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Are you willing to make a positive change? Join the thousands of individuals on the same fitness journey!

TESTMONIALS Start Your Transformation
English Macedonian

14 Signs of Iron Deficiency Anemia

Iron deficiency anemia is a common type of anemia.

Your body needs iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that enables them to carry oxygen through your blood vessels.

If your body doesn’t have enough hemoglobin, your tissues and muscles won’t get enough oxygen to be able to work effectively.

Here are 14 signs and symptoms of iron deficiency, starting with the most common. Also, find out how to recognize anemia in children and older adults, and when to see a doctor.


Key Takeaways:

  • Unusual tiredness: Iron deficiency can lead to fatigue due to insufficient oxygen delivery to tissues.
  • Pale skin: Low hemoglobin levels cause paleness in the skin and lower eyelids, indicating potential iron deficiency.
  • Shortness of breath: Decreased oxygen transport can result in difficulty breathing during daily activities.
  • Headaches: Iron deficiency may contribute to frequent headaches, especially during menstruation.

1. Unusual tiredness

Feeling tired is a common sign of iron deficiency anemia. It can also affect people who don’t have enough iron, even if they haven’t received a diagnosis of deficiency.

This fatigue happens because your body lacks the iron it needs to make a protein called hemoglobin, which helps carry oxygen around your body.

Without enough hemoglobin, less oxygen reaches your tissues and muscles, depriving them of energy. Your heart also has to work harder to move more oxygen-rich blood around your body, which can make you tired.

Since tiredness is often considered a part of a busy, modern life, it’s difficult to diagnose an iron deficiency based on this symptom alone.

However, tiredness that occurs with pallor, shortness of breath, and other symptoms may be a sign of anemia.

Note
Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of iron deficiency. This is due to less oxygen reaching your tissues, depriving them of energy.

2. Skin that’s paler than usual

Skin that’s paler than usual, as well as pale coloring of the inside of the lower eyelids, can also indicate iron deficiency.

The hemoglobin in red blood cells gives blood its red color, so low levels caused by iron deficiency make the blood less red. That’s why skin can lose some of its color or warmth in people with iron deficiency.

A 2016 study notes that pallor in the skin or inside the eyelids is a reliable indicator of anemia. A person with severe anemia may also have pallor in the creases of the palms of the hands.

If you pull your lower eyelid down while looking in a mirror, the inside layer should be a vibrant red color. If it’s a very pale pink or yellow, you may have iron deficiency.

In people with darker skin tones, the eyelid may be the only area where this condition is noticeable.

However, pallor can happen for many reasons. Only a blood test can confirm if a person has anemia.

Note

Skin that’s paler than usual in areas like the face, lower inner eyelids, or nails may be a sign of iron deficiency. This paleness is due to low levels of hemoglobin, which gives blood its redness.

3. Shortness of breath

Hemoglobin enables your red blood cells to carry oxygen around your body.

When hemoglobin levels are low with iron deficiency, oxygen levels are also low. This means that your muscles won’t receive enough oxygen to do everyday activities, such as walking.

As a result, your breathing rate will increase as your body tries to get more oxygen, resulting in shortness of breath.

If you find yourself out of breath when doing daily tasks that you used to find easy, such as walking, climbing stairs, or working out, it may be due to iron deficiency.

Note

Shortness of breath is a symptom of iron deficiency, since low hemoglobin levels stop your body from effectively transporting oxygen to your muscles and tissues.

4. Headaches

Iron deficiency can occur during menstruation, and headaches can also occur with both.

The link between iron deficiency and headaches is unclear. Several factors may contribute, including the relationship between altered dopamine function and estrogen levels.

Although there are many causes of headaches, frequent, recurrent headaches may be a sign of iron deficiency.

Note

Headaches may be a symptom of iron deficiency, although more research is needed on the connection between dopamine dysfunction, estrogen levels, and iron deficiency.

5. Heart palpitations

Noticeable heartbeats, or heart palpitations, are another sign of iron deficiency anemia.

Experts are still studying the link between iron deficiency, anemia, and heart problems, but they believe oxygen supply may play a role

Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that helps transport oxygen around your body. In iron deficiency, low hemoglobin levels mean the heart has to work extra hard to carry oxygen.

This may lead to irregular heartbeats or the feeling that your heart is beating abnormally fast.

Consequently, iron deficiency may worsenconditions that affect your heart, such as heart failure and coronary heart disease.

[Warning] In cases of iron deficiency, your heart has to work especially hard to transport oxygen. This can worsen conditions that affect heart health. [/Warning]

6. Dry and damaged hair and skin

Dry or damaged skin and hair may be signs of iron deficiency.

Iron deficiency lowers the level of hemoglobin in your blood, which may reduce the amount of oxygen available to cells that cause hair growth.

Skin and hair that lack oxygen may become dry and weak.

Iron deficiency is also associated with hair loss, and some research suggests it may be a cause.

Hair often falls out during everyday washing and brushing. But, significant hair loss may be a sign of iron deficiency.

Note

Skin and hair may receive less oxygen if you have iron deficiency, leading to dryness or damage. In more severe cases, this may lead to hair loss.

7. Swelling and soreness of your tongue or mouth

Sometimes, changes inside or outside of your mouth can indicate iron deficiency anemia. Signs includea swollen, inflamed, pale, or strangely smooth tongue.

Other possible symptoms around your mouth include:

  • dry mouth
  • a burning feeling in your mouth
  • sore, red cracks at the corners of your mouth
  • mouth ulcers
Note

A sore, swollen, or strangely smooth tongue may be a sign of iron deficiency anemia, as are cracks on the corners of your mouth.

8. Restless legs

There may be a link between iron deficiency and restless leg syndrome.

This condition involves a strong urge to move your legs while they’re at rest. It may also cause unpleasant crawling or itching sensations in your feet and legs.

It’s usually worse at night and can make it difficult to sleep.

The causes of primary restless leg syndrome are not fully understood. However, it can stem from various medical conditions, including iron deficiency anemia.

Indeed, people with iron deficiency anemia are six times more likely to have restless leg syndrome than the general population.

Note

People with iron deficiency anemia may have restless legs syndrome, which is a strong urge to move your legs while at rest.

9. Brittle or spoon-shaped fingernails

Spoon-shaped fingernails, also called koilonychia, are another symptom of iron deficiency anemia.

Usually, the first sign is brittle nails that chip and crack easily.

In the later stages of iron deficiency, the nails can become spoon-shaped, meaning that the middle of your nail dips and the edges raise to give a rounded appearance like a spoon.

This is a rare side effect and is usually reversible with treatment to boost the body’s iron levels.

Note

Brittle or spoon-shaped nails may indicate more severe iron deficiency anemia.

10–14. Other signs of iron deficiency anemia

Several other indicators signal that your iron levels may be low. These tend to be less common and may be linked to many conditions other than iron deficiency.

Other signs of iron deficiency anemia include:

  1. Strange cravings. A hankering for strange foods or non-food items is called pica. A person may crave ice, clay, dirt, chalk, or paper. It can occur during pregnancy and may be a sign of iron deficiency.
  2. Feelings of depression. There may be a link between iron deficiency anemia and depression in adults, including during pregnancy.
  3. Cold hands and feet. Iron deficiency means less oxygen delivery to your hands and feet. Some people may feel the cold more easily in general or experience cold hands and feet.
  4. More frequent infections. Iron is needed for a healthy immune system, and a lack of iron may increase your risk of infections.
  5. Poor appetite. Iron deficiency is linked to low appetite due to changes in the hunger hormone ghrelin.

Symptoms of anemia in children

Children with iron deficiency anemia may:

  • have pale skin
  • appear irritable or fussy
  • lack energy
  • tire quickly
  • have a rapid heart rate
  • have a sore or swollen tongue
  • have an enlarged spleen, just below the ribs
  • show signs of pica, such as wanting to eat ice

Symptoms of anemia in older adults

Anemia is common in older adults, but it can be hard to identify, as some of the symptoms are common as people get older.

Symptoms include:

  • fatigue
  • difficulty thinking and focusing
  • depression
  • muscle weakness
  • frailty

Compared with younger people, older adults are more likely to have conditions associated with iron deficiency anemia, such as chronic kidney disease, inflammation, and nutritional deficiencies.

Older adults are also more likelyto use certain medications, like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), anticoagulants, and proton pump inhibitors over a long period, which may cause blood loss in the stomach or reduce iron absorption.

Note

Other signs of iron deficiency include strange cravings, depression, frequent infections, and cold hands and feet. Children and older adults share symptoms, but neurological symptoms, like ADHD, are more common in children.

When to see a doctor

Talk with a doctor if you have symptoms of iron deficiency. Without treatment, you may develop iron deficiency anemia.

This can increase the risk of complications, such as:

  • heart problems
  • depression
  • a higher chance of infections
  • pregnancy issues

People who are pregnant or have heavy menstrual periods have the highest risk and should talk with a doctor about being tested for iron deficiency anemia.

If your doctor confirms that you have iron deficiency — typically via a blood test — they will develop a treatment plan that best meets your healthcare needs.

They may recommend increasing your intake of iron via your diet or taking supplements.

However, if the doctor suspects anemia stems from gastrointestinal problems, they may recommend further tests and procedures, including upper and lower endoscopies.

If you think you have iron deficiency anemia, speak with a doctor before changing your diet or deciding on any supplements.

Note

Long-term complications of iron deficiency anemia include depression, pregnancy issues, and heart problems. So talk with your doctor if you’re experiencing any symptoms.

The bottom line

Recognizing symptoms of iron deficiency is crucial for timely diagnosis and treatment to prevent complications like heart problems and depression. Consult a doctor if experiencing any signs, especially if pregnant or experiencing heavy menstrual periods.

Do Multivitamins Work?

Multivitamins and multiminerals are the most commonly used supplements in the world.

Their popularity has increased rapidly in the past few decades .

Some people believe that multivitamins can improve health, compensate for poor eating habits, and even reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases.

This article examines the scientific evidence behind multivitamins.

Key Takeaways:

  • Multivitamins are supplements that provide a variety of vitamins, minerals, and sometimes other ingredients.
  • Research on multivitamins and heart disease or cancer prevention yields mixed results.
  • Multivitamins may offer benefits for brain function, mood, and eye health.
  • However, excessive intake or certain formulations can pose risks, especially for specific populations.

What are multivitamins?

Multivitamins are supplements that contain many different vitamins and minerals, sometimes alongside other ingredients .

Given that there’s no standard for what constitutes a multivitamin, their nutrient composition varies by brand and product .

Multivitamins are also referred to as multis, multiples, or simply vitamins.

They’re available in many forms, including tablets, capsules, chewable gummies, powders, and liquids.

Most multivitamins should be taken once or twice per day. Make sure to read the label and follow the recommended dosage instructions.

Warning

Multivitamins are supplements that contain different vitamins and minerals. They’re available in various forms.

What do multivitamins contain?

Thirteen vitamins and about 15 minerals are essential to your health.

Many produce enzymes and hormones, boost your immunity, and keep your nerves and organs functioning properly.

