© Getty Images
Not all food items masquerading as “healthy” or low-fat deliver what they claim. Click through to find out which food items you should avoid while losing weight.
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1) Soy sauce
Despite being low in calories, soy sauce is extremely high on sodium that can leave you bloated and increase the risk of hypertension. There are many low-sodium soy sauce options available these days but they are not significantly lower than the regular ones. Use sparingly.
© iStock/Getty Images Multi-grain bread
2) Multi-grain bread
All those pretty seeds sitting on top of the loaf look healthy and inviting. But it’s what the bread is made of that really matters. Multi-grain may not necessarily mean whole grain. Make sure to check the labels.
© iStock/Getty Images Alcohol
Even average wine drinkers consume up to 2,000 extra calories every month. A glass of sparkling white may look innocuous but its cumulative effects can hinder weight loss. According to diet expert Robert C Atkins, alcohol is the first thing your body burns before it moves on to anything else. So until your body gets rid of alcohol from your system, you won’t burn any fat.
© HeikeRau/Getty Images Tea herbs and sweetener tablets – Teekräuter und Süßstofftabletten
4) Sugar-free products
How many of you are guilty of consuming this? Trust us these products just seem low in calories but the effect on your health is too dangerous to not pay attention to it. While these may be low in calories, consuming them can raise your insulin level, as they often contain unhealthy sugar alternatives.
© Tony Robins/Getty Images Cornflakes tumbling out of box and into bowl
5) Cereals sold in value-size boxes
According to research by Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, people consume up to 22 per cent more when they eat from larger packages. Large packets may be easy on the wallet but certainly not on health.
© iStock/Getty Images Snacks on wooden table
6) 100-calorie snacks
So you know that you’re only consuming 100 calories per portion, but is it really adding to your daily nutrition? Cutting back on calories doesn’t mean you have to load up on junk. These make for great occasional treats but not for regular meal options.
© Getty Images
7) High-fiber snack bars
These bars contain fiber, which is essential for you, but the problem is that they deliver it in big doses, not steadily throughout the day. Rachel Harvest, a registered dietitian affiliated with Tournesol Wellness in New York says, “Fiber intake has to be consistent throughout the day to stave off hunger, improve digestive health, and not cause stomach upset.”
© REX/Food and Drink Group of Milk Bottles
8) Whole milk
Whole milk is loaded with extra fat and cholesterol. Go for the skimmed variety to enjoy the goodness of milk without worrying about the calories.
© iStock/Getty Images Tropical fruit
9) Tropical fruits
Fruits make for great snacks when on a diet but there are some that you may want to avoid if your goal is to lose weight. Go easy on fruits such as mangoes and ripe pineapples as they are especially high in natural sugars.
10) Microwave popcorn
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the chemicals found in bags of microwave popcorn are known to increase the chances of developing infertility and thyroid problems. Popcorn is a great low-calorie snack, just not when it comes out of a bag filled with additives.
© Helmut Meyer zur Capellen / imageBROKER/REX Hand pouring orange juice out of a jug into a glass
11) Fruit juice
Fruit juice out of a carton seems convenient for a quick breakfast, but really it’s just a glass full of empty calories. Yes, even the 100-per cent variety doesn’t help much. You’re better off eating the whole fruit, which gives you fiber as well.
© WestEnd61/REX Grapes
They are quick to eat, they’re certainly healthy, but they also contain high amounts of sugar that may trigger cravings for other sweet products. Don’t avoid them altogether; combine them with proteins or add them to salads.
© E. M. Welch/Rex Features “Low-Fat” foods
13) “Low Fat” foods
Consuming these may put you at risk of inadvertent binging, as they create the illusion that you’re not consuming many calories. Manufacturers often replace natural elements with chemicals to make these foods “low fat”.
© Jill Chen/Getty Images Seasoning salts
14) Seasoning salts
We often spike up boring low-calorie dishes by sprinkling them with seasoning salt. But these are loaded with sodium which increases the risk of high blood pressure. Use fresh herbs to bring out the flavors in your meal.
© Westend61/Getty Images Restaurant entree salads
Salads are good. In fact they’re an excellent meal choice if you’re on a diet. It’s the dressing that’s the culprit. There’s no point ordering a garden salad at a restaurant if you top it up with a high-fat mayonnaise dressing.
- If You’re Trying to Lose Weight, Stop Doing These 5 Things
- 15 common mistakes people make when trying to lose weight
- I Consumed Nothing but Water for 5 Days. Here’s Why, What Happened, and Why it Was Awesome.
- Why Fast?
- How to Fast Safely
- What Happened During the Fast?
- The Day by Day Rundown
- Refeeding: How to End the Fast “Safely”
- What’s Next?
- 5 Things Your Personal Trainer Wishes You Knew
- Four Great GPS Smart Watches for Cyclists
If You’re Trying to Lose Weight, Stop Doing These 5 Things
While some have tried pretty shocking techniques to lose weight, there are also some common, long-held techniques that seem like a good idea-and may even work at first-but are absolutely going to backfire and end up causing weight gain. If you’re on a quest to a slimmer you, avoid doing these five things.
Having a Cut-Off Time for Eating
If you’ve heard that you shouldn’t eat past 6, 7, or 8 p.m. in order to lose weight, that’s just not true. Food eaten at night doesn’t automatically get stored as fat, as previously believed. What time you stop eating has nothing to do with how much weight you’ll gain or lose-it’s the total calories you consume in a day that matters. If you are a late-night snacker, opt for healthier options that are easy to digest.
Whether it’s all carbs, all gluten, all sugar, all baked goods, or all whatever, certified dietitian Leslie Langevin, M.S., R.D., of Whole Health Nutrition, believes this is not a life your pizza-ice-cream-pasta-loving self can sustain. After a period of forced deprivation, most people will just throw in the towel and devour an enormous plate of whatever they’re living without, says Langevin. Or, if they are able to go through a period of elimination, once they go back to eating these foods, the weight they lost will slowly creep back on. When it comes to maintaining weight loss, moderation is key.
Subscribing to a Low-Fat Diet
Going no fat or low fat was a huge trend back in the ’90s, a fad that we are glad has mostly passed. Most low-fat foods are packed with sugar to add flavor, and as a result, they end up causing weight gain-especially belly fat. Also of importance is that we’ve since learned that eating healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, and nuts can actually help to increase metabolism and can burn away belly fat. Healthy fats also fill you up longer, so go ahead and add nuts to your smoothie, avocado to your soup, or roast your veggies in olive oil.
