4 Signs You’re Losing Water Weight—Not Fat

When we set out to shed a few pounds, we want those pounds to come from fat. Trouble is, it can be tough to know exactly where our weight loss is coming from—especially at first. Here’s how to tell if you’re losing water weight instead of fat.

1. You’re On A Low-Carb Diet

Some research suggests that following a low-carb, high-protein diet can be a safe and effective way to lose weight. (By low-carb, we’re talking like 60 grams of carbs per day.) In fact, one study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that obese adolescents who limited carbs to just 20 grams a day (and increased protein intake) lost more weight in three months than those who limited fat.

Thing is, some of that initial low-carb diet weight loss comes from water—especially if you ate a higher-carb diet beforehand. When we eat carbs, our bodies break them down into glucose. Then, we combine those glucose molecules with water molecules to form a compound called glycogen, which we store in our muscles and liver to use when we need energy later (like during high-intensity exercise). The more carbs we eat and store as glycogen, the more water we store, too.

Until we stop eating carbs, that is. “When we take in fewer carbohydrates, we use up our glycogen stores and release much of that water,” says Alix Turoff, R.D.N., owner of Alix Turoff Nutrition in New York City.

Related: How To Eat Carbs And Still Lose Weight

So if you’ve recently gone low-carb, you can expect a few pounds of your weight loss to be from water.

2. You’ve Lost A Lot Of Weight Quickly

Sorry to burst your bubble, but if you’ve lost five pounds after just a week of an intense new diet and exercise plan, most of that is from water, too. Experts typically recommend cutting about 500 calories per day to lose fat at a sustainable rate, which is just about one or two pounds per week, says Turoff. Unless you have a significant amount of weight to lose—like, 100 pounds or more—you can’t really lose more than that pound or two of pure fat that fast.

Even if you don’t slash carbs, cutting calories overall still forces your body to use stored glycogen for energy—and as you use it, you release water. That’s why many of us see significant changes on the scale those first few weeks of trying to lose weight, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Rest assured, as your body adjusts to your new eating and exercising throughout those first few weeks, the weight you lose shifts over to be more from fat than water. “Our bodies don’t store an endless amount of water, so once we shed the excess, there’s no more to lose,” says Turoff. “I have many clients who might lose seven pounds the first week or so of a new regimen and then lose one pound per week for the duration of their program.”

3. Your Weight Fluctuates Dramatically Day-To-Day

If your daily weigh-ins have been all over the place the last couple of days, don’t freak out. It’s pretty darn hard to lose and gain body fat overnight, so chances are you’re just dealing with fluctuating water weight.

Think of it this way: If it takes cutting 500 calories per day for seven days to lose one pound of fat, it’s going to take more than one day of eating indulgently to gain a whole pound of fat. In fact, to do so, you’d have to eat about 3,500 calories more than your body needs. If you usually eat 2,000 calories per day, that’s a whopping 5,500 calories!

However, when you drastically change your diet from one day to the next—say, by going from eating zero carbs to eating all the carbs, and back again—you quickly retain and lose enough water to throw off that scale reading.

Related: 11 Smart Ways To Cleanse Your System, Straight From Health Experts

Get back to your usual way of eating and hang tight, and the scale will normalize in your next weigh-in or two, says Noam Tamir, C.S.C.S., owner of TS Fitness in New York City.

4. Your Clothes Don’t Fit Any Better Than Before

Regardless of the story the scale tells you, your clothes will always tell the truth about weight loss. If you’re only losing water, you probably won’t notice much of a difference in how your clothes fit, says Tamir. However, if you’re losing fat—and inches—around your waist, for example, your clothes will feel looser and you’ll know you’re losing body fat.

Another way to test whether you’re losing fat or water: Bust out the body fat calipers. These pincers can roughly estimate your body fat percentage, and are an easy way to track your progress. All you have to do is firmly pinch the chunk of skin about an inch above your right hip bone with your fingers, place the caliper over the skinfold, apply pressure until you feel a click, and check the body fat reading on the tool.

 How To Make Sure You’re Losing Fat

  • Get Enough Sleep

Don’t underestimate the power of sleep on fat loss! After all, research shows that sleep deprivation significantly impacts our hunger and satiety hormones.

Take one small study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, for example: When people slept for just four hours per night for five nights, they ate 300 calories more per day than they did after sleeping for nine hours per night for five nights. To keep your fat loss efforts humming along, prioritize the recommended seven to nine hours of shut-eye per night.

  • Eat A Well-Balanced Diet

It’s tempting to slash calories and cut all carbs ever out of your life, but this just sets you up for failure in the long-term, says Tamir. You can only white-knuckle it through an extreme diet for so long before your willpower gives out—and that happens a lot faster if you’ve completely slashed carbs and feel too drained to work out.

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Instead, fill your shopping cart with high-quality fruits, veggies, meat, poultry and fiber-rich carbs like whole grains and starchy vegetables. Aim to eat a balance of all the macronutrients (fat, carbs, and protein) your body needs and limit your caloric deficit to 500 calories per day, max.

  • Lift Weights Regularly

Unlike fat, muscle tissue is metabolically active, meaning it uses energy even at rest, says Tamir. So the more muscle you have, the more calories your body automatically uses per day (a.k.a. the faster your metabolism is).

If strength training isn’t already part of your routine, start by adding two to three full-body sessions per week. To emphasize muscle growth, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends lifting a moderate weight for three to four sets of six to 12 reps, and limiting rest periods to one to two minutes.

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Can Apple Cider Vinegar Help You Lose Weight?

Apple cider vinegar gets a good amount of praise for being an effective weight-loss tool, among many other things (skin toner, mouthwash, household cleaner—the list goes on). But are there any facts to back up ACV’s supposed waist-trimming benefits? We called up a few experts and dug into the research to get a definitive answer.

What’s Behind ACV And Weight Loss?

“The main theory is that apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, which can aid weight loss by helping your body burn fat for fuel,” says Carlyn Rosenblum, R.D., founder of MTHR Nutrition, a concierge nutrition service for women. “Some studies show that acetic acid helps stimulate a particular metabolic pathway called PCG-1, which may increase fatty acid oxidation. However, most of the studies showing positive results have been done in animal populations.”

There is some research on apple cider vinegar and weight loss in humans. One of the most commonly cited trials is a 2009 study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, in which obese (but otherwise healthy) Japanese participants ages 20 to 60 consumed either vinegar or a placebo mixed with water every day for 12 weeks. They didn’t make any other change to their lifestyles.

