The one-step fat loss fix

Welcome to the positive corner of wellness. Here’s a daily digest designed to make you healthier in less than 5 minutes. If...

Welcome to the positive corner of wellness. Here’s a daily digest designed to make you healthier in less than 5 minutes. If you were forwarded this message, you can get the free daily email here.

Today’s Health Upgrade

  • The caffeine rules

  • The one-step fat loss fix

  • Revisiting muscle confusion

The Caffeine Rules

Yesterday we told you why caffeine is one of the best ways to pump up your workout performance.

But caffeine can also harm your sleep — unless you know the tricks of the trade.

A new review of 24 studies found that caffeine can reduce your total sleep time, efficiency, and make it harder for you to pass out. This might not seem shocking, but if you know how to time your caffeine then you can still have your energy and amazing sleep too.

Caffeine has a surprisingly long half-life. So even if you don’t feel a buzz, your body will still be processing the stimulant many hours later.

The researchers found that if you don’t want your caffeine to harm your sleep, it’s best to cut off all single servings of caffeine (think a cup of coffee) at least 9 hours before you sleep. If you’re a fan of pre-workout (which is usually about 2 cups of coffee), you’ll want to make sure you have your drink of choice at least 13 hours before bed.

If you train at night, your best bet is to go caffeine-free before your workout or take your caffeine much earlier in the day. It won’t give you the same boost, but the caffeine will still be in your system.

The One-Step Weight Loss Plan

Many diets make weight loss seem overly complicated. If you’re looking for a quick fix, it's time to pour yourself a drink.

Even though most people think of them as muscle builders, meal replacement drinks can be surprisingly effective at supporting healthy weight loss.

We are critical about a lot of supplements because the hype doesn’t match the science, but protein shakes and meal replacements are an exception. Research suggests they can help burn fat, reduce hunger, and improve your overall metabolic health.

But the real trick is how you incorporate protein shakes into your diet. Research suggests that replacing just one meal with a meal replacement drink can lead to an average of 5.5 pounds lost compared to a diet designed to help weight loss.

Meal replacements work because they are convenient and quick, and loaded with protein and other nutrients that can help you stay full. Whole food meals do the trick too, but we tend to be bad at preparing them or knowing what to eat, and when that happens, you can become your own worst enemy. Research shows that we typically underestimate how many calories we eat (by about 47 percent!) and overestimate how much we burn.

If you want to see if this strategy works for you, take your most challenging meal of the day (usually breakfast or lunch) and swap it with a shake. Just make keep an eye on what you add to the shake. Many people will use milk, nut butters, lots of fruit, and a variety of other ingredients that — while healthy — pile on the calories. In general, look for a shake with at least 20 grams of protein and 200 to 400 calories.

Wait, Muscle Confusion Works?

For years, P90X used “muscle confusion” to convince millions of people to try the program. Scientists made it clear that the only confusion was that the claims were based on science (they weren't).

While “muscle confusion” won’t directly help you burn more fat or build more muscle, it might help improve your consistency.

Researchers wanted to see if shifting your workouts and exercises each session provided additional benefits. Just as prior research suggested, the participants did not gain more muscle or strength when they tried to confuse their muscles.

But, the people who changed their workouts daily reported feeling more motivated to exercise.

A simple progression without many distractions is the foundation of amazing results (and how Arnold trained throughout his life). But, consistency matters too. And the longer you can keep showing up, the more likely you'll improve your health. So if you’re struggling to create a workout habit, try switching up your plan or changing a few exercises to see if it helps you get back on track.

The one-step fat loss fix

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