Saturday, January 5, 2013

2012: What I Learned About Fitness

 The holidays are over and the excessive amounts of sweets and treats, combined with the relaxing laziness of holidays have done their work. Now that the fun is over, everyone realizes they've gained a couple pounds... or 5, or 10. Stores greet shoppers with their best offerings for fitness: weights, yoga mats and work-out clothes. Gyms are packed with people eager to get their "new you" on for the new year. Weight-loss resolutions abound, but many will eventually give up, unsuccessful in their goals, by January 31.  

As I mentioned in my previous post, I read a lot of Dr. Mercola's articles and learned a lot about health in the past year, and kept off the pesky extra pounds I lost when I was sick. I have struggled with a few extra pounds for as long as I can remember, and I had begun to think that I would never lose them. I made two significant changes to my diet, and how I ate, and they worked for me. These tips will help you lose FAT, slimming your waistline, but not losing muscle mass.

First, in addition to my usual healthy diet, I severely restricted fructose and grains, even healthy sugars like raw honey and organic maple syrup and healthy grains, like whole sprouted wheat. That's not to say I cut them out entirely, but I tried to be conscious of how much I was eating, and consider both as a more of a treat than something I could eat whenever I wanted. Occasionally, I would go on vacation from my diet for a week or so, and gain a few pounds, then I would go back to grain and fructose avoidance more strictly until my weight dropped and stabilized.

The second change relates not to WHAT I ate, but WHEN I ate. We've all heard the saying, "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!" It's true, the meal when you "break" your "fast" is the most important meal of the day. But who says it should be in the morning? Your body takes 8 hours to burn up all your glycogen stores, and only after those 8 hours does it switch to burning fat. If I finish eating at 9pm, my body starts burning fat at 5 am. I usually wait until noon or later to eat, giving me at least 7 hours of fat burning before I "breakfast." This also makes sure that I am a fat-burning "beast," and not a sugar-burner.

My favorite new exercise regime is Peak 8 fitness. It only takes 20 minutes, you can do it almost any way you'd like, and it's so effective and strenuous that it should not be done more than 2 or 3 times per week, but you're only working hard for 4 minutes of the workout. Sound too good to be true? Here's how it works:
Warm-up: 3 minutes
1. Sprint all out, until you're gasping for breath: 30 seconds
2. Recover at and easy pace, 90 seconds
Repeat steps one and two for a total of 8 sprints. Try to get your heart rate to your max (220 minus your age).
Cool down: 2 minutes
This can be done on an elliptical, bike, running anywhere, and I've even done it swimming (not very exactly seconds-wise, though.) It's amazing how great I feel afterwards. Sometimes I've been too out of shape to handle all 8 repetitions (like getting back after vacation) so I would only do 4 or 5, still a great workout. Starting out, you may only do 2 or 3 repetitions.
The sprinting engages your super-fast muscle fibers, which promotes human growth hormone (HGH) production and fat burning.

I will be employing all of these techniques in the next few weeks to help me lose the bit of fat I've gained with holiday indulgences. I do use scales and keep track of my weight, but more importantly, I use a fat caliper to measure my body fat percentage, and pay attention to my waist circumference. If you lose fat, and gain muscle, the scales will show you've gained weight, so it's more important to know how much body fat you have, and waist size is also a good indicator.

 (Images from Mercola)

I think the hardest part of staying slim for me was realizing that I can't make changes, lose weight, and then go back to the way I'd used to eat. To keep the weight off, you have to find the right lifestyle changes and make them a permanent part of your life. Staying healthy requires some long-term sacrifices, but the good news is that the benefits are actually lasting! You can lose that extra fat, and KEEP it off, if you're willing to commit and do what you must. Being fit is worth it!

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