Balanced diet guide

A balanced diet includes foods from the five groups and fulfills all of a person’s nutritional needs. Eating a balanced diet helps people maintain good health and reduce their risk of disease.

Dietary guidelines evolve with scientific advances, so it can be challenging to stay on top of current recommendations and know what to eat.

In this article, we look at current dietary recommendations and describe how to build a balanced diet.

What is a balanced diet?

vegetables are part of a balanced diet
Eating a balanced diet will help a person stay healthy.

A balanced diet is one that fulfills all of a person’s nutritional needs. Humans need a certain amount of calories and nutrients to stay healthy.

A balanced diet provides all the nutrients a person requires, without going over the recommended daily calorie intake.

By eating a balanced diet, people can get the nutrients and calories they need and avoid eating junk food, or food without nutritional value.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) used to recommend following a food pyramid. However, as nutritional science has changed, they now recommend eating foods from the five groups and building a balanced plate.

According to the USDA’s recommendations, half of a person’s plate should consist of fruits and vegetables.

The other half should be made up of grains and protein. They recommend accompanying each meal with a serving of low-fat dairy or another source of the nutrients found in dairy.

The 5 food groups

A healthful, balanced diet includes foods from these five groups:

  • vegetables
  • fruits
  • grains
  • protein
  • dairy

Vegetables

The vegetable group includes five subgroups:

  • leafy greens
  • red or orange vegetables
  • starchy vegetables
  • beans and peas (legumes)
  • other vegetables, such as eggplant or zucchini

To get enough nutrients and keep dietary boredom at bay, people should choose a variety of vegetables.

Additionally, the USDA recommends that people eat vegetables from each of the five subgroups every week.

People may enjoy vegetables raw or cooked. However, it is important to remember that cooking vegetables remove some of their nutritional value. Also, some methods, such as deep-frying, can add unhealthful fats to a dish.

Fruits

A balanced diet also includes plenty of fruit. Instead of getting fruit from juice, nutrition experts recommend eating whole fruits.

Juice contains fewer nutrients. Also, the manufacturing process often adds empty calories due to added sugar. People should opt for fresh or frozen fruits, or fruits canned in water instead of syrup.

Grains

cooked quinoa on fork part of balance diet
Whole grains usually contain more protein than refined grains.

There are two subgroups: whole grains and refined grains.

Whole grains include all three parts of the grain, which are the bran, germ, and endosperm. The body breaks down whole grains slowly, so they have less effect on a person’s blood sugar.

Additionally, whole grains tend to contain more fiber and protein than refined grains.

Refined grains are processed and do not contain the three original components. Refined grains also tend to have less protein and fiber, and they can cause blood sugar spikes.

Grains used to form the base of the government-approved food pyramid, meaning that most of a person’s daily caloric intake came from grains. However, the updated guidelines suggest that grains should make up only a quarter of a person’s plate.

At least half of the grains that a person eats daily should be whole grains. Healthful whole grains include:

  • quinoa
  • oats
  • brown rice
  • barley
  • buckwheat

Protein

The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that all people should include nutrient-dense protein as part of their regular diet.

The guidelines suggest that this protein should make up a quarter of a person’s plate.

Nutritious protein choices include:

  • lean beef and pork
  • chicken and turkey
  • fish
  • beans, peas, and legumes

Dairy

Dairy and fortified soy products are a vital source of calcium. The USDA recommends consuming low-fat versions whenever possible.

Low-fat dairy and soy products include:

  • ricotta or cottage cheese
  • low-fat milk
  • yogurt
  • soy milk

People who are lactose intolerant can opt for low-lactose or lactose-free products, or choose soy-based sources of calcium and other nutrients.

Losing weight

walking up stairs
A person can burn calories by taking the stairs.

A poor diet is a common reason why people struggle with weight loss.

When combined with a regular exercise routine, a balanced diet can help a person reduce their risk factors for obesity or gaining weight.

A balanced diet can help a person lose weight by:

  • increasing their protein intake
  • avoiding excessive carbohydrates or processed foods
  • getting essential nutrients, including minerals, vitamins, and fiber
  • preventing binge eating

People interested in losing weight should begin or enhance an exercise routine.

For some people, adding 30 minutes of walking each day and making minor changes, such as taking the stairs, can help them burn calories and lose weight.

For those that can, adding moderate exercise that includes cardio and resistance training will help speed weight loss.

Summary

Eating a balanced diet means eating foods from the five major groups.

Dietary guidelines change over time, as scientists discover new information about nutrition. Current recommendations suggest that a person’s plate should contain primarily vegetables and fruits, some lean protein, some dairy, and soluble fiber.

People interested in weight loss should also consider introducing moderate exercise into their routines.

Butt exercises to reduce fat

This post reviews the best ways to lose butt fat. Losing fat from the butt is a common fitness goal. There are many ways a person can achieve this.

There are three major muscles in the butt. These are the gluteus maximus, the gluteus minimus, and the gluteus medius.

Glulteus muscles which make up the buttWhile it is not possible to spot-reduce fat loss in one particular area, cutting down on overall body fat while toning the butt muscles can lead to leaner, better-defined buttocks.

This article details exercises that help people lose fat throughout the body while adding shape to the butt and thigh muscles. We also list other methods that can help people achieve their desired body shape.

Exercises to reduce butt fat

Try the following exercises to lose fat from the butt and to tone the muscles in the thighs and glutes:

1. Running

running works the buttRunning is an excellent exercise for full-body weight loss. Running tones the leg and butt muscles, which gives the thighs and buttocks a more defined shape.

This aerobic activity also improves heart and lung function, and it strengthens the lower body. Also, aside from supportive shoes, it requires no special equipment.

Running is better than walking for fat loss, as it burns more calories. A 2012 study found that over 1,600 meters, people of average fitness burned 372.54 calories while walking and 471.03 calories while running.

However, the study authors conclude that even if a person is unable to take up running, walking is also a very good option for burning calories and fat compared with resting.

2. High-intensity interval training

treadmill for butt

Busy people who want to lose butt fat can take up high-intensity interval training (HIIT). According to a worldwide survey of fitness trends for 2018, HIIT is the most popular fitness trend globally.

HIIT involves putting maximum effort into one specific activity for a short period. This is followed by a longer period at a slower pace. HIIT sessions are intense workouts, so they tend to be shorter in duration than moderate-intensity activities.

For example, after a warmup period, HIIT may involve the following:

  • running on a treadmill at 7 miles per hour (mph) for 1 minute
  • running for 2 minutes at 5 mph
  • repeating this pattern for 15 minutes or so before cooling down

Research from 2011 suggests that HIIT may be more effective at reducing body fat than other types of exercise.

Another study reports that HIIT is a good strategy for controlling obesity because of its time-efficiency.

3. Step-climbing

stair climbing great for butt
Climbing steps is an easy way to tone the glutes while also keeping the heart and lungs healthy.

Step-climbing boosts strength and muscle tone in the butt and upper legs. There are various ways to work these muscles:

  • using stepping machines at a gym
  • walking up flights of stairs
  • hiking uphill
  • using a climbing or bouldering wall

Step-climbing can provide other health benefits, too. One small study from 2005 on 15 women found that climbing flights of stairs up to five times per day had a measurable impact on oxygen uptake and reduced low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol.

In this study, the women began by climbing a flight of 199 stairs once each day in week 1, then gradually increasing climbs to five times each day by week 7. They made no other dietary or lifestyle changes while taking part in this study.

4. Squats

squats are perfect workout for buttSquats are a major part of many exercise plans. This is likely due to their ability to work several muscles in the butt, legs, and abdomen at the same time.

