Certified Personal Trainer

Transform Belly Fat into a Toned Core

Take it from me. You’re definitely not the only person out there who’s concerned about losing belly fat. And while belly fat can seem extra stubborn, just like all fat in the body, it will come off with some tweaks to your nutrition and exercise.

While you can’t target fat loss in one area of your body, creating a calorie deficit, prioritizing healthier foods and building a balanced exercise routine are all measures that will bring you closer to the physique you want. Fat loss doesn’t happen overnight, so above all, stay persistent in your efforts and patient with your body.

The Science Behind Belly Fat

Carrying a little extra fat around the abdomen is common with age, especially for women after menopause, according to the Mayo Clinic. As you get older, it’s normal for the metabolism to slow a bit, causing a decrease in muscle mass and increase in fat mass. Changing hormones also play a role in this process.

The extra fat you may see around your belly — the type you can pinch — is called subcutaneous fat and it makes up about 90 percent of your body fat, according to Harvard Health Publishing. But you may also be carrying visceral fat, which is located behind your abdominal wall and surrounds the organs.

Although visceral fat is generally not visible (but can begin to push against your abdominal wall over time, lending a “beer belly” look), it can pose some significant health risks, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Having higher levels of visceral fat has been connected with chronic health problems like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Tweak Your Nutrition to Burn Belly Fat

While visceral fat may sound scary (and it can be), you’ll be happy to learn that it can be shed just like any other type body fat, according to the Mayo Clinic. Making some changes to your overall nutrition is the most important place to start.

So let’s get rid of that stubborn belly fat this year. Make it a great day!!!

Philip “FitGuy46”

Certified Personal Trainer

Can’t Do Squats? Here’s What Your Body Is Trying to Tell You

By Jaime OsnatoUpdated January 5, 2020

On a list of the most functional exercises (i.e., those that help you develop strength for everyday tasks) squats would be number one. Not only do they prepare you for daily life (think: bending down to pick something up), they also use — and build — most of your lower-body muscles and help reduce your risk of injury.

Though our bodies are designed to crouch (just look at babies and toddlers), our squat form tends to deteriorate as we get older thanks to being less active and sitting in chairs all day. If you can’t squat for squat, chances are you’re dealing with some muscular weaknesses and imbalances you’ve developed over the years. But there’s still hope for hunkering down on your haunches.

If You Can’t: Sit Low

You Might: Have Tight Hips

To perform the perfect squat, you must sit deeply, executing a full range of motion to get your thighs parallel to the ground. But if you can only manage shallow squats, lack of flexibility and mobility in your hips may be to blame. “Tight hips can hinder the depth of your squats and also lead to poor form,” McLaughlin says.

While there are a ton of possible reasons for tight hips, the most common culprit is sitting too much, which constrains your hip flexors into an abnormally compressed position. Over time, these muscles become shorter and stiffer, causing pain and limiting your hips’ full movement potential.

These hip stretches can work to combat tightness, increase flexibility and improve mobility to help you achieve a deep squat.

Figure Four Stretch

  1. Lie on your back and cross you right foot over your left thigh, bending your left knee.
  2. Pull the back of your left leg gently toward your chest.
  3. When you feel a comfortable stretch, hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
  4. Switch sides and repeat.

Side Lying Quad Stretch

  1. Lie on your right side and pull your knees in front of you, bending to 90 degrees.
  2. With your left hand, pull your left heel up toward your left glute muscle.
  3. As you pull, engage your glutes to intensify the stretch in your quad muscle.
  4. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then switch sides.

If You: Have Knee Pain

You Might: Have Weak Glutes and Abductors

Though knee pain can have a few different causes, a common culprit of discomfort while squatting is a muscular imbalance. “If your knees cave inwards when you squat, it’s likely a symptom of a sedentary lifestyle,” McLaughlin says.

In this scenario, your outer thighs (abductors) are likely weaker than your inner thighs (adductors), which pull the knees inward when you squat. This creates bad squat form, places stress on the knees and can lead to pain and discomfort in the area.

So focus on strengthening your glutes and outer thighs, says McLaughlin. “When these muscles are strong, they will help stabilize the whole body and protect the knees.” Try adding exercises like banded clamshells — which activate your abductor muscles, including your gluteus medius — to your routine.

Banded Clamshell

  1. Loop a resistance band just above your knees. Lie on your side so that your hips are comfortably stacked one on top of the other and bend your knees at a 45-degree angle.
  2. Keep your feet together as you raise your top knee as high as you can. Don’t let your lower leg leave the floor. 
  3. Pause and squeeze your butt at the top of the movement, then slowly lower. 
  4. Switch to the other leg after reaching fatigue on your first side.

You can also modify squats to accommodate knee issues, says McLaughlin. Try using the support of a chair (squat down until your butt touches the chair, then use your hands to push yourself back up) or squat with your back to a wall. Wall-assisted squats (or wall sits) are great for firing up your leg and booty muscles.

But always heed your body’s signs. If you feel pain, don’t push through it. “Only squat as low as it feels good,” says McLaughlin. “As long as your leg and core muscles are engaged, your body will reap the benefits.”

If You: Lose Your Balance

You Might: Need to Slow Down and Check Your Form

Tend to lose your balance during a squat? Pump the brakes and examine your form. “Form is always more important than speed,” McLaughlin says. “Most people’s first mistake is not taking the time to set up.”

