The Importance of Exercise for Cancer Patients: What You Need to Know

The Importance of Exercise for Cancer Patients: What You Need to Know

The term “cancer survivor” refers to anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer, no matter where they may be in their journey. With earlier detection and improvements in screening and treatment, cancer survivors are living longer. ACSM recommends for patients to aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise with an additional two to three sessions of strength training (such as weight lifting) unless contraindicated. A 2017 systematic review suggests that there is sufficient research to support the promotion of exercise for adults with cancer, and some to support the promotion of exercise in group or supervised settings and for a long period of time to improve quality of life and muscular and aerobic fitness (1). Exercising at moderate intensities can be sustainable for longer periods of time and could encourage the formation of an exercise habit. It is important that an assessment be conducted to evaluate the effects of disease, treatments, and comorbidities and that a survivor receives clearance from their oncologist (1).

How cancer patients should approach exercise?

A patient’s approach to exercise should be rehabilitative and should consider their fitness level prior to diagnosis and treatment. The survivor will need to consider the recency of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, hormonal therapy, and any side effects that may have occurred with each. The patient’s oncologist/physical therapist/trainer can be helpful in identifying side effects that could influence one’s performance and help them determine what modality of exercise could be the most appropriate to prevent injury. These health/fitness professionals should also work with the patient to come up with realistic activity goals. Having goals will increase motivation and facilitate a lasting behavior change!

Some of the best exercise for cancer patients – does this vary between those who are currently undergoing cancer treatment versus those in remission?

The best exercise is the one that fits the individual. Again, it’s important to consider any treatment-related side effects that may be present. This can serve as a foundation for tailoring the patient’s regimen. Common treatment-induced side effects that could have implications on exercise include neuropathy, lymphedema, and cardiotoxicity.

If the survivor is experiencing neuropathy (often referred to as chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN)), it would be best to steer away from high-impact free weights and aerobic exercises that require a lot of balance. Safer modalities would be low-impact exercises such as swimming and biking. For lower extremity neuropathy, patients should try to incorporate calf stretches, ankle circles, walking, leg lifts, and balancing exercises (2).

While most common in breast cancer survivors, lymphedema can be present in any part of the body that has been subject to surgery or radiation. It is essential to seek out care from a lymphedema specialist and resolve the issue. Contrary to popular belief, once the lymphedema is under control, it is safe to exercise at a slow and progressive rate (3). The survivor will need to pay close attention to any changes in the affected area. This can include swelling of part or all of your arm or leg including fingers or toes, a feeling of heaviness or tightness, restricted range of motion, aching or discomfort, recurring infections, or hardening and thickening of the skin (4).

For those experiencing cardiotoxicity after chemotherapy (in particular, anthracycline-based treatment) or radiation to the chest area, it will be important to get physician clearance before engaging in exercise. However, engaging in a low-to-moderate intensity exercise regime prior to or during treatments could potentially mitigate the severity of treatment-induced cardiotoxicity (5).


Why exercise is so important for cancer patients.

The benefits from exercise for this population are extensive. Cancer survivors are almost three times more likely to report fair or poor health after treatment and twice as likely to have psychosocial disabilities and physical and functional limitations as persons without cancer (6). In addition to the possibility of neuropathy, lymphedema, and cardiotoxicity as mentioned above, some other lingering effects of treatment include but are not limited to cancer-related fatigue, weight gain, weight loss, depression, anxiety, insomnia, altered body composition, and changes in bone mineral density. Of these, strong evidence suggests that exercise can directly improve fatigue, weight changes, depression, anxiety, and bone health (7).

