The hierarchy of fat loss – How much cardio do I need?

The hierarchy of fat loss – How much cardio do I need?

IMG_7937Most of us are blown away when we learn the shocking truth that cardio is not the be-all-end-all of fat loss.  It can take some time to fully wrap our heads around the concept (especially if you're the type who actually ENJOYS it and can't imagine life without it).   Not surprisingly, one of the questions we receive most often in the early stages of discovering EM2WL is: “OK. So, where exactly does cardio fit? How much cardio can/should I do?

“The hierarchy of fat loss.”

The Hierarchy of Fat Loss (a concept coined by Alwyn Cosgrove several years ago) is simple way to self-regulate and decide for  yourself if/when its time to add cardio into your fat loss protocol. It will also help those that can't imagine a cardio-less existence to work in their love of endurance in a way that does not contradict their physique goals.

The hierarchy outlines the top five factors you must nail down in order to achieve fat loss. The five levels are listed in order of importance, as is the nature of any hierarchy.  This means that if you're looking to do/add/focus on items that are NOT listed here, they are being given far too much importance in your journey.  Let’s take a look at each of the five and why they’re so important in the fat loss equation.

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The perfect lifting and cardio routine mean nothing without proper eats. So check them TWICE before assuming any workout “is not working” for you. ;)

Level 1- Nutrition: Here’s the reality. No matter how hard you work out, run or lift, you can’t out work a bad diet. Period. If your nutrition is not on point, yet everything else is, you will not optimally achieve results or reach your fat loss goals. Main changes to make in your diet are to eat more protein, more fiber, and more food. Oftentimes, people aren’t eating enough food for fat loss- less isn’t always better. If you’ve spend periods of time eating low calorie diets (1200-1500 calories), then you may want to consider a metabolism reset. Before you can expect to lose weight, you must fix your metabolism so it is in proper working order.

Level 2- Nutrition: Nope, that’s not a typo. Level 2 is the same as level 1- nutrition! Why? It’s that important! If you have time for one thing and one thing only with regard to fat loss, nail your nutrition. Make sure you’re hitting your fiber, protein and calorie goals, and that you’re eating enough to sustain the type of workouts you’ll be doing.

Level 3- Activities that Burn Calories, Promote/Maintain Muscle Mass and Elevate Metabolism: This means lift! Lifting promotes muscle mass growth. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you’ll burn at rest due to an increased metabolic rate. Not only is muscle good for boosting your metabolism, but it has great cosmetic benefits as well- it looks good! If you’re not comfortable with lifting on your own, consider seeking out guidance from a personal trainer.

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A snippet from Martha Stewart's book on “Living the Good Long Life” – at 74 years young, she KNOWS that lifting is the key!! What are YOU waiting for?

Level 4- Activities that Burn Calories and Elevate Metabolism with EPOC (after burn effect): If you find yourself having an extra day to workout or time leftover at the end of your lift, add in HIIT/Tabata/Interval/Metabolic Resistance style training. If you are short on time but still wanting to burn fat, these types of workouts are crucial for you. While this type of exercise may not promote muscle mass growth, it certainly can help maintain the muscle mass you already have.

Level 5- Activities that Burn Calories but Don’t Necessarily Maintain Muscle or Elevate Metabolism: Cardio is considered the icing on the cake, and in the puzzle of fat loss, is considered the least effective. This lines up with what we here at EM2WL always preach- cardio for fun, weight to transform.” Cardio works best when it’s not done frequently, because it shocks the body. If you do cardio all the time, your body adapts. If you continue to do the same amount of cardio and burn less calories, or don’t see an elevation in heart rate, that may be a good sign you’re doing too much, too often.

Putting it all together:  What the hierarchy means to you

If you’re short on time (let’s face it, who isn’t!?) and can’t get to the gym, focus on your nutrition. When you do find yourself having some time, get a lift in. If you can commit to 1-2 days of exercise a week, lift weights those days. If you have 3-4 days, lift and do some HIIT (Level 4) training. If you have more than 4 days a week, then have the icing on the cake and do some cardio and fun aerobic activities you enjoy- Zumba, Body Pump, etc.

