Rest: The missing piece of the weight-loss puzzle

Josef Brandenburg, special to

WASHINGTON – When it comes to losing weight and toning up, most people focus on the “hard” components of weight-loss, such as exercise and nutrition. But ignoring the “softer” side of healthy living — like recovery and stress management — can severely limit your fitness success.

Annie, a member at the gym, is a perfect example of how the hard and the soft sides of healthy living work together.

In her first eight months of working out, Annie worked diligently in the gym and on her nutrition program. But her results were slower than normal.

Then, Annie left a relationship that was causing stress in her personal life. She also made an effort to get a minimum of six hours of sleep each night — even if that meant she could not complete her to-do list.

Magic happened. Annie dropped nine inches and three sizes in the next four months with no additional changes to her routine.

Here’s how you can maximize the work and effort you invest in the gym, at home and in the kitchen:

Face the elephant in the room

At my gym we like to say, “You can’t out-train a bad diet.” But it’s also true that you can’t out-train a miserable life. If something or someone in your life isn’t helping you to achieve your goals, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your relationship with that person or habit.

Any source of constant, negative stress, resentment or anger in your life will drain the energy you need to workout. These stresses also have a profoundly negative, hormonal impact on your body — especially on your appetite and on your fat cells, directly.


The average 4-year-old laughs 400 times per day. By the time we reach the age of 40, it’s about four times per day. Laughter is our built-in stress release valve, and it has a positive hormonal impact on your body. Use it often.

Take five

When you find yourself overwhelmed, take a five minute break to breathe from your diaphragm and clear your mind. Lying face down seems to work best, but any position will do.

Breathing from your belly — and not your chest/shoulders — for five minutes allows your body to hit the “reset button” on a lot of the negative hormonal changes that come with excess stress.

Take six

If you are averaging fewer than six hours of sleep per night, your nutrition and exercise program won’t work well. Sleeping too little (or getting poor quality sleep) wreaks havoc on your hormones. If you are good at what you do, there will always be more demand for your time than you can possibly fulfill. And aside from occasional emergencies, there are not many things that are worth losing sleep over.

Try a tart cherry recovery shake

Recovering from a workout is just as important as the workout, itself. Have some sort of protein shake (without added sugar and ingredients you can’t pronounce) during or after your workout. And, for a (tart) cherry on top, add some frozen tart cherries. Not only are tart cherries delicious, but they’re also packed with antioxidants that boost your recovery results beyond what the protein shake can do by itself. Results come from exercise and recovery, not exercise and exercise.

The Fat-Loss Missing Link: Brett Jones and Josef Brandenburg talk about the forgotten components of fat-loss and fitness.

Editor’s Note: Josef Brandenburg is a D.C.area fitness expert with 14 years of experience and co-author of the international best-selling book “Results Fitness.” In 2004, he started The Body You Want personal training program, which specializes in helping you get the body you want in the available time you have. You can also check out his blog, follow him on Twitter, or check out his fitness videos on YouTube. Follow @WTOP and @WTOPliving on Twitter.

Follow @WTOP and @WTOPliving on Twitter.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up