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5 Incredible Exercises That Work Your Abs And Arms At The Same Time

5 Incredible Exercises That Work Your Abs And Arms At The Same Time

Christopher Futcher / Getty Images

You can approach your workout one of two ways: You’re either in it to win it, or you are trudging through it because you know exercising is something you should be doing. Both reasons are acceptable, and if you’re like me, you probably fluctuate between the two mindsets daily.

No matter what motivates you to start working out there’s one thing that remains consistent: you want your workout to work. Performing effective exercises that target multiple muscles will help satisfy that requirement—and these five moves work both your abs and arms at the same time. 

The Workout: Do 10 reps of each exercise. Rest for two minutes then repeat the circuit one more time. You can either do this routine five two to three times per week, or add your favorite moves to your regular training routine.

1. Lateral Plank Walk — do 10 reps

  • Start in a high plank with shoulders above your wrists and abs tight.
  • Step right foot and right hand to right side immediately following with left foot and left hand. That’s 1 rep.
  • Do 5 reps to the right then switch directions and do 5 reps to the left.

2. Plank Ups — do 10 reps

  • Start in a high plank. Bend one arm to bring the elbow and forearm to the floor.
  • Bring the other arm down so you are in a forearm plank.
  • Push back up to the start position, placing each hand where your elbows were.
  • Repeat this movement, alternating which side you lower first with each rep.
  • Do 10 reps.

The post 5 Incredible Exercises That Work Your Abs And Arms At The Same Time appeared first on SELF.

Source: 5 Incredible Exercises That Work Your Abs And Arms At The Same Time

June 12, 20160 commentsRead More
5 Ways You’re Probably Doing Squats Wrong

5 Ways You’re Probably Doing Squats Wrong

Valerie Fischel

Unless you’ve spent your life in the desert with no wifi (and even then…), you’ve performed a squat. It’s the move that makes an appearance in nearly every type of workout. Why are squats such a popular exercise? First and foremost, there’s no simpler way to strengthen your backside. Second, “Your legs and butt are the largest muscle groups in the body, and the stronger the muscle, the bigger potential to burn more calories,” explains celebrity trainer Astrid Swan. Talk about a two-for-one: By building your gluteal muscles, you’ll get a firmer, stronger booty and build more calorie-burning lean muscle—but are you doing those squats correctly? Here, Swan breaks down the five basic dos and don’ts of how to squat.

1. Position your feet correctly.

“To perform a perfect squat, start with your feet just slightly wider than hip-width apart, and turn your toes about five to fifteen degrees outward, depending on your hip mobility. Remember, not like a ballerina—just a small turnout,” says Swan.

2. Watch your knees.

Your knees should not extend forward further than your toes. If you drop your butt straight down your knees won’t have anywhere to go but forward, so initiate the squat movement by hinging your hips back toward a wall (real or imaginary) behind you. “Shift your weight back into your heels and test this by wiggling your toes. If you can’t wiggle, shift back more,” says Swan. Your heels need to stay glued to the ground the entire time in order to protect your knees and properly activate your glutes. And you want to avoid having your knees buckle in—imagine that you’re slightly pressing them out to help keep them in line with your shins. 

3. Don’t arch your back.

“Keep your spine in a neutral position, arms extended straight out in front of you for balance,” says Swan. Avoid tucking your pelvis under or overarching your back—use your abs to keep your back long and straight.

4. Keep your chest up.

“Often I see people diving their chest forward as they lower into the squat,” says Swan. Instead, keep your chest lifted. An easy hack to learn this is to, “Keep eye contact with something level, straight ahead,” says Swan.

5. Use the proper range of motion.

How do you know exactly how low to go? “Starting slow and with no weight is best when beginning,” says Swan. Only go as low as you can while maintaining all of the proper form points above. Then, “Exhale and keep your core tight as you stand up to starting position.” With a little practice you’ll be able to get lower and feel stronger with each rep!

Ready, set, squat!