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Remembering the motto “cardio for fun, weights to transform” will help you to fit in the activities you LOVE without having to use them as punishment.

For my cardio loving followers reading this, don’t freak out. Oftentimes people connect a regular cardio routine to results. If you go from doing nothing to doing just cardio, of course you’re going to see results. But once those results stop, the enjoyment of your workout(s) may stop also. When your cardio workout comes to an end, so does the calorie burn. On the other hand, with lifting, you may not burn as many calories initially during your workout but you’ll continue to burn calories up to 36 hours after your workout is over (called the after burn/EPOC). This is more beneficial for you compared to just burning calories while you’re on a piece of cardio equipment and not a minute more thereafter. If you’re looking to elevate your metabolism, then going for that after burn is what you want and need.

Especially if you’re a newbie to the world of proper nutrition, it’s important to take baby steps into your new healthy eating journey.  Adequate consumption of protein, fiber and water are key. Focus on adding in or improving upon each (of the three listed above) into your daily intake until you nail it. For example, if you’re currently not drinking enough water, make it a goal to drink at least a gallon a day. Once you can consistently do so for several weeks/at least a month, next tackle eating more protein. Continue this process until you’ve aced all facets of a proper nutrition plan. In order to ensure adherence, eat the types of foods you enjoy while hitting your macronutrient totals. Keep in mind that the foods you consume have to work for your lifestyle and fit your taste preferences in order to be most successful and stay on track.

Not sure where to start? The Beginner Strength Training Manual answers all your lifting Q&A and comes with a full 12-week periodized workout plan with video demonstrations.

If you don’t have much time to lift, that’s okay. Do more compound movements and work multiple muscle groups (not isolated movements like bicep curls). Make sure you’re regularly alternating rest periods, sets, and rep ranges. This is important because if you don’t change these variables, your body will adapt and not respond as desired. Rest periods are especially important because they are needed in order for the body replenish its energy stores. Over a period of time, rotate through the following rep/set/rest schemes (also known as periodization). A sample 12-week rotation could be:

4 weeks: 30 seconds rest, higher reps (12+), lower weight

4 weeks: 45-60 seconds rest, lower reps (8-12), higher weight

4 weeks: 60+ seconds rest, low (5-8) reps, heavy weight

The problem with fat loss is most people approach the process in the opposite order, doing cardio first, then HIIT, then deciding to lift, and then tackling nutrition – no wonder the process can be so frustrating.  When you turn the hierarchy on its head, you’re not going to see the results that you want. If you follow the fat loss hierarchy in order, you’ll see better and faster results. Work smart, not hard, and you’ll be more than impressed with the results awaiting you.

Go kill it this week, Fam!

 

~Kiki :)

 

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Top 10 Supplements for Building Muscle

Top 10 Supplements for Building Muscle

Apple Pie Quest Bar (baked) with Oikos Frozen Greek Yogurt

Apple Pie Quest Bar (baked) with Oikos Frozen Greek Yogurt

Whatever reason YOU started lifting (get stronger, build muscle, lose fat, etc), by now you're likely seeing supplements promoted left and right as “must-haves.”  While it may not be that serious, there's a time and place for everything, including supplementation.  Supps can complete a diet that is perhaps lacking in some departments (vitamins, minerals, etc.), give you more energy, recover faster, or simply give you an edge in your training.  Whether you take preworkout faithfully or are completely new to the world of supplements, there are general supps that can help anyone.  Let's review the top 10 supplements for building muscle, and make sure you get your money's worth at the local vitamin store.

Whey Protein– Great for recovery and repair of muscle tissue. You can get whey protein in the form of a powder or a bar, but it's best to consume in shake form to hit the blood stream fast. Chug a post-workout whey protein shake as soon as possible (30-60 min) after a workout.

Branched Chain Amino Acids – Also referred to as BCAA's, this supplement allows your body to workout longer, as it delays the time it takes to reach exhaustion. It also helps reduce the amount of damage done to the muscles, as well as increasing speed of recovery.  Sip BCAA's throughout your workout for best results.

Creatine – Our bodies naturally produce creatine, but supplementation can help further increase the effect and function. Use of creatine increases shorter bursts of energy and helps boost recovery between back-to-back exercises. Take creatine as part of a pre-workout drink.

