3 Hormones That Can Make or Break Your Weight Loss Efforts

 

Photo Credit: Public Domain

Do you find yourself eating less, exercising more, and not losing a pound or an inch? If so, hormones may be to blame. Hormones are chemical messengers that are responsible for triggering or regulating bodily functions. When hormones are out of balance, negative effects within the body can result, including weight gain. Cortisol, insulin, and serotonin are just a few of the hormones that can and do play a significant role in making or breaking your weight loss efforts.

Insulin

Insulin can play a vital role in making or breaking your weight loss efforts. No matter how many calories you remove from your diet and no matter how many exercises you incorporate into your daily routine, if insulin is not stable, you may feel the need to eat more. In fact, according to Dr. Mercola, on his web site Mercola.com, explained that insulin is the central part of the weight loss equation and the reason 200 million Americans are overweight is because they have impaired insulin receptor sensitivity. An overabundance of insulin can prevent your fat-burning hormone, lipase, from releasing fat into your bloodstream to be used as fuel. So, instead of using fat for fuel, your body will use carbohydrates and amino acids from your muscles. The key to weight loss success, according to Mercola.com, is to have LOW levels of insulin so your body can produce large amounts of hormone-sensitive lipase and burn fat all day so you can look thin and slim. People with high insulin levels should also avoid overeating, especially refined carbohydrates and processed foods, and get regular exercise.

Serotonin

Serotonin is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter in the brain, which plays a vital role in whether or not your dieting efforts will succeed. Serotonin can also affect your appetite, mood, sexual arousal, perception of pain and body temperature. Consuming high carbohydrate foods will increase serotonin levels in the brain, whereas low serotonin levels will cause your body to crave carbohydrates. Furthermore, researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Research Center (BIDRC) found that decreased serotonin is linked to increased appetite. Therefore, weight loss can occur when you increase your serotonin levels either through diet, supplementation or both. SAM-e and 5-HTP are supplements that may be of assistance in weight loss, and it has also been used for depression. Consult with your doctor before taking these supplements, especially if you are already taking medication for depression.

Cortisol

Cortisol is known as the stress hormone, which is responsible for the flight or fight syndrome. This hormone plays a key role in metabolism, helping to determine the best source of energy – protein, carbohydrate, fat – for your body to use.  Chronic or long-term stress can increase cortisol levels and cause metabolic and hormonal imbalances that lead to weight gain. Too much cortisol not only increases your appetite and craving for unhealthy foods, but also lowers testosterone levels in women and men. Lower testosterone can mean the loss of lean muscle, causing your body to burn calories less efficiently. Remember that muscle burns more calories than body fat. To keep your cortisol levels in check and lose weight, you need to incorporate stress reduction techniques, such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi; and get regular exercise such as cycling, hiking or walking; and get at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep. In fact, according to Shawn Talbott, Ph.D., author of the book called “The Cortisol Connection,” says that getting just two nights of restful, sound sleep can be more effective at reducing cortisol than a lifetime of stress-management classes. And, lastly, taking certain supplements, such as DHEA, may also be helpful for lowering cortisol levels in men and women, according to a University of Pittsburgh study published in the “Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology” in February 2003.

So, as you can see, it is important to watch calories and include exercise; however, it is equally important to be aware of your hormonal balances, as well.

 

4 Kickboxing Workout Benefits for Weight Loss and Fitness

Kickboxing for Weight Loss

If you are looking for a tough workout that will get you in shape fast, then you definitely need to check out kickboxing.

The combination of bobbing, weaving, kicking and punching will get you in the best shape of your life in no time at all.

A person weighing 155 pounds can burn up to 400 calories during a 30-minute kickboxing workout. That’s a lot of calories in a short amount of time.

Here are a few great kickboxing workout benefits.

Benefit #1 – Burns More Calories in Less Time

As stated before, the average person can burn as much as 400 calories during a 30-minute kickboxing workout.

That means you can burn as much as 800 in an hour.

Kickboxing is a very high energy workout, which will get your heart pumping and your muscles burning. If you want to take it up a notch, consider adding jump rope in the mix.

Jumping rope can boost your calorie burn up to 900 or more in an hour workout. If you have stubborn belly fat, kickboxing will whip it into shape.

Benefit #2 – Total-Body Toning

Say bye-bye to those flabby arms and jiggly thighs. A kickboxing for weight loss workout will engage every muscle in your body. Some you never even knew you had.