One 2009 study, which appeared in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, examined the effects of various exercises on the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius.

The scientists found that single-leg squats were a good option for activating both the gluteus maximus and the gluteus medius.

To perform a single-leg squat:

  • Extend the arms in front of the body.
  • Stand on the left leg and extend the right leg straight in front, as high as possible.
  • Slowly lower the butt as close as possible to the floor while keeping the leg elevated. The back should be straight and the left knee in line with the left foot.
  • Return to the starting position. Repeat several times before switching to the right leg.

If it is not possible to perform one-leg squats, regular squats are also effective. To do these:

  • Extend the arms in front of the body. Keep the feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Slowly lower the butt as close as possible to the floor, without losing balance. The back should be straight, and the knees should not travel out in front of the toes.
  • Return to the starting position. Repeat several times.
  • To increase the intensity, hold weights in the hands while squatting.

Another variation is the split-squat, during which a person performs squats with their legs apart. A small-scale 2017 study found that split-squats had the highest impact on the gluteus maximus, compared with deadlifts and good-mornings.

5. Lunges

lunges for butt

Lunges are another lower-body strength exercise that activates and tones the gluteus maximus. Variations include sideways, forward, and transverse lunges.

The basic forward lunge also works the thighs and calves. To perform a lunge:

  • Stand with the feet hip-distance apart.
  • Take a large step forward with the left leg.
  • Slowly lower the body, bending both knees to 90 degrees. Do not allow the right knee to touch the ground or the left knee to travel past the toes of the left foot.
  • Return to the standing position. Repeat several times.

6. One-leg deadlift

One-leg deadlift with weight great for butt

Deadlifts work the lower body, improve balance, and strengthen the abdominal muscles and lower back. Doing one-leg deadlifts also activates the gluteus muscles.

Follow these instructions to do a one-leg deadlift:

  • Stand on one leg with the hands by the sides.
  • Stretch the other leg out behind. Keep the back flat and the shoulders back.
  • Lean forward from the hips until there is a stretch in the hamstrings. Do not let the chest drop below the hips.
  • Return to the starting position. Repeat several times, then switch sides.

If this is too intense, lightly rest the non-supporting leg on the floor. To increase the exercise intensity, use hand-held weights.

7. Side-lying hip abduction

Side-lying hip abductions work the butt

Side-lying hip abduction exercises are effective for strengthening the gluteus medius muscle. To do this exercise:

  • Begin by lying on one side and supporting the head with the arm or hand. Keep the knees straight and feet together.
  • Slowly raise the top leg as high as possible without turning the pelvis backward or forward.
  • Lower the leg slowly to return to the starting position. Repeat several times on each side.

Use ankle weights to increase the intensity of this exercise.

8. Lateral band walk

Strengthen and stabilize the hips and knees with a lateral band walk, which also works the gluteus medius muscle. This exercise is a useful warmup activity before running, jumping, and other activities.

To do the lateral band walk:

  • Take a resistance band and place it under the balls of the feet. Ensure that the band stays flat against the shoes.
  • Stretch the legs to shoulder-width apart. Distribute the weight evenly over both feet.
  • Bending the knees slightly to achieve a semi-squat position, squeeze the glutes and core muscles.
  • With one foot, take a small step of around 3 inches to the side. Move t

Military diet alternative

The military diet requires people to follow a low-calorie diet for 3 days and then return to regular eating for 4 days. Across the first 3 days, the diet restricts daily calorie intake to 1,400, 1,200, and 1,100 calories.

The diet is high in protein and low in fat, carbohydrate, and calories. It also includes specific food combinations to try to boost metabolism and burn fat. Despite its name, this diet does not relate to how people in the military eat.

Information about the military diet suggests that people could lose up to 10 pounds (lb) in 1 week and as many as 30 lbs in 1 month if they continue to follow the diet.

In this article, we take a look at whether this diet works, its potential problems and benefits, and what to eat to follow the plan.

Is the military diet effective?

Woman with a shopping list for the military diet
The military diet is high in protein and low in fat.

A review article in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examines very-low-calorie diets (VLCDs) and suggests that they can be effective in helping people lose weight in the short term.

A VLCD allows a maximum of 800 calories per day. People with obesity may need to adopt a VLCD to achieve rapid weight loss before bariatric surgery.

Low-calorie diets are those that allow fewer than 1,000 calories per day.

It is impossible to predict how much weight an individual will lose on a restrictive 1-week diet as everyone is different.

However, people often experience rapid weight gain after stopping one of these short-term diets unless they have put a plan in place to maintain the weight loss.

Meal plan and shopping list

Below is a 3-day meal plan that features on a website supporting the military diet. There is also a comprehensive shopping list for people looking to follow this diet.

People can drink water throughout the day, as well as 1–2 cups of black coffee or tea.

Day 1

Breakfast

  • half a grapefruit
  • one slice of toast
  • 2 tablespoons (tbsp) of peanut butter, ideally a salt-free and sugar-free brand
  • 1 cup of caffeinated coffee or tea

Lunch

  • half a cup of tuna
  • one slice of toast
  • 1 cup of caffeinated coffee or tea

Dinner

  • 3 ounces of any meat
  • 1 cup of green beans
  • half a banana
  • one small apple
  • 1 cup of vanilla ice cream

Day 2

Breakfast

  • one egg
  • one slice of toast
  • half a banana

Lunch

  • one hard-boiled egg
  • 1 cup of cottage cheese
  • five saltine crackers

Dinner

  • two hot dogs without the buns
  • 1 cup of broccoli
  • half a cup of carrots
  • half a banana
  • half a cup of vanilla ice cream

Day 3

Breakfast

  • five saltine crackers
  • one slice of cheddar cheese
  • one small apple

Lunch

  • one hard-boiled egg
  • one slice of toast

Dinner

  • 1 cup of tuna
  • half a banana
  • 1 cup of vanilla ice cream

Vegetarian meal plan

A vegetarian and vegan meal plan is also available:

Day 1

Breakfast

  • half a grapefruit
  • one slice of toast
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 cup of caffeinated coffee or tea

Lunch

  • half an avocado
  • 2 tbsp hummus
  • one slice of whole-wheat toast
  • 1 cup of caffeinated coffee or tea

Dinner

  • tofu (up to 300 calories)
  • 1 cup of green beans
  • half a banana
  • one small apple
  • 1 cup of vanilla ice cream (vegans can use dairy-free ice cream)

Day 2

Breakfast

  • half a cup of baked beans
  • one slice of whole-wheat toast
  • half a banana

Lunch

  • 1 cup of unsweetened soy, hemp, or almond milk
  • half an avocado
  • 2 tbsp hummus
  • five saltine crackers

Dinner

  • two veggie hot dogs without the buns
  • 1 cup of broccoli
  • half a cup of carrots
  • half a banana
  • half a cup of vanilla ice cream (can be dairy-free)

Day 3

Breakfast

  • one slice of cheddar cheese (for vegans, about 15–20 almonds)
  • five saltine crackers or half a cup of couscous or quinoa
  • one small apple

Lunch

  • half an avocado
  • 1 tbsp hummus
  • one slice of whole-wheat bread

Dinner

  • half a cup of canned chickpeas
  • half a banana
  • 1 cup of vanilla ice cream (or dairy-free ice cream)

Shopping list

Peanut butter in a jar and whole wheat bread
The military diet shopping list should include peanut butter and whole-wheat bread.

