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Garlic Parmesan Spaghetti Squash

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It’s squash season! For the sake of convenience, here’s a squash recipe you don’t need to bake. Quick-cooked spaghetti squash is topped with sautéed onions, mushrooms and tomatoes for a simple, healthy and fiber-rich dinner entree.

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Exercises That’ll Help You Get More Done in Less Time

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Doing compound exercises can take your workout from good to great. What exactly does that mean? Well, compound movements are ones that put multiple muscle groups and two or more joints to work, explains Noam Tamir, C.S.C.S., founder of TS Fitness. They can help you gain lean muscle mass and burn more calories, all while saving you time at the gym.

“The more muscles working, the more energy output required,” Tamir says. Calories are a unit of energy, so this means you’ll burn more of them.

While there’s no way to speed results at the gym—nothing will replace consistently working hard—there are ways to make sure you’re training smarter, and doing compound exercises is one of them.

Wait, what exactly is a compound exercise?

Compound exercises recruit multiple muscle groups while isolation exercises (like a bicep curl) concentrate on a single muscle group. There are benefits to both, but when it comes to doing more in less time, compound exercises have the upper hand, which is why they’re used in most strength training workouts.

There are two main types of compound exercises you should know:

Single moves that incorporate multiple muscle groups and joints, like lunges, deadlifts, and squats.

Two moves strung together to create one exercise, like a bicep curl to a shoulder press.

Whichever type you’re doing though, when performed correctly, compound exercises are effective as hell.

Compound exercises are excellent for increasing overall muscle mass and burning calories.

“Since compound exercises involve more muscle groups and joints, they can be used to move heavier loads,” explains Tamir. (For example, you can probably deadlift way more weight than you could with a tricep extension, which is an isolation movement.) And when you’re performing moves that are strung together, like with that bicep curl to shoulder press, you’ll want to use the heaviest weight you can to complete both movements with good form to avoid injury. “Since the shoulders are larger muscles than the biceps, most people will be able to press more then they curl,” says Tamir.

“Putting more stress on the body [with compound exercises] has been shown to create higher hormonal responses, which leads to more muscle growth,” says Tamir.

Here’s how that works: When you strength train, you do mechanical damage (damage to the muscle fibers) and metabolic damage (when you fatigue the muscles by depleting their energy stores), explains exercise physiologist Pete McCall, host of the All About Fitness podcast. This damage (it’s a good thing!) signals a hormonal response that kicks in during the recovery period after your workout. The body releases growth hormone, testosterone, and insulin-like growth factors, which help replenish energy stores and repair structural damage to the fibers, says McCall. (Eating protein and carbohydrates also helps repair this damage and build up stored energy, which is why a post-workout snack is so important.) Because more muscle groups are recruited and broken down during compound exercises, your body releases more of these hormones, so you end up building more overall muscle than you would have spending the same amount of time on isolation moves.

Keep in mind that isolation moves aren’t a bad thing—if you’re trying to focus on developing one specific muscle, they can be great, says Tamir. (Think bodybuilders doing ultra-heavy bicep curls for arm gains.) However, if your goal is to gain more muscle mass all over, compound exercises are much more efficient.

Building lean muscle also helps increase the number of calories you burn at rest (your basal metabolic rate, or BMR), because muscle requires more energy for your body to maintain. So because compound exercises help build up that extra muscle mass, they can give your BMR an even bigger boost.

And compound exercises are also really great at working your core.

In addition to the muscle-building, calorie-burning powers of compound exercises, they also require your core-stabilizing muscles to get involved to power through the movement. And a lot of the time, this means your abs are going to put in some serious work. “Without stabilizer muscles, you wouldn’t be able to do any movements,” explains Tamir. “For example, the muscles in the core stabilize your trunk so you can squat and deadlift.” So while the squat is working your butt, hips, and thighs, your core is also getting in on the action.

And many compound movements will just make you better at tackling day-to-day life activities because they’re considered functional movements, explains Tamir. “Doing real-life movements is useful because it teaches us how to properly move outside in the world—for example, not rounding our backs when we bend over to pick something up, or using our back muscles to help pull something versus just using our arms.”

Here’s how to lunge and lift your way to results with compound exercises.