Your body also needs these nutrients for reproduction, maintenance, growth, and the regulation of bodily processes.

Multivitamins may offer many of these vitamins and minerals — but in varying amounts. They may also contain other ingredients like herbs, amino acids, and fatty acids.

Because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate dietary supplements as strictly as it regulates prescription drugs, some may contain higher or lower levels of some nutrients than stated on the label.

Additionally, some supplements may contain ingredients that can interact with medications, so speak with your healthcare provider before starting a new supplement.

Furthermore, the nutrients in multivitamins may be derived from real foods or made synthetically, making it essential to purchase your vitamins from a reputable manufacturer.

Note

In addition to vitamins and minerals, multivitamins may contain herbs, amino acids, and fatty acids — though the amount and number of nutrients can vary.

Multivitamins and heart disease

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death worldwide .

While some believe that taking multivitamins can help prevent heart disease, research doesn’t seem to support it conclusively.

Some studies suggest that multivitamins are correlated to a reduced risk of heart attacks and death, while others show no effects.

The Physicians’ Health Study II investigated the effects of daily multivitamin use in over 14,000 middle-aged male doctors for over a decade and found no reductions in heart attacks, strokes, or mortality .

However, a more recent study revealed that among women — but not men — taking a multivitamin for more than 3 years was linked to a lower risk of dying from heart disease.

Note

While some studies indicate that people who take multivitamins have a lower risk of heart disease, others have found no connection. Overall, the evidence is mixed.

Multivitamins and cancer

The evidence regarding multivitamin use and cancer risk is also mixed.

Some studies suggest no effect on cancer risk, while others link multivitamin use to increased cancer risk

One review examined five randomized controlled trials including 47,289 people. It found a 31% lower risk of cancer in men who took multivitamins, but no effect in women.

Two observational studies, one including only women and the other including both men and women, tied long-term multivitamin use to a reduced risk of colon cancer .

Finally, the Physicians’ Health Study II noted that long-term, daily multivitamin use reduced cancer risk in men with a history of cancer, as well as those with no history of the disease.

Note

Some studies link multivitamin use to a reduced risk of cancer, while others find no benefit.

Do multivitamins have any other health benefits?

Multivitamins have been studied for several other purposes, including promoting brain function and eye health.

Brain function

Several small studies examining specific populations have found that multivitamins can improve memory in older adults .

Multivitamins may also affect your mood. Research has not only revealed links between poor mood and nutrient deficiencies but also between nutritional supplements and reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression .

However, other studies reveal little to no changes in mood.

Eye health

Age-related macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide .

One study found that taking antioxidant vitamins and minerals may slow its progression and help prevent it.

Furthermore, some evidence indicates that multivitamins may reduce your risk of developing cataracts, another widespread eye disease.

Pro Tip

Multivitamins may help improve your memory and mood. What’s more, antioxidant vitamins and minerals may help slow the progression of certain diseases that cause blindness.

Multivitamins may be harmful in some cases

Dosage is an essential factor to consider when taking multivitamins.

Although high doses of some vitamins and minerals are acceptable for some people, high amounts can be harmful.

The appropriate dosage can depend on a vitamin’s solubility, which is categorized into the following two groups:

  • Water-soluble. Your body flushes out excess amounts of these vitamins through your urine.

  • Fat-soluble. Since your body has no easy way to get rid of these, excess amounts may accumulate in your liver.

Pregnant people need to be especially careful with their vitamin A intake, as excessive intakes have been linked to congenital disabilities.

Vitamin D toxicity is rare and unlikely to develop from multivitamin use. However, vitamin A toxicity is more common .

If you take multivitamins and eat many nutrient-dense foods, you could exceed the recommended daily intake of many nutrients.

Smokers should avoid multivitamins with large amounts of beta carotene or vitamin A, as these nutrients may increase your risk of lung cancer .

High doses of certain minerals, such as iron, can lead to stomach upset, constipation, vomiting, and fainting. Iron can also limit the body’s ability to absorb zinc .

Particularly, men should be mindful of their iron consumption, as they tend to store more of it than women do, as well as individuals who have hemochromatosis.

This condition can lead to a buildup of toxic levels of the mineral and may cause liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, and heart disease. Those with this condition should also avoid vitamin C supplements.

Another risk is faulty manufacturing processes, which may cause multivitamins to harbor much larger amounts of nutrients than intended .

[Warning] Supplementing with large doses of certain nutrients can have harmful effects. This is more likely to occur if you take a high-potency multivitamin on top of a nutrient-dense diet. [/Warning]

Should you take multivitamins?

Multivitamins aren’t right for everyone and may even harm some individuals.

That said, specific populations may benefit from multivitamins, including:

  • Older adults. Vitamin B12 absorption can decrease with age. Also, older adults may need more calcium and vitamin D .

  • Vegans and vegetarians. As vitamin B12 is found primarily in animal foods, those who follow plant-based diets are at a higher risk of deficiency of this vitamin. They may also lack calcium, zinc, iron, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids .

Other people who may benefit from multivitamins include those who’ve undergone weight loss surgery, are on low calorie diets, or don’t get enough nutrients from food alone .

Note

Some individuals, including older adults, vegetarians, and vegans, may need higher amounts of certain vitamins or minerals.

The bottom line

Multivitamins are not a ticket to optimal health.

In fact, evidence that they improve health for most people is inconsistent. In some cases, they may even cause harm.

If you have a nutrient deficiency, it’s best to supplement with that specific nutrient. Multivitamins pack many nutrients, most of which you may not need. It may be best to speak with your healthcare provider to decide your best course of action.

Additionally, it’s best if you don’t take a multivitamin to compensate for a poor diet. Eating a balanced diet of fresh, whole foods is much more likely to ensure good health over the long term.

What Is Sun Gazing Meditation and Does It Have Health Benefits?

Sun gazing is a meditative practice that involves looking at the sun during off-peak times. However, medical experts don’t recommend this type of practice due to the risk of permanent eye damage.

Key Takeaways:

  • There isn’t much research into sun gazing meditation and how it could benefit your body and mind since the dangers are ever-present.
  • Most of the benefits can be gleaned from general non-sun gazing meditation, being outdoors, and enjoying nature. Many people believe connecting with natural forces can be incredibly healing, both physically and mentally.
  • Most medical professionals don’t recommend sun gazing at all and suggest trying other meditation practices instead due to immediate and long-term permanent risks to your eyes.

Sun gazing is a method of meditation that attempts to harness the healing power of the sun. Participants look directly at the sun, most commonly during sunrise and sunset, in an effort to connect with its energy.

However, there’s no research that supports any health benefits of sun gazing, and any form of it can result in permanent eye damage.

We’ll examine the risks and benefits of safe sun exposure and meditation in general as well as the risks of practicing sun gazing.

Warning

The consensus in the medical community is that looking directly at the sun can be damaging to the eyes, potentially causing irreversible retinal damage and vision loss. This is not a recommended practice.

What is sun gazing?

Sun gazing is similar to other meditative practices like moon gazing meditation.

This type of meditation uses a focusing object to enhance the benefits, which can be gained without looking directly at the sun and its harmful UV rays.

While gazing at the sun can be very harmful, gazing at other objects without UV radiation can potentially be beneficial.

An older 2014 study connected focusing on an object during meditation to an enhanced focus of the mind. Though this could include focusing on any kind of object instead of the sun.

Note

However, the benefits of meditation, such as stress reduction, self-awareness, and improving sleep, can be seen in many different practices.

Safety precautions and risks

Most traditional healthcare professionals and ophthalmologists don’t recommend sun gazing.

Studies have shown that ocular diseases like cataracts, certain eye cancers, and photokeratitis are associated with exposure to radiation from the sun. It can also cause immediate damage to the retina.

Ultimately, the benefits of meditation that focuses on an object could be harnessed without directly looking at the sun. Consider outdoor meditation that focuses on an object in nature or try a focusing sound or visual cue.

Benefits of meditation

There are many benefits to safe meditation in general. Here are just a few:

Stress, depression, and anxiety reduction

Reviews of studies on meditation suggest it can help improve measures of anxiety, depression, and pain.

Including meditation practice alongside traditional treatments has potential as a low cost method of complementary support for those living with anxiety.

Emotional health benefits

Numerous studies have shown that meditation can improve emotional processing.

A 2019 study of brief mindfulness meditation showed improvements in certain elements of emotion processing such as intensity, emotional memory, and emotional attention bias.

Sleep improvements

A 2019 review of studies suggested that those with sleep disturbance may benefit from mindfulness meditation, though more research is still needed to confirm the benefits.

Ultimately, meditation could prove to have benefits for all kinds of conditions and situations and is considered safe for most healthy people. But gazing at the sun does not have to be a part of it to see these benefits.

Benefits of safe sun exposure

There’s no scientific research to suggest that sun gazing meditation offers any benefits. However, limited and safe sun exposure without looking into the sun can be beneficial.

Evidence suggests that general sunlight exposure can:

  • combat fatigue and drowsiness
  • improve sleep quality
  • increase vitamin D and bone health
  • improve or maintain mental health

Additionally, a 2018 study found that just being outside has numerous health benefits, including perceived benefits for mental health. This means that a meditative practice outdoors could be beneficial even without gazing at the sun.

Improve sleep and circadian rhythms

Vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining many functions of the body, including circadian rhythm and sleep duration. More research is needed to fully understand the relationship, but low vitamin D levels can be a cause for concern.

A study from 2014 also found that exposure to sunlight could be an effective countermeasure for fatigue and drowsiness.

Benefits for mental health

The mental health benefits of sun exposure include:

  • increased dopamine and serotonin
  • an improved mood
  • a reduction in depressive symptoms

Should I learn to sun gaze?

Medical experts don’t advise this practice at all, but you can incorporate a meditation practice that includes nature and focusing on a safer object.

How to meditate in nature

Prepare by taking some deep breaths. Take the time to stretch and loosen up your body. Then follow these steps:

Meditation steps in a natural setting

  • Try using a visual focal point that is not the sun. Consider looking at a tree, flowers, or general scenery (like your local vistas or skyline).
  • Focus on your breathing and relax your body.
  • Let your meditation come to a natural end and finish with a few body stretches.

You can also add movement to your meditation.

Pro Tip

If standing stationery feels too intense, then introduce movements like stretches. It’s best to end with some stretches when your meditation comes to a natural end.

The bottom line

While sun gazing meditation poses significant risks to eye health, incorporating meditation in nature with safer focal points can provide similar benefits without endangering vision.

Insulin Resistance

You could be insulin resistant for years without knowing it. This condition typically does not trigger any noticeable symptoms, so it’s important to have a doctor regularly check your blood glucose levels.

Key Takeaways:

  • Symptoms: Classic diabetes symptoms include extreme thirst, increased hunger, frequent urination, fatigue, and tingling sensations in hands or feet. Some may develop acanthosis nigricans, a skin condition.
  • Testing: Diagnosis involves A1C, fasting blood glucose, glucose tolerance tests, and random blood draws.
  • Risk Factors: Sedentary lifestyle, family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, and gestational diabetes increase risk.