The following list contains the items of food that people will need to buy for the first 3 days of a week on the military diet:

  • caffeinated coffee or tea
  • one grapefruit
  • two bananas
  • two apples
  • whole-wheat bread
  • peanut butter
  • eggs
  • three cans of tuna
  • hot dogs
  • a small piece of meat
  • green beans (fresh, frozen, or canned)
  • small head of broccoli
  • carrots
  • saltine crackers
  • cottage cheese
  • a small amount of cheddar cheese
  • vanilla ice cream

Disadvantages

Following a 3-day military diet plan can cause several potential problems.

Some of the issues below relate specifically to the suggested meal plans.

Limited nutrient intake

The poor variety on the diet days means that people will struggle to eat enough fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients are essential for good health, energy production, detoxification, and efficient metabolism.

High in added salt, sugar, and saturated fat

Between the saltine crackers, peanut butter, bread, hot dogs, and cheese, the diet is quite high in processed foods that contain salt.

People should check nutrition labels to make sure that they are not eating more sodium than the recommended 2,300 milligrams a day limit. Where possible, it is best to buy food brands that are low in sodium or contain no added salt.

The hot dogs that the diet recommends eating consist of processed meat. They contain high levels of saturated fat and sodium.

Each day’s meal plan also includes vanilla ice cream, which can be high in added sugar. People could substitute the ice cream for 300 calories of healthful fruit, vegetables, or whole grains, which the plan currently lacks.

A diet that emphasizes high-calorie, dense foods may not feel very satisfying because portion sizes must remain small to keep meals within the daily calorie budget. This approach may not be sustainable.

Calories too low to exercise?

Senior man tired from running
Some people may find exercise challenging on diet days.

Eating fewer than 1,400 calories on diet days may make it challenging to do exercise, especially any high-intensity activities.

Eating enough calories on the 4 days off will allow people to exercise more easily. However, proponents of the diet recommend sticking to fewer than 1,500 calories on these days too.

One small study looking at alternate day calorie restriction (ADCR), also called intermittent fasting, found that combining ADCR with exercise led to greater weight changes than either dieting or exercise alone.

Following a VLCD can prevent people from exercising at all.

Confusing science

The military diet suggests that people who dislike or cannot eat grapefruit swap it for a glass of water with baking soda in it to continue to promote an alkaline environment.

It is true that foods can change pH from acid to alkaline. However, this primarily affects the acidity or alkalinity of a person’s urine. The pH of foods in the diet does not affect a person’s blood or metabolism enough to significantly influence weight gain or loss, although it may affect other aspects of health.

All fruit produces alkaline byproducts in the body. As a result, swapping one fruit with another fruit should be fine.

The high-protein aspect of the diet will make urine more acidic. As a result, it is not suitable for someone experiencing kidney problems or gout.

Advantages

In the short term, the military diet could be beneficial for weight loss.

It is easy to follow because it includes limited foods with simple measurements and cooking methods.

The recommended meal plan for the 4 days off allows for a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, and it also includes whole grains, legumes, and different meal choices.

The plan provides the calorie targets for each food and suggests substitutions for people with food intolerance and other dietary considerations.

The diet focuses on protein, which increases the feeling of fullness, maintains muscle mass, and provides energy for day-to-day activities. It is important to maintain muscle tissue as it contributes directly to a person’s metabolism.

A small 2018 study looked at the effects of following a diet with calorie restrictions on alternate days. The researchers compared the results of the diet with those of exercise in obese and overweight people.

In the participants who were both following the diet and exercising, body weight, waist circumference, and body fat percentage all decreased.

A 2016 review compared a VLCD with an alternate-day-fasting (ADF) diet. The researchers found that ADF was more effective for fat loss and preserving fat-free mass, including muscle.

Due to the military diet’s recommended daily calorie intake of 1,000 to 1,400 calories on the first 3 days, it is not possible to classify it as either a VLCD or an ADF program. Research on VLCD and ADF regimens only looks at diets providing fewer than 800 calories per day.

Although calorie intake on the military diet is too high to count as fasting, the approach of eating normally on the 4 days off mimics the practice of intermittent fasting. Therefore, people may achieve better long-term results by following this diet rather than a low-calorie diet.

Further research is necessary to confirm any specific benefits of the military diet.

Conclusion

The military diet involves restricting calorie consumption on 3 days and then eating a regular diet for the next 4 days. To optimize their weight loss, people may wish to try reducing calories on the 4 rest days too.

Following the military diet may be effective and harmless in the short term, but long-term adherence has associated risks. These include regaining the lost weight afterward, especially if people are reducing their calorie intake on all days of the week.

The diet is very limited in choice and includes some foods that are high in saturated fat, salt, and sugar. It also promotes eating unhealthful processed meats and under emphasizes vegetable consumption.

Adopting healthy eating habits every day is a more sustainable approach to losing weight and maintaining weight loss.

Q:

What is the safest way to lose weight quickly?

A:

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss. However, overconsuming carbohydrates in the form of sugar is one of the main culprits of weight gain, particularly if a person’s exercise regimen does not match their carbohydrate intake. One cup of sugar provides 774 calories. A person could eat 12 cups of grapes for the same calories, and these have a lot more nutrients and provide more satiety.

To lose weight safely, remove all added sugars from your diet. Scan the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer and remove or avoid products containing any form of added sugar on the ingredient list. These products will include sodas, sweet beverages, cereals, most yogurts, baked goods, and more.

Although it may significantly narrow down a person’s food choices, removing added sugar (and most packaged and processed items in the process) will lower their calorie intake and give them a better understanding of what constitutes real, nourishing food.

Cardio versus weights

Cardiovascular (cardio) workouts and weightlifting (weights) are two types of exercise that differ in intensity, duration, and the groups of muscles that they use. They also burn calories in different ways. While cardiovascular exercise helps the body burn more calories per session, lifting weights allows the body to burn more calories in the long term.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) defines aerobic exercise as any activity that uses large muscle groups, is possible to maintain continuously, and is rhythmic.

Cardiovascular exercise (cardio) is a form of aerobic activity. It increases breathing rate, burns calories quickly, and improves overall endurance. Examples of aerobic exercise include cycling, dancing, jogging, and swimming.

The ACSM define anaerobic exercise as intense physical activity of short duration, which uses fuel from energy sources within the contracting muscles rather than relying on inhaled oxygen. Lifting weights and sprinting are both examples of anaerobic exercise.

Strength training, including weightlifting, helps people gain muscle, which speeds up metabolism and burns more fat in the long term.

How long do the effects last?

jumping rope cardio
Cardiovascular exercise has a more lasting effect than weightlifting.

Cardio generally has a less prolonged aftereffect than lifting weights.

In many studies, experts use “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption” (EPOC) to measure this effect.

For example, the researchers working on a 2014 study used it to measure the positive effects of cardio on men with metabolic syndrome. EPOC refers to the amount of oxygen that the body requires to return to its pre-exercise or resting state.

Lifting weights usually lead to higher EPOC levels than cardio, resulting in more significant muscle breakdown. This means that the body continues to burn calories even after completing a weightlifting workout.

A 2018 study looking at the effect of resistance training in sedentary adult women found that this activity, which includes weightlifting, elevated the participants’ overall basal metabolic rate (BMR) for up to 48 hours. The BMR is the number of calories that the body burns at rest.

Which anaerobic exercises burn the most calories?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the following high-intensity anaerobic exercises to burn calories effectively:

  • jogging or sprinting
  • competitive sports, such as football, basketball, and soccer
  • jumping rope
  • inline skating or rollerblading at a fast speed
  • cross-country skiing
  • swimming laps

Calculating the calories that weightlifting burns

Online calculators can help a person establish how many calories they burn, taking their weight and physical activity of choice into account.

For example, the Calorie Burn Rate Calculator outlines various calorie burn counts depending on body weight and the type and intensity of physical activity.