Before you begin, make sure your feet are hip-width distance apart, or slightly wider, and your toes and knees point forward. This stance is key for providing a study base for your squats. Then, as you bend your knees, keep your weight in your heels, not your toes. This will help ground you and keep you steady during the movement.

“If you have access to TRX equipment, you could hold the straps in front of you as you squat down and back, using them as support so that you can really feel the hips go back with your weight in the heels.”

But your bottom half is only part of the equation. Poor posture in your upper body can also throw off your form and balance, McLaughlin says. “Don’t let your body lean forward. Keep the chest lifted, shoulders back and down, and spine straight.”

Again, wall-supported squats — which require you to lean your back straight against a wall — may be a useful modification to help you train your torso to remain upright during the squat movement.

Follow these tips and you too can squat your way to success. Make it a great day!!!

Philip “FitGuy46”

Certified Personal Trainer

Why Portion Control Works — and How to Get It Right

By Kaitlin AhernUpdated July 8, 2019

Fact Checked

If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ve likely been told to “watch your portions!” by at least one well-meaning soul. This isn’t bad advice, actually — as long as you know what the heck it means.

Here’s a hint: Your diet-whisperer is likely talking about portion control, a practical approach to eating that puts the focus on food portion sizes (which are different from serving sizes — more on that later). The idea is that no foods are completely off-limits, but everything can and should be eaten in moderation.

Sounds pretty simple, right? But there are a few things you should know before you dive in. Here, we’ve put together everything you need to know about starting a portion control diet, from the science-backed benefits to the tools and tricks dietitians swear by.

What Is Portion Control, Anyway?

Portion control is a practical way of eating that can help you lose weight or simply eat healthier. Instead of counting calories or avoiding certain macronutrients altogether, this method puts the focus on learning what a healthy portion size of each food looks like — and sticking to it.

So, where to start? The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the go-to source when it comes to how much of each food group (vegetables, fruit, grains, dairy, protein and oils) you should be eating on the daily. While the USDA doesn’t set rigid rules on portion sizes, it does offer general guidelines that you can adapt for your specific goals.

According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which were created by the USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, adults who need 2,000 daily calories should eat the following amounts of each food group every day:

  • Vegetables: 2 1/2 cups
  • Fruit: 2 cups
  • Grains: 6 ounces
  • Dairy: 3 cups
  • Protein: 5 1/2 ounces
  • Oils: 27 grams

What’s So Great About Portion Control?

Practicing portion control helps you get the nutrients you need without overindulging — which is easy to do these days, when serving sizes at most restaurants far exceed the recommended calories you should be getting in one sitting, according to an April 2016 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Think about it this way: When you’re out at a restaurant and the waiter brings you a huge plate filled with food, two things are likely to happen:

  1. You’ll consume more than you intended. Research consistently shows that people eat more when presented with larger portions, according to the Mayo Clinic.
  2. You’ll think you ate less than you actually did. A study published in BMJ in May 2013 found that adults underestimated the calorie content of meals at fast food restaurants by more than 20 percent, and that number climbed even higher for larger meals and those labeled as “healthy.”

Controlling your portions helps you more accurately determine how much food you’re taking in at each meal, which not only helps with weight loss but can also positively affect other areas of your health.

Learn about four benefits you’re likely to reap when you practice portion control.

Tip

Download LIVESTRONG.com’s free calorie-tracking app MyPlate. Once you’ve portioned out your breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack, entering it into the app will help make sure you’re staying on target for the day’s calories, carbs, protein and fat.

What Healthy Food Portions Really Look Like

Knowing you need 2 1/2 cups of veggies, 2 cups of fruit and 5 1/2 ounces of protein a day is one thing. But can you tell when you’ve served yourself a healthy portion of, say, asparagus? Should the size of your morning grapefruit rival your breakfast plate or your coffee mug? And just how big is a 3-ounce serving of salmon, really?

See what serving sizes of meat, poultry, fish and seafood actually look like, compared to everyday objects, so you can easily calculate just how much you’re getting.

Tricks to Make Portion Control Easier

When you’re just starting out, the trickiest part of portion control might be recognizing the difference between a portion size and a serving size.

In a nutshell: The serving size of a food refers to a measurement on a nutrition label, while portion size is what you actually eat in a sitting. The two are often different, and portion sizes are typically much smaller than serving sizes for those who are trying to lose weight, says Emily O’Neil, RDN, LDN, a weight loss coach at the Austin Diagnostic Clinic in Austin, Texas.

Even when you understand this key difference, it can still be tough to cut back on portions when you’re used to seeing a lot more food on your plate. Luckily, we’ve got a few tricks that can help.

The Tools You Need to Succeed

There are also some tools that can help when it comes to planning your meals and sticking to the healthiest amounts of each food.

Portion control plates, for example, give you a visual reminder of the USDA guidelines when it comes to food group portions, helping to take the guesswork out of measuring your meals.

Portion control containers — glass or plastic containers that are sized to help you measure and regulate the amount of food you eat at each meal — are also a user-friendly option and especially good for those who want to prep their meals ahead of time. Ready to give them a try?

Portion control is very powerful and will help you out in your weight loss goals. Make it a great day!!!

Philip “FitGuy46”

Certified Personal Trainer

A Complete Guide to Complex Carbohydrates

By Ginger HultinUpdated December 18, 2018Reviewed by Sylvie Tremblay, MSc

Carbohydrates or ‘carbs’ are an energy source in food that comes from starch, sugar and cellulose. Carbohydrates provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber in the diet.