Caffeine – Hands down the most common stimulant, caffeine helps delay the onset of fatigue, improves endurance and makes you feel more alert. Because of this, you may work very hard but don't realize how much you're exerting yourself, allowing you to work extra hard. Caffeine is best taken 1/2-1 hour before a workout.

Green Energy – Green energy, or green tea, can help enhance the muscle's ability to recover. Green energy also contains antioxidants, which help reduce inflammation and destroy free-radicals that cause harm to the body. If you are stimulant-sensitive, take green tea earlier in the day.

Nitrates – If you've ever experience a workout pump, that's largely due to your blood filling out your muscles as a result of them being worked. This is referred to as vascular response. Taking nitrates such as arginine, beet root extract and citrulline will help vasodilation and secretion of growth hormone. These ingredients are often found in pre-workout drinks.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids – If you're looking to reduce the amount of damage the muscle tissue undergoes as a result of exercise, Omega-3's can help. DOMS, delayed-onset muscle soreness, has been shown to reduce when Omega-3's are regularly taken. Take some Omega-3's with your morning vitamins.

Carnitine – Much like Omega-3's, carnitine also helps reduce DOMS. Additionally, carnitine helps reduce inflammation and the amount and severity of muscle damage. Take carnitine before or after your workout to enhance muscle growth, performance and recovery.

Beta-Alanine – If you're wanting something to reduce the amount of fatigue you're feeling throughout your workouts, this may be the supplement for you. Beta-alanine also reduces muscle fatigue. This ingredient is often found in pre-workouts or can be added to one that doesn't contain it.

Ginger Root – Experiencing some level of pain after a workout kinda comes with the territory.  By taking ginger root, you can help reduce the amount of pain you experience in the 24-hour window after exercising. Inflammation reduction is a large part of how ginger root keeps muscle soreness at a minimum. It is best taken at interspersed intervals throughout the day.

In addition to following a structured, progressive workout routine, the use of supplements can help improve your performance and perhaps even help take it to the next level. While there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of supplements out there, it can make it very confusing to figure out which ones are best for you and worth the investment.  If you're an advanced lifter, looking to enhance performance in the gym, feed your muscles properly, and reduce the amount of damage/soreness you feel — you may want to give a few of these top ten supplements a try.

As with anything in life, some things work for some people but not for others.  Never feel obligated to take EVERY supplement listed.  Remember that supps are meant to supplement what you're doing in the gym (and the kitchen!), not replace it.  So make sure your eating and workouts are already on point before even concerning yourself with supplementation.  Then, add a supplement to see how it helps.

 

Happy Eating!

~Kiki :)

 

Eat junk and lose weight?

Eat junk and lose weight?

IMG_1753.JPGDo you alternate between “perfect” eating and stuffing your face?  Not sure how you can ever accomplish your goals, when you don't wanna give up your fave foods? Always feeling like it's all or nothing (chicken breast and broccoli OR chicken fingers and cheesecake?)

With the explosion of social media, and being able to (supposedly) see what everyone else is doing, thinking, and eating and drinking – it can sometimes cause conflicting thoughts.  The virtual celebrity or fitness model you follow/admire seems to subsist on tilapia and asparagus, but those IRL (in-real-life) peeps at home are hollering for nachos and wings.  You live in the real world, and sometimes life takes over and you find yourself falling headfirst into a box of Krispy Kreme.  Part of you wishes you had the willpower of that fitness model, but the other half secretly screams “why can't I just eat junk and lose weight?!”

We don't feel that you should be forced to waste your tastebuds on (what you perceive as) mediocre-tasting foods, just for the sake of fat loss.  But, be sure to call it both ways.  There are just as many bad tasting junk foods as there are bland-tasting health foods.  There are also total yum versions of both.  If you really want to eat what you love, then DO it.  An eating style that doesn't includes foods you love is doomed to fail.  BUT…make sure that you aren't including your “default” foods (easiest, habitual, most convenient) in the list of things you don't wanna give up.  Especially if they aren't even good TO you.  Get back into the habit of actually tasting your food, and use your tastebuds as the measuring stick for what you “can't do without.”  There are plenty of more, nutrient dense, foods that can make better use of the cals your “so-so” foods are taking up.  It's perfectly legit to stop ordering the fries at your fave burger joint if the fries just don't knock your socks off like the burger does.  Eating fast food isn't the end of the world,  but step away from the combo meal mentality to see if you even WANT everything that you typically default to eating together.