Skipping Out on Meals
In order to lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit. And while reducing the number of calories in your diet is one way to do this, skipping an entire meal is not the way to go. Starving the body can slow down its metabolism and lead to overeating later. And let’s face it, if you’re running on empty, you won’t have the energy for a calorie-crushing workout later. Beyond adopting a healthier diet in general, the best way to reduce your calorie intake is to find ways to make healthy swaps in your favorite foods and also by choosing lower-calorie foods that are high in fiber, protein, or whole grains, which can better keep you full.
Working out is definitely part of the weight-loss equation, but if you think it means you can eat whatever you want, you’re not going to be happy with the results. Keep in mind that a 30-minute run at a pace of six mph (10 minutes per mile) burns about 270 calories. In order to lose a pound a week, you need to burn or cut out 500 calories a day. So that means coupled with your 30-minute workout, you still need to cut out 220 calories from your diet, which most likely does not translate to eating everything in sight. Research actually proves that “abs are made in the kitchen,” which means that what you eat – focusing on eating healthy portions throughout the day – can be even more important than how much you work out.
This article originally appeared on Popsugar Fitness.
More from Popsugar Fitness:
20 Filling Foods to Keep You Feeling Full
4 Reasons Losing Weight Sucks, and 4 Ways to Make it Easier
5 Reasons You’re Working Out and Not Losing Weight
- By POPSUGAR Fitness @POPSUGARFitness
15 common mistakes people make when trying to lose weight
Losing weight can seem very tough. Sometimes you feel like you’re doing everything right, yet still not getting results.
You may actually be hindering your progress by following misguided or outdated advice.
Here are 15 common mistakes people make when trying to lose weight.
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1. Only focusing on the scale weight
It’s very common to feel like you’re not losing weight fast enough, despite faithfully sticking to your diet. However, the number on the scale is only one measure of weight change. Weight is influenced by several things, including fluid fluctuations and how much food remains in your system.
In fact, weight can fluctuate by up to 4 lbs (1.8 kg) over the course of a day, depending on how much food and liquid you’ve consumed.
Also, increased estrogen levels and other hormonal changes in women can lead to greater water retention, which is reflected in scale weight (1).
If the number on the scale isn’t moving, you may very well be losing fat mass but holding on to water. Fortunately, you can do several things to lose water weight.
If you’ve been working out, you may be gaining muscle and losing fat. When this happens, your clothes may start to feel looser — especially around the waist — despite a stable scale weight.
Measuring your waist with a tape measure and taking monthly pictures of yourself can reveal you’re actually losing fat, even if the scale number doesn’t change much.
Bottom Line: Many factors can affect scale weight, including fluid fluctuations, muscle mass gain and the weight of undigested food. You may be losing body fat even if the scale reading doesn’t change much.
2. Eating too many or too few calories
A calorie deficit is required for weight loss. This means you need to burn more calories than you consume.
For many years, it was believed that a decrease of 3,500 calories per week would result in 1 lb (.45 kg) of fat loss. However, recent research shows the calorie deficit needed varies from person to person (2).
You may feel as though you’re not eating very many calories. But in fact, most of us have a tendency to underestimate and under report what we eat (3, 4).
In a two-week study, 10 obese people reported consuming 1,000 calories per day. Lab testing showed they were actually taking in about 2,000 calories per day (4).
You may be consuming too many foods that are healthy but also high in calories, such as nuts and cheese. Watching portion sizes is key.
On the other hand, decreasing your calorie intake too much can be counterproductive.
Studies on very low-calorie diets providing less than 1,000 calories per day show they can lead to muscle loss and significantly slow down metabolism (5, 6, 7).
Bottom Line: Consuming too many calories can stop you from losing weight. On the other hand, too few calories can make you ravenously hungry and reduce your metabolism and muscle mass.
3. Not exercising or exercising too much
During weight loss, you inevitably lose some muscle mass as well as fat, although the amount depends on several factors (8). If you don’t exercise at all while restricting calories, you’re likely to lose more muscle mass and experience a decrease in metabolic rate.
By contrast, exercising helps minimize the amount of lean mass you lose, boost fat loss and prevent your metabolism from slowing down. The more lean mass you have, the easier it is to lose weight and maintain the weight loss (9, 10, 11).
Over-exercising can also cause problems.
Studies show excessive exercise is unsustainable in the long term for most people and may lead to stress. In addition, it may impair the production of adrenal hormones that regulate stress response (12, 13, 14).
Trying to force your body to burn more calories by exercising too much is neither effective nor healthy.
Lifting weights and doing cardio several times per week is a sustainable strategy for maintaining metabolic rate during weight loss.
Bottom Line: A lack of exercise can lead to loss of muscle mass and lower metabolism. On the other hand, too much exercise is neither healthy nor effective, and it may lead to severe stress.
4. Not lifting weights
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Performing resistance training is incredibly important during weight loss.
Studies show lifting weights is one of the most effective exercise strategies for gaining muscle and increasing metabolic rate. It also improves overall body composition and boosts belly fat loss (15, 16, 17, 18).
In fact, a review of 15 studies with more than 700 people found the best strategy of all for weight loss appears to be combined aerobic exercise and weightlifting (18).
Bottom Line: Weightlifting or resistance training can help boost metabolic rate, increase muscle mass and promote fat loss, including belly fat.
5. Choosing low-fat or “diet” foods
Processed low-fat or “diet” foods are often considered good choices for losing weight, but they may actually have the opposite effect.
Many of these products are loaded with sugar to improve their taste.
Rather than keep you full, low-fat products are likely to make you hungrier, so you end up eating even more.
Instead of low-fat or “diet” foods, choose a combination of nutritious, minimally processed foods.
Bottom Line: Fat-free or “diet” foods are typically high in sugar and may lead to hunger and higher calorie intake.
6. Overestimating how many calories you burn during exercise
Mark Cavendish of Great Britain competes in the Cycling Track Men’s Omnium Points Race (Getty)
Many people believe that exercise “supercharges” their metabolism.
