I Found a Company That Saved Me Financially

I am certainly not wealthy, but I have been at least comfortable in life. I do not have a lot left over after I pay all my bills, buy food, etc., but I have all the basics that I need. But that became a problem recently when I had two emergency bills that cost me thousands of dollars. I found myself behind with paying rent really quickly. I started asking for advice as to what to do, and someone pointed me to http://www.bestratedbadcreditloans.com/poor-credit-loans/ and said that I should get a loan. I thought that was a fantastic idea.

I do not know why I did not think about going with a smaller loan company before. Continue reading I Found a Company That Saved Me Financially

The Healthy Way To Snack Before Bed

For years now we’ve been told to avoid eating late at night: Eat past eight = gain weight, right? Not necessarily.

The truth is that nothing magical happens within your body when the clock strikes 8 p.m. You might become more sedentary and burn fewer calories, but closing down the kitchen too early may be slowing down your results.

The “don’t eat at night” theory seems pretty logical at first glance; after all, the earlier you consume calories, the more time you have to burn them off throughout the day. Some studies have found that, in some cases, healthy adults burn fewer calories digesting a meal at night than during the day.1 Other research claims that nighttime eating might not keep you as full as daytime eating.2 However, there are two factors to keep in mind when interpreting studies like these:

  • Many studies are done on very specific populations, so the results may not be applicable to everyone.
  • Some research, such as the oft-cited study that showed greater weight gain in mice during a time when they were normally sleeping, uses rodents, which may be affected differently than humans.3 An interesting find indeed, but I was told to never trust a rat.

Eating at night may be counterproductive to your physique if it’s the only meal you eat all day or you save up all of your calories for an evening snack, but the last time I checked, most serious bodybuilders and athletes don’t do this. You’ve been taught to eat every 3-4 hours to maximize protein synthesis, so why change that routine at the end of the day?

According to a recent review article, you should stop being afraid to chow down after sundown. It’s more important to focus on what you eat at night, rather than what time you eat.4

Choosing the Right Nighttime Snack

Picking the right foods is essential for keeping your body in an anabolic state and setting the stage for optimal muscle growth and recovery during sleep. Your best bet for a nighttime snack is protein. Whey is the most common type found in protein supplements, but casein is traditionally thought to be the best to consume before bed. It’s released from the stomach and absorbed into the blood stream more slowly than whey, making it ideal for prolonged anabolism during overnight sleep.

Protein at Bedtime to Boost Your Gains

Researchers in the Netherlands have shown that consuming 40 grams of casein post-exercise, but within 30 minutes of going to bed, resulted in greater muscle protein synthesis (compared to a noncaloric placebo).5

More recently, a study in the Journal of Nutrition showed a that a protein supplement (27.5 grams of protein, 15 grams of carbohydrates, and 0.1 grams of fat) ingested before sleep led to an increase in muscle mass and strength during a 12-week resistance-training program, compared to a placebo.6 That’s even more support for nighttime eating and gains!

“According to a recent review article, you should stop being afraid to chow down after sundown. It’s more important to focus on what you eat at night, rather than what time you eat.4

Nighttime Protein to Increase Weight Loss

Supplementing with a protein shake before hitting the sheets may also help you lose fat and increase lean mass. Researchers out of Florida State University have conducted several nighttime feeding studies. Here’s what they found:

  • Having a nighttime snack can boost your metabolism.

    Healthy, physically active college-aged men who consumed whey, casein, or carbs 30 minutes before bed had a higher resting energy expenditure (REE) the next morning when compared to a placebo group.7 Findings from this study suggest that regardless of the macronutrient type, consuming a liquid supplement near bedtime may be beneficial for those trying to lose or maintain weight.

  • Protein may help regulate your appetite.

    Consuming protein can help you feel fuller throughout the night and make you want to eat less the next morning.8 Casein may prove to be the better overnight option; in one study, overweight women felt fuller after consuming casein compared to those who ate whey or carbs at night. 9 Having a casein snack before bed may actually reduce the amount of food you eat overall!

From these studies, we can safely conclude that bodybuilders and athletes may benefit from consuming protein before bed rather than going to bed on an empty stomach, especially if they want to maximize their calorie-burning potential. Furthermore, casein may be better than whey, as it promotes overnight muscle growth and may help you burn fat.

Your Smart Bedtime-Snack Cheat Sheet

  • Eat meals at regular intervals throughout the day.
  • Have an additional snack within 30 minutes of going to bed.
  • Choose a snack made up mostly of protein.
  • Choose casein protein over whey when possible.
  • Shoot for less than 200 calories and 30-40 grams of protein.