Similarly, the Omni Calculator uses the activity type and duration to estimate the total number of calories that a person burns. It also helps predict how much weight a person can expect to lose.

Another useful calorie calculator is Cornell University’s METS to Calories Calculator. The term MET refers to “Metabolic Equivalent of Task,” or metabolic equivalent. This calculator works out the number of calories that a person burns by assessing their body weight, activity level (METS), and the duration of the physical activity.

Making the most of your exercise program

stretching before cardio
Stretching before and after exercising can help prevent muscle strain.

Regardless of the chosen form of exercise, people can use the following safety tips to help make sure that they maximize the effectiveness of their workout:

  • Take 5 to 10 minutes to warm up and cool down by doing stretches.
  • Make gradual increases in physical activity, especially if not very physically active.
  • Rest between strenuous workouts, and do not exercise too much if feeling faint or ill.
  • Do not rush to lift heavy weights. Correct form and strength building takes time, so start with light weights to master the techniques.
  • Do not do any high-intensity exercise in hot, humid conditions as this can lead to severe dehydration.
  • Stop exercising if signs of overheating occur, such as a headache, dizziness, nausea, cramps, or heart palpitations.
  • Wear clothes and shoes that are suitable for the type of physical activity.

Takeaway of cardio vs. weights

Both cardio and weightlifting exercises have advantages and disadvantages, and their benefits and effects vary between people.

Evidence shows that lifting weights burns more fat and has more promising long-term results. However, the type of exercise that is better ultimately depends on a person’s goals, physical fitness, and capabilities.

Most experts recommend a combination of the two for overall health and fitness.

Natural Sugar effects

The effects of natural sugarnatural sugar fructose such as fructose on human health have been the source of much controversy. This is due to the fact that there are different kinds of foods, some of which are bad for health.

Fructose is a natural sugar that is present in fruits, fruit juices, certain vegetables, and honey. In these forms, this natural sugar can be part of a healthy diet.

However, it is also a component of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which manufacturers make from cornstarch and add to unhealthy foods such as sodas and candies.

Researchers are studying the links between high-fructose foods and obesity, diabetes, and even some cancers. However, there is also some evidence that indicates that it is not necessarily a public health concern when a person consumes it in moderation.

In this article, we will cover whether fructose is bad for health, the different types of sugar, and the research into their effects on the human body.

What is the natural sugar fructose?

apples and honey natural sugar
Fructose is a natural sugar present in fruit and honey.

Fructose is the sweetest of the naturally occurring caloric sweeteners. It occurs naturally in fruits, fruit juices, honey, and even some vegetables.

In its pure form, it is much sweeter than other types of sugar. As a result, people can use less of it than other sugars in cooking to achieve the same sweetness.

The most significant sources of fructose in the diet include:

  • table sugar
  • honey
  • agave nectar
  • fruit juices
  • HFCS, which is present in candy, baked goods, and sodas, and other processed foods

Manufacturers create HFCS by adding certain enzymes to cornstarch, which is essentially pure glucose. Glucose is another type of sugar. They then use this glucose to create a syrup that contains varying amounts of fructose.

Most varieties of HFCS contain either 42 or 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose. This means that HFCS contains the same amount of fructose as sucrose, or table sugar.

Manufacturers make table sugar from a combination of fructose and glucose.

Honey is another common food additive. Honey contains a 1-to-1 ratio of fructose to glucose.

Is fructose bad for you?

A natural sugar like fructose from fresh fruit and vegetables is good for a person’s health. Processed forms of fructose, such as HFCS, may have negative health effects. Scientists are currently studying how this type of sweetener compares with other forms of sugar.

Below, we discuss the research around the possible risks and benefits of fructose on a person’s health.

The evidence against fructose

woman pinching stomach
Consuming large amounts of fructose may put a person at greater risk of obesity.

Some researchers believe that the body processes fructose differently than other types of sugar.

In particular, there are concerns that when a person consumes fructose in excess, it may stimulate the body to deposit extra fat, especially in the liver. This may contribute to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

According to a 2017 literature review, eating excessive amounts of fructose is associated with:

  • inflammation that could lead to insulin resistance
  • increased development of fat, as it may alter the ways that the body breaks down fats and carbohydrates
  • a greater risk of obesity and related conditions, such as metabolic syndrome
  • greater food intake, as it does not make people feel full

A 2016 study looked at the effects of fructose-rich drink consumption in those aged 12–16 years in Taiwan. People who drank more fructose-rich drinks had higher levels of insulin resistance, which is a marker for hardened arteries, diabetes, and heart disease in adults.

The evidence for fructose

Although there is evidence that excess fructose consumption is bad for health, it is difficult for researchers to separate the effects of fructose in the diet from those of other sugars.

This is because foods that contain high levels of added fructose usually also contain high levels of other sugars, such as glucose. Scientists conduct many research studies on the effects of fructose in rats fed combinations of sugars.

A 2014 literature review states that fructose does not have specific effects on the body that can cause weight gain when compared with eating sugar from other sources.

The authors also argue that, while sugar-sweetened drinks contain fructose, they are also high in calories. This may explain some links between fructose and obesity.

To date, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that they are not currently aware of any evidence that foods containing HFCS are less safe than other foods containing similar sweeteners, such as sucrose and honey.

The FDA list HFCS, the most controversial of the fructose-containing foods, as safe to eat.

However, people should limit their intake of all added sugars, including HFCS and sucrose.

Fructose vs. glucose

Fructose can bind to glucose. Fructose plus glucose is called sucrose, or table sugar.

Unlike fructose, the body largely breaks glucose down in the cells. The small intestine usually absorbs this sugar type and sends it out to the body’s cells for energy. Researchers usually regard glucose as the body’s preferred carbohydrate source for energy.

When a person eats glucose, the chemical structure of the compound triggers the pancreas to release insulin, a hormone that allows cells to use glucose for energy.

A natural sugar such as Fructose does not trigger insulin release, nor does it trigger the release of hormones such as leptin, which tells the brain that a person is full, or inhibit hormones that tell a person’s body that they are hungry.

As a result, researchers suggest that fructose is more harmful to a person because they are more likely to eat more than if they had eaten food containing glucose.

However, a person should remember that foods with glucose-containing sugars still have calories. Excess calorie intake can lead to weight gain.

Sources and types of fructose

young woman eating a pear
Pears are naturally high in fructose.

Two fructose types exist: naturally occurring and HFCS. The body digests both the same way.

Examples of natural foods that are naturally high in fructose include:

  • agave syrup
  • apple juice
  • apples
  • caramel
  • dry figs
  • honey
  • licorice
  • molasses
  • pears
  • prunes
  • sorghum

Some vegetables contain fructose, but this is usually in smaller amounts than fruits. These include:

  • asparagus
  • chicory roots
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • leeks
  • onions

Summary

Fructose is naturally present in many fruits and vegetables, which people can include as part of a healthful, balanced diet.

Researchers are still debating whether various forms of fructose are bad for people’s health. The FDA state that fructose is a safe ingredient to add to foods.

They believe that there is not enough evidence to say that fructose is less safe than other similar sugars, such as sucrose and honey, but they recommend limiting all added sugars.

When people eat or drink lots of high-fructose foods, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, they are also taking in extra calories that can contribute to weight gain.

There is no recommended minimum or maximum intake of fructose daily because a person does not need this sugar to survive. Manufacturers add fructose to foods as a sweetener, but it has little nutritional value.

Where possible, doctors recommend that people eat fresh, whole foods and avoid frequently eating foods with added sugars.

IIFYM diet technique

IIFYM stands for “if it fits your macros,”. This dieting technique involves counting the number of macronutrients, rather than calories, that a person is consuming.