  • Fatigue: Fatigue occurs in approximately 50-90% of patients undergoing treatment. While it may seem contradictory, exercise happens to be the number one non-pharmaceutical approach to combatting cancer-related fatigue. It can be hard to get started, but great benefits will be reaped if one can get going…even if it’s something as small as walking around the block for 10 minutes or doing house cleaning. A meta-analysis of 70 studies reported that exercise reduces fatigue by 32% during treatment and by 38% after cancer treatment [8]. Resistance, aerobic, flexibility and mixed training programs have all demonstrated improvements in fatigue levels.
  • Weight loss/weight gain: There are many mechanisms that can cause a patient to lose weight. One is associated with the side effects of chemotherapy such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and anorexia. Another mechanism is the presence of an altered metabolism and increased inflammatory cytokines that speed up muscle degradation and can lead to a more serious condition called cancer cachexia (7). On the other hand, weight gain and/or increased fat-to-lean mass ratio can be caused by certain cancer therapies, especially hormonal therapies (7). Exercise can mediate inflammation and help maintain lean mass to help keep weight in check.
  • Depression/Anxiety/Insomnia: Some of us are familiar with the endorphins and serotonin increase that exercise brings on, but exercise is also associated with increased levels of endocannabinoids which have an anti-anxiety effect and promote a sense of well-being [9]. Physical activity also helps patients develop an increased sense of control in his/her own life. Exercise also reduces many negative emotions such as anger, contempt, disgust, guilt, fear and nervousness. The anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects of exercise has been demonstrated in patients undergoing treatment [10, 11] as well as cancer survivors [12]. Insomnia is often induced by increased depression and anxiety, so by treating the root of the problem (depression and anxiety), insomnia can be reduced.
  • Bone health: Bone density can be by hormonal therapies or by metastases to the bone. In those without mets, impact and weight exercise training are preferred to maximize bone health (7). Impact exercises include activities such as running and jumping. Weight and resistance training refer to activities that require the shortening (contraction) and elongation of muscles. By loading the bones through impact and weight bearing activity, you help to prevent further bone loss. If mets are present in the bones, you will want to be extra careful when choosing appropriate activities. As with other exercises, if a patient is experiencing bone metastases or a loss of bone mineral density, it will be essential to seek out advice from an experienced fitness professional.

How family and friends can help show their support (fitness and nutrition wise).

Encouragement! Exercise can be daunting for some. It is important to recognize the benefits of exercise and help your loved one find a good regimen that fits their needs. You may also consider exercising with them. That way you hold each other accountable and both get the amazing benefits of exercise.

Where our readers can go for more information.

Look for an ACSM Cancer Exercise Trainer in your area.

ACSM.org, WCRF/AICR


References:

  1. Segal, R., Zwaal, C., Green, E., Tomasone, J. R., Loblaw, A., Petrella, T., & Exercise for People with Cancer Guideline Development Group (2017). Exercise for people with cancer: a systematic review. Current oncology (Toronto, Ont.)24(4), e290–e315. doi:10.3747/co.24.3619
  2. Tips for Managing Neuropathy. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dana-farber.org/health-library/articles/tips-for-managing-neuropathy/
  3. Lymphedema (PDQ): Health professional version. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/lymphedema/lymphedema-hp-pdq#section/all. Accessed Sept. 24, 2017.
  4. Lymphedema. (2017, December 21). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lymphedema/symptoms-causes/syc-20374682
  5. Chen, J. J., Wu, P., Middlekauff, H. R., & Nguyen, K. (2017). Aerobic exercise in anthracycline-induced cardiotoxicity: A systematic review of current evidence and future directions. American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology, 312(2). doi:10.1152/ajpheart.00646.2016
  6. Hewitt Maria, Rowland Julia H, Yancik Rosemary. Cancer survivors in the United States: age, health, and disability. The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences. 2003;58:82–91.
  7. Ferioli, M., Zauli, G., Martelli, A. M., Vitale, M., McCubrey, J. A., Ultimo, S., … Neri, L. M. (2018). Impact of physical exercise in cancer survivors during and after antineoplastic treatments. Oncotarget9(17), 14005–14034. doi:10.18632/oncotarget.24456
  8. Puetz TW, Herring MP. Differential effects of exercise on cancer-related fatigue during and following treatment: a meta-analysis. Am J Prev Med. 2012;43:e1–24. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2012.04.027.
  9. De Moor MH, Beem AL, Stubbe JH, Boomsma DI, De Geus EJ. Regular exercise, anxiety, depression and personality: a population-based study. Prev Med. 2006;42:273–9.
  10. Mehnert A, Veers S, Howaldt D, Braumann KM, Koch U, Schulz KH. Effects of a physical exercise rehabilitation group program on anxiety, depression, body image, and health-related quality of life among breast cancer patients. Onkologie. 2011;34:248–53. https://doi.org/10.1159/000327813. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  11. Quist M, Adamsen L, Rorth M, Laursen JH, Christensen KB, Langer SW. The impact of a multidimensional exercise intervention on physical and functional capacity, anxiety, and depression in patients with advanced-stage lung cancer undergoing chemotherapy. Integr Cancer Ther. 2015;14:341–9. https://doi.org/10.1177/1534735415572887. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  12. Courneya KS, Friedenreich CM, Quinney HA, Fields AL, Jones LW, Fairey AS. A randomized trial of exercise and quality of life in colorectal cancer survivors. Eur J Cancer Care (Engl) 2003;12:347–57. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  13. Rizzo A. (2016). The Role of Exercise and Rehabilitation in the Cancer Care Plan. Journal of the advanced practitioner in oncology, 7(3), 339–342.

