Fitness features tips to stay trim

Tried and trusted tactics for staying trim

There are no shortcuts to honing a trim and toned body.

However, there are numerous fail-safe principles that will give you an edge when developing and maintaining your fittest physique.

Set realistic goals

Effective weight loss and maintenance starts by setting goals that are achievable, specific and measurable. If your goals are unrealistic you will sabotage your efforts by becoming discouraged, or burning out before you ever achieve what you set out to do.

Don’t do it alone

Start by getting an evaluation from your doctor and a trainer to get a clear idea of what your healthy goal weight is and set a time limit to reach this target.

A good personal trainer will be able to develop the optimal exercise and nutrition strategy to allow you to safely and steadily reach your desired shape and weight. By using different goals for different parts of your weight loss program, you give yourself more areas to succeed in and more ways to stay motivated.

Building a support system is another integral part of setting realistic lifestyle goals. “Rely on health conscious friends or relatives to advise and encourage you on your journey”, recommends personal trainer, Terry Lewis.

Track your progress

Documenting your progress on a calendar serves as a visible reminder of how far you have come and how much further you still have to go until you reach your goal.

“Keeping a journal to record your daily food intake and exercise regimen is another smart way to track your lifestyle choices and highlight problematic areas that need addressing”, says Terry.

Don’t go extreme

Taking drastic steps to lose weight by crash dieting is a common but huge error in judgment. “Any weight lost tends to be water weight, not fat”, explains registered dietician Gina Sunderland.

Starving yourself is also not sustainable and will cause you to pile on the kilos once you begin eating normally again”, she adds.

Another downside to crash dieting is that it forces your body to lower its metabolic rate to conserve energy and cannibalise its own muscle tissue, further compromising your efforts to slim down and shape-up.

Rigidly depriving yourself of food also sets off a natural biological response to binge on food. Mood swings and diminished energy levelsare just two more adverse side effects of radically cutting your kilojoule intake.

A nutritionally dense, balanced and kilojoule controlled diet combined with regular physical activity will allow you to lose weight steadily and healthily.

The recommended and safest rate of weight loss is 0.5-1kg a week”, continues Gina. “You’re more likely to maintain a healthy weight long-term at this rate of weight loss”.

Get the equation right

Sound nutrition is the cornerstone of any lean, sculptured body. Eating six nutritionally balanced, portion controlled meals every three to four hours will successfully nourish your body, keep your blood sugar levels in check and prevent energy dips and cravings.

Meals should contain a portion of lean protein and a serving of low glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrates like whole grains, pulses, low-carbohydrate vegetables and low-fat dairy.

Proteins and low GI carbohydrates stabilise your blood glucose and insulin levels, keeping hunger at bay and you energised all day. Fresh fruit and vegetables should also feature prominently in your diet as they are low in kilojoules and are packed with fibre, vitamins and age-defying antioxidants.

Avoid excess salt, sugar, additives and preservatives, and replace saturated and trans fats in red meat and full fat diary with healthy monounsaturated fats found in foods like olive oil, flaxseeds, avocados and nuts.

There are numerous foods that are superstars in the nutritional arena”, adds Gina. “In fact, research indicates that eating these nutritionally dense foods can help you lose weight and maintain a healthy body”.

Some of the best nutrient-dense foods to add to your menu include:

  • Oats
  • Salmon
  • Green tea
  • Garlic
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Almonds
  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Eggs
  • Cottage cheese
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Lentils
  • Apples
  • Tomatoes
  • Blueberries

Start smart and sip sufficiently

Never skip breakfast as this is the first meal of the day that fires up your metabolism after a night’s sleep.

Research has also proven that kilojoules consumed at breakfast are the least likely to be stored as fat”, adds Gina.

Protein like whey powders or egg whites, low GI carbohydrates like berries or rolled oats and a portion of essential omega 3 and 6 fats, like those contained in flaxseed oil, should all be included in a balanced breakfast.

It is equally important to drink at least a liter and a half of water a day to flush out toxins and remain adequately hydrated”, explains Gina.

Drinking sufficient water will also help stop you from confusing thirst with hunger and reduce the impulse eating associated with this common mistake. Furthermore, dehydration will slow digestion, compromise the metabolism and ultimately stall weight loss, so be sure to sip throughout the day.

Rest easy

A good night’s rest helps your body to regenerate cells and repair itself while reducing stress, improving memory and strengthening the heart and muscles.

Peaceful slumber can also keep you slim by regulating the hormones that affect and control your appetite. This is because lack of sleep significantly affects two of the body’s hormones that directly influence appetite.

Grehlin is a hormone that enhances appetite and can lead to weight gain while Leptin represses appetite and can support weight loss. A lack of sleep disturbs the hormonal balance and leads to an increase in Grehlin and a decrease in Leptin levels, which inevitably leads to weight gain.

Establish a regular sleep cycle and avoid caffeine, alcohol and intense exercise too close to bedtime to ensure that you get at least 7-8 hours of rejuvenating shut-eye.

Combine and conquer

“Combining careful eating with a regular strength and cardiovascular training program is the best way to slim down and stay sleek for life”, says Terry.

An ideal fitness program should combine strength training with cardiovascular exercise in a minimum of three one-hour exercise sessions per week.

While cardio is crucial for burning kilojoules and strengthening the heart and muscles, strength-training is important for developing lean muscle mass, enhancing stamina and preventing diseases like osteoporosis.

Lean muscle obtained from performing regular resistance training also boosts metabolism leading to greater fat loss over time”, he adds.

Written by Julia Lamberti

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

When he's not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He's worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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