The Secrets of Leucine and Boosting Metabolism

Everyone wants to boost their metabolism. From the most in-shape athletes to those just starting to pay attention to their health. Boosting your metabolism can help you burn excess fat, decrease your resting heart rate, and many other functions that increase your overall health.

One of the simplest and most effective ways to boost your metabolism is to increase your protein intake. Protein-rich foods increase metabolic rates over 3 times more than carbs and fats. What’s more, studies show that high protein diets can lead to greater weight loss and fat loss than calorically identical diets with lower protein.

When researchers at the University of Illinois compared the effects of high-protein diet to a standard reduced-calorie diet, they found that people who consumed more protein had a 62% higher fat loss ratio, even though both groups consumed the same number of calories. Essentially, you can consume more calories and lose more fat. The secret to that? Leucine.

Leucine is an amino acid found in protein rich foods. It’s key to preventing the loss of calorie-burning muscle when you’re trying to lose fat and age-related muscle loss.

Why is Leucine so important? Basically, muscle loss contributes to a decreased metabolism. Looking “skinny fat” and rapid rebound weight gain when resuming a normal eating routine after a diet are all things you definitely don’t want.

So how do you consume more leucine? The most leucine rich foods are Lean red meat, chicken breast, cottage cheese, and Greek yogurt. If you consume one of these things with each meal, your metabolism will be in great shape!

Research also shows that leucine, when paired with intensive training can be even more beneficial. In skeletal muscle, there’s a decrease in leucine during exhaustive aerobic exercises. While those are great for burning fat, incorporating muscle building weight training into your workouts is a great way to keep your leucine production up. Which, in turn, will keep your metabolism and help you burn fat and stay in shape.

Don’t Eat Vegetables Without Olive Oil!

We all know that veggies are awesome for your health, your waistline, and your dinner plate. Vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant phytochemicals. However, it’s sometimes not enough to just crunch away at these vegetables without adding another very important nutrient. The good news is, it’s a delicious one.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that participants who added olive oil to their salads and veggie dishes absorbed much greater amounts of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Those who skipped adding the healthy fat (or chose a fat-free dressing) absorbed almost none.

Why does olive oil matter? Well, the phytochemicals are what help to fight off inflammation, defy aging and control appetite. If you’re not absorbing phytochemicals, you may as well not be eating vegetables at all, since you’d be throwing away the vast majority of what makes them healthy and nutrient.

Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats which have been shown definitively to increase veggie nutrient absorption. If you want to get the most out of your veggie intake, top off your salads with olive oil and vinegar. Also, add olive oil to your veggie side dishes and cook your vegetables in olive oil.

Olive oil has many other health benefits. For one, it can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Traditionally, a low-fat diet has been prescribed to prevent heart disease, diabetes and other risks associated with fat. However, more important than avoiding fat altogether is eating the right type of fat. A diet rich in monounsaturated fats such as those found in olive oil, nuts, and seeds actually protects from many of these chronic diseases.

Older individuals who consume olive oil every day can protect themselves from strokes, according to a study from France. The study looked at over 7,000 individuals with no history of stroke. After 5 years, they noticed that the participants who didn’t have strokes were also the individuals who used olive oil regularly for cooking and dressing food.

Olive oil has also been shown to slow down the aging of the heart. As we grow older, the heart goes through its own aging process. Arteries may not function as well as they once did, and that can lead to a host of other health problems. In a recent study, Spanish researchers found that an olive oil rich diet or other monounsaturated fats could improve the arterial function of elderly individuals.


Counting Calories Won’t Get Results

If your goal is a flat stomach, you shouldn’t just be adding up the numbers on food labels. It may make you feel better by giving you some structure, but you won’t see those belly-shrinking results. The truth is, the number of calories in the food you eat is not as important as the type of food you’re eating. A 3 Musketeers bar has a little over 200 calories. That’s not an obscene number for a snack, but those 200 calories won’t be giving you much nutrition.

So, what should you be looking out for instead?

Don’t worry, you won’t have to give up counting. All you have to do is count something different. Namely, use the 1-100-½ method. What does this stand for? Basically, it all has comes down to how much you weigh. The 1 means you should consume one gram of protein for every one of your pounds. The 100 is the maximum amount of carbs you should eat in a day. Finally, the ½ indicates that you should only consume half a gram of fat for every pound of bodyweight you have.