The current recommendations suggest 45 to 65 percent of daily calories come from these types of foods. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends choosing foods containing complex carbohydrates over refined sources most often for maximum benefits.

You can find healthful carbohydrate sources in foods like wheat, corn, rice, oats, barley, quinoa, sorghum, spelt, rye and in fruits, vegetables and legumes. Read on to learn more about the importance of including the right type of carbohydrates in your diet.

Complex Carbs vs. Simple Carbs

There are two types of carbohydrates; those in their natural food form comprised of a long chain of simple carbs (three or more) linked together which is referred to as “complex” and those that are already in smaller pieces (one or two sugars), referred to as “simple.”

Complex carbs are foods, which contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants., according to NIH MedlinePlus. Oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, potatoes, beans, peas and lentils are examples of complex carbs says the National Institute of Health.

Simple carbs are often softer in texture — white bread, white rice and baked goods. Soda, candy and other sweeteners like table sugar and honey are also simple carbs. These easily digested carbohydrates are rapidly absorbed, causing a spike in blood sugar and quick boost in energy. Refined flours have been stripped of some of their natural, high fiber content including the bran, germ or endosperm.

Because of this processing, they’re digested faster and more easily and deliver fewer amounts of healthful nutrients. Fruits, vegetables and dairy are also technically made of simple carbohydrates but because of the fiber, protein and other nutrients, they act more like complex carbohydrates in the body and should be consumed daily.

Metabolism of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrate digestion begins in your mouth as special enzymes in the saliva start to break complex carbohydrates down. The product that continues passes through the stomach and into the small intestines where more enzymes break carbohydrates down into the simplest form of sugars that the body can use for energy.

Though all types of carbohydrates eventually break down into blood glucose, complex carbohydrates take longer to complete this process and offer vital nutrients the body needs along the way, explains Study.com. They also offer indigestible fibers that aren’t broken down and instead aid in gut health and elimination of stool.

When simple carbohydrates are consumed, they offer little nutrition and are broken down rapidly causing a sharp spike in blood sugar and the hormones needed to complete carbohydrate digestion.

The Health Benefits of Complex Carbs

The Whole Grains Council presents evidence from studies of folks who eat whole grain foods that show a lower risk of obesity including a reduced body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip measurement.

These people also have lower cholesterol level and those who enjoy at least three servings of whole grains each day have been shown to reduce their risk of heart disease by 25 to 36 percent, stroke by 37 percent, Type 2 diabetes by 21 to 27 percent, digestive system cancers by 21 to 43 percent, and hormone-related cancers by 10 to 40 percent.

The Linus Pauling Institute sites the dietary fiber content of complex carbohydrates as a contributing factor to decreasing LDL (bad) cholesterol, normalizing blood glucose levels and insulin response over time. Fiber also promotes bowel health by creating a more productive stool to prevent constipation and reduce diverticular disease.

How to Read Carbohydrates on a Food Label

When reading a label to learn about carbohydrates, look at three things: grams of total carbohydrate per serving (be sure to identify what a serving size is), grams of fiber per serving and the ingredient list. The total carbohydrate tells how many grams of carbohydrate is in one serving but keep in mind that there can be more than one serving size in the package. Grams of fiber indicate the number of grams of total carbohydrate that won’t be digested into blood glucose.

Adult men need 38 grams of fiber per day and adult women need about 25 grams according to USDA Dietary Reference Intakes. A high-fiber food contains at least five grams of fiber per serving. Foods that provide between 2.5 and 4.9 grams per serving are considered good fiber sources.

The term “sugar” can be confusing — it has already been counted into the total carbohydrate and indicates either naturally occurring or added sugars. That’s when you read the ingredient list to see if there are any added sugar sources. On the label, look for whole grains within the first or second ingredients, says Diabetes Education Online.

Aim for the terms: brown rice, whole-grain sorghum, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, whole-grain barley, oatmeal, quinoa, whole wheat and rolled oats. When the label on a specific food claims that it has been “made with whole grains,” it is important to know what to look for to be sure you are getting a complex carbohydrate source. A better label to look for states “100 percent whole grain.”

A List of Complex Carbs

  • Acorn Squash 
  • All-Bran Cereal 
  • Amaranth Barley 
  • Black Beans 
  • Black-Eyed Peas 
  • Buckwheat 
  • Bulgur 
  • Butternut Squash 
  • Durum 
  • Einkorn 
  • Emmer 
  • Farro 
  • Garbanzo Beans (chickpeas) 
  • Green Peas 
  • Kamut 
  • Kidney Beans 
  • Lentils 
  • Lima Beans 
  • Millet 
  • Navy Beans 
  • Oatbran Cereal 
  • Oatmeal 
  • Oats 
  • Parsnips 
  • Pinto Beans 
  • Potato 
  • Quinoa 
  • Rice (brown, colored and wild) 
  • Rye 
  • Split Peas 
  • Sorghum 
  • Spelt 
  • Sweet Potato 
  • Wheat 
  • Wheat Berries 
  • Whole-Grain (breads, cereals and flours)

Remember, fruits and vegetables are simple carbohydrates that contain fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals, so they are more complex in nature. These are nutrient-dense foods that should be eaten daily.