Now try doing a few squats keeping these form tips in mind. Start with three sets of 15 bodyweight squats. Once you nail down the basic form you can start to get ~fancy~ with your variations as well as start to incorporate dumbbells, kettlebells, and more. Here’s Swan showing off A+ form during a weight squat:

Justin Steele; modeled by Astrid Swan. Hair and Makeup by Sacha Harford at NEXT ARTISTS

You may also like: Try this 10-minute plyometric workout you can do at home:

The post 5 Ways You’re Probably Doing Squats Wrong appeared first on SELF.

Source: 5 Ways You’re Probably Doing Squats Wrong

June 11, 20160 commentsRead More
Here’s Exactly What To Do If You Only Have 15 Minutes To Work Out

Here’s Exactly What To Do If You Only Have 15 Minutes To Work Out

Monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images

A bodyweight workout is the perfect option when you’re short on time. It’s an anywhere, anytime type of routine: No gym, no weights, all you.

Rebecca Kennedy, NYC-based trainer, shared her go-to 15-minute bodyweight workout with SELF—use it to kick things into high gear the next time you feel like playing workout hooky because you don’t have time. You’ll check the cardio box by taking minimal rest to jack up your heart rate while doing strength moves, too. Here’s how your 15 minutes will break down:

1. Start with a quick three-minute dynamic warm-up.

Yes, even if you only have 15 minutes, you still need to do a proper warm-up. This will help prepare your muscles for harder work and increase your range of motion so you can make the most out of each exercise in the following section. Don’t slack off during these three minutes, ease into the movements then begin to pick up the pace to get that heart rate rising.

1. 90 Seconds: Spider Lunge With Twist + Jumping Jacks

  • Start standing tall, then fold forward.
  • Walk your hands out to a high plank, then bring your right foot and set it on the floor on the outside of your right hand.
  • Reach your right arm to the ceiling and twist your torso to the right. Return your arm back to the ground and step your right foot back so that you’re in high plank. Repeat on the left side.
  • Then walk your hands back to your feet and roll up to stand. Do 10 jumping jacks, and start again from the beginning. Continue for 90 seconds.

2. 45 Seconds: Squat To Front Lunge

  • Start standing with feet hip-distance apart. Shift your weight into your heels and sit back to perform a squat, bending your knees to 90 degrees without letting them go beyond the toes.
  • Push through your heels to return to standing and now take a step forward with your right leg, and bend both knees so that you’re in a lunge position.
  • Step back to standing and repeat, starting with a squat, but now stepping forward with your left leg. Continue alternating for 45 seconds.

3. 45 Seconds: Reverse Lunge To Straight-Leg Front Kick

  • Start standing with feet hip-distance apart. Step your right leg back and lower into a lunge, aiming for a 90-degree bend in both knees.
  • As you return to standing, sweep your right leg forward into a front kick, keeping the leg straight.
  • Repeat on the left side and continue alternating for 45 seconds.

The post Here’s Exactly What To Do If You Only Have 15 Minutes To Work Out appeared first on SELF.

Source: Here’s Exactly What To Do If You Only Have 15 Minutes To Work Out

June 10, 20160 commentsRead More
What Is Adrenal Fatigue? The Facts About This Controversial Medical Condition

What Is Adrenal Fatigue? The Facts About This Controversial Medical Condition

It seems like everyone’s talking about adrenal fatigue, and it’s pretty easy to see why. The condition’s extremely-common-yet hard-to-pin-down symptoms include fatigue, body aches, trouble sleeping, and dark under-eye circles, and adrenal fatigue wraps them up in a tidy diagnosis that can supposedly be treated with a cocktail of supplements.

Thing is, there’s no scientific evidence this condition actually exists.

An alternative medicine specialist named James L. Wilson first introduced the concept of adrenal fatigue with his 1998 book, Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome. The condition, as he explained it, is a group of non-specific symptoms associated with “below optimal adrenal function resulting from stress.” When the adrenals (small glands that sit on top of the kidneys and produce vital hormones and help the body to regulate metabolism and respond to stress) are overtaxed, he argued, we can suffer from everything from “‘gray’ feelings” to the inability to leave bed for more than a few hours. Wilson offered “unique dietary supplements” as the remedy.

