It’s normal to gain weight over the holidays. Starting with Thanksgiving, each year’s end practically turns into a race to consume calories, and most of us take a break from our workout routines as we recover from large meals and holiday parties. It’s no surprise that so many people step on the scale in January and vow to make changes. The key to losing that weight is to make smart lifestyle changes. Here are the five areas that make the most difference in meeting your fitness goals.
The number of calories you should consume on a daily basis will vary according to factors like your size, activity levels, and fitness goals. A competitive swimmer, for example, needs to eat more than the average person who enjoys a brisk walk for cardio. A man typically needs more calories than a woman.
The 2,000 calorie baseline you see on most nutrition labels is an arbitrary number set by the FDA based on an average of men’s, women’s, and children’s self-reported daily caloric intake ranges in the early 1990s; it’s not actually enough to sustain most people through the day. That means the first step to portion control is working with your doctor or nutritionist to determine the correct calorie count for your body.
Once you know how many calories you should be consuming, try using a food journal or a tracking app like MyFitnessPal to document your food intake, and don’t forget to track snacks! Ultimately, you want to consume most of your calories through fresh vegetables and fruits, and—if you eat meat—lean meats or fish.
Think back to every movie montage you’ve ever seen involving a character undergoing a fitness transformation. Those films probably included some form of cardio—most likely running, running on stairs, or running while skipping rope. If your sole focus in torching calories in a short amount of time, cardio is your friend and it’s an important component of weight loss.
The good news is you can squeeze in a great cardio workout for free. Go outside for a run, queue up an aerobics workout on YouTube; there are lots of wallet-friendly options that will get your heart racing. If you need more direction or variety in your workouts, the TRX App ($39.99) has running, cycling, and high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts created by top trainers. Simply select the modality and the amount of time you have, and get ready to work.
If you want to build a strong, fit body, you need to commit to strength training. Some people associate strength training with dumbbells and weight machines, but strength training doesn’t require heavy equipment; you can also use your bodyweight to build muscle.
When you’re looking for an effective method of strength training at home, start simple with the TRX Suspension Trainer. A favorite among professional athletes, fitness pros, and celebrities alike, it’s an all-in-one fitness solution for a full-body workout. You can use the Suspension Trainer in your home, at the gym, and even when you travel; it doesn’t require any special equipment for set-up. Need help getting started with workouts or want fresh workout ideas? The TRX Home2 System ($199.95) comes with a full year’s access to the TRX App.
According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, insufficient sleep—defined as less than seven hours per night—can reduce and undo the benefits of dieting. In the study, dieters who received adequate rest lost more fat. When they cut back on sleep, they felt hungrier, lacked energy to exercise, and lost less fat. As Shape explains, “those on a sleep-deprived diet experienced a 55 percent reduction in fat loss compared to their well-rested counterparts.” Sleep deprivation can increase food cravings and decrease your body’s ability to make muscle.
If you want results fast, make time for a good night’s rest.
Water isn’t just important for hydration; it can also help you lose weight. A study by the University of Michigan Medical School suggests that staying adequately hydrated can help with weight loss.
Much like caloric intake, adequate water consumption varies from person to person. In other words, the eight-glasses-of-water-per-day rule isn’t a bad start, but it may not be enough to keep your body hydrated. If you feel thirsty or fatigued, or notice your urine is closer to a dark yellow than a pale yellow, it’s time to hydrate.
And drinking a glass of water isn’t the only solution: you can also get water from food. Dr. Tammy Chang from the UM Medical School told CNN, "Eating fruits and vegetables with high water content is good for you not just because of the nutrients they deliver to your body, but also because they can improve your hydration."
Weight loss requires more than diet and exercise; it demands a comprehensive commitment to your health. As you work to shed those holidays pounds, remember that it’s the combination of healthy eating, strength and cardio workouts, hydration, and sleep that will produce the best results.