Symptoms of insulin resistance

If you have prediabetes, it’s important to work with your doctor. They will routinely monitor your blood sugar or hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c) so they can recognize whether you’ve developed diabetes.

Classic diabetes symptoms include:

  • extreme thirst or hunger
  • feeling hungry even after a meal
  • increased or frequent urination
  • tingling sensations in hands or feet
  • feeling more tired than usual
  • frequent infections
  • evidence of high blood sugar levels in blood work

Some people with insulin resistance may also develop a skin condition known as acanthosis nigricans. It appears as dark, velvety patches often on the backs of the neck, groin, and armpits.

Some experts believe insulin directly and indirectly activates the insulin-like growth factor 1 receptors on types of skin cells called keratinocytes and fibroblasts. This could lead to the growth and development of the condition Acanthosis Nigricans. There’s no cure for this condition. However, if another condition causes these symptoms, treatment may help natural skin color return.

If you don’t have obvious symptoms, your doctor can usually detect prediabetes or diabetes with lab tests.

Though doctors don’t usually test for insulin resistance, the most accurate test is a euglycemic insulin clamp that’s used for research purposes.

Testing and diagnosis of insulin resistance

A1C test

One way to diagnose prediabetes or diabetes is with an A1C test. This test measures your average blood sugar over the previous 2 to 3 months.

  • An A1C under 5.7 percent is considered normal.
  • An A1C between 5.7 and 6.4 percent is diagnostic for prediabetes.
  • An A1C equal to or above 6.5 percent is diagnostic for diabetes.

Your doctor may want to reconfirm the test results later. However, depending on the lab where you have your blood drawn, these numbers could vary by 0.1 to 0.2 percent.

Fasting blood glucose test

A fasting blood glucose test will show your fasting blood sugar level. You’d have this test done after not eating or drinking for at least 8 hours.

A high level may require a second test a few days later to confirm the reading. If both tests show high levels of blood glucose, your doctor may diagnose you with prediabetes or diabetes.

  • Fasting blood sugar levels under 100 milligrams/deciliter (mg/dL) are considered normal.
  • Levels between 100 and 125 mg/dL indicate prediabetes.
  • Levels equal to or greater than 126 mg/dL are diagnostic for diabetes.

Depending on the lab, these numbers could vary up to 3 mg/dL points in the cutoff numbers.

Glucose tolerance testing

A 2-hour glucose tolerance test may be another way to diagnose prediabetes or diabetes. Your blood glucose level will be determined before this test begins. You’ll then receive a premeasured sugary drink, and your blood glucose level is checked again in 2 hours.

  • A blood sugar level of less than 140 mg/dL after 2 hours is considered normal.
  • A result between 140 mg/dL and 199 mg/dL is considered prediabetes.
  • A blood sugar level of 200mg/dL or higher is considered diabetes.

Random blood draws

Random blood sugar tests are useful if you’re experiencing significant diabetes symptoms.

Risk factors for insulin resistance

Testing for diabetes should begin at about age 40, along with the usual tests for cholesterol and other markers of health. Ideally, your doctor will request testing at your annual physical exam or preventive screening.

Your doctor may recommend testing at a younger age if you have these risk factors:

  • have a sedentary, or inactive, lifestyle
  • have a low HDL (good cholesterol) level or high triglyceride level
  • have a parent or sibling with diabetes
  • have high blood pressure (140/90 mm Hg or above)
  • have symptoms of prediabetes
  • were diagnosed with gestational diabetes (a temporary condition that causes diabetes only while pregnant)
  • had a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
  • have had a stroke

Children and teens ages 10 to 18 may also benefit from diabetes screening if they have overweight and have two or more of the above risk factors for diabetes.

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Preventing insulin resistance problems

If you have prediabetes, you may be able to prevent the condition from developing into diabetes with these health-promoting behaviors:

  • Work toward including exercise as a part of your daily routine, preferably getting in 30 minutes at least 5 days a week.
  • Try to eat a nutrient-rich, balanced diet as often as possible.
  • If you have overweight, consider losing weight — even reducing your body weight by just 7 percent can help lower your risk of developing diabetes.

Making health-promoting lifestyle choices is the best way to help get your blood glucose levels in the desired range.

The bottom line

Understanding symptoms, testing, and risk factors of insulin resistance is crucial for timely diagnosis and prevention of diabetes.

10 simple ways to work on self-improvement

Perhaps you want to invest in self-improvement to be more mindful, to learn new skills, or to inspire others. But just how do you improve yourself?

While there’s no one way of working on self-improvement, there are some tried and true strategies worth mentioning.

The suggestions below will provide the inspiration and motivation needed to kickstart this self-improvement journey.

Key Takeaways:

  • Self-improvement is a continuous journey towards personal growth, involving awareness, learning, and discovering one’s unique strengths.
  • Strategies for self-improvement include reading, journaling, affirmations, physical exercise, mindful language use, trying new experiences, and decluttering.
  • Ten practical ways to improve oneself include focusing on strengths, seeking feedback, working with an accountability partner, starting small, committing to curiosity, and celebrating successes.

What is self-improvement?

Self-improvement can be described as a life-long process. If we want to be at point Z at the end of our life, self-improvement is the process that makes us move from A to B to C… along with all the steps we need to reach our last stage and fulfill our life.

The final stage is different for each of us, and the intermediate ones as well. But everyone can go through the process and experience the meaning — and the pleasure — of expanding oneself and enabling new stages to happen

Self-improvement involves awareness, new learnings, discoveries about who we are and what makes us unique, and many insights and moments in which we see life and situations clearly. The process of continual development connects us deeply to our essence.

Everyone who embarks on a self-improvement journey would say that the process is worth it, but it is messy and painful at times. To move forward and overcome our fears, we need to look at our shadows sometimes, and this may be scary. What can we do to move forward when the game gets tough?

One of the keys to navigating growth is to remember why we are doing it and that what we are experiencing is normal, human, and an essential part of the journey.

Why is self-improvement important?

There are so many reasons to adopt a growth mindset and embrace self-improvement. I listed my own answers (although the list is far from complete):

  • One becomes aware of their flaws and strengths;
  • One discovers what is possible for him or her in life and adds meaning to their days;
  • One lives a more authentic life, moving closer to meaning and fulfillment;
  • One raises the standards — and by doing this, one inspires others to do it too;
  • One develops life principles, which provide a solid ground to stand on when hard days come;
  • One realizes how painful and difficult this process may be, and with this realization, one becomes more aware of and kinder to, the journey of others;
  • One learns to ask for help, as many things in life are more manageable with the support of another;
  • One focuses on their own journey, knowing that everyone runs at their own tempo and that nothing else lies in our control other than our own actions.

The people that choose self-improvement have powerful energy. They shine for how they are, and their brightness inspires and enlightens the path of others, too.

Self-improvement strategies

Reading

Reading is one of the most accessible and most affordable ways to expand our knowledge and our world. Books are great companions in our self-development journey, no matter what we want to improve.

Journaling

Writing down thoughts helps us see them with more clarity. Keeping a journal with regularity lets us discover patterns and recurring ideas, and later on, we may decide to work on them. Another excellent tool for self-improvement is keeping a gratitude journal — that is, list every day at least a couple of things for which we are grateful. This leads to better self-awareness and self-esteem.

Affirmations

Affirmations are a powerful way to state our intentions and remind ourselves what we value. Daily affirmations let us deliberately focus on what we care about and bring more of it into our days.

Physical exercise

Movement keeps us fit. The body is an excellent source of information, and it constantly signals us what it needs. Taking care of the body we live in is a beautiful way of taking care of ourselves and sustaining our development. 

Choose your words

Paying attention to our expressions and words may help a lot in shaping our daily life. Being mindful of what we say and how we say it is the first step to understanding ourselves better!

Do something for the first time

Get out of your comfort zone and try out something new! One of my favorite questions to ask is, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” It reminds me to explore, like children do, and to cultivate curiosity for the unknown.

Ten practical ways to improve yourself

1. Focus on your strengths

Often people think of self-development as “covering for their weakness,” which makes the process more painful. Self-improvement can also mean developing our talents, becoming excellent at what we love to do, and having a lot of fun!

2. Declutter

The process of decluttering is the process of letting go of the parts of us (and our environments) that no longer serve us. By decluttering, we make space for new experiences to happen, and with those, new awareness and growth. The decluttering process can be liberating and allows us to clearly see which direction we want to take for our growth.

3. Ask yourself powerful questions

Questions may provide meaningful insights. How do you want to inspire others? What do you want to be remembered for? What would your older self tell you about your self-development?

There are hundreds of powerful questions. Let them find you.

4. Seek feedback

Constructive feedback is like the “boost-button:” it provides valuable insights for us to improve and serve others better. It makes us progress faster, as others reveal to us what we cannot see. Feedback enables us to make the necessary adjustments, dream more, and achieve more!

5. Work with an accountability partner

Having an accountability partner, like a friend or a coach, can support tremendously to stay on track. Accountability is a powerful mechanism that gently helps us to move forward and, in the end, reach the desired outcomes.

6. Start small

Sustainable progress is made of small, consistent steps. There is no need for giant leaps — even if they are also possible, they’re not always the best place to start. If you are hesitant, start small. Little actions generate positive loops that further create other positive loops. The change we want to see starts with us —  and with the first step.

7. Keep moving forward

Many times the biggest mistake we make is to give up on a process! If you choose to challenge yourself and improve, stick with it. Learning entails plateaus, moments of joy, and setbacks.  It’s all part of the process. Keep moving forward, one step at a time!

8. Commit to curiosity

Curiosity pushes us to research more, to question, and to aim for more profound wisdom. Curiosity arises every time we adopt the so-called “beginner’s mind,” and we try to reset all we know to see things as if it were the first time. This behavior gives us fresh insights, free from bias and from the experiences made until that moment, that in some cases could hinder instead of helping us.

9. Get moving

A healthy mind lives in a healthy body. If you are mainly focused on brain activities, find some space for physical exercise. If you are a sport-lover and always outdoor, try to find time for a bit of steadiness and introspection. The combination of brain and body (and spirit!) gives the best long-term feelings and rewards.

10. Celebrate your successes

Nelson Mandela said, “Remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead.” Celebrating successes is a healthy habit, often sacrificed in the name of new actions and results. To set the time on “pause” provides the opportunity to observe what one has accomplished, the progress made, the learnings, the feelings. It is such a critical moment, as it opens up space to acknowledge oneself and others and openly share one’s pride.

Best self-improvement books

As mentioned earlier, reading is a useful strategy for self-improvement work. Each of us has our favorite self-improvement books. Some, we come back to over and over, and some will change throughout life phases. These are, up to now, my favorite self-improvement reads — without any particular ranking, as each one has its own meaning and importance:

1. Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment, by George Leonard

This book clearly explains how the learning process works, the plateaus’ importance, and how to become a master in what we desire.

2. Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill

This book is an invitation to dream big, visualize what we want to become, affirm it loudly, and get ready to find allies and shape our lives. It’s impossible to describe this book’s power; one must read it and put thoughts into practice. ful of how we are giving away the most precious resource we possess.