What you’re doing with this method is counting out the nutrients in your food, rather than its overall calorie content. It is a much more accurate way to measure whether or not you should be putting a certain type of food in your body.

You may be wondering why this method is more effective for getting rid of belly fat than just counting calories. For one, it takes into account your body weight. Instead of ingesting a certain amount of calories as an estimate of what you should be eating, the 1-100-½ method caters specifically to you. Secondly, nutrition is key in changing your body. Protein helps boost your metabolism, so you need more of that than anything else. Carbohydrates are difficult to moderate if you’re not careful, and healthy fats are necessary to help your body heal. Overall, this plan looks out for everything you need.

Also, don’t be worried that you will be eating too many calories on this plan. You no longer need to calorie count, because the 1-100-½ method moderates your calorie intake automatically. So, you’re eating a moderate amount of calories and optimizing your intake to ensure your body is getting the nutrients it needs to slim down.

I encourage you to give this method a shot. I guarantee you’ll be seeing a change in no time!

Here’s Why You Should Invest in a Heart Rate Monitor

With colorful little step-tracker gadgets currently dominating the fitness industry, it may seem like heart rate monitors are another mere trend for those starting out in fitness. Sure, they are a good tool for those just picking up some form of exercise, especially running, but are they necessary?

The short answer is no. Obviously, you can still work out and even get fit without a heart rate monitor. However, you may not be getting the most out of each exercise session. This is where heart rate monitors can come in handy.

With a heart rate monitor, you will know your resting heart rate, and can easily discover your maximum heart rate by wearing a monitor while going all out during a workout. In between these two extremes are the numbers you want to focus on. Wearing a heart rate monitor during a less intense workout can help you determine your low intensity heart rate. Conversely, wearing a heart rate monitor during a high intensity workout will give you information on how high your heart rate should be during those more intense exercise days. Once collected, these numbers can be used to optimize your exercise schedule and each individual workout, no matter what fitness level you are at.

For example, let’s say you’re a runner. Heart rate recommendations for fitness runners can help beginners build endurance, and help more experienced runners not slack off during their run. If you’re more of a high intensity interval training type of athlete, you can make sure your heart rate goes to a recommended level during your reps, and does not drop below a recommended resting recovery level. You will find that you’re pushing yourself harder than you ever have before, because a heart rate monitor allows no excuses. Also, in the event that you’re worried about your heart rate going above a certain level, you can make sure it stays steady with a monitor.

Overall, heart rate monitors have the ability to make workouts more efficient and effective. For more information on how to decide on a heart rate monitor, and for heart rate fitness recommendations, check out this great article by REI.

Below, I’ve attached three suggestions of my favorite monitors. Go hard, athletes!


How To Have a Healthier Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving coming up, chances are food is on your mind. Not just any food either, food that’s high in calories, fat and, let’s face it – deliciousness. From stuffed turkey drenched in brown gravy to sweet potato casserole topped with roasted marshmallows the Thanksgiving dinner table is the best and easiest place in the world to overindulge yourself. If you’re watching your calorie intake or your waistline, Thanksgiving can be a dangerous time. However, with the right planning and willpower, you can manage to make Thanksgiving a healthy (or at least healthier) experience.


Before You Eat…

For one, you need to exercise some moderation. It can be tempting to scoop mountains of mashed potatoes and stuffing onto your plate, but that can be a real problem. If you serve yourself some small portions not only can you manage your calorie intake, but you get to try everything on the table!

Also keep in mind that Thanksgiving is supposed to be about indulgence. It’s okay to eat a little more than your fill during the holidays, but make sure you balance it out. On Thanksgiving for example, have some good, light meals for breakfast and lunch and try to get in some light exercise. That way you’ll feel healthier, and hungrier when the big meal rolls around.

When it does though, there are some simple ways to keep yourself from overeating. Try taking a sip of water between bites to stop from simply stuffing food in your mouth continuously. Also, wait at least 20 minutes before going in for round two. Chances are, your body doesn’t know it’s full until then. After 20 minutes you might find that you don’t have room.

