 20 vitamins and minerals—all for just 190 calories.

3. Ultimate 10 Probiotic 13 Billion, $19.99 for 100 capsules

Probiotics, a.k.a the ‘good’ bacteria that live in your gut, help support good digestion, regularity, and immune function. And having a healthy population of these critters is extra important when your diet includes more cookies and cocktails than normal—and when gift shopping season stress skyrockets. The Vitamin Shoppe’s Ultimate 10 Probiotic in 13 Billion strength can help re-colonize that good bacteria for smooth sailing all season long.

4. Sports Research Sweet Sweat Stick, $29.99

A little too much holiday spirit? Maybe you need a good sweat. Make Sweet Sweat your gym buddy and you’re guaranteed to have a sweatier, more satisfying workout. (One of our never-sweaty staffers put this stuff to the test and dripped like she’d never dripped before!) Sweet Sweat has a fresh, clean scent so you can crush your workouts worry-free.

5. Tonalin CLA 1,000mg, $24.89 for 180 softgels

CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that can reduce how much of the fat you consume gets stored. This well-researched fatty acid has even been shown to have a small, but legit, impact on body composition (how much of your fat comes from lean mass like muscle versus fat). Supplement with 1,000 milligrams three times a day.

6. Atkins Advantage Café Caramel Shake, $5.99 for a four-pack

As much as we may want to indulge from Thanksgiving straight on until the New Year, sometimes we just have to tell our sweet tooth ‘no’—or do we? With 15 grams of protein, two grams of net carbs, just one gram of sugar, and 180 calories per shake, Atkins Advantage’s Café Caramel shakes are a guilt-free way to satisfy your sweet tooth and fuel your body. Four-shake packs are just $5.99 and easy to stash at work or at home.

7. Green Coffee Bean Extract, $31.49 for 180 capsules

Green coffee bean extract contains antioxidants that help maintain our body’s defense system against damage from free radicals. Plus, one of these antioxidants, called chlorogenic acid, has been shown to support healthy blood sugar and fat metabolism. The Vitamin Shoppe’s green coffee bean extract can be taken up to three times a day.

George’s 100% Aloe Vera, $29.99 a gallon

Soothing aloe vera does your digestive system good and can help keep you regular—two things we all cherish when our eating habits (and bathroom habits) get all out of whack during the holidays. Sip down those soothing benefits with George’s aloe.

9. Healthy Delights Naturals Appetite Control Soft Chews, $19.99 a bag

These natural acai berry chews taste like candy and may actually keep you from destroying half the batch of cookies you were supposed to bring to Grandma’s house. Made with ingredients like garcinia cambogia, green coffee bean extract, l-carnitine, and green tea extract, these chews may be helpful before big meals and nights out.

10. Sports Research MCT Oil, $29.99 for 32 ounces

MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) aren’t your average fats. MCTs can be used as an energy source and boost our metabolism more than many other fats—and they’re also less likely to be stored as fat. Sports Research’s unflavored MCT oil can be the way you’d use some other oils (like in salad dressings) or added to smoothies or coffee for lasting energy.

11. Enzymedica Digest Gold, $79.49 for 240 capsules

If your digestive system isn’t partaking in the holiday cheer this time of year, a digestive enzyme can help your body better break down all that gingerbread and Santa-shaped chocolate. Enzymedica’s Digest Gold formula contains digestive enzymes to help your system conquer everything from protein to fat to carbohydrates to fiber. Survive every rich, belly-busting meal with a 240-capsule bottle, $79.49.

Check out more holiday-friendly, weight-management products at VitaminShoppe.com, all 15% off!

6 Signs You’re Not Getting Enough Calories

When we want to shed pounds, we usually think in terms of calories. After all, the many calorie-counting apps out there would have us believe that slashing our intake is the only way to make weight loss happen. But cutting too many calories can actually have some dire consequences—and it’s easier to do than you might think.

If you’re eating too few calories for your body and lifestyle, though, your body will send you some major signals (long-term weight-gain, included!) that you need more fuel, says sports dietitian Kimberly Feeney M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., L.D., C.S.C.S. The following six signs indicate your body is undernourished and begging for more calories.

1. You Feel Like A Sloth

If you notice a slip in your overall energy level and declining performance during your workouts, it could mean your metabolism is slowing down because you’re not eating enough calories, says Jenny Mahoney, R.D., L.D., of Nutriformance. We all have a baseline number of calories our body needs in order to maintain basic functions like making our heart beat, brain work, and lungs pump oxygen. (This is known as our ‘basal metabolic rate.’)