Whole-Grain Coconut Almond Granola Recipe

Recipe courtesy of Ginger Hultin, RD

Ingredients

  • 4 cups old fashioned rolled oats 
  • 1 cup slivered almonds 
  • 1 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios 
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut flakes 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom 
  • 3/4 cup pure maple syrup 
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed or sunflower oil 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract 
  • 3/4 cup raisins

Instructions

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine oats, almonds, pistachios, coconut, cinnamon, salt and cardamom in a large boil. Combine maple syrup, oil and extract in a separate bowl then fold into dry mixture.
  3. Spread onto the prepared sheet and bake for 15 minutes, stir and then cook 15 minutes more. Granola should be slightly browned but monitor it closely so it doesn’t burn. Fold raisins into hot granola and set aside to cool for 10 to 30 minutes, and then transfer to a large bowl.
  4. Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to one month. Also freezes well.

Make it a great day!!!

Philip “FitGuy46”

Certified Personal Trainer

4 Carb Mistakes You’re Probably Making — and How to Fix Them

By Lauren O’Connor, MS, RDN, RYTUpdated January 1, 2020

Fact Checked

You either embrace them as part of every meal or wish or you could cut them out entirely. But while you should be mindful of how many grams of carbs you’re packing on your plate, quality is just as important as quantity when it comes to your health.

Surprisingly enough, Americans are eating fewer total carbs and fewer refined carbs than they did in the 90s. But despite eating less of the macronutrient and some positive shifts in nutrient balance, we’re still opting for too many low-quality carbs than dietary guidelines recommend, according to a September 2019 study published in JAMA. In fact, researchers looked at dietary trends over an 18-year period and found that whole grains and fruit accounted for only 9 percent of the typical American diet.

The bottom line: We’re still falling short in fueling our body the right way, with the right carbs. That’s why we spoke to dietitians about what you can do to keep carbs in your diet.

Wondering how to calculate the amount of carbs you eat every day?

Download the MyPlate app to do the job and help you track your intake, so you can stay focused and achieve your goals! 

1. You Think All Carbs Are the Same and Eat the Wrong Ones

“As a dietitian, I see people grouping all types of carbs together and demonizing them all,” says Sarah Grace Meckelberg, RD. Cupcakes, fries and other foods lacking nutrients may fall into the overall classification of a carbohydrate, but that doesn’t mean all carb-containing foods deliver the same nutritional value (or lack thereof).

“An awful lot of carb-rich foods are the very foods that boost nutrition and help fight disease.”

“Oranges and orange soda don’t belong in the same category any more than pinto beans and jelly beans,” says Jill Weisenberger, RDN, author of Prediabetes: A Complete Guide. She recommends focusing more on the nutrient density rather than its overall classification. “An awful lot of carb-rich foods are the very foods that boost nutrition and help fight disease,” she explains.

A June 2014 manuscript published in the journal Lancet concludes that it’s more crucial to consider the nutrient-density of your carbohydrates (and fats) than it is to focus solely on the quantity of those macronutrients. Highly processed carbohydrates are associated with greater risk for chronic disease while switching to minimally processed whole grains, fruits and legumes can help lower those risks.

Need another reason to believe that quality matters? Low-quality carbs such as white bread, white rice, pastries, sweetened beverages and chips — besides lacking in nutrient quality — are quickly metabolized in your body. This leads to blood sugar spikes that eventually come crashing down, leaving you with hunger cravings, says Cheryl Mussatto, RD, author of The Nourished Brain.

Fix It

“When it comes to what you’re eating on average, it’s about picking ‘smart carbs’ — those that are nutrient-dense and that aren’t extremely processed, refined or contain artificial ingredients,” Meckelberg says.

Put more focus on the nutrient density of food instead of making food choices based solely on how many grams of carbs it contains. Mussato recommends choosing more vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans and whole grains (like oatmeal) instead. “Their ‘natural package’ of essential vitamins, minerals and fiber keeps blood sugar fluctuations in check, helping to reduce the need to overeat,” says Mussato.

2. You Cut Carbs to Lose Weight

The booming popularity of keto and other low-carb diets might trick you into thinking that skipping out on quality carbs is an easy and quick weight-loss fix.

When you cut carbs, you’re also cutting foods rich in fiber, a very important type of carb. Research shows that the high fiber content in complex carbohydrates can contribute to weight loss success.

While cutting carbs may help you lose water weight since carbs hold onto water, that doesn’t translate to long-term fat loss. In fact, the potential long-term health risks of low-carb diets such as keto are still up in the air because most of the research done on these eating plans haven’t lasted more than a year, according to the Mayo Clinic.

What we do know is that when you cut carbs, you’re also cutting foods rich in fiber, a very important type of carb. Research shows that the high fiber content in complex carbohydrates (including beans/legumes, whole grains and vegetables) can contribute to weight loss success.

Read more: Everything You Need to Know About Carbs and Why You Shouldn’t Cut Them

A 2017 study published in The Journal of Nutrition took a look at macronutrient influence in a calorie-restricted diet. A carbohydrate-rich diet that’s high in fiber and low in fat was observed to promote weight loss in people at risk of diabetes. This study suggests that getting more fiber from complex carbs including fiber-rich whole grains, fruits and vegetables may help promote weight loss and lead to sustainable results.

Fix It

“The U.S. Dietary Guidelinesrecommend two servings of whole grains daily; there’s need to cut them out,” says Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim. A better idea is to include nutrient-dense whole grains and other plant-based carbs in your diet. 