If you’re the one doing the cooking, then it’s that much easier to control how healthy the meal is. Using low-fat meats and dairy products is a simple way to lower the overall calorie load of your meal. If you use them in stuffing, pies and desserts for example, your guests won’t even notice the difference.


Burning Thanksgiving Calories

Even with the strongest of resolves, chances are you’ll still need to do some activity to break even calorie wise. Consider even doing some exercise on Thanksgiving. If you jog for just 60 minutes you’ll burn about 500 calories. That’s a slice of pecan pie! If you do an hour of Zumba, you can manage to have an extra piece of that sweet potato casserole.

There are even some activities you can do throughout the day that don’t require putting on your running shoes. Clearing and washing the dishes can burn about 100 calories, and helping clean up the kitchen can burn another 100. Pretty good if you had a little too much green bean casserole.

If there’s kids at your party consider this: An hour of carrying or playing around with small children can burn up to 200 calories. Shopping for 30 minutes can burn up to 80 calories. That’s enough for your mashed potatoes or dinner rolls.


5 Foods To Eat After Your Workout

What do you do after an intense sweat session? Post-workout, athletes tend to shower, change, then grab a bite to eat. This is a good thing, since it is beneficial to eat 30-60 minutes after a workout in order to efficiently recover. However, not every food optimizes recovery. Grabbing a candy bar after a lifting session, for example, will not do much to help your body.

So what should you be eating after a workout? The fact is, recovery all comes down to protein and carbohydrates. Both give your body helpful nutrients to absorb, and replace all that was broken down during exercise. Here are five examples of food you should be eating as post-workout snacks:



I know what you’re thinking. Pineapple? Really? The truth is, we do not normally think of fruit as being loaded with carbohydrates but they are carbohydrate-packed. They also have specific enzymes that help the body transfer nutrients from food to muscles. Pineapple in particular is a good post-workout snack because it has all the benefits of fruit with the addition of anti-inflammatory effects to help your muscles recover more quickly.



This may go without saying, but eggs are packed with protein. Hard-boiled or in omelette or scrambled form, they are a perfect way to help your muscles recover. If you want to go the extra mile for your body, consider eating the eggs with vegetables. You will not only get a necessary protein kick, you’ll also introduce extra vitamins into your recovering body.

Greek Yogurt


Greek yogurt is a perfect post-workout snack because it has both protein and carbohydrates. It is superior to regular yogurt in that it contains twice the protein that your muscles need. For some extra nutrients, and a taste kick, add some fruit to your yogurt for a double-whammy recovery snack.

Whole Grain Cereal


Can you say carbohydrates? Whole grain cereal and milk after a workout will give you a little bit of protein and a lot of necessary carbohydrates. Try to eat a type of cereal without a lot of sugar, because the sugar will delay your progress. Your muscles will thank you.


A more unconventional grain, quinoa contains a ton of vitamins and nutrients, and also a fair amount of protein. It will give you the carbohydrate and protein kick your body needs, and only takes a few minutes to prepare. Remember to add in some vegetables for extra vitamins!

Five Foods To Stop Stuffing In Your Fridge

Close your eyes and imagine this incredibly typical scene, a situation which almost everyone will find more than familiar. You had a great day jam-packed with positive, healthy diet choices, but it is late at night now and those cravings have arrived. You are standing in front of your refrigerator and, to be perfectly honest, you are scanning the shelves and totally determined to keep up your good work. And why wouldn’t you be at the fridge? That is where almost all your fruits and vegetables are mostly likely to be, so that they stay cold and fresh for as long as possible. That’s where healthy foods automatically belong, right? Wrong.

The surprising truth of the matter is that the refrigerator can actually cause certain foods to spoil at an accelerated rate. That can be quite shocking to some people who have become so accustomed to trusting that one piece of technology with all of their comestibles. Here are five foods to store outside of the fridge to keep them fresh and tasting great for longer.


Putting bananas in the refrigerator actually disrupts their natural ripening process. Once they hit those colder temperatures, they may actually never return to that natural state, even if you put them back to room temperature.

Sweet Potatoes

Exposing sweet potatoes to cold temperatures causes the starches within them to becomes sugars. This not only destroys the intended flavor and texture of the sweet potato, but brings all the issues that come with increased sugar content (from a health perspective). Unless you prefer your sweet potatoes to be both flavorless and worse for you, be sure to steer clear of the fridge with sweet potatoes.