Although exercise increases metabolic rate somewhat, it may actually be less than you think.
Studies show both normal and overweight people tend to overestimate the number of calories they burn during exercise, often by a significant amount (4, 20, 21).
In one study, people burned 200 and 300 calories during exercise sessions. Yet when asked, they estimated they had burned over 800 calories. As a result, they ended up eating more (21).
That being said, exercise is still crucial for overall health and can help you lose weight. It’s just not as effective at burning calories as some people think.
Bottom Line: Studies show people tend to overestimate the number of calories they burn during exercise.
7. Not eating enough protein
Getting enough protein is extremely important if you’re trying to lose weight. Protein has been shown to help with weight loss in several ways.
It can reduce appetite, increase feelings of fullness, decrease calorie intake, increase metabolic rate and protect muscle mass during weight loss (22, 23, 24, 25, 26).
In a 12-day study, people ate a diet containing 30% of calories from protein. They ended up consuming an average of 575 fewer calories per day than when they ate 15% of calories from protein (27).
To optimize weight loss, make sure each of your meals contains a high-protein food.
Bottom Line: High protein intake helps with weight loss by reducing appetite, increasing feelings of fullness and boosting metabolic rate.
8. Not eating enough fiber
A low-fiber diet may be compromising your weight loss efforts.
Studies show a type of soluble fiber known as viscous fiber helps reduce appetite by forming a gel that holds water.
This gel moves slowly through your digestive tract, making you feel full.
Research suggests all types of fiber benefit weight loss. However, a review of several studies found viscous fiber reduced appetite and calorie intake much more than other types (29, 30).
When total fiber intake is high, some of the calories from foods in mixed meals aren’t absorbed. Researchers estimate that doubling daily fiber intake could result in up to 130 fewer calories being absorbed (31).
Bottom Line: Eating enough fiber can help reduce appetite by filling you up so you eat less. It may also help you absorb fewer calories from other foods.
9. Eating too much fat on a low-carb diet
Ketogenic and low-carb diets can be very effective for weight loss. Studies show they tend to reduce appetite, which often leads to a spontaneous reduction in calorie intake (32, 33, 34, 35).
Many low-carb and ketogenic diets allow unlimited amounts of fat, assuming that the resulting appetite suppression will keep calories low enough for weight loss.
However, some people may not experience a strong enough signal to stop eating. As a result, they may be consume too many calories to achieve a calorie deficit.
If you’re adding large amounts of fat to your food or beverages and are not losing weight, you may want to cut back on the fat.
Bottom Line: Although low-carb and ketogenic diets help reduce hunger and calorie intake, adding too much fat may slow down or prevent weight loss.
10. Eating too often, even if you’re not hungry
For many years, the conventional advice has been to eat every few hours in order to prevent hunger and a drop in metabolism. Unfortunately, this can lead to too many calories being consumed over the course of the day. You may also never truly feel full.
In one study, blood sugar levels and hunger decreased while metabolic rate and feelings of fullness increased in men who consumed 3 meals versus 14 meals within a 36-hour time frame (36).
The recommendation to eat breakfast every morning, regardless of appetite, also appears to be misguided (37, 38). One study found when people skipped breakfast, they took in more calories at lunch than when they’d eaten a morning meal. However, they consumed an average of 408 fewer calories for the day overall (38).
Eating when you’re hungry and only when you’re hungry seems to be key to successful weight loss.
However, letting yourself get too hungry is also a bad idea. It is better to eat a snack than become ravenously hungry, which can cause you to make poor food decisions.
Bottom Line: Eating too often can hurt your weight loss efforts. For the best results, it’s important to eat only when you’re hungry.
11. Having unrealistic expectations
Jonny (left) and Alistair Brownlee running in the triathlon in Rio yesterday (Getty)
Having weight loss and other health-related goals can help keep you motivated. But having unrealistic expectations can actually work against you.
Researchers analyzed data from several weight loss center programs. They reported overweight and obese women who expected to lose the most weight were the most likely to drop out of a program after 6 to 12 months (39).
Adjust your expectations to a more realistic and modest goal, such as a 10% drop in weight in one year. This can help prevent you from getting discouraged and improve your chances for success.
Bottom Line: Unrealistic expectations can lead to frustration and giving up altogether. Make your goals more modest to increase your chances of successful weight loss.
12. Not tracking what you eat in any way
Cultura/Getty Creative (Cultura/Getty Creative)
Eating nutritious foods is a good weight loss strategy. However, you may still be eating more calories than you need to lose weight.
What’s more, you may not be getting the right amount of protein, fiber, carbs and fat to support your weight loss efforts.
Studies show that tracking what you eat can help you get an accurate picture of your calorie and nutrient consumption, as well as provide accountability (40, 41).
In addition to food, most online tracking sites and apps allow you to enter your daily exercise as well. Here is a review of several popular calorie tracking tools.
Bottom Line: If you’re not tracking what you eat, you may be consuming more calories than you realize. You may also be getting less protein and fiber than you think.
13. Still drinking sugar
Many people cut soft drinks and other sweetened beverages out of their diet to lose weight, which is a good thing. However, drinking fruit juice instead isn’t smart.
Even 100% fruit juice is loaded with sugar and may lead to health and weight problems similar to those caused by sugar-sweetened beverages (42).
For instance, 12 ounces (320 grams) of unsweetened apple juice contain 36 grams of sugar. That’s even more than in 12 ounces of cola (43, 44).
What’s more, liquid calories don’t seem to affect the appetite centers in your brain the same way calories from solid foods do.
Studies show that you end up consuming more calories overall, instead of compensating for the liquid calories by eating less later in the day (45, 46).
Bottom Line: If you cut out sugar-sweetened beverages but continue drinking fruit juice, you’re still getting a lot of sugar and are likely to take in more calories overall.
14. Not reading labels
Failing to accurately read label information can cause you to consume unwanted calories and unhealthy ingredients.
Unfortunately, many foods are labeled with healthy-sounding food claims on the front of the package. These may give you a false sense of security about choosing a certain item (47, 48).
To get to the most important information for weight control, you need to look at the ingredients list and nutrition facts label, which are on the back of the container.
You can find out more about how to read food labels in this article.
Bottom Line: Food labels provide information on ingredients, calories and nutrients. Make sure you understand how to accurately read labels.
