Category Archives: staying fit and healthy

How to Eat Healthy and Lose Weight: The Simplest Guide Ever

Portion Control
Every day we are bombarded with fad diets and conflicting information on how to eat healthy and lose weight. No wonder people fail to reach their weight-loss or health goals. (Read The 6 Most Promising Weight-Loss Supplements.)
Popular nutrition information and diet strategies are simply too complicated or unrealistic to maintain over the long term. And many nutrition books contain hundreds of pages of difficult-to-understand “sciencey” stuff that only dieticians bother to read or need to understand.
So, I’ve come up with a simple nutrition formula that we use at Performance University. It helps everyone, from average Joes to professional athletes, more effectively burn fat by ensuring that each meal is healthy and well balanced. This isn’t a restrictive diet plan. It’s a healthy and realistic eating strategy for putting together balanced and nutritious meals—a strategy you can use for a lifetime.

The Thermic Effect of Food

The term “thermic effect of food,” or TEF, describes the energy we expend to consume (bite, chew and swallow) and process (digest, transport, metabolize and store) our food. Certain foods require us to burn more calories than others simply by eating them.
Here’s the breakdown:
  • Fat (9 calories/gram) is simple to digest because the body keeps breaking down fat into smaller and smaller molecules. For every 100 calories of fat ingested, you burn approximately 5 calories.
  • Complex carbohydrates (4 calories/gram) take more effort to digest because of the complexity of glucose molecules. For every 100 calories you ingest from complex carbs, you burn approximately 10 calories.
  • Protein (4 calories/gram) requires the most work to digest because it is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of your muscles. For every 100 calories of protein you ingest, you burn approximately 25 calories.
Based on this information, you can form an eating plan that minimizes the amount of calories consumed and naturally increases the amount of calories you burn. No calorie counting required!

Foods to Eat

Do your best to include each of following food categories in your three or four daily meals. It’s unrealistic to expect that every meal will include all four categories, so don’t stress if you occasionally miss a category.
Choose your favorite food from each category to form your meal. Ensure that it’s a whole food and not processed. The food recommendations below are great examples, but they are not comprehensive. If you enjoy a specific food, do the research to see if it falls into one of the categories. (Learn how tobalance your protein intake.)
  • Lean Protein: eggs, chicken, fish, bison, beef, low-fat dairy
  • Fibrous Carbohydrate: fruits and vegetables
  • Starchy Carbohydrate: sweet potatoes, brown rice, oatmeal
  • Healthy Fat (monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, Omega-3 fatty acids): avocado, nuts, olive oil

Foods to Avoid

It’s no secret that you should limit your consumption of processed foods, simple sugars, saturated fats and hydrogenated oils. However, limiting consumption doesn’t mean you can never eat it. (See The Unhealthiest “Healthy” Foods.)
I recommend using the 80/20 rule, meaning 80 percent of your meals consist of healthy and whole foods, while the other 20 percent consists of not-so-healthy items. This will keep you on track with your diet by preventing binging and cravings without adverse effects on your health and weight.

Portion Sizes

The amount of food you eat largely depends on how much energy you need. You can get technical and calculate your daily energy demands and count calories to ensure you are meeting your goals, but this is time consuming and difficult to stick to in the long term.
As a general guideline, if you are left feeling hungry within an hour or so after finishing a meal, you probably didn’t eat enough. On the flip side, if you feel full for hours, you likely ate too much. It really comes down to common sense, intuition and simply listening to your body.
As for specific portions of each food category suggested above, I recommend using this formula to fill your plate.
  • Protein & Fibrous Carbs – largest serving on your plate.
  • Starchy Carbs – smaller than the protein and vegetable serving.
  • Healthy Fats – smallest serving on your plate.

Final Thoughts

There are certainly other issues—like thyroid function—that can impact weight loss. And there are instances where counting calories and restricting a diet are necessary. However, these require an individualized approach and are not long-term solutions. The information I provided above is not a diet. It’s a lifestyle change to help you achieve your health and fitness goals.

