April 14, 2017
Spring is the wonderful time of year when everything is blooming and coming to life. The weather is starting to get warmer, and we’re thinking about summer. As we think about summer, we are probably inspired to step up our fitness game using a heart rate monitor and trim off any unwanted fat reserves we may have stored up over the winter.
This blog post will offer three simple fat loss strategies that you can put into practice immediately. Let us be clear, these are not necessarily weight loss strategies, but strategies designed to help change your body composition by decreasing body fat. The difference is that you may maintain your body weight (or even gain a little weight), but your clothes will probably fit differently and you may notice that you look more toned.
Let’s get right into the strategies:
Muscle is a lean tissue, and lean tissue is more metabolically active (uses more energy, more calories) than fatty tissue. The more lean mass we have, the more calories we burn at rest and during activity. In order to maintain and/or increase your lean mass, you must overload your muscles via resistance training. So, if cardio is your jam, you may want to adjust your schedule to squeeze in several sessions of resistance training per week. You will burn more calories during your cardio if you increase your lean mass.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) position stand on recommended physical activity levels for healthy adults states that we should perform resistance training for all major muscle groups at least two days per week. There are many different ways you can organize this into your training routine. You could perform two full body resistance training days of eight to ten exercises and perform two to three sets of eight to ten reps, or you could perform upper body two days per week and lower body two days per week. Another organization could be to train anterior muscle (front of your body) two days per week and posterior muscles (back of your body) two days per week.
Feel free to organize your resistance training in a way that will promote adherence and consistency. We’ve also put together some muscular fitness circuits that can help you add lean muscle mass. If you need help with exercise and load (weight) selection, we recommend hiring a personal trainer to get you set up with a good routine and assist you with form and technique.
Your MYZONE heart rate monitor app has a feature titled “My Body Metrics” where you can input your circumference measurements and your body fat percentage. Track your metrics over time as you integrate resistance training into your routine.
Research demonstrates that we are more likely to make healthful nutrition choices if we are tracking/monitoring our nutritional intake. You can use an app like MyFitnessPal to track your macronutrient consumption and total caloric intake. Because tracking your nutrition long term can feel burdensome, we recommend that you take a three to seven day nutrition log every three to six months to check in.
As you are tracking your nutrition, identify the “sneaky” calories that are often the unnecessary or “extra” calories that can add up over time. Examples of these often come in liquid or semi-liquid form, beverages (alcohol, soda, sweetened tea/coffee), salad dressings, and butter and oils. These types of “extra” calories can be especially tricky when you are eating out regularly. See if you can cut out as many of the “extra” calories as possible, and monitor what type of an effect that has on your total caloric consumption each day.
After you have taken a nutrition log for three to seven days and made whatever adjustments you determine necessary to your nutritional routine, we recommend using an intuitive eating method. Intuitive eating is when you listen to your body and tune into what it’s telling you it needs. You pay close attention to hunger and satiety signals. This style of eating is also called mindful eating. If you notice yourself craving foods that don’t align with your nutritional and fitness goals, then ask yourself the WHY questions (why am I having this craving? Am I tired? Am I stressed?) and determine if you want to indulge the craving in moderation or not.
This last strategy is easier said than done, and we realize that your stress levels and sleep patterns are not always entirely under your control. That said, we encourage you to do the best you can do with what is under your control.
When we are stressed, our body releases many hormones to help us cope. One of those hormones is cortisol. Cortisol regulates energy by selecting the appropriate type and amount of substrate (carbohydrate, fat, or protein) needed for the body to meet the demands placed on it. In moderation, cortisol is a good thing and helps us respond to short-term, acute stressors (like exercise). However, long-term stress and elevated cortisol levels can lead to blood sugar imbalances and unnecessary fat gain. Control your cortisol levels by developing effective coping mechanisms to stress.
Some of the best coping mechanisms for chronic stress are exercise, social connection, and meditation. We know that you are exercising with your MYZONE heart rate monitor belt, and we hope that you are also feeling connected within the MYZONE community. If you have not yet tried meditation to cope with stress, we recommend it. Try the Headspace or Calm Apps to get started.
We all know the power of a good night’s sleep! We feel more energized throughout the day, we are more motivated to workout, and we are more likely to make healthful nutrition choices. When we are well rested (i.e. sleep well for several nights in a row), our “hunger hormones” are better regulated, and we are better in tune with our appetites and less likely to overeat.
The “hunger hormones” are leptin and ghrelin. In simple terms, leptin decreases your appetite, and ghrelin increases your appetite. Research has demonstrated that with sleep deprivation (i.e. less than seven to nine hours of sleep per night), leptin levels decrease and ghrelin levels increase. We are more likely to crave high-fat foods and feel hungrier when our ghrelin levels are increased due to sleep deprivation. This leads to increased fat storage and creates an unnecessary battle on top of everything else we deal with on a daily basis.
We recommend aiming for seven to nine hours of sleep per night and creating a sleep routine (research supports this strategy as well). Try going to bed and waking up around the same time each day. If you are not able to go to bed at the same time each night, try to keep your wake pattern consistent and vice versa. A consistent sleep pattern will promote a healthier hormonal profile overall and will allow you to better regulate stress.
Give these three strategies a try over the next month or two. Incorporate resistance training into your routine, keep a nutrition log, and control your stress and sleep well. We hope that you find these strategies helpful in achieving your goals as you prep for the summer months!
For more tips on how to use the MYZONE heart rate monitor, follow us during Fitness Fridays on Facebook Live (subscribe on MYZONE’s Facebook Page) – 8 am PT, 11 am ET, and check out our MYZONE Moves Podcast on iTunes or Google Play.
Keep moving forward!