15. Not eating whole, single-ingredient foods
One of the worst things you can do for weight loss is to eat a lot of highly processed foods.
Animal and human studies suggest that processed foods may be a major factor in the current epidemic of obesity and other health problems (49, 50).
Some researchers believe this could be due to their negative effects on gut health and inflammation (51). Whole foods tend to be self-limiting, meaning they are hard to overconsume. By contrast, it’s very easy to overeat processed foods.
When possible, choose whole, single-ingredient foods that are minimally processed.
Read the original article on Authority Nutrition. Copyright 2016. Follow Authority Nutrition on Twitter.
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I Consumed Nothing but Water for 5 Days. Here’s Why, What Happened, and Why it Was Awesome.
At 6:00 pm on Saturday, February 14th, I stopped eating. I didn’t pick up a spoon, fork, knife, pair of chopsticks, beer bottle, or finger-food for 120 hours until 6:00 pm, Thursday, February 19th.
Which raises the obvious question: “Why would you do that?”
Let me explain.
We eat three meals a day because… well because everyone else does. And because that’s how we were raised. And because most of us are conditioned in such a way that we get hungry if we don’t eat for 4-6 hours.
But there’s no fixed biological rule saying that we need to eat every 4-6 hours. Homo Sapiens popped up 250,000 years ago but we only developed agriculture 12,000 years ago. There were 238,000 years where we were getting by as hunter-gatherers with unreliable access to food.
We might kill a gazelle one day, share it with our tribe, then go two days without access to meat and have little to subsist on. And this was perfectly fine. We certainly weren’t stopping in the middle of our 16-19 mile a day walks to have a protein bar to refuel.
Not Pictured: Trail Mix, 100 calorie packs, or 5-Hour Energy
Many foods in our modern diet (particularly grains and sugars), combined with eating constantly, has made our bodies lazy and turned off their ability to run on their own energy stores. Fasting forces your body to get back into a more “state of nature” style of operating and brings a host of benefits with it.
The Health Benefits of Fasting
Central to the benefits of fasting is a process called “autophagy.” Autophagy is the body’s natural process of killing off, eating up, or cleaning out bad cell matter that’s built up in your body. It’s an important system for staving off many diseases, including preventing cancer development.
Not only that, but reduced autophagy (the state that most of our diets leaves us in) leads to accelerated cell aging, which explains why in numerous studies on lab animals from single cells to mice to monkeys, restricting their caloric intake significantly increased their lifespan, even when that restriction was occasional (fasting every once in a while).
It doesn’t stop there. Autophagy also helps with the development and retention of lean muscle, and autophagy induced through caloric restriction also slows neurodegeneration and is one of the few things that can lead to the production of new brain cells. This research suggests that fasting can protect you against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimers and Parkinsons. This is also likely why epileptic and autistic people respond very well to fasting.
On top of all of that, periodic fasting helps with reducing chronic pains, rheumatic diseases, high blood pressure, and anything related to inflammation.
Fasting also improves your insulin sensitivity, meaning your body can better process Oreos instead of sending them to your waistline when you decide to cheat.
Then there’s the obvious fat loss benefit. After day two (maybe earlier) your body has nothing to run on but your own fat. The water weight you lose will come back quickly, but that fat loss is real. You can expect to lose ~1-2 pounds per day, but consider this a nice benefit, not the primary motivation. If you’re doing it for fat loss you might do it too long or ignore signs to stop.
How to Fast Safely
Heads up! We’re getting into prescriptive territory where I talk about how you can try fasting. I’m not a doctor, veterinarian, spiritual healer, or anything else that would remotely qualify me to give you medical advice, so if you try this and you die it’s your own damn fault. And PLEASE don’t be stupid and do something like donate blood, go in a sauna, run a marathon, or anything else that will put undue stress on you if you fast.
The fasting community is a little confusing.
Some people say “drink only distilled water while fasting” some people say “be sure you take a lot of electrolytes.” Some say “Make sure you take a vitamin supplement” some say “avoid vitamins.”
What I’ve learned from doing experiments like this is that when you get into newer areas of research (like fasting), 99% of the information online is contradictory nonsense and you have to figure it out on your own.
You should do your research too, not just trust me or another blog. You can die from fasting, usually from drinking too much water, flushing all the salt out of your body, and going into cardiac arrest. That’s why you only drink distilled water. Or is it why you don’t drink distilled water? No one agrees really, so I drank a lot of Brita-filtered water and didn’t worry about it.
Some people said you should only have 1-2L of water a day, some said just keep it under a gallon, some said to drink a ton to flush the toxins out. I just drank when I was thirsty.
Some said you need to stay as inactive as possible. They talked about staying in bed for most of days 2 and 3, not walking more than a half mile, and keeping their activity low even during the refeeding period.
I said screw that and went about life as usual. The only changes I made were not using my standing desk and not working out, but I still averaged ~2 miles of walking and 10+ flights of stairs a day, most of it in sub-zero temperatures.
Five days of movement data to prove it (I’m usually in the 50-70% range)
They also said make sure you spend a week not eating carbs, reduce your diet slowly, etc. etc. I spent the day before eating an absurd amount of junk food.
So… How Do You Fast Then?
Everyone seems to invent their own rules and techniques for fasting, but here’s what I felt sure about:
- Don’t eat ANYTHING. Even eating a small amount keeps digestion going which will make the fast torturous.
- Drink however much water you feel like you need. Don’t drink gallons, and don’t just drink a thimble, and you’ll probably be fine.
- You don’t need the electrolytes / vitamins, but they probably don’t hurt.
- Don’t drink “juice,” that stuff is terrible for you anyway.
- Do as much activity as you’re comfortable with.
- Sleep as much as you feel you need, but don’t lie in bed just because your body is more tired than usual. What I found was that once I started moving or working, my body provided me the energy I needed. If I stayed inert, I got tired.
What Happened During the Fast?
I averaged 9-10 hours of sleep a night, but that was the only change in my amount of rest. No naps.
Days one and two were rough, day three was great except for when I was in boring meetings. When I say “rough” though I mean I had to fight off the occasional pangs of hunger. It really didn’t affect my productivity or life that much. I’d compare it to having half a dozen itchy mosquito bites.
