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There have been a number of carb trends lately, from diets that cut way back on them (such as paleo, pegan, and keto) to carb cycling (a strategy that alternates lower-carb and higher-carb days). Now there’s carb back-loading, which—in a nutshell—entails eating most of your carbs at night.
The theory behind carb back-loading is based on the relationship between carbs and hormones like insulin and cortisol, which play a role in how likely you are to burn carbs or store them—either as glycogen (the carb “piggy banks” in your muscles) or as fat. Carb back-loading proponents believe that shifting the bulk of your carb intake, as well as your workout, to the evening optimizes hormones, and prevents carbs from being shuttled into fat cells.
All of this means that during the day you’re limiting your carb intake to a very strict 30 grams, tops. The strategy is said to help reduce fat and build muscle, while you enjoy carby faves like pasta, bread, and sweets at night, after you’ve finished your workout.
But before you get too excited about ordering pad Thai for dinner, hold up. Here’s a closer look at carb back-loading, which isn’t as straightforward as it seems—and some bottom line advice about the best ways to eat carbs to manage your weight and maintain optimal health.
The evidence for carb back-loading isn’t all that promising
Without going into too much detail, the research is limited. Some studies cited to support the theory are either very small (with, say, 10 participants), or don’t follow the exact carb back-loading protocol. Other research relies on methods that aren’t ideal, such as having participants report what they eat, or measuring body fat with techniques that aren’t considered to be as accurate. And some studies were conducted with obese adults, who generally have different metabolic profiles and hormonal levels than active, normal weight people.
Carb back-loading is largely used by body builders
These people are engaged in intense workouts to build muscle mass and look extremely lean. If your objectives are to feel well, both physically and mentally; have a balanced relationship with food and your body; and optimize your nutrition, carb back-loading probably isn’t for you. I also believe the eating strategy is risky if you have a history of disordered eating or binge eating.
The nighttime carb party does have limits
Fans of carb back-loading say it’s okay to enjoy fries, shakes, and desserts after workouts, and not worry about being gluttonous. But proponents also recommend that you aim for about one gram of carb per pound of body weight. So if you’re a 130-pound woman, you can’t exactly enjoy an unlimited carb buffet. Case in point: one veggie burrito from Chipotle provides 123 carb grams.
When it comes to carbs and weight loss, extremes aren’t necessary
It’s simply not true that every gram of carb you eat will automatically feed your fat cells if you don’t limit your carbs to nighttime, after you’ve worked out. You can lose weight or prevent weight gain, and increase muscle mass by choosing quality carbs (think black beans, quinoa, oats, fruit and veggies) in appropriate portions.
Numerous studies back this up, and I see it over and over again in my practice. I’ve helped many professional athletes and others simultaneously reduce body fat and build muscle without using carb back-loading.
The truth is, many people overeat carbs, which creates a surplus of unneeded energy that either maintains body fat, or causes weight gain. And poor quality carbs, namely refined starch and sugar (think bagels and brownies), are even more likely to wreak havoc on your waistline.
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Simply upgrading the quality of your carbs (by eating more whole foods and fewer processed and refined foods) and eliminating your carb excess is enough to help you slim down. At the same time you’ll be supporting your energy, mood, digestive health, immunity, athletic performance, and overall nutrient intake.
Final thoughts: If you sit at a desk all day and work out in the evening, and you want to experiment with shifting your carb intake to later in the day, give that a try. But strive to create an approach that’s balanced, sustainable, and practical for your body’s needs. In my experience, this type of pattern yields the best results, both for your waistline and your overall wellness.
Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets.
If you’ve ever taken a personality test, chances are it was the one developed by psychologists William Moulton Marston and Walter Clarke. Their DiSC program is the gold standard in personality assessment, grouping people by four main categories: Dominant, Influential, Steady, or Conscientious.
It turns out those categories describe my own clients beautifully. In fact, in my many years of practice, I’ve identified these four types of weight loss clients:
- The Leader, the take-charge client who hates being told what to do but goes all-in when something clicks.
- The Socializer, who rah-rahs every weight loss idea I throw at her but has just a teeny bit of trouble staying on track because, well, you only live once!
- The Supporter, the busy, pragmatic soccer mom who hates the idea of anything “trendy” and who says she’s running around all the time anyway and doesn’t that count?
- The Planner, the disciplined thinker, who loves to discuss the benefits of metabolic conditioning but would rather walk 10 miles than take a Zumba class.