Tamir suggests focusing 70 to 80 percent of your strength workouts on compound exercises, while isolation exercises can make up the other 20 to 30 percent.

Yep, you don’t need to ditch isolation moves entirely–they’re still great for building strength in the body part you’re working, explains Tamir. And if we’re being transparent, a true isolation exercise doesn’t really exist because the muscles in your hands and shoulders often come into play during movements like a bicep curl. But since the concentration is heavily on that single muscle group they’re often looped into this overarching concept.

When you’re at the gym, Tamir suggests starting with your compound moves because they’re more challenging and require more energy and focus. (Doing them when you’re low on those two things can lead to injury.)

Here are seven of Tamir’s favorite compound exercises to incorporate into your strength routine:

1. Dumbbell Thrusters
2. Push-Ups
3. Renegade Rows
4. Dumbbell Deadlifts
5. Bent-Over Dumbbell Row
6. Step-Up With Knee Up And Reverse Lunge
7. Kick-Unders

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10 Feast-Worthy Holiday Sides

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The holidays are just around the corner and if you’re like us your meal-prep wheels are spinning! This year we’ve put together a list of delish side dishes featuring seasonal vegetables and old time favorites.  Our list of sides is guaranteed to be proper holiday sidekicks for these tasty main entrees. To help you realize a  weight neutral holiday we’ve picked sides hovering around 200 calories or less. Give ’em a spin and tell us what your tongue thinks!

VEGETABLES

1. Jalapeño-Cheddar Sweet Potato Puffs | Lean Green Bean
With a few simple ingredients, you can whip up these delectable sweet potato puffs packed with cheesy jalapeño flavor. The recipe makes 6 servings at 3 puffs each.

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 170; Total Fat: 9g; Saturated Fat: 4g; Monounsaturated Fat: 3g; Cholesterol: 84mg; Sodium: 354mg; Total Carbohydrate: 18g; Dietary Fiber: 2g; Sugars: 4g; Protein: 10g

2. Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar | White on Rice
Reach for this recipe if you’re looking for simple and speedy: just toss, roast and serve. Roasted brussels sprouts with balsamic vinegar is made with just five ingredients (that’s if you count salt and pepper!) and makes a great tangy side. Recipe makes 6 servings at 1 cup each.

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 110; Total Fat: 7g; Saturated Fat: 1g; Monounsaturated Fat: 5g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 404mg; Total Carbohydrate: 11g; Dietary Fiber: 4g; Sugars: 3g; Protein: 4g

3. Fresh Green Bean Casserole | Elle Penner, MyFitnessPal Registered Dietitian
For many green bean casserole is a holiday staple but traditional recipes sometimes call for sodium-socked canned green beans and condensed soup. That’s why you need to try fresh green bean casserole re-made by Elle, our registered dietitian. It features homemade cream of mushroom soup and snappy, fresh green beans! The recipe makes 8 servings of about 1 cup each.

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 139; Total Fat: 6g; Saturated Fat: 2g; Cholesterol: 3mg; Sodium: 244mg; Total Carbohydrate: 17g; Dietary Fiber: 4g; Sugars:3 g; Protein: 7g

4. Maple Glazed Carrots | Clean Eating
Looking for an inexpensive side that high in fiber and flavor? Check out maple-glazed carrots featuring sweet, tender carrots lightly kissed by maple syrup and butter. This recipe serves 10 at 1/2 cup serving each, and pairs well with turkey or brisket.

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 84; Total Fat: 4g; Saturated Fat: 1g; Monounsaturated Fat: 2g; Cholesterol: 3mg; Sodium: 166mg; Total Carbohydrate: 12g; Dietary Fiber: 3g; Sugars: 7g; Protein: 1g

5. Oven-Fried Okra | Love & Zest
Ready for a crispy fix? You had me at oven-fried okra. This recipe turns a traditionally deep-fried treat into a healthy side you can gladly indulge on. Thick cut okra is baked in a crispy coating of egg and whole wheat breadcrumbs for added protein and fiber. Makes 4 servings of 1 cup each.

