It’s a new year. A new opportunity to grow, push yourself, get dialed in, and make “you” a priority. But the goal of all goals should always be: consistency and commitment to each of those goals. To do that, it’s all about working smarter, not just working hard. This year, whatever your fitness and health goals are, keep these things in mind.
Protein promotes fullness by signaling the release of appetite-suppressing hormones and in turn, slows digestion and stabilizes your blood sugar levels. Eating enough protein throughout the day can help you lose weight, gain muscle, improve your body composition and metabolic health, and even support your immune system.
Foods that are high in protein:
Here are some tips to help start you out and make it all less overwhelming, and actually enjoyable:
If you are not getting adequate amounts of protein in your diet, it can have a negative effect on the results of your strength training. Your body needs protein to build and repair tissues, so if you aren’t eating enough, your muscles won’t be able to grow. Growing muscles means a higher metabolism, which means it takes your body more calories to maintain its same weight. Otherwise said: you will lose weight by eating the same number of calories if your body has a higher ratio of muscle mass.
This takes us to our next goal:
Strength training is the most effective and efficient form of exercise for building muscle, burning fat, improving muscle strength and bone density, maintaining flexibility, and improving overall health, especially if you’re busy with limited time for workouts.
Building muscle also can contribute to better balance and may reduce your risk of falls the older you get – helping you maintain independence as you age. Strength training also has its anti-aging perks, like increasing skin elasticity and dermal thickness.
Now, what’s true is that a cardio workout burns more calories than a weight-training workout. However, here’s the kicker: Your metabolism may stay elevated for longer after lifting weights than cardio and thus you burn more calories in the hours following a weight training session compared to a cardio workout. Think of it like passive income for your body and health
If you measure success by the number on the scale, you’ve got to know this: weight training can lead to an increase in muscle and a decrease in fat and if your muscle and fat change by the same amount, the scale may stay the same, even though you got healthier. This is because muscle weighs more than fat. A better measure of success, in my opinion, is how you look and feel in your jeans.
Aside from dedicated strength training workouts 3-5x a week, work “smart” with:
Think of these “snacks” as intentional spurts of movement spaced out throughout your day, adding up to hundreds or thousands of extra steps each day and more calories burned. One of the simplest approaches to this is to commit to a 10-minute walk after each meal. Not only will this give you extra steps, but doing this will help aid in digestion post-meal and combat your blood glucose levels spiking too high if you had a meal higher in carbohydrates.
You can also gamify these movement “snacks” by committing to quick bursts of movement each time you use the bathroom or drink some water (since both of those happen quite a bit throughout the day). An example could be doing 10 air squats each time you use the bathroom.
Eating (or drinking) carbohydrates before exercise can unlock a better workout – to work out for a longer time or at a higher intensity. But, what you eat is only useful once it has been digested. Before a workout, you want to eat something that will give you energy quickly and be easily digestible.
When you exercise, your body converts glycogen into glucose. By fueling your body pre-workout, you'll reduce muscle glycogen depletion. Exercising on an empty stomach during a longer workout (60 minutes+) could also make the body use protein as fuel, which is problematic since you want protein to be used to build and repair muscles.
One of my favorite bite-sized, pre-workout snacks that are easily digestible is Natural Delights Medjool dates stuffed with peanut butter and a sprinkle of sea salt (for electrolytes).
Let these tips soak in and be a compliment to your current health and fitness goals, ultimately helping you work smarter, not just work hard.
Alec Treffers is a registered nutritionist, former D1 athlete, recipe developer, and soon-to-be mom of two. Her ultimate goal is to spark a passion for health in everyone she connects with. You can follow Alec for more health and fitness tips on Instagram at @alectreffs.
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