Over the years, I’ve gotten to know each of these types intimately. I know that a Leader would never end up at the same workout as a Supporter (unless she’s leading it!) and that a Socializer will eat very differently than a Planner. Each encounter has helped me understand that nobody loses weight the same way, and that everybody needs a customized food and fitness plan that speaks directly to their personalities.
Uncovering your Right Fit ID
Yes, I know: Nobody falls neatly into the above categories. Oprah, for instance, has definitely got some Leader mixed in with her Socializer personality. And quintessential Planner accountants can be great at parties.
But chances are you definitely lean in one direction. That direction will determine your Right Fit ID, the food and fitness plan that makes sense to you.
So here’s a quick pop quiz to help you narrow it down. Don’t worry about whether more than one answer fits or doesn’t fit; just pick what sounds most like you. Have fun with it!
When you go to a new restaurant, you like to:
a) Order the chef’s special
b) Get input from tablemates so you can share
c) Look for something familiar
d) See what looks like the best value
If you could afford to, you would:
a) Hire a private chef
b) Rent out a trendy restaurant for your birthday party
c) Hire someone to make and pack your kids’ lunches
d) Hire the world’s top nutritionist to tell you what to eat
At dinnertime, you’ll often find yourself:
a) At a business meeting
b) Out with friends
c) With family
d) At your desk
If you don’t have the time to cook, you usually:
a) Go to a drive-thru
b) Call a friend and go out
c) Find something you froze last week
d) Drink a protein shake
When you open your refrigerator, you see:
a) Whatever the housekeeper put in there
b) Lots of wine and snacks
d) Nine containers of yogurt (they were on sale)
The workout routine that makes the most sense to you might be:
b) Zumba classes
c) Walking the dog
The last time you blew off your workout, you were probably:
a) On a plane
b) Slightly hung over
c) Dealing with a to-do list
d) On a deadline
You would rather eat nails than:
a) Join a boot camp
b) Swim laps
c) Take a trapeze class
d) Play pick-up basketball
On the other hand, you might not mind:
a) Having your own gym
b) Trying beach volleyball
c) A next-door yoga studio
d) Taking up martial arts
Your best reason for getting fit is to:
a) Avoid a heart attack
b) Look great
d) Maintain optimal health
If you picked mostly As:
Your Right Fit ID is Leader. You want immediate results, and you don’t want to fool around with too much prepping, shopping, or calorie counting. If you could, you’d hire a chef and trainer and build a gym just so you could get fitness over with as quickly as possible.
For you, a food and fitness plan might include:
Simple, easy food plans ; flexible, portable meals (the drive-thru is the Leader’s Waterloo!); one-on-one competitive sports, like running and racquetball; adrenaline-rush workouts, like sprinting or singles tennis
And it would definitely not include:
Complicated recipes and kitchen prep; lengthy discussions about fitness details; boot camp trainers who get in your face; group classes
Great diet matches for you include:
Mediterranean, Paleo, Biggest Loser Diet, or the Flexitarian Diet, all of which offer plenty of options and simple plates
If you picked mostly Bs:
Your Right Fit ID is Socializer. You want to work out in social settings and talk, talk, talk about diet, food, and what’s working and what isn’t. If it were up to you, every meal would be celebrated on Instagram and every workout would end with a wine-and-cheese mixer.
For you, a food and fitness plan might include:
Some type of group support to share eating plans and results; fun workouts, such as dance or social team sports, such as volleyball or softball; a cooking club or recipe swap
And it would definitely not include:
Solo sporting ventures, like lap swimming or track; YouTube workouts (unless you’re the one filming them!); detailed calorie counting and food weighing
Great diet matches for you include:
Weight Watchers, The Wild Diet, The Spark Solution Diet, or Jenny Craig, all of which offer plenty of support, interaction, and community
Ready to ditch added sugar? Sign up for our 14-Day Sugar Detox Challenge!
If you picked mostly Cs:
Your Right Fit ID is Supporter. You’re all about family time and obligations, and you probably feel guilty even for scheduling workout time! You’ll have to be convinced that fitness is worth your time and effort.
So for you, a food and fitness plan might include:
- Accountability. No wacka-doodie workouts. You want something with a proven track record.
- Convenience. Drive across town to break a sweat? Please. You have a life!
- Familiarity. You don’t care about that skinny celeb in People magazine. You want to know how your hairdresser got back into her high-school jeans.
- Numbers. You want equipment that tracks your progress and calories. When you hit 30 minutes or 300 calories, ding! You’re outta there!
- A firm schedule. If it can’t happen at the same time every day, it’s probably not going to happen.