Nearly two decades later, there’s still no way to test for the condition. What’s more, researchers have uncovered no concrete evidence that stress actually does drain the adrenal glands. The Endocrine Society, a group representing more than 18,000 physicians and scientists around the world, doesn’t mince words in its fact sheet: “‘Adrenal fatigue’ is not a real medical condition. There are no scientific facts to support the theory that long-term mental, emotional, or physical stress drains the adrenal glands and causes many common symptoms.”

RELATED: 17 Surprising Reasons You’re Stressed Out

“The symptoms people experience [when they believe they have adrenal fatigue] are very real, and sometimes it’s difficult to have symptoms and not have a diagnosis, so that could be where the persistent myth of ‘adrenal fatigue’ syndrome comes from,” says Salila Kurra, MD, co-director of the Columbia Adrenal Center and assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

There really is harm in believing that myth and “waiting for the research to catch up,” as some people put it, says Marilyn Tan, MD, an endocrinologist with Stanford Health Care and clinical assistant professor of medicine at Stanford School of Medicine in California. “Symptoms of fatigue, body aches, trouble sleeping, indigestion, and nervousness are non-specific and could be due to a variety of other diseases, including sleep disorders, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, and thyroid disease,” she explains. “To attribute all symptoms to a single diagnosis of ‘adrenal fatigue’ risks missing the detection of other treatable underlying diseases.”

Confusing matters, there is a similarly-named condition that’s widely accepted in the medical community, with research supporting its existence: adrenal insufficiency.

Primary adrenal insufficiency, also known as Addison’s disease, occurs when the adrenal glands are damaged and can no longer produce enough cortisol, a hormone that plays a role in bone growth, blood pressure control, immune system function, metabolism, nervous system function, and stress response. It’s very rare, affecting 110 to 144 of every 1 million people in developed countries. Autoimmune disorders cause about 80% of cases. Secondary adrenal insufficiency, on the other hand, is much more common, and occurs when the pituitary gland won’t produce enough of a hormone that stimulates the adrenal gland to produce cortisol. It can be brought on by long-term glucocorticoid (steroid) use, pituitary disease, radiation, or other causes.

RELATED: The 11 Kinds of Insomnia

Both types of adrenal insufficiency can be detected with lab tests, and patients suspected of having it might receive, for example, a morning blood test to measure their production of cortisol. “The reason you check cortisol levels in the morning to look for whether or not someone is making enough is because that’s when it should be the highest,” Dr. Kurra explains. “Most people with a normal sleep/wake cycle should have a spike of cortisol around 8 a.m.” Adrenal insufficiency is a serious condition treated with hormone substitution and replacement, and people diagnosed with it are urged to carry medical identification so that they can receive appropriate help in the event of a crisis.

If your adrenal glands aren’t working properly, your primary-care physician will likely refer you to a specialist. And take note: Although proponents of “adrenal fatigue” suggest treating yourself with over-the-counter supplements that promise “adrenal support” or “thyroid support,” you absolutely should not do this to treat potential adrenal concerns of any kind. “If you take a supplement that has thyroid extract or adrenal extract, it could cause the symptoms of having too much of those hormones,” Dr. Kurra says. “Supplements can also make your own glands—especially the adrenal glands, if you’re taking some derivative of cortisol—stop working. Then, if you stop taking the supplement all of a sudden, your adrenal glands may not work; it takes time for them to ‘wake up’ again.”

Plus, supplements have other drawbacks. “Most supplements are not only costly and not covered by insurance, but they are not FDA regulated,” says Dr. Tan. “We do not have a full understanding of all of the effects of various supplements. Even though components of the supplements may be ‘natural,’ that does not mean they will not affect the body in adverse ways.” They can also make it trickier for your doctor to help you: “Supplements make testing [for hormone levels] really difficult,” Dr. Kurra adds. “We don’t really know the active ingredients; there can actually be something in a supplement that gives false positive or false negative results.” This is especially true when it comes to herbal remedies and multi-ingredient supplements; mega-doses of vitamins can have their own drawbacks, of course, but they are less likely to cause harm.