Because of this, you will notice your body starting to tone up after only a few weeks. To burn even more calories, consider using a kickboxing pad during your workouts.

Benefit #3 – You Will Learn Self-Defense Moves

While most people just look at kickboxing as an intense, fat-loss workout, it’s also a great opportunity to learn life-saving self-defense moves.

When you are kicking, jabbing, bobbing and weaving, you are actually learning self-defense without even realizing it.

Some instructors will make it a point to let you know why you would use certain moves. This helps you better understand how you would defend yourself with that particular move.

Benefit #4 – Relieves Stress

The best way to relieve stress after a long day at work is through intense physical activity. Kickboxing would fall into that category. You will be kicking and punching as hard as you can. The result will be less frustration and a better night’s sleep. When you are kicking and punching the pads, you can imagine it being anyone who has made your day more difficult than it already was.

Maybe it’s your boss, a coworker or a friend. The idea is to get it all out on the pads. Let go of all the stress and tension of the day.

You will also be releasing the feel-good hormones known as endorphins, which will give you an extra boost in your mood.

Final Thoughts

Overall, kickboxing is an ideal exercise to get in shape and feel better about yourself and your body. Just make sure you take the time to learn how to do the moves the right way. Otherwise, you are putting yourself at risk for serious injury.

 

Want To Lose Weight Faster? Try These Workouts

Photo credit: Petr Kratochvil [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Exercise is one of the most important factors for a healthy lifestyle. If you want to lose weight fast, then it’s essential that you choose the right workouts for the best results. Workouts are also needed to both tone muscle and keep the mind and body healthy.

The idea of ‘working out’ doesn’t have to incorporate a session at the gym. The term ‘workout’ means “a practice or exercise to improve one’s fitness,” or “a session of vigorous physical training.” So any kind of intensive activity can be classed as a workout.

 

Here are some excellent workouts to try if you want to lose weight faster.

  • Walking. This might sound like it is too simple for to be called a ‘workout’, but if you currently have a sedentary lifestyle, then walking can be ideal. Walking has been described as a low-intensity activity to lose weight. It should be possible to burn up to 360 calories in 45 minutes. This means that walking 45 minutes per day a person can lose around a pound a week.
  • Swimming. Swimming is a great way to lose extra pounds. Depending on the type of swimming, a person can burn between 450 and 700 calories an hour. This is a low impact workout as the body isn’t subject to the bumps and strains of lifting weights or running. It’s a good form of exercise for people with other health issues like obesity, arthritis, and asthma.
  • Kettlebells. What are they? Cast iron balls that have a single handle. The interesting aspect of using kettlebells in a workout is that, because the weight isn’t distributed evenly, the body has to work to counterbalance kettlebell’s weight. Kettlebell workouts can burn around 400 calories in about 20 minutes. In terms of cardiovascular benefits, a workout with a kettlebell can be the equivalent to running six miles.
  • Jumping/skipping rope. This shouldn’t be resigned to the school playground. A jumping rope workout can help you burn up to 800 calories in an hour. Just 10 minutes of this type of workout is the same as running a mile. There are more than just cardiovascular benefits to using a jumping rope. It’s also a great way to improve endurance, coordination, and agility. It’s more intensive that other workouts, but this means that you don’t have to do it as long.
  • Squats. Squats burn fat fast and build muscle. Squat exercises use most of the muscles in the body. Why is this important? The more muscle mass a person has, the better his metabolism, and therefore calories will be burned faster. Squat workouts can be used with or without weights, therefore perfect for either home exercising or at the gym.
  • Lunges. These can be performed at home and no equipment is needed. They are great exercises to tone your lower body, but more importantly they great for burning calories. It’s estimated that a person can burn around 275 calories in a 30-minute workout. There are various types of lunges, even ‘explosive lunges.’
  • Bicycling is another low-impact, high-rewards activity for losing weight. Depending on how fast a person cycles and the type of terrain, it is possible to burn up to 1,000 calories in an hour. Cycling can be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle. For example, you could cycle to work or use the bicycle for leisure time. If that’s not possible, then most gyms have cycles.
  • Running. This is the ‘classic’ workout for losing weight. Running is great for strengthening muscle, improving the cardiovascular system and is generally good for the whole body and mind. It only requires a good pair of running shoes and a music player to help you keep pace. Even better is to use high-intensity interval running. This involves short bursts of running at top speed, then a slowing the pace before the next burst.