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LAF Group Leagues is What Your Life Has Been Missing

LAF Group Leagues is What Your Life Has Been Missing

They say there’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition, and we couldn’t agree more! Whether you have a competitive spirit or you’re looking to meet some new people, LA Fitness Group Leagues is for you!

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a beginner or a more advanced athlete, we have a division that will fit you. From basketball to racquetball and volleyball, our gleaming courts beckon you to bring your A-game.

How to Join

The easiest way to sign up for a Group League is at the front desk of your local club. You can also sign up for a league online by clicking here!

Leagues Offered

Cost to Play

Basketball: 8-10-week league – $89 per member

Racquetball: 12-week league – $40 per member

Volleyball: 8-10-week league – $30 per member


 

Testimonials

“I have been playing in LA Fitness Group Leagues since moving to California in 2008.  From that time, I’ve had the privilege of participating in basketball, volleyball, and even a racquetball league. I have always found LA Fitness Group Leagues to be a great place to compete and socialize with like-minded people. To this day, some of my best friends were met through the leagues at LA Fitness. If you’re on the fence, talk about it with one of the knowledgeable Sports Directors who can get you plugged in. It will add so much to your daily life.”

Lane C.

Basketball, Volleyball, and Racquetball, LAF Group Leagues

“I have been playing for LA Fitness Leagues since I moved to California over seven years ago – mostly basketball, but volleyball as well. I first joined at the urging of my wife, since we moved to a new state where I knew no one, and it turned out to be a great idea as many of the friends I still have today were made through those leagues. I also found it a great way to motivate myself to get to the gym since I have a team relying on me.” 

Jason R.

Basketball and Volleyball, LAF Group Leagues

“Ever since I joined the basketball league at LA Fitness, I have looked forward to Tuesday nights when our league is in season. I really enjoy the strong competition and healthy camaraderie among all the players. I’ve been playing for 4 years now and have no plans on stopping anytime soon.”

Keith G.

Basketball , LAF Group Leagues

For more information please visit https://www.lafitness.com/Pages/Leagues.aspx or reach out to your local LA Fitness front desk staff.

*While the opinions herein are Lane C., Jason R., and Keith G.’s own, Lane C., Jason R., and Keith G. are employees of LA Fitness and receive complimentary memberships in connection with their employment.


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Your One-Stop Guide to a Flat Ab 6-Pack Summer

Your One-Stop Guide to a Flat Ab 6-Pack Summer

Whether you’re looking for abs so flat this season they make your ex jealous, or you just really want to finally trade in the beer belly for a flat one, this article is for you.

We offer 30 tips to help you reach your flat abs, 6-pack-summer potential.

1. Limit Calorie Intake

    • This almost goes without saying, but how many calories should you cut out? If you decrease your caloric intake by approximately 500 to 1,000 calories a day (while maintaining roughly the same level of activity), you should expect to lose roughly 1 to 2 lbs. a week, by cutting calories alone!
    • NOTE: Do not drastically reduce your caloric intake, as cutting more than 500 to 1,000 calories could have the opposite effect. The body senses that food storage is low so it lowers the rate at which it burns calories for energy. This is known as a decrease in metabolic rate.

2. Increase Soluble Fiber

    • OK, but what is soluble fiber? Basically, this type of fiber dissolves in water and gastrointestinal fluids, while insoluble fiber does not. The benefit of soluble fiber is that it helps lower fat absorption, aids in weight management, helps lower cholesterol, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, and helps feed healthy gut bacteria.1
    • HIGH SOLUBLE FIBER FOODS: Healthline provides a list of the “Top 20 Foods High in Soluble Fiber”. A few of these include black beans, brussel sprouts, avocados, sweet potatoes, and broccoli. To view the full list, click here. (Some may surprise you!)

