Fitness Resources

Month: September 2017

8 Things that Slow Down Your Metabolism

ACE Fit Share

September 12, 2016

Slowing Down Metabolism

How many times have you thought to yourself, “I can’t lose weight because my metabolism is slow.” Over the past two decades as nutritionists, we’ve heard that time and again from our clients. How do you know if your metabolism is actually slow? Can it be fixed? And is the problem really your metabolism?

Simply put, metabolism the way your body converts the food and drink you consume for energy, and is usually measured in calories. We can determine how many calories your body burns each day by plugging information into a variety of formulas that have been designed to measure this. Click here to access the formulas and see what you get. As there is no single calculation that is considered the best, we recommend that you do all of the formulas, which will give you a range in which your metabolism may fall. A more accurate way is to have your metabolism measured through indirect calorimetry, which uses a machine to measure oxygen consumption. In less than 10 minutes you can know your resting metabolic rate (RMR).

Metabolism is a complex process that’s affected by more than just what you eat and how much you exercise. There are a number of factors that might be sabotaging your metabolism, and you might not even know it.


Inconsistent meal times

When your meals times come at regularly spaced intervals, your body uses up the calories for fuel and burns more calories in between meals. If your eating pattern is erratic, your body gets confused and isn’t quite sure when the next meal is coming, so it goes into conservation mode. Calorie burn is reduced and more food is put into storage (fat cells and glycogen stores).


Numerous studies have shown that sleep is a key factor in gaining and losing weight. When you do not get enough sleep, hormones that control hunger and fullness go haywire. Too much ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and too little leptin (the fullness hormone) get produced, which leaves you feeling hungry all day and you lose the ability to know when you are full. Plus, more cortisol gets produced, which increases cravings for starchy, sugary and fatty foods. Recent studies on chronic sleep deprivation suggest that the calories you eat are burned less efficiently. Aim for 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep each night.


Not Eating Enough

If you are “dieting” to lose weight, eating too few calories can actually backfire and keep you from achieving your goal. Yes, creating a calorie deficit will help you lose weight, but there is a point in each individual that cutting calories too low will put the body into starvation mode and slow down metabolism to keep you alive. Make sure you get enough calories and a balance of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) to keep your metabolism from crashing. Read more about macros here.


Most people make the mistake of only doing cardio (aerobic) exercise because it burns a good amount of calories while it’s being done. But after the exercise is over, calorie burn returns to resting levels. Strength training is a key component of metabolism because it is directly linked to muscle mass. The more active muscle tissue you have, the higher your metabolic rate. Whether you lift weights, use resistance bands or use your own body weight for resistance, resistance creates microtears in the muscle tissue. As your body repairs these tears, muscle tissue grows and requires more calories to stay alive. One of the best ways to strength train to get the best response from your muscle is to focus on the eccentric (or lowering) portion of any move. Eccentric moves are more muscularly damaging and require more effort to repair than concentric movements (the lifting portion of a move), and thus increase metabolism more. So, slow down when you strength train to increase your metabolism.


Sitting Too Much

If you exercise an hour a day, but spend the other 23 hours sitting or lying down, your metabolism will slow down. Sitting for longer than 20 minutes can put your body into a more relaxed, non-energy-burning state. If your job keeps you chained to a desk or behind the wheel, get up once an hour to move around for a few minutes. Periodically moving is shown to help decrease triglycerides, blood sugar, waistlines and cholesterol as well as cause a small spike in metabolism.


Consider this tip a two-for-one: Drinking too little water leads to dehydration, which can cause you to burn up to 2% fewer calories. All your body’s cellular functions require water, so sip it often. Drinking ice cold water can increase your metabolism by a few calories as your body heats the water to body temperature. Aim for at least 2 liters of water a day; drink more during hot and humid weather and when you sweat. At the other extreme, too much alcohol can impact your metabolism because excessive alcohol causes your liver to focus on breaking down alcohol molecules instead of burning fat. Plus, the calories from alcohol can add up quickly and impact weight.


The mineral best known for building strong bones plays a key role in fat metabolism, which determines whether you burn calories or store them as fat. Some of the best dietary sources of calcium come from dairy—organic milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, and cheese—which also benefit muscles because they contain whey and casein, proteins that help to build muscle and prevent muscle breakdown. Research from McMaster University showed that women who consumed more dairy lost more fat and gained more muscle mass than those who consumed less.