Unlike diets that involve food restriction, proponents describe IIFYM as a flexible diet that can help people lose weight without drastically changing their eating habits.

Little research has investigated the diet, so its effectiveness has not been scientifically established.

In general, many people can lose weight by eating smaller portions, choosing less energy-dense foods, and increasing their physical activity. This does not have to occur as part of a dietary fad.

In this article, we describe how to follow the IIFYM diet and include potential benefits and risks.

What is the IIFYM diet?

Person writing down macronutrients for iifym diet
People following the IIFYM diet keep track of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

The IIFYM diet hinges on the idea that eating fewer calories than the body requires — while still consuming enough protein, carbs, and fats — results in weight loss at a steady and predictable rate.

People following the IIFYM diet keep track of these three macronutrients:

The diet groups fiber with carbohydrates.

A person can consume these macronutrients in varying combinations, as long as the amounts do not exceed the body’s macronutrient needs for the day. This means that, if the calculation balances out, a person can eat any type of food, while still meeting their health or weight loss goals.

How to start with the IIFYM diet

Following the IIFYM diet involves:

  • calculating how many calories you need to maintain your current weight
  • determining how many calories to cut for the desired weight loss
  • grouping these calories by macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats

The targets and figures vary, based on factors such as age, sex, weight, height, and activity levels.

Start by using the calculator on the IIFYM website or by following the steps below:

Step 1: Calculate current calorie needs

A person’s basal metabolic rate (BMR), or resting metabolic rate, is the amount of energy, in calories, that their body needs at rest for 24 hours. This energy goes toward essential functions, such as breathing, circulation, and body temperature.

A person can determine their BMR with an online calculator that uses the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation.

To manually calculate BMR:

  • for men, BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) + 5
  • for women, BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) – 161

Step 2: Adjust calorie needs for activity level

The next step involves factoring in the average physical activity level, as this affects the number of calories that the body uses. This measurement is called total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).

A person can calculate their TDEE using an online calculator, which automatically factors in their BMR. The IIFYM website also provides a TDEE calculator.

Step 3: Adjust calorie needs for desired weight

Subtract 15–20 percent of the TDEE to find out, according to the IIFYM website, how many calories a person should eat per day to achieve their weight loss goals.

Step 4: Determine macro needs per day

The final step is to divide the resulting value into what the website calls “adjusted macros.” This will determine how many macros a person needs, based on their current body weight:

  • protein: calculate this intake at around 0.7–1.0 grams (g) per pound (lb) of body weight
  • fat: calculate at about 0.25–0.4 g per lb of body weight
  • carbohydrates: this value comprises the remaining calories from the adjusted macros score

Sticking to IIFYM in the long term

To follow the IIFYM diet, a person must determine how many macros they are consuming at each meal and track their daily intake to ensure that it is close to their adjusted goal.

For more accurate results, a person may consider using a digital scale to weigh food.

Many macro-friendly recipes are available online. The IIFYM website provides a range of meal plans, including breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, and desserts.

Benefits of IIFYM

The possible benefits of the IIFYM diet include:

Flexibility

Man and woman eating lunch together outside
The IIFYM diet aims to make meals enjoyable and stress-free.

The IIFYM website promises “no more dieting” and “no more restrictions.” It is advertised as a more flexible dieting stylebecause it incorporates more foods than many other diets.

It encourages people to eat diverse foods, as long as they do not exceed their macro targets.

The aim of the IIFYM diet is to make meals more enjoyable, and meal planning less stressful, which may increase the likelihood of sticking to the diet.

Losing weight

A person usually loses weight if they burn more calories than they take in. This often involves cutting around 500–750 calories each day. People may achieve this by following the IIFYM diet.

Similarly, increasing calorie consumption leads to weight gain. People looking to gain weight may also be able to meet their goals with IIFYM.

May benefit those unable to exercise

Because IIFYM takes physical activity levels into account when calculating macros, a person who gets limited or no exercise may find the diet useful.

Negatives of IIFYM

The IIFYM diet may have the following drawbacks:

No focus on micronutrients

Micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, are as important as macronutrients for health and development, but the IIFYM diet does not account for their intake.

The body does not produce micronutrients, so a person must obtain them from their diet. A person following the IIFYM diet may not be getting enough of these vital nutrients.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2 billion people worldwide have micronutrient deficiencies.

Macro calculations are not flexible

People may have difficulties adjusting their macro requirements to account for changes such as illness, recovering from injury, and breastfeeding.

For instance, research indicates that following an illness, the body needs more calories and protein, namely 1.5–2.0 g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, to make up for the loss of lean body mass and to promote recovery.

Takeaway

Proponents advertise the IIFYM diet as a flexible method of weight loss. It involves counting macronutrients — proteins, carbohydrates, and fats — instead of calories.

However, little scientific research has looked into its effectiveness.

People following the diet must be sure to consume enough micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals.

If a person uses more calories than they consume, they are likely to lose weight. An individual can do this by following a healthful diet, reducing portion sizes, and getting more physical activity.

For best results, and to ensure that their dieting plan is healthful, a person may wish to consult a healthcare professional.

Peanut butter benefits

Benefits of peanut butter are enormous. Peanut butter is a firm favorite among adults and children alike. Although tasty, many people still wonder about the health benefits of peanut butter.

Peanuts and peanut butter contain nutrients that may boost a person’s heart health and improve blood sugar levels.

Depending on how people use peanut butter in their diet, it can help them lose weight, or put on pounds during weight training or bodybuilding.

However, the benefits of peanut butter should be carefully evaluated because peanut butter is high in calories and fat, so people should enjoy it in moderation.

In this article, we look at the benefits of eating peanut butter and explain the risks associated with consuming it.

Nutritional benefits of peanut butter

Peanut butter in a jar from above
Peanut butter is a good source of protein and vitamin B-6.

Peanut butter provides a good amount of protein, along with essential vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, potassium, and zinc.

Most notably, each 2-tablespoon (tbsp) serving of smooth peanut butter provides the following nutrients, minerals, and vitamins:

  • Protein. Peanut butter contains 7.02 grams (g) of protein per 2-tbsp serving. This counts toward the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for women of 46 g and 56 g for men, which varies by age and activity level.
  • Magnesium. With 57 milligrams (mg) of magnesium, each serving helps towards the RDA of 400–420 mg in men and 310–320 in women. Magnesium is essential for health, playing a role in over 300 chemical processes in the body.
  • Phosphorous. Each serving contains 107 mg of phosphorus, which is about 15.3 percent of the RDA of 700 mg for adults. Phosphorus helps the body to build healthy cells and bones and helps cells to produce energy.
  • Zinc. A serving of peanut butter provides 0.85 mg of zinc. This is 7.7 percent of the recommended daily intake of 11 mg for men, and 10.6 percent of the RDA of 8 mg for women. Zinc is necessary for immunity, protein synthesis, and DNA formation.
  • Niacin. Peanut butter contains 4.21 mg of niacin per serving, which makes a useful contribution towards a person’s recommended intake of 14 to 16 mg. Niacin benefits digestion and nerve function and helps produce energy.
  • Vitamin B-6. With 0.17 g of vitamin B-6 per serving, peanut butter provides almost 14 percent of an adult’s RDA of 1.3 mg. Vitamin B-6 plays a role in over 100 enzyme reactions in the body and may be necessary for heart and immune system health.

However, there are also nutritional disadvantages if a person eats more than the recommended amount of peanut butter.

Peanut butter is high in calories, saturated fats, and sodium.

Each serving contains 3.05 g of saturated fats, which is 23.5 percent of the American Heart Association’s maximum recommended daily intake of saturated fat for those consuming 2,000 calories a day. People should aim for less than 13 g of saturated fat per day.