My motto: “If I'm gonna eat, it's gonna taste good. If I'm gonna ‘waste' cals on ‘so-so,' best believe it's gonna be a macro powerhouse ‘so-so' “

This way of thinking takes some being honest with ourselves, though. It's so much easier to just claim not changing on “oh I just can't…I like food too much…” or “I don't wanna eat food that doesn't taste good” – not realizing that often the stuff we are eating out of convenience isn't all that great-tasting either.  If it's TRULY yum, eat it.  If it's not, why waste your taste buds on mediocre AND nutrition-less? Keep things you LOVE in your diet, and slowly work to swap out “meh” items for just-as-convenient, equal-or-better-tasting foods with higher protein and fiber.  Even better, keep these items on hand for mindless munching moments, or to hold you over until you get to the meals/foods that make your heart melt.  Matters of taste can't always be changed, but matters of convenience…can.  Sometimes we are just fighting the wrong battle.

While you may not be able to only eat junk and lose weight, you should be able to find a happy medium that includes a hefty amount of whatever floats your boat.  Though it seems new-agey to say “be present” when you eat, it's the first and biggest step to having more yum in your life.  This video talks more about default eating and learning how to dissect your meals so that you can hit your goals while still eating the YUM foods you love.  

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How to Hurdle the Holiday Fat Traps

How to Hurdle the Holiday Fat Traps

turkeyHoliday feasting always started early in our house.  The cooking was complete by 9:00 in the morning and Thanksgiving dinner was served by noon. The menu was simple and has been the same for as long as I can remember.  Once the feeding started, we continued until it was all gone – nothing was ever thrown out.

Post-Thanksgiving week went something like this:

Breakfast: Egg custard pie (It's a southern thing!)

Lunch: Turkey, dressing + pie

Dinner: Turkey, dressing, string beans + pie

This pattern of eating lasted until we polished off each item (not surprisingly, mom's 8 pies were always the first to go!).  Then, we'd repeat the EXACT same scenario with the EXACT same meal at Christmas.  The insanity of eating that way never really hit home until I was well into my thirties, as in a measly 5 years ago!  I mean, it was the holidays and this meal was only prepared at this special time of year, so didn't I deserve to cut loose?  Never mind the fact that it took almost half the year to undo the damage from that 4-week period.

Even after changing my diet for the other 48 weeks of the year, I still accepted that during this period all bets were off and it was ok to eat this way because I could ‘work it off'.  At some point it clicked that this kind of excess just didn't jive with my lifestyle.  Stuffing my face with all of those rich foods, meal after meal, day after day went against everything that I stood for – moderation, balance, nourishing my body and not being a slave to my taste buds. Nothing beats my mom's holiday spread, but I can appreciate a single meal without putting an entire year's worth of effort or my health in jeopardy.

One of the best things about this time of year is undoubtedly all the delicious holiday-themed treats and smells coming from the kitchen. Party invites are probably being thrown your way and you might already be wondering how you will enjoy the festivities without totally wrecking your progress. You will surely be tempted by tasty treats and delicious drinks while enjoying the company of family and friends and, by all means, should enjoy them. Use these holiday eating tips to indulge with moderation and avoid falling face first into the seasonal fat traps.

table settingSet Your Day Up in Advance  If you already know that you will be enjoying a favorite treat, like my mom's egg custard pie, make adjustments to the rest of your meals for that day.  So, if some of your favorite foods are carb dense, eat less carbs throughout the day.  The same practice can be applied to fats.  Making adjustments to other meals will improve the overall macronutrient balance for the day.

Party Full- Another option to consider is having a healthy meal before you go.   If you show up ravenous, you are more likely to make poorer food choices.  Just like they say never go grocery shopping hungry, showing up to a smorgasbord with an empty stomach isn't the best idea either. As if all the decadent desserts aren't tempting enough, being around these things when you’re in need of food increases your likelihood of overindulging. Try eating some lean protein and a mix of fats and carbs before heading out.