We’ve saved the best for last. Stress is probably the number-one factor impacting metabolism. It increases the production of cortisol, a hormone that increases appetite and makes us reach for comfort foods. It can decrease our desire for exercise, even though exercise is a powerful stress-buster. Stress slows digestion, causing a lower need to metabolize calories. Plus, stress can impact both the quality of sleep and number hours we sleep, which, as described earlier, can decrease metabolism and promote weight gain

Tiffani Bachus
Tiffani Bachus ContributorTiffani Bachus, RDN, is a wellness professional dedicated to helping her clients develop a healthy balanced lifestyle. An accomplished fitness competitor and dancer, Tiffani won Fitness America and Arizona Dancing With The Stars and has graced the covers of numerous fitness health magazines including Oxygen Magazine. She has been featured as a fitness expert on Channels 3 and 15 in Arizona and is a columnist for Oxygen and Clean Eating Magazines. Tiffani co-authored the book, “No Excuses! 50 Ways to ROCK Breakfast” featuring 50 healthy clean eating breakfast recipes. Tiffani is also a Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor.



The word “core” gets thrown around a lot, and there is a lot of variation in exactly what most people mean when they use the term—and how to properly train it. As a health and fitness professional, you know the importance of core strength, but are you completely clear on what muscles make up the core and how to train to avoid imbalances? And are you following a safe progression of exercises when it comes to core strengthening?

Like many of your clients, you may have a few questions about this all-important area of the body. Well, here are some much-needed answers…


The core is divided into two separate units, each of which has its own unique purpose. Knowing the function of each unit and what muscles make up the core as a whole will help guide you in designing safe, effective exercise progressions for your clients.

“The inner unit is mostly used for fine segmental stabilization of the spine,” explains Eric Wilson, a personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist based in Apex, N.C., “whereas the outer unit provides more mobility, gross stabilization and motor control during high-intensity exercise, such as deadlifts, throws or sprints.”

While some experts differ on the exact muscle groups included in the core, there is a general consensus. According to Wilson, who was named the 2016 Biomechanics Method Corrective Exercise Specialist of the Year, “The inner unit is composed of the transverse abdominis, [the posterior fibers of the internal] obliques, diaphragm, pelvic floor muscles, and lower back muscles, including the multifidus, longissimus and illiocostalis. The outer unit is composed of the rectus abdominis, spinal erector muscles, external and internal obliques, quadratus lumborum, and technically even extends down into the glutes, hip flexors and hamstrings.” 


It is not uncommon for the outer core unit to be stronger than the inner unit.

“The inner-core muscles in many people are weakened for several reasons,” explains Samantha Clayton, owner of Samantha Clayton Fitness and a former Olympian. “A sedentary lifestyle of sitting at desks all day means that these essential muscles are no longer being challenged with activities of daily living as they were in the past. Secondly, people training for recreation in the gym often neglect these muscles and train the ‘mirror muscles,’ [which leads to] creating imbalances over time.”

Clayton, a mother of four, including a set of triplets, cites another cause of core unit imbalance: pregnancy and childbirth. “The outer core is affected, too, but the pelvic floor is especially a problem area. I can share from personal experience that the inner-core muscles are especially weakened with pregnancy and require rehabilitation post-pregnancy in order to regain their former strength. You just have to say ‘jumping jack’ to a new mom and the thought alone will have her running to the bathroom.”

Wilson believes that there is another reason for inner and outer unit muscular imbalances. “I have also found through a lot of personal experience that it is not so much the strength that can be the issue, but the lack of neurological recruitment of inner-unit muscles,” she explains. “The brain is not used to needing to fire the muscles as rapidly or efficiently and this can cause more injuries to people than just the lack of strength itself, as the spine is not quickly stabilized when movements are initiated.”


As Clayton points out, many people tend to work the “mirror muscles”—the ones that can be seen on the outside of the body—and often the anterior muscles more than the posterior, especially where the core is concerned. There is also a tendency to progress through core strengthening faster than the exerciser may be ready for, introducing advanced exercises too soon. In this case, because the outer unit is stronger or more advanced neurologically, it takes over and the inner unit is neglected, further exacerbating the muscular imbalance between the two units.

“Your core is [made up of] muscle,” says Dustin Raymer, M.S., fitness director for Structure Housein Durham, N.C., “and like any other muscle, it needs a starting point and then you can work your way up to heavier or more intense training. If not, this could lead to tears or even hernias.”