High-casein snack foods

  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 8 ounces Greek yogurt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 scoop casein powder with 1/2 cup milk

The 5 Healthiest Summer Fruits

With summer in full swing, more people are looking for ways to tame the heat. Instead of making a beeline for the ice cream parlor or guzzling sugary iced lattes, why not feast on Mother Nature’s gift of refreshing summer fruit? Do so and you’ll reap the benefits of their health-hiking, physique-chiselling powers.

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who ate five servings or more each day of fruit or vegetables were more likely to live longer.1 And if that isn’t motivation enough to load up on the bounty of summer’s nutritional stars, consider that higher intakes of fruit have also been associated with a lower risk of becoming overweight.2

Sadly, many of us need to do much better when it comes to fruit consumption. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that 76 percent of American adults aren’t meeting their daily fruit intake needs of 1.5-2.0 cups each day.3 Buck this trend by loading up on these five best flat-belly summer fruits!

Tart Cherries

It’s time to pucker up! While you can find dried tart cherries and tart cherry juice year-round, be especially sure to grab them when they’re available fresh during their fleeting summer season. Tart cherries are rich in antioxidants that have been shown to help improve recovery from training by limiting training-induced inflammation and muscular damage.4,5

What’s more, tart cherries contain melatonin, a compound that can improve sleep quality—an important benefit considering that a good night’s rest is essential for optimal recovery from hard training.6

Make This

Chop up a bunch of pitted tart cherries and combine them with halved cherry tomatoes, diced yellow or orange bell pepper, minced jalapeno pepper, chopped fresh mint, and a couple pinches of salt. Serve this salsa over fish or chicken.

Nectarines

While peaches may make the pie, sun-kissed nectarines are also a worthy addition to your summer menu. The easiest way to identify the difference between these two stone fruits is the absence of fuzz on the nectarine. Their yellow-tinged flesh is a good source of vitamin C, which can have an impact on fat oxidation during exercise, making it a potential ally in the battle of the bulge.7

More good news: Scientists at the University of California (Davis) determined that nectarines can pony up notable amounts of disease-fighting antioxidants.8 A nectarine that’s ready to devour will be fragrant, with slight give to the touch.

Make This

Recharge after a workout by blending together a cup of milk or almond milk, one pitted nectarine, one small chopped frozen banana, half a cup ricotta cheese, two teaspoons of almond butter, and a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon.

Cantaloupe

Consisting of about 90 percent water, this ultrarefreshing fruit is filled to its dimpled skin with liquid to help keep you hydrated when temps begin to soar. Cantaloupe’s impressive nutritional resume includes plenty of vitamin C and beta-carotene. In the body, beta-carotene can be converted to vitamin A, which helps regulate the growth of new skin cells to assure you’re flaunting the best beach body possible.

On its own, beta-carotene may have a protective effect against certain forms of cancer and cardiovascular disease.9 As a bonus, cantaloupe supplies healthy amounts of core-carving fiber.

Make This

Slice a cantaloupe in half, then slice about half an inch off of the bottoms so the halves can sit flat. Scoop out the seeds and stuff the cavities with Greek yogurt. Sprinkle with seeds or chopped nuts.

Watermelon

If the dog days of summer are leaving you parched, be sure to bite into summer’s quintessential fruit, which is made up of more than 90 percent water. Proper hydration is important to keep your joints well-lubricated and your metabolism humming along. But watermelon is so much more than H2O. A recent study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry discovered that the amino acid L-citrulline, which is abundant in watermelon, can dampen muscle soreness in athletes.10

The fewer muscle injuries you experience, the quicker you’ll be able to once again show some feats of strength in the gym. This picnic fave is also loaded with lycopene, an antioxidant compound that gives watermelon its signature blush and may help improve blood pressure numbers.11 It may also work to reduce sun damage your skin.12

Make This

Toss together watermelon cubes with wedges of tomato and sliced cucumber. Blend together some olive oil, basil, red-wine vinegar or lemon juice, and salt. Drizzle the mixture over the watermelon salad and garnish with feta cheese or goat cheese and chopped pistachios.

Blueberries

They might be blue, but when it comes to nutrition, there’s nothing sad about these health bombs. For a mere 84 calories per cup, blueberries deliver 4 grams of belly-flattening fiber and a huge payload of anthocyanin antioxidants, chemicals responsible for the deep purple hue of the fruit.

Researchers in New Zealand determined that antioxidants in blueberries may help reduce muscle-cell damage brought about by oxidative stress.12 A separate animal study reported that an antioxidant in blueberries called pterostilbene may help your six-pack pursuit by limiting fat storage and increasing fat burning.13

Of interest, research suggests that cooking does not result in a significant drop in the antioxidant power of blueberries.14 If you can find them and don’t mind the splurge, wild blueberries are especially chock-full of antioxidants.

