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Q & A

Got a question about some aspect of mind-body-spirit fitness? Ask! It can be as earthly as "Can a heart monitor really enhance my workout?" (the short answer to that is yes) or as heady as, "Don't I need to sell all my worldly goods and go live on a mountain top to find enlightenment?" (the short answer here is no). Needless to say, we can't answer every question we receive, but we will take one every month and answer it here. If you've got a burning need to know about something, email us, and you may find your query featured next time around.


I work night shift; I usually get up around 3:00 P.M. What would be the best routine for me to lose weight and tone up? I don't want to gain weight from muscle, I just want to tone what I have and drop some fat pounds. I also know that you are not supposed to skip breakfast and that you should eat smaller meals at more consistent intervals, but I don't know what kind of foods I can take to work that are not loaded with empty calories. Any help you can give me will be greatly appreciated.


(Article continued below.)

When it comes to exercise, the best routine is one you will stick with. Just like those who work during the daytime, when you work out is a matter of personal preference. Studies have shown, however, that those who start their day by exercising are more likely to stick to their routine. For weight loss and tone, resistance exercise is ideal; in fact it gets you much better results than cardio alone can do. If you are able to schedule in both, that's great, but if you have time for just one, pick resistance training. Again, however you choose to exercise depends on your own personal preference. Some people prefer to use the machines or freeweights at the gym; others would rather buy some inexpensive weights or exercise bands and work out at home; some home exercisers are best motivated with the use of videos or DVDs. Just keep in mind that when doing resistance exercise, it's important to warm up your body first. Do some cardio, but only for ten to 15 minutes - you want to save your energy for the resistance training (if you want to do more cardio after resistance training or on another day, that's okay). If you are more interested in "toning" than in increasing your muscle size, then avoid using heavy weights. The exercises should still be challenging, however - after 12 reps you should feel like you can't do another one with good form. Doing two, maybe three sets of 12 reps per exercise will likely create the "tone" you are looking for without adding extra size.

By the way, it is impossible to "tone" without gaining muscle weight - it's just that you're losing more fat pounds than you are gaining muscle pounds. What you are really aiming to do is change you body's muscle-to-fat composition. The best way to judge your results is by the way your body looks, and how your clothes fit rather than looking at the scale. A well-toned body takes up less space, so you may wear a smaller size even if the number on the scale has not moved much.

As for foods you can take to work, the possibilities are endless. An apple certainly doesn't have empty calories, nor do a baggie of celery sticks and a jar of peanut butter. Fruits and cut-up vegetables are logical choices. There are also countless brands and flavors of energy and meal replacement bars. What about half a sandwich made from healthy wholesome ingredients like turkey, low-fat Swiss cheese and whole wheat bread, or a wrap made with a whole-wheat tortilla, hummus spread, roasted red peppers and lettuce? How about yogurt with a spoonful of granola mixed in? A quarter cup of nuts is another good choice. So is a piece of string cheese. For a sweet tooth, try an applesauce cup or a small box of raisins. And these suggestions are assuming that you don't have a microwave at work. If you do, you can bring some soup to heat up, low-fat popcorn (sprinkle on some Parmesan cheese for extra protein), or a low-calorie (under 250 calorie) frozen meal. There are really so many handy, healthy snack choices that anything with empty calories, i.e. chips, candy bars and the like, shouldn't even be an option.

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