It also contains 152 mg of sodium, which is 10.1 percent of an adult’s ideal daily upper intake of sodium of 1,500 mg.

Health benefits of peanut butter

Eating peanut butter in moderation and as part of an overall healthful diet may provide the following benefits:

1. Weight loss

Several studies suggest that eating peanuts and other nuts can help people maintain their weight, or even help with weight loss.

This may be because peanuts improve satiety, which is the feeling of fullness, thanks to their protein, fat, and fiber content.

A 2018 study suggests that eating nuts, including peanuts, reduces a person’s risk of being overweight or obese. This study compared the dietary and lifestyle data for over 373,000 people from 10 European countries over 5 years.

Earlier research based on data gathered from over 51,000 women suggested that those who ate nuts twice weekly or more experienced slightly less weight gain over an 8-year period than women who rarely ate nuts.

2. Boosting heart health

Peanut butter contains many nutrients that can improve heart health, including:

  • monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs)
  • polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs)
  • niacin
  • magnesium
  • vitamin E

The proportion of unsaturated fats (PUFAs and MUFAs) to saturated fats in the diet plays a particularly important role in heart health. Peanut butter has a similar ratio to olive oil — which is also known as a heart-healthy option.

A high intake of nuts may have links to a reduced risk of mortality from heart disease or other causes. The researchers recommend peanuts in particular as a cost-effective way to improve heart health for some people.

Research also suggests that including 46 g per day of peanuts or peanut butter into an American Diabetes Association (ADA) diet plan for 6 months could benefit the heart, improve blood lipid profiles, and control weight for people with diabetes.

However, as peanut butter is high in calories, it is crucial that a person limits their intake if they do not want to put on weight. Eating more than the recommended amount will also increase fat and sodium intake, which does not benefit the heart.

3. Bodybuilding

Senior lady working out at the gym
Peanut butter is an easy way to increase calorie intake.

Many bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts include peanut butter in their diets for various reasons.

Although calorie amounts will vary based on stature, activity level, and metabolic rate, the typical daily recommended calorie intake ranges from around 1,600–2,400 calories per day for women and up to 3,000 calories per day for men. However, active adult men should consume up to 3,000 calories daily, while active women need up 2,400 calories per day.

Thanks to its high-calorie content, peanut butter is an easy way to increase calorie and unsaturated fat intake.

Nut butter is also a source of protein, which is essential for building and repairing muscles. Although peanut butter is not a complete protein — meaning it does not contain all of the essential amino acids the body needs — it does count toward a person’s daily protein intake.

Spreading peanut butter on whole-grain bread makes a more complete protein meal, as the bread contains the amino acid methionine, which peanut butter lacks.

4. Managing blood sugar levels

Peanut butter is a relatively low-carbohydrate food that contains good amounts of fats and protein, as well as some fiber.

These characteristics mean that peanut butter, with no added sugar, does not have a significant impact on blood glucose levels. This means it can be a good option for those with diabetes and confirm the benefits of peanut butter.

The ADA recommend that people replace saturated fats with monounsaturated fats in their diets. They suggest peanut butter, peanuts, and peanut oil as good sources of monounsaturated fat.

A small 2013 study suggests that eating peanut butter or peanuts for breakfast could help women with obesity and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes to manage their blood glucose levels. According to the survey, the women who added nuts to their breakfast had lower blood sugar levels and reported less hunger compared to women who ate a breakfast that contained the same amount of carbohydrates but no nuts.

Peanut butter is a good source of magnesium, which is an essential nutrient for people with diabetes. Continuous periods of high blood sugar may reduce magnesium levels in the body. Low magnesium levels are linked to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

5. Reducing the risk of breast disease

Eating peanut butter, especially from a young age, may reduce the risk of benign breast disease (BBD), which increases the risk of breast cancer.

A study in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, reports that eating peanut butter and nuts at any age may result in a lower risk of developing BDD by age 30.

The researchers examined the data for over 9,000 schoolgirls in America. Other types of pulses, such as beans and soy, along with vegetable fats and other nuts, may also offer protection from BBD.

Even those with a family history of breast cancer had a significantly lower risk if they ate peanut butter and these other foods.

Peanut butter benefits and nutritional profile

The table below provides a detailed nutritional profile of 2 tbsp of smooth peanut butter:

Calories 188
Protein 7.02 g
Saturated fats 3.05 g
Monounsaturated fats 6.63 g
Polyunsaturated fats 3.63 g
Carbohydrates 7.67 g
Fiber 1.80 g
Sugars 2.08 g
Calcium 17 mg
Iron 0.69 mg
Magnesium 57 mg
Phosphorus 107 mg
Potassium 189 mg
Sodium 152 mg
Zinc 0.85 mg
Niacin 4.21 mg
Vitamin B-6 0.18 mg
Vitamin E 1.90 mg

Peanut allergies

Peanuts and other nuts are common allergens, with a peanut or tree nut allergy affecting over 3 million Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Those with a known peanut allergy should avoid peanut butter and foods containing the nuts.

The NIH also note that just 20 percent of those with an allergy will eventually outgrow the allergy and stop having reactions to nuts.

Which peanut butter is best?

When selecting a peanut butter product, look for one that contains just peanuts and few or no other ingredients.

Some peanut butter brands will contain other ingredients, such as sugar, salt, and added oils. Avoid these where possible. Try adding a little honey to peanut butter dishes as a sweetener instead.

It is normal for pure peanut butter to separate into solid and liquid form. Stir the contents thoroughly, and the consistency will return to normal.

People can buy natural peanut butter in health food stores and online.

To stop the peanut butter going off, store it in the refrigerator.

How to add peanut butter to your diet

Peanut butter, rice cakes and banana
Peanut butter is a healthful option when enjoyed as part of a balanced diet.

Eating more peanut butter is easy. Sometimes, it can be too easy — so be sure to be mindful of your intake to avoid eating more calories than you may need in a day. Remember 2 tbsp of peanut butter is close to 200 calories.

People can include peanut butter in their diets by:

  • Making a classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich, using whole fruit, low sugar jelly, and whole-grain bread.
  • Spreading peanut butter on rice cakes and top with banana slices.
  • Whipping up a Thai peanut dressing for salads, using lime juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and honey.
  • Adding a spoonful of the nut butter to smoothies to make them more filling.
  • Dipping apple and pear slices into peanut butter for an easy snack.
  • Stirring peanut butter into yogurts or warm oatmeal.

Summary

The benefits of peanut butter indicate at that peanut butter can be a healthful option when people enjoy it as part of a balanced diet. It is rich in several nutrients, including protein and magnesium, which may help protect the heart and manage blood sugar and body weight.

However, eating too much peanut butter can increase a person’s daily intake of saturated fat, sodium, and calories.

Those who have a peanut allergy should avoid peanut butter as it could trigger a potentially deadly reaction.

Low-carb diet and permanent weight loss

Low-carb diet can help you lose weight and keep it off permanently.
“The largest and longest feeding study to test the ‘carbohydrate-insulin model'” concludes that a lower carb intake burns more calories, which may help people maintain weight loss over a longer period of time.
person eating a steak with low carb diet
Eating a high-quality, low-carb diet may help us stave off weight gain for longer.

Cara Ebbeling, Ph.D., together with Dr. David Ludwig — both at Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts — led the new study, which now appears in the BMJ.

As they explain, when we lose weight, the body adapts by lowering its energy expenditure. In other words, it burns fewer calories.

This way, the metabolism protects itself against long-term weight changes.    Low-carb diet can help lose weight permanently

However, when the weight loss is intentional, this adaptive response can be frustrating for dieters, as it leads to weight regain.