Wilson agrees. “I see many people who are progressing into extremely difficult ab exercises, such as sit-ups, ab rollouts and hanging leg rises without having an understanding of form or coordination of the exercise,” says Wilson. “While I understand the allure of wanting great-looking abs, it is usually done at the cost of spine health.”

Clayton echoes the assertions of both Raymer and Wilson, saying that while attempting advanced ab work too soon may not be a problem initially, it will catch up to your clients over time.

“It’s a catch-22 for many trainers. The stabilization work that is essential for building a balanced body is quite often the least exciting and less ‘sexy’ part of a workout. Because of this, trainers don’t want to bore their excited new clients by having them do exercises that don’t really feel like exercise—or, to be more precise, what they perceive exercise should be based on the media’s depiction. It takes almost a deconditioning process of the mind to get someone on board with doing the little things that will make a big difference in the long run.”


One of the first lessons you can teach your clients is that they can actually work the core muscles all day long—and should.

“One of the most effective ways to train the inner core,” explains Raymer, “is to constantly think about bracing the core while doing other exercises that require higher stability, such as squatting or overhead pressing.” 

“My mindset for the core is that your core is always working,” agrees Clayton, “even when you’re doing the fun stuff like squats, step-ups and lunges, so make your clients aware of how to maximize their efforts.”

Clayton uses the mantra “Locate, Activate, Move” to help her clients understand how to activate their core muscles. For example, she has a client stop and “locate” the transverse abdominis muscle, “activate” by pulling the belly button through to the spine, and then finally “move” and perform the exercise.

You could also encourage your clients to perform a Kegel—a contraction of the pelvic floor muscles—before doing a jump squat. “It’s simply a ‘tighten your safety belt’ approach to movement,” Clayton explains. “I encourage trainers to think of creative ways you can encourage this new ‘body aware’ training method of using good form and starting all movement in your mind before taking a single step.”

As far as actual core exercises, think of the inner unit as the core’s foundation, which must be strong before progressing to building on it. “My favorite progression,” says Wilson, “is to start with coordination, then stabilization and then strength.”

As an example, Wilson teaches every client the cat/cow exercise from yoga. “I want to make sure they can feel the muscles that control their pelvic position,” he explains. “This is a huge foundation exercise that carries over into a large majority of the exercises we do in the gym. Once they have mastered the pelvic control, I then work on segmentally controlling the spine, making sure they can tilt the pelvis, lumbar spine and thoracic spine independent of each other [while] in the quadruped position.”

To initially work the spine stabilizing muscles, Wilson focuses on the pelvic floor muscles and transverse abdominis. These exercises can include prone ab vacuums, birddogs and wall sits with arm raises. “Once they can perform these correctly, we can progress to plank, first starting on the knees and then progressing to on the toes, eventually adding some weight onto their hips.”


Beware of making a client hold a position, such as the plank, for a designated length of time. For example, if you tell a client to hold the plank for one minute, but after 10 seconds, the abdominal muscles are no longer engaged, you’re defeating the purpose of the exercise.

Wilson urges trainers to work their way backward. “For instance, if you know that in three months, your client wants to be able to hold a two-minute plank, you can work your way backward and set out a game plan to get there. Have certain thresholds and goals along the way, such as making sure the client can hold a plank for 30 seconds on her knees without the spine buckling. The first time she tries to progress, watch her form like a hawk,” Wilson urges. “As soon as you see her back start to buckle or the shoulders sink, stop her and explain what happened and ask if she could feel when the abs gave out or when her form broke. This not only helps the client understand what improper form feels like, but also reinforces the principle that you never want to perform an exercise with improper form.”

Clayton suggests you ask yourself the following questions when deciding whether or not to progress a client to the next level of difficulty with core work:

  • What is the standard for this exercise?
  • What is the client’s goal?
  • Can he or she do the exercise safely?
  • Is the client stable when doing it? Do you detect instability?
  • Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?
  • Is the exercise comfortable for the client or is it too difficult? If so, do you need to choose something else that accomplishes the same goal?

Don’t forget that it is your responsibility as the health and fitness professional to help your clients build a strong foundation of stability, mobility and strength—and not just develop “mirror muscles” that look good, but result in poor functioning.

“Inspire, motivate and be creative,” encourages Clayton. “Get your clients to where they want to be by building confidence with layered movements.” And take the time to educate your clients about the reasoning behind your approach, so they understand the progression and why it’s important to build a strong foundation before moving on to other, more advanced exercises.