Dancing is a Fun and Exciting Way to Lose Weight

Lose weight dancing!

Lose weight dancing! Doesn’t it sound fun? Dancing is beneficial for many more reasons than one. It’s not only a fast way to lose weight, but it’s fun and allows you to learn a new skill that will simply catapult your social quotient. Dancing as a form of exercise is also much less monotonous than boring gym routines.

Dance is not just a seductive movement of the body aimed to charm a room full of people, or merely an art form designed to express oneself. Dance is so much more; it’s a way of life, and a way of attaining perfection in the body and the soul.

 

Benefits of Dancing for Weight Loss

There are many ways in which dancing promotes weight loss. Here are a few of them:

  • A lot of people stop exercising because it becomes monotonous and boring. With dancing, that does not really happen and many people are able to stay on track and achieve their weight loss goals.
  • While we lose weight dancing, we also acquire a new skill that helps us to gain greater self-confidence and self-worth.
  • Some people may find traditional workouts like sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups strenuous and hard on the muscles. Dancing, on the other hand, is relaxing and helps burn a lot of calories.
  • Apart from losing weight, dancing also helps develop concentration, patience and relieves stress.

Types of Dance Workouts

These popular dance workouts can be done at home with videos or taken with a group of friends at a fitness class.

  • Fusion dance is for those who are not biased to any particular form of dance. This dance form takes the good parts of many other dance forms, along with their own innovative steps and makes your workout time worthwhile. Highly recommended for people who get bored quickly.
  • Piloxing is a blend of Pilates, boxing and dance. Ideal for those looking to burn calories fast, as well as build and tone muscles. Recommended for the sporty individual.
  • Ballet is an art and fitness routine fused together. Apart from sculpting a svelte figure, it increases flexibility like no other forms of exercise. It also helps in personality development by promoting gracefulness.
  • Zumba is a high energetic Latin inspired dance routine that includes cardio workouts in its routine.

The benefits of dancing for weight loss are endless. Most gyms nowadays offer variety of packages to help you lose weight dancing. Research the form of dance that you like and select a package accordingly, or you can simply tune into the home dance videos and dance your calories away.

 

3 Morning Rituals That Give Your Metabolism a Boost

Photo credit: Petr Kratochvil [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

The path to health is filled with all sorts of detours. This is particularly true when weight and energy are concerned. A lot of people want to do things like be able to play tennis, go for a hike, and so forth, but many don’t have the energy to do so. Much of this is due to having a poorly functioning or inefficient metabolism, but what can a person do about their metabolism? This article will be sharing a few methods to help improve your metabolism.

Eat Some Breakfast

There used to be a saying that breakfast was the most important meal of the day. It turns out that this is partially true, because eating in the morning kickstarts your metabolism. Studies have shown that just eating a bit of breakfast can help to improve your metabolic function by about 10%. This, of course, also means that it should be something healthy. When you do this, your body knows it’s time to start the day and it begins the process of preparing to remove waste from the previous day. Something simple with carbs and protein can wake up your mind and make you ready to face the day’s challenges.

Morning Exercise

One of the best things that a person can do for themselves is to take on some kind of exercise routine in the morning. This doesn’t mean that it has to be an intense, pulse pounding exercise, just that you do a small amount of movement enough to get your heart rate up. Morning stretches can be a great example of that. If you stretch your limbs and engage the muscles in your core each morning, you’re far less likely to sustain injury from minor twists, turns, and reaches that you do during your work day. Or, maybe you would prefer a quick morning walk around your neighborhood. The activity you choose should be enjoyable and help you to get fired up and ready to tackle your day.

B Vitamins

When your body has the right nutrients, it will function on a more efficient level. B vitamins can help to stimulate your metabolism. They do this by giving your body the ability to metabolize carbohydrates, proteins, and fats into energy that you will need throughout the day. This is why it’s great to have some eggs with whole grain toast in the morning. Taking just a little bit extra can help you to convert that food into energy, so you can be productive and burn calories from morning until night.

Give these simple rituals a try to see if it makes a difference with your metabolism and weight loss efforts.

Reasons to Eat Fat to Lose Fat

Coconut oil is a healthy fat.

