Glycogen is the unused and stored form of carbohydrates in muscles. When glycogen stores begin to peak from eating plenty of carbs, the body upgrades its fat-storing ability. Conversely, as glycogen stores are depleted, fat-burning increases. One way to kick-start the fat-burning process is to go extremely low-carb on two consecutive days every couple of weeks. This ensures that you tap into your glycogen stores for fuel, which signals the body to burn more fat.
I have recently gone through a couple of years of health struggles. Ranging from two broken feet at once to ovary/uterus issues that landed me in the hospital several times and ultimately resulted in a major surgery. Those times lead to some difficulties and struggles since I was ordered to be in a bed for long periods of time. I found myself struggling with depression. Something I had never experienced before and if I'm honest, was completely devastating. It was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel after struggling for so long. Those were some dark times. I tried many things to pull myself out of fog I was in without little to no success.
I am so thrilled with this entire program. I have loved learning how to track macros, carb cycle, fast, workout efficiently and effectively, and make intentional choices with my food so that I could hit my goals and still have the flexibility to enjoy my birthday weekend festivities, lots of dinners out with friends and family, and my favorite foods from time to time. I am also so surprised at how much I have enjoyed the workouts in the program. I have never incorporated weight-lifting in my exercise routine and I am LOVING it! I haven’t missed a single workout in six weeks, and I can’t believe how quickly I have seen significant changes in my body (hello, biceps!!!!!).
Carbs are always perceived as the enemy, but they too have a significant role in fat loss. The body needs glucose to work, and to a certain level, your brain requires it to think and function optimally. Some will argue that technically we don't need carbs, but many of your body's basic functions will decrease in performance without the right amount of carbs at the right times.
According to a small study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, people who slept for 8.5 hours a night for two weeks lost nearly twice as much weight on average than participants who slept 5.5 hours per night, despite the fact that they followed the same diet and workout plan. That's because when you get a good night's sleep, your hunger hormones, like ghrelin and leptin, stay in check. That means you're not going to wake up with a sudden hankering for a bacon, egg, and cheese. (Start working towards your goals with Women's Health's Body Clock Diet.)
Tight deadlines, bills, your kids—whatever your source of stress, having too much of it may make it harder for you to drop unwanted pounds, especially from your middle. And it's not just because you tend to reach for high-fat, high-calorie fare when you're stressed, though that's part of it. It's also due to the stress hormone cortisol, which may increase the amount of fat your body clings to and enlarge your fat cells. Higher levels of cortisol have been linked to more visceral fat.
"Feeling stressed can wreak havoc on our bodies. It can cause our body to produce the steroid hormone cortisol, which can make you crave sugary foods that provide instant energy and pleasure. Short-term bursts of cortisol are necessary to help us cope with immediate danger, but our body will also release this hormone if we’re feeling stressed or anxious. When our cortisol levels are high for a long amount of time, it can increase the amount of fat you hold in your belly."
Suspect you have a sluggish metabolism? You might have hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid gland, which afflicts about 25 percent of American women — many of whom don't know they have the condition, according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. "The thyroid gland controls your body's metabolism, so one of the first signs that it may be off is an inability to lose weight," explains Pamela Peeke, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and author of Fight Fat After Forty. Your doctor can determine if you're suffering from hypothyroidism by running a blood test. If you do have an underactive thyroid, you'll be treated with a synthetic thyroid supplement, which you will need to take for the rest of your life (it will return your metabolism to normal, so it should be easier to drop unwanted pounds).
Do this: Eat 6-8 small meals per day, spaced 2-3 hours apart. Don't go longer than three hours without eating—your body will go into starvation mode, which can cause you to store body fat and make it more likely that you'll overeat at your next meal. Speaking of overeating, just because you're consuming more meals doesn't mean you should take in more total calories. Determine your ideal daily caloric intake for fat-burning (see Rule 1) and divide that more or less evenly between your 6-8 meals.
Routinely squeaking by on five hours or less per night increases visceral fat levels, according to a 2010 Wake Forest University study. What’s more, after analyzing 28 different studies, UK researchers found that people who slept 5.5 hours or less per night ate an extra 385 calories the day after compared to those who snoozed for at least 7 to 12 hours. On top of that, they preferred to munch on fatty foods full of empty calories, like chips.