Everything You Know About Fat Is Wrong

 

For years now, fat has gotten a bad rap. This misunderstood macronutrient can actually provide a wealth of health benefits. It’s time to show fat some love!

Thankfully, the war on dietary fat is almost over, but it hasn’t been an easy fight. We can look as far back as 1977, when the U.S. government first told us to follow low-fat diets and minimize saturated fats to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, high blood pressure, and everything in between. What followed was a monumental shift in the food industry toward promoting low-fat foods, slapping low-fat claims on any and every food in sight. Low-fat water? I’ll take that!

Interestingly enough, this did nothing to slow down the rates of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes in our country. In fact, these top the list of chronic diseases in the U.S. So maybe fat isn’t the enemy.

After battling decades of fat-bashing, it seems as if the U.S. government, health professionals, and athletes are finally coming to our senses and appreciating fat as an important macronutrient with a myriad of functions and health benefits. With a growing interest in higher-fat diets, it’s time to set the record straight when it comes to fat and your health.

Understanding Fats Back to the Basics

Let’s be clear: We need fat in our diet, but not all fat is created equal. Understanding the different types of fat—and knowing which ones are most beneficial—is just as important as including them in your diet.

Infographic

Saturated vs. Unsaturated vs. Trans Fat

Simply put, fatty acids are carbon atoms linked together like a chain, with either a single or double bond between each carbon.

Saturated fats contain single bonds and are solid at room temperature (think butter or coconut oil). Conversely, unsaturated fats contain one or more double bonds between carbon atoms. Monounsaturated fats (avocados, nuts) are relatively stable at room temperature, whereas polyunsaturated (plant-based oils such as soybean or corn oil) are most unstable and are liquid at room temperature.

Many so-called experts associated saturated fats with the buildup of plaque in arteries and cardiovascular disease, although more recently this association has been called into question. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition presented results from a symposium of nutrition researchers, concluding that insufficient evidence exists to suggest that replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fats reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.1

This was echoed in 2011, when researchers out of the Netherlands concluded that the focus should be to avoid the accumulation of saturated fat in the body (accumulation of saturated fat the body can also occur from the synthesis of fatty acids from carbohydrates), rather than avoiding dietary saturated fat per se.2 So it appears that while saturated fats may play a role in inflammation, in isolation they may not be as harmful as once thought.

Trans Fat

Naturally, fatty acids are almost exclusively found in the cis formation (a double bond in the carbon chain, giving the molecule a bent shape). Commercial hydrogenation adds hydrogen ions to fatty acids, causing a straightening of the bond. This process has primarily been used to prolong the shelf life of products and reduce refrigeration requirements.

Trans fats, which are commonly found in pre-packaged baked goods—and which may be referred to as “partially hydrogenated oils” on food labels—are associated with an increased risk for coronary heart disease.3,4 Although trans fat are more regulated now than they were 10 years ago, they are still prevalent in processed foods.

Omega-3 vs Omega-6

What makes an omega-6 different from an omega-3? Nothing more than the placement of a double carbon bond in relation to a methyl group. Pretty nerdy words, but the placement of the double bond has a big impact on its function in the body.

Foods high in omega-3s have also been shown to improve cholesterol levels.

In fact, the difference almost makes the two types polar opposites, in that omega-3 fatty acids are believed to prevent blood clotting and have anti-inflammatory effects. Omega-6 fatty acids, on the other hand, are thought to be pro-inflammatory, and contribute to the narrowing of blood vessels and blood clotting.

In this light, the omega-6:omega-3 ratio appears to a big player in inflammation, and general health. Depending on who you ask, the standard American diet has a ratio of anywhere from 12:1 to 20:1. A ratio closer to 5:1 or lower may be more beneficial for cardiovascular health.5

Foods high in omega-3s (nuts, fish, and canola oil) have also been shown to improve cholesterol levels.

Ideally, total cholesterol levels—the combination of high-density lipoproteins (HDL), low-density lipoproteins (LDL), and triglycerides—should be lower than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).

HDL, often termed the “good” cholesterol, scoops cholesterol from the blood and arteries, delivering it to the liver to be excreted. Although the cardioprotective effects of HDL are a bit unclear, high levels of HDL are generally associated with a reduced cardiovascular risk and potentially act as an anti-inflammatory.6,7 Until medical science provides a solid answer on HDL—which may take a while—aim to keep HDL levels above 60 mg/dL.

LDL, often termed “bad cholesterol”, transports cholesterol to cells in the body to be used for a variety of functions. Unfortunately, this can also lead to a buildup of cholesterol in arterial walls, increasing the risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. Ideally, LDL levels should measure below 100 mg/dL.