Days four and five I felt amazing. I got an incredible amount done, was completely undistractable, and felt blissfully happy throughout.
All of the claims about mental clarity were true—my mind has never felt so “unclouded.” There was zero brain fog all hours of the day. I had all the benefits of meditation, but without needing to meditate.
Another interesting thing: time moved slower. I was never rushed. But that may have been because I eat really fast. Without that rushed process twice a day, maybe I was less rushed in general. Either way, it was remarkable how calm I was.
The only real negative was that I was very, very sensitive to the cold. My theory is that my body was rationing its energy mostly towards brain functioning and movement, and not spending as much on thermogenesis. I was keeping my room 5-10 degrees warmer than normal, and still wearing a sweater.
Oh, one last positive. I’ve never had more muscular (especially abdominal) definition in my life. I would post pictures, but you would have to buy me a drink first. Hint: I like Malbec.
The Day by Day Rundown
I was taking these notes as I was going, so it’s a little bit stream of consciousness / journal-like. For reference, the fast started on Saturday at 6pm. That was “Day Zero”
Day One: Sunday
8:00 am: Woke up, had a bit of water to start the day.
12:00 pm: Noticed some slight hunger around noon, have a bit more water.
1:00 pm: No headaches despite not drinking tea, good sign that I don’t have a caffeine addiction. I might miss the tea more than the food.
3:00 pm: hunger is starting to kick in. I normally live on a 16-8 intermittent fasting cycle, and this is around the point (18 hours in) when I normally HAVE to have food. But today… water.
4:00 pm: Water seems to help with the headaches. Maybe I was dehydrated?
7:00 pm: So tired, feels like it’s midnight or later. Hardly being productive at all, good thing I finished stuff earlier. I wonder if this is because I didn’t sleep quite enough last night or just from no food? Maybe both. Tomorrow will probably be rough if this fatigue is all from the fasting.
8:00 pm: Time feels like it’s moving slower… maybe that’s just from the fatigue?
Day Two: Monday
9:00 am: Woke up at 9am after sleeping at 11, clearly need extra rest when I’m not eating.
9:30 am: Tried to play it conservative by sitting instead of standing, but my body wanted to stand for about an hour. Maybe the “rules” about inactivity vary person to person based on their prior activity levels? I’m probably a little different since I normally use a standing desk.
10:00 am: Despite not eating in over 36 hours now, I’m actually not hungry. No pain really, though my brain feels a little foggy, slight tunnel vision. Kinda like a mild hangover without the headache. I wonder if this is from the toxins coming out of my bad cell matter and getting dumped into my bloodstream (supposedly part of the autophagy process)… I should probably go out drinking less.
12:30 pm: Time definitely feels like it’s moving slower. There’s much less urgency.
3:00 pm: My business & culture professor talked about food for half an hour… it was terrible.
7:00 pm: Really hungry around dinner time.
8:00 pm: The fasting and hunger are not so noticeable when working, you get weirdly calm and focused, you just don’t think about it.
9:00 pm: Weird feeling, kinda like being tired, but still functional… sort of tunnel vision. I think my body is very tired but my mind is fine, maybe my body is conserving energy by leaving my body weak but still keeping my brain going? Everything is getting done though, it just doesn’t totally feel like I’m the one doing it. Kinda like I’m on autopilot.
Day Three: Tuesday
9:00 am: Woke up at 9 again, still 10 hours of rest. Though I woke up at 6:30 and 8 as well but I kind of forced myself back to sleep, I was a worried about getting that little sleep.
9:30 am: Sitting instead of using my standing desk to play it safe.
10:30 am: Barely any hunger, and much less pressure behind my eyes today.
12:00 pm: Time still feels really, really slow. Weird not having those interruptions of food. I’ll sit down to do an assignment or something then look up and go “wtf, that only took 10 minutes?”
3:00 pm: Climbing a lot of stairs at once is kind of tiring. I had to climb four flights and was very winded afterward. I regain the energy quickly though, and it’s only a physical fatigue, not a mental one.
5:00 pm: Classes were horrible today, I had a 3-hour straight block that couldn’t have moved slower. I thought maybe the hunger was getting to me but it was something about the classes and the hunger, once I was out I was totally fine. It may also have been the boredom + time delay.
7:00 pm: Hyper-focused on whatever I’m working on, had no idea this would be such a pronounced effect. I have no need for the Pomodoro method, the Self Control app, anything like that.
8:00 pm: Some small headaches throughout the day, mostly in classes though. I think I was dehydrated in the morning. They went away in the afternoon when I drank more water.
Day Four: Wednesday
9:00 am: Woke up feeling awesome, slept 10 hours again, no alarm clock.
9:30 am: Funny side effect, I keep putting my water pitcher in the fridge out of habit. It’s a problem because my body sucks so much at keeping me warm right now that I can’t drink cold water, only room temperature. Very European.
12:00 pm: Feeling awesome in general, super focused, no afternoon fatigue this time.
12:30 pm: Barely any hunger today, I started keeping a list of things that I want to eat when this is over and that helps a lot. As soon as I have a craving for something it goes on the list and the craving goes away.
1:00 pm: My skin looks really good. So do my eyes. So do you, reader.
12:00 am: Had a meeting that went until Midnight. I was worried about it since I’d been getting tired around 10, but I was 100% fine. This supports my theory that while fasting, your body provides energy on an as-you-need-it basis, and not by default. Since I had to do stand, walk around, and lead a meeting, I had the energy for it. When I’m sitting around reading, I don’t need much energy so my body provides less and I feel tired. As soon as I went home and relaxed after the meeting, I felt tired again.
12:30am: Otherwise, felt amazing today. Super focused, generally happy, also very patient. Just a great day in general.
1:00am: Going to bed later today too, we’ll see how that affects things.
Day Five: Thursday
9:00 am: Woke up and had my usual glasses of water. Seem to be fine despite only sleeping eight hours and staying up till 1.
10:30 am: Class was much easier to go through today, feel so much better than Tuesday, and even better than Wednesday.
12:00 pm: This might be the best I’ve felt mentally in my entire life.
12:30 pm: Decided to push myself by sitting in a cafeteria for 1.5 hours around lunch time. Turned into one of the best willpower exercises I’ve ever done. I definitely wanted food badly, but I was able to keep focusing on work and other stuff and tune it out. It was a lot like meditation, every time my mind wandered to the enticing scents around me, I just reeled it back in.