RELATED: Warning: Do Not Mix These Supplements

If you’re experiencing symptoms that may have led you to believe you have adrenal fatigue, it’s time to reach out to your primary care doctor, says Dr. Kurra. “A primary-care physician can help guide you in the direction of your treatment and, if you need to, help you find a subspecialist.” Dr. Tan concurs: “This provider is the one who will be coordinating all your care between various other providers. Since the symptoms attributed to ‘adrenal fatigue’ can be non-specific, it is best to speak with your primary care provider so that he or she can better assess whether there is another obvious underlying cause.” You’ve got all the background you need; now, make that call.

Source: What Is Adrenal Fatigue? The Facts About This Controversial Medical Condition

8 Running Must-Haves That Will Make You Ridiculously Excited For Summer

8 Running Must-Haves That Will Make You Ridiculously Excited For Summer

Logging al fresco miles during the summer is a magical but challenging time. That’s partly because you’re in a constant struggle between loving and absolutely despising the warmer weather. And partly because all of the sweat. Regardless, ‘tis the season for outdoor running, and these are the eight pieces of running gear that are making me really excited about tackling those hot, sweaty, delightfully challenging miles.

1. Ridiculously cute leggings that also hide sweat.

I’ve never loved running in shorts so I am all about capris that have stylish and functional mesh panels that help keep me feeling cool during the hotter summer months. This pair boasts a few in sweaty hotspots including behind the knees and around the upper thigh. Plus, the color blocking is varsity-level cute while the black fabric along the backside will help hide awkward butt sweat marks. Get it here.

Odyssey Performance Capri, $118;

2. Easy, breezy, sneakers.

These sneaks are white and black (you know, like a panda), lightweight, and extra-cushiony. They’re designed to give you that extra spring in your stride. Stylish and functional? Game on! Get them here.

Women’s TechLoom Phantom White/Black, $165;

3. A cute headband that tames the flyaways.

I’ve been playing both sides when it comes to the fitness debate over headband thickness. Currently I’m on team mini and these thin headbands are my summer jam. Get them here.

UA Mini Wordmark Headbands, $12;

The post 8 Running Must-Haves That Will Make You Ridiculously Excited For Summer appeared first on SELF.

Source: 8 Running Must-Haves That Will Make You Ridiculously Excited For Summer

How 6 Olympic Athletes Deal with the Pressure

How 6 Olympic Athletes Deal with the Pressure

If keeping calm under pressure was an Olympic sport, these athletes would all be gold medalists. Watch the video to hear from Olympic athletes like Gabby Douglas, Missy Franklin, and others on how they stay cool in the face of fierce competition, the global spotlight and…oh, the hopes of an entire nation.
Source: How 6 Olympic Athletes Deal with the Pressure

Kayla Itsines’ 4-Move Oblique-Obliterating Workout

Kayla Itsines’ 4-Move Oblique-Obliterating Workout

Last summer was a breakout year for Australian trainer Kayla Itsines—in addition to her Bikini Body Guide program, she developed the SELF Summer Challenge plan, and embarked on her first workout world tour. Now, she’s launched a new app, Sweat With Kayla, and has earned the title of Instagram’s biggest fitness star with every burpee, tuck jump, and pull-up she posts. 

Itsines is preparing to hit the road again, making three stops this summer (London, NYC, and LA) on her Sweat Tour 2016. And part of her tour includes meeting fans and participating in a Q&A at the London Apple Store in Covent Garden (June 17, 6 P.M., RSVP here) and NYC’s SoHo store (June 23, 7 P.M., RSVP here) with Jay Blahnik, Apple’s director of fitness and health technologies.

Whether Itsines is leading boot camps in Adelaide, Australia, or stateside, one thing is for certain—you can expect to see her post a picture of her seriously strong abs on her Instagram account that boasts 5.1 million followers. Her abs are famous—The New York Times-level famous. And while Istines agrees that the secret to great abs isn’t doing just a bunch of abs exercises (it takes full-body strength training, cardio sessions, and a healthy diet), she does a have a few go-to moves that are killer for firing up your core. Here she shares four of her top exercises for your obliques (the muscles that run along the sides of your waist). 