The Benefits of Healthy Fats

I don’t care what IIFYMers say: Having a fried Oreo hardly provides the same amount of quality fats as a grilled salmon fillet. Obviously, the Oreo is delicious, but if your goal is to get more beach-ready rather than develop metabolic syndrome, drop the greasy stuff and stick to high quality oils, nuts, seeds, and avocados.

So despite being vilified by mainstream media, fat has stood the test of time and is finally starting to be respected as an important player in our health. Here’s a rundown of some of the beneficial functions of fat.

Unlimited Amounts of Energy

Fats are energy rich, containing 9 calories per gram—more than twice the amount in carbohydrates and protein. Stored throughout the body, as well as the liver and muscles, fat serves as a large energy reserve that can be tapped into at rest or during low-intensity exercise.

How much energy, you might ask? The average 150-pound male with body fat between 12-15 percent will have 80,000-100,000 calories stored as fat. Compare that to only about 2,000 calories stored as glycogen from carbs. All of this stored fat creates an abundant energy reserve that can supply 60-80 percent of energy at rest.

Armor for Your Body

Ever seen “Flubber?” Notice how Robin Williams can jump out of a 10-story building onto his feet and flubber allows him to bounce back unharmed?

This is essentially what visceral fat does for your organs. While it’s unfortunately not neon green like flubber, it’s gel-like consistency cushions our internal organs, particularly during falls or during contact sports.

It should be noted that, just like too much flubber was bad for Robin Williams, too much visceral fat may be bad for us. Increased visceral fat has been linked to insulin resistance and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.8,9

Subcutaneous fat—the stuff located underneath the skin, which gets pinched during a skinfold test—acts an insulator, preventing heat from escaping the body.

Additionally, it helps maintain thermoregulation (the ability to regulate and maintain core body temperature) and subsequent organ and cellular function.

Finally, fat is also used in the formation of myelin, a substance surrounding nerve cells that improves the speed and efficiency of nerve conduction.10

The importance of this substance is most evident in the types of diseases that develop when it is destroyed or damaged, such as multiple sclerosis.

Transportation of Nutrients

Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins. Without adequate fat, these vitamins couldn’t be absorbed, transported, or used, and deficiencies would ensue.

Taste and Satiation

Why does a rib-eye taste so much better than the strip sirloin? Probably due to the fat content! Fat offers a distinct texture and flavor to enhance the taste of food. And if you’re cutting calories, don’t drop all of your fat.

Fat offers a distinct texture and flavor to enhance the taste of food.

Fat is a calorie-dense molecule, with 9 calories per gram, so it takes a little longer to digest, providing satiation for a longer period of time.

3 Tips For Meeting Your Nutritional Needs

f you work in the fitness industry, or even just look fit, you’ve likely had this conversation before. In my office, it happens dozens of time a day.

Client: “I really can’t seem to lose weight, coach. I mean, I eat perfectly all the time. Just last night I had chicken and broccoli for dinner, but the weight just doesn’t come off. What should I do?”

Me: “Tell me a bit more about your diet. What did you eat this morning for example?”

Client: “Well, today was different. I have this big project I’m working on at the office, and my kid was late for school, plus the wife and I stayed up late last night watching a movie, so I didn’t really have time to make breakfast and blah, blah, blah…”

Now, the client didn’t really finish his statement with “blah, blah, blah”; that’s simply what I start to hear at that point in these conversations, I usually cut them off as politely as possible.

The problem most people have with lean mass gain and body-fat loss is typically a direct result of being undernourished. By undernourished, I mean one of three things:

  • They’re not taking in enough total calories.
  • Their macronutrients are out of balance.
  • They eat enough total calories but not enough micronutrients.

The first miscalculation is a simple lack of total calories, which makes sustaining and building muscle mass completely impossible. Consuming too few calories can also lead to a decrease in metabolism, making fat loss more difficult. Your caloric intake must be high enough to support your basal metabolic rate (BMR), with a slight calorie surplus to support lean muscle gains.

If your micronutrients are insufficient, weight loss won’t happen either. Even if your macros are on point, your gains will come to a screeching halt if your food is devoid of the essential micronutrients.

To help you strike the ideal balance between meeting your caloric intake and macronutrient goals while maximizing micro nutrition, here are a few simple tips to get you back on track!

1

Eat a Diet of Whole Foods

Eating whole foods is the best way to ensure you’re covering the majority of your micronutrient issues. Natural, whole foods have sustained life on this planet since the dawn of time. It’s a no-brainer that they should make up the bulk of your food intake.