The researchers found that those who consumed the vinegar experienced “statistically significant weight loss.” The total number of pounds they dropped isn’t jaw-dropping—but it’s something. “The study reported that those who consumed ACV lost two to four pounds in that three-month period,” says Rosenblum.

ACV And Bloating

For those who’ve experienced weight loss in connection with ACV, some of it could be due to its ability to flush out excess water in the body, says Molly Kimball, R.D., nutrition manager at the Ochsner Fitness Center in New Orleans. So while a person may not be shedding fat, they could be seeing reduced bloating.

Related: 10 Possible Reasons Why You’re Suddenly So Bloated

Another way ACV may ward off bloat: Its acidity supports digestion. Acid helps us break down food, says Rosenblum, so drinking a teaspoon of ACV mixed with water at mealtime could speed up the digestive process—especially for those who have lower levels of stomach acid, who may feel like food moves through the system slowly and deal with bloating often.

ACV And Blood Sugar

Though ACV may not be a weight-loss magic bullet, it’s especially helpful for those who struggle with regulating their blood sugar. “Studies show that consuming apple cider vinegar before a meal helps stabilize the spike in glucose levels that occurs after eating,” says Kimball. This effect is especially notable when ACV is paired with complex carbs (like whole grains, legumes and beans) and starchy vegetables (like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and peas), which typically cause larger blood sugar spikes, adds Rosenblum. (Some research suggests it has the same effect on bagels and juice, too.)

Maintaining stable blood sugar can help ward off cravings for sweets and carbs and, in turn, support weight loss. So if blood sugar issues get in the way of your weight-loss success, ACV may have an indirect benefit.

ACV And Appetite

And about that whole ACV reducing your appetite thing? One study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that sipping the vinegar can reduce your appetite—but not because of some magical ingredient or a biological mechanism at play. The researchers concluded that the highly acidic, pungent taste of apple cider vinegar simply squashed some people’s desire to eat.

The Bottom Line

Rather than rely on ACV as your sole weight-loss savior, Rosenblum suggests building it into a more comprehensive weight-loss plan that’s focused on research-backed techniques, like eating a veggie-focused diet and exercising regularly.

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If you’ve got those pieces in place, try adding ACV to your morning routine for an extra boost. Dilute about a tablespoon of vinegar in eight ounces of water, add a little cinnamon and/or raw honey to make it more palatable (if needed), and enjoy it hot or iced, suggests Kimball.

A few rules to keep in mind:

  • Avoid drinking ACV straight up.
  • Do not consume more than one tablespoon at a time.
  • Do not down more than two tablespoons per day.

Doing any of the above could contribute to digestive issues, erode your esophagus, and damage your tooth enamel.

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5 Fruits You Can Actually Have On Keto

If you know anything about the keto diet, it’s that sugar is off limits. That means most fruit, which naturally contains sugars, is pretty much off the table. Pineapple? Nope. Bananas? Not a chance.

Believe it or not, though, there are some fruits you can still incorporate into a keto meal plan with a little strategy. “In order to stay in the altered metabolic state of ketosis, most people will only be able to consume 20 to 50 grams of net carbs per day,” says Seattle-based Ginger Hultin, R.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. That means you’ll have to carefully portion out and track your fruit intake to make sure it fits into your total carb allowance for the day. “An apple, for example, contains about 20 grams of net carbs, so eating just one could max out all of your carbohydrates for the day,” she explains.

When you need something sweet, go for fruits as low in carbs and sugar as you can get your hands on. The following five fruits are your best bets for satisfying your sweet tooth without throwing yourself out of ketosis.

1. Berries

Small amounts of berries are commonly included in keto diets. “One cup of blackberries or raspberries contains between six and seven grams of net carbs,” says Hultin. Meanwhile, strawberries contain eight and blueberries contain 17. Hultin recommends sticking to half-cup servings to keep net carbs as low as possible.

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In addition to vitamin C and other antioxidants, berries also provide fiber, which can help ward off or alleviate the constipation many people experience on keto.

2. Avocado

Almost forgot avocado is a fruit, didn’t ya? “Avocado is a very keto-friendly fruit because it is so high in fat,” Hultin says. In fact, they’re 80 to 90 percent fat, which perfectly mimics a keto diet.

“One cup of sliced avocado contains just two grams of net carbs so it’s one to include at any meal and snack to boost fiber, B vitamins, and vitamin C,” she says. Add avocado to omelets or salads, or whip up a tasty homemade guac.

3. Watermelon

When the summer sun is beating down, keto-eaters will be happy to know that watermelon can fit into their diets. “Since watermelon has such a high water content, it will fill you up and help keep you hydrated,” says Dana Angelo White, R.D., A.T.C.

Related: 5 Mistakes People Make When They Go Keto

Still, keep portions to a minimum. One cup of diced watermelon contains 10 grams of net carbs, which isn’t so bad for a fruit, but can certainly mess with ketosis if you go overboard.

Honeydew and cantaloupe melons can also work on a keto diet—just keep in mind that they’re higher in net carbs, with about 14 grams per cup each.

4. Citrus

Don’t worry, the lemon and lime you put in your water are a-okay on a keto diet. Lemons and limes, in particular, provide vitamin C and other antioxidants for just four to five grams of net carbs, says Hultin.

Oranges and grapefruit, though? Proceed with caution. These citrus fruits contain three to four times as many net carbs and may not be as easy to fit into your daily limits.

5. Tomatoes

Technically a fruit, tomatoes are loaded with antioxidants like lycopene, along with vitamin C and other nutrients. Plus, fresh tomatoes (especially in the summer) are bursting with natural sweetness! One cup of cherry or grape tomatoes, for example, contains four grams of net carbs.

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

Keep in mind that green, orange, and yellow heirloom tomatoes are typically higher in carbs—and that packaged tomato products, like tomato sauce and ketchup, aren’t the same as whole tomatoes. A single tablespoon of ketchup for example, contains almost four grams of sugar. (And who ever uses just one tablespoon?)

To bring out tomatoes’ natural sweetness, White recommends roasting them. From there, you can add them to anything from salads to vegetable sides to proteins.

Consider this infographic your keto-friendly fruit grocery list:

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Sniff These Scents To Curb Cravings, Lift Your Mood, And Even Debloat

This article was written by Cheryl Cromer and originally published in Amazing Wellness magazine.

When you’re tired or stressed, you’re more likely to get smacked with cravings and reach for unhealthy snacks. But what if simply smelling certain essential oils could help you think clearly, overcome those cravings, and stay on the healthy eating bandwagon?

