Great Post-Exercise Snacks

Almonds
After a hard workout, you’ve probably used up all or a lot of your body’s stored carbohydrates. To replenish them quickly, so that your body can recover in time for your next workout, it’s important to enjoy a recovery snack within 30 minutes of your workout. Your ideal recovery snack should contain 1/2 gram of carbohydrates per pound of your body weight, and at least 10 grams of protein.

A few great recovery snacks:

The 80/20 Rule

80/20 RuleI’m such a huge fan of this rule in my life and those that I Coach and train to get themselves healthy – The 80/20 rule! This approach is an excellent way to go about your program and will not only help you see optimal success, but in most cases, will also help to ensure that you stay healthy as you go along as well.

Your ears perk up? Sounds like something you can do? But what is it really? Super easy and something YOU can be successful with, let’s just break it down.

The 80/20 Rule

What the 80/20 rule essentially states is that in order to see best success, you should be maintaining your program and nutrition plan 80% of the time, while the other 20% of the time, you can relax on your current regime (sort of).

When most people start up on a fat loss diet plan, one of the first things they always want to know is, ‘can I eat X food’?

There’s always something that we naturally crave that we simply do not want to give up.

Many diets won’t allow it however. They expect you to be 100% perfect at all times. But, who is really 100% perfect in the real world? Or, who wants to be 100% perfect, 100% of the time? You’ll drive yourself mad!

Trust me, I’d be doing you a disservice if I led you to believe I was 100% strict and perfect on my diets and workouts, 100% of the time! I certainly have made significant changes, but I’m not perfect either…I’m just human.

But here’s the secret….come closer to your screen and read this >>> Giving yourself that leeway – and knowing that 20% of the time you can actually relax on your regime (again, sort of) without guilt will do amazing things for helping you stick with the program.

When you adopt this rule, then foods do not become ‘never eat’, they become ‘eat later on’ and ‘less of’.

This simple shift in mind frame as you go about your diet is going to make the diet more enjoyable, make you feel more compelled to stick with it, and help to ensure that you maintain a positive relationship with food.

As soon as you start putting food on the ‘never eat’ list, that’s when you run the risk of problems coming about with regards to long-term eating behaviors. Let’s avoid that, as it’s simply about changing your relationship with food and how we look to it for sustainability.

Making This Work For You

So to make the 80/20 rule work for you, designate a time throughout the course of your dieting program where you will indulge in your favorite foods.

Perhaps it’s one cheat meal each week. Notice I said cheat meal, not cheat day. As, if you have goals, you’ve got to continue focused on the 80%, as cheat days, only allow for your body to be put in a tail spin and eventually spiral out of control and revert back to old habits that perhaps got you to your current state. Right?

Think about what will work best for you and then go from there. Perhaps you allow yourself to look forward to enjoying a cheat meal on Saturday evenings. Maybe that’s historically the evening you go out with your spouse, family or entertain with friends. Allow yourself to enjoy that meal and evening without guilt, although keeping your goals in focus.

Remember though, that it will be important that you do keep these cheats under control. You aren’t going to see optimal results if you let yourself go on a full out binge once per week. The calories you consume will simply overtake the calorie deficit that you created in most instances.

Instead, keep it more moderated. And, realize that the more often you’re cheating, the smaller those cheats need to be.

As long as you practice some self-control and stay smart in the approach, there should be no reason why you can’t have some fun with your diet plan 20% of the time and still see amazing results.

What Happens to Our Brains During Exercise (and Why it Makes Us Happier)

What Happens to Our Brains During Exercise (and Why it Makes Us Happier)Most of us are aware of what happens to the body when we exercise. We build more muscle or more stamina. We feel how daily activities like climbing stairs becomes easier if we exercise regularly. When it comes to our brain and mood though, the connection isn’t so clear. Leo Widrich, co-founder of social media sharing app Buffer, set out to uncover the connection between feeling happy and exercising regularly.
What triggers happiness in our brain when we exercise?

“Yes, yes, I know all about it, that’s the thing with the endorphins, that makes you feel good and why we should exercise and stuff, right?” is what I can hear myself say to someone bringing this up. I would pick up things here and there, yet really digging into the connection of exercise and how it effects us has never been something I’ve done. The line around our “endorphins are released” is more something I throw around to sound smart, without really knowing what it means.

Here is what actually happens:

If you start exercising, your brain recognizes this as a moment of stress. As your heart pressure increases, the brain thinks you are either fighting the enemy or fleeing from it. To protect yourself and your brain from stress, you release a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). This BDNF has a protective and also reparative element to your memory neurons and acts as a reset switch. That’s why we often feel so at ease and like things are clear after exercising.

At the same time, endorphins, another chemical to fight stress, are released in your brain. Your endorphins main purpose are this, writes researcher MK McGovern:

“These endorphins tend to minimize the discomfort of exercise, block the feeling of pain, and are even associated with a feeling of euphoria.”

There is a lot going on inside our brain and it is oftentimes a lot more active than when we are just sitting down or actually concentrating mentally:


So, BDNF and endorphins are the reasons exercise makes us feel so good. The somewhat scary part is that they have a very similar and addictive behavior like morphine, heroin, or nicotine. The only difference? Well, it’s actually good for us.

Don’t do more, but focus on when

Now here is where it all gets interesting. We know the basic foundations of why exercising makes us happy and what happens inside our brain cells. The most important part to uncover now is, of how we can trigger this in an optimal and longer lasting way?

