Slimdown No-Nos

With bikini season just around the corner, women across the nation are jumping on the fad-diet exercise-crazed bandwagon, hoping for svelte figures by the first day of summer. Health and fitness expert Daniel Reynen, author of The Diet Is Dead, suggests we toss out the diet mentality and stop making those fitness mistakes that actually hinder weight loss efforts. Here he shares three common mistakes women make in their quest to slim down for summer.

Exhausted woman in gym

Fad diets should be called fat diets

The Diet is Dead

After nearly 150 years of recorded dieting, Americans are fatter than ever. America's weight problem is so serious that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) now spends nearly $800 million a year on research -- that has not yet produced a pill that will melt fat away or an injection to eliminate our cravings and bad habits.

Reynen, who is president of WeBeFit Personal Training, has spent more than a decade studying and testing hundreds of nutrition strategies. His conclusion is "the diet is dead." Proof: If diets worked, there would be fewer, not more, people fighting the battle of the bulge. Reynen wants you to succeed in your slimdown for summer, and he's got a few anti-diet strategies for you, starting with how you work out.

Three common fitness mistakes women make

Your beach house vacation is six weeks away and you've got to "lose a few." Though your first reaction might be to frantically start counting calories, skipping meals and spending even more sweaty hours at the gym, that's not necessarily the best strategy, especially if you stumble into these common pitfalls. Here's why.

Fitness mistake #1

Skipping breakfast, then doing morning cardio

"The idea behind [working out in the morning on an empty stomach] is that your body burns up carbohydrates while sleeping, and if you do cardio on an empty stomach, your body doesn't have much carbohydrate energy left, so you burn fat instead," Reynen explains. He says that it's a neat theory, but it's wrong. "When scientists compared people who exercised on an empty stomach versus those who ate a small meal first, they found no differences in what people used for energy."

Fitness fix: Eat breakfast. According to Reynen, scientists found that people who ate breakfast first were the fittest. "Eating breakfast gives you energy and you need energy to get through a workout," the fitness professional says. "Eating a small breakfast, 30 minutes to an hour and a half before exercise, gives you the energy to push harder and get through a more intense workout."

Fitness mistake #2

Going on a detox diet to hasten weight loss

Detox diets have a strong allure for many women because not only do these diets promise weight loss, they also lead women to believe that fasting, eating only certain foods or subsisting on special liquids will cleanse their bodies. Reynen warns that these diets are deceiving. "Detox diets can help you lose weight, because most are so low in fat and calories, but the results are strictly short-term," he explains. "If you don't eat enough calories, your body will turn to muscle for fuel, and as you lose muscle your metabolism slows down." Reynen adds that you'll have a skinny and flabby look instead of the tight and toned body you desire.

Fitness fix: If you want sculpted muscles, you need to fuel – not starve – your muscles. Here are a few of Reynen's non-diet tips:

  • Don't count carbs; count fiber and sugar instead.
  • Aim for 25 grams of fiber every day.
  • Get 10 percent or less of your total calories from sugar.
  • Eat .75 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight; get protein from whole food sources instead of protein bars.
  • Opt for healthy fats -- monounsaturated and polyunsaturated -- as opposed to saturated fats or trans fats. Avoid trans fats or products that have the words "partially hydrogenated oil" in the ingredients list.
  • Drink two 8-ounce glasses of water before each meal to feel fuller.*
  • Eat based on your individual needs and preferences, rather than the way a diet tells you to eat. (Reynen's book The Diet is Dead explains how to determine your body's dietary needs.)

*An older person's stomach empties slower than that of a younger person's. However, staying hydrated, regardless of age, is important for health, fitness, and metabolic functioning.

Fitness mistake #3

Skipping the post-workout meal

Do you think ignoring hunger pangs after a workout is a great way to cut calories? Think again. While you're working out, your muscles are breaking down, and when your workout is complete, your body especially needs nutrition. There is an optimal two-hour window of opportunity right after exercise to fuel your muscles. "Eating properly can slow the muscle breakdown and start the recovery process," says Reynen. Fast recovery means stronger muscles and more energy for your next workout.

Fitness fix: Reynen recommends eating a simple carbohydrate like a piece of fruit, combined with some type of protein, as a post-workout meal. "Whatever you do, avoid fat right after a workout because it will slow the absorption of nutrients and delay the muscle repair." Keep a post-workout meal in easy reach after exercise and you'll not only fuel your muscles and feel better, you'll also boost your energy (and calorie burn) for your next workout.

More summer fitness and slimdown tips

4 Fitness mistakes to fix – now!
5 Dangerous gym practices
Top 10 diet mistakes that hinder weight loss

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