They’re nourishing, satisfying and weight-loss friendly. “Sweet potato, quinoa and oatmeal contain super-healthy carbs that are high in fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals,” Dr. Young says. Aim for two servings of whole grains daily, exercise portion control and stop relying on low-carb convenience foods to get you through the day.

3. You Aren’t Balancing Your Macros

Heed caution to any diet that wants you to eliminate carbs, protein or fat. “Every day, you need a certain amount of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber found in each of these macronutrients,” says Mussatto. “The best approach is to balance these macros by aiming for about 50 percent of your diet coming from carbs, 30 percent protein and 20 percent fat.”

“All food groups have nutritious and nourishing foods supportive of healthy weight loss, such as whole grains, fruits and veggies with energy-boosting carbs, lean meats and seafood for muscle-building protein, and avocados and nuts containing essential fats,” says Mussatto.

The Mediterranean diet has long been recognized for improving heart and overall health as well as aiding in weight loss. And that’s mainly because it supports all food groups and places an emphasis on quality carbohydrates as well as fish, lean animal proteins and healthy fats.

In fact, on the Med diet, carbs make up the biggest chunk of your meals, with about 43 percent of total daily calories come from carbs, according to a 2015 review published in Nutrients.

Fix It

Include all food groups in your daily diet, focusing on a variety of foods found in their natural state. Aim to get around 40 to 50 percent of your daily calories from whole-food, unprocessed carbs.

To help achieve overall balance, Kristen Carli, RD recommends swapping out empty-calorie snacks (candy, doughnuts, cookies, cakes, highly refined crackers, etc.) for healthy combos, such as hummus with baby carrots, an apple with peanut butter or a slice of whole-wheat toast with avocado and hemp seeds.

4. You Underestimate the Power of Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates provide the dietary fiber necessary to improve digestive health, curb cravings and prevent chronic disease. What’s more, not getting enough fiber can lead to health issues such as diverticulosis and unhealthy cholesterol levels, putting one at risk for poor digestive health and heart disease, per Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“Carbs serve as powerhouses — our body’s best source of fuel.”

A 2019 review on plant-based diets cites evidence from numerous studies and several clinical trials, concluding that getting between 25 to 29 grams of fiber could reduce the risks for metabolic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes, per research published in Translational Psychiatry. Getting plenty of fiber from legumes, grains, vegetables and fruits aid in metabolic processes that improve gut health, blood sugar control and lipid levels.

Read more: 19 High-Fiber Foods — Some May Surprise You!

And if that’s not enough to convince you, Meckleberg states she’s seen low energy levels, workout fatigue, imbalanced hormones in women and stalled physical results in her patients who’ve chosen to restrict their carbs.

Fix It

“Carbs serve as powerhouses — our body’s best source of fuel,” says Toby Smithson, MS, RDN, author of Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies and YouTube vlogger at Diabetes Every Day. Get at least 25 grams of fiber a day from plant-based foods such as whole grains, fruits and beans. “The fiber helps blunt glucose spikes,” says Smithson. 

Embrace the power of good carbs and follow a plant-based diet that is rich in a variety of complex carbohydrates to stay energized and healthy.

So just remember that all carbs aren’t bad. Make it a great day!!!

Philip “FitGuy46”

Certified Personal Trainer

Flexibility Training

Can’t Touch Your Toes? Here’s What Your Body Is Trying to Tell You

By Bojana GalicUpdated January 1, 2020

Fact Checked

If you’re active, you likely set aside time for aerobic exercise to improve your heart health. You may even carve out a few hours a week for strength training to build or maintain muscle mass. But how much time are you devoting for flexibility training?

Man and woman outside stretching and trying to touch their toes

It’s totally fine if you can’t touch your toes — yet. There are stretches that’ll get you there.Credit: Antonio_Diaz/iStock/GettyImages

Though often neglected, improving your flexibility is a crucial part of maintaining an overall healthy body, according to the American Council on Exercise. Regular stretching can help improve your posture, relieve muscle tension and may even reduce your risk of injury.

Even if you dreaded the sit-and-reach test in elementary school PE class and still struggle to reach your toes during a yoga class, don’t totally abandon this stretch just yet. Take note of your sticking points (ex. chronically tight hamstrings or stiff hip flexors) and listen to your body.

And if you can’t figure out exactly what your hang up is, these tips from Samuel Chan, physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments in New York City, will help you improve your flexibility and finally touch your toes.

If You: Feel Tugging in the Back of Your Legs

You Might: Have Weak Hamstrings

Sometimes weakness in the body can be misconstrued as poor flexibility, Chan says. In some cases, feeling a tugging or tightness on the back of your legs as you reach for your toes may actually indicate weak hamstrings, rather than a lack of flexibility.

Incorporating hamstring-strengthening exercises can help you improve your range of motion. “Loaded mobility and strengthening can yield good, long-lasting changes in your flexibility and decrease sensations of ‘tightness,'” Chan says.

One exercise to try in the gym is the Romanian deadlift, he says. Throughout the majority of this exercise, your hamstrings work eccentrically, meaning they lengthen to lift the weight. As a result, your hamstrings stay under tension longer, which strengthens them.

And don’t forget to foam roll after you work out! Foam rolling your hamstrings (and legs in general) can help promote blood flow to these muscles, promoting relaxation and flexibility, Chan says. Try to devote 60 to 90 seconds of foam rolling for your hamstrings after you exercise.