Think closely about your personal history with tomatoes in the kitchen. Can you honestly recall ever having a fantastic one straight out of the fridge? Certainly not. They not only become mushy in those diminished temperatures, but lose flavor too.


Much like tomatoes, apples suffer when exposed to cold temperatures for longer periods of time. They lose both flavor and texture after a while. If you prefer having cold apples with that great, crisp bite to them, plop them in the fridge 30 minutes before eating.


Refrigerators do something uniquely gross to onions after a while. They turn them soggy! The already strong presence of onions will then become a burden, causing the rest of the food in there to smell and taste like onions as well. Instead, store them in a paper bag placed within a cool, dark cabinet to improve their shelf-life.

A Lower-Body Workout in Under 30 Minutes

Finding the time to exercise is a challenge for everyone. Sometimes you just need a quick, straight to the point exercise routine to get through, that doesn’t sacrifice effectiveness. Here’s a great lower body workout to tackle your entire lower body in an efficient way.

For the exercises that use free weights, you should aim for a weight where you can ideally complete 10-15 reps total (or on each side for movements that work one side at a time) before exhausting the muscle. You should try to repeat this sequence three times total.

Exercise #1: Lunges

Target Muscles: Thighs and glutes

Instructions: Stand straight with a dumbbell in each hand, arms at your sides. Without sacrificing your posture, step back with one foot while lowering your knee to the ground. Your front knee should bend without that front knee going over your toes. Once your back knee barely touches the ground (but does NOT rest on the ground), step your back leg back up to standing in your starting position.

Exercise #2: Squats

Target Muscles: Thighs and butt

Instructions: Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, toes pointed forward. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and slowly bend your knees, keeping your back straight until you reach a position where your thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold for a second before squeezing your legs and glutes to return to standing in your starting position. You should essentially feel like you are sitting down in an invisible chair (with great posture) and standing back up. Do not roll your shoulders or hunch over. Keep your head in a neutral position looking straight forward the entire time.

Exercise #3: Calf Raises

Target Muscles: Calves

Instructions: Stand on the edge of a stair with your feet about hip-width apart and the heels of your feet hanging off the edge so they are unsupported. If you can, try to keep balance as you do this exercise, but if not, grip a nearby rail or place your hand on the wall. Lower your heels as far as you can comfortably stretch them and then slowly push up on your toes until you are on your tip toes. Pause at the top and fully contract your calf muscles. Then slowly lower down again until you return to that comfortable stretch in the back of your calves and ankles.
 Standing Heel Raises

Exercise #4: Core Extensions

Target Muscles: Abdominals
Instructions: Lie on your back and pull your knees in towards your chest as you tuck your chin. As you inhale, reach your arms behind your head as your legs extend in front of you, both at about a 45 degree angle. Hold for 3 seconds before exhaling and returning to your starting position. Repeat until you can’t hold with proper form.
Double-Leg Stretch

Exercise #5: Bicycles

Target Muscles: Abdominals
Instructions: Lie on your back with hands behind your head, feet extended. Lift your head off the ground as well as your legs, brining one knee to meet the opposite elbow. Exhale and bring the opposite elbow to reach the other knee.
The Bicycle

Remember to warm up before and stretch afterwords to prevent soreness. Complete this sequence 3 times, and you’ll get a great lower body workout in about 30 minutes.

A Great Arm-Workout in Just 5 Exercises

Looking for a simple arm workout you can do at home or at the gym? I’ve got just what you need. All you need is access to some free weights and either a workout bench, exercise ball, or chair.

Only complete each rep as fast as you can keep the movement controlled and with perfect form. Don’t power through it and sacrifice your form because you’re trying to finish as quickly as possible. You’re essentially sacrificing the full benefit of the movement for a bit of speed.

You should aim for a weight where you can ideally complete 10-15 reps on each side (or total for movements that don’t have sides) before exhausting the muscle. You should try to repeat this sequence three times total.