The next time cravings threaten to derail your progress, turn to the following essential oils, which can help curb your appetite, boost your alertness,  and make you feel energized.

For Hanger, Try Citrus

Bergamot essential oil, which helps boost mood and sense of well-being, may help if emotional eating is undermining your diet. Studies also report that bergamot reduces the production of the stress hormone cortisol, which has been linked to difficulty dropping stubborn belly fat. If you’re feeling particularly stressed, diffuse the essential oil to help you avoid mindless nibbling.

Studies have also discovered that the sweet aroma of grapefruit essential oil not only provides an instant mood lift, but that it contains a natural compound called nootkatone that can help diminish cravings. Simply inhaling this bright citrus oil can reinvigorate you so you can focus on your goals.

Lemon essential oil is another instant mood brightener. After all, who doesn’t perk up after a refreshing glass of lemonade or a squeeze of lemon in icy spring water? Diffuse some lemon essential oil when you need a pick-me-up or some extra motivation, or even add a few drops to your sports balm to relieve sore muscles after exercising.

(Though not a citrus oil, ginger essential oil can help soothe you if your cravings stem from stress.)

For Water Retention, Try Juniper And Cypress

Juniper essential oil and cypress essential oil are considered purifying because they help flush excess water out of the body. Combine one or both with grapefruit essential oil for an uplifting aromatic massage blend.

For Cravings, Try Rosemary And Peppermint

The culinary herbs rosemary and peppermint enhance flavors and elevate mood, and their essential oils are equally as uplifting. One scientific study reports that, when inhaled every two hours, peppermint even goes a step further and lowers hunger levels.

When the urge to overeat strikes, simply diffuse rosemary or peppermint and breathe deeply.

Want to blend up the ultimate diffusion to support your weight-loss efforts? Try this concoction:

How To Safely Enjoy Essential Oils

Essential oils are best used as aromatics or applied to the skin topically. Even the purest organic oils can be toxic if swallowed. If you have sensitive skin, do a skin patch test before blending up massage oil by applying a small amount of essential oil to a small patch of skin and looking out for any irritation.

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Some People’s Brains Are Better At Sticking To Diets, Says Study

Most people won’t argue that dieting requires a certain amount of willpower. But in a battle between willpower and pizza after a long day at work, willpower often gets its butt kicked. It’s nothing to shame yourself over—especially since your ability to pass on that pizza may be pre-determined by your brain, according to science.

Your Brain And Dieting

You see, your brain is made up of two different kinds of matter: gray matter, where most of your brain’s activity occurs, and white matter, which controls the nerve signals that travel up and down the spinal cord. According to a study recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience, people with more gray matter in the prefrontal cortex (the part of your brain just behind your forehead) may actually have more self-control when it comes to making healthy food choices.

“The prefrontal cortex is very generally involved in decision-making, with dietary decisions just being one of them,” explains study author Hilke Plassmann, Ph.D., Chaired Professor of Decision Neuroscience at INSEAD in France. “Other studies show this system is also important for decisions about which car to buy, which stock to invest in, which partner to date, and to which charity to donate to.”

The Study

Researchers looked at two specific parts of the prefrontal cortex that have been linked to self-control: the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). Using MRI images, they studied how participants’ brains responded when they were asked to consider either the healthiness or taste of a certain food (like a yogurt or a cookie), or to just make a decision naturally, before rating how much they wanted to eat it. Those who gave healthier foods higher ratings were deemed to have stronger self-control, and the MRIs showed that those people had more gray matter in their prefrontal cortices.

Related: The Best Ways To Get Back In The Zone After Slacking On Diet And Exercise

Then, once again using MRI imaging, the researchers presented a second set of people with images of different foods, and told them to ‘distance’ themselves from the food, ‘indulge’ in it, or make decisions naturally before choosing how much they would pay to eat that food. Here, too, more gray matter was linked to more self-control.

While the study didn’t determine exactly the precise roles the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex play in dietary decision making, other imaging studies suggest that the vmPFC is involved in our consideration of the information we use to determine how we value a food option overall (such as taste and healthiness), says Plassmann. The dlPFC, meanwhile, seems to be more involved in the actual implementation of self-control.

What That Means For You

We know what you’re wondering: Can you boost your self-control by increasing the amount of gray matter in those two prefrontal cortex areas? Maybe. “A new technique called ‘neurofeedback’ [a type of electronic therapy that uses visual and auditory cues to modulate brain activity and thus behavior] has been shown to alter gray matter volume, in some cases,” says Plassman. “Our findings suggest that if and when they are perfected, neurofeedback modalities targeting the vmPFC and dlPFC could potentially help people with self-control issues improve their eating habits. However, this question remains to be studied by future research, and our results only hint at this possibility.”

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In the meantime, you can learn to exercise what nutritionist Alice Figueroa, R.D.N. calls “positive self-control” to establish and stick to a healthy diet. “Positive self-control requires us develop a nurturing relationship to food that is centered around three things,” she says. “First: self-regulation, which you can achieve by setting high-level goals like maintaining a healthy weight. Second: self-efficacy, or having confidence and optimism about your ability to reach your goals. And third: body appreciation, which should be self-explanatory!”

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How Much Damage Is That Free Food At Work Doing To Your Diet?

It takes a colossal feat of willpower to pass on fresh bagels in the morning team meeting or holiday cupcakes made by a cube-mate. Most of us will crack under the pressure (and delicious scent) of free office treats at some point in the day, leaving us with a hefty side of empty calories. In fact, a recent study shows that your average office employee eats a whopping 1,300 extra calories at work each week—mostly from free food at catered meetings, birthday celebrations, and the like.

The study, which analyzed the diets of more than 5,000 people, found that nearly a quarter of office workers dig into food available in meetings and parties at least once a week—and that the average person racked up an extra 1,300 calories a week in doing so.

The study also found that those 1,300 calories typically came from foods high in sugar, sodium, and fat. Yikes.

Related: 9 Surprising Signs You Need To Cut Down On Sugar

“This study isn’t surprising to me,” says Seattle-based Ginger Hultin, R.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Candy bowls, donuts in the break room, and constant birthday party celebrations with cake and desserts are things my clients often struggle with.”

“Work can be a stressful environment and this study highlights a trend of mindless eating in the workplace,” she says. More often than not, we’re picking up these extra calories because they’re there, not because we’re hungry. Or, because we feel social pressure to join in on the splurges of our co-workers.