2:00 pm: Had some turmeric and ginger tea to get the digestion going again.
6:00 pm: Started breaking the fast at 6:00pm, 120 hours after starting, with sauerkraut, athletic greens, and almonds.
And the standing desk came back!
And then it was over! But, how do you end a fast?
Refeeding: How to End the Fast “Safely”
Now we come to the topic of refeeding.
Refeeding is the process of steadily introducing food to your body in such a way that you don’t totally crash your system.
The biggest risk is something called refeeding syndrome, where your reintroduction of food spikes your insulin so much that you go into shock and maybe die. It’s a concern on fasts five days or longer, and when you’ve lost a lot of body weight.
To prevent this, you steadily reintroduce foods to the body over one to two days, steadily moving up the chain of how hard to digest something is, ending with meat. Some say that you should re-feed for as many days as you fasted.
But here’s what doesn’t make sense: a lot of the sites that talk about fasting say that you should start with fruits and vegetables since they’re easily digestible. Vegetables make sense, but fruit? Fruit has a fairly high glycemic index, meaning it risks spiking your insulin.
So I had a different theory. First, I repopulated my gut microbiome, the healthy bacteria that live inside your gut and help with processing food. I did that with Athletic Greens and Sauerkraut, both awesome sources of probiotics.
Then, I ate nuts since they’re very low glycemic and they’re fat, which won’t spike my insulin and won’t be hard on my kidneys or gut. They’re also a good source of Magnesium, which is one of the mineral deficiencies that leads to refeeding syndrome. I threw in some Potassium and Phosphate supplements as well.
I did that at 6pm…
Then at 8pm I said screw it, ordered Taiwanese food, drank a beer, then had some wine while writing this article.
One item on my “to eat” list done
Why? Because I think people are too careful with fasting. Numerous sources suggested waiting two or more days before reintroducing meat. If you were in the wild, and you hadn’t eaten in four days, and you managed to kill a deer, you wouldn’t go forage for berries before eating it to “work yourself up to it.” You’d eat the damn deer.
Also, occasional shocks are good for your body, that’s the whole point of fasting in the first place. If you treat your body like glass then it will stay like glass. This is the same logic behind bodybuilding, hormesis, vaccinations, cold therapy, and any other process where we inflict small damages to increase the strength of the system (what Nassim Taleb calls “Antifragility“).
And no, I didn’t go into shock, crash, get diarrhea, or anything like that. I just felt totally full, and that one beer got me way tipsier than normal.
Though, if I were to do a 7-day fast or longer, I might be a bit more careful. Again, not a doctor.
As I’ve mentioned a few times now, this was a very, very positive experience. There were hardly any downsides, and the few downsides were totally steamrolled by the positives.
On top of that, like I said, there are an incredible number of health benefits from fasting. I’ll definitely keep doing intermittent fasting. There’s no reason to stop that, it only does good things, and I don’t even know if I could now that I’ve gotten so used to it.
And I’ll most likely shoot for a fast like this maybe once a quarter. Maybe next time I’ll do a 7 day one.
Special thanks to Adil Majid and Zachary Rousselle for checking in on me to make sure I was alive during the fast.
Rewind three-and-a-half months to January. You’ve woken up, feeling the after effects of last night’s celebration, and resolved to make a change in the new year. The goal? To lose weight. Fast forward to today. You’ve cut out the fast food, revamped your diet and committed to an exercise routine. But the numbers on the scale haven’t budged at all. What gives?
I’ll be the first to tell you that I’ve been there. For most of my young adult life, I weighed in just under the average for my age and height. Then, when I turned 25 I started taking an anxiety medication that catapulted the scale upwards a full 45 pounds — despite not having changed my diet or exercise routine. While I definitely have been hard on myself over the eight months since the weight gain, I took it upon myself to re-up my gym membership, sign up for ClassPass to give myself some variety and make more conscious food choices.
Over the first few months, I saw a couple pounds drop off, but in the last four months I’ve seen next to nothing. Not seeing those numbers steadily decline despite feeling like I had been sacrificing my favorite foods and spare time to log hours at the gym, was definitely discouraging. So much so that I became less motivated with my pursuit, almost wanting to throw in the towel. What was the point of putting in hours of hard work multiple times a week if I had nothing to show for it?
I know I’m not alone in the never-ending cycle of hard work, lack of results and discouragement and frustration. To get to the bottom of it, I consulted Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of “Read it Before You Eat It — Taking You from Label to Table,” about mistakes people make that hinder weight-loss progress. Get ready for a reality check — and a sigh of relief.
Weight Loss Mistake #1: You’re not eating enough
Knowing that eating too many calories likely led to your unwanted weight gain, it may seem like a good idea to cut back — been there, done that — but you should think again. “Very-low-calorie diets may create a quick initial weight loss, but when hunger, boredom or life circumstances get in the way, these unrealistic plans can become too hard to stick to,” Taub-Dix says. “This could lead to that familiar diet/binge cycle of eating, causing someone to feel badly about themselves for failing instead of being their own cheerleader to help them achieve their desire to look and feel their best.” Sound familiar? I, for one, have struggled with this a lot ever since I first saw my weight flare up. I’d meticulously log all my calories and count my macros, and begin to restrict myself from eating more calories once I’d reached the magic number, despite how hungry I felt. Like clockwork, I would inevitably come home late one night and end up binging, ordering all my favorite Italian dishes from my neighborhood pizzeria — enough to feed multiple people — and eating it almost entirely on my own.
With this experience in mind, Taub-Dix explains that when you really cut back on calories, your body thinks you’re in trouble, urging it into starvation mode, and it slows down a lot of the functions that are necessary to burn calories — including your thyroid, metabolism and blood pressure. What’s more, as a woman, it can make your period irregular, which can affect your hormones and lead to weight gain. And at the end of the day, the battle of the binge is a hard one to win.
