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Excess Skin After Weight Loss: How To Get Rid Of It
Like many of my patients, you may have recently lost weight in an effort to boost your health and reduce your risk for serious illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. And like my patients, you may not have been prepared for the loose skin that can happen along with weight loss – especially if you’re over 40! Take heart though, as there are plenty of things you can do to re-tighten your skin that I’d like to tell you about.
Lose weight and loose skin!
In your 20s you could lose 20-30 pounds in a month and your skin could bounce back pretty easily. As we age, past the age of 40, and especially after 50, the skin loses some of its elasticity and ability to bounce back as quickly as it once did. We shouldn’t be trying to lose a significant amount of weight quickly – 1-2kg per week is best to help our skin reset.
If you’ve lost a significant amount of weight, such as 50 pounds or more, it will take a little longer for your skin to reshape into a smaller frame with less fat. If your BMI (body mass index) was originally above 40, you may need surgery to remove excess skin in certain areas, especially if it is prone to rashes and infections. However, your skin is an amazingly resilient organ and, with the right treatment, can be reshaped into a smaller frame. Here are some things that help:
Diet. While you were dieting, hopefully you were eating more protein. If not, some of your weight loss could have been muscle tissue and this needs to be rebuilt so that the skin has pumped up muscle to cover now instead of fat. Make sure you eat adequate amounts of protein. Figure 0.5 grams per kilogram of body weight. Former. Weight: 150 lbs/75 grams of protein each day to regain muscle mass.
Water. Water is vital for skin elasticity and full skin relaxation. In fact, a simple dehydration test is the “stage” of the skin on the back of the hand or forearm. If you can pick at the skin in these areas, you are dehydrated and need water. Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day, although many researchers advocate more, such as 90 to 100. However, drinking more than that, unless you sweat a lot, can have negative health effects.
Vitamins. The best vitamins for rebuilding the skin and its collagen that helps it stay firm and elastic is vitamin C. I recommend that dieters take at least 1,000 mg of vitamin C per day in divided doses of 500 mg. This helps create collagen that creates the “scaffolding” structure of your skin and holds it together. Other supplements that can help are liquid collagen which you can buy at most health food stores. This will help the elasticity of the skin.
Training with weights. As I mentioned before, the skin is above the fat and then the muscle below it. When you lose most of the fat, the skin only has muscle and bone to go through. Hopefully you’ve been weight training during your weight loss to build muscle while losing fat. If not, you have some gym work to do! Start weight training 3-4 times a week. Ladies, don’t worry, you don’t have the testosterone levels to get huge, bulky muscles. You will get firmer, toned and slightly larger muscles that your skin can stretch more attractively. Your weight numbers may go up on your scale, but extra muscle is good weight. It’s the fat that’s unhealthy. Glutamine. This recommendation comes from bodybuilders who regularly supplement with this amino acid to build strong muscles AND tighten skin during and after significant weight loss. Glutamine powder or capsules can be purchased at most health food stores. Take 5 grams on an empty stomach before weight training and 5 grams after. Take an additional 5-10 grams before bed to increase muscle and skin repair that occurs during restorative sleep.
Skin brushing/exfoliation. Skin cells die and shed on a daily basis. Sometimes they are not shed as quickly as they should be and form a dry, dull layer over the new skin. It is important for the growth and health of new skin cells to remove this layer of old, dead skin cells. This can be done either by vigorous brushing for dry skin on a daily basis or by using an exfoliating skin cleanser in the shower 2-3 times a week.
Leather wraps. A service of many spas, these are basically gauze bandages soaked in herbal blends that pull and tighten the skin. You can be wrapped from head to toe or just problem areas like arms, thighs and waist/stomach. Next, you either do light aerobic exercise to increase your body heat or you are placed on a far-infrared heating blanket. Many of my patients swear by wraps for skin tightening, reducing unsightly cellulite that can make loose skin look much worse, and inch loss.
Laser tightening. Laser procedures heat the collagen and elastin fibers beneath the skin and cause these structures to shrink and tighten, tightening loose skin. Consult a good plastic surgeon for this procedure. It might be a bit costly, but the results might be worth it. Burn more fat. You might be surprised to hear that part of the sagging skin is that it actually still has pockets of fat in it that cause it to sag. This is especially true for upper/lower arm skin, and inner/upper thighs, knees, waistline. Make sure you do some cardio/aerobic work, cut your carb intake a bit to help burn those extra pockets of fat off the skin. Add these nutritional supplements: Omega 3, green tea extract, L-carnitine to help burn fat and drink plenty of water.
Far infrared sauna. Available at some spas for a weekly fee, or you can purchase your own unit for home use. There are also long infrared arm, thigh and body wraps for fat burning. Unlike steam saunas, far infrared saunas burn subcutaneous fat and reduce cellulite, as well as removing toxins from the body and burning calories. Recommended twice a week. Drink plenty of water during use.
May I also say, congratulations on your weight loss! It is a great achievement and you should be proud of your effort. Now, put in a little extra effort to tighten your loose skin and you’ll be even more proud of yourself and how amazing you look!
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