Although weight gain after dieting is a well-known phenomenon, researchers do not know much about how different diets affect the way the metabolism responds to them.

The so-called carbohydrate-insulin model, however, suggests one such mechanism. It posits that highly processed foods high in sugar drive hormonal changes that increase the appetite and lead to weight gain.

“According to this model,” explains Dr. Ludwig, “the processed carbohydrates that flooded our diets during the low-fat era have raised insulin levels, driving fat cells to store excessive calories. With fewer calories available to the rest of the body, hunger increases and metabolism slows — a recipe for weight gain.”

In this context, Ebbeling, Dr. Ludwig, and their colleagues decided to investigate the effects that different diets had on the metabolism. Specifically, they looked at the carb-to-fat ratio in varying diets over a 20-week period.

Studying carb intake, weight, and calories in low-carb diet

The researchers examined the effect of different diets on 234 adults aged 18–65 whose body mass index (BMI) was at least 25. As part of the study, the participants had also adhered to a weight loss plan for 10 weeks.

By the end of the trial, 164 participants had achieved their weight loss goal of around 12 percent of their total weight. Then, they adhered to either a high-, moderate-, or low-carb diet for 20 weeks, allowing the researchers to examine if they managed to maintain the weight loss.

The high-carb diet was composed of 60 percent high-quality carbs, the moderate-carb one had 40 percent carbs, and the low-carb diet had 20 percent carbs. The diets also minimized sugar intake and used whole grains.

During this time, the scientists measured the participants’ weight and tracked the number of calories they burned. They also examined the participants’ insulin secretion and metabolic hormones.

‘A 20-pound weight loss after 3 years’

At the end of the study period, people in the low-carb group burned significantly more calories than those who had been on a high-carb diet.

Specifically, participants who were on a low-carb diet burned around 250 kilocalories more per day than those who were on a high-carb diet.

Ebbeling explains, “If this difference persists — and we saw no drop-off during the 20 weeks of our study — the effect would translate into about a 20-pound weight loss after 3 years, with no change in calorie intake.”

The results also indicated that for participants who had the highest insulin secretion, the impact of a low-carb diet was even more significant: low-carb dieters burned 400 calories more per day than high-carb dieters.

“A low glycemic load, high-fat diet,” explain the authors, “might facilitate weight loss maintenance beyond the conventional focus on restricting energy intake and encouraging physical activity.”

Ebbeling says, “Our observations challenge the belief that all calories are the same to the body.”

This is the largest and longest feeding study to test the ‘carbohydrate-insulin model,’ which provides a new way to think about and treat obesity.”

Dr. David Ludwig

Pushups anybody?

The pushup is a simple exercise that can strengthen and tone many of the muscles of the upper body and core. There are many variations of the pushup that suit a range of abilities and focus on different sets of muscles.

In this article, we look at which muscles pushups work and some of the benefits of doing pushups. We also provide a guide to eight different types of pushup.

Which muscles do pushups work?

The muscles in the upper body do most of the work when a person does pushups. These muscles are:

  • chest muscle group, including the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor
  • shoulder muscle group, including the deltoid major and deltoid minor
  • upper and middle back muscles, including the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and trapeze muscles
  • biceps, at the front of the upper arm
  • triceps, at the back of the upper arm
  • serratus anterior, which sits on the side of the chest beneath the upper arm

However, pushups require many other muscles in the body to work to keep the body in a rigid plank position. These muscles may include:

Benefits of doing pushups

There are many benefits to regularly doing pushups, including:

Burning calories

Doing pushups can be a powerful full-body workout. They use up a large amount of energy in a short period because the movements require large muscle groups to lift and hold much of the body’s weight.

The more pushups a person does, the more calories they burn.

Improving cardiovascular health

Doing pushups uses large muscle groups to alternately lift and lower much of the body’s weight, which increases the heart rate. Raising the heart rate during exercise helps strengthen the heart muscle, enabling it to pump more oxygenated blood to the lungs and throughout the body.

Tiny blood vessels called capillaries, which supply blood from arteries to tissues and organs, also widen to allow for better blood flow.

Doing exercise that raises the heart rate can help:

  • lower blood pressure
  • regulate blood sugar and insulin levels
  • reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer
  • lower body weight or maintain a healthy weight, alongside a calorie-controlled diet

Protecting the shoulder joint

When people use the correct technique, pushups can help build up strength in the muscles around the shoulder joint. The muscles and tendons in the shoulder hold the upper arm bone in the socket.

When the muscles are weak, stress or injury to the shoulder can result in damage to the muscles and tendons.

Easy to do

Pushups are a simple exercise that requires very little or even no equipment, so a person can easily do them as part of an at-home workout. There are also many pushups variations to suit people of different strengths and abilities.

8 types of pushup

Below is a guide to eight different types of pushup. The exercises are in order of difficulty from the easiest to the most challenging.

1. Wall pushup

Wall pushups gif
Image credit: CDC, 2012.

Wall pushups are suitable for beginners or anyone with a shoulder injury. This type of pushup helps build shoulder and chest strength but places a reduced load on the muscles.

Muscles worked: arms, shoulders, and chest.

  1. Stand in front of a wall, just over an arm’s length away. Feet should be shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bring the hands to shoulder height. Lean forward, extend the arms, and place the hands flat on the wall. Hands should also be shoulder-width apart.
  3. Inhale and bend the elbows, lowering the body toward the wall. During this movement, squeeze the core and buttocks to maintain a strong, straight position.
  4. Pause for 1 second and then push off the wall with the arms, keeping the hands on the wall. The feet should remain flat on the floor. If the heels come up, move slightly closer to the wall.

Try to do 3 sets of 12 repetitions, reaching a total of 36 pushups. Take a short break between sets.

2. Modified pushup

Senior woman doing modified pushup outdoors using knees

The modified pushup is for people who want a more challenging exercise than the wall pushup but are not quite ready for a standard pushup. When doing this pushup, focus on tightening all the muscles to maintain a stiff, straight body.

Muscles worked: arms, shoulders, chest, and serratus anterior.

  1. Start on all fours, with the knees and toes touching the floor. Hold the legs and feet together.
  2. Look down at the floor to maintain a neutral head position. Place the hands below the shoulders, keeping the arms straight.
  3. Breathe in. While engaging the core and buttocks muscles, bend the elbows to lower the chest as close to the floor as possible. Pause here for 1 second.
  4. Breathe out. Push the arms straight to lift the body off the floor and back into the original kneeling position. Make sure that the back does not sag, the core remains tight, and the buttocks do not lift into the air.

Repeat the exercise 12 times and then do an additional 2 sets, with short breaks between them. This will make a total of 36 pushups.

3. Standard pushup

Gif of man doing pushups
Image credit: Frank C. Müller, 2006.

The standard pushup requires more work than the modified pushup because it does not involve using the knees to help support the body weight.

Muscles worked: arms, shoulders, chest, and serratus anterior.

  1. Start on all fours, but extend the legs so that the knees do not touch the floor. Tuck in the pelvis and keep the head in a neutral position by looking down at the floor. Place the hands under the shoulders and keep the arms straight. This is known as the plank position.
  2. Breathe in. While engaging the core and buttocks muscles, bend the elbows to lower the chest as close to the floor as possible. Pause here for 1 second.
  3. Breathe out while pushing the arms straight to lift the body off the floor and back into the plank position. Make sure that the back does not sag, the core remains tight, and the hips do not lift into the air.

Try to do 3 sets of 12 pushups.

4. Wide pushup

Woman doing wide pushups

The wide pushup is only slightly different to the standard pushup. It involves widening the distance between the hands, which places more focus on the chest muscles.