And it would definitely not include:
Anything trendy or kooky-sounding; foods and supplements that come only from certain stores or websites; workouts that require special equipment or too much time
Great diet matches for you include:
Mayo Clinic, Volumetrics, Nutrisystem, and the Zone diet, all of which are all moderate and measured
If you picked mostly Ds:
Your Right Fit ID is Planner. You’re a label reader, a calorie counter, a data cruncher. You know—or you plan to know—what glucose does to blood sugar and how gluten is processed in the colon.
For your logical, analytical personality, the right food and fitness plan would include:
Anything with well-researched and proven methodologies (If there’s science behind it, you won’t mind combining certain foods or cooking in precise methods.); equipment that provides benchmarks and feedback; journaling to track your progress; slow-paced workouts—martial arts, lap swimming, pilates—that include skill-builiding and precision
And it would definitely not include:
Trendy diets or workout groups; Zumba classes, dance, aerobics, and other “just have fun” workouts; fast-paced trainers who push for action
Great diet matches for you include:
The Dash Diet, The Whole 30, TLC, and The Macrobiotic Diet, all of which include plenty of logic, science, and realistic approaches to weight loss
For a food plan, workouts, meditations, and energy boosters tailored to each personality type, pick up a copy of The Right Fit Formula.
Excerpted from The Right Fit Formula. Copyright © 2018 by Christine Lusita. Published by Skyhorse Publishing.
“It’s FINE if you have some jiggle when you wiggle,” she wrote, and we couldn’t agree more.
Caleh Cristler, a California-based influencer, has built up a big following by posting photos of her post-baby belly and being refreshingly candid about how her body has changed since having three kids.
But her recent Instagram video of the loose skin on her stomach had a more specific message. Cristler hoped the visual of her moving around her loose belly skin will remind followers about the reality of how birth affects a woman’s body, and also make the point that women should never compare their post-pregnancy shape to someone else’s.
“Ladies, I originally lost over 75 lbs after my first two babies, then I got my pregnant with my third (2nd caesarean), gained 50 lbs back, and I’ve lost it all again,” she wrote in the caption. “My point? You lose a collective total of around 125 lbs, you’re gonna be left with some excess skin.”
Cristler reminded people to never compare their appearance to hers. “I’ve also got stretch marks because genetics and I’ve also got abs because I workout and eat well,” she said. She later added, “It’s FINE if you have some jiggle when you wiggle. It’s FINE if you choose to have it removed. It’s FINE if you decide to do whatever because it’s YOUR body. What’s NOT fine is letting fear hold you hostage from anything in your life.”
Since posting her belly jiggle photo, Cristler has seen an overwhelming response from followers, and people are thanking her for her transparency. “It’s been really encouraging to see so many women respond positively and share their own experiences,” she tells Health.
Loose skin is a common concern among women after giving birth, and many choose to go under the knife to remove it. Lately, however, influencers are taking to social media to share why they have no plans to do this—it’s a personal decision and should be judgement-free.
Here’s what she told us about weight loss and happiness.
Last month, Carli Jay shared two different photos of herself at the beach. The photo on the right shows Jay after she lost half of her body weight. She started at 280 pounds in February 2014. Four years later, she now weighs in at 140—but makes a point to say she’s still the same person inside.
“[I’ve] always been happy – now just living healthier, fitter and stronger in more ways than one – at half the size!” the Australian fitness influencer wrote, “and the best bit this is not over yet – [it’s] a lifestyle with a never ending finishing line of where I [wanna] go with it! Be the best you, you can possibly be, in your [lifetime]!”
She also makes it clear that in her opinion, every body is a bikini body, no matter the size.
“My biggest piece of advice is that bikini season is for everyone!” she tells Health. “You need to own it no matter what size or shape you are. I rocked a bikini at 280 pounds on the beach because this girl wanted a tan—and no one was going to stop me!”
Jay’s Instagram page shows gym selfies, workout videos, beach photos, and side-by-side transformation posts. She puts it all out there to motivate people to achieve their wellness goals in a healthy, positive way.
“If there are things that you are insecure about or want to change or improve about your body, do it for the right reasons,” she says. “Do it for your health, not because you are hating on yourself!”
Jay often posts about her gimmick-free weight loss success, and how she launched her journey by adjusting her eating habits and heading to the gym. She also offers nutrition and fitness tips on her YouTube channel, Miss Carli Jay Healthy Living.
The Fixer Upper star is gaining strength and losing weight with help from his little ones.