Bad Form, Good Opportunity

Perched on the dip bars between sets, I was afforded a panoramic view of the activities unfolding in my gym.

It was not a pretty sight. On this recent Monday morning, it was almost as if someone had decided to orchestrate a clinic on bad workout form and poor gym etiquette, for my benefit.

To my left, a man in ‘70s-era fitness gear (think tightly cinched weight belt, cut-off sweatshirt) sat in front of the curl machine, staring into space. Fifteen minutes later, when I was several exercises past dips, he hadn’t moved an inch…or, for that matter, a muscle.

Near him, a young lady had practically camped out at the leg press machine: She had her water bottle, towel and bag arrayed next to her—all that was missing was barbed wire and a guard tower to proclaim this machine as her turf and that everyone else should stay away.

In the cardio area to my right, a guy ran at top speed, his legs flailing away in a circular motion like a cartoon character while he grasped the console for dear life. A few treadmills over, a woman had her machine on maximum elevation, pointed skyward as she too clutched the console with both arms like a snowmobiler going uphill, out of control.

Meanwhile, weights were slammed and jerked; a junkyard-like pile of dumbbells grew on the floor near the racks because no one was bothering to put them back; benches and seats dripped with sweat from hirsute guys who couldn’t bother to clean them off when they were done.

In the midst of it all, an ocean of calm and focus in this maelstrom of gym-goers behaving badly, a personal trainer stood overseeing his client as she did lunges, correctly.

Of course, his focus was where it should be—on his client. But it made me think what, if anything, could be done about all this fitness malpractice around him? There was no staffer working the floor. The only other employee in the gym at that time was the reluctant receptionist at the front desk, cowering under her hoody and avoiding eye contact at all cost.

This raises a larger question: While there are certainly many who perform exercises on their own, safely and effectively, much of what I witnessed that morning is hardly unique to my gym. What is the responsibility (if any) for trainers in clubs and facilities everywhere? ACE Certified health and fitness professionals know how to guide their own clients through safe workouts, but to what extent are they obligated to be the gym police? What is their responsibility to correct bad form or to set inconsiderate exercisers straight?

“Fitness professionals have a responsibility to correct form for participants in their own classes or with their own training clients,” says Amanda Vogel, M.A., a fitness instructor and blogger at “Apart from that, it’s a judgment call.”

That judgment, and your call, however, will depend on several factors.


You’re a trainer with a client and a gym member comes up to you and complains that some member has been hogging the leg extension machine for half an hour.

Your response to this, according to master trainer Pete McCall, depends on your status in the gym. “If you’re an independent contractor, essentially renting space from the gym to train your clients, you have no role as an employee,” says McCall, who is also an adjunct professor in exercise science at Mesa College in San Diego. “So, in that case, it’s literally not your business.”

That doesn’t mean, however, you should just turn a blind eye. Directing the dissatisfied member to the club manager, McCall says, or speaking to management yourself would be an appropriate response.

It’s a different story if you are a staff trainer. “Probably in that scenario I would approach the person,” says legal expert Mark Nagel, a professor at the University of South Carolina who has also written the legal chapters in many of ACE’s professional training manuals. “When you’re acting as an independent contractor and you’re not a formal employee under the supervision of gym hierarchy, in most cases you’re not going to have a formal expectation to interject in the situation.” That’s a very different scenario, he adds, than if you show up to work for that gym regularly, you’re wearing the gym shirt, and you’re clearly identified as being with the gym. “In that case,” Nagel says, “you clearly have a duty to step in.” 

Okay, but how? And in what situations?

Here again it depends. In the case of the machine-hogger, it might be wise to start (or ask club management to start) a document chain, to see if this is a chronic behavior. If so, then it might be time to have a chat with that member about gym etiquette.

Still, while it is certainly inconsiderate, it’s important to remember that the person who insists on doing five sets on the only leg extension machine is not putting him or herself or any other members in danger.

Let’s consider another case.


Some years ago, when she was working as a trainer and assistant manager in a New York City health club, Liz Neporent, co-author of Fitness for Dummies, recalls hearing an incessant banging noise on the gym floor. She went searching for the source. “It was a tiny woman on a decline bench,” she says. “She was doing flyes with 5-pound weights. She’d bring her arms out all the way until they touched the floor, then bash them together at the top. Set after set. At the end of each set, she’d throw the weights on the floor, and they’d bounce. People were having to duck to get out of the way. Besides being a terrible way to do that exercise, it was very disruptive to the whole gym.”