3. Take Probiotics

    • If you aren’t totally sure what probiotics are but you’ve seen food and drink commercials claiming probiotics help with “regularity”, well, they do. But there is more to them than that. Probiotics are live bacteria. That sounds kind of gross but keep with us for a second.
    • Consuming probiotic foods have been shown to help balance out gut flora, which helps reduce the risk of weight gain and fat in your tummy area – and if flat abs are what you’re looking for, probiotics should be on your grocery list.
    • Probiotic foods can include certain types of yogurt, kimchi, and pickles, along with others. You can also find probiotics in certain supplements! The three types of probiotic strains that have been shown to be particularly effective in helping with belly fat are Lactobacillus fermentum, Lactobacillus amylovorus, and Lactobacillus gasseri.2

4. Level Up on Cardio

    • Step up your cardio game! Why? Because cardio burns calories faster than strength training and, usually, in a shorter amount of time. If you’re overweight and looking for the quickest way to burn fat, turn to cardio first, then slowly incorporate weight training to help build muscles. Check out our Living Healthy Podcast Episode “All About That Cardio”! 
    • Muscle gain actually helps the body burn more calories in a rested state, so a balanced exercise routine combining both cardio and strength training is going to be the best for your body.
    • Some great examples of cardio centered workouts include cycling, running, hiking, Zumba®, and rowing, but your options are endless! Try some indoor and outdoor workouts this summer to take advantage of the cool indoor gym air and the beauty of the sunshine-filled summer days!

5. Drink Protein Shakes

    • Protein shakes are filled with, you guessed it, protein! And protein gets broken down in the body and converted into amino acids, which are known as the building blocks of the body. Having enough protein in your diet, helps the body stay fuller for longer periods of time. Of course, when balanced with a healthy diet (don’t forget about fibers and healthy fat!)
    • While some people may get enough protein in their diets through food alone, protein shakes are a fast and convenient way for those short on time or those who don’t have big appetites. Check out our Living Healthy Podcast Episode on “How to Gain Healthy Weight and Bulk“, which touches upon the benefits of protein shakes and supplements.

6. Say Hello to Monosaturated Fatty Acids

    • Don’t fear the word “fat” within the phrase monosaturated fatty acids. These types of food are known as “good fats” and good fats help equate to less belly fat. It’s a win-win!
    • Foods high in monosaturated fatty acids include olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds. All staples that are common in a Mediterranean-style type diet.

7. Limit Carbs

    • Why do carbs taste so good but have such a bad rap? It depends on which carbs we’re talking about. There are two types of carbs: simple and complex. If you’re looking for a flat tummy, complex carbohydrates get the greenlight while simple carbohydrates should be avoided.
    • If you’re not for cutting carbs entirely out of your diet, try sticking with whole grain options (labels should read 100% whole wheat or whole grain).
    • Check out our article Carbs: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for more information.

8. Add Resistance Training to Your Routine

    • If you’re limiting your caloric intake it’s extra important to add resistance training to your routine in order to help prevent muscle loss. By consuming fewer calories and focusing solely on cardio-centered workout routines, you could lose muscle mass which can decrease your metabolic rate, equaling fewer calories burned.
    • Some resistance training exercises, using body weight, include lunges, step-ups, pushups, and chin-ups. While some weighted resistance training exercises include: biceps curls, barbell squat, shoulder press, and bench press. Ask a Pro Results® trainer at your local club for some advice if you’re unsure where to start.

9. Stand More, Sit Less

    • How is this possible when so much of the day is spent sitting? The average person can expect to go from their bed, to sitting in their car, to sitting at work, sitting at lunch, more sitting at work, more sitting in the car, and then some relaxing time sitting in front of the TV later at night. Stop the cycle! It’s unhealthy and it’s not the way to get 6-pack summer abs!
    • There are a few ways to help fix this:
      • Get in a pre-work, early morning workout.
      • Take some quick, brisk, walks throughout the workday.
      • Have lunch outside and spend half of it on your feet.
      • Try biking to work (if you work close enough!)
      • Get in some sort of physical activity after work that brings you joy (weight training at the gym, playing ball with your kids, an outdoor walk with your dog, a dance class, a hike, a sports league, the options are endless!)
    • The more you move, the more calories you burn and the less fat you’ll accumulate.

10. Add ACV to Your Grocery List

    • Good ol’ apple cider vinegar. The stuff may smell gross but plug your nose and have a spoonful! A 12-week study in obese men showed that a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar a day helped reduce waistlines by a half-inch!3
    • ACV is mainly made up of acetic acid, which has been shown in animal studies to help reduce body fat accumulation. If you can stomach the taste and smell, give it a shot and see if it works for you.