A recent study from Penn State shed some light on the matter and the results are more than surprising. They found that to be more productive and happier on a given work day, it doesn’t matter so much, if you work-out regularly, that you haven’t worked out on that particular day:

“Those who had exercised during the preceding month but not on the day of testing generally did better on the memory test than those who had been sedentary, but did not perform nearly as well as those who had worked out that morning.”

New York Times bestselling author Gretchen Reynolds wrote a whole book about the subject matter called The First 20 Minutes. To get the highest level of happiness and benefits for health, the key is not to become a professional athlete. On the contrary, a much smaller amount is needed to reach the level where happiness and productivity in every day life peaks:

“The first 20 minutes of moving around, if someone has been really sedentary, provide most of the health benefits. You get prolonged life, reduced disease risk – all of those things come in in the first 20 minutes of being active.”

So really, you can relax and don’t have to be on the lookout for the next killer work out. All you have to do is get a focused 20 minutes in to get the full happiness boost every day:

“On exercise days, people’s mood significantly improved after exercising. Mood stayed about the same on days they didn’t, with the exception of people’s sense of calm which deteriorated.”(University of Bristol)

Make it a habit

Starting to exercise regularly or even daily is still easier said than done. At end of the day, there is quite a lot of focus required to get into the habit of exercising daily. The most important part to note is that exercise is a keystone habit. This means that daily exercise can pave the way not only for happiness, but also growth in all other areas of your life.

In a recent post from my colleague Joel, he wrote about the power of daily exercise for his every day life. Coincidentally, he follows the above rules very accurately and exercises daily before doing anything else. He writes:

“By 9:30am, I’ve done an hour of coding on the most important task I have right now on Buffer, I’ve been to the gym and had a great session, and I’ve done 30 minutes of emails. It’s only 9:30am and I’ve already succeeded, and I feel fantastic.”

I’ve spoken lots to Joel about his habit of exercising and here are some of the most important things to do in order to set yourself up for success and make your daily exercise fun:

  • Put your gym clothes right over your alarm clock or phone when you go to bed: This technique sounds rather simple, but has been one of the most powerful ones. If you put everything the way you want it for the gym before you go to sleep and put your alarm under your gym clothes, you will have a much easier time to convince yourself to put your gym clothes on.
  • Track your exercises and log them at the same time after every exercise: When you try to exercise regularly, the key is to make it a habit. One way to achieve this is to create a so called “reward”, that will remind you of the good feelings you get from exercising. In our big list of top web apps, we have a full section on fitness apps that might be handy. Try out Fitocracy or RunKeeper to log your work outs. Try to have a very clear logging process in place. Log your work out just before you go into the shower or exactly when you walk out of the gym.
  • Think about starting small and then start even smaller: Here is a little secret. When I first started exercising, I did it with 5 minutes per day, 3 times a week. Can you imagine that? 5 minutes of timed exercise, 3 times a week? That’s nothing you might be thinking. And you are right, because the task is so easy and anyone can succeed with it, you can really start to make a habit out of it. Try no more than 5 or 10 minutes if you are getting started.

The highest level of happiness happens at the beginning

As a quick last fact, exercise, the increase of the BDNF proteins in your brain acts as a mood enhancer. The effects are similar to drug addiction one study found. So when you start exercising, the feeling of euphoria is the highest:

“The release of endorphins has an addictive effect, and more exercise is needed to achieve the same level of euphoria over time.” (McGovern)

So, if you have never exercised before (or not for a long time), your happiness gains will be the highest if you start now.

Spice it up to lose weight

Spice it up to lose weightSpices are a great way to add flavor to recipes and meals without added calories or salt. Some spices have a thermogenic effect, which means eating them boosts metabolism so you actually burn some extra calories eating certain spicy dishes. Try experimenting with these:

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a delicious way to add sweetness to a dish without having to use sugar. It is also a great spice to cook with and can add a lightly spicy taste to savory dishes. Several studies, including one published in the Diabetes Care Journal, have shown that cinnamon can boost weight loss. The weight loss properties of cinnamon stem from the ability to help keep blood sugar levels under control, therefore decreasing the amount of insulin produced after a meal. Higher levels of unnecessary insulin result in the production of excess fat. Cinnamon has also been found to slow down gastric emptying, making you feel full longer.

Cayenne

This piquant spice contains capsaicin, which has long been regarded for its fat burning ability. Cayenne has thermogenic properties that increase calorie burning. It also helps with weight loss simply because the spicier a food is, the less you eat and slower you eat – so you feel full on less food. If you don’t care for spicy pepper, evidence has shown that even sweet peppers have a thermogenic effect, boosting calorie burning in the body. Cayenne also increases fat oxidation, helping you shed unwanted body fat.

Black Pepper

A staple in any cooks’ kitchen, not only jazzes up a recipe, but it helps boost metabolism by as much as 8 percent because of the compound, piperine, found in black pepper. This spice has been shown to aid in digestion and nutrient absorption. To maximize the results, use fresh black pepper instead of ground pepper.

Mustard Seed

Just like the hot spice cayenne – mustard seed also has a thermogenic effect on the body. According to a Canadian study, eating spicy foods such as mustard seed can burn an extra 1,000 calories a day, with one tea spoon potentially boosting your metabolism by 25 percent.

Ginger

Not only is ginger delicious with just about everything, it also has been found to help with weight loss and satiety. According to a study at Columbia University and the New York Obesity Research Center, adding one teaspoon of dried ground ginger to a meal or having a cup of ginger tea with breakfast resulted in 43 more calories burned after eating.