Every year around this time we all make plans to improve on ourselves. We make promises to ourselves to get in shape, be nice to others, start a new business and more. Almost anything you think that will make a new and improved you is probably something that you know you should work on. I want to add a one more item one that I think everyone should work on. I want everyone to lose weight. Let me phrase another way. I want you to lose body fat, increase muscle density and bone tissue. If you eat less and move more you will lose weight. If you don’t increase muscle density and bone tissue you won’t get all the benefits of your weight loss. If you want to get the full benefit of your loss of body fat you should use a balance diet and an effective workout plan.

Dieting alone to lose weight will lead to a muscle mass loss of around 50% and a fat and water loss of around 50%. Weight lost through proper diet and exercise will result in a fat loss of around 98% and lean muscle mass and bone tissue will increase. The loss of lean muscle will weaken the muscles and organs.

When you lose weight by dieting alone your metabolism decreases and your body will burn calories at a slower rate. When you quit dieting your body continues to burn calories slowly. When you start eating you eventually gain back the weight you lost and sometimes more because your metabolism is burning food calories so slowly.

The bottom line is exercise tones muscle, burns flab and increases your metabolism, dieting doesn’t. You’ll need both a nutritional and exercise plan. Scientists at the University of Colorado and Brown Medical School followed more than 10,000 Americans who lost weight and kept it off for years. Only 1% kept the pounds off with exercise alone, 10% did it with diet alone and 89% using both.

Eating stimulates your body to burn calories because the digestion process uses a lot of energy. The body needs carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber and water to be healthy. Without proper nutrition and exercise, optimal health cannot be attained. Carbohydrates, fats and protein supply energy (calories) necessary for work and normal body functions. Vitamins, minerals, fiber and water do not have caloric value but are still necessary for normal body functions.

Carbohydrates provide energy for work. There are a few types of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates such as candy, soda, cakes and corn chips can rob the body of nutrients. They are commonly referred to as empty calories. Other carbohydrates such as air popped popcorn, whole grain breads, cereal, pasta, fruits and vegetables provide many valuable nutrients. Many are an excellent source of fiber. You should choose nutritious carbohydrates.

Fats or lipids also provide energy. Fats supply essential fatty acids and transport the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Dairy products such as milk and cheese are basic sources of fat. So are meats and nuts. The low fat varieties are the best choices when adding these foods to your diet. Saturated fats and hydrogenated fats should be avoided. These fats are solid at room temperature. Monosaturated fats are preferred over polyunsaturated fats. Monosaturated fats are found in olive oil and canola oil.

Proteins are the main substances used to build and repair tissues such as muscles, blood, internal organs, skin, hair, nails and bones. They are part of hormones, enzymes and antibodies. Protein helps maintain normal body fluid balance. Protein may also be used as an energy source but only if there are not enough carbohydrates and fats available. This usually happens when the body is being starved. Primary sources of protein are meats, dairy products such as low fat milk and cheese, nuts, beans, soy products, some breads and cereals.

The average American consumes 40% fat, 30% carbohydrates and 30% proteins daily. The average diet should consist of 15% fat, 20% protein and 65% complex carbohydrates. Saturated fats should make up less than 10% of your total fat intake.

Make sure you consume between 12 to 15 calories per pound of body weight daily.

Instead of starving your body to lose weight workout for 30-60 minutes everyday. Walking is great for the beginner and jogging can become addictive. You’ll also want to do toning exercises for each part of the body such as weight training.

To stimulate muscle fibers to grow and increase in strength a demand must be placed on the muscle. Resistance training does this. Calisthenics is a form of resistance training but lifting weights or using workout machines does a more effective job. I recommend using a combination of free weights (dumbbells and barbells) and machines. Using free weights during some exercises will give you more control over the range of motion you go through. Because machines can’t possibly fit every body shape they don’t provide a full range of motion with every exercise. People who don’t have access to resistance training equipment can improvise with sandbags, plastic bottles filled with water or even canned goods.

If you’re a beginner have someone who knows what they’re doing take you through your first few workouts. Lifting weights can be dangerous if you don’t do the exercises correctly. Always concentrate on what you’re doing. Being careless and taking your movements for granted can cause injury. Concentrating on each repetition when you workout will also recruit more muscle fibers to do work making each repetition more efficient.

A complete workout should include exercises for each body part. This will include the chest, shoulders, triceps, back, biceps, forearm, thighs, calves and your abdominals (midsection). Start with 2 or 3 different exercises for each body part. Gradually work up to 8-12 repetitions for each exercise. Do each exercise 1-3 times to start. If you can do more than 12 repetitions for a set the weight is too light. If you can’t do at least 8 repetitions for a set the weight is too heavy.

I strongly recommend that you have a professional show you what to include in your routine and that you get an OK from your physician before you start. If you have chronic conditions such as, congestive heart failure, hypertension, arrhythmias, angina or diabetes consult your doctor before starting an exercise program.

The key to fat loss is planning. Make a schedule for your exercise and a menu for your nutritional needs. Don’t forget to get some sleep. Sleep is one of the other areas you have to fix if you want lasting healthy weight loss. That’s another article.

If you have a fitness question or concern you would like addressed write to: “Tips to be Fit.” P.O. Box 53443, Philadelphia, PA 19105 or tipstobefit@gmail.com. If you’ve missed an article of “Tips to be Fit” just search “Tips to be Fit.”

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