Neporent could finally take it no longer. “I went over, scooped my arms under her, and I literally carried her over to a proper bench. I said, ‘You cannot do this for the following reasons…’” The woman, not surprisingly, looked shocked and angry. “I thought for a second, ‘what am I doing? This could be bad,’” continues Neporent. “But then she said, ‘You know what, you’re right? Show me the right way.’ And we became friends after that.’”

Neporent is not recommending that any trainer lay hands on a member, much less carry them around the gym. But she does believe a distinction should be made between bad gym etiquette and dangerous gym behavior. “For me, the question of whether to intervene in someone else’s workout is always on a case-by-case basis,” Neporent says. “But if something bad is imminent, then I would.”

Consider this time-honored scenario, familiar to anyone who has spent time in the free weight area: A lifter is about to perform a squat or bench press without a spotter and with a bar that’s groaning with 45-pound plates. The reps are shaky, limbs tremble and quiver. The lifter—let’s face it, most likely this is a male—is about to perform one more rep that you know they aren’t going to be able to do. Here, the decision isn’t necessarily to intervene and correct, it’s simply to save someone from serious injury—with perhaps a friendly reminder about the dangers of trying to lift too much weight without a spotter.


When McCall was a staff trainer at New York Sports Clubs, he taught the young trainers the right way to approach clients on the gym floor.

“When people work out, their adrenaline’s up,” he says. “If I say, ‘You’re doing something wrong,’ I’ve created a confrontation. People get defensive!” Instead he says, “The first thing I’d say is ‘Hi, how you doing? I’m Pete. What’s your name? If you have any questions, let me know.’ Or, ‘Can I show you another exercise that might be better for what you’re trying to do?’”

So when someone is throwing the weights down like they are hot potatoes, or hangs on to the treadmill as if it’s a lifeboat in shark-infested waters, and you feel that you should approach them—try to make it a positive. Choose your words carefully. Smile.

Even then, it’s risky. “If the member is doing an exercise in such a way that it’s less effective but it’s not necessarily putting them at risk for injury, it’s a judgment call as to whether to say anything,” says Vogel. “A new exerciser might be grateful for the guidance. Other members might find it insulting.”

Ultimately, though, it’s important to remember that your primary duty is to your client—especially if you’re an independent trainer. “We don’t take Hippocratic oaths as trainers,” Nagel says. “It’s not like doctors. You’re not morally obligated to rush in. I hate to say, from the pure legal side, unless you have a specific relationship as an employee of that facility, you probably do not have a duty to interfere on the other side of the gym, even when someone is doing something unsafe.” (That said, Nagel acknowledges that most trainers, regardless of their business relationship with a facility, would want to help maintain a safe environment.)


There is another way to look at this: While someone who is using the four-way hip machine for neck exercises or slamming the weights after every set might not want to be told they’re wrong; while the guy at my gym zoning out on while performing biceps curls might not want to be told that his workout would be more effective if he picked up the pace—others would. In fact, they might be hungry, even desperate, for a little guidance.

“I find the majority of these things involve people new to the gym, and they’re literally sitting on the machine backwards or don’t know how to pull a pin out,” Neporent says. “A lot of times they’re grateful to be shown what to do.”

So could my nightmare scenario—a gym full of people who didn’t know what they were doing—represent an opportunity for a trainer? “Absolutely, if the trainer approaches them the right way,” says Stefanie Lujan, content project manager at ACE and a long-time fitness professional. “A lot of people who go to the gym think trainers are going to be mean and yell at them. You can approach a person in a nice way, with empathy.”

Spend a few minutes with these people, Lujan recommends, and give them some pointers. You might even offer a free session. “That way you can give them your undivided attention, and maybe they become a client.”

Most people would call that a win-win, don’t you think?



John Hanc

John Hanc is a long-time contributor and columnist for Newsday, a contributing editor for Runner’s World and a frequent contributor to The New York Times. He is the author of 14 books, the latest of which is The Ultra Mindset: An Endurance Champion’s 8 Core Principals for Success in Business, Sports, and Life (Da Capo, April 2015), which he co-authored with ultra-distance running champion Travis Macy.