3. Principles: Life and Work, by Ray Dalio

A masterpiece! This book entails so much wisdom, expressed in Ray Dalio’s principles, that provide a frame of reference and help us build our own.

The bottom line

Self-improvement is a transformative journey that requires embracing challenges, seeking growth opportunities, and celebrating milestones along the way. By focusing on strengths, seeking feedback, and committing to curiosity, individuals can navigate the journey towards personal fulfillment and authenticity.

Post-Workout Nutrition: What to Eat After a Workout

When planning a workout, there’s a lot that goes into it to help you reach your goals.

As part of that effort, there’s a good chance you put a lot of thought into your pre-workout meal. But are you giving your post-workout meal the same attention? If not, it’s a good idea to do so. Consuming the right nutrients after exercise is just as important as eating before.

To help you optimize your nutrition after workouts, here is a detailed guide.

Key Takeaways:

  • Eating after a workout helps replenish glycogen stores and rebuild muscle proteins faster.
  • A combination of carbs and protein is essential for optimal post-workout recovery.
  • Timing matters: Aim to consume a post-workout meal within a few hours, ideally including a mix of simple, easily digested foods.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink water or electrolyte beverages to replace fluids lost during exercise and enhance recovery.

Eating after a workout is important

To understand how the right foods can help you after exercise, it’s important to learn how physical activity affects your body.

When you’re working out, your muscles use up their glycogen — the body’s preferred fuel source, especially during high intensity workouts. This results in your muscles being partially depleted of glycogen. Some of the proteins in your muscles can also be broken down and damaged.

After your workout, your body rebuilds glycogen stores and regrows those muscle proteins. Eating the right nutrients soon after you exercise can help your body get this done faster. It’s especially important to eat carbs and protein after your workout.

  • Doing this helps your body:
  • decrease muscle protein breakdown
  • increase muscle protein synthesis (growth)
  • restore glycogen stores
  • enhance recovery

Note

Getting in the right nutrients after exercise can help you rebuild your muscle proteins and glycogen stores. It also helps stimulate new muscle growth.

Protein, carbs, and fat

Each macronutrient — protein, carbs, and fat — is involved in your body’s post-workout recovery process. That’s why it’s important to have the right mix.

The timing of your meals is also important. Sports nutrition researchers have been studying nutrient timing for more than 40 years. These days, experts rely on a mix of older and newer studies to make recommendations .

Protein helps repair and build muscle

Exercise triggers the breakdown of muscle protein. The rate at which this happens depends on the exercise and your level of training, but even well-trained athletes experience muscle-protein breakdown .

Consuming an adequate. It’s recommended to split up your protein intake across the entire day, at 3-hour intervals. So you’ll want to eat protein as part of small meals spaced throughout the day. Depending on your body weight, 20-40 grams of protein every 3 to 4 hours is recommended.

Studies have shown that ingesting 20–40 grams of protein seems to maximize the body’s ability to recover after exercise .

In addition, eating protein before exercise may decrease the amount you need to eat after without affecting recovery .

One study found that eating protein pre-workout and post-workout has a similar effect on muscle strength, hypertrophy, and body composition changes .

But if you’re specifically aiming to build muscle, eating high quality protein within the first 2 hours after a workout may stimulate your body to create the building blocks for new muscle tissue .

Carbs help with recovery

Your body’s glycogen stores are used as fuel during exercise, and consuming carbs after your workout helps replenish them.

The rate at which your glycogen stores are used depends on the activity. For example, endurance sports cause your body to use more glycogen than resistance training. For this reason, if you participate in endurance sports (running, swimming, etc.), you might need to consume more carbs than someone engaging in weightlifting.

Eating a high carb diet of 3.6-5.5 grams of carbs per pound (8-12 grams per kilogram [kg]) of body weight each day can help you maximize your glycogen stores .

Furthermore, insulin secretion, which promotes glycogen synthesis, is better stimulated when carbs and protein are consumed at the same time .

Therefore, consuming carbs and protein after exercise can maximize protein and glycogen synthesis .

Early studies found benefits from consuming the two in a ratio of 3 to 1 (carbs to protein). For example, that’s 40 grams of protein and 120 grams of carbs .

When rapid recovery is necessary (under 4 hours), current recommendations suggest a similar ratio. Specifically, you can help restore glycogen faster by consuming 0.4 grams of carbs per pound of body weight (0.8 grams of carbs per kg) with 0.1-0.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight (0.2-0.4 grams of protein per kg) during each hour of recovery .

Recommendations for carb intake are targeted to the needs of endurance athletes. If you’re focused on resistance training, you may need less.

What’s more, most studies on this topic involve only male athletes, so it’s unclear whether female athletes may have different intake needs.

Fat may provide some benefits

There is not enough evidence to say whether you should limit fat intake after a workout (1).

Many people think that eating fat after a workout slows digestion and inhibits the absorption of nutrients. While fat might slow down the absorption of your post-workout meal, it may not reduce its benefits. For example, a study showed that whole milk was more effective at promoting muscle growth after a workout than skim milk .

Moreover, another study showed that muscle glycogen synthesis was not affected even when ingesting a high fat meal (45% energy from fat) after working out .

Having some fat in your post-workout meal may not affect your recovery. But more studies are needed on this topic.

Note

A post-workout meal with protein and carbs will enhance glycogen storage and muscle protein synthesis. Consuming a ratio of 3 to 1 (carbs to protein) is a practical way to achieve this.

The timing of your post-workout meal matters

Your body’s ability to rebuild glycogen and protein is enhanced after you exercise .

For this reason, it’s recommended that you consume a combination of carbs and protein as soon as possible after exercising. In the past, experts recommended eating your post-workout meal within 45 minutes, as a delay of carb consumption by as little as 2 hours after a workout may lead to as much as 50% lower rates of glycogen synthesis .

However, more recent research has found that the post-exercise window to maximize the muscular response to eating protein is wider than initially thought, up to as many as several hours.

Also, if you consumed a meal rich in whole carbs and protein perhaps an hour before exercising, it’s likely that the benefits from that meal still apply after training .

Also, recovery is not just about what you consume directly after working out. When you exercise consistently, the process is ongoing. It is best to continue to eat small, well-balanced meals of carbs and protein every 3–4 hours .

Pro Tip

Eat your post-workout meal soon after exercising, ideally within a few hours. However, you can extend this period a little longer, depending on the timing of your pre-workout meal.

Foods to eat after you work out

The primary goal of your post-workout meal is to supply your body with the right nutrients for adequate recovery and maximize your workout’s benefits. Choosing easily digested foods will promote faster nutrient absorption.

The following lists contain examples of simple and easily digested foods:

Carbs

  • sweet potatoes
  • chocolate milk
  • quinoa and other grains
  • fruits (such as pineapple, berries, banana, kiwi)
  • rice cakes
  • rice
  • oatmeal
  • potatoes
  • pasta
  • whole grain bread
  • Edamame

Protein

  • animal- or plant-based protein powder
  • eggs
  • Greek yogurt
  • cottage cheese
  • salmon
  • chicken
  • protein bar
  • Tuna

Fats

  • avocado
  • nuts
  • nut butters
  • seeds
  • trail mix (dried fruits and nuts)

Sample post-workout meals and snacks

Combinations of the foods above can create great meals that give you all the nutrients you need after exercise.

Here are a few examples of quick and easy meals to eat after your workout:

  • grilled chicken with roasted vegetables and rice
  • egg omelet with avocado spread on whole-grain toast
  • salmon with sweet potato
  • tuna salad sandwich on whole grain bread
  • tuna and crackers
  • oatmeal, whey protein, banana, and almonds
  • cottage cheese and fruits
  • pita and hummus
  • rice crackers and peanut butter
  • whole-grain toast and almond butter
  • cereal with dairy or soy milk
  • Greek yogurt, berries, and granola
  • protein shake and banana
  • quinoa bowl with sweet potatoes, berries, and pecans
  • whole grain crackers with string cheese and fruit

Make sure to drink plenty of water

It is important to drink plenty of water before and after your workout. Being properly hydrated ensures the optimal internal environment for your body to maximize results.

During exercise, you lose water and electrolytes through sweat. Replenishing these after a workout can help with recovery and performance .

It’s especially important to replenish fluids if your next exercise session is within 12 hours. Depending on the intensity of your workout, water or an electrolyte drink are recommended to replenish fluid losses.

Note

It is important to get water and electrolytes after exercise to replace what was lost during your workout.

The bottom line

Eating the right nutrients after exercise is vital for muscle repair, glycogen restoration, and overall recovery. Make sure to include a combination of carbs, protein, and fats in your post-workout meals and snacks, and don’t forget to stay hydrated for optimal results.

Volume vs. Intensity in Weight Training

In weight training, volume is the term used to describe how much work you do, such as the number of repetitions (reps) you perform of an exercise. Intensity describes the difficulty of an exercise, typically based on the amount of weight you lift.

Key Takeaways:

  • I Training intensity can be defined as intensity of load (weight on the bar) and intensity of effort (how close to failure a set feels).
  • Intensity of load is important for strength training, while intensity of effort is crucial for managing fatigue and maximizing stimulus.
  • Volume, measured in total sets or volume load, plays a key role in muscle growth and endurance.
  • Balancing intensity and volume is essential for achieving hypertrophy goals.

WHAT IS TRAINING INTENSITY?

Training intensity can be defined in two very different ways. There is “intensity of load” and “intensity of effort”. When someone mentions training intensity, it’s important to know which definition they’re referring to. Intensity of load refers to how much weight you’re lifting, while intensity of effort refers to how intense a set feels to you or how close to failure you take that set.

INTENSITY OF LOAD

Intensity of load refers to the load on the bar and it’s relation to your one-rep max, specifically what percentage of your one-rep max is on the bar. The higher the percentage of your one-rep max you have on the bar, the higher the intensity. Lifting 90% of your one-rep max, for example, is considered very high intensity. Each percentage of your one-rep max also correlates to a general rep range; naturally, the higher the percentage of your one-rep max on the bar, the less reps you will be able to perform. So lower rep ranges that use higher percentages of your one rep max are considered higher intensity than lighter rep ranges using a lower percentage.

Intensity of Load is more commonly used in strength sports where load on the bar is very important for getting the desired training stimulus. The higher your intensity of load, the stronger the strength stimulus. In other words, the heavier you train, and thus the lower your rep range, the more strength you will build.

INTENSITY OF EFFORT

Intensity of Effort refers to how difficult, from a subjective point of view, a set feels. There are two popular methods of rating a set’s intensity of effort. Both scales are very useful and which you use will mostly come down to preference.

RIR (Reps in Reserve) refers to how many more reps you could have done when you stop a set. If you do a set of 8 repetitions when you could have gotten 10 repetitions, this would be considered an RIR 2. The lower your RIR (the fewer reps you have left in you) the higher the intensity of effort. Most working sets will fall within an RIR of 4-0, with anything higher acting as a warm-up.

RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) refers to how difficult you find a set to be on a scale of 1-10. The higher the rating (the more difficult the set feels), the higher the intensity of effort. Working sets will typically fall within an RPE of 6-10.