To do anything beyond just staying alive—like move or work out—our body needs additional calories. So when we cut calories too close to that basal metabolic rate, our metabolism slows down so we can survive off the little energy we do get, Mahoney explains. “Even if cutting calories is a choice we make in an effort to lose weight, our body still treats it as a famine and begins slowing down metabolic processes to preserve fuel,” she says. And so we feel tired and slow.

2. You Can’t Focus

If you find yourself zoning out even outside of boring meetings, insufficient calories may be to blame. That’s because your brain demands a constant supply of fuel—particularly glucose (a.k.a. sugar), says Megan Casper, M.S., R.D.N., owner of Megan Casper Nutrition. In fact, up to 20 percent of our daily calories and half our available sugar goes to our brain, according to Harvard Medical School.

If you don’t take in enough calories, your blood sugar drops, impacting your brain function and messing with your memory and ability to pay attention, according to Casper. A surefire way to tell if your brain fog is because of low blood sugar: Drink a small glass of orange juice, which contains easily-digestible sugars, and note whether your brain power perks up. Feel more awake and productive? You’re likely not eating often enough, not eating enough overall, or both.

3. You’re Sore ALL The Time

In addition to feeling sluggish during your workouts, you may also find it harder to recover from exercise if your calorie consumption is too low. While some soreness is normal after a tough workout, consider it a red flag if it persists for close to a week, says Feeney. Same goes if you’re a regular exerciser and feel sore when you normally wouldn’t.

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“When we consume too few calories below our total daily needs, our body prioritizes what it uses that energy for,” Feeney says. And healing is one of the first things to get the boot. Long-term, exercising regularly while falling short on fuel puts you at greater risk for injury—particularly for stress fractures.

4. You’re Not Making Muscle Gains

If you notice your muscle tone stall or even start to decline, consider it yet another sign that you may not be eating enough calories to fuel your workouts and build muscle—even if you’re strength training, says dietitian and personal trainer Lauren Manganiello M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., C.P.T. “When we don’t get enough calories, muscle begins to break down because our body is looking for sources of energy,” Manganiello explains. Our body stores carbs as glycogen in our muscles to use as energy later—but when we don’t have enough glycogen stored, our body may break down the protein in our muscles for fuel. So if you’re not getting stronger, struggling through your strength training, or even feeling a little flabbier than usual, there’s a chance you’re not eating the calories your body needs to make progress.

5. You’re Eternally Grouchy

It’s probably no shock that eating too few calories can leave you ‘hangry.’ In fact, mood swings are one of the top signs you’re not taking in enough calories because they’re caused by dips in blood sugar, says Manganiello. Get this: research out of Florida State University found that our self-control itself requires energy, and we’re more likely to snap or lash our when our blood sugar is low and we’ve been dieting hard.

Even just monitoring our calories spikes how stressed we feel, and actually restricting them boosts our production of the stress hormone cortisol, according to research published in Psychosomatic Medicine.

6. You Can’t Sleep

A whacked-out sleep schedule is another major red flag that you’re not eating enough calories. If you feel hungry enough at bedtime or overnight that you have trouble sleeping, your calories are too low, says Manganiello. “Hunger is our body’s way of telling us that we need energy,” she says.

Related: Try adding a casein supplement to your routine to fuel muscle gains in your sleep.

How To Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Calories

If any (or all) of these struggles hits close to home, it’s time to up how many calories you’re eating each day. Your caloric needs depend on your height, weight, activity level, and body composition (how much of your weight is lean mass, like muscle, versus fat), so meeting with a dietitian is one of the most accurate ways to figure out your daily calorie target. But a reputable online tool, like the USDA’s MyPlate Super Tracker, or some quick math can provide a ballpark estimate of your calorie needs. Try this simple formula: Multiply your weight in kilograms (one kilogram is 2.2 pounds) by 20 to estimate the low end of your calorie range and by 25 to estimate the high end, says Casper.

How many calories you can cut healthily depends on how many calories total you’re starting with, but the average person can safely lose about a pound a week by cutting 500 calories per day, says Feeney.  And as a general rule, though, women should never eat fewer than 1,200 calories per day, while men should never eat fewer than 1,800.

If you’re too deep in the calorie-cutting trenches, you’ll need to gradually up your calorie intake until you’re meeting your calorie needs. If you need to up your intake by hundreds of calories, add about 100 calories to your total intake every few days to ease your body into consuming more energy, Mahoney recommends. If you only need to add about 200 calories or so, though, just go for it. Just remember that the quality of the calories you’re adding matters, and focus on eating more produce and whole-grain carbs instead of processed foods, Mahoney says.

Casper also recommends adding light snacks in between meals, or eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day to keep your blood sugar and energy stable. And make sure to include protein, fiber, and some healthy fats in every meal or snack to keep your belly satisfied, which can help you maintain or lose weight over time.

Related: 6 Tips For Losing Weight Without Counting Calories