Romanian Deadlift

  1. Stand with your legs at about hip-width apart. You can either hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides or a barbell in front of you, gripping the bar with your hands about shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Shoot your hips back and bend your knees slightly as you hinge forward, keeping a flat back.
  3. Lower the weight(s) toward the ground, keeping it/them close to the body. You should feel a stretch down the back of your legs as you lower the weight. 
  4. Once your upper body is parallel to the ground, reverse the motion and bring your hips forward, returning to standing.

If You: Feel Tightness in Your Hips

You Might: Have Tight Hip Flexors

If you’re not already overwhelmed by all the reasons why sitting for hours isn’t healthy, here’s another: tight hips. Your hip flexors, a group of muscles at the front of your hips, adapt to being in a shortened position after long bouts of sitting.

When they’re chronically shortened, your hip flexors pull on your pelvis, causing it to tip forward (also known as an anterior pelvic tilt). An anterior pelvic tilt then places tension on your hamstrings even before you begin to reach for your toes, Chan says. That doesn’t leave much room for stretching if your hamstrings are already at their limit.

If possible, stand up and move around more frequently throughout the day for at least a few quick minutes, he says. Consider setting an alarm on your phone or fitness tracker that reminds you to stand up every hour or so. Or consider investing in a standing desk to give your hip flexors and chance to lengthen.

And make sure to stretch your hip flexors properly. Even a simple kneeling hip flexor stretch is a good way to maintain mobility.

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

  1. Kneel on the ground with your right leg out in front of you, bent at 90 degrees. Place the left knee on the ground for support.
  2. Tuck your hips slightly and begin to lean into your right knee. You should feel a stretch along the front of your left hip. 
  3. Sit here for about 30 seconds, then switch sides.

Read more: 7 Dynamic Stretches to Improve Hip Mobility

If You: Feel a Pinch in Your Lower Back

You Might: Have Poor Nerve Mobility

Your muscles aren’t the only potential hindrances to touching your toes. If you begin to feel a pinch in your lower back that shoots down your legs, you may be experiencing tension in your nervous system, Chan says.

Ideally, our nerves should be able to slide and move independently from other muscles and tissues surrounding them. But poor nerve mobility can cause tension in this movement, which starts in your lower back or in the back of your legs. Mobility exercises, like an active hamstring stretch, can help alleviate this tension.

Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to your sciatic nerve is your posture, Chan says. “Since the sciatic nerve comes from the spine, sitting posture is very important — make sure to have your lower back supported!” If you’re sitting for a long time, keep a pillow on your chair for some added support.

Active Hamstring Stretch

  1. Lie on your back with your legs straight out and arms at your sides.
  2. Raise your right leg up toward the sky, keeping it straight and grab the back of your thigh with both hands.
  3. Slowly pull your leg toward you until you feel a stretch on the back of your leg.
  4. Keeping your knee in place, facing the ceiling, lower your heel toward the ground and then raise it back up.
  5. Lower and raise the bottom part of your leg several times to loosen the hamstring, then switch legs.

Always remember to stretch before and after your workout. Just remember not to hold your stretches for longer than 15 seconds before exercising. Make it a great day!!!!

Philip “FitGuy46”

Certified Personal Trainer

4 Types of Workouts That Help Women Burn More Fat at the Gym

By Kaitlin CondonUpdated December 30, 2019Reviewed by Aubrey Bailey, PT, DPT, CHT

Your time is valuable — especially at the gym. So if your goal is to burn body fat, you’ll need to be strategic about the kinds of workouts you do. The goods news, though, is that you don’t need a ton of time for these workouts. Even 30 minutes will boost your fat-loss efforts.

Determined female athletes exercising on rowing machines in crossfit gym to lose body fat

HIIT, strength training and full-body circuits are all great ways to burn fat and boost your metabolism.Credit: Cavan Images/Cavan/GettyImages

But keep in mind that when it comes to losing body fat, you diet matters just as much (if not more) than your workouts. That likely means reducing the number of calories you’re currently eating, so that you’re burning more calories than you’re consuming.

Exercise is even more effective when paired with a healthy diet. Download the MyPlate app to track your calories consumed and burned for a complete picture of your overall health.

While maintaining a proper diet can help you shave off excess calories, your body composition (ratio of fat to muscle) will change faster with the right fat-burning exercises for women. Hit the gym several times a week with a fitness regimen that combines cardio and strength training.

Tip

Start your workouts with strength training and finish with cardio or HIIT. Another option is to lift weights at least three times per week and do cardio or full-body circuits on separate days.

1. Cardio Machines

One of the best ways to blast away calories is through cardiovascular exercise. Cardio causes your heart rate to increase, which gets your heart pumping harder, your body sweating and calories burning. In fact, depending on your weight, workout intensity and the machine you choose, you can expect to burn between 250 and 750 calories in 30 minutes.

The treadmill, elliptical trainer, stationary bike and stair stepper are among the best cardio machines at the gym. They allow you to alter the speed, as well as the resistance, during your workout, keeping your body challenged. Perform cardio exercise three to four times a week for 30 to 45 minutes to burn calories and shed excess body fat.

2. Weight-Lifting

While cardio exercise torches more calories during the workout than lifting weights does, building lean muscle mass helps you burn more calories in the long run. Lean muscle requires more energy (read: calories) to maintain, even when you’re not working out.