Both scales work very similarly and can sometimes be interchangeable. There are some slight nuanced differences, but ultimately they work to achieve the same goal of helping you manage training intensity.

According to research, an RIR of 4 or an RPE of 6 is the minimum intensity that is required for an adequate training stimulus. Training with a lower intensity than this can result in very little or no training stimulus at all. This holds true for both hypertrophy and strength. The higher your intensity of effort, the stronger the training stimulus, but the more fatigue you will accumulate as well.

WHAT IS TRAINING VOLUME?

Training volume is a measurement of how much work you do in a given time period. Most commonly volume is tracked for each workout session as well as total weekly volume. There are two common methods of defining and measuring training volume. We’ll explain both below and their applications to training.

VOLUME LOAD

Volume load, sometimes referred to as tonnage, is calculated as Reps x Sets x Weight. Performing 3 sets of 10 reps with 45kg on the bar would count as 1360 kg of tonnage or volume.

This method of defining volume has been around for a very long time and is commonly used in strength sports, but also has applications in hypertrophy. Volume load is best used as a tool to track long term trends of performance in individual exercises more so than tracking overall muscle group volume. Over time, you should be able to lift more weight for more repetitions and/or sets, thus your volume load should steadily increase over your lifting career for each individual exercise.

Increasing volume load slowly and steadily can also be a great way to consistently progress on your lifts to maintain the proper intensity of effort as you get stronger.

Using volume load is a great way to track training volume when lifting very heavy loads below the 5 rep range. When reps are this low, tracking volume load can be a great way to make sure you’re doing enough volume to progress. However, as repetitions become higher, there is a potentially more practical method of defining volume when you want to predict training stimulus.

HARD SETS

A recently popular method of defining volume is the total amount of “hard sets” that you do in a given time period. A “hard set” would be defined as any set that meets the intensity of effort threshold previously mentioned. Any set that is done with a minimum intensity of RIR 4 or RPE 6 counts as a “hard set”.

This method of defining volume is much more practical to use in order to track total volume for each muscle group. It is also more closely correlated to training stimulus . That is, the more hard sets you do, the more stimulus you get for both strength and hypertrophy. Performing 5 hard sets will provide more stimulus than 3 hard sets, regardless of volume load differences.

Because you’re tracking only total sets, using this definition of volume is much easier to track and adjust. It also makes it easier to manage fatigue, since all you need to do is adjust the number of sets you perform.

HOW VOLUME AND INTENSITY AFFECT FITNESS

Volume is key for muscle growth (hypertrophy) as well as muscular endurance. It’s one of the best ways to progress and keep seeing results in your hypertrophy goals. While performing many reps with lighter weight is good for endurance, adding additional sets and reps to your current training increases volume and progress. Add more sets or repetitions of different exercises to see further muscle growth.

Schoenfeld BJ, Contreras B, Krieger J, et al. Resistance training volume enhances muscle hypertrophy but not strength in trained men.

For muscular endurance, you can use a lighter weight with more repetitions to exhaust the muscle. You can also use this technique to build cardiovascular endurance. For example, in this case of deadlifts, a higher volume forces your heart and lungs to work harder. As you adapt to the changes in volume, your cardiovascular fitness and endurance will improve.

Adding intensity to your training can increase calorie burn and strength goals. For instance, if you take less rest between sets, your heart rate will stay elevated throughout the workout, leading to a greater calorie burn. If you boost intensity by explosively lifting the weights, you can increase strength and power.

Also, increasing the weight of a lift will build your cardiovascular system. Think about lifting something very heavy over and over again. It takes a lot of effort, and effort increases your heart rate.

It’s similar to walking up a hill vs. flat ground. Even if you go the same distance (i.e., volume), hill walking is more demanding. So your heart rate will increase much more. The same is true when lifting heavier weights: Your heart rate increases, boosting your cardiovascular endurance.

THE RELATIONSHIP OF INTENSITY AND VOLUME

Intensity simply means “how heavy?” typically organized as the “magnitude” of weight on the bar (in pounds or kilos) or as a percentage of your one repetition maximum. If your absolute best squat for one repetition is 226kg, for example, then 170 is 75% of your 1RM. An intensity of 80% of your 1RM is greater than an intensity of 50% of 1RM.

Volume simply means “how much” or the total number of work reps performed over a given period of time. Three sets of five reps, for example, is a volume of 15 reps. Typically volume is managed for a workout and over the course of a week; an arbitrary yet useful way to organize a program since our lives are typically structured around weekly schedules.

Intensity and volume are interdependent: as intensity increases the volume that a lifter can complete must reduce. A lifter cannot, by definition, perform their one repetition personal record for multiple sets or reps. Conversely, as intensity is reduced, volume must increase to provide sufficient stress to the lifter. When peaking performance for a competition, for example, volume will typically be reduced near the meet so that intensity can be maximized for performance.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR HYPERTROPHY GOALS.

Hypertrophy has been shown to occur similarly across nearly all loading schemes, meaning intensity of load is mostly unimportant as long as you avoid the extremely heavy rep ranges (<5 reps). And just like strength, intensity of effort is very important. The closer to failure you take a set, the stronger the hypertrophic stimulus. All working sets should be done with a minimum intensity of RIR 4 or RPE 6. It is important to note that the closer to failure you take a set the more fatigue it will generate as well, so make sure to keep this in mind when training, as training to maximize growth is a balancing act between stimulus and fatigue.

In terms of training volume, hypertrophy has been shown to have a very strong dose-response relationship with the total amount of sets done, meaning you should define volume as “total hard sets” for hypertrophy focused training . The more sets you can perform and recover from, the more hypertrophy you can achieve. This also means that because you want to perform as many sets as you can to maximize hypertrophy, most of those sets should not be in the very heavy rep ranges (<5) to facilitate better recovery. It’s much easier to perform and recover from 10 sets of a moderate load than it is to recover from 10 sets of a very heavy load. Moderate to light loads will allow steady, long-term progress.

The bottom line

To optimize your training, understand the nuances of training intensity and volume. Tailor your workouts to include appropriate levels of load, effort, and volume to achieve your desired fitness outcomes.

17 Proven Tips to Sleep Better at Night

A good night’s sleep is just as important as regular exercise and a healthy diet.

Research shows that poor sleep has immediate negative effects on your hormones, exercise performance, and brain function.

It can also cause weight gain and increase disease risk in both adults and children.

In contrast, good sleep can help you eat less, exercise better, and be healthier.

Over the past few decades, both sleep quality and quantity has declined. In fact, many people regularly get poor sleep.

If you want to optimize your health or lose weight, getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do.

Here are 17 evidence-based tips to sleep better at night.

Key Takeaways:

  • Increase exposure to bright light during the day to regulate your circadian rhythm and improve daytime energy and nighttime sleep quality.
  • Reduce blue light exposure in the evening to promote melatonin production and prepare your body for sleep.
  • Avoid consuming caffeine late in the day to prevent interference with your natural sleep-wake cycle.
  • Limit irregular or long daytime naps to avoid disrupting nighttime sleep patterns.

1. Increase bright light exposure during the day

Your body has a natural time-keeping clock known as your circadian rhythm.

It affects your brain, body, and hormones, helping you stay awake and telling your body when it’s time to sleep.

Natural sunlight or bright light during the day helps keep your circadian rhythm healthy. This improves daytime energy, as well as nighttime sleep quality and duration.

In people with insomnia, daytime bright light exposure improved sleep quality and duration. It also reduced the time it took to fall asleep by 83%.

A similar study in older adults found that 2 hours of bright light exposure during the day increased the amount of sleep by 2 hours and sleep efficiency by 80%.

While most research involves people with severe sleep issues, daily light exposure will most likely help you even if you experience average sleep.

Try getting daily sunlight exposure or — if this is not practical — invest in an artificial bright light device or bulbs.

Note

Daily sunlight or artificial bright light can improve sleep quality and duration, especially if you have severe sleep issues or insomnia.

2. Reduce blue light exposure in the evening

Exposure to light during the day is beneficial, but nighttime light exposure has the opposite effect.

Again, this is due to its effect on your circadian rhythm, tricking your brain into thinking it’s still daytime. This reduces hormones like melatonin, which help you relax and get deep sleep.

Blue light — which electronic devices like smartphones and computers emit in large amounts — is the worst in this regard.

There are several popular methods you can use to reduce nighttime blue light exposure. These include:

Wear glasses that block blue light.

Download an app such as f.lux to block blue light on your laptop or computer.

Install an app that blocks blue light on your smartphone. These are available for both iPhones and Android models.

Stop watching TV and turn off any bright lights 2 hours before heading to bed.

Pro Tip

Blue light tricks your body into thinking it’s daytime. There are several ways you can reduce blue light exposure in the evening.

3. Don’t consume caffeine late in the day

Caffeine has numerous benefits and is consumed by 90% of the U.S. population.

A single dose can enhance focus, energy, and sports performance.

However, when consumed late in the day, caffeine stimulates your nervous system and may stop your body from naturally relaxing at night.

In one study, consuming caffeine up to 6 hours before bed significantly worsened sleep quality.

Caffeine can stay elevated in your blood for 6–8 hours. Therefore, drinking large amounts of coffee after 3–4 p.m. is not recommended, especially if you’re sensitive to caffeine or have trouble sleeping.

If you do crave a cup of coffee in the late afternoon or evening, stick with decaffeinated coffee.

Pro Tip

Caffeine can significantly worsen sleep quality, especially if you drink large amounts in the late afternoon or evening.

4. Reduce irregular or long daytime naps

While short power naps are beneficial, long or irregular napping during the day can negatively affect your sleep.

Sleeping in the daytime can confuse your internal clock, meaning that you may struggle to sleep at night.

In fact, in one study, participants ended up being sleepier during the day after taking daytime naps.

Another study noted that while napping for 30 minutes or less can enhance daytime brain function, longer naps can harm health and sleep quality.

However, some studies demonstrate that those who are used to taking regular daytime naps don’t experience poor sleep quality or disrupted sleep at night.

If you take regular daytime naps and sleep well, you shouldn’t worry. The effects of napping depend on the individual.

Note

Long daytime naps may impair sleep quality. If you have trouble sleeping at night, stop napping or shorten your naps.

5. Try to sleep and wake at consistent times

Your body’s circadian rhythm functions on a set loop, aligning itself with sunrise and sunset.

Being consistent with your sleep and waking times can aid long-term sleep quality.

One study noted that participants who had irregular sleeping patterns and went to bed late on the weekends reported poor sleep.

Other studieshave highlighted that irregular sleep patterns can alter your circadian rhythm and levels of melatonin, which signal your brain to sleep.

If you struggle with sleep, try to get in the habit of waking up and going to bed at similar times. After several weeks, you may not even need an alarm.

Pro Tip

Try to get into a regular sleep/wake cycle — especially on the weekends. If possible, try to wake up naturally at a similar time every day.

6. Take a melatonin supplement

Melatonin is a key sleep hormone that tells your brain when it’s time to relax and head to bed.

Melatonin supplements are an extremely popular sleep aid.