Practice Moderation  Living a healthy lifestyle doesn't mean you can't partake in the holiday's bounty. Rather, it means you understand the importance of moderation and you practice it. Decide up front  that you will indulge mindfully, eating the way you do the rest of the year with a treat or two added in.  One approach you can take is to follow an 80/20 rule (80% healthier choices,  20% less than healthy).  This way you won't feel deprived of any foods, yet you won't have to carry around the guilt or the pounds from overindulging.

Eat Slow & Stop Before Full This recommendation stands all the time, but doesn't hurt mentioning again here.  Although you may want to dive head first into the goodies, slow down your eating.  If it is a once-a-year meal act like it and savor each and every bite.  Not only will you appreciate the meal more, you will give your brain and gut time to communicate fullness and help you recognize when to stop eating.  Once you start to feel full, you know it is time to stop.

star-2917_640Forgive & Forget-If things don't go according to plan and you somehow find yourself polishing off an entire pie (it has been known to happen!), let it go and move on.   Listen, we’re all human, and as such we are fallible. There will be times we overdo it, but holding on to that guilt will do more harm than good. What matters is how you move forward. Acknowledge your overindulgence, try and figure out what triggered it, and carry on. Live in the present and let go of the past.

Remember What Food Is & Isn't- Sometimes we find ourselves uncomfortable in a room full of people or relatives we are glad we only see once a year. Being stressed or nervous can increase your chances of eating one cookie too many. During these times, remember what food is and isn't. Food is sustenance. It is not a problem solver. It’s not a friend to confide in. Mindlessly eating in response to an awkward or uncomfortable situation won't solve any of your problems, it just creates a new one – overindulgence! See food for what it is and don't let it be your crutch.

Whether fall and winter or spring and summer, these rules apply year-round. By sticking to the nutrition and exercise habits you've established and indulging mindfully, you can increase your chances of staying svelte through sweater season and ready to rock come summer.  Always check in to the real meaning behind each holiday and recognize that it isn't just about the food. Most importantly enjoy this time with your family and friends!

Shortchanging Sleep Can Sabotage Your Fitness

Shortchanging Sleep Can Sabotage Your Fitness

Sleeping womanI don't know anyone who doesn't enjoy a good night's sleep.  But for some, getting 8 hours sleep has become an unaffordable  luxury, taking a back seat to what are perceived to be more important tasks.  Sleep is now just an afterthought where we simply ‘get by' on a few hours for as long as we can before finally crashing or we play catch up on the weekends.  Many of us don't know or minimize the role sleep plays not only with our fitness goals, but our overall health.   Racking up a sleep debt should be avoided as much as possible.

Your Body on Too Little Sleep

It’s important to understand what activities (oh, yes, things are happening) take place when we sleep to better understand why we need it in adequate amounts. During our deepest sleep, our muscles relax and our energy is restored.  It's during this stage that HGH (Human Growth Hormone) is released and tissue growth and repair occurs, including muscle development.

When our bodies are robbed of sleep we put our immune system at risk, impacting its ability to fight bacterial infections like the common cold.  Short term memory, alertness and our decision-making ability decrease as well as our energy level.  When sleep is missed long enough, it has been shown to be a risk factor for increased high blood pressure, heart disease,  and type 2 diabetes.

How Sleep Debt Impacts Your Fitness

When we talk about fitness most likely the first topics to spring to mind are exercise and nutrition.  Rarely, if ever, do you hear someone ask how much sleep they should be getting.  Granted, when it comes to fitness exercise and nutrition are major factors, however when you are slacking on your napping, you put both your performance and nutrition goals at risk.

donuts

Hormone imbalances caused by too little sleep increase cravings for comfort foods.

Hormone Mayhem When our sleep is routinely shortchanged, our hormones get out of whack.  Hormones like cortisol, the stress hormone, are elevated and can increase our cravings for comfort foods (aka high fat/sugar foods).  Grehlin, the hunger hormone, is increased while leptin, the satiety hormone, is decreased.  When you add that all up you have a sleep-deprived, comfort food-seeking zombie who can't tell if they are hungry or full.  Even the strongest-willed person can be undone in the kitchen when faced with that hormone brew.  More often than not this results in an energy imbalance leading to weight gain.