Plus, you’ll experience what’s called “the after-burn effect” (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, EPOC). High-intensity strength training increases resting energy expenditure for up to 24 hours after exercise, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Human Sport and Exercise.

Lift weights at least three times a week using a combination of upper- and lower-body exercises to build lean muscle. In general, most women tend to store fat on their arms, legs and backside, so focus on these areas.

To work on your arms, perform exercises like the shoulder press, push-ups and triceps extension.

Move 1: Shoulder Press

  1. Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height, palms facing out.
  2. Press the weights straight overhead without raising your shoulders or locking out your elbows.
  3. Lower back down to your shoulders.

Move 2: Push-Ups

  1. Start on all fours, hands under shoulders. Straighten your legs straight out behind you so that you’re in a high plank — your body forming a diagonal line from feet to head.
  2. Bend your elbows out at a 45-degree angle to your body and lower your chest to the ground (or as far as your strength and mobility allow).
  3. Press back up to the start.

Move 3: Triceps Extension

  1. Hold either a dumbbell in each hand or one large dumbbell with both hands above your head.
  2. Lower the weights slowly behind your head.
  3. Press back up to the start without shrugging your shoulders or locking out your elbows.

When it comes to toning your lower body, look no further than the sumo squat, walking lunge and Bulgarian split squat.

Move 1: Sumo Squat

  1. Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart, feet pointed out slightly.
  2. Bend your knees and hinge your hips to lower your butt toward the ground, keeping your back straight and your knees tracking over your toes.
  3. Lower down as far as your strength and mobility will allow.
  4. Press back up to standing.

Move 2: Walking Lunge

  1. Stand tall, then take a step a few feet forward, bending both knees to 90 degrees.
  2. Press off your back foot and bring it to meet your front foot as you return to standing.
  3. Step forward again, but this time with the opposite leg.

Move 3: Bulgarian Split Squat

  1. Start in a split stance with one foot in front of the other. Place your back foot up on a weight bench or chair.
  2. Bend both knees to lower straight down. Your front knee should be bent to 90 degrees and your knee in line with your ankle.
  3. Drive through your feet to return to standing.

Thus, a fat-burning strength training workout for women might look like this:

  • Warm up for 3 to 5 minutes with light cardio and dynamic stretches. Then do:
  • 20 sumo squats
  • 10 push-ups
  • 20 Bulgarian split squats (10 each leg)
  • 10 shoulder presses
  • Repeat for 4 rounds.
  • Finish with 10 minutes on the step mill.
  • Cool down with 3 to 5 minutes of static stretching.

Try this full-body weight-lifting workout for fat loss.

3. HIIT Workouts

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, involves short but intense bursts of activity followed by less-intense active recovery or rest. This type of workout helps promote weight loss and reduce belly fat in a shorter amount of time than steady-state cardio, according to a 2017 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

HIIT comes in many forms, but it’s easy to get started on cardio machines, such as the treadmill. For example, try this HIIT treadmill workout:

  • Warm up for 3 to 5 minutes at an easy pace.
  • Run at a challenging pace for one minute.
  • Jog or walk for two minutes.
  • Repeat this 3-minute block five times for a total of 15 minutes.
  • Cool down for 3 to 5 minutes at an easy pace.

HIIT workouts are supposed to be intense, so it’s best to work your way up with the number of intervals you are doing. Start with five, and as your fitness improves, increase workout duration and intensity.

Incorporate these fat-burning exercises into your HIIT routine.

4. Circuit Training

Circuit training is a combination of strength-training and cardio exercise, offering the best of both worlds. This makes it one of the best fat-burning workouts for women. According to a 2017 research paper featured in the journal Frontiers in Physiology, high-intensity circuit training improves body composition aka muscle-to-fat ratio while increasing overall strength.

A typical training session involves different strength-training exercises for each muscle group; you move quickly from one exercise to another, which keeps your heart rate elevated and the calories burning.

Instead of resting after a strength-training circuit, you can also perform cardio exercises in between, such as jumping jacks and jump rope to ramp up your overall calorie burn.

Do one of these circuit-training workouts next time you’re at the gym.

Fat-Loss Workout Gym Plan

Now that you have the workouts that will help you burn fat at the gym, remember that consistency is the key. Create a workout plan, clean up your diet and set clear goals. Exercise three to five times per week to fully reap the benefits.

Beware that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for weight loss. Experiment with different fat-burning exercises for women and keep your workouts diverse. Track your results and adjust your gym plan accordingly. For example, if you’re having trouble losing those last few pounds, add HIIT to the mix.

This one is for the ladies. Always remember to consult with your physician before beginning any exercise regimen, especially if you have had any prior health issues. Make it a great day!!!

Philip “FitGuy46

Certified Personal Trainer

How to Start Exercising in Your 40s, 50s, 60s and Beyond

By Lambeth HochwaldUpdated October 4, 2019

If you’re over 40 and haven’t exercised in years (or ever), take heart: An August 2019 study published in Frontiers in Physiology concluded that it’s never too late to start working out. While the study was small, the results indicate that even those who start exercising in their late 70s can reap the benefits of exercise.

Full length of mature man wearing sports shoe at home

(Image: Cavan Images/Cavan/GettyImages)

So what’s the best way to approach exercise at this phase of life? “For anyone who is returning to exercise after a long break — say, several years or more without exercising — it’s important to start slow and gradually increase your duration and intensity,” says Leanne Pedante, head of the training program at STRIDE, a running-based fitness club in Los Angeles.