Muscles worked: chest, shoulders, and back muscles.

  1. Get into the plank position, as in the standard pushup, but place the hands further out to the side.
  2. Follow the same technique as the standard pushup for lowering and raising the body while tightening the core and buttocks. The elbows will point further out to the side as the arms bend.

Try to do a total of 36 pushups, dividing them into 3 sets with short breaks between.

5. Narrow pushup

Man doing narrow pushups

The narrow pushup is another variation of the standard pushup, but it is usually more difficult. It reduces the distance between the hands, which means that the arm muscles have to work harder.

Muscles worked: triceps and chest muscles.

  1. Get into the plank position but, this time, place the hands closer together and directly below the chest.
  2. Follow the same technique as the standard pushup for lowering and raising the body while tightening the core and buttocks. The elbows should tuck back into the body as the arms bend and straighten.

Do 3 sets of 12 repetitions to reach a total of 36 pushups.

6. Elevated pushup

Man doing elevated pushups outdoors

The elevated pushup position raises the feet above the body, meaning that a person needs more strength to get back into a plank position. A person can increase the elevation over time as their strength improves.

Muscles worked: shoulders, upper back, and triceps.

  1. Start in the plank position and then raise the lower half of the body by placing the toes on a sturdy object, such as a box, chair, or bench.
  2. Place the hands underneath the shoulders, keeping the arms straight.
  3. Breathe in. Engage the core and buttocks muscles and bend the elbows to lower the chest as close to the floor as possible. Pause here for 1 second.
  4. Breathe out. Push the arms straight to lift the body off the floor and back into the plank position. Make sure that the back does not sag, the core remains tight, and the hips do not lift into the air.

Again, aim for a total of 36 pushups, dividing them into 3 sets of 12 repetitions with a short rest before each new set.

7. Clap pushup

Man doing clap pushups.

The clap pushup, which is a type of plyometric pushup, is one of the most demanding types of pushup. A person can try this once they are very confident in their upper body strength.

The clap pushup can help increase muscle strength, power, and body awareness.

Muscles worked: shoulder, chest, and arms.

  1. Begin in the plank position with the hands slightly wider apart than the shoulders.
  2. Breathe in. While engaging the core and buttocks muscles, bend the elbows to lower the chest as close to the floor as possible.
  3. Breathe out. In one smooth movement, forcefully push the body upward by straightening the arms and lift the hands off the floor, bringing them together to clap once.
  4. Land with the hands back on the floor and a soft bend in the elbows.

This type of pushup requires a lot of strength, but a person will find that they build up endurance over time.

For this exercise, it is best to start with 5 to 10 repetitions over 3 to 5 sets. Rest sufficiently between sets to allow the body to recover.

8. Pike pushup

The pike pushup is another demanding pushup variation that loads more weight onto the shoulders and triceps when pushing back up.

Muscles worked: shoulder, serratus anterior, upper back, and triceps.

  1. Start on all fours with the hands placed shoulder-width apart, the heels off the ground, and the head looking down. Lift the buttocks into the air, keep the arms straight, and bend at the hips to form an upside down V shape. This is a similar position to the Downward Dog in yoga.
  2. Breathe in. While engaging the core and buttocks muscles, bend the elbows to lower the head and let it gently touch the floor, if possible.
  3. Breathe out. Push the arms straight to raise the head and shoulders back to the starting position.

A person can try using a yoga block or something similar if they are unable to touch the floor with their head. For this pushup, it is best to begin with short sets of 1 to 5 repetitions and then work up to larger sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.

Takeaway

Pushups are a type of exercise that uses the weight of the body to work the large muscle groups and raise the heart rate. As these simple exercises do not require any special equipment, a person can easily incorporate them into their home exercise routine.

There are also many pushup variations to suit different strengths, fitness levels, and needs. As a person becomes stronger and increases their endurance, they can progress to more advanced types of pushup.

Exercises which Burn More Calories

In this post we talk about five exercises which burn more calories.   Isolating muscles is so outdated. Unless you’re rehabbing from an injury or working to strengthen a weaker part of your body, the rule of thumb should be to work as many muscles as possible with each exercise (while of course maintaining good form). The more muscles you can incorporate into each set, the more effective and efficient your workout will be.

You don’t need more time to work out; you just need more intensity in your exercises. By swapping these five simple exercises, you can maximize your effort and calorie burn while minimizing your time spent at the gym.

Squats instead of the leg press machine

While a leg press is good for isolating your quads, it leaves something to be desired as a total-body routine. The truth is you have to add so much more weight on a leg press machine to get the same effect that squatting vertically would have. And whereas the leg press includes little to no stabilizer muscle involvement (because the machine gives you total upper body support), squatting forces you to recruit those stabilizer muscles groups in order to complete each rep. That is, your hip adductors (inner thighs) to keep your knees spaced shoulder-width apart, as well as your ab muscles to hold your torso in place as the knees bend. Talk about a full body exercise. Don’t forget to keep the knees right on top of the heels as you squat down for less pressure on the joints and you’ll really feel those hamstrings and glutes fire.

Squat exercises

Plank on a BOSU ball instead of crunch exercises

In terms of overall total body effectiveness, we all know that the plank is superior to the crunch. By holding your entire body in an isometric contraction you’re strengthening everything from your abs and glutes to your legs, back, and chest. But we’re cranking it up a little further. Adding some sort of balancing factor to your plank’in this case a BOSU ball will have your whole body, especially your core, feeling the burn in no time. Simply place your forearms on the rounded side while you do your plank. You can also try them with your arms on the flat side. Once you master holding your BOSU ball plank for at least 30 seconds, start adding in some variations slow mountain climbers and then adding a twist to the opposite side as you bring the knee into the chest are just a few to get your mind working. Any variation after that is fair game. Get creative!

Plank exercise

Pull-ups instead of bicep curls

Despite popular opinion, a pull up is a much more effective way of targeting those guns than a typical curl would be. Plus, with a pull-up, you’re working your entire upper body and engaging your core muscles too. The key is intensity. You can’t cheat a pull up; you either got it or you don’t.  And don’t get discouraged if you can only muster one or two to start, know that you are still exhausting your muscles and therefore building strength. If the thought of even one seems daunting, try wrapping a resistance band around the bar and hook your feet (or bent knees) into it for some assistance getting up. Then, once you become more proficient you can take the band away and start to add more repetitions to your exercises.

Pull-up exercisesPull-up exercises

VersaClimber instead of the bike

If you are one of those people who loves to sit on the bike and occupy your upper body with a book or magazine while your lower body does all the work, listen up. Cardio success is not about the number of calories burned during your 45-minute session. It’s about elevating your heart rate enough for a prolonged period of time (about 20 minutes at 80% or higher) to achieve the “afterburn” effect, boosting your metabolism so you continue to burn additional calories throughout that day and the next. The VersaClimber is a great option because it incorporates upper and lower body movements at the same time, which not only keeps you engaged in the workout but also means you can cut your time spent on the machine in half. So, give it a try. In addition to preventing boredom, switching up your cardio routine will keep your body guessing and you on track to achieving your fitness goals.

Versaclimber exercises

Dumbbell bench routine instead of traditional bench press

Contrary to popular belief, the bench press is not the best move for the upper body. While it may do a good job of isolating a few specific muscles, using two dumbbells instead of the traditional bar will increase your range of motion and recruit more muscles in the shoulders and back as well. Not only that, but you can add some core work into the equation by alternating arms one at a time to challenge your balance and force those abs to join the party. If you really want to kick it up a notch, try switching out the bench for a Swiss Ball and get some more stabilizers involved!

Swiss Ball exercises