6 Foods to Fight Inflammation

Inflammation and anti-inflammatory are two buzz words you’ve likely heard quite often lately. When you hear the word inflammation mentioned in the news or online, they aren’t typically referring to the beneficial, initial inflammation that helps heal injuries like ankle sprains. Rather, they’re talking about ongoing, systemic inflammation in the body, which serves no purpose and may be linked to a wide range of diseases and disorders. Fortunately, with some dietary tweaks, a lifestyle that promotes chronic inflammation can turn into one that minimizes it—all while including tasty, satisfying foods.

The first step to turning your body into a well-tuned, inflammation-fighting machine is knowing which foods promote inflammation and then swapping them out for the better choices. And here’s an added bonus: If you’re looking to shed a few pounds, reducing your intake of inflammatory foods can help as most of them contribute to weight gain.



Cakes, cookies, bakery items, sugar, grains made with white flour including white bread, pasta, bagels, etc.

  • Too much sugar can alert the body to send out extra immunity messengers called cytokines, which create inflammation.
  • Think of refined carbohydrates as an indulgence and consume them in small amounts.

French fries, tempura, doughnuts, etc.

  • Aim to indulge only occasionally and share with friends.

Butter, full-fat dairy products, fatty cuts of beef, pork, etc.

  • A daily pat of butter or a serving of full-fat yogurt in a diet that contains primarily anti-inflammatory foods isn’t problematic; however, the typical American diet is already inflammatory, so these habits contribute to even more inflammation.
  • Stick to one drink a day if you’re a woman, and one to two drinks a day if you‘re a man.

Crackers, baked goods, crusts, frozen pizzas, stick margarines, etc.

  • Read ingredient labels and steer clear of hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils.

Seeds and vegetable oils from corn, sunflower, safflower, soy and vegetables; mayonnaise; and many salad dressings.

  • While the body needs omega-6 fatty acids for health and development, it needs a healthy balance of omega-6s and omega-3s. Too much omega-6s trigger the body to produce pro-inflammatory chemicals.
  • The current ratio in the U.S. diet is estimated to be 16:1 omega-6s to omega-3s, instead of the ideal 4-to-1 or lower ratio.
  • Cut back on processed and fast foods to reduce the ratio and choose olive, flaxseed and avocado oils over other vegetable oils.



All of them (go for variety and choose rich colors as each color represents a different health-promoting phytonutrient)

  • Fruit contains potent antioxidants that mop up free radicals that damage your cells and cause inflammation.
  • All fruits reduce TNF-alpha, a marker of inflammation.
  • Brightly colored fruits like berries and cherries contain anthocyanins, which are anti-inflammatory powerhouses.

Try these recipes:


All of them (like fruits, consume a variety and choose those with deep colors)

  • Their phytochemicals are superstars and combat inflammation.
  • Kale, Brussels sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables are rich in sulfur and go through two detox phases in the liver, forcing the body to create more enzymes that clean out the body and reduce the toxic, inflammation-producing load.
  • Stack sandwiches with spinach and tomatoes; use lettuce or kale for wraps and toss bell peppers and red onions in omelets.

Try these recipes:

  • Research has shown that nuts reduce markers of inflammation and lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
  • Walnuts are highest in anti-inflammatory omega-3s and their polyphenols also help to reduce inflammation.
  • Chia seeds contain alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3s in plant foods that fight inflammation.

Try these recipes:


Especially turmeric, ginger, garlic and cinnamon

  • Turmeric is a marigold root and its active ingredient, curcumin, has been found to be beneficial in fighting inflammation and helping to ease symptoms of inflammatory diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease.
  • Ginger has been shown to reduce inflammation after exercise as well as decrease joint pain in chronic inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.

Try these recipes:


Salmon, tuna, sardines, herring and white fish

  • Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are associated with lower levels of inflammation. Your body can’t make omega-3s—eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)—so it’s important to get them through your diet.
  • Eat at least one to two servings of fatty fish a week.

Try these recipes:

6. TEA
  • Tea contains polyphenolic compounds called catechins, which are ultra-strong antioxidants.
  • Aim for three to four cups a day for maximum benefits, as research suggests.

Try these recipes:



The Nutrition Twins
The Nutrition TwinsContributor
Tammy Lakatos Shames and Elysse (“Lyssie”) Lakatos, The Nutrition Twins®, share a passion to teach people how to eat healthfully and exercise so they’ll have energy to live happy lives. The twins have been featured as nutrition experts on Good Morning America, Discovery Health, Fox News, NBC, Bravo, CBS, The Learning Channel, FitTV, Oxygen Network, and Fox & Friends. They co-wrote The Nutrition Twins Veggie Cure: Expert Advice and Tantalizing Recipes for Health, Energy and Beauty, The Secret to Skinny: How Salt Makes You Fat and the 4-Week Plan to Drop A Size & Get Healthier with Simple Low Sodium Swaps. The twins are both ACE Certified Personal Trainers, and members of the American Dietetic Association and several Dietetic Practice Groups.