Often used to treat insomnia, melatonin may be one of the easiest ways to fall asleep faster.

In one study, taking 2 mg of melatonin before bed improved sleep quality and energy the next day and helped people fall asleep faster.

In another study, half of the group fell asleep faster and had a 15% improvement in sleep quality.

Additionally, no withdrawal effects were reported in either of the above studies.

Melatonin is also useful when traveling and adjusting to a new time zone, as it helps your body’s circadian rhythm return to normal.

In some countries, you need a prescription for melatonin. In others, melatonin is widely available in stores or online. Take around 1–5 mg 30–60 minutes before bed.

Start with a low dose to assess your tolerance and then increase it slowly as needed. Since melatonin may alter brain chemistry, it’s advised that you check with a healthcare provider before use.

Note

A melatonin supplement is an easy way to improve sleep quality and fall asleep faster. Take 1–5 mg around 30–60 minutes before heading to bed.

7. Consider these other supplements

Several supplements can induce relaxation and help you sleep, including:

Ginkgo biloba: A natural herb with many benefits, it may aid sleep, relaxation, and stress reduction, but the evidence is limited. Take 250 mg 30–60 minutes before bed.

Glycine: A few studies show that taking 3 grams of the amino acid glycine can improve sleep quality.

Valerian root: Several studies suggest that valerian can help you fall asleep and improve sleep quality. Take 500 mg before bed.

Magnesium: Responsible for over 600 reactions within your body, magnesium can improve relaxation and enhance sleep quality.

L-theanine: An amino acid, L-theanine can improve relaxation and sleep. Take 100–200 mg before bed.

Lavender: A powerful herb with many health benefits, lavender can induce a calming and sedentary effect to improve sleep. Take 80–160 mg containing 25–46% linalool.

Make sure to only try these supplements one at a time. While they’re not a magic bullet for sleep issues, they can be useful when combined with other natural sleeping strategies.

Note

Several supplements, including lavender and magnesium, can help with relaxation and sleep quality when combined with other strategies.

8. Don’t drink alcohol

Having a couple of drinks at night can negatively affect your sleep and hormones.

Alcohol is known to cause or increase the symptoms of sleep apnea, snoring, and disrupted sleep patterns.

It also alters nighttime melatonin production, which plays a key role in your body’s circadian rhythm.

Another study found that alcohol consumption at night decreased the natural nighttime elevations in human growth hormone (HGH), which plays a role in your circadian rhythm and has many other key functions.

Note

Avoid alcohol before bed, as it can reduce nighttime melatonin production and lead to disrupted sleep patterns.

9. Optimize your bedroom environment

Many people believe that the bedroom environment and its setup are key factors in getting a good night’s sleep.

These factors include temperature, noise, external lights, and furniture arrangement.

Numerous studies point out that external noise, often from traffic, can cause poor sleep and long-term health issues.

In one study on the bedroom environment of women, around 50% of participants noticed improved sleep quality when noise and light diminished.

To optimize your bedroom environment, try to minimize external noise, light, and artificial lights from devices like alarm clocks. Make sure your bedroom is a quiet, relaxing, clean, and enjoyable place.

Pro Tip

Optimize your bedroom environment by eliminating external light and noise to get better sleep.

10. Set your bedroom temperature

Body and bedroom temperature can also profoundly affect sleep quality.

As you may have experienced during the summer or in hot locations, it can be very hard to get a good night’s sleep when it’s too warm.

One study found that bedroom temperature affected sleep quality more than external noise.

Other studies reveal that increased body and bedroom temperature can decrease sleep quality and increase wakefulness.

Around 70°F (20°C) seems to be a comfortable temperature for most people, although it depends on your preferences and habits.

Note

Test different temperatures to find out which is most comfortable for you. Around 70°F (20°C) is best for most people.

11. Don’t eat late in the evening

Eating late at night may negatively affect both sleep quality and the natural release of HGH and melatonin.

That said, the quality and type of your late-night snack may play a role as well.

In one study, a high carb meal eaten 4 hours before bed helped people fall asleep faster.

Interestingly, one study discovered that a low carb diet also improved sleep, indicating that carbs aren’t always necessary, especially if you’re used to a low carb diet.

Pro Tip

Consuming a large meal before bed can lead to poor sleep and hormone disruption. However, certain meals and snacks a few hours before bed may help.

12. Relax and clear your mind in the evening

Many people have a pre-sleep routine that helps them relax.

Relaxation techniques before bed have been shown to improve sleep quality and are another common technique used to treat insomnia.

In one study, a relaxing massage improved sleep quality in people who were ill.

Strategies include listening to relaxing music, reading a book, taking a hot bath, meditating, deep breathing, and visualization.

Try out different methods and find what works best for you.

Note

Relaxation techniques before bed, including hot baths and meditation, may help you fall asleep.

13. Take a relaxing bath or shower

A relaxing bath or shower is another popular way to sleep better.

Studies indicate that they can help improve overall sleep quality and help people — especially older adults — fall asleep faster.

In one study, taking a hot bath 90 minutes before bed improved sleep quality and helped people get more deep sleep.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to take a full bath at night, simply bathing your feet in hot water can help you relax and improve sleep.

Note

A warm bath, shower, or foot bath before bed can help you relax and improve your sleep quality.

14. Rule out a sleep disorder

An underlying health condition may be the cause of your sleep problems.

One common issue is sleep apnea, which causes inconsistent and interrupted breathing. People with this disorder stop breathing repeatedly while sleeping.

This condition may be more common than you think. One review claimed that 24% of men and 9% of women have sleep apnea.

Other common medically diagnosed issues include sleep movement disorders and circadian rhythm sleep/wake disorders, which are common in shift workers.

If you’ve always struggled with sleep, it may be wise to consult your healthcare provider.

Note

There are many common conditions that can cause poor sleep, including sleep apnea. See a healthcare provider if poor sleep is a consistent problem in your life.

15. Get a comfortable bed, mattress, and pillow

Some people wonder why they always sleep better in a hotel.

Apart from the relaxing environment, bed quality can also affect sleep.

One study looked at the benefits of a new mattress for 28 days, revealing that it reduced back pain by 57%, shoulder pain by 60%, and back stiffness by 59%. It also improved sleep quality by 60%.

Other studies point out that new bedding can enhance sleep. Additionally, poor quality bedding can lead to increased lower back pain.

The best mattress and bedding are extremely subjective. If you’re upgrading your bedding, base your choice on personal preference.

It’s recommended that you upgrade your bedding at least every 5–8 years.

If you haven’t replaced your mattress or bedding for several years, this can be a very quick — although possibly expensive — fix.

Note

Your bed, mattress, and pillow can greatly affect sleep quality and joint or back pain. Try to buy a high quality bedding — including a mattress — every 5–8 years.

16. Exercise regularly — but not before bed

Exercise is one of the best science-backed ways to improve your sleep and health.

It can enhance all aspects of sleep and has been used to reduce symptoms of insomnia.

One study in older adults determined that exercise nearly halved the amount of time it took to fall asleep and provided 41 more minutes of sleep at night.

In people with severe insomnia, exercise offered more benefits than most drugs. Exercise reduced time to fall asleep by 55% total night wakefulness by 30%, and anxiety by 15% while increasing total sleep time by 18%.

Although daily exercise is key for a good night’s sleep, performing it too late in the day may cause sleep problems.

This is due to the stimulatory effect of exercise, which increases alertness and hormones like epinephrine and adrenaline.

However, some studiesshow no negative effects, so it clearly depends on the individual.

Pro Tip

Regular exercise during daylight hours is one of the best ways to ensure a good night’s sleep.

17. Don’t drink any liquids before bed

Nocturia is the medical term for excessive urination during the night. It affects sleep quality and daytime energy.

Drinking large amounts of liquids before bed can lead to similar symptoms, though some people are more sensitive than others.

Although hydration is vital for your health, it’s wise to reduce your fluid intake in the late evening.

Try to not drink any fluids 1–2 hours before going to bed.

You should also use the bathroom right before going to bed, as this may decrease your chances of waking in the night.

Note

Reduce fluid intake in the late evening and try to use the bathroom right before bed.

The bottom line

Improving sleep quality and duration is essential for overall health and well-being. By implementing these evidence-based strategies, you can optimize your sleep naturally and wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated each day.

How to Lose Weight with Cardiovascular Exercise

Losing weight is easier said than done, and there isn’t a magic pill to take off pounds. Instead, you have to burn more calories than you take in. This involves a healthy diet, as well as a combination of cardio and strength training.

Key Takeaways:

  • Cardio, short for cardiovascular exercise, involves activities that increase heart rate and use large muscle groups.
  • Combining cardio with strength training can enhance weight loss by creating a calorie deficit.
  • Factors such as age, body composition, and workout intensity affect calorie burn during cardio.
  • Opt for cardio exercises that engage large muscle groups for maximum calorie burn in less time.
  • To create a successful workout routine, include a mix of cardio, strength training, flexibility exercises, and rest days.

What is cardio?

When you hear the word cardio, do you think of sweat dripping off your forehead while running on the treadmill or taking a brisk walk on your lunch break? It’s both. Cardiovascular exercise, also known as aerobic exercise, means that you’re doing an activity “with oxygen.”

This type of exercise:

  • uses large muscle groups, such as your legs or upper body
  • requires respiration or controlled breathing
  • increases your heart rate and keeps it in an aerobic zone for a set amount of time

Common forms of cardio include walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, and fitness classes. Cardio machines may include a rower, elliptical, stair climber, upright or recumbent bike, and treadmill.

While cardio does burn calories and helps aid in weight loss, combining it with at least two to three days a week of strength training workouts can increase the rate at which you lose weight.

Note

The amount of cardio you need to lose weight depends on various factors like your current weight, diet, daily activity level, and age.

Cardio for weight loss

To lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit. The number of calories you consume needs to be less than the amount of calories you burn. How much weight you lose depends on the amount of exercise you’re willing to perform over the course of a week.

If you’re not sure how to create a deficit or you need help meeting your goals, consider using a calorie counting app. These trackers allow you to input your daily food intake and physical activity throughout the day, which enables you to check your current calories in/calories out equation.

You should perform strength-training activities that involve all major muscle groups at least two days each week.

Pro Tip

If you want to lose one pound each week, you need to create a 3,500-calorie deficit, which means you need to burn 3,500 more calories than you consume in one week.

Factors that affect how quickly you burn calories

Before you embark on a weight loss journey using cardio exercise, it’s important to understand that there are certain factors that affect how quickly you burn calories, and consequently, how fast you lose weight.

  • Age. The older you are, the fewer calories you can expect to burn.
  • Body composition. If you have a greater amount of muscle mass, you’ll burn more calories during exercise than someone who has a higher percentage of fat.
  • Intensity of workout. The more vigorous the workout, the more calories you’ll burn in one session.
  • Gender. Men burn calories faster than women.
  • Overall daily activity. The more sedentary you are during the day, the fewer overall calories you’ll burn.
  • Weight. The greater your weight, the more calories you’ll burn.

Which cardio exercises burn the most calories?