11. Walk, Walk, and Walk Some More

    • Experts suggest simply walking for 30 to 40 minutes a day at a brisk pace, to notice a slimmer waistline.4

12. Nix the Liquid Calories

    • This is probably the easiest thing you can do to help cut out calories and get one step closer to a sexy 6-pack body. Liquid calories include everything from fruit juice to energy drinks, coffee drinks, alcohol and sodas.
    • Here are some healthier swaps:
      • Sugary coffee drink –> Americano or black coffee
      • Soda –> Soda water or flavored carbonated water
      • Energy drinks –> unsweetened iced tea or green tea
      • Fruit juice –> an actual piece of whole fruit

13. Eat More Whole Foods

    • The easiest way to think about this is this way: walk over to your cupboard, fridge or freezer and pull out a packaged item. Now read the ingredient list. Do you recognize every ingredient listed? If the answer is no, that is most likely not a whole and unprocessed food. In fact, there really shouldn’t be any ingredients listed on whole foods. Check out some of the whole foods listed below.
    • Whole foods include nuts, legumes, fruit, veggies, dairy, fish and unprocessed meat. The less a food product has been altered, typically the healthier it is for you.
    • LA Fitness, registered dietitian, Debbie James gave the best advice when she said to stay away from the middle aisles at a grocery store and instead shop the perimeter. This is where most of the whole foods are located. Try it next shopping trip and see for yourself!

14. Go with H20

    • Water is your friend. Actually, it’s more than your friend – you literally need it to live. Not only does it help keep your body hydrated (which helps keep skin looking youthful), but it can help aid in weight loss in many ways.
    • Drinking a glass of water before a meal can help the body feel fuller, so you’ll most likely eat less. It can also help relieve constipation, getting rid of the belly poof, and bloating. Noted by Healthline, drinking water may also help temporarily increase metabolic rate and increase energy expenditure by up to 100 calories a day!5

15. Be Mindful

    • Think about this for a moment, have you ever eaten something less than healthy when feeling sad, angry, or stressed? If you have, don’t feel guilty, most people have. But instead of letting your emotions control your eating patterns, try to be mindful of the decisions you’re making by recognizing your emotions and coping with them in healthier ways.
    • Try exercising instead! Exercise helps reduce stress and releases endorphins into the body that helps trigger happiness! Now you’re happy, and one step closer to those summer abs. Check you out, you Fitness Rockstar.
    • If you’re noticing that your emotions have more of an effect on your diet than you would like them to, consider speaking with a nutritionist or alternative healthcare professional. They may be able to help you create a roadmap for healthier eating and living.

16. Avoid These Belly Bloaters: Air and Gasses

    • Here’s an easy tip: slow down. Things, like eating too fast, talking while eating, drinking through a straw, chewing gum or drinking carbonated drinks, can create gas in the belly area and cause bloating and/or stomach distention (basically, swelling of the abdomen).

17. HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training)

    • HIIT (high-intensity interval training) may be one of the latest buzzwords in the fitness industry, but it’s not without good reason! As lives become hectic and it’s hard to find the time to work out, a quick and fast-paced workout may be the best (and sometimes only) option.
    • Check out our HIIT by LAF® website to find an LA Fitness near you with HIIT by LAF® studios!

18. Namaste

    • Bet you didn’t think yoga could influence your belly fat, did you? Well, it can! Yoga, along with other methods of destressing and relaxing activities, can help reduce stress levels. Stress and anxiety are very common but can help be managed with yoga or meditation.
    • When the body is stressed it triggers the production of cortisol, which increases appetite and can lead to an increase in belly fat. Check out How to Combat Stress Better with These 8 Foods.

19. Load Up on Protein

    • Similar to #5: (Drink Protein Shakes). Protein helps keep the body full, reduces appetite and helps retain muscle mass when dieting. You don’t want to lose muscle when dieting, just the fat. So, load up on protein, but make sure you’re getting the right amount for you.
    • Protein needed depends on age, gender, and activity level – are you more sedentary or are you active? As a general rule of thumb, you should try to get 20-30% of your calories from protein on a daily basis.6

20. Track Calorie Intake

    • You may think you know how many calories are in your meals and snacks, but you’d probably be surprised to learn just how many actually are! If you’re new to dieting and trying to lose weight, try tracking foods using a free food tracking app.
    • This is a great way to teach yourself how many calories your body needs versus how many calories you’re consuming.