Minimalist Approach To Fitness

Fitness can be complicated, but there is a way to simplify your workouts. Taking a minimalist approach to fitness allows you to focus on the basics for maintaining fitness and wellness. With this mindset, you can rest easy that you do not need to invest in a special workout or product; gimmicks are just clutter. The basics are enough to get you fit and keep you healthy.

This simplistic approach can be helpful during those seasons of life when time is particularly limited. Rather than abandoning your routine during stressful times, it’s better to do just do what you can—a minimal 20-minute workout—and appreciate how much better you feel after a few key exercises. When tasks are complicated, it is easy to procrastinate or put it off all together. Making things simple means you are more likely to stick with the routine on a consistent basis. As the convenience of the minimalist approach sinks in, you may find yourself abandoning complicated or long workouts. With basic guidelines, you too, can be a fitness minimalist.

The Three Essential Components

Here are three essential components to include in your minimalist workouts: mobility, strength and cardio. Cardio and strength training is often mixed together in high-intensity interval training (HIIT), circuit training, supersets or other interval-type workouts. As a minimalist, focus on exercises that utilize big muscle groups to increase metabolic demand and functional fitness. Exercises such as squats, push-ups and lunges are a mainstay, while small-muscle exercises such as biceps curls and calf raises are less crucial. Lifting, pushing and pulling things as you would in daily life are the movements highlighted in these workouts, so no special equipment required. Performing these movements in training will help you perform these activities with more vigor and confidence in everyday life.

In general, industry standards recommend performing 75-150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, dependent on intensity. The more intense the exercise, the less time needed. Healthy adults are also encouraged to complete two to three days of strength training to increase and maintain lean muscle tissue. The minimalist approach can fit within these guidelines, with a focus on the most demanding or impactful exercises. Simply put, if you work harder and smarter, you can decrease the time you spend in the gym and still achieve results.

Your minimalist workout should include a few minutes of preparatory or warm-up movements. To start, perform soft-tissue work such as foam rolling for the large muscle groups including the hips, back and shoulders. After soft-tissue work, perform dynamic stretching that mimics the movements in your planned workout. This portion of your workout need not be extensive, but can make a big difference in the quality of your workout as a whole. It also allows for mental preparation and focus.

When it comes to strength training, perform large muscle, functional-type exercises. Focus primarily on the five major movements. For example, include pushing exercises like push-ups and overhead presses; pulling exercises such as bent-over rows and pull-ups; bend-and-lift exercises such as dead lifts; rotation exercises such as wood chops; and single-leg movements like squats. You can perform all of these major movements in one workout or you could split them between days. You can also alter the set/rep scheme to achieve your desired training result or you can take a more intuitive training approach by listening to listen to how your body feels and adapt your workout accordingly each day.

You can accumulate cardiovascular activity in a variety of ways. Activities of daily living such as physical chores, walking or outdoor recreation activities are great ways to accumulate heart-healthy cardio movement. Another approach is to perform HIIT-style training within or at the end of a workout. Instead of spending large chunks of low-intensity time on a treadmill, a few sets of challenging high-intensity exercises such as burpees, high knees or sprints should only take five to 10 minutes, and can provide results comparable to twice the amount of low- to moderate-intensity cardio.


You can become a fitness minimalist by making the most of your workouts and performing the most impactful exercises. Keep your workouts simple and attainable, yet physically challenging. When you feel confident in our workout, you are more likely to be consistent, which is key to creating and maintaining optimal health and fitness.

Amber Long
AMBER LONG ContributorAmber Long, M.Ed. currently resides in Denver, Colorado where she is the Executive Director of the Student Wellness Center at the University of Colorado, Denver. Amber is a certified trainer, instructor and health coach as well as a continuing education provider and fitness business consultant. She holds two degrees from Iowa State University, a bachelor’s degree in Community Health Education and a master’s degree in Higher Education, Leadership Policy Studies.  She believes exercise is medicine and works to engage clients from all walks of life in physical activity and smart nutrition in order to live their best life.