Navratilova and others discuss staying fit and healthy at age 20 vs. age 60


By Gabriella Boston, Published: June 24

One sneaker fits all.
According to government recommendations, you should do at least 21 / hours of moderate aerobic activity per week and twice-weekly sessions of strength training to improve your health, no matter your age.
But don’t physical fitness needs change as we grow older?
Not that much, it turns out.
Todd Miller, an associate professor in the Department of Exercise Science at George Washington University, says whether you’re 20 years old or 60, you will need a combination of cardio and strength training to keep your heart and muscles in good shape and your weight under control.
The one difference may be that strength training becomes more crucial for everyday functional fitness as you get older. “A big issue as you age is the risk of falling. And strength training that builds muscle power helps prevent falls,” he says.
“People should do a combination of both cardio and strength” to meet those fitness goals, he says, but in general he sees an “overemphasis on cardio and underemphasis on strength.”
The challenge, Miller says, is not deciding whether fitness needs are age-specific. It’s getting people to do what they should do, at any age, to stay healthy and fit. “The problem is not the exercise or the type of exercise; it’s the adherence or the lack of adherence to exercise that is the main issue,” he says.
Only about 20 percent of Americans follow the government recommendations.
As you try to figure out a regime that keeps you healthy, here’s some advice from three people — Miller, a trainer and tennis great Martina Navratilova — that may help you, whether you’re 20 or 60.
The professional athlete
“As we age, we should exercise more often but for shorter periods of time,” says Navratilova, 56, who writes a health and fitness column for AARP.
“And mix up your routine. Do strength, cardio, yoga. Do what feels good in the body, go easy on the joints,” she says.
That’s actually pretty much in line with government recommendations, which say, “We know 150 minutes each week sounds like a lot of time, but you don’t have to do it all at once. Not only is it best to spread your activity out during the week, but you can break it up into small chunks of time during the day. As long as you’re doing your activity at a moderate or vigorous effort for at least 10 minutes at a time,” says the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends “a 10-minute brisk walk, 3 times a day, 5 days a week. This will give you a total of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity.”
Navratilova says that when she was in her 20s, she worked out six hours a day and could do 70-pound triceps presses. No more. “Daily exercise? I don’t do anything daily except eat and sleep,” she jokes. “But I do think if you can do functional fitness [exercises designed to help someone better handle daily tasks] for an hour a day, that is great,” she says. But for aging bodies, she adds, don’t overdo it. “Be nice to yourself and listen to your body.”
Navratilova says she recently began running again after a hiatus. “Nothing feels better than when you can run,” she says. “But every day? Absolutely not. It’s hard on your joints.”
Now living in Miami, she mixes it up by adding bicycling and paddleboarding to her running and tennis cardio regimen.
The trainer
Mike Fantigrassi, a trainer at the National Academy of Sport Medicine in Chandler, Ariz., says he makes balance and flexibility exercises a regular part of sessions with clients, but it’s different for younger and older people.
“If we have 60 minutes, we would do about five minutes of flexibility for someone in their 20s or 30s,” he says. “For someone 65 or older, we might do up to 15 minutes of flexibility.” It’s not that the 20- or 30-year old should go completely without stretching (particularly of the postural muscles — chest, core, neck and shoulders — that get tight from sitting at a desk all day) or working on balance, he says. But younger bodies, generally speaking, are naturally looser than older ones and have not been subjected to as much wear and tear.
So when a 20-year-old reaches down to pick something up off the floor, he probably won’t notice anything, but a 60-year-old may feel a tight hamstring. “But even a teenager who never does any flexibility work might get reduced joint flexibility eventually,” he adds.
Fantigrassi, who is 40, adds that the ability to generate muscle power suffers as we age, but we can slow the process down with such exercises as jumps — from foot to foot, or up and down from a bench or box. Eventually you’re going to lose your basketball jump shot, but you can keep it alive longer by training the leg muscles that generate power.
The researcher
Miller, 45, says that while building stronger muscles is protective for older people, strength training is important for everyone.
People begin to lose muscle mass and strength in their 30s, which slows metabolism. WebMD.com says that “each extra pound of muscle you carry can burn up to 50 additional calories [per day] just to maintain itself — and with no effort on your part.” Others, however, suggest that the muscle effect is probably much smaller.
Lifting weights can counteract muscle loss. Of course, you still may not be able to lift as much weight in your 60s as you could in your 20s, but you can slow muscle loss, which otherwise can decline by 5 percent per decade after age 30.
“The only difference between 20 and 60 is that you might be lifting less weight at 60. But the exercises themselves shouldn’t change unless you have an injury, but that isn’t age related,” says Miller.
Strength training will also improve bone density, says Miller, who advocates the type of strength exercises where the feet are planted on the floor and generate force into the spine. It could be a regular squat. It could be a squat with dumbbells in your hands, resting on your shoulders. It could be one of those squat machines with padding on top of the shoulders.
Given that most Americans gain roughly a pound per year starting in their 20s, it’s important at all ages to have cardio workouts in your week.
“If running feels good, then run,” Miller says. Just make sure it feels okay in your joints, whether you’re 20 or 60. “For me, it hurts, so I don’t do it.” In such cases, a treadmill or bike may be a better bet, he says. Whatever you choose, the point is to get regular exercise no matter what age you are.

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