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On the days I work from home, I get the opportunity to hang out with and watch the behavior of my two young cats throughout the day. I’m forever amazed by their energy levels (while awake), and their incredible strength and balance. Sometimes I try to imagine what it would be like to be a cat…to have the strength to jump from the ground up to the second floor balcony of my house with little effort! Or to have such lightning fast reaction time that I could get out of harm’s way in the blink of an eye.
Cats also have a great deal of lean muscle tone, which is what makes them so enviably sleek and beautiful. Since strong and lean is what we’re striving for, perhaps there are some cues we can take from cats about health, nutrition and fitness?
1) Eat Lots of Protein
Cats are true carnivores. They can survive on animal protein alone and are healthiest when they do. In fact, the obese cats in those silly photos people share on Facebook get that way by eating far too many carbs. Their kibble and soft food is often full of wheat, rice and corn which will cause cats to suffer many of the same ailments plaguing humans because of our ‘modern’ diet: diabetes, heart disease, kidney and liver disease.
We humans are really meant to be omnivores, so we can’t simply adopt a cat’s diet to get sleek and lean. However, high levels of protein do make for healthy, strong muscle tone. Protein is used to create, maintain and repair muscle tissue. Just as with cats, humans looking to create a lean, toned, strong body should eat a diet high in lean protein.
Cats spend a LOT of time sleeping, but while they’re awake they’re often VERY active for short periods of time. My cats exercise by chasing each other around and wrestling. They tear throughout the house – on top of the fridge, on top of the cupboards, over the furniture, up and down the stairs. I think of this as kitty HIIT training because these workouts generally last 15 – 30 minutes and they don’t stop to rest! The wrestling behavior is much like hunting – plyometric types of movements involving high jumps, fast attacks and short sprints.
Short bursts of intense exercise are best for us humans, too – for maximum calorie burn, strength building and endurance. A high intensity 20 – 30 minute workout such as those we do at Athlean-XX for Women will burn more calories in a shorter amount of time and burn more calories from fat overall than a shorter, lower intensity treadmill workout. Short, high intensity strength movements will also help you build muscle tone much more effectively than walking or jogging, and the muscles you build will burn additional calories for you all day long!
3) Get LOTS of Rest
Cats sleep A LOT. Some cats can sleep as much as 20 hours in a 24 hour period! They need this rest in order to be able to expend such a large amount of energy during their play or hunting sessions. This prolonged sleep helps their muscles to recover from the intense activity. While we humans definitely cannot and are not designed to sleep 20 hours per day, we DO need to get an adequate amount of sleep if our goal is to build strong lean muscles and maintain a healthy weight. In fact, humans that get less than 6 hours of sleep per night are more likely to be overweight. Studies show that getting 8 hours of sleep per night is key to decreasing body fat.
Anyone who’s got a cat has surely noticed how often they stretch. Cat stretches focus particularly on the back and the legs – these being the most crucial muscles in a cat’s body. Just about every time cats stand up from sitting or lying, they stretch. They also stretch out long while lying down and stay in this static, stretched out position for several minutes.
Stretching also helps us humans by preventing injury and lengthening the muscles as well as improving range of motion, circulation and flexibility. Especially if you have a sedentary job, take a cue from the cat and stretch out every time you stand up. Take breaks throughout the day to lay down and stretch out the legs and back. Stretch out in bed upon waking before your feet even hit the floor!
Unlike humans, cats don’t see being active as a chore or duty. It’s part of their lifestyle, even for those kitties who don’t go outside and hunt. Cats love to play, and mine certainly appear to be having fun when they’re chasing each other around at full speed, knocking down all my stuff.
For us humans, fun is one important key to staying consistent with a fitness program. If it’s boring or feels like a chore, we’ll eventually lose motivation. But if we keep the movements challenging, new and interesting, it makes exercise much more enjoyable!
If you’re looking for a nutrition and fitness program that will get you looking as sleek and lean as a cat, but will also keep you interested and challenged, give Athlean-XX for Women a try. We combine short, intense 30 minute workouts with a healthy balanced diet that includes lots of protein, slow-burning carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables. With Athlean-XX for Women, you can get the physique you want in just 90 days, and have fun doing it!
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