If the thought of 1,300 extra calories a week isn’t enough to make you rethink those frosted donuts, consider this: All that office snacking adds up to 70,000 extra calories a year—a recipe for weight gain in the long run. “We know that being overweight or obese is linked to serious health conditions, which is why these numbers are so scary,” says Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D.

If you’ve been mixing work with salt-, sugar-, and fat-laden pleasure and want to cut back, ask yourself whether you’re truly hungry the next time you’re in a standoff with office treats, suggests Rizzo. And, when they’re available, opt for heartier spread options like yogurt, cheese sticks, nuts, or hard-boiled eggs, so you score some filling protein.

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Of course, that doesn’t mean you should deprive yourself of goodies every once in a while, Rizzo says. If you’re making heart eyes at a pastry from your favorite bakery, have a taste! The key is to be mindful about what you’re choosing to indulge in, and not to go overboard.

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How Eating More Food Can Actually Help You Burn Fat

When people want to lose weight, the first thing they think to do is eat less. After all, we’ve long been told that shedding pounds is a simple equation of taking in fewer calories than we use. The only problem is that cutting too many calories can completely backfire on our fat loss efforts.

“Everyone wants to lose weight quickly, and many people make the mistake of being too restrictive,” explains Torey Armul, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

True fat loss generally occurs at a rate of between 0.5 and two pounds per week. Any weight lost faster than that is either coming from water weight or muscle mass—especially if you’re seriously cutting calories. “The body finds fuel where it can,” explains Armul. “When there aren’t enough calories coming in, the body can actually break down muscle tissue for energy.”

When this happens, your metabolism takes a hit, explains Lisa R. Young, Ph.D., R.D., adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University and author of The Portion Teller Plan. Muscle helps you burn more calories at rest, so when you lose that lean tissue, your weight loss can screech to a halt.

Related: 11 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Metabolism

Not to mention, when you drastically cut calories, you’re more likely to feel deprived and end up overeating when you do treat yourself—which can lead to weight gain if it becomes a pattern.

Sound familiar? If so, eating more—more of the right foods, that is—may be exactly what you need to finally start seeing the results you crave and drop fat for good.

“You shouldn’t be hungry when you’re trying to lose weight, and if you are, you’re not going to sustain it,” says Young. If you feel hungry throughout the day, you’re either not eating enough of the right foods, or enough calories overall.

“You need a certain amount of calories every day just to live, breathe, move, and support every cell and function in your body,” says Armul. Eating enough of the right foods helps you work better, sleep more soundly, crush stress, and burn more calories when you work out—all good things for your waistline.

Now, there’s no way around the fact that you still need to be in a caloric deficit to shed pounds—but if you load up on foods that are high in filling nutrients but low in calories, you can achieve that calorie deficit and reach your goals without stress or calorie-counting.

Of course, certain foods will have to go. Sugary breakfast cereals, frozen pizzas, chips, and fried foods, which are high in calories but provide little nutritional value and don’t fill you up, are off the menu. Think of it this way: You want as many forkfuls (or volume) as possible for as few calories as possible—and you can’t do that eating Hot Pockets.

Now, the fun part: Fruits and vegetables, which contain lots of water and fiber (fiber is super-filling and keeps you satisfied between meals), provide tons of nutrition for very few calories—so you can load up on things like veggie-based soups, leafy greens, watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and more without the possibility of going overboard on calories.

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While one cup of your average white spaghetti costs you more than 350 calories and 70 grams of carbs (and provides less than four grams of fiber), three cups of zucchini noodles contains just 54 calories and 11 grams of carbs (and provides the same amount of fiber as the wheat noodles). The more you swap refined, processed foods for produce, the more you can eat to satisfaction while keeping your calories in check. And with all of the healthy food creations out there these days (hello, cauliflower gnocchi), it’s easier than ever to do so.

Two other things you’ll want to eat more of to shed fat: omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics.

“Fats are digested slowly, so they can keep you feeling full longer than carbohydrates—and slowly-digested nutrients and fullness are key factors in losing weight,” she says. (Not to mention, dietary omega-3s also ward off inflammation and support heart and brain health.) And probiotics? In addition to fighting inflammation and supporting regularity, some research shows the probiotics in your gut may also play a role in weight control (though more research needs to be done to fully understand the link).

Here’s how to make it happen: Start every meal with plenty of vegetables, and then incorporate healthy fats and lean proteins to fill you up and keep you feeling satisfied longer, Armul says. And whether it’s through a morning bowl of yogurt, a grilled salmon steak for dinner, or a daily supplement, get those probiotics and omega-3s in, too!

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How Often Do You Need To Eat To Keep Your Metabolism Running?

The weight-loss world likes to describe our metabolism as an engine we have to rev throughout the day in order to burn through as much gas (a.k.a. calories) as possible. We’ve long been told that we can keep our metabolism fired up by eating right when we roll out of bed, and then frequently throughout the rest of the day. But if you’ve been forcing down breakfast before the sun comes up or lugging five square meals around with you for the sake of burning more calories and shedding fat, know this: The two theories behind this common advice are a little flawed.

The Thermic Effect Of Food

The first concept used to justify the idea that frequent meals ignite your metabolism is the ‘thermic effect of food,’ or TEF. TEF describes the spike in heat production (a.k.a. calories burned) that occurs in the body for up to eight hours after every time you eat—because it takes calories to digest food! On a given day, TEF accounts for about 10 percent of the calories you burn, explains Rob Danoff, D.O., director of the family residency program at Jefferson Health Northeast in Philadelphia. Hypothetically, if you could boost that TEF by eating more often, you could have a pretty significant impact on the total number of calories you burn, and thus, your metabolism.

While this idea sounds legit in theory, most studies have found no link between meal frequency and increased TEF. In fact, after examining four separate studies (in which people split the same total caloric intake among anything from one to seven meals), the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that increasing the number of meals consumed per day did not improve resting metabolic rate or 24-hour energy expenditure.

Ultimately, how many calories you burn digesting your food depends on how many total calories you eat, and what macronutrients  (carbs, fat, protein) that food comes from, explains Spencer Nadolsky, M.D., diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine and author of The Fat Loss Prescription. “As long your total calories and macronutrients are equal, your body will burn the same number of calories in the digestion process,” he says. So, regardless of whether you eat three 500-calorie meals (say one-third protein, one-third carbs, and one-third fat), or six 250-calorie meals with the same macro breakdown, you’ll burn the same number of calories processing your grub in the end.