It is always best to buy your foods fresh, local, and organic—both to remove any possible degradation in nutrient quality and to preserve flavor. The same goes for your meats. Ask your butcher if he knows any hunters, and always try to buy wild-caught game.

 

Determine Your Caloric Requirements

When deciding how many calories you need per day, a good rule of thumb is to take your total body weight in pounds and tack a zero on to the back of it to determine your basal metabolic rate (BMR), or how many calories your body will burn at rest.

For example, I weigh 220 pounds and need approximately 2,200 calories per day just to sustain my mass while at complete rest. If I were sedentary, active, or very active in my daily activities, I would add 600, 800, or 1,000 additional calories respectively.

Lastly, I’d add in my exercise. Since I strength train intensely once per day, I’d add another 800 calories to my diet, bringing my daily total to 4,000 calories per day for maintenance. If I wanted to increase my muscle mass, I would add 300-500 calories to gain muscle without spilling over into fat. If I wanted to maintain most of my muscle and drop body fat, I would reduce my calories by 300 to 500.

Note: When making calorie adjustments, do so slowly and conservatively. This is especially important when trying to reduce body fat.

Balance Out Your Macros

While there are different schools of thought for hard-training athletes, a general rule is to consume 8 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight and 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, with fat filling in the rest to meet your caloric targets.

Let’s see how that works with me:

  • Bodyweight: 220 lbs. = 100 kg.
  • Carbohydrates: 8 g x 100 = 800 (3,200 calories)
  • Protein: 2 g x 100 = 200 (400 calories)

This brings me to 3,600 total calories so far, with an allowance of approximately 45 grams of fat (400 calories). That puts me right at 4,000 calories per day.

The goal is to have a complete meal plan that you follow each day. Add supplements to fill in any gaps you may be missing, such as additional protein, or a complete multivitamin or mineral formula.

With all that worked out, I want you to make sure you still address the vital role of micronutrients. Micronutrients are the catalysts in the production of energy, growth of muscle, and reduction of body fat, as well as most every other biological function.

For example, most of you reading this will statistically be deficient in vitamin D, not knowing that this deficiency can reduce muscle strength and leave you susceptible to injury.1 Iron deficiencies can be so severe that the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), and Dietitians of Canada have selected iron as one of the few nutrients they endorse supplementation of.2

The goal is to have a complete meal plan that you follow each day. Add supplements to fill in any gaps you may be missing, such as additional protein, or a complete multivitamin or mineral formula.

This may seem like a lot, but just remember, if you plan your meals in advance and prepare them before you need them while following the tips outlined above, your ideal body is just around the corner.

3 Diet Strategies To Get You Ripped Like A Freak

Losing fat is kind of like a chess match. You need to outsmart your opponent, which in this case is your own body—an organism that wants to hold on to fat for reasons dating back to prehistory, when starvation, not obesity, was humankind’s biggest problem.

Just as there are countless ways to win a chess match, there are numerous approaches to burning body fat. Right now, I could rattle off a dozen diets that, if followed to a T, would burn some measure of body fat. Are they ideal? No. But do they work? Yes.

The following three approaches are better than most, offering you the best chances for success. I’ve read the research, and I’ve followed tried these methods myself, so I’m confident recommending them. The next time you’re looking for a way to checkmate that roll accumulating around your waist, try one of these science-backed methods for burning fat.

1

Intermittent Fasting (IF)

Fasting is nothing new. It, too, dates back to prehistory, although back then it was unintentional and called “starvation.” More recently, people have been fasting for generations, and not solely to lose weight. The human body is in a state of either feeding or fasting, but most people spend the majority of their time in the fed state, not allowing a significant amount of time to burn through the calories they packed in.

IF is a way of structuring your diet that systematically incorporates periods of fasting. IF can be undertaken any number of ways, and variables include the number of days, as well as the length of the window during which the spigot of calories is turned off. For example, one protocol involves fasting for a period of 24 hours, once every 3-5 days. But there are many others.

Why It Works

So why does a seemingly unorthodox approach to eating actually melt off the fat? The human body is designed to store fat so it can use it as needed. When we don’t eat, the body accesses this storage as a source of fuel. Research has shown that intermittent fasting can be an effective weight-loss tool because of its ability to increase fat oxidation, reduce body weight, and accelerate fat loss.1,2 This is one of my top diet methods because it really shocks my system. I see results in just four weeks!

How to Do It

My personal limit for fasting is 16 hours—anything more than that, and things get ugly. Therefore, I perform a daily fast of 16 hours followed by an 8-hour feed (another popular IF protocol). During this 8-hour feed, the goal is to consume all my calories for the day.