Weight Loss Mistake #2: You’re Relying on ‘Avoid’ Lists
We have enough decisions to make each and every day; so many of us resort to relying on “avoid” lists to take the guesswork out of which foods we can and can’t eat. Taub-Dix explains that while a lengthy “avoid” list may seem like clear guidance at the start of a diet, it can lead to resentment and misinformation. I’ve tried adhering to more of these lists than I can count, thinking it won’t be so bad cutting out only carbs or avoiding fried foods. But I end up finding it more difficult than ever. It leads me to seek comfort in other unhealthy foods, while giving myself false praise for having successfully avoided the one food I deemed “off limits” even though I’m still not eating ideally. Knowing that I needed to find balance, I tapped Taub-Dix for her advice.
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“Foods that may need to be limited when one is trying to drop a few pounds is not the same as complete avoidance,” she says. And this includes labeling your favorite indulgences as off limits. “Instead of cutting out foods you enjoy, try watching your portion sizes or save richer foods for special occasions,” Taub-Dix says. “You shouldn’t punish yourself by cutting out foods you enjoy just because you’d like to lose weight …enjoying delicious food is one of the pleasures in life.”
To find a healthy balance, Taub-Dix recommends evaluating what it is you’re eating and when you’re eating it. She explains that by being aware of unnecessary eating — like when you’re not truly hungry, but grab a handful of candy at a meeting because it’s sitting in front of you — you’ll be able to be more thoughtful about what you eat and take the time to really enjoy those treats. “If you want chocolate, don’t grab some random piece from your coworker’s desk,” Taub-Dix says. “Go buy your favorite kind, don’t inhale it in one big bite, and take your time with the eating experience so that it won’t feel as fleeting, and you won’t crave it quite as much.”
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Weight Loss Mistake #3: You’re Cutting Out Entire Food Groups
“Any diet that wants you to eliminate carbs, protein or fat is one that you should walk away from,” Taub-Dix says. “Your body needs a certain amount of nutrients, including all of the above plus the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber that comes along with those foods.”
I have fallen prey to the idea that I should cut carbs altogether far too many times. While I’ve seen some success from highly limiting them, when I ended up in the hospital after fainting from dehydration and malnutrition, I learned that cutting them out completely simply doesn’t work for me. Now, this doesn’t mean you can carbo-load either. Taub-Dix says that, while determining a set percentage of macronutrients is highly subjective, it’s a good idea to start with 50 percent carbs, 30 percent protein and 20 percent fat, and adjust from there. As for where to get those macronutrients for ideal weight loss, Taub-Dix points us in the direction of whole grains, lean meats and seafood for protein, and avocado and nuts for fats. Most of all, you want to look for foods that aren’t highly processed — the more natural, the better.
Weight Loss Mistake #5: Your Diet Has Become Too Monotonous
Once you’ve seen some progress with your routine, you may stick to the exact same meal prep day-in and-day out in hopes of continuing to see the same results. For some, the structure may prove successful, but sometimes monotony leads to complacency, leading your weight loss to plateau. “Sometimes plateaus occur when you eat the same foods in the same amounts every day,” Taub-Dix says. She explains that this happens because when you first start a diet that’s far different than your norm, it almost shocks your body. So, as you adjust to your new diet, your body no longer reacts with the same type of weight loss. But, she stresses, “a plateau (especially after already losing weight) is not necessarily a bad thing — being stable (as opposed to yo-yo dieting) should be applauded.”
It happens to the best of us: You set a goal to get fit, so you get on your bike and start racking up the miles. You hit the gym, bang out some intervals, and watch what you’re eating—all with the anticipation that you’ll drop a few pounds.
Except the opposite happens. You strip down to your skivvies and step on the scale only to see a higher number than when you started. You take off your skivvies (and your watch…and maybe your rings) and try again to no avail. The needle doesn’t budge, and now you’re wondering, why am I gaining weight?
But before you launch the scale (and your resolve) out the window, know that it’s totally normal. In fact, it’s not always a bad thing (and it’s often resolvable when it is). Sometimes, putting on a few pounds is part of the process of improving your overall body composition. Sometimes, it’s a sign that you haven’t quite dialed in the right mix of hard and easy training days. And sometimes, it’s your body trying to tell you that you need to actually eat more… or at least differently.
Weight loss is a reasonable goal as long as you approach it in a healthy manner. But exercise and nutrition aren’t just a numbers game, explains certified trainer Josh Elsesser, who owns Invictus Fitness Solutions in Southern California and heads up fitness for COACHD, an online health and fitness coaching company.
“Your workout routine and how you fuel yourself impacts your metabolism, fuel storage, and key hormones like cortisol, insulin, thyroid, and sex hormones, which are all critical for success when you’re trying to hit your optimum weight,” he says.
So if you’ve been wondering why you might be gaining weight, here are seven reasons why the scale may be stuck—or moving in the opposite of your desired direction—and what to do about it.
1. You’re overcompensating.
This is easy to do when you start ramping up your routine. You think, “I rode three hours; I can eat what I want,” which turns into way more than you need. You don’t need to count every calorie, but loosely tracking what you’re burning off and what you’re taking in around your rides can help you avoid overcompensating. Jot down your pre-ride snack, keep a tally of what you eat during your ride, and note what you toss down the hatch when you’re done. That number shouldn’t exceed what your GPS says you’ve burned (use a heart rate strap—or even better, a power meter if you have one—for the most accurate number). Then eat as you normally would the rest of the day.
2. You’re swole.
Like, really. You’re a bit swollen from the micro trauma of working out, especially if you’ve just gotten started or have recently ramped it up. Hard rides and/or heavy lifting sessions in the gym put stress on your muscle fibers, causing micro traumas that lead to inflammation, a necessary part of the healing and repair process. Your body responds by retaining fluid. It’s not permanent, but it can be persistent until you adjust to your new routine. Be sure to respect your rest days so you can fully recover and come back stronger.
3. Your muscles are hoarding fuel.
It’s not uncommon to gain a few pounds when you start ramping up your rides, like when you’re training for your first multi-day charity ride or tour. Your muscles respond to the elevated effort level by storing more glycogen, which binds with water in your muscle cells to keep you fueled and can tick the scale up by two or three pounds.
As you get more fit, you’ll need less stored glycogen—fit riders sit around 60 percent storage, unless they’re tapering—to do the same amount of work. It’s easier said than done, but stay patient and focus on the long-term goal instead of fixating on what the scale says today.