21. Crack an Egg or Two

    • Ah, the great egg debate. Some argue that eggs are high in cholesterol and should only be consumed in moderation, while others argue that eggs are healthy, nutritious, and high in protein. We agree with the latter, as noted here in our article Foods That Help Curb Hunger.
    • Fun Fact: Did you know that 2 hard-cooked eggs have more protein than a ¼ cup of tuna salad? Time to hit the grocery store and load up on some farm-fresh eggs!

22. Get Enough Zzz’s

    • Next time you’re feeling tired, let your body rest! Listening to your body and allowing yourself enough sleep per night can have an impact on your belly fat. In a study taken from the NCBI database, sleep-deprived people are 55% more likely to become obese, over those with healthy sleep patterns. So, shut off the lights, put the phone down, and let yourself drift off to dreamland.

23. Fasting… maybe.

    • Fasting definitely isn’t for everyone, but if you’re able to fast without noticing any negative side effects, it may be worth it.
    • Intermittent fasting allows followers of this diet method to eat and fast within certain periods of time. There are different timing styles you can follow, some allow an eating window of 8 hrs. a day.
    • Generally speaking, by reducing your eating window, followers of this type of fasting eat fewer calories. Check out our registered dietitian’s take on The 16-8 Fasting Diet.

24. Supplements

    • It’s recommended to consume fatty fish once to twice a week, due to their long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. High fatty fish include salmon, sardines, and albacore tuna, among others. Fatty fish is considered a high-quality protein and omega-3 fatty acids may help “reduce the accumulation of fat in the liver and abdominal cavity.”7
    • If you aren’t a fan of fish, you can opt for a fish oil supplement, for added fat loss.

25. Say No-no to Added Sugars

    • Added sugars should not be in your diet whether you’re looking for 6-pack abs or not! These health destroyers have been linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and fatty liver disease. According to an article posted on Healthline, “studies have shown a direct link between high intake of added sugar and increased waist size, especially in people who drink sugar-sweetened beverages.”8
    • Try opting for a healthier option, like the healthy swaps recommended in #12: Nix the Liquid Calories.
    • Be wary of food packaging! A lot of times added sugars end up in your packaged foods too. Carefully read ingredient and nutrition labels to make sure added sugars aren’t being sneaked into seemingly healthy food.

26. Fat Replacements

    • While it’s recommended to replace some fats with healthier alternatives to help flatten the belly, reviews are mixed on the benefits of switching out some dietary fat with coconut oil. In a study referenced by Healthline, it’s shared that “coconut oil has been shown to more effectively reduce waist size than other types of fat.”9
    • LA Fitness registered dietitian Debbie James has shared the positives and negatives of consuming coconut oil. In our Let’s Talk: Coconut Oil Q+A, she mentions that coconut oil as a consumable product is very high in saturated fats. However, in our Flat Ab Summer Foods article, she mentions that MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) may reduce visceral fat and waist circumference by increasing energy expenditure, satiety, and fat oxidation. They are rapidly metabolized compared to long-chain fatty acids, having less chance to be stored as fat.
    • Because the benefits of coconut oil seem to be a topic that experts still toggle with, speak with your healthcare professional before trying out any new product or switch to a well-known, heart-and-expert-approved, cooking oil instead – olive oil!

27. Drop the Plank

    • A strong core means a tight and toned looking tummy! Core exercises help strengthen the muscles that help hold your stomach in, perfect for a beach-ready body. As a plus, when your core is tight and your muscles are engaged, it can help with posture and relieve backaches. It’s a win-win!
    • A great core strengthening exercise is planks. Find out which type of plank is right for you, by clicking here!

28. Coffee and Green Tea Are A-OK

    • Ah, sweet caffeine, how would we get through our busy days without thee? The good news is coffee and green tea are actually beneficial to help get you on the path to those 6-pack abs!
    • Not only are both of these beverages (unsweetened) super low in calories but drinking coffee has been shown to increase the number of calories burned by 3% to 11% and drinking tea or taking green tea supplements have been shown to increase fat burn up to 17%!10 We’ll drink to that!

29. Limit or Remove Alcohol

    • Carbs, sugars, and empty calories should be huge red flags to either completely remove or drastically limit your alcohol intake if you’re looking to achieve washboard abs come summertime.
    • Not only has heavy drinking been shown to contribute to weight gain, but especially so around the midsection – which is exactly what you don’t want!

