1. You Don’t Sleep Enough and Snack Too Much
As a Rokiskyfitness reader, you know that sleep is one of the most important things when it comes to health and body composition. Put simply, when you sleep less than seven hours in a night, you are increasing your risk for every disease including weight gain. Over the last month I have written a couple blog posts on sleep and its impact on your hunger. In both posts I showed how a lack of sleep can increase your meal frequency (Click Here) and increase the calories consumed from snacks (Click Here). To reduce the risk of this happening, the best time to fall asleep would be between 8-11pm, with more benefits pertaining to weight reduction when falling asleep closer to 8pm.
Adopting a better sleep schedule will help you reduce your overall calorie intake due to decreased meal frequency and snacking. Remember, the easiest way to gain weight is through an increased number of meals and snacks. The majority of snacks don’t fill you up, but are still calorie dense, which means you consume an abundance of calories without even realizing it. Recently, I learned that one of my clients was consuming two to three sodas a day with a Snickers candy bar. On average, a 12oz soda will have 150 calories and a candy bar 200 calories. By drinking three sodas and having one Snickers, you will have consumed 650 calories and 143 grams of sugar! This sugar amount is 105.5 grams over the recommended amount by the American Heart Association. My client is not alone in this behavior. Based off the What We Eat In America (WWEIA) 2007-2008 survey, snacking has doubled in the last 30 years and now accounts for around 586 calories in men and around 421 calories for women. Over those same 30 years, our sleep quality has decreased due to increased light exposure through televisions, phones and laptops. This leads me to believe that there is a link between decreased sleep quality and snacking behaviors.
As you can see, poor snacking habits can add up quickly and be costly to one’s health. Not only are you consuming extra calories, but the majority of those calories are empty and aren’t needed by the body. Generally speaking, your body could survive perfectly fine, if not better, without the snacking. Unfortunately, increasing your sleep will not fix your snacking habit overnight, but it should make it easier to adhere to a healthier snacking habit. You have two options, either go cold turkey or use moderation to reduce your snacking slowly each week. You can control snacking with moderation or with abstinence, you just have to find what works best for you. I prefer the abstinence approach due to my all or nothing mindset, but I am slowly working on my moderation too. I think it is a wise idea to practice the things that you struggle with, but at the same time knowing your limits and not walking on thin ice. Regardless of the style you use, the only way you will be successful is through discipline and the ability to delay gratification. At first it will be challenging, but in a couple weeks to a month’s time it will feel more natural and be easier to adhere to. Give it thirty days and trust me, you will feel better.
2. You Don't Lift Weights 3x A Week And Do Too Much Cardio
In my six years as a personal trainer I have found resistance training to be a key factor in weight loss. Resistance training aka lifting weights or your own body weight increases muscle growth and is the most effective way to lose body fat. Walking on the treadmill or using the elliptical for 45 minutes a day will only get you so far in terms of fat loss. And no, increasing your cardio to an hour or an hour and a half won't do much either. Yes, you are burning calories and it will lead to weight loss if you pair it with a healthy diet. But here's the thing, every time you perform steady state cardio you are going to burn fewer and fewer calories for two reasons.
First, the body is designed to conserve as many calories as possible so that it has energy to survive. It does this through burning fewer calories each time you perform the same exercise over and over again i.e walking on a treadmill or elliptical. In order to bypass this survival trait you must perform exercises that are inefficient to the body. Two of my favorite are sprints and resistance training. The body adapts much slower to these types of exercises due to their complexity and effects on muscle growth. Granted, you will still have to change your exercises, but that can be as simple as increasing the weight or running faster. Put simply, you want to perform exercises that require a higher intensity and variability. This style of training will increase fat loss to a greater extent versus steady state cardio.
Second, consistent resistance training is the only thing that will actually build muscle, whereas steady state cardio won’t. In fact, in some people it might even lead to a loss of muscle mass due to the SAID principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands). In essence, your body should adapt to whatever stimulus it receives. And in the case of steady state cardio, you are telling your body that it doesn’t need muscle mass to survive. It’s common knowledge that the body doesn’t need an abundance of muscle mass to run a long distance, just look at elite distance runners vs sprinters.
The body’s ability to adapt is the reason for the difference of body types. The SAID principal will determine the outcome from your training program. If your goal is to lose body fat then you should adhere to a resistance training principle. Now, I am not saying you need to go to the gym every day, but you should lift at least two to three times a week with a focus on compound movements like: deadlifts, pushups, squats, rows and presses. Keep it simple, and stay consistent.
3. You Don’t Eat Enough Protein
When I first became a trainer I didn’t realize benefits of a high protein diet. But over the years, the research has convinced me that a higher protein diet is the best method for fat loss. By increasing your protein intake you should experience increased muscle growth, carbohydrate storage and hunger suppression. By increasing the amount of muscle on your body your metabolism must increase calorie burning to keep that muscle i.e more muscle requires a faster metabolism. In addition to this increased metabolism, your body is able to store more carbohydrates in the muscle cells after exercise (1). Hence why athletes can consume way more carbohydrates versus the everyday person. Put simply, the more muscle mass you have the more carbohydrates you can eat. In addition to the increased metabolism and carbohydrate storage, protein has been found to decrease hunger due to it’s effect on hormone levels (2).
I find it comical that people in the nutrition industry constantly argue over which diet is best. As a trainer I have found every diet to work, as long as they consume less calories than they expend. Granted, there will be outliers, but the majority of people would lose weight if they consumed less calories than they needed. The easiest way to do this is through increased protein consumption, while reducing calories from carbohydrates and fat. But what is adequate protein consumption? The current research suggests that .72 grams per pound is more than enough to build muscle (3). To figure out yourself, just take .72 and multiply it by your weight. For example, a 175 pound male would consume 126 grams of protein a day. When I tell my clients this, they look at me with a blank stare and ask, “So how much is that in food?”
As health and fitness experts it's important to realize that the majority of people don't count calories and have no clue how much protein is in their food. Therefore, I try to avoid speaking in grams and numbers to most of my clients unless they are counting their calories. Instead, I recommend them using their hand to track protein intake. I learned this trick from my nutrition certification, Precision Nutrition and I have found it to work quite well. For instance, I tell my male clients to consume two palm servings of protein per meal. For females I recommend one palm serving per meal. Nevertheless, it isn't perfect and will require some experimentation. If you find yourself still hungry after one palm serving then increase protein intake by one palm serving at your next meal. On average a person's palm will be around 20 grams of protein i.e a serving of meat, poultry and fish or 3 to 4 eggs. Thus, if you are a 175 pound male like myself then you would need six palm servings of protein per day to maximize muscle growth i.e three meals with two palm servings.