Earlier we mentioned that HGH is released in large quantity during deep sleep.  When that period is cut short, muscle growth and development can be impacted.  What could be worse than giving your best effort in the gym yet only reaping half the reward.

Inconsistent Effort When the alarm goes off after 4 or 5 hours of sleep it is very tempting to hit the snooze button 2, 3, 4 or more times before you force yourself to get out of bed.  Early morning exercisers will likely miss scheduled training to get a few more zzz's.  If you train later in the day it is probably equally as tempting to head home after a long  day of work rather than the gym.  String a few missed workouts together and you are bound to see an impact on your progress.

Injury Risk Decreased alertness means increased risk of injury. If you do happen to make it to the weight floor of your gym, your chance of getting hurt increases greatly with decreased alertness.

Poor performance Let’s face it, when you are dragging yourself around all day because you're sleepy, it's hard to be at your best and that includes when you're training. When we give our bodies adequate rest, our hormones are better balanced which is likely to leave us feeling patient and even-keeled and with more energy.

Getting more shut eye

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommends 7-8 hours of sleep each night.  Establishing a bedtime routine can help with getting your mind and body ready for sleep.  Here are some ways to increase your chance of reaching that optimal level of sleep on a regular basis:

Avoid big meals and stimulants before bedtime If you have trouble falling asleep because of tummy troubles, opt for lighter meals when it is close to bedtime.  Digestion halts at night and occurs at a much slower rate than during the day.  Limit consumption of stimulants later in the day which can make it harder to fall asleep.

FitnessSet regular sleep and waking hours Going to bed and getting up at the same time helps to regulate our Circadian Rhythm – the 24-hour internal clock that controls our biological processes. Don't try to make up for missed sleep on the weekend by sleeping in.  It throws off our internal clock, upsetting the regular sleep pattern our bodies prefer.

Dim the lights and shut off electronics Bright light delays the production of melatonin, a natural hormone which helps you sleep. Turn off the tv and silence electronics such as smart devices, which can impact getting a restful night's sleep. Stay off social media.  It gets your brain filled with information that’s not conducive to relaxing.

Find a comfortable temperature This tip can be a challenge, especially if you share your bedroom. The recommended optimal temperature range for sleep is anywhere from 60-67 degrees. While this will fluctuate according to personal preference, it’s a good reference point. Temperature regulation is important not only for comfortability purposes but because it also is closely related to our biological clock and circadian rhythm.

Wrap up

Next time you think about putting sleep at the bottom of your list of priorities, think twice. While some mornings it may be tempting to crawl out of bed to hit the gym after a poor night’s sleep, you may be better off catching those extra zzz’s. Sometimes skipping that workout to sleep reaps more benefits than dragging yourself to the gym.

When it comes to general health and fitness, sleep can be a game changer.  Too little quality sleep increases risk factors for poor health conditions as well as impact your fitness progress.  Sleep is fundamental to leading a healthy lifestyle.  Start prioritizing sleep to keep progressing on your fitness journey.

Russell Forrester puts the criticality of sleep into perspective with this great TED talk.  If you still think you are doing just fine on a few hours sleep, you'll want to watch this.

Photo credit: feelart

Fiber: Your Fitness Friend

Fiber: Your Fitness Friend

At EM2WL we make a big deal about eating sufficient protein to maintain and support muscle growth (a key factor to keep your metabolism revved up). While fiber does not get as much fan fair it is also very important to consume an adequate amount each day. It's not news to most of us that fiber is great for keeping the pipes clear, but what may be news to you is that when it comes to fitness, fiber can also be an ally.

Whole foods like apple provide fiber as well as other nutrients, but remember to eat the skin!

Whole foods like apples (skin on!) provide fiber as well as other nutrients.

Understanding Fiber

Fiber is contained in plant-based materials such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and legumes. Because our bodies can not digest fiber, you'll often find fitness folks talking about net carbs, subtracting the fiber from total carbohydrates. When we talk about fiber we usually just refer to it as, well, fiber. In actuality, there are two forms of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber, as the name suggests, dissolves in water and insoluble fiber does not. What's important to note is that each type of fiber reacts differently in the body.