Anyone who has ever been on any kind of diet or fat loss program knows how a typical diet progresses. The weight comes off fast and easy during the first few weeks of any diet, then it starts to slow down a bit. After a few more weeks go by fat loss slows down a little more or stops altogether. The reason this happens is because the body senses that body fat levels are dropping and food is in short supply.
When I signed up for this program, I was in a pretty dark place. I was using all kinds of unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with (hide from) hurts and insecurities that had piled up over the last few years. I was approaching my highest pregnancy weight- and I wasn't even pregnant. Every day was a struggle, and my poor habits were spiraling out of control. I didn't like or recognize the shell of a woman who looked back at me in the mirror. Something had to change, for myself, and also for my husband and 3 kids. They deserve better.
Cardio exerts two benefits: It burns calories and affects hormone levels in the body. Specifically, cardio helps raise levels of norepinephrine. Yet when you do cardio it makes a big difference in how your body handles the hormonal changes. Cardio on an empty stomach allows norepinephrine to readily target fat cells, which triggers maximal fat-burning. On the flip side, if you eat before doing cardio, and particularly if you eat carbs, the fat-blocking hormone insulin rises, making your body less effective at burning fat.
That’s not to say you won’t run into tough times in your weight-loss efforts. Any new eating plan is hard to adjust to, and your brain resists change, which doesn’t help matters. Still, the most successful diet is one that you can stick with long-term. Read on for weight-loss tips and tricks to help you get past the hard times and keep your new diet plan on track.
Women who ate low-fat dairy products, such as non-fat yogurt and low-fat cheese three to four times a day lost 70 percent more fat than low-dairy dieters, according to a study published in the journal Obesity Research. "Calcium serves as a switch that tells your body to burn excess fat faster," explains study author Michael Zemel, M.D., director of the Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Sorry, but you won't reap the same benefits from calcium-fortified O.J. Research shows that you get the best results from dairy products themselves, not fortified foods. Aim for 1,200 mg, which includes about three servings of dairy a day.
Good protein sources include chicken and turkey breast (without skin), pork tenderloin, lean beef (filet mignon, steak sirloin, flank steak), lean ground meats (90/10 or leaner), eggs (yolks and whites), fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, tilapia, cod), seafood, low-fat dairy (Greek yogurt, milk, cheese), whey and casein protein, soy (tofu, edamame, seitan), beef, and vegetable protein powders.
Is a calorie truly a calorie? Not always, because different types of calories can affect your body and your results differently. Dietary fat, for example, is more "fattening" than protein or carbs because it's less likely to be used to build your body. Granted, carbs can potentially make you fat, but they also directly fuel your training. Protein? That's a no-brainer: It builds muscle. Fat does neither, but it isn't useless; moderate amounts of it support vitamin absorption and help manufacture hormones.
The brain signals fat cells to release the energy packages, or fatty acid molecules, to the bloodstream. The muscles, lungs and heart pick up these fatty acids, break them apart, and use the energy stored in the bonds to execute their activities. The scraps that remain are discarded as part of respiration, in the outgoing carbon dioxide, or in urine. This leaves the fat cell empty and renders it useless. The cells actually have a short lifespan so when they die the body absorbs the empty cast and doesn’t replace them. Over time, the body directly extracts the energy (i.e., calories) from food to the organs that need them instead of storing it first.
A 2014 Harvard study found that men who did twenty minutes of daily weight training had less of an increase in age-related abdominal fat compared with men who spent the same amount of time doing aerobic activities, and other studies have shown similar levels of success when guys hit the gym to cut down on fat. The implication: Guys can cut belly fat most efficiently with weight training.
Carb crazy? Consider this: Refined carbohydrates, such as bread, potatoes and rice, create a surge in insulin that in turn drives down your resting metabolic rate, explains Aronne. "It's important to keep carbohydrates in your diet, but really focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which have less of an effect on insulin levels," he explains. And when buying whole-grain breads and cereals, make sure the first ingredient listed is whole wheat, whole oat or cracked wheat.
3. Caffeine: Coffee is good for more than just a jolt in the morning. A study in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that consuming caffeine an hour before you hit the gym can help you burn about 15 percent more calories than normal. What’s more, other research has found that sipping on the stimulant before the gym can help you eat fewer calories afterward.