If you really want to boost your TEF, what you can do is increase how much of your total caloric intake comes from protein compared to carbs or fat, since research shows that protein has the highest TEF of the three macros.

‘Starvation Mode’

The other rational for eating frequent meals to keep your metabolism going is the idea that going too long without eating switches your body into ‘starvation mode,’ in which it stores calories it would otherwise burn.

While ‘starvation mode’ is, in fact, a real thing, it isn’t exactly an ever-present monster hiding in the pantry waiting to strike any time you go more than four hours without eating, says Wesley Delbridge, R.D., a spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. “People think they’re going to go into starvation mode and halt their metabolism if they skip one meal, but that’s really not the case,” he says. “It takes longer than one day for the body to get to that point.”

Your body has plenty of fuel sources it can turn to—like the carbohydrates circulating as blood sugar or stored in your muscles and liver as glycogen, ketone bodies made from fats, and even protein from muscle tissue—when it doesn’t have any calories from food immediately available. Your body can last far longer than a few hours on these stored fuel sources before it has to start hoarding calories instead of burning them, he says.

In Defense Of Frequent Feedings

But wait, the plot thickens: Even though eating every few hours like clockwork doesn’t directly spike your metabolism, it might have indirect benefits that can still help you lean out.

First of all, one surefire way to boost your metabolism is to increase your muscle mass, since muscle requires a lot of calories every day to maintain. According to a review recently published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, optimal muscle gain requires loading up on protein a minimum of four times per day. So if eating more frequently throughout the day helps you get the protein you need to build muscle, it can ultimately help you rev your metabolism.

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But that’s not the only way eating regularly can help you change your body. For example, research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that people who ate frequent mini-meals were more likely to choose healthy foods and end up eating fewer calories overall than those who ate fewer, larger meals.

Why? “One of the biggest potential benefits of eating frequently is that it can help keep blood sugar levels stable,” explains Jessica Cording, M.S., R.D. “When your blood sugar dips, your brain sends you signals to eat more—so in theory, eating more frequently keeps those dips from happening, which then keeps you from eating more.”

In fact, when researchers at the Agricultural University of Athens had people with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes eat either three or six meals—but the same number of total daily calories—per day, the more frequent eaters experienced improvements in glycated hemoglobin and glucose levels (signs of blood sugar control), had fewer blood sugar and insulin spikes, and reported feeling less hungry throughout the day.

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

So even if eating smaller, more frequent meals doesn’t automatically power up your metabolism, it can be a major player in your fat-loss strategy.

How I Finally Stopped Yo-Yo Dieting And Became A Celebrity Weight Loss Coach

For most of my life, struggling with weight was my identity. As early as fifth grade, I noticed I didn’t look like the rest of my peers, and at 14, I attended my first weight loss meeting. I was by far the youngest person there. The then-trendy weight loss program, called Diet Center, involved weekly weigh-ins and an extremely restrictive eating plan of bland lean proteins and vegetables. And so began my life of dieting and fearing food.

Throughout my teens, 20s, and early 30s, I lost and gained the same 35 pounds over and over and over again. I tried every plan imaginable, from the Grapefruit Diet to the Soup Diet, and read as many diet books as I could get my hands on. While I could always lose the weight, I could never keep it off.

I thought I had to follow a strict eating plan, and that if I wavered it even slightly, I was failing. So when I did waver, I became so distressed that I ate everything in sight. I fell into a cycle of restricting food, breaking down, overeating, and punishing myself by restricting all over again.

My relationship with food and my body only grew worse when I started a career as a Broadway actress and singer after finishing my Master’s degree. I knew every extra pound could be the difference between landing a gig or losing it—because agents and casting directors thought nothing of telling me I was too heavy for a role. Food, exercise, and my weight took over my life. I felt great when my weight was down and terrible when it was up. I was either eating plain grilled chicken with salad and exercising for hours a day, or chowing down on anything I felt like and not exercising at all. Healthy balance felt impossible.

After 10 years in theater, I’d had enough. As I walked away from that career, I finally felt free from the constant pressure to be as thin as possible. So what did I do? I completely abandoned exercise and gave in to every temptation, binging on all the food I’d spent a decade trying to deprive myself of. I gained 35 pounds—fast.

Again, I was desperate—but I realized I would never live a healthy, fulfilled life, or maintain a weight I felt good about, with my extreme approach to food and exercise. So, after reading about their flexible, realistic eating plan, I decided to give Weight Watchers a try. Throughout the next five months, I finally shared my insecurities, unhealthy behaviors, and fears at support meetings, which was a huge weight off of my shoulders. I enjoyed pizza, occasional desserts, and wine (all workable in the Weight Watchers program), and shed the weight I’d gained.

I felt like I’d found a family of other people who had struggled the way I did, and the positive environment helped me maintain my weight loss for the first time in my life. When a receptionist job opened up at the company, I applied, thinking it would be a temporary gig. Quickly, though, I became a meeting leader, running 17 group support meetings a week, and found myself helping launch the Weight Watchers website.

As the months and years passed, and I was able to consistently wear the same size clothing, my confidence grew, and my yo-yo ways of the past finally faded. I realized that one slip-up did not have to lead to days or weeks of binging, and that I could return to my healthy eating patterns at my next meal. My life fell into a balance: Instead of thinking of workouts as erasers of bad food choices, I exercised joyfully, savoring walks outside, jogs, and kickboxing. I packed healthy snacks (like nuts or hummus and veggies) for work, and discovered my go-to recipes (like ground turkey and tomato sauce over spaghetti squash). The more consistent my routine became, the easier it was to sprinkle in indulgences without going overboard. Finally, I realized what it meant to be healthy.

After nearly eight years with Weight Watchers—during which I had two beautiful sons and successfully lost 50-plus pounds of pregnancy weight, twice—I became their Director of Brand Advocacy and National Spokesperson, appearing on programs like Dr. Oz, Oprah, and Good Morning America and collecting success stories from members across the country to be featured on our website and in our magazine. I flew from New York to Los Angeles every week to lead meetings for Jessica Simpson and a dozen of her friends and relatives, helped Katie Couric negotiate a healthier on-set buffet table as a newly-minted news anchor, and assured Jennifer Hudson that she could indeed fit Buffalo wings into her meal plan.

It was a rush, and forced me to really step up my own weight maintenance skills as I navigated constant travel, jet lag, time zone changes, and new stress. I learned I couldn’t always be perfect, but I could be consistent. I packed snacks for long flights, turned down alcohol, kept workout gear with me at all times, used hotel gyms, and stocked mini fridges with my own healthy food. No challenge could derail my healthy lifestyle!

