Whether you want to tone up, slim down, or give yourself a mood boost, you’ve likely taken a stab at tweaking your fitness routine.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of “fitness” advice out there that won’t help you meet your goals and could actually be doing you more harm than good.
For example, which matters more for weight loss: exercise or diet?
Are marathons the best way to get fit?
The answers to these questions might surprise you.
In the short-term, the bulk of research shows us that diet is far more important than simply upping your workout regimen if you want to start shedding pounds.
'Studies tend to show that in terms of weight loss, diet plays a much bigger role than exercise,' Philip Stanforth, an exercise scientist at the University of Texas and the executive director of the Fitness Institute of Texas, told us.
Over the long-term, though, research suggests that regular workouts do become more important for staying fit. 'When you look at people who've lost weight and are also managing to keep it off, exercise is important,' said Stanforth.
The afternoons or evenings are likely nearly as good for you as early-morning workouts, according to several studies.
But some research suggests that working out first thing each day helps speed weight loss and boost energy levels by priming the body for an all-day fat burn.
Plus, getting more daylight may play an important role in shedding pounds. By making sure we align our internal clocks, or circadian rhythms, with the natural world, we may help give our metabolisms a boost. One recent study showed that people who basked in bright sunlight within two hours after waking tended to be thinner and better able to manage their weight than people who didn't get any natural light, regardless of what they ate throughout the day.
In a recent poll by fitness-equipment company Nautilus Inc., just 13% of respondents said they thought women could weight train without 'bulking up like a man.'
Guess what? It is perfectly safe for everyone to lift weights -- and it's also a really great way to strengthen your muscles. The ability to build large muscles is directly dependent on the amount of testosterone we have, and women on average produce far less testosterone than men. So if you're a woman, the chances that you'll 'bulk up' are incredibly slim -- pun intended.
You have to burn 3,500 calories -- far more than the equivalent of the total amount of calories an average adult (male or female) should eat in an entire day -- to burn or lose a pound of fat. For some perspective, the average American adult male would burn roughly 330 calories from running at a moderate pace (i.e. a nine-minute mile) for 20 minutes.
Even when we're making an effort to be more conscious of what we're putting into our bodies and how active we are, we tend to give ourselves more credit than we deserve.
'People tend to overestimate their physical activity and underestimate how much food they eat,' Stanforth recently told us. 'They consistently think they have worked out more and consistently think they have eaten less.'
The problem with fad diets is simple: They're temporary. In order to lose weight and keep it off, you have to find an eating regimen that you can stick with for life.
'You know we tend to say you go on a diet, but that also implies you're going to go off of it. And that's not how we should be looking at this,' Philip Stanforth of the University of Texas and the Fitness Institute of Texas recently told us
'Sometimes people are looking for the latest fad, but oftentimes it's the fundamentals that are the most important and that make the biggest difference.'
Good news: You can stop feeling guilty about not signing up for that marathon everyone's talking about. As it turns out, you can get some of the same benefits of long-distance running without ever passing the 5-mile mark.
Running fast and hard for just five to 10 minutes a day can provide some of the same health benefits as running for hours can. In fact, people who run for less than an hour a week -- so long as they get in those few minutes each day -- get similar benefits in terms of heart health compared with those who run more than three hours a week.
Plus, years of recent research suggest that short bursts of intense exercise can provide some of the same health benefits as long, endurance-style workouts -- and they also tend to be more fun.
If you're already in decent shape, exercising for just a couple days a week likely won't benefit you too much.
'A minimum of three days per week, for a structured exercise program (is best),' Shawn Arent, an exercise scientist at Rutgers University, told Tech Insider. 'Technically, you should do something every day, and by something I mean physical activity -- just move. Because we're finding more and more that the act of sitting counteracts any of the activity you do.'
Sorry, Gatorade lovers: This 'power beverage' is mostly just sugar and water.
After a workout, experts recommended refuelling the body with about 20 grams of protein (which can be from any source) and by drinking lots of water. 'Protein ingestion during and/or immediately after exercise has been suggested to facilitate the ... adaptive response to each exercise session, resulting in more effective muscle reconditioning,' writes the author of a recent paper from the Nestle Nutrition Institute workshop series.
Sadly, all those brawny muscles you worked so hard to build this summer will likely start to break down a few days after you cut back in the fall.
In most people, muscle can start to break down within a week without regular exercise. 'If you stop training, you actually do get noticeable deconditioning, or the beginnings of deconditioning, with as little as seven days of complete rest,' Arent said. 'It very much is an issue of use it or lose it.'
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