Exercise #1: Chest Press

Target Muscles: Chest

Instructions: Lie on your back on either an exercise bench or ball. Grip a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing forward with the dumbbells close to your chest and your feet flat on the floor. As you exhale, push the dumbbells up (palms still facing forward) until the dumbbells barely touch. Pause for a second. Then slowly lower the dumbbells toward the starting position, stopping when your upper arms are just beyond parallel with the floor.

Chest Press

Exercise #2: One-Arm Rows

Target Muscles: Upper and middle back

Instructions: Begin with your same hand and knee kneeling on a flat bench with the opposite foot on the floor, knee slightly bent. While gripping a dumbbell in your hanging hand, keep your back flat and your head in a neutral position. Pull the dumbbell upward, your elbow rising straight up to the ceiling. Hold for a second before releasing back to the starting position.

One arm rows

Exercise #3: Seated Overhead Press

Target Muscles: Shoulders

Instructions: Sit on a bench or exercise ball with your back straight and a dumbbell in each hand. Place your arms shoulder level, bent to 90 degrees towards the ceiling. Your palms should remain facing forward as you slowly press the dumbbells up and together above your head until they barely touch. Hold for a second before slowly lowering your arms until you return to the starting position.

Seated overhead press

Exercise #4: Triceps Kickbacks

Target Muscles: Triceps (backs of upper arms)

Instructions: Begin with your same hand and knee kneeling on a flat bench with the opposite foot on the floor, knee slightly bent. Bend your elbow to a 90 degree angle so it sits by your side. Slowly lift the dumbbell behind you, straightening your arm until it is parallel with the floor. Hold for a second, and return to the starting position..

Triceps kickbacks

Exercise #5: Seated Biceps Curls

Target Muscles: Biceps (fronts of upper arms)

Instructions: Sit on a bench or an exercise ball and hold one dumbbell in each hand, palms facing inward. Slowly rotate your palms up as you lift the dumbbells toward your shoulders. Contract your biceps at the top, then slowly lower the dumbbells back to your sides until you reach the starting position again.

Seated Biceps Curls

Remember to warm up and stretch afterwords to prevent soreness. With these simple moves, you’ll be looking at more toned arms before you know it.

The Ultimate Life Hack to Transform Your Diet…For Good

FItnessThe amount of information out there about losing weight is simply mind-boggling. Whether it be anecdotal evidence from your friends and family, things you read online, or advice from a healthcare provider, almost anyone interesting in making a life change for the better is liable to not just find an abundance of data, but conflicting opinions on how to interpret it. This holds true over time as well. Many health-related insights that were widely accepted as true not too long ago are now subject to debate. On the other hand, we learn more and more about our bodies (and changing them for the better) each day.

When weeding through all the information at your disposal, there are a few ways to approach incorporating it into your life. Sometimes, you learn valuable information about the kinds of food you should or shouldn’t eat. In other instances, you might learn the science behind by that is the case. Perhaps most importantly, you learn how to adopt those nutritional insights into your lifestyle. Therein lies one of the greatest and most persistent challenges to a weight loss process. It is never enough to just learn about it – you need to be able to execute as well, meal after meal and day after day.

When you are hungry, if you are unhealthy, there is a decent chance that to make the right choice you need to battle both nature and nurture. Your body composition, hormones, and genetics overall could very well play a hand in your disposition towards less than optimal eating choice. Furthermore, a lifetime of developing poor habits can make it extremely difficult to reverse those patterns and adopt healthier practices. As such, if you are serious about being successful and reaching your fitness goals, you need all the help you can get. Fortunately, there is one simple best practice that, above all else, can help get you where you need to go.

Set yourself up for success.

What does this mean when it comes to eating right? Do whatever you need to do to ensure that when those hunger pangs hit and you need to satiate a craving, that you have planned in a way that eliminates failure as an option. One of the very best things you can do is only keep healthy foods in your house. Removing treats of any variety erase the possibility of you going overboard or abusing them. It is always important to live in a healthy way that is actually sustainable and, for nearly everyone, this does mean it will be both unavoidable and okay to indulge once in while. However, you need to do it on your own terms. Keeping cheat foods at home increase the likelihood that you lose control and go overboard with no real planning or legitimate cause to do so. If all you have is great, healthy options at home then that is what you will eat. Win the war against late night cravings by obliterating its arsenal against you and shopping smart. Your waistline will thank you.