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A lot of people follow a strict low carb diet, or at least try to curb the amount of carbs they eat and when they eat them. This is because doing so has a variety of proven health benefits. In this type of diet, carbs are replaced with protein. At the same time, it is very important to not cut carbs out of your diet completely. Failed diets such as the Atkins Diet (Dr. Atkins ended up in hospital with a heart attack because he followed his own advice), have proven that we need at least some carbs in our lives in order to feel full. However, restricting them has many benefits that cannot be denied either.
Benefits of Low Carb Diets
One of the main benefits of swapping most of your carbs for protein instead is that you will eat less.
“If you ate 200 calories worth of protein, carbohydrate or fat, you would feel most satisfied after eating the protein. Therefore, if your diet is protein based, you will eat less – much less.”
The result of this is that low carb dieters don’t need to calorie count, as it would be impossible for them to eat too many calories. Additionally, by cutting out carbs, you also cut out sugars and starches, thereby also maintaining regular levels of insulin. In other words: no more energy spikes and crashes, and no more sugar cravings either.
What Are the Best Low Carb Foods?
If you do want to change to a low carb diet, you will first need to know which foods you should include. If you don’t research this before you start, you will find yourself spending countless hours in the grocery store, studying every label and Googling every possible food to see its carb contents.
Any healthy diet should consist of at least five separate portions of fruits and vegetables per day. So what are some of the best low carb vegetables?
“Most vegetables are encouraged on low-carb diets.”
Some of the best vegetables include zucchini, cauliflower, Swiss chard, mushrooms, celery, cherry tomatoes and spaghetti squash. Vegetables to avoid include carrots, peas, beets, water chestnut, most squashes, potatoes, parsnips, corn, sweet potatoes and plantains.
Fruits are equally important, but they are slightly harder to understand when it comes to low carb diets.
“Fruit is an area where some of the popular low-carb diets differ, as some depend more upon glycemic index or glycemic load (South Beach, Zone), while others just look at total carbs (Atkins, Protein Power). Also, some diets (Atkins, South Beach) don’t allow fruit at all in the first phase.”
Fruits that are widely accepted as being low carb include apricots, avocado, strawberries and red grapefruit. Avoid bananas, mangos, figs, grapes, cherries, tangerines, pomegranates and dried fruits.
In a low carb diet, people tend to replace their carbs with protein. For vegetarians, this generally means eating a lot of eggs and they and vegans will also increase their protein-rich vegetables. However, non-vegetarians are more likely to turn to meats and fish. Some of the best low carb options include catfish, canned pink salmon, chicken drumsticks, ground turkey, pork tenderloin, top sirloin steak, roast beef and bison.
There are many other things to think about, including dairy products, plant proteins, snacks and drinks. If you truly want to go low carb, you will have to spend some time doing your research. It is also very important that you maintain a nutritious diet. Many products that are high in carbs also have various other nutritional elements that you must replace in your regular diet. Any lifestyle change must be carefully considered and researched.
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Belly fat is one of the hardest fats to remove from the body. Unfortunately, it is also the area most of us, regardless of age or gender, want to target the most. Most of us would immediately turn to cardio exercises in order to get rid of the belly fat. After all, cardio speeds up the metabolism and thereby reduces fat, right? Although there is a lot of truth to this, if you really want to get rid of that stubborn belly fat, you should focus more strongly on lifting weights (while always incorporating some cardio into your routine, of course).
Why Is Weight Training Best for Getting Rid of Belly Fat?
If you have ever set foot in a gym, or if you have ever looked up a diet online, the golden rule seems to be to eat less and get your heart rate up in order to lose weight. Of course, we should all make sure that we stick to a healthy diet and do not consume more calories than we burn. However, the majority of calories are actually burned through simple living. Working out doesn’t benefit all that much, despite what experts would like you to believe. So how come weights work better?
“The fact is that weight training is actually going to burn more calories than cardio. Cardio burns energy only when you’re doing it. After the session is over, your metabolic rate slows to normal and that’s it.”
Naturally, it also helps that, when you lose that fat, there will be a nice six pack waiting underneath it, rather than just saggy skin. Yet, there is more to it as well. One of the reasons for this is that weight training will cause tiny tears in your muscles. While this sounds horrific, it is actually not that bad. The tears in the muscle are painful, but it is a natural function known as DOMS – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. During this time, our body simply starts to do what it does back: regenerate tissue. What matters, however, is that regenerating this tissue requires energy. Energy equals calories. Hence, by working out with weights, you will continue to burn calories for several days afterwards. Pretty nifty right?
Also, this hasn’t been determined by some sort of pseudo-science either. Rather, it has been confirmed by the American Obesity Society.
“A significant inverse dose-response relationship between weight training and waist circumference change. This benefit was significantly stronger for weight training than for MVAA. Substituting 20 min/day of weight training for any other discretionary activity had the strongest inverse association with waist circumference change.”
Does this mean you should completely ditch the cardio? Of course not! Cardio has many benefits to our overall health and fitness. It does set our metabolic rate going (which is one of the reasons why you should do it in the morning, by the way), and it helps our heart muscles to strengthen. Cardio also has various other fantastic benefits.
“Performing cardiovascular exercise also changes the hormonal profile in your body considerably. It releases ‘feel good’ hormones that will help ease symptoms of depression and fatigue as well as releasing hormones that decrease the appetite.”