For example, I wake up at 7 a.m., down my pre-workout and BCAAs at noon, train at 12:15 p.m., and begin my feed at 1 p.m. with my post-workout protein shake. I begin my fast at 9 p.m., which is perfect timing because I aim to be in bed around 11 p.m.—that is, if my 17-month old son Achilles lets me!

In between 1 p.m. and 9 p.m., I’m eating quite often and quite a bit.

No matter which regimen you follow, don’t fast for longer than 30 hours. Exceeding this limit will lower your intake of calories over the week, resulting in a calorie deficit and inhibiting your ability to access fat as fuel.

IF isn’t for everyone. Depending on the protocol you choose to use, the long hours of calorie deprivation can lead to low energy levels, fatigue, and headaches. The rest of your life can seem like a struggle. But this diet can be very effective for people who have trouble controlling portions and who constantly feel the need to snack throughout the day. For example, by restricting my daily feed to 8 hours, I feel full and satisfied for the rest of the day.

 

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2

Carb Cycling

 

Carb cycling is a dietary approach that alternates periods of lower and higher carbohydrate consumption. During the low-carb phase, the body depletes its stores of muscle glycogen, which is the storage form of carbs. Your body must therefore switch to alternate forms of energy, such as fat.

Carb cycling is a dietary approach that alternates periods of lower and higher carbohydrate consumption.

This leads to fat burning, and for some people, weight loss. The high-carb phase seeks to refill that lost muscle glycogen. The resulting surge in the hormone insulin delivers lost nutrients to the muscles, where they can be stored for future use.

Why It Works

This continuous switching back and forth between low- and high-carb phases helps to up-regulate the metabolism, keeping both fat burning and muscle building hormones responding. The result: less fat, more muscle, and an improved body composition.

How to Do It

The first step to carb cycling is to determine how many calories you should be eating. The next step is to determine the amount of each macronutrient you need to eat during the low- and high-carb phases. For low-carb days, set your protein intake to 40-50 percent of your total calories. Carbs should be set to 20 percent or less, and fats will make up the remaining. On high-carb days, protein intake can be set to 30-40 percent, while carbs should take up at least 50 percent, and fat will be set to less than 20 percent.

These macronutrient ratios and the number of days in your cycle can shift based on factors such as your metabolism, activity level, and how your body responds to carbs. For the first 4-8 weeks, follow one high-carb day every 4-7 days, then shift to one high-carb day every 3-5 days. Reserve your high-carb days for when you are performing your most intense workouts in order to fuel them and maximize recovery and muscle growth.

Traditional low-carb diets do work for fat burning, but they can often cause severe cravings, depleted energy levels, and some lost strength. What’s more, lengthy periods on a low-carbohydrate diet plan may result in metabolic slowdown and a decrease in the anabolic hormones that can stimulate muscle protein synthesis and growth.

Cycling between high- and low-carb days helps to stimulate metabolism and decrease cravings while keeping energy levels where they need to be. While the low-carb days promote fat burning, the high-carb days—coupled with resistance training—promote anabolism, which leads to muscle building. High-carb days can also make you feel more energetic, propelling you through the next low-carb days until you’re back to a high-carb day.

3

Ketogenic Diet

Ketogenic diets are high in fat, moderate in protein, and low in carbohydrates. Ultimately, fats should constitute the majority of your calories, anywhere from 60-70 percent of your daily intake, and protein intake should be around 20-30 percent of your daily calories. Carbohydrate consumption is negligible—5-10 percent—and shuoldn’t exceed 50 grams per day.

Ketogenic diets are high in fat, moderate in protein, and low in carbohydrates.

Why It Works

Carbs are so low on this diet that the body’s main energy source becomes fat, a state referred to as ketosis. That’s because when carb sources are low, the liver starts to convert fat stores and dietary fat into ketone bodies, which can power the brain and body in replace of glucose.

How to Do It

A keto diet should include higher-fat meats, fish, eggs, nuts, and healthy fats like those found in coconut oil. There’s no room in this diet for starchy carbs from sources such as oatmeal, whole grains, and fruit. Needless to say, you can say goodbye to pasta and rice on this diet.

Becoming keto-adapted—meaning, able to burn ketone bodies for energy—can take several weeks, depending on your activity level, metabolism, and how well you store and hold on to your muscle glycogen. How long you can remain on the ketogenic diet will depend on your ability to withstand a lack of carbs.

A keto diet should include higher-fat meats, fish, eggs, nuts, and healthy fats like those found in coconut oil. There’s no room in this diet for starchy carbs from sources such as oatmeal, whole grains, and fruit.