After 11 years with Weight Watchers, I decided to take everything I’d learned about balanced living, self-love, and long-term weight loss success and go out on my own to help others get healthy and stay that way. I studied to become a certified personal trainer and nutrition exercise specialist, and have since consulted for weight loss and wellness companies all over the world, and helped all kinds of clients—from celebrities and CEOs to stay-at-home parents—achieve their health and fitness goals.

I think my personal weight loss journey has helped me better understand and support others—and just as my career develops, so does my personal health journey. As I learn and grow, I am constantly fine-tuning my strategy for maintaining a healthy weight and attitude. Maintenance is an active process, and if you want to continue to see success long-term, you have to keep your eyes open to the ever-changing landscape of your life! Sure, as I get older I may not be able to drink as much wine as I used to, or have as much for dinner as my growing sons, but these days I’m excited to find out where my next chapter will take me, and I know that health will be a part of who I am forever.

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. 

Jumpstart Your Mornings (And Metabolism!) With This Tummy Tonic

Sluggish steps and belly bloat keeping you from starting your day off right? This tummy tonic from The Vitamin Shoppe Wellness Council member Sophia Roe is just what you need to jumpstart your metabolism and digestion for an energized morning. Made with health-promoting ingredients like fennel tea (which can ease bloating and gas), apple cider vinegar (a vitamin-, mineral-, and antioxidant-loaded all-star), ginger (another gut health booster), and green tea extract (which is high in antioxidants and supports metabolism), along with goji berries and raw honey, it’s a delicious power-up that’s great for your gut health and your waistline.

Here’s what you’ll need to whip up this day-brightening beverage:
– 1 bag fennel seed tea
– 2 Tbsp chopped ginger
– 1/2 cup Sunfood Superfoods goji berries
– 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
– 1 lemon
– 3 drops The Vitamin Shoppe brand green tea extract
raw manuka honey, to taste

Drink hot upon waking or pour over ice for a punch of refreshment, anytime.

 

A veritable ball of energy, Sophia Roe is a wildly talented yet relatable holistic chef, wellness expert, empowerment architect, and beauty bandit whose candid videos and posts on health and mindfulness light up social media.

 

How Much Do Genetics Factor Into The Speed Of Your Metabolism?

When it comes to weight loss (and gain), many of us believe our metabolism yields ultimate power over our success—and that there’s not much we can do to change it. After all, we all have that one friend who attributes his perpetually skinny frame to a ‘fast metabolism,’ just as we have that friend who blames her widening waistline on the sluggish metabolism she inherited from her mother. But are we really born with inner engines that run at different speeds—and does ours really determine our weight fate?

Metabolism refers to your body’s process of converting calories into energy,” explains exercise and obesity researcher Tim Church, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H, professor of preventive medicine at Louisiana State University and chief medical officer of ACAP Health Consulting. How fast or slow you convert those calories into energy, though, depends on a few factors—some of which you are born with.

First off, there’s how tall and naturally muscular you are. People with larger frames—who also tend to weigh more—actually have faster metabolisms than their smaller-framed friends. “The more you weigh, the more tissues you have, and the more tissues you have, the more calories you burn,” says Church. Then there’s whether you’re male or female. Men, who typically store less body fat, have more muscle mass, and are all-around larger than women, also typically have faster metabolisms because their muscle and size requires more calories to maintain than women’s generally smaller, less muscular frames.

Those metabolism factors are pretty much out of your control—but they’re not the only factors that determine the ultimate speed of your metabolism. The baseline number of calories your body needs to fuel essential functions, like breathing and circulating blood, is also determined by other factors, like your age (okay, also your of your control), your hormonal function, and your body composition (how much muscle versus fat you have). This metabolic baseline is called your BMR, or basal metabolic rate.

While your BMR is roughly how many calories you’d burn if you literally slept all day and didn’t move or eat anything, it only accounts for about 60 percent of your TDEE, or total daily energy expenditure, which is the total number of calories you burn per day and includes the energy you use to move around, exercise, and digest food.

In a nutshell, the more you move your body, the more energy it uses, and the higher your TDEE—meaning you have a ‘faster’ metabolism on days you exercise than on days you binge on Netflix.

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Though it’s easier to boost your TDEE by moving more every day, it is also possible to boost your BMR over time, too. Remember when we said that the amount of muscle mass you have factors into your BMR? While you might be born with a more or less naturally muscular body than someone else, you can build more muscle mass and increase the baseline number of calories your body churns through every single day with strength training and proper nutrition (we’re looking at you, protein!). Research suggests muscle mass determines up to 60 percent of the variability in different people’s metabolisms, so putting in the work to build more is certainly worth your while.

Related: How Many Times A Week Should You Strength Train?

By the time you’re an adult, lifestyle behaviors like being active and building muscle outweigh the aspects of your metabolism you’re born with. In a perfect world, weight loss comes down to a simple equation, says Church: Use more energy than you take in. However, if you’re faithful to your healthy routine, move your body regularly, and nourish it with the appropriate calories, but still aren’t seeing any changes in your waistline, give your doctor a call. Underlying health issues, like a thyroid disorder or diabetes, could be throwing your hormones out of whack and sabotaging your metabolism.

Diggin’ What’s Good? For more essential health facts, tips, and inspiration, join our Facebook communities, Eating Healthy and Staying Fit, today!

Where Does The Fat Go When You Lose Weight?

After successfully shedding body fat, we’re often too busy basking in sweet satisfaction to question where that fat actually went. Did it transform into muscle? End up in the toilet? Seep out of our pores as sweat?

If you’re suddenly curious (and stumped), don’t worry: A 2014 survey found that 98 percent of health professionals don’t know where that fat goes either.

Most health experts surveyed assumed that fat we ‘lose’ is just transformed into heat, hence why we often talk about it as something we ‘burn off’—but it doesn’t just zap into thin air!

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Think back to high school chemistry. You probably learned about something called the ‘law of conservation of matter.’ It means that mass cannot be created or destroyed, so fat can’t just disappear, explains Spencer Nadolsky, M.D., diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine and author of The Fat Loss Prescription.

After losing 33 pounds, a physicist-turned-media-personality named Ruben Meerman wanted to get to the bottom of where those pounds actually disappeared to, so he teamed up with lipid (a.k.a. fat) researcher Andrew Brown of the University of New South Wales to investigate.