“As we age, incorporating both cardio and strength work becomes important. Aerobic exercise keeps your heart healthy, while resistance training helps keep bones strong,” Pedante says. To help you kickstart a workout routine, here’s a decade-by-decade guide to getting (and staying) active.

Read more: Denise Austin Shares the Best Exercises for Your 40s, 50s, 60s and Beyond

How to start exercising in your 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond graphic

(Image: Graphic: LIVESTRONG.com Creative)

Exercising in Your 40s

The bad news? “Muscle loss has already begun when you’re in your 40s,” says Linda Melone, certified personal trainer and founder of Ageless After 50. “This age-related loss of muscle and decline in strength occurs naturally so if you haven’t started a resistance training program, now’s the time.” If you don’t, you can expect to lose between three- and five-percent of your muscle mass each decade.

The good news? Even if you haven’t been steadily working out, you can start an exercise regimen in your 40s and get up to speed pretty quickly, provided you don’t have any health issues or previous injuries, says Tamara Jones, certified personal trainer and a Pilates instructor in New York City.

“While I wouldn’t turn around and try to run a marathon tomorrow if you haven’t been routinely exercising, you can likely jump into a two- to three-times-a-week exercise schedule,” she says. “This could include working with a trainer in a gym or taking an exercise class at your local YMCA or gym.”

Unfortunately, this decade can be especially hard on the ladies. “Women in their 40s are just potentially getting into perimenopause,” says Debra Atkinson, CEO of Flipping 50. “They may have symptoms of hot flashes, weight gain and more belly fat.” But exercise can help mange those symptoms.

How to Start: Moderate activity that includes frequent brisk walks around your neighborhood or leisurely swims at the pool are good options to ease into things, says Mitchell Fischer, fitness manager of Gold’s Gym in San Antonio, Texas.

“To get the most cardiovascular benefit, keep this in mind: If you’re speaking full sentences and don’t feel short of breath, you’re not getting the full benefit,” he says. “You should only be able to get five to six words out at a time to catch your breath.”

You should also add weight lifting to your weekly regimen, starting slowly to avoid injuries and mastering proper form using your body weight before adding resistance. But don’t sell your workouts short, either. “If you’re doing three sets of 10 reps with a certain weight and don’t feel it, you’re not challenging yourself,” he says. Pick a weight you can comfortably and safely lift but that also provide a challenge on your last two reps.

Working Out in Your 50s

In your 50s, muscle loss accelerates as muscular strength, endurance and muscle mass continue to decrease. “By age 50, metabolism may be down between 10 to 15 percent as a result of a drop in muscle,” Melone says.

“In addition, bone density decreases for both men and women and increases the risk of bone fractures.” Plus, ligaments also become less “elastic” and hydrated, making overuse injuries more likely, Melone says.

How to Start: It can help to have a few sessions with a personal trainer to assess how you’re moving before you throw yourself into a workout regimen, Jones says. A trainer will put you through a series of diagnostic tests to check your flexibility and core strength. This is the perfect time to ask what exercises he or she recommends for your fitness level, workout experience and injury history.

Based on what they tell you, you can amp up your cardio workouts by biking, swimming, rowing or taking brisk walks. And always find the time to strength train. “If you’re working hard enough and taking shorter rest breaks between reps, you will get your heart rate up and that will have cardiac benefits,” says Morgan Nolte, DPT, a board-certified clinical specialist in geriatric physical therapy in Omaha, Nebraska.

“Weight training will also build your strength, which is so important for body function and weight management, and strong leg and core muscles will improve your balance to prevent falls.” Key exercises you can include in your two or three day a week regimen: push-ups, squats and planks. Body-weight exercises like these build functional strength to continue to perform day-to-day activities without injury.

Read more: HIIT Over 50: A 20-Minute, Low-Impact Workout for Beginners

Getting Active in Your 60s and Beyond

This is a tougher stage to jump-start a regimen, but it’s not impossible to make it happen. Your goal: Be conservative and consider going back to the basics, Jones says.

“My best advice: If you’re patient and consistent you’ll reap the rewards,” she says. “At this age, I would also recommend working with a trainer at least to start out as this professional will be very helpful in creating a fitness routine for you to follow.”

How to Start: Since osteoarthritis may rear its ugly head during this decade, that’s all the more reason you should always warm up for at least 10 minutes before every workout, Melon says.

This is also a great time to partner with a friend on daily walks or workouts. “After you retire, your workplace community is gone and isolation becomes increasingly likely,” Pedante says. “Group fitness classes are an amazing way to stay not just physically active, but socially active as well.” Try Zumba or other dance classes or water aerobics.

At the gym, consider doing treadmill intervals to develop stronger legs, stronger hearts and greater lung capacity. “Speed-walking treadmill intervals on an incline make for a tough workout and if balance is a concern, guardrails provide extra support,” Pedante says.

No matter your life stage, do your best to neverage yourself out of exercise, Jones says. “I always tell people who haven’t exercised in a while to start with a brisk walk,” she says. “Then find the methods and intensities that will help you enjoy exercise and keep you motivated to stay consistent. I’d give this same advice to a 20-year-old: Always listen to your body. It will tell you what’s working and what isn’t.”

Just remember that you’re never too old to start exercising. Make it a great day!!!

Philip “FitGuy46”