30. Move More = Burn More

    • It really is that simple; move more and burn more calories! Think of all the ways you can keep your body active when it’s not in exercise-mode. Stand up more, walk around more, take the stairs versus elevator, park further away, maybe go out to the store to buy whatever it is that you need or want instead of ordering it online and waiting for it to be delivered to you.
    • Just. Move. More.

Good luck on your journey to a happy and healthy fit-tastic summer!


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Heirloom Tomatoes & Stracciatella from etta

Heirloom Tomatoes & Stracciatella from etta

“Healthy eating is important and knowing where your food comes from is what makes it special. We serve only the freshest and finest ingredients our local community has to offer. We work with numerous small producers in the Midwest to showcase the highest quality product available across our menu. Our relationships with these farmers and producers allow us to push for constant improvement in the quality of their product, and in turn, we treat their ingredients with the utmost care.”

Danny Grant

Award-Winning Chef, etta


More about etta:

Paying homage to the meaning behind its namesake, Henrietta – keeper of the hearth, etta is the latest project by award-winning chef Danny Grant and What If Syndicate. Located in Chicago’s bustling Bucktown area, etta is a light-hearted neighborhood restaurant that serves simple and seasonal wood-fired food. Opened in July 2018, etta focuses on classics done well in a fresh way. Showcasing a seasonally inspired and thoughtfully crafted menu that utilizes its wood-fired hearth in unique ways, etta offers a selection of salads, house-made pastas, pizzas as well as weekend brunch. Re-creating both the food and experience of dining at chef Grant’s home, etta’s concept is straightforward – to cook and serve simple, honest food thoughtful of the season and its guests.

etta is located at 1840 W. North Ave., Chicago, IL 60622. Open Monday through Thursday from 5pm to 10pm, Friday from 4:30 to 11pm, Saturday from 10am to 2pm and reopens for dinner from 4:30 to 11pm, and Sunday from 10am to 2pm and again from 4:30pm to 9pm. For the menu and additional details, please visit ettarestaurant.com

Photo Credit: Rachel Bires

Photo Credit: Rachel Bires

Photo Credit: Rachel Bires


Heirloom Tomatoes & Stracciatella from etta

Ingredients

For the Dish

  • 1 lb heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 12 ea summer squash ribbons
  • 1 c roasted sweet corn kernels
  • 2 c stracciatella
  • 12 ea mint leaves, chopped
  • 12 ea basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 2 tbls white balsamic vinaigrette
  • 2 tbls extra virgin olive oil
  • Maldon sea salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Optional garnishes: arugula, sweet basil seeds (soaked)

Method

Step 1:

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine halved tomatoes with corn kernels and summer squash ribbons.
  • Add the white balsamic vinegar and olive oil and gently toss.
  • Gently top the stracciatella with the tomato mixture, so the stracciatella is hidden.
  • Season with Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  • Garnish with arugula and sweet basil seeds.

Step 2:

  • After the tomato mixture is evenly coated, fold in mint and basil leaves and set aside.
  • Place 1/2 cup of stracciatella in the center of a small plate.
  • Using the back of a spoon, spread the stracciatella in a circular motion until it is 1/4 inch thick.

Step 3: 

  • Gently top the stracciatella with the tomato mixture, so the stracciatella is hidden.
  • Season with Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  • Garnish with arugula and sweet basil seeds.

Serves 4


Featured Recipes

The Journey of Fat to Muscle

The Journey of Fat to Muscle

When that little extra cushioning suddenly turns into the spare tire you never wanted, chances are you’re starting to think about ways to quickly shed that excess fat and replace it with muscle.

To successfully make this happen, it’s important to first understand some facts about fat and muscle.

  1. There is no quick way to replace fat with muscle. The weight didn’t come on overnight so it won’t go away overnight.
  2. A pound of body fat equates to around 3,500 calories. Meaning, you’ll need to burn about 3,500 calories for every pound of fat that you want to get rid of. This can mean cutting 500 to 1,000 calories a day out of your diet to lose about 1 to 2 lbs. per week.
  3. Muscle burns more calories than fat. Once you start building muscle, you will be able to eat more because your body will be burning more calories.
  4. Muscle does not replace fat. You’ll have to first burn off the fat before your body can start creating muscle mass.