To maximize your time spent exercising, consider choosing physical activities that burn the most amount of calories in the least amount of time. This typically involves using the large muscles of your lower body at a moderate or vigorous intensity.

Here are some different methods of cardio and the number of calories you can burn in 30 minutes:

  • hiking: 185 calories
  • dancing: 165 calories
  • walking (3.5 mph): 140 calories
  • running (5 mph): 295 calories
  • bicycling (>10 mph): 295 calories
  • swimming: 255 calories

Creating an initial workout routine

To lose one pound, you need to burn 3,500 calories more than what your body needs. If your goal is to lose one to two pounds a week, you need a deficit of 1,000 calories per day.

Let’s say your daily caloric requirement is 2,200 calories. You’ll need to reduce the number of calories you consume per day by 500 and burn 500 calories through exercise.

With that in mind, you’ll want to create a workout plan that includes cardiovascular exercise most days of the week and strength training at least two days a week.

  • Cardiovascular exercise. Perform cardio exercise three to five days a week for 30 to 60 minutes each session.
  • Strength training. Perform two to three days a week of strength training exercises that involve all major muscle groups.
  • Flexibility and stretching. Include daily stretching and flexibility exercises.
  • Rest. Include at least one to two days of rest each week. You can participate in active recovery exercises such as yoga or light stretching on your rest days.

How to stagger your workouts

Performing the same workout every day leads to a plateau, a point at which the exercise loses effectiveness. Alternatively, hitting it too hard can lead to burnout. That’s why it’s important to stagger your workouts. To do this, make sure to include both moderate-intensity and high-intensity cardiovascular exercise in your overall fitness routine.

For example, perform 30 to 45 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio exercise, such as walking or swimming, three days a week. Up the intensity for the other two days — five days total — and perform vigorous workouts such as running or cycling.

Pro Tip

If you choose to do high-intensity-interval training, you can reduce the total amount of time. For example, do sprints alternating with jogging intervals on the treadmill for 20 to 30 minutes.

Why you need a variety of ways to lose weight

Your body uses different muscle groups for each type of workout. It makes sense to include a variety of exercises in your overall fitness routine. Combining cardiovascular exercise and weight training makes the most sense for maximum weight loss.

To do this, consider performing cardio exercise most days of the week and strength training exercise at least two days each week. For your cardio, include at least two to three different methods of aerobic exercise. For example, run one day, swim another day, cycle the next day, and choose two different fitness classes to do for the other two days.

For extra benefits, consider taking a fitness class that also includes strength training, which will increase the number of calories you burn during the activity and after your workout.

Note

In addition to physical activity, losing weight also requires changing your diet. To create a calorie deficit through diet and still feel satisfied, make sure to include plenty of complex carbohydrates, adequate amounts of protein, and healthy fats.

The bottom line

Cardiovascular exercise is an essential component of any weight loss plan, but its effectiveness depends on factors like workout intensity and variety. By understanding these factors and incorporating a well-rounded fitness routine, you can achieve your weight loss goals more effectively.

How to Be a Better Lover — In and Out of the Bedroom

Being a better lover often has less to do with your bedroom skills. What often matters more is how you communicate and listen to your partner. It also helps to be confident and comfortable with sex.

Key Takeaways:

  • Listen to your partner’s verbal and non-verbal cues to understand their desires and preferences.

  • Communicate openly about likes, dislikes, and fantasies to enhance mutual pleasure.

  • Build confidence by practicing self-love, curating positive digital spaces, and seeking therapy if needed.

  • Show enthusiasm during sex by complimenting, affirming, and expressing appreciation for your partner.

Listen to your partner’s verbal and non-verbal cues

“If you’re completely ignoring your partner’s attempts to communicate with you, and steamrolling them into doing whatever you want, you’re a bad lover,” she says. To be honest, at this point, you’re not having sex with your partner — you’re violating them.

Your move: Tune into what your partner is saying with their words, mouths, hands, and body.

“Are they shifting their hips away from you, or toward you?”

These body cues can give you insight into what they like and don’t like.

Communicate

“Your partner isn’t a mind-reader,” Stubbs says. “For them to know what you do and don’t like, you have to tell them.”

For the record, she says, communicating can be as simple as saying:

“That feels good! How does it feel for you?”

“Yes! That!”

“A little more pressure, please!”

“Is your tongue getting tired?”

“Can you do that thing you were doing earlier instead?”

Give gifts, not challenges

Forget the earrings, necklaces, and ties. A romantic gift for a person with MS should be something that doesn’t require great dexterity.

Broadly speaking, it usually comes down to three main things

Confidence

Confidence is a work in progress for everybody — but it’s work worth doing especially, if you want to be a better lover,

Confidence is key to asking for what you want in bed, graciously receiving feedback from your partner, and more.

To build up confidence :

  1. repeating a self-love mantra to yourself every morning
  2. curating your digital spaces and unfollowing people who make you question your worth
  3. writing a list of things you like about yourself every week
  4. leaving a partner who puts you down
  5. trying therapy

Communication

Sensing a common theme?

Communication should be happening before, during, and after bad.

Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm is a strong excitement of feeling.

In other words, it’s the antithesis of apathy.

And who the heck wants to get it on with someone who’s acting about having sex with them? Specific kinks aside, very few pleasure seekers do.

Some ways to express enthusiasm during sex:

  • Tell them you like how they look, smell, taste, or feel.
  • Compliment them.
  • Verbally and nonverbally affirm what feels good.

Live in the now

Shy away from making long-range plans, but if you do, stay flexible. MS is unpredictable and can change within minutes.

If you’ve been seeing each other for a few months, try this

There are ways to be a better lover to your new partner.

Begin talking about sex more

Specifically: When you’re fully clothed.

“Talking about sex outside the bedroom automatically makes it a lower stakes conversation,” Carly says. “Because of that, it can become easier for people to talk about their fantasies, desires, likes, dislikes, and more.”

You might do this by:

asking your partner if they find a sex scene on the screen hot

inviting your partner to help you pick out underwear

watching a sexy music video together

telling your partner when you feel randomly aroused

sharing your sex dreams with your partner

Make a yes/no/maybe list together

Whether you and your partner see yourselves as being sexually adventurous, or not, Stubbs recommends spending an evening filling out a yes/no/maybe list

“Doing so will give you both an opportunity to talk about your desires openly,” she says, “which is something good lovers give their partner’s space to do.”

If you’re long term, try this

Want to be here for a long time and a good time (in bed)? Try these:

Start a book club with your partner

“Reading a book about sex with your partner can help give you language for things in your sex life you want to talk about, but didn’t previously have the language for,” Stubbs says. “It’s also fun and can give you some new ideas.”

Some books you might read together:

  1. “She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman” by Ian Kerner
  2. “Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life” by Emily Nagoski
  3. “A Quick & Easy Guide to Sex & Disability” by A. Andrews
  4. “Girl Sex 101: A Queer Pleasure Guide For Women and Their Lovers” by Allison Moon and illustrated by KD Diamond
  5. “The Game of Desire: 5 Surprising Secrets to Dating with Dominance — and Getting What You Want” by Shan Boodram

The bottom line

That one caveat withstanding, being bad in bed may not be possible.

But it doesn’t mean that improving your communication skills, learning to express your enthusiasm, working on your self-confidence and ego, and adding new “sextivities” to your repertoire can’t make you a better lover — they all can.

Cardio or Weightlifting: Which Is Better for Weight Loss?

If you’ve decided to lose weight, you may have asked yourself a tricky question: Should you do cardio or weights?

Cardio and resistance training (including weightlifting) are popular workouts, but knowing which may help you accomplish your goals more efficiently can be hard.

Key Takeaways:

  • Cardio burns more calories per session compared to weight training, making it effective for weight loss.
  • Weight training changes body composition by building lean muscle, which boosts metabolism and burns calories even at rest.
  • High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) offers similar benefits to cardio and weight training in less time, burning calories efficiently.
  • Combining different types of exercise in your routine can maximize weight loss, fat burning, and muscle building.

Cardio burns more calories per session

You’ll generally burn more calories per cardio session than weight training for about the same effort.

However, to lose weight, you also need to burn more calories than you consume.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if you weigh 154 pounds (lb), you will burn about 145 calories per 30 minutes of bicycling at a moderate pace.

If you were to bicycle at a more intense pace of 10 miles per hour or more, you could burn around 295 calories in 30 minutes. In other words, the intensity of your workout affects how many calories you burn in total during one cardio session.

On the other hand, if you lifted weights for the same 30 minutes, you might burn around 110 calories.

Also, the more you weigh, the more calories you will burn. When you begin losing weight, you may notice that you burn fewer calories per session doing the same effort.

Note

The number of calories you burn during exercise depends on your body size and how intensely you exercise. Typically, a cardio workout burns more calories than a weight training workout of the same duration.

Weight training changes body composition and sustains caloric burn

Although a single weight-training session doesn’t typically burn as many calories as a cardio session, you could still burn more calories overall if you go with the first one.

Resistance and weight training are more effective than cardio at building lean muscle, and muscle mass burns more calories at rest than other tissues, including fat.

Building muscle may help increase resting metabolism in some people — that is, how many calories the body burns at rest.

A 2020 systematic review found that resistance exercise is effective at increasing resting metabolic rate compared to aerobic exercise alone or aerobic and resistance exercise combined.

The calorie-burning benefits of resistance training aren’t limited to when you are exercising. You may keep burning calories hours afterward as your body recovers from your session and repairs muscle tissue.

How much energy (calories) you expend during your recovery after a weight-training session depends on the intensity of your session.

You can lose weight and burn fat by lifting weights only. The more muscle you build, the more fat your body will burn. It may take you longer, though, compared to incorporating cardio exercises.

Pro Tip

Weight and resistance training may improve your metabolism over time. Also, lifting weights is typically more effective than cardio at increasing the number of calories you burn after a workout.

HIIT provides similar benefits to cardio and weights in less time

High intensity interval training (HIIT) involves short bursts of intense exercise alternated with low intensity recovery periods.

You may burn about 485 calories in 45 minutes of HIIT, including a 5-minute warm-up and a 5-minute cool-down.

The overall caloric burn may vary depending on your weight and exercise intensity. You may need to do a 1-hour vigorous cardio session or more than 1 hour of vigorous weightlifting to burn as many calories.

Typically, a HIIT workout may take about 10–30 minutes.

You can use HIIT with various exercises, including walking, running, biking, jumping rope, or other body weight exercises. You can also incorporate weights, like dumbbells, into your HIIT workout.

All you have to do is increase and decrease the intensity of your movement every few seconds. For example, you could alternate sprinting for 20 seconds and walking for 20 seconds, or you could do squats for 30 seconds and then rest for 20.

One in men compared the calories burned during 30 minutes of HIIT, weight training, running, and biking. The researchers found that HIIT burned 25–30% more calories than the other forms of exercise.

Research from 2017 following more than 400 adults with overweight and obesity also found that HIIT and traditional cardio sessions reduced body fat and waist circumference to similar extents.