However, if your goal is to burn belly fat in particular, what you should actually be working on is building your muscle. Naturally, focusing on your core muscles is really important, as these are the muscles that will become visible once the fat is gone. Any muscle building and weight training exercise will help you simply because it will force your body to burn more calories, thereby getting rid of the fat.
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It is absolutely vital that your body is properly aligned before you work out. If you don’t have your body in place properly, any misalignment will be reinforced again and again, eventually causing real problems for your posture. Indeed, you will notice differences in your rotation and the strength of your pelvis. However, getting the proper alignment may seem a little bit complicated. By doing the following three exercises, however, you will ensure your body is fully aligned, which also means you will be able to get the most out of your workout.
1. The Standing Elbow Curl
For this exercise, you stand with your back against the wall, arms by your side. Make two fists, while leaving your thumbs sticking straight out. Raise your hands to your head, so that your knuckles and temples touch. Your thumbs should now face the floor. Bring your elbows together in front of you, then push them away until they touch the wall. Do this 25 times. The standing elbow curl has a number of fantastic physical benefits.
“Purpose – Bring a greater range of motion to the whole shoulder area. Benefits – Reduce tension in the neck, shoulders and upper back. Helps to encourage the shoulders to sit down in their more relaxed, natural position. Helps to encourage greater extension in the upper back.”
Basically, this exercise works the rotator cuff, the deltoid muscles and the rhomboid. In doing so, your shoulders are shown once again that they are actually hinges. Any shoulder disparity should also be resolved this way.
2. The Crocodile
For this movement, you need to be flat on your back, arms by your side palms down. Align your ankles, knees, hips and shoulders. Lift your right foot and place it on your left foot’s toes while both feet are flexed. Rest your Achilles heel between the second toe and big toe of your left foot. Now rotate onto your left hip and turn your head to the right. Actively tighten the muscles of your butt and thighs. Hold this for one minute, then return to supine position and start again on the other side. In doing so, all your spine’s posture muscles will be wrung out, which means they are released and contracted equally on either side of your body. This helps to prevent back problems in particular. Do not, however, confuse it with the yoga crocodile post, which is also a good exercise but more in relation to relaxing after a workout.
3. The Hip Lift
Here, you lie down on your back and bend your knees so that your feet are on the floor. Cross the ankle of your right leg over the knee on your left, placing the bone of your ankle just above the knee.
This exercise literally wrings out the posture muscles of the spine and hips, making them contract and release equally on both sides. Now lift the left foot up, leaving your lower leg parallel to the floor, bending your knee at a 90 degree angle. This is known as the table top and it can be done with either one leg or two.
“The knees are bent so that the thighs are perpendicular to the floor and the shins are parallel to the floor.”
Once in table top with your lower leg, pull your left leg in and push your right leg out. Relax your shoulders and place your arms, palms up, to your side. Hold for one minute then repeat on the other side. It is likely that you will notice one side is stronger than the other, which demonstrates you weren’t properly aligned before. Completing this exercise regularly will align your hips.
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More and more bodybuilders are becoming interested in the stage system. This system is one whereby the first exercise you complete is the heaviest one, with the second one being lighter. It has been demonstrated that lifting heavier weights means more muscle tissues are being used, and it also makes the fibers of the muscles more sensitive to calcium. This, in turn, should lead to post-activation potentiation (PAP).
What Is PAP?
PAP is a known tool in bodybuilding, but it has always focused on power production, being used mainly in jumps and other power training options. It is also incredibly beneficial for load performance instead.
Historically, all the attention with respect to PAP has been devoted to how it can impact subsequent power production. In other words, a heavy set of squats may help you get a bit higher on subsequent vertical jump attempts. Indeed, it is vital in both strength and power.
“Strength is the ability of the muscle to exert force or torque at a specified or determined velocity, while power is defined as work per unit of time (force times distance divided by time) or as force times velocity (distance x time).”
How to Use the Stage System
What you must remember is that the stage system is heavy on your body, so you should only use it for one of your training exercises, and it should be the first one. This is because that is the only moment at which you are not yet suffering from fatigue. It is also best to do it with exercises, such as deadlifts, squats, rows, presses or chin-ups, rather than exercises that target a single muscle group. You do also have to make sure that you don’t go over your own limits. There is such a thing as too heavy as well.
You also need to make sure that you keep fatigue at bay. This is why you have to get your weights right and why you have to rest sufficiently before you move on to stage two. The drop between stage 1 and stage 2 must also be carefully calculated depending on your personal goals and abilities. The more experience you have with bodybuilding, the less weight you will need to take off. Around 3% per rep is generally a good idea.
If you would prefer to improve your overall power rather than you strength, the stage system may not be for you. Instead, you should be doing complex training, which is where you do also lighten your load, but not until you do a different type of exercise. For instance, you would do heavy weights on the squat, and lower your weight for a jump squat.
One aspect of training where the stage system works really well is the deadlift.
“The deadlift is awesome – perhaps the purest measure of strength: either you can pick the weight off of the ground, or you can’t.”
If you do a deadlift at the start of your workout, you will be more likely to be able to lift a heavy weight. If, on the other hand, you do it at the end of the workout, you will be fatigued and you will end up lifting a lighter weight. Hence, doing it at the start instead allows you to pull far more weight, which will get your muscles going for more. Either start to lower the weight on the same deadlift exercise, or swap to a different type of exercise and lower the weight there. Either way, you will be sure to see fantastic results in a much quicker time.
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