How Excess Fat Affects the Body

Most people know that obesity can lead to a laundry list of health concerns, including (but not limited to):

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Sleep and respiratory issues
  • Depression

It’s not that all fat is bad for the body. In fact, our body needs fat to function. The idea instead is to get rid of excess fat that can cause damage to the body, create a sense of sluggishness, and lead to feelings of discontent.

Is Cardio the Best Option for Fat Loss?

Yes… and no. But, mainly yes!

Here’s why:

Cardio increases heart rate fast and typically burns more calories than weight lifting does. Because you’ll want to burn off the fat first, before focusing more on muscle building, cardio-forward workouts may be the most beneficial for those looking to lose fat – although, cardio should be combined with weight training for a balanced workout routine.

A few cardio exercises that are known for high levels of calorie burn include HIIT*, cycling, running, or use of the elliptical machine.

*Learn more about HIIT by LAF®.

Of course, there are other cardio options that may sound more appealing to some. These options include Group Fitness classes like Zumba® or sports leagues*.

*Check out LA Fitness Group Leagues here.

AAT: Ep. 22 – Is Cardio or Strength Training Better for Weight Loss?

Check out this episode of Ask A Trainer with Master Trainer, Stone Thomas, who helps further answer if cardio or strength training is better for weight loss.

AAT: Ep. 22 – Is Cardio or Strength Training Better for Weight Loss?

Targeting Belly Fat

While it would be so much nicer if it were possible to just target a certain area of the body, it’s not realistic. That’s just not how fat loss works.

LA Fitness Pro Results® trainer, Kayla V., explains it more in the video below and gives tips on what can be done to increase weight loss overall.

AAT – Ep. 15: What Are the Best Exercises for Stomach Fat?

Diet is Key (But You Probably Already Knew That)

Consuming more calories than what your body is expending will, at the very least, lead to a weight loss plateau (if not weight gain).

In the beginning stages of weight loss, it’s so important to track your calories.

Once you have a better understanding of food proportions and how much you need to eat daily to lose weight, you can choose to stop tracking calories and just eat smaller, healthier options when your body signals that it’s hungry.

There are plenty of online options available to help better understand healthy eating and portion control.

And, if you’re an LA Fitness member, we have a special section called “Ask Our Dietitian” dedicated to answering your nutrition-related questions. Send them to us here.

From Fat Loss to Muscle Gain

Perhaps you’ve already shed the excess body fat and now you’re looking to increase your muscle mass. This is where things get fun.

Building muscle means your workouts should now encompass more weight training. To build muscle, rather than simply retain what you already have, you should increase your weight and decrease the number of reps you’re doing.

Foods to Help Muscle Recovery

When questioning why our bodies tend to become tired and sore after working out, LA Fitness registered dietitian Debbie James, RDN shared “Since your muscles are sore, their cellular metabolism needs to be restored to normal. You might need more sources of potassium and anti-inflammatory compounds.”

These include:

  • Tomatoes, bananas, potatoes, kale, cabbage, berries, cherries, lentils, salmon, tuna, nuts, garlic, curcumin, and olive oil.
  • One possible recovery meal is tuna salad with tomatoes, olives and pine nuts on spinach.
  • A tasty snack option is cherries and almonds.

You’re Probably Going to Feel Hungrier

When you start training harder and more frequently, your body is going to need more calories because your body is going to be burning more energy.

This is where it might get tricky for someone who was formally at an unhealthy body weight.

You’ve heard it over and over again: “Cut calories and you’ll lose weight.”

So, you’ve become conditioned to eating less, but now your goal has changed. You’re no longer looking to drop fat; you’re looking to build muscle.

If you keep working out and not consuming enough calories the body begins breaking down the muscle you have, rather than repairing it or building it.

This is why protein should be your best friend when it comes to building muscle.

Healthy Eating Tips

  1. Opt for lean cuts of meat.
  2. Choose healthy carbohydrates over simple carbohydrates.
  3. If you choose to supplement with protein shakes, choose a protein powder with little to no added sugar.
  4. If you’re looking for protein options that are meat-free, you can substitute eggs, milk, beans, or tofu.

That lean-look, or definition of muscles, will come with time after body fat percentage is dropped and strength training has increased.

It’s Not Easy for Everyone

Understanding how to take your body from overweight to healthy and in shape sometimes takes the help of professionals. If you’ve found yourself struggling to make the transition on your own, it may be time to investigate personal training or dietic consulting.

Living a healthy lifestyle can be done by anyone, at any age, at any time.

All you have to do is get started.

Share what made you make the change in the comments below!


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