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But after a few months with all systems clicking -- never missing workouts, eating clean, supplementing like a champ -- all that progress tends to stop cold in one big, fat, frustrating sticking point.
Blame it on genetics. More specifically, your metabolism. That's because, when you lose 10 percent of your total bodyweight, it tends to . . . well, get a little scared. Your inner caveman wonders if you're slowly starving to death.
To protect you from that untimely fate, your metabolism slows to a crawl, trying to save those last bastions of energy stored all over your frame. In other words, you start hoarding body fat, and seemingly no amount of further exercise and dieting can budge the scale further downward.
Once you've reached this point, it's time to reassess the situation. You need to determine whether you need to manipulate your diet, your training, or both, to appease your metabolism and coax it back into fat-burning mode. Here are 5 ways -- two training related, three diet focused -- to do just that.
Increase your cardio intensity to
burn more calories in less time.
When your workouts are done, are you sweaty? No, we mean it -- are you dripping, going back to the towel rack for seconds, and dreaming of a shower as soon as you step out of the cardio room?
Real aerobic training doesn't involve watching television, or reading magazines, or daydreaming through a workout. Think about it: You wouldn't be leisurely flipping through a Sports Illustrated while doing a set of squats. So why would you dial down the intensity and expect maximum results out of your cardio session?
From here on out, crank up the workload. Set some tough goals to go further and faster on the treadmill or rower or stair climber, whatever it may be, every time out. Ditch the long, slow, plodding runs and try interval training, which mixes bursts of all-out sprints with short recovery-speed exercise. For instance, over the course of 25 minutes on the elliptical, do 30 seconds of pedal-to-the-metal sprints rotated with 30 seconds of a steady (but not slow) "jog speed."
Tabata training may be in order too. In a study headed up by Michele Olson, Ph.D., principal researcher at the Auburn University at Montgomery Kinesiology Laboratory, subjects doing Tabata-style interval training -- specifically squat jumps for 20 seconds, followed by a 10-second break for 10 total rounds — burned 13.5 calories a minute, a torrid pace. In the research, presented this past May at the American College of Sports Medicine 60th Annual Conference, Tabata was shown to double the participants' metabolic rate for up to 30 minutes after the workout was complete.
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partner to hit the gym with.
"It's not you, it's me." Yes, it may be time to practice your break-up lines, because you might just need to say adios to your current training partner. It's not his fault -- in fact, he may be at the same exact fitness and strength levels as you. But that's the problem.
To make progress, you need to be challenged. You need to learn new things. And to do that, you need a role model, someone who's been in the iron trenches for longer, and has picked up lots of useful knowledge along the way.
And it's not simply intuition that can tell you this, it's research. One study published in The Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology followed eight women who regularly watched videos of computer-generated models. Strange enough, we know, but here's the thing: Those virtual people demonstrated good weight-loss habits, including shopping for lower-calorie foods, making smart portion-control choices when eating, and exercising.
After four weeks, the women admitted their virtual "role model" had helped them change behaviors, and the group averaged a four-pound weight loss in that timeframe. If that's what a computer-generated model can do, imagine what a real-life flesh-and-blood fitness fanatic can inspire?
Cut the carbs after 7 p.m.
A calorie is a calorie, right? Well, yes and no. Certainly, a gram of carbohydrate or protein provides four calories, and one fat gram is nine calories no matter when you ingest it. But it's what your body is more apt to do with that calorie when it takes it in that makes a huge difference in your results.
The premise is simple: When you eat in the a.m., you have all day to burn those calories off. You want to tilt your food intake more toward the front end of your day, never skipping breakfast -- since you want to "break the fast" you've put your body through overnight, and stop it from burning valuable muscle tissue for fuel -- and eating less as you approach bedtime, when activity comes to a halt.
A good rule of thumb for serious dieters is to cut out carbs altogether three hours before bedtime, provided you're not weight-training during that span, and finish up the night with a 20-plus-gram high-quality casein protein shake as you hit the hay. A super-premium micellar casein like BioQuest's Ultimate Casein contains a superior amino acid profile with added BCAAs and will set the stage for a powerful anti-catabolic, muscle support. That's added muscle tissue to turn that stubborn fat into fuel.
Portion control is key too, of course. Keep your meals small and frequent -- like every three hours frequent -- and you'll keep your metabolism elevated throughout your waking hours, versus eating two to three huge meals interspersed with periods of fasting, which sends your metabolic rate on a white-knuckle ride of spikes and valleys.
Spice up your menu.
If you're choking down bland, low-calorie fare, thinking you have to suffer at mealtime to reap the rewards of a leaner physique, this news is for you. According to research presented at the 2013 Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting and Food Expo in July, spices not only improve your dining experience, it might actually help you love your low-fat meals more than the full-fat versions of old.
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The benefits of switching out fat for spices is obvious, but spicy cooking has another bonus: Spices like cayenne pepper, garlic, cinnamon and turmeric have been shown to have fat-fighting properties too.
Supplement your way to success.
If you're weight training, doing cardio and eating a clean diet, well-designed supplements can give you an incredible edge. Think of it like a nitric oxide boost in a street racer. The car may have plenty of power under the hood, but flip the switch and "bam!" -- it's hurtling toward the finish line as if it suddenly found an extra gear.
If your progress is plateaued and you're not taking supps, you'll want to add some to your daily regimen. If you have been taking some, it may be a smart time to switch it up.
As for which, you'll want a protein powder, preworkout booster, a wide-spectrum, premium multivitamin, a quality fish oil, and a thermogenic formula. And two very popular products at ProSource.net right now could be just the secret weapons you need.
The first is BioQuest's Zycor, which hardwires your body's metabolic processes to maximize your fat loss while providing a high-intensity energy surge. It accomplishes this feat by working simultaneously through numerous biochemical pathways, thanks to the thermodynamic compound at the heart of Zycor, called Meratrim.
Two preliminary, randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled clinical studies revealed the benefits of Meratrim. Presented during the 29th Annual Scientific Obesity Meeting in Orlando, Florida, the two eight-week studies showed subjects lost an average of 4.5 pounds in just 14 days, and went on to lose an average of 11.5 pounds over the two months. In a sign Zycor attacks body fat, those taking Meratrim saw a 4.7-inch waist circumference reduction over the course of the studies.
ProSource's Vectron, meanwhile, is a protein powder scientifically engineered to preserve lean muscle during weight-loss programs. Its core ingredient is an elite fractionated protein complex called Prolibra, a specialized bioactive peptide matrix along with a special whey mineral complex designed to precisely target essential mechanisms of body transformation.
Like Zycor, the research on Vectron makes a powerful statement to its effectiveness. In an independent, randomized, double-blind, 12-week clinical trial published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, subjects taking 24.4 grams per day of Prolibra retained twice as much lean muscle while seeing fat loss of 79 percent compared to the 51 percent loss among the control group. No other protein complex has ever been clinically shown to achieve this type of body composition improvement in a 12-week period.
If you're on your own quest to drop those last 10 pounds, and you decide to give Zycor and Vectron a try, let us know your results! Post your experience (and photos too) at our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/prosource.net.
How close are you to your goal weight? What are you doing to get there? Let us know in the comment field below!