Tips for Better Fitness and Health

When it comes to improving your fitness, nutrition and health, we’ve chosen a dozen of the simplest ways to eat better, perform better and boost your entire well-being.

1. Going to the gym without eating first?

Here’s a new incentive: Eat protein before you go and you can peel off 15 pounds a year. A study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport showed that women who ate a high-protein meal an hour before their workout burned more calories per minute than women who ate a low-protein meal or no food. The additional calorie burn amounted to 185 calories over the following 24 hours and could add up to a 15-pound loss within a year.

2. Toss green tomatoes into your salads.

Green tomatoes contain tomatidine, a compound that stimulates muscle growth. Research shows it produces increased strength and endurance, and it prevents muscle loss as it reduces body fat. The adage eat the colors of the rainbow has never been more apt (especially during the holidays!).

3. HIIT it!

Trade in your long, slow cardio for a few high-intensity sessions a couple of times a week for more effective fat loss. High-intensity aerobic training is more effective at reducing belly fat and overall body fat than any other type of exercise. Women who cycled (on stationary bicycles) three times a week for 20 minutes, doing workouts consisting of eight-second sprints followed by 12 seconds of low-intensity work, lost more fat (2.5 kilograms) than women who cycled for 40 minutes at a steady state.

4. Spice up meals.

Add red pepper to meals to kick up fat burning. Capsaicin, which gives hot peppers their zing, can cause a small, temporary increase in metabolism, says Amy Goodson, RD, CSCS, a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics and co-author of Swim, Bike, Run — Eat (Fair Winds Press, 2014). “Keep in mind it would take quite a bit of spice to have any major effect on weight, but every little bit helps!”

5. Focus on muscle strength.

As women tend to have more ACL injuries than men — three times in fact — it’s crucial to keep the muscles around the knee strong. Most ACL injuries occur in activities with sudden deceleration, jumping and uncontrolled landings like in skiing, soccer and basketball. That’s when hamstring strength becomes key. Though not conclusive, researchers suspect women’s “Q angle,” where the femur and tibia meet (larger than men’s), may create extra torque on the knee.

6. Eat smart to recover.

It’s also important to continue eating a balanced diet to help your body heal. “The body needs a lot more calories to function daily than to exercise,” says Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD, a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics. “During injury, women need to trust their bodies, which can intuitively adjust calorie need — they just need to listen.” She explains that we need about 10 calories for every pound of bodyweight to function. So a 140-pound woman needs 1,400 calories per day just to live healthy.

7. Don’t drastically diet.

Lean people (versus those who are overweight or obese) who diet are more likely to experience a rebound or “fat overshooting” effect that leaves them heavier than when they started. Small, potentially permanent, lifestyle changes such as cutting out high-calorie condiments and making small increases in activity are more likely to lead to lasting weight loss.

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