4. You’ve gained muscle.
Your muscles respond to the stress of hard training on the bike and in the gym by getting bigger and stronger. And here’s an often overlooked fact: Muscle tissue is more dense than fat tissue. So as you gain more muscle and lose fat, you change your overall body composition, which can result in a higher weight, but a smaller figure and better health.
If the scale has inched up, but your waistline hasn’t and you feel strong overall, don’t sweat the pounds; they’re increasing your power.
5. You HIIT too often.
Though high-intensity interval training can be very effective at improving fitness and shedding pounds, too much can put too much stress on your system and lead to the opposite result.
“People forget that exercise is stress,” Elsesser says. “It’s generally positive stress, but when you put an excessive physical stress like high-intensity exercise on top of an already stressed system, your body will view it as negative, and you’ll increase cortisol production. When cortisol is high, it can lead to insulin resistance, lower levels of thyroid stimulating hormones, and depression of testosterone production in men and progesterone production in women,” he says.
When left unchecked, Elsesser says it makes it very difficult to lose weight. To keep things in control, limit the eye-popping efforts to about 20 percent of your total training volume. For example, if you’re training five days a week, that’s just one HIIT day per week.
6. You’re not recovering properly.
Training is a process in which you push your body harder than usual, then pull back and let it recover. This allows you to bounce back even stronger and more resilient, and you can repeat that process to perform at your best. Too many people push the first part of the process (the hard training) while shortchanging the second part (the pulling back and recovering). That can leave you with chronic inflammation and hormonal disruption, both of which can lead to stifled weight loss or even weight gain.
The good news is that there are tools available now that can help keep your recovery on track. Many Garmin products offer recovery time based off of your heart rate training to let you know how long you should recover before you’re ready for your next workout. Or you can invest in a heart rate variability (HRV) strap, which tracks your morning heart rate variability—the change in time between successive beats. Higher variability is a sign that all systems are recovered and ready to go; lower means you’re under-recovered. “I like heart rate variability because it’s an indication of how you’re responding and recovering to all your stress on a daily basis,” Elsesser says.
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7. You’re not eating enough.
It sounds counterintuitive—eat less to lose weight, right?—but that’s not quite how it works. “You can either exercise more and eat more, or exercise less and eat less, but you can’t exercise more and eat less. It just doesn’t work,” Elsesser says. Of course that doesn’t mean you should throw all moderation out the window. Eating to excess, particularly eating nutritionally-barren processed foods, is never a good idea. But you need to match increased training with properly increased fueling so you can recover and make progress—including weight loss.
When you skimp on fuel, you not only never fully recover, but your body also goes into low-power mode (much like your phone when the battery is running low), so your metabolism dips, and workouts suffer. Fuel yourself and satisfy your hunger with whole foods including lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables throughout the day.
Selene Yeager “The Fit Chick” Selene Yeager is a top-selling professional health and fitness writer who lives what she writes as a NASM certified personal trainer, USA Cycling certified coach, pro licensed mountain bike racer, and All-American Ironman triathlete.
If you thought shutting down the kitchen early in the evening could save your waistline, you were right.
While it may not be earth-shattering, there’s evidence to back up the advice that registered dietitians have been giving for decades. For many years, R.D.s have been urging weight-loss clients to eat dinner earlier and stop snacking a few hours before bed. It seemed like a no-brainer—after all, when was the last time a late-night binge consisted of a salad and carrot sticks?—but researchers from Brigham Young University decided to put the theory to the test.
Jame LeCheminant and colleagues looked at the short-term effect restriction of night eating had on daily calorie consumption, weight trends, and even mood associated with this deprivation. They recruited 29 young men and asked them to avoid consuming calories (water was okay) between the hours of 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. for two weeks. During these two weeks the participants recorded every bite they consumed, and their weight, mood, and level of hunger at breakfast were monitored. There was a one-week break, and then for two more weeks (a control period) the subjects were monitored as they returned to their usual way of life. That’s it. There were no other interventions or exercises to perform.
So what happened? The average weight change was a loss of nearly 0.9 pound during the two weeks of nighttime fasting and a gain of approximately 1.3 pounds during the control period. While mood didn’t seem to be affected during the two weeks of restriction, participants in this group reported being much hungrier upon waking. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, given that hunger in the morning is likely to inspire you to consume the most important meal of the day (i.e. breakfast).
What about the calories? When they avoided eating between the hours of 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., participants reduced their daily calorie intake by an average of 238 calories. Which helps to explain the weight loss of almost half a pound a week. Interestingly, their intake of fat decreased significantly while protein and carbohydrate decreased at a more conservative rate. This leads one to believe that the subjects were not eating grilled chicken and broccoli late at night. No, their usual late-night snacks were much higher in fat.
This study is encouraging because it supports the advice that runners trying to lose weight need simply to shut down the kitchen (why not go for a walk?) after the dinner plates have been cleared. But if you need more direction when it comes to ways to lock up the pantry, consider the following:
1. Keep it simple, silly.
No more making excuses as to why you can’t lose weight. No app/tablet/personal chef? No problem. This study highlights the K.I.S.S. method at its best. The study authors state that “there were no gadgets or record-keeping, and the intervention was simple to understand and implement.” In other words, by simply not eating after a certain time, the participants took in fewer calories and lost weight. Remarkable.
2. Sorry, we’re closed.
That’s right, even if you have to put up a sign on the pantry, fridge, freezer, or candy drawer, then by all means, do it. Let it be a reminder to yourself and your support system that for two weeks (hopefully longer), you are going to stop eating after a certain time of day.
3. Pick a time that works.
In the study described above, the participants had to shut down the kitchen after 7 p.m. What’s so magical about this time? By 7 p.m., the researchers found that most participants had likely already consumed dinner (so there was no need for the study participants to skip meals and totally deprive themselves and their metabolism). You’ll likely agree that once dinner is over, your late-night snack options aren’t always healthy choices. By shutting down the kitchen (at 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. or even 8 p.m.), you’ll be more likely to eliminate consumption of late-night empty calories.
4. Eat earlier already!
After setting your “Kitchen Closing” time, determine the set dinnertime that works for you and your family most nights of the week. Sure, every now and again, life (think: sports practice, late nights at the office, etc.) will interfere. But by eating earlier in the evening, you’ll leave time for a brisk walk after dinner and certainly give yourself more time to digest before retiring for the night (and your heart and digestive system will thank you).