The Workout:

Set a timer for seven minutes and complete the four-move circuit below as many times as you can before the timer goes off—keep a steady pace and aim to complete two to three rounds. Then take a 30-second break. Oh, but you’re not done! Then you’ll reset your timer and complete one more seven-minute circuit. 

The Moves:

1. Straight-Leg Sit-Ups With A Twist — do 20 reps (10 per side)

  • Start faceup on a yoga mat with your legs extended in front of you and place your hands behind your ears.
  • Pull your bellybutton toward your spine and engage your abs.
  • Slowly lift your head, shoulder blades, and torso off the floor. As you sit up, extend your right arm, twist your torso, and touch the floor next to your left leg with your right hand.
  • Slowly untwist and lower your torso back to the mat and bring your right hand back behind your right ear. Then repeat on the opposite side.
  • Continue alternating sides until you complete 20 reps (10 on each side).

2. Abs Bikes — do 40 reps (20 per side)

  • Start faceup on a yoga mat with your legs extended in front of you and place your hands behind your ears.
  • Raise your head and shoulder blades off the floor and lift your legs off the ground with your knees bent at 90 degrees. This is your starting position.
  • Extend your left leg so that is approximately 45 degrees from the floor and bring your right knee into your chest. Now extend your right leg completely so that is 45 degrees from the floor and bring your left knee into your chest.
  • When you’re ready, incorporate a twist with your upper body bringing opposite elbow and knee to meet.
  • Continue alternating sides until you complete 40 reps (20 on each side).

3. Russian Twists — do 24 reps (12 per side)

  • Start seated on a yoga mat with your hands clasped in front of your chest, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Keeping your legs together, lift your feet off the floor and extend legs so that they are almost straight. This is your starting position.
  • Twist your torso to the right so that your right hand touches the floor beside you.
  • Return to center then repeat twisting to the left.
  • Continue alternating sides until you complete 24 reps (12 on each side).

4. X Mountain Climbers — do 40 reps (20 per side)

  • Start in a high plank with feet together and hands shoulder-width apart.
  • Keep your left foot on the floor and bend your right knee, bringing it under your chest and toward your left elbow.
  • Extend your right leg back to plank position and repeat on the opposite side.
  • Continue alternating sides until you complete 40 reps total (20 on each side). As you get comfortable with the exercise, gradually increase your speed.

“While these moves work your obliques, some of these exercises also work a number of muscle groups in your body,” she tells SELF. “The X Mountain Climbers can also help target your deeper abdominal muscles as well as your shoulders and arms.” The entire routine is just under 15 minutes, with very little downtime or rest included—and there’s a reason for that. This drives up the intensity of the workout, Itsines explains. (Of course if you need a break, take one. You know your body best.)

Decreasing your changeover time (which simply means reducing the time between exercises and sets), is one of Itsines’ top workout tips. “A faster changeover time equals a consistently elevated heart rate. This means that when you’re working out, you’re really making the most of it,” she says. “Whether I’m training my clients or working out myself, I’m always glancing at it [her Apple Watch] to keep track and countdown,” she tells SELF.

While this particular routine doesn’t require anything other than a yoga mat, if you’re doing another workout, try setting up your station before you actually start training, advises Itsines. “If you’re using any equipment such as dumbbells or a skipping rope, have them on the floor in front of you so you can access them quickly while you move through the exercises. If you’re able to complete your workout without the need to stop and locate equipment, there will be less distractions and reasons for longer changeover times.”

Abs, mastered.

The post Kayla Itsines’ 4-Move Oblique-Obliterating Workout appeared first on SELF.

Source: Kayla Itsines’ 4-Move Oblique-Obliterating Workout

June 9, 20160 commentsRead More
Burn Fat With This 10-Minute Treadmill Interval Workout

Burn Fat With This 10-Minute Treadmill Interval Workout

Lear Miller Photo, Getty Images

If you’re trying to fit strength and cardio into one short session at the gym, chances are, you’re not going to want to spend a ton of time on the treadmill. Hey, understood—you’ve got muscles to warm up, weights to lift, and bodyweight exercises to crush. But that doesn’t mean you have to forego a killer cardio session in favor of the rest of your fitness routine—10 minutes is enough time to squeeze in an effective cardio interval routine.