Meerman and Brown’s study, which was published in The BMJ, looked at the chemistry of what happens to a triglyceride a.k.a. body fat molecule (it looks like this: C55H104O6+78O2) when it’s oxidized or broken down to be used for energy. It’s a complicated process, but that process creates two by-products that explain where our fat goes when we lose it: carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O).

When the researchers measured what happened to 22 pounds-worth of triglycerides ‘lost,’ they found that about 18.5 pounds-worth of carbon dioxide were exhaled through the lungs, while the rest exited the body as water, whether in sweat, urine, or another bodily fluid. So even though we don’t quite breathe or sweat little fat particles, we do excrete the by-products produced when our body breaks down body fat, explains Pennsylvania-based family medicine physician, Rob Danoff, D.O., M.S., F.A.C.O.F.P, F.A.A.F.P.

(Just in case you’re wondering, the carbon dioxide you breathe out doesn’t harm the environment. The researchers encountered that question a lot…)

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

While this study doesn’t really give us any new information about how to lose weight, it does help us understand how losing weight works—and it’s actually pretty fascinating, right?

Diggin’ What’s Good? For more essential health facts, tips, and inspiration, join our Facebook communities, Eating Healthy and Staying Fit, today!

Is The ‘Fat-Burning Zone’ A Sham?

If you’ve hopped on any cardio machine ever, you’ve probably seen the graph or different colored hearts (or whatever) identifying the different exercise ‘zones’ that use your heart rate to categorize the intensity of your workout.

Which zone we should be cardio-ing away in, though, isn’t so clear—and the enticing ‘fat-burning’ zone, in particular, is actually pretty misleading.

You’re in the ‘fat-burning zone’ when you exercise at a pace that gets your heartrate up to between 60 and 75 percent of your maximum (220 minus your age). “If you measured your exertion or effort on a scale of one to ten, the fat-burning zone would be a five or six,” explains exercise physiologist Pete McCall, M.S., C.S.C.S., C.P.T., host of the All About Fitness Podcast. This is a pretty low-intensity pace, and you’ll probably be able to carry on a conversation as you move.

Given its name, you’d think the fat-burning zone is where you want to be if you’re trying to lose weight, right? Well, not quite.

Workouts that focus on the fat-burning zone are a rooted in the outdated (but persistent) belief that long, slow workouts are more effective for weight loss than shorter, more intense workouts. Here, exercise experts break down why the fat-burning zone isn’t really your fat-loss friend.

The Fat-Burning Basics

To fuel literally everything we do, our body produces and uses a form of chemical energy called ATP (adenosine triphosphate). What we create that ATP from, though, depends on what ingredients we have in our system (like carbs or fat from food, or stored body fat) and how much energy we need how quickly (depending on whether we’re just hanging out or sprinting, for example).

Technically, the fat-burning zone is legit: At lower intensities, our body’s primary ATP fuel source is fatty acids from food or body fat, whereas at higher intensities—usually an effort level of seven or higher—we primarily use the carbohydrates circulating in our bloodstream as sugar or stored in our muscles as glycogen.

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“Our body needs oxygen to turn fat into ATP, and when we’re resting or working out at a low intensity, that oxygen is readily available,” explains Tiffany Chag, M.S., R.D, C.S.C.S., sports dietitian at Hospital for Special Surgery. When we work out at higher intensities, oxygen becomes scarce and our body turns to carbs, instead. It’s never entirely one or the other—just a different proportion: Fat can still account for between 10 and 45 percent of our total energy expenditure during high-intensity exercise.

Exercise Intensity And Weight Loss

While it’s true we burn a higher percentage of calories from fat in the fat-burning zone, that doesn’t translate to quicker fat loss. Burning more calories total—regardless of whether the energy used comes from fat or carbs—is what matters for fat loss, explains running coach and exercise physiologist, Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, founder of Running Strong.

Unsurprisingly, we burn more calories overall when we work out at higher intensities—like 75 to 85 percent of our max heartrate, or an effort level of seven or eight—because our organs and muscles have to work harder to meet that high energy demand. For example, a 155-pound person burns about 260 calories cycling at a moderate pace for 30 minutes, but churns through about 315 at a more vigorous pace.

That’s where HIIT (high-intensity interval training), which involves alternating between short intervals of max-effort and intervals of low-intensity recovery, comes in. By upping the intensity so much (even just for short bursts of time), we can burn just as much fat, if not more, in less time—even if carbs account for a larger percentage of our calories burned, explains Christi Marraccini C.P.T., Head Coach at Tone House in New York City.

Related: 7 HIIT Workouts That Incinerate Fat

By pushing so hard during HIIT’s work intervals, we increase our body’s demand for oxygen during the rest intervals, and throughout the rest of the day after the workout, explains McCall. (This is called ‘EPOC,’ or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.)  Our body continues working harder-than-usual to deliver that oxygen, and we continue burning calories.

The Time And Place For The Fat-Burning Zone

HIIT is great, but too much high-intensity work can lead to injury or burnout over time—so our experts recommend your weekly workout routine strikes a balance between higher- and lower-intensity exercise. Every other—or every third—cardio workout can be HIIT, but the rest should actually land in that fat-burning zone. “This kind of breakdown will allow your body to recover and your muscle to repair after tough workouts, while still giving you the opportunity to move,” says Chag.

Like what you’re reading here? For more health information and inspiration, join our Facebook communities, Eating Healthy and Staying Fit, today!

I Tried Carb-Cycling For A Month—Here’s What Happened

Ever since cutting carbs became a thing back in the late ’90s, I’ve made it my personal mission to rehab their rep. Apart from the fact that mashed potatoes are the best, cutting out an entire food group has always seemed extreme to me. Plus, as a health and fitness journalist and a certified strength and conditioning specialist, I appreciate that carbs fuel our body for high-intensity exercise, are the prime energy source for our brain and red blood cells, contain heart-healthy fiber, and also pack B vitamins, iron, and other nutrients.

I also recognize that, as a whole, Americans eat far more carbs than we need. The current recommended daily carb intake is 140 grams per day, plus an extra 60 for every hour of intense exercise we do. However, the average American eats roughly 300 grams a day, the majority coming from highly-processed foods like frozen pizza and soda, says Donald K. Layman, Ph.D., professor emeritus of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois. Carbs are, first and foremost, fuel, so it really doesn’t make sense to eat a ton of them if we’re not working out consistently.