Make no mistake, ketogenic diets can be tough, and they’re not for everyone. I’ve followed this diet once, and once was enough for me. This diet can deplete energy levels, cause severe carb cravings, and can lead to brain fog, which can make it difficult to get through workouts—or perform daily tasks properly, for that matter!

However, once you become adapted to this diet, these symptoms tend to lessen or go away. But this diet can produce major fat loss too. In one four-week study, subjects following a ketogenic diet (4 percent carbohydrate) lost significantly more weight than those following a medium-carbohydrate diet (35 percent carbohydrate).3

Supplementation with a quality fat burner, pre-workout powder, and BCAAs are essential during this tough diet. These products will give you the energy and focus to complete your workouts and get through the day while helping to preserve your hard-earned muscle.

Are Hunger Hormones Sabotaging Your Fat Loss?

Millions of people go on diets every year, but by the end of the year, most of them have regained any weight lost and find themselves starting back at square one. After all, dieting is no easy feat, and it might even be harder than you think! Your body has an appetite, and if you consistently take in fewer calories than you burn, your body responds by revving up your appetite hormones, making you hungrier.

It’s not uncommon to hear names like insulin, testosterone, estrogen, and cortisol thrown around when talking about hormones that affect body fat. For example, insulin is often cited as a fat-storage hormone and criticized for being a key contributor to weight gain and obesity. While this is oversimplified and not entirely true, there are two hormones that may play a much larger and more direct role in weight gain and weight management: leptin and ghrelin.

These two hunger hormones can directly affect energy balance and play a much bigger role in weight-loss success.1 If you want to improve your body composition and be successful with long-term weight management, understanding the role of these two hormones and how you can manipulate them is key!

What Is Leptin?

Leptin is considered the master regulator of hunger, and is known as your appetite suppressor. Leptin influences food intake due to its effect on the hypothalamus, a region of the brain that governs many processes and emotions such as hunger, thirst, sleep, and mood.

Leptin influences food intake due to its effect on the hypothalamus, a region of the brain that governs many processes and emotions such as hunger, thirst, sleep, and mood.

For example, when you eat a meal, leptin levels increase. This sends a signal to the brain telling your body that it’s full and to put the fork down. However, if an individual is leptin-resistant, or if the leptin pathway isn’t working properly, they may continue to overeat and often have poor control over food intake—in other words, they overeat without even knowing it.2

For these reasons, it’s easy to understand why leptin plays a key role in long-term dietary adherence and success.

The Leptin Spiral

Leptin is stored in and secreted by fat cells. As you gain more fat mass, leptin levels increase to tell your brain to eat less and burn more calories. Conversely, if you cut down your calories and start to lose body fat, leptin levels go down, which then sends a signal to your brain to eat more and burn less! Think of this conundrum as a safety mechanism that regulates energy expenditure and food intake.3

Based on this information, you would think someone carrying around extra body fat would have more leptin, and thus, fewer desires to overindulge in food. This sounds great in theory, but research has shown that despite an elevation in leptin levels, obese individuals continue to overeat and energy expenditure fails to increase significantly.

This is called leptin-resistance. As someone gains weight, the signal to their brain can get “disrupted” or become less “sensitive,” which causes them to continually overeat.4

Lifeline Your Leptin Levels

If your goal is weight loss or maintenance, leptin resistance is obviously an important issue. In fact, it’s currently considered one of the largest biological causes of obesity.5 Losing body fat is one obvious way to fix leptin resistance, but it takes more than a flash-in-the-pan diet. To really make a difference and correct leptin resistance long term, consider these strategies:

1

Swap out Junk Food for Fruits and Veggies

Excessive inflammation may disturb the signaling mechanism of leptin on the hypothalamus. Eating a primarily unprocessed diet high in fruits and vegetables—along with certain supplements such as omega-3 and antioxidants—may help reduce inflammation.6

While cookies and snack cakes may taste good, they are typically less satiating than whole foods, they’re extremely calorie dense, and they provide little nutrition to your diet.

2

Break a Sweat

Regular exercise plays an important part in improving leptin resistance and decreasing inflammation.6 Make sure to include resistance and high-intensity interval training, which will not only help control leptin levels, but are great for building muscle and burning fat.

Regular exercise plays an important part in improving leptin resistance and decreasing inflammation. Make sure to include resistance and high-intensity interval training, which will not only help control leptin levels, but are great for building muscle and burning fat.

If you need a complete workout regimen, check out Find a Plan, which has complete training, nutrition, and supplement programs for your specific needs.

3

Increase Protein Intake

Along with helping you feel fuller longer, protein may also improve leptin sensitivity.7 Aim for 30 grams of lean protein per meal. This can include chicken breast, white fish, tofu, or lean ground beef.