This workout is simple—no adjusting the treadmill settings every 30 seconds required. Developed for SELF by Shred415 founders Bonnie Micheli and Tracy Roemer, this treadmill workout combines two-minute runs with challenging walk/jog sections—plus a mini sprint at the end. It utilizes longer periods of effort and switches between speed training and challenging inclines to raise your heart rate, burn calories, and improve your endurance.

Ready to hit the tread? Try this tough workout (and have a gym towel ready).

Related: Leave No Muscle Behind With This 8-Minute Cardio Workout

10-minute-burn-fat_pinnable copy

Graphic by Jocelyn Runice

You may also like: A simple fat-burning workout you can do at home:

The post Burn Fat With This 10-Minute Treadmill Interval Workout appeared first on SELF.

Source: Burn Fat With This 10-Minute Treadmill Interval Workout

June 8, 20160 commentsRead More
The 10-Minute Workout You Should Do Before Breakfast

The 10-Minute Workout You Should Do Before Breakfast

JoSon / Level1studio, Getty Images

A morning workout can be an energizing start to a busy day, but sometimes, it’s just so damn hard to wake up in time to get to the gym, grind it out, and get all office-appropriate before work. Your solution? An equipment-free circuit workout that combines strength and cardio elements to fire up your muscles and set your day on the right track—in just 10 minutes. And you can do it in your pajamas. Win-win.

Kit Rich, an L.A.-based trainer and Lucy Activewear pro, gave SELF her simple-but-challenging formula for a 10-minute circuit workout. First start with a minute of dynamic stretches like leg cradles to get your muscles and joints moving. Here are a few stretches to get you started. Then, this is the formula you need to know:

1 minute of an upper-body exercise + 1 minute of a core exercise + 1 minute of lower-body exercise. Repeat this mini circuit three times.

Rich’s go-to combo is one minute of push-ups, a one-minute plank hold, and one minute of squats. “This circuit is such an effective workout because you work the whole body, and you get both strengthening exercises and cardio in,” says Rich. “Just 10 minutes will elevate your mood and you will have way more energy throughout the day.”

You can also sub in other exercises that hit these muscle groups—whatever you’re in the mood for. For example, try tricep dips for your upper-body move, bicycle crunches for your core move, and jump squats for your lower-body move. No matter what you choose, though, the key to this workout is minimal rest: “This keeps the heart rate up and increases intensity of workout,” says Rich. “And since it is such a short workout, you want to get in as much as you can.”

Related: 11 Clever Tips For Getting Out Of Bed For A Morning Workout

The goal? Push as hard as you can for 10 minutes, and then you’re done. Set your alarm a little earlier tomorrow and get ready to crush this circuit:


Graphic by Jocelyn Runice

You may also like: 13 incredible bodyweight exercises you can do at home:

The post The 10-Minute Workout You Should Do Before Breakfast appeared first on SELF.

Source: The 10-Minute Workout You Should Do Before Breakfast

Why We Reach Weight-Loss Plateaus—And How To Get Past Them

Why We Reach Weight-Loss Plateaus—And How To Get Past Them

Watching the pounds fall off after staying true to a workout program and healthy eating plan is an amazingly gratifying reward. Of course weight loss isn’t the only goal of sticking with a healthy routine. However, if you are trying to lose weight, it feels incredible to see your diligence pay off and bring you closer to your end goal. But anyone who has tried to lose weight also knows how frustrating it can feel when those results come to a screeching halt, regardless of the level of effort you maintain.

Hitting a weight-loss plateau sucks, but it’s also totally normal. And while you may jump to conclude you reached one because you weren’t working hard enough, or your willpower wasn’t up to par, it may be comforting to know that this phenomenon is a result of your biological needs trying to counter your efforts. But you’re more than capable of fighting back.

Why do we reach weight-loss plateaus?