For decades, all forms of dietary fat were demonized like there was no tomorrow. Fat was blamed for causing numerous chronic health problems and diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and cancer. As time marched on, researchers discovered more interesting findings. While past recommendations encouraged us to avoid fat at all costs if we wanted to achieve healthy weight loss, experts are now saying that some forms of dietary fat not only help you to burn fat, but also improve your health and well-being in the process. You see, not all fats are created equal; there are good fats, and there are bad fats. Bad fats are synthetic saturated fats and trans-fats found in processed junk foods, whereas good fats are polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and natural saturated fats like those found in animal products and organic, unrefined coconut oil. So, let’s take a closer look at a few reasons why we need to eat fat to lose fat.

Healthy fats turn your body into a fat burning machineIn the past, people were urged to follow extremely low-calorie, virtually fat-free, diets to lose weight; nowadays, the exact opposite is true. Low-calorie diets are not practical for healthy weight loss, and they are actually not that effective either. Rather than encouraging your body to burn fat for energy, the body ends up becoming more effective at using carbohydrates for fuel. What’s more, cutting out fat also reduces the activity and effectiveness of fat-burning hormones known as Adipokines. One such hormone is known as Adiponectin, which boosts the metabolism of fats in the body. This basically means that it turns the body into a fat burning machine, as you will burn stored body fat as a primary source of energy.

Healthy fats replace carbohydrate intakes – Complex carbohydrates are important macronutrients, but if we consume too many carbs, either simple or complex, we will find it harder to burn fat, and easier to store it. When we consume carbohydrates, insulin is secreted by the pancreas to regulate blood glucose levels, and to shuttle nutrients into your cells for energy. If you follow a higher healthy fat diet, your carbohydrate intakes will be lower because you need an equal macronutrient ratio. Less carbohydrates will mean less insulin being secreted. By reducing insulin secretion however, your body can access stored body fat for energy more effectively, meaning that it will use more fat for fuel, as opposed to glucose from carbohydrates.

Here are some examples of healthy fat foods to include in your diet: avocados, nuts (e.g. walnuts, almonds), olives, wild-caught salmon (not farm-raised), flaxseeds, whole eggs (yes, eat the yolk!), chia seeds, coconut and organic virgin coconut oil (cold pressed, unrefined).

Healthy fats increase satiety levels – Finally, the last reason we should try to eat more good fats if we wish to achieve healthy weight loss, is because fats can increase your satiety levels. This means that you will feel full for longer, so you’ll want to eat less. Per gram of fat, you receive 9 calories of energy, as opposed to 4, which would come from proteins and carbohydrates. Satiating fats, however, will provide more energy and keep you feeling full for longer, so you will be less likely to overeat.

 

Vegetable Soup As An Appetizer – An Easy Way to Eat Fewer Calories and Get Your Veggies In!

Vegetable Soup.

If you are like most people in the US, you aren’t getting enough fruits and vegetables in your diet. The recommended daily serving is at least five! With the hustle and bustle of busy lives and access to so much fast food and convenience foods, it’s no wonder people aren’t eating enough of them. But that’s no excuse. You should still make a conscious decision to do what you can to ensure that you’re eating more fruits and vegetables.

Another reason so many people don’t eat more vegetables is because they don’t like eating them plain. Whether it’s the texture or the taste, plain vegetables just aren’t an option for some so instead they skip them altogether. That’s the great thing about vegetable soup, though – it makes eating vegetables easier because they’re combined with a broth and plenty of seasonings.

Not only is starting your meal with vegetable soup a good way to eat more vegetables, it also prevents you from over indulging on higher calorie foods when the main meal is served because the liquid (broth) and fiber-rich vegetables make you feel full quicker. Research has even shown that those who start a meal by eating soup first, actually consume 20% less calories than those who don’t!

Below is a quick and easy, very basic vegetable soup that is packed full of flavor and only takes about 30 minutes to cook.

Easy Vegetable Soup Recipe

1 cup whole kernel corn
14 ounces veggie broth or chicken broth
14.5 ounces diced tomatoes
1 cup green beans
11.5 ounces tomato vegetable juice
1 cup water
1 diced potato
2 diced celery stalks
2 sliced carrots
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

In a large pot, add all ingredients and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

The great thing about vegetable soup is you can add as many or as few vegetables as you like. Of course if the idea is to eat more vegetables, then you’ll obviously want to go with adding more instead of less.

If you want an easy way to not only add more vegetables to your diet, but to also help prevent overindulging on higher calorie foods, try starting your meal off with a bowl of hearty vegetable soup. You might just find you come to enjoy the added dose of goodness!