4

Get More Sleep

Alongside the abundant benefits of a good night’s sleep, logging eight hours of shut-eye on a regular basis may also help improve leptin sensitivity.8 If you struggle with falling asleep, try some of these tips: Set a regular bedtime, turn off your TV or computer thirty minutes before you hit the sheets, make sure your bedroom is dark, keep outside noise down, and turn down your thermostat to around 65 degrees.

Ghrelin, the Appetite Gremlin

In contrast to leptin, ghrelin acts as an appetite stimulator. It’s released primarily in the stomach, and when elevated, sends a hunger signal to your brain letting you know it’s time to eat. After a meal, you can expect ghrelin levels to return back to baseline within three hours.9

Factors like age, gender, BMI, blood glucose levels, insulin levels, leptin levels, and growth hormone (GH) have been shown to affect ghrelin levels. Leptin itself, for example, can help reduce ghrelin.
Furthermore, if you often find yourself feeling full after a tough workout, it could be because of an increase in GH, which can help dampen hunger and food intake by reducing circulating levels of ghrelin.

The Hungry Games

Put simply, ghrelin makes you feel hungry. Why is perceived hunger so important? Because research has highlighted hunger as a compounding factor in the reasons many diets fail.10

Studies have repeatedly shown increases in ghrelin levels following calorie-restricted weight-loss diets. One study out of the New England Journal of Medicine showed a 24 percent increase in ghrelin levels following a six-month weight-loss diet.11 In a more recent study, researchers from the University of Oklahoma investigated a male bodybuilder during a six-month prep phase and witnessed around a 40 percent increase in ghrelin levels after six months of dieting!12

If you continuously diet or have dieted several times in the past, it’s likely that your baseline ghrelin levels are elevated. This could be bad news if you want to stay lean year-round or diet again in the future.

Fight the Ghrelin Gremlin

While the research on ghrelin and diet is limited, recent studies have shed some light on potential dietary strategies that may help to control your appetite and fight the grehlin gremlin.

  • Supplementing with around 20 grams of oligofructose—a subgroup of the fiber known as inulin—per day split into small doses with each meal may help decrease ghrelin levels, energy intake, blood glucose, and insulin levels.13
  • Eating higher-protein meals, which are well-known for increasing satiety through several different mechanisms, can help reduce ghrelin levels.7

A sensible approach to calorie cycling may be a 4- to 6-week dieting phase with a 1- to 2-week period at caloric maintenance.
  • When dieting, following a high-fat, low-carb (ketogenic) plan may help you control appetite and reduce hunger by keeping ghrelin levels low.14
  • Short calorie-cycling diets may be a novel strategy to help control some of the metabolic adaptions to weight loss. For example, prolonged dieting reduces leptin and increases ghrelin. By doing shorter blocks of dieting interspersed with higher-calorie blocks, it may be possible to offset some of these adaptations.

    This is one of the mechanisms behind the success of weekly high-carb and calorie refeeds. However, it is likely that one would need to refeed for several days in a row to impact ghrelin.15

A sensible approach to calorie cycling may be a 4- to 6-week dieting phase with a 1- to 2-week period at caloric maintenance. If your maintenance calories are set at 2,700, you’ll likely be consuming around 2,200 calories during your dieting phase before returning back to 2,700 for a couple weeks to give your body a break.

Along with supporting leptin and ghrelin levels, this strategy may also provide psychological benefits. By breaking your diet into smaller chunks, it becomes easier to focus and adhere to, compared to a 12-week (or more) continuous diet.

One of the few studies on this topic to date investigated minicycles of 11 days dieting and 3 days at maintenance versus continuous dieting.16 Despite total calorie intake being the same between groups, the group that dieted for 11 days and maintained for 3 days lost more weight! Interestingly, these individuals even kept the weight off during the maintenance phase.

Master Your Appetite Hormones

Both leptin and ghrelin levels are key for weight management and successful dieting. Yo-yo dieting will most likely have a long-term negative impact on hormones, body composition, and general health. To avoid the vicious cycle of losing weight and then regaining it, plan in periods of energy maintenance or refeeds. These can be small periods of 3-4 days every two weeks or longer, or one-week periods every 4-6 weeks.

While dieting may feel hard, research shows the maintenance period afterward may be even harder! Make sure your post-diet plan is as optimal and effective as the actual diet itself. Aim for 20-30 grams of protein each meal, and don’t ditch the gym. Exercise is key!

Applying the strategies listed above will help you maintain leptin and ghrelin health, but it’s critically important that you plan your diet ahead of time, set clear goals, and be patient with the process. If you’re going to try cyclical dieting to help your leptin and ghrelin levels, give yourself plenty of time.