Hitting a plateau is extremely common, and happens for many reasons. “If you are successfully losing weight, you’ll most likely hit a plateau at some point,” Amanda Foti, M.S., R.D., a senior dietitian at Selvera Weight Management Program, tells SELF. A plateau is when weight loss stagnates even when you’re diligent about your food and fitness habits. How quickly you reach one can take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple months, depending on the person.

There are many reasons why weight loss may taper off after initial success. Your body may start to adapt to your training routine—when you don’t vary your workouts, they can become less challenging and less effective over time. And even if you’re strength training regularly, it’s normal to lose a little muscle along with fat. Lean muscle is better at burning calories when the body is at rest, so the slight dip may cause your metabolism to slow down. Losing weight in general lowers your body’s energy needs, decreasing your metabolic rate even further. If you don’t adjust your caloric intake as your weight changes, you can end up consuming more than you should to lose weight. 

Our bodies also react to lower caloric intake and weight loss by doing the opposite of what we want. (Thanks, biology.) “As we begin to lose weight on a conventional calorie-restricted diet—following the ‘eat less, move more’ approach—the body fights back thinking that it is entering a state of starvation,” David Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, tells SELF. Cue the release of stress hormones like cortisol, which has been shown to promote fat storage.

Additionally, rapid weight loss through extreme calorie restriction can throw off hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin and leave you feeling constantly hungry, Foti adds. For some, years of unhealthy habits and overly processed diets can even lead to insulin resistance—meaning your cells no longer respond the right way to the hormone. Ludwig calls insulin the “ultimate fat cell fertilizer” because having too much of it creates metabolic changes that tell fat cells to hold onto calories. “You may have plenty of calories stored in fat cells, but the brain can’t see them, because it looks for available calories in the bloodstream,” Ludwig explains. Your brain then tells you to eat more.

So, how can you step in and take control?

The best way to bust through a plateau is to “engage our biological responses to work for us, not against us,” Ludwig says. Luckily, the best way to do this is to stick with healthy weight-loss habits. Here are some tweaks you can make to what you’re already doing to push past a plateau.

Rethink your nutrition: Ditch processed foods and focus on eating quality protein, whole-grain carbs, and healthy high-fat foods, like nuts, avocado, and real dark chocolate. These foods take longer to digest, giving you sustained energy and helping to prevent insulin spikes. When insulin levels are normal, fat cells stop storing calories and are able to enter the bloodstream, making them available for your body to use, Ludwig explains. This also kicks the metabolism back into gear, “and now you begin to lose weight with the body cooperating instead of kicking and screaming.”

Get more sleep: Sleep deprivation can cause insulin resistance,” Ludwig notes. It also can throw your hormones out of whack and is connected to weight gain. Getting adequate sleep will also give you energy to power through your workouts and help you resist cravings for unhealthy foods.

Strength train: To keep up your lean muscle mass and keep your metabolism revving as you’re losing weight, make sure to incorporate strength training into your routine at least two days a week. Keep your protein intake up, too. “Opt for lean protein at every meal and snack,” Foti says.

Vary your fitness routine and kick up the intensity: “Especially if you’ve been doing the same workouts over and over, chances are your body can perform those exercises efficiently, which means it’s burning far less calories than when you started,” Foti says. HIIT workouts are great for burning fat and increases the afterburn effect, allowing your body to burn more calories even after you stop working. To optimize results, your perceived level of exertion should be between eight and 10 (on a scale of one to 10)—if you use heart rate as a measurement, aim to work at 75 to 80 percent of your max.

The key to getting past any weight-loss roadblocks is to not get discouraged. “We tend to be very critical of ourselves and when we set a goal and don’t reach it, we immediately see it as a failure,” Foti says. “Instead, know that this is part of the process” and remember how far you’ve already come.

You might also like: 8 Things Everyone Should Keep In Their Pantry

The post Why We Reach Weight-Loss Plateaus—And How To Get Past Them appeared first on SELF.

Source: Why We Reach Weight-Loss Plateaus—And How To Get Past Them

June 7, 20160 commentsRead More