Training for a marathon has given Chip Gaines some serious, well, gains. The Fixer Upper star is just one month away from completing his first-ever marathon, the Silo District Marathon in Waco, Texas. And he’s sharing his new fitness goal (and weight loss!) on Instagram.
In a photo posted to the Gaines family’s @magnolia account, a beaming, fist-pumping Chip is racing along a trail. Just last month, the 43-year-old father of four (and soon-to-be five!) talked to Runner’s World about how running has changed him physically and mentally.
“I’m down around 10 pounds!” he said in the interview. “And the fact that I’m not sucking wind at mile 1 is probably a pretty good sign, too.”
Gaines explained that he’s sacrificed some sleep during his grueling training schedule, but his family has been the ultimate support system. In one adorable post he shared in January, Chip showed his followers the pre-run snacks and motivational notes his little ones prepared for him.
“It’s about making a commitment and sticking to it no matter what,” he wrote. “And trust me, that ‘no matter what’ part is a real kick in the pants…especially at five o’clock in the morning. But my family is so supportive of this whole thing—my kids are excited for me when I leave on a long run, and they can’t wait to ask me how it went when I get back. If anything, they’re helping me hold myself accountable.”
And while his newfound love of running is changing his looks, the TV star’s natural confidence has remained solid. Last May, he talked about his pre-weight loss “dad bod” in the summer issue of The Magnolia Journal.
“At any given moment, there’s a little voice in my head . . . that’s constantly telling me, ‘Way to go, Chip, that was so funny!’ and ‘Hey, Chip, you look good in that size medium T-shirt!’ A few times [it] has even told me my dad bod is ‘rockin.’”
This article originally appeared on CookingLight.com.
The DASH diet often flies under the radar, especially when compared to buzzy diets such as the Keto diet, but it’s one of the most widely-respected diets out there. U.S. News & World Report has named it the “Best Diet Overall” for eight consecutive years in its annual diet rankings, and it’s recommended by the American Heart Association, who used it to develop their 2010 Dietary Guidelines.
With virtually no food groups as off-limits, DASH offers much more flexibility than other popular diet plans. It can also aid in weight loss and weight maintenance, given its emphasis on overall health. With all its praiseworthy qualities, you’d think everyone would be following a DASH diet plan. But here’s the surprising truth—less than 2 percent of the population actually follows the DASH diet.
How could this be? Let’s take a closer look at the DASH diet to find out for ourselves.
What Is the DASH Diet?
DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.” The diet was developed out of a study by the National Institutes of Health after researchers noticed that vegetarians tended to have lower rates of high blood pressure. Understanding that sodium intake affected blood pressure, researchers also believed that these levels may also be impacted by other nutrients in plant-based diets.
Enter the DASH diet. When individuals followed this eating plan, researchers saw dramatic reductions in blood pressure levels. Today, the eating plan is recommended for preventing and treating hypertension and heart disease—and it has been linked to decreased bone deterioration, improved insulin sensitivity, and possible risk reduction for some cancers.How to Follow a DASH Diet Plan:
The DASH diet plan focus on increasing vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes; choosing lean meats, low-fat dairy, nuts and healthy fats; and limiting added sugars, trans fats, added salt, and processed foods. Serving sizes from each food group are based on individual calorie needs (see below for a 1600-calorie plan), and you’ll likely find that the plan looks pretty close to the MyPlate plan, as well as another consistently rated “top diet,” the Mediterranean Diet. Here’s a breakdown of the recommended nutrients in a typical day and week on the DASH diet:
Nutrients Per Day:
- Grains: 6 servings
- Vegetables: 3-4 servings
- Fruits: 4 servings
- Low-Fat or Fat-Free Dairy: 2-3 servings
- Lean Meat, Poultry, or Fish: 4 ounces or less
- Fat/oils: 2 servings
- Sodium: 2300 mg or less
Nutrients Per Week:
- Nuts, seeds, and legumes: 3-4 times per week
- Sweets and added sugars: 3 servings or less
The secret to DASH’s success is its emphasis on increasing vegetables, fruits, and whole foods that are naturally low in sodium and high in potassium. While most know that reducing sodium is essential, many don’t realize that getting adequate potassium intake is just as key for regulating blood pressure.
When foods are processed, their potassium levels actually decrease. So, choosing whole or minimally processed foods can improve blood pressure regulation from both a sodium and a potassium perspective. In addition, you’ll usually decrease your intake of saturated fat, added sugars, and overall calories—all of which can help you lose weight, and keep it off for good.
So—Why Does DASH Have So Few Followers?