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 84; Total Fat: 2g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Monounsaturated Fat: 0g ; Cholesterol: 46mg; Sodium: 72mg; Total Carbohydrates: 14g; Dietary Fiber: 4g; Sugars: 1g; Protein: 5g

 

POTATOES & STARCHES

6. Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes with Dill | Clean Eating
Enhance your mashed potato experience this year with some healthy additions. Cauliflower, dill and whole milk plain yogurt combines for a creamy mashed potato without using any butter. Each recipe makes 10 servings at 1/2 cup each.

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 88; Total Fat: 1g; Saturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 3mg; Sodium: 120mg; Total Carbohydrate: 18g; Dietary Fiber: 2g; Sugars: 3g; Protein 3g

7. Herb & Cheese Drop Biscuits | Oh She Glows
This herb & cheese drop biscuit recipe is vegan friendly (yes, it’s possible)! Each morsel is flavored by thyme and parsley, and is melt-in-your-mouth delicious. If you prefer non-vegan you can add butter instead of coconut oil and cheddar cheese instead of vegan cheese. Makes 8 to 10 biscuits.

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 169; Total Fat: 9g; Saturated Fat: 7g; Monounsaturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 337mg; Total Carbohydrate: 21g; Dietary Fiber: 2g; Sugars: 1g; Protein 3g

8. Wild Rice with Roasted Chestnuts & Cranberries | Cooking Light
Wild rice is fancifully studded with roasted chestnuts and cranberries. This side has a nutty, almost smoky flavor, and the color of the wild rice pairs beautifully with game birds and other poultry (hint, hint: your turkey). Makes 12 servings at 3/4 cup each.

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 218; Total Fat: 3g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Monounsaturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 4mg; Sodium: 168mg; Total Carbohydrate: 45g; Dietary Fiber: 5g; Sugars: 11g; Protein 6g

9. Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese | According to Elle
Mac & cheese, a wildly popular for little picky eaters, is also a great place to hide some veggies! Butternut squash mac & cheese delivers cheesy goodness with a helping of butternut squash that’s filled with fiber and important vitamin A. Makes 16 servings at 3/4 cup each. This can double as an entree for vegetarians if you increase the serving size, and stud it with more veggies (we suggest adding broccoli)!

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 214 ; Total Fat: 7g; Saturated Fat: 4g; Monounsaturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 22mg; Sodium: 394mg; Carbohydrate: 26g; Dietary Fiber: 2g; Sugar: 3g; Protein 10g

10. Slow Cooked Garlic Sweet Potato Mash | Skinnytaste
That moment when you’re frantically cooking the holiday meal and you run out of pots! Thank goodness for this slow cooked sweet potato side which allows you to spend your time and energy on an elaborate main entree. Don’t take it for granted though; this sweet potato recipe is light and garlicky good! Makes 5 servings at 3/4 cup each.

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 145; Total Fat: 3g; Saturated Fat: 2g; Monounsaturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 9mg; Sodium: 103mg; Total Carbohydrate: 29g; Dietary Fiber: 3g; Sugars: 7g; Protein 3g

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Healthy for the Holidays Fitness Plan: Cardio

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Welcome to Day 1: Healthy for the Holidays!

Today’s workout is an indoor cardio session that doesn’t require any equipment, making it easy to do in a small space at home or in your hotel if you are traveling for the season.

In our workout video below, we’ll alternate periods of higher intensity with moderate effort to help you maximize your workout time without burning out. I’ll show you both high- and low-impact options so you can make the moves work for you. Be sure to adjust as needed to meet your current fitness level.

Prefer to do your own routine? Schedule 15–20 minutes of your favorite cardio workout, and check in with us in the comments below or on social media once you are done.

Today’s Healthy for the Holidays Tip: Eat a hearty, healthy breakfast!

Starting the day off right with a balanced meal and a full stomach makes saying no thanks to those office holiday treats a little easier. Check out these 15 nutritious breakfast ideas for busy mornings.

Let me help you fit in fitness 10 minutes at a time with my brand new “Walk On: 10 Minute Quick Walk Mix!” This at-home exercise program features cardio, strength and flexibility routines that work with even the busiest of schedules.

Day 1: Indoor Cardio Workout

This workout can be logged as “AEROBICS, HIGH IMPACT” in your MyFitnessPal app.

Tell us when you’ve completed today’s workout. Share it in the comments below, or tag us in your check-ins @MyFitnessPal so we can cheer you on!

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