Soluble fiber, forms a gel in the digestive tract and, as it moves through, picks up some fatty acid along the way which aids in lowering cholesterol. It also slows the absorption of sugar in the blood, keeping blood sugar levels more balanced and reducing the amount of insulin released. Great sources of soluble fiber include chia seeds, oat bran, peas and legumes.

Insoluble fiber, while it doesn't dissolve in water, it does absorb it. Think of it as a sponge, soaking up water, excess nutrients, metabolic waste and cancer-causing carcinogens as it moves through the intestines. Insoluble fiber helps to get the bowels moving keeping constipation at bay. Great sources of insoluble fiber include wheat, corn, oat bran, nuts, and the skins and peels of many fruits and vegetables such as apples and pears.

Fiber can also be categorized as dietary or functional. Dietary fibers are found naturally in foods while functional fibers have been isolated and extracted from foods and added to processed foods. Dietary fibers from whole foods include additional nutrients and vitamins so make them your first choice. Functional fibers are for filling  in when you are falling short on your fiber intake.

Seeds and legumes are a great source of fiber!

Beans, seeds and whole grains are a great source of fiber!

How Fiber Aids Fitness Goals

Removes metabolic waste High intensity workouts result in the metabolic damage (good thing) we so desire to bring about physique changes. During the recovery process, metabolic waste is generated and needs to be removed. When not removed, the waste can be reabsorbed into the body (bad thing), adding stress to the body.   This stress can impact growth hormones and ultimately your fitness progress. Think slooow gains. To minimize this re-absorption, eat sufficient fiber to aid the removal process.

Bulk, bulk, bulk Ok, you know we like to get our bulk on! But when it comes to fiber, we're talking about the kind of bulk that leaves you feeling full..longer. As mentioned above, fiber expands in the intestine and imparts a feeling of fullness while also slowing down digestion. This can be especially helpful when switching between diet phases, especially a cutting phase, where you're eating at a deficit, and might be missing those extra calories!

Increased satiety Closely related to the fullness you feel from the bulk is a feeling of satiety.  Following fiber consumption a GI hormone, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), is elevated. GLP-1 signals satiety and suppresses appetite, making you feel more satisfied and less likely to overeat.

Boost fiber in sauces by adding pureed veggies like zucchini or squash!

Boost fiber in sauces by adding pureed veggies like zucchini or squash!

Increasing fiber

Fiber can be increased easily by including more fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes in your diet. Having a serving at each meal will help you reach the recommended amount of 25-30g/day. Until you are meeting your needs from dietary fiber, be sure to include functional fibers to make up the difference.

If your current fiber intake is very low, increase your intake slowly, giving your body, specifically your GI tract time to adjust to the increased amount. Because fiber pulls water from the body, drink additional water, especially if you are not already drinking sufficient amounts.

Increase your fiber with these easy tips:

  • Add beans to a salad, pasta, or rice dish
  • Add chia or flax seed to smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, cottage cheese baked goods
  • Spread nut butters onto sliced fruit for a delicious snack
  • Use spinach or kale as a salad base instead of iceberg lettuce
  • Swap bread crumbs for ground oats or whole grain cereal
  • Include a vegetable or fruit with each meal. Tip: Keep it simple with steamed options
  • Raw veggies like celery or carrot sticks, sliced peppers or tomato make great snacks
  • Add chopped vegetables and beans to chilis
  • Puree vegetables or beans to thicken soups or stews

Wrap up

Including both soluble and insoluble fiber in your diet will aid in lowering cholesterol, regulating blood sugar and reducing constipation. Dietary fibers also include nutrients and vitamins and should be prioritized. Functional fibers can be used to help increase your daily consumption. Because of fiber's bulking and satiety producing properties, it can aid your weight loss goals by helping you feel full and satisfied, which is particularly helpful when eating at a deficit. Fiber also helps to remove metabolic waste produced during your training, preventing re-absorption which can affect fitness progress.  Gradually increase your intake to avoid discomfort and be sure to drink plenty of water!

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