Pro Tip

High intensity interval training (HIIT) helps you burn calories in a short period of time. Some research shows it may burn more calories than weights or cardio, but with less time spent exercising

Using more than one type of exercise may be more effective

Many exercises help you burn calories and lose weight, but it also depends on your overall plan. Practicing different types of exercise modalities may help you lose weight, burn fat, and build lean muscle.

How much should you exercise per week?

Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week and 2 days of strength resistance to maintain weight and promote overall health benefits. You could also do 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity and 2 days of strength training.

Physical activity is anything that gets your body moving and your heart pumping. For example, gardening, chores, dancing, walking, swimming, or any exercise session.

Which types of exercise should you do to lose weight?

All types of exercise and physical activity can help you manage your weight. Alternating exercise methods and physical activity in general will help you achieve your goals.

Your body burns calories just by being alive. Thinking, breathing, and even sleeping require energy. You need to eat enough calories to sustain these body functions. This is called the basal metabolic rate.

In addition to the essential bodily functions, your body also burns calories by moving. This includes brushing your teeth, standing up and getting a glass of water, and physical activity. The more you move, and the more intense the movement is, the more calories you burn.

Weight training can lead to an increase in muscle mass and a decrease in fat mass. If your muscle and fat change by the same amount, the numbers on the scale may stay the same, but your body may look and feel different. You may notice a narrower waist, for example. Strength exercises also help your bones stay healthy.

Cardio training helps improve your heart health, manage blood pressure, and boost your mood. It also helps you burn fat.

Incorporating weights and cardio — including HIIT — may help you lose weight, burn fat, improve your health, and feel better.

For example, to lose belly fat, you may want to practice HIIT. To tone the abdomen muscles, you may want to weight train.

Note

All types of physical activity help you burn calories. If you burn more calories than you eat, you’re likely to lose weight.

Both diet and exercise are critical for long-term results

Exercise and a balanced diet are essential for good health. Also, all physical activity is more effective at helping you lose weight when accompanied by a dietary plan that involves a caloric deficit and the foods that provide the most nutrients. Consistency is key.

A moderate reduction in calorie intake and a physical activity plan are needed for long-term weight loss and maintenance.

Your body weight depends on the balance between how many calories you eat and how many calories you burn.

If you eat as many calories as you burn in a given week, it’s likely you’ll maintain your current weight. If you burn more calories than you eat, you may lose weight, while eating more calories than you burn may lead to weight gain.

Other factors may influence your weight, though. For example, aging and thyroid health.

What you choose to eat also affects your outcome. Some foods may help you burn fat and other foods may support your overall health and weight loss journey.

To lose weight, you want to move more in general if possible. Burning more calories from movement is encouraged rather than cutting calories and eating less. This can help you maintain your results long term and keep your body working as best as possible.

Note

Combining a balanced diet and a physical activity plan can help in your long-term weight maintenance success. Weight loss programs that include regular exercise, and not only diet plans, can lead to greater weight loss and better weight maintenance over time.

The bottom line

Incorporating cardio, weight training, and HIIT into your exercise routine can help you burn calories, build muscle, and achieve your weight loss goals more effectively. Combine with a balanced diet for sustainable results.

Should You Take Pre-Workout Supplements?

Whether you’re a regular at the gym or stick to at-home workouts, you may have heard of the supposed benefits of pre-workout supplements from friends, athletes, trainers, or advertisements.

Advocates claim that these supplements improve your fitness and give you the energy you need to power through challenging workouts.

However, many experts say that they’re potentially dangerous and wholly unnecessary.

This article explores the science behind pre-workout supplements to determine whether they’re healthy.

Key Takeaways:

  • Pre-workout supplements aim to boost energy and performance, with ingredients like caffeine, creatine, and nitric oxide precursors.
  • Research on their effectiveness is limited, and ingredient consistency varies widely among brands.
  • Consider potential downsides, such as artificial sweeteners, excess caffeine, and untested supplements.

What are pre-workout supplements?

Pre-workout supplements — sometimes referred to as “pre-workouts” — are multi-ingredient dietary formulas designed to boost your energy and athletic performance.

They’re typically powdered substances that you mix into water and drink before exercise.

While countless formulas exist, there’s little consistency in terms of ingredients. Amino acids, beta-alanine, caffeine, creatine, and artificial sweeteners are often included, but quantities of these vary widely depending on the brand.

Plus, some products may not have been tested for quality or purity.

Note

Pre-workout supplements, which are powdered and mixed with water, are said to improve athletic performance and energy levels prior to exercise. However, there’s no set list of ingredients

What ingredients should you look for?

Research on the effectiveness of pre-workout supplements is very limited. Nonetheless, some studies suggest that certain ingredients may benefit athletic performance .

  • Nitric oxide precursors

Nitric oxide is a compound that your body naturally produces to relax blood vessels and improve blood flow.

Pre-workout supplements often include some of the common compounds that your body uses to make nitric oxide. These include L-arginine, L-citrulline, and sources of dietary nitrates, such as beetroot juice.

Research suggests that supplementing with these compounds boosts oxygen and nutrient transport to your muscles, potentially enhancing athletic performance.

However, while L-citrulline has been shown to boost exercise performance, studies note that L-arginine is broken down before it reaches your bloodstream. Thus, while it boosts nitric oxide production, it doesn’t benefit exercise performance.

Overall, as most of the available research on nitric oxide focuses on young men, it remains unclear whether these results apply to other populations. More research is needed.

  • Caffeine

Caffeine is frequently used in pre-workout supplements to increase energy and focus.

This stimulant may improve mental alertness, memory, and exercise performance, as well as help reduce body fat .

  • Creatine

Creatine is another chemical compound naturally produced in your body. It’s primarily stored in skeletal muscle, where it plays a role in energy production and muscular strength .

It’s often included in pre-workout formulas but also sold as a standalone supplement. It’s particularly popular among weightlifters, bodybuilders, and other power athletes.

Research suggests that supplementing with creatine can increase your body’s stored supply of this compound, thus improving recovery time, muscle mass, strength, and exercise performance .

  • Beta-alanine

Beta-alanine is an amino acid that’s included in many pre-workout formulas because it may help prevent acid buildup in your muscle tissue, thus allowing your muscles to work harder and longer.

While research supports its effectiveness, it’s important to note that consuming this compound may cause a tingling sensation. While it’s completely harmless, you may find it unpleasant.

  • Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)

Some pre-workout formulas include branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which have been shown to help increase muscle growth and decrease muscle soreness when taken before a workout.

Nonetheless, BCAAs are naturally found in dietary sources of protein, so you may already be consuming an adequate amount throughout the day.

  • SUMMARY

Certain ingredients in pre-workout supplements, such as creatine, caffeine, beta-alanine, BCAAs, and nitric oxide precursors, have been shown to support athletic performance.

What should you avoid?

Although pre-workout supplements are generally safe, they aren’t completely risk-free.

If you’re thinking about adding them to your workout regimen, be sure to consider their potential downsides first.

  • Artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols

Pre-workout supplements frequently contain artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols.

While these ingredients enhance flavor without adding calories, some sweeteners may cause intestinal distress and discomfort.

In particular, a high intake of sugar alcohols may trigger uncomfortable symptoms like gas, bloating, and diarrhea — all of which can disrupt your workout .

Some people report a similar digestive response from eating certain artificial sweeteners like sucralose. However, such symptoms haven’t been scientifically proven.

You may want to avoid pre-workout formulas that contain large quantities of these sweeteners. Otherwise, try a small amount first to see how you tolerate it.

  • Excess caffeine

The major energy-boosting element of most pre-workout supplements is caffeine.

Excessive intake of this stimulant can lead to side effects, such as increased blood pressure, impaired sleep, and stress .

Single servings of most pre-workout formulas contain about as much caffeine as you’d get in 1–2 cups (240–475 mL) of coffee, but if you’re also getting this compound from other sources throughout the day, you may accidentally consume too much.

  • Supplements that haven’t been third-party tested

In the United States, dietary supplements like pre-workouts are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as foods, not as drugs. Due to regulatory gaps, product labels may be inaccurate or misleading.

If supplement safety and quality are compromised, you may inadvertently consume banned substances or dangerous amounts of certain compounds .

Note

Certain ingredients in pre-workout supplements may lead to adverse effects. Always check the label before purchasing to ensure that your product has been tested by a third party.

Should you take a pre-workout supplement?

Pre-workout formulas aren’t for everyone.

If you frequently lack energy or have difficulty making it through your workout, consider other lifestyle factors like hydration, sleep, and diet, rather than resorting to supplements.

Moreover, the variability in pre-workout supplements’ ingredients makes it difficult to determine their effectiveness.

They can also be expensive — and research hasn’t proven them to be more effective than whole foods that provide the same nutrients. For example, a banana and a mug of coffee is a suitable, cheap alternative to a pre-workout supplement.

That said, if you find that pre-workout formulas work for you, there’s no reason to stop. Just be mindful of their ingredients and your total intake — and keep the following factors in mind.

  • How to take pre-workout supplements

Most pre-workout products include instructions for how to take them.

While you should follow these instructions, it’s not a bad idea to start with a smaller serving so you can assess your tolerance — especially if the supplement includes caffeine or beta-alanine.

Remember, if the supplement provides beta-alanine, don’t be surprised if you notice a tingling sensation. It’s completely harmless, but some individuals may find it uncomfortable.

Most pre-workout supplements can be taken about 30–60 minutes before you work out. This allows enough time for the ingredients to reach your bloodstream and kick in.

Lastly, if your pre-workout contains caffeine or other stimulants, consider the time of day that you take it since it may disrupt your ability to fall asleep.

  • Whole food alternatives to pre-workout supplements

Regardless of whether you choose to use a pre-workout supplement, fueling for exercise is incredibly important and can make a big difference in how you feel and perform in your training session .

The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) has found that consuming carbs and protein before and after exercise can improve both strength and body composition .

Think ahead to your workout so that you can plan a balanced meal containing carbs, protein, and fat about 2–3 hours beforehand. For example, try a veggie omelet and whole wheat toast with avocado spread, plus a side of fresh fruit.

If time gets away from you, try an easily digestible source of carbs like a piece of fruit about 30–60 minutes before your workout.

If you skip the pre-workout supplement but still want the performance-boosting effects found in caffeine, drink a cup of coffee alongside a pre-workout snack.

Note

Pre-workout supplements can’t replace a balanced diet, good quality sleep, and adequate hydration. If you prefer to use one anyway, be conscientious about its ingredients and your total intake.

The bottom line

Pre-workout supplements are primarily used to enhance physical performance and energy levels, but research doesn’t back many of their supposed benefits.

Most pre-workouts are considered safe for healthy adults, but they aren’t essential for health or performance .

So while they aren’t necessarily bad for you, they aren’t especially good for you either.

While some common ingredients like caffeine, creatine, and beta-alanine have been shown to be effective when taken before a workout, there’s no standardized formula for pre-workouts.

Plus, many aren’t regulated, so it’s important to opt for supplements certified by a third party if you decided to take them.

If you have any health conditions, you may want to check with your doctor before trying a pre-workout supplement.

Above all, whether you use pre-workouts or not, make sure you’re following a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, and getting sufficient sleep.