DASH’s lack of followers seems to come down to misconceptions that people have about it. Here are some common perceptions about the DASH diet, including what is—and what isn’t—true.
Misconception #1: The DASH Diet is Only for People With High Blood Pressure.
The DASH diet was created when researchers were looking for ways to effectively reduce hypertension, but this was over 20 years ago! Though it’s still often marketed as a treatment for high blood pressure, the DASH eating plan is really an ideal way to eat for overall health, weight maintenance, and chronic disease prevention. In fact, studies suggest that DASH lowers risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, and some cancers.
Also, people with high blood pressure aren’t the only ones who need to worry about sodium intake. Data suggests that 90 percent of Americans exceed sodium’s max limit (3500mg) daily. Regularly going over this amount takes a toll on your body—even healthy bodies—over time.
Misconception #2: “Low-Sodium” and “No-Salt” are the DASH Diet’s Sole Focus.
Sodium reduction is part of the DASH equation, but it’s not the only focus. Eating by DASH recommendations also increases your intake of potassium, calcium, magnesium and fiber—all nutrients that play a role in cardiovascular health, as well as the prevention of other chronic diseases. It’s thought to be the combination of increasing your intake of these nutrients and decreasing your intake of added sugar, salt, sodium and unhealthy fats that leads to lower blood pressure and a laundry list of other long-term health benefits.
Also, reducing sodium doesn’t restrict you to boring, bland food, nor does it mean you have to toss out the salt shaker. Yes, reducing the amount of salt you use and choosing lower-sodium products are key, but opting for fresh foods or whole foods instead of boxed, canned, and ready-to-heat items makes a big enough impact. Experiment with spices and herbs, and use a little salt to enhance flavor. Salt should never be the sole flavoring or seasoning in any in dish.
Misconception #3: The DASH Diet is Unapproachable.
Many equate healthy eating, particularly lower-sodium eating such as DASH, with the idea that all meals have to be cooked from scratch. This is overwhelming for many (myself included), but there are plenty of tricks and tips to help you. First, understand that “whole foods” doesn’t exclusively mean fresh produce. Take advantage of time-saving, minimally processed foods like unseasoned frozen vegetables and no-salt-added canned veggies.
Two additional shortcuts that can easily be worked into a DASH diet plan are meal prepping and batch cooking—both of which are important for quick, healthy eating. Meal prepping doesn’t have to mean cooking a full meal, either. It’s just preparing components that can be used to toss together a quick meal—like baking chicken breasts, roasting vegetables, and cooking a whole grain like quinoa. You can also minimize time spent in the kitchen by buying weekly salad greens, bags of pre-cut veggies, and prepping produce at the start of the week.
Misconception #4: DASH is a “Diet” That You Follow Intermittently.
Perhaps the biggest thing that holds people back from following DASH is approaching it with an “all-or-nothing” attitude. However, DASH does not fall under the common “diet” approach of following an eating plan for a few weeks and then returning to your old way of eating. After all, no one’s diet is perfect. Like the Mediterranean Diet, the DASH diet is best viewed as a healthy way of living and eating. Making small, gradual changes in your food choices—and food quality—can help you form healthier habits for life.
It’s a mystery many successful dieters encounter: Why do they feel lighter and fit better into their clothes when the scale tells them that they’ve actually gained weight instead of dropped pounds, as they expected?
Five women who experienced this phenomenon took to social media to share their thoughts and side-by-side images. If you’re trying to shed pounds, listen to their advice to never track your progress solely by what the scale says.
“3 years, 6 kilos and a new bikini,” @yolaforthewin wrote under her before and after posts, showing her 6-kilogram (13-pound) weight gain. “Weight is just a number … and that’s about it.”
“I’m 25 pounds heavier, fitter, and wear a size 6 versus a 14 (for those that care),” said @bananas.gets.fit of her photos. “The purpose of this post is to show you what the scale says does not matter, take your measurements, take progress photos and stay consistent.”
“I am 15 lbs heavier than I was at my lowest weight last year in November,” @kaylegetsfit shared in her transformation post. “When you are on a healthy eating plan and working out regularly (for me it’s 6 days a week) AND LIFTING your body composition changes dramatically. Throw your scales away people!”
“I am 10 pounds heavier, in the right picture, than I am in the left,” @schlutowk captioned this before-and-after photo. “The scale is meaningless, folks. Your weight doesn’t matter.”
“Scales are stupid,” Natalie Bunting said, revealing that she had gained close to one pound since starting her fitness regimen. “And I’m willing to post a bikini photo in order to prove it.”