I’ve always taken a pretty balanced approach to macros, typically eating between 1,800 and 2,000 calories per day, with about 40 percent of those calories coming from carbs, 30 coming from protein, and other 30 coming from fat. (I’m five-foot-two, about 120 pounds, and about 23 percent body fat these days.) That’s about 180 to 200 grams of carbs per day, which is pretty consistent with carb recommendations considering I hit the gym most days.

Me, before a month of cycling carbs.

On days I don’t exercise (usually about two days a week), though, I can be shockingly sedentary. I work from home and my computer sits all of 30 feet from my bedroom… and about 15 from my kitchen. On some of these days, I bank fewer than 1,000 steps—all day.

Realizing that I don’t need nearly as much energy to fuel typing as I do deadlifting, I wondered if I should try carb-cycling, which involves eating different amounts of carbs on different days. Could this approach to eating help me shed fat and build muscle?

I hit up one of my favorite dietitians, Jim White, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, to find out. Extreme carb-cycling protocols can cut carbs as low as 50 grams a day on low-carb days, but White (who isn’t a fan of these extreme protocols) proposed I cycle carbs just a little, cutting out just the amount of carbs I’d burn during a workout and need for exercise recovery on those sedentary days.

Here’s what he recommended for me:

High-Carb Days:
– 1,600 calories
– 50 percent carbs (200 grams)
– 25 percent protein (100 grams)
– 25 percent fat (44 grams)

Low-Carb Days:
– 1,400 calories
– 35 percent carbs (123 grams)
– 35 percent protein (123 grams)
– 30 percent fat (47 grams)

The macro breakdowns weren’t drastically different than what I was already doing, and felt pretty doable. The only thing that made me squirm: the fact that I’d eat just 1,400 calories on low-carb days. Not crazy low for a woman of my height and size (again, I’m only five-foot-two), but definitely lower than what I was used to. Luckily, White assured me that we could tweak calories should I feel super-hangry or fatigued.

White told me to use my extra calories and carbs on high-carb days to ‘pad’ my workouts, eating some extra carbs before and after to help fuel performance and recover.

Getting Started

I decided to use MyFitnessPal, which lets you set unique different calorie and macro goals for different days of the week, to track my food.

Day one was a low-carb day, and it took about one meal for me to decide that following this 1,400-calorie limit was obnoxious. Cutting 60 to 80 grams of carbs didn’t sound so bad in theory, but I certainly felt it. I tried to eat more fiber- and water-rich veggies to curb my hunger without going over my calorie and carb limits (read: lots of salads and zoodles), but I still felt a little hangry by the end of the day. I did discover an awesome new recipe, though! You throw one-zucchini’s-worth of zoodles and some cherry tomatoes in a pan, form them into little nests, crack an egg into each, and sprinkle some goat cheese on top for good measure. Low-carb deliciousness.

I also drank even more milk (I love fairlife ultra-filtered skim milk) than usual. I’m a vegetarian, and this milk, which packs 13 grams of protein but just six grams of carbs per serving, has long been a staple of mine—and it’s low carb count saved me!

The next day was high-carb, and felt pretty similar to my usual eating habits. I felt full, fueled, and satisfied—phew.  The calories, though a bit lower, were totally doable. I just made sure to save most of my grains and fruit for before and after my workout.

Here’s what an average high- and low-carb day looked like:

High-Carb Day:
– Breakfast: Skim milk latte, fat-free Greek yogurt with strawberries, and slivered almonds
– Snack: Two slices of Ezekiel avocado toast with edamame
– Lunch: A glass of milk and a spring mix salad with chickpeas, egg, tomatoes, and olive oil
– Snack: String cheese, an apple, and glass of V8
– Dinner: A glass of milk and a sweet potato topped with black beans, two poached eggs, Havarti cheese, and arugula

Low-Carb Day:
– Breakfast: Skim milk latte, crustless vegetable quiche, arugula salad (no dressing)
– Snack: Baked tofu
– Lunch: Protein shake
– Snack: Glass of milk
– Dinner: Zoodles with three eggs, cherry tomatoes, and goat cheese

By the time I had a week under my belt, tracking became easier—especially considering I tend to eat a lot of the same foods throughout the week. It was just tracking meals and snacks at coffee shops and restaurants that was a pain, since many don’t have nutritional information available.

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My biggest issue was sometimes having to scramble to switch a high-carb day to a low-carb day (or vice versa) midday if I had to nix workout plans after something came up or randomly decided to hit the gym when I hadn’t planned to. I either had to get creative with my meals to stay within my calorie and macro constraints, or scarf down a bagel on my way to the gym.

Tweaking My Approach

By about two weeks in, I felt a little less bloated (a common issue for me). Since water hangs out with the carbs our bodies store as glycogen, though, I had a feeling this was just from losing water weight.

On the not-so-bright side, though, my workouts took a turn for the worse. I had to lower the weight I usually used for deadlifts—or I couldn’t get the barbell off the floor. I hoped it was a fluke and wondered if I just hadn’t gotten enough sleep, but the next workout felt just as terrible. I had to cut my bench reps short, and pullups felt extra challenging.

I talked to White, who told me to increase calories slightly. I added 200 calories to both my high- and low-carb days, bringing my high-carb days back to my usual 1,800 calories and my low-carb days up to 1,600. I hoped that would be enough to power my workouts and help me build muscle, and maintain a fat-loss-friendly caloric deficit on my off days.

Related: Are You Eating Too Few Carbs?

I stuck with my same go-to foods, just ate more of them—though the extra calories also gave me some wiggle room to eat out and not have to order a dressing-free salad. (I’m not a proponent of starving yourself all day so you can splurge at one meal.)

Sure enough, within a few days I was lifting my normal weights again!

Final Thoughts…and Results

By the time I got my workouts back on track, I had just two weeks of my little experiment left. Knowing it takes months to build notable muscle and burn fat, and that I was cutting just 200 to 400 calories a couple of times a week, I didn’t expect any drastic results. My scale—which can also calculate body fat percentage—didn’t change, but I continued to feel less bloated than usual.

Me, after a month of cycling carbs. Pretty much the same.

The new calorie counts felt really doable, and as I got more familiar with the calories and macros in different foods, I was able to follow my carb-cycling plan without tracking throughout the day. Knowing I didn’t have to obsess about the numbers kept me from feeling like I was depriving myself. Score!

Since I’ve always had the most success when I focus on food workout fuel and letting fat loss be a happy accident of crushing it in the gym, this plan really did feel sustainable for me—and I’ll continue to follow it.

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: