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Excess Skin After Weight Loss: How To Get Rid Of It
Like many of my patients, you may have lost weight recently in an effort to improve your health and reduce your risk of serious illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. And like my patients, you may not have been prepared for the loose skin that can occur along with weight loss – especially if you are over 40 years old! But take courage, because there are several things you can do to protect your skin again that I would like to tell you about.
Lose the weight and loose skin!
In your 20s you can lose 20-30 pounds in a month and your skin could bounce back fairly easily. As we get older, after age 40, and especially after age 50, skin loses some of its elasticity and ability to bounce back as quickly as it once did. We should not try to lose a significant amount of weight quickly – 1-2 pounds a week is best to help our skin readjust itself.
If you have lost a significant amount of weight, such as 50 pounds or more, it will take a little longer for your skin to re-shape into a smaller frame with less fat. If your BMI (body mass index) was over 40 to begin with, you may need a surgical procedure to remove excess skin in certain areas, especially if it is prone to rashes and infections. However, your skin is an amazingly flexible organ and, with the right treatment, it can be re-shaped into a smaller frame. Here are some things that help:
Diet. As you diet, hopefully you will be 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 are eating adequate amounts of protein. Figure 0.5 grams per pound of body weight. Ex. Weight: 150 lbs / 75 grams of protein daily to re-gain muscle mass.
Water Water is essential for skin elasticity and plumping sagging skin. In fact, a simple test of dehydration is skin “tenting” on the back of your hand or forearm. If you can pick up skin in these areas, you are dehydrated and need water. Drink a minimum of 64 ounces of water per day, although many researchers advocate more, such as 90 to 100. However, drinking more than this, unless you are sweating a lot can have negative effects on health.
The vitamins. The best vitamins for rebuilding skin and collagen that helps it stay firm and elastic is Vitamin C. I recommend people who do not have a lot of diet to take at least 1,000 mg of Vitamin C a day in divided doses of 500 mg. This helps build the collagen that creates the “scaffolding” structure of your skin and holds it together. Other supplements that can help are liquid collagen that can be purchased at most health food stores. This will help the elasticity of the skin.
Weight training. As I mentioned earlier, skin lies on fat and then muscle under it. When you lose most of the fat, the skin only has muscles and bones to drape across. Hopefully, you have been weight training while losing weight or building muscle while losing fat. If not, you have some work in the gym to do! Start weight training, 3-4 times a week. Ladies, don’t worry, you don’t have the testosterone levels to get big, bulky muscles. You will find tighter muscles, tone, and a little bigger that your skin can drape across more attractive. Your weight numbers may go up on your scale, but adding muscle is good weight. It is unhealthy fat. 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 afterwards. Take another 5-10 grams before bed to increase muscle and skin repair that occurs during sleep repair.
Skin brushing / exfoliation. Skin cells die and shed every day. Sometimes they don’t shed as quickly as they should and form a dry, dull layer on new skin. It is important for new and healthy skin cell growth to remove this layer of old dead skin cells. This can be done either by vigorously brushing dry skin on a daily basis or by using a medium-coarse exfoliating skin cleanser in the shower 2-3 times a week.
Skin wrap. A service in many spas, these are basically gauze bandages soaked in herbal mixtures that draw and tighten skin. You can wrap head to toe, or just problem areas like arms, thighs, and waist/stomach. Then you either do light aerobic exercise to increase your body heat or put 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 worse, and plumping.
Laser tighter. The laser procedure heats the collagen and elastin fibers under the skin and results in contraction and tightening of these structures, tightening the loose skin. Consult a good plastic surgeon for this procedure. It may be a little costly, but the results may be worth it to you. Burn more fat. You may be surprised to hear that part of sagging skin is that it actually still has pockets of fat in it causing it to sag. This is especially true in the skin of upper / lower arms, and inner / upper thighs, knees, waist. Make sure you do some cardio/aerobic work, lower your carb intake a bit to help burn those extra pockets of fat from 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 certain spas for a weekly fee, or you can purchase your own unit for home use. There are also far infrared arm, thigh, and body wraps for fat burning spots. Unlike steam saunas, far infrared saunas burn subcutaneous fat and reduce cellulite, as well as remove toxins from the body and burn calories. Recommended twice a week. Drink plenty of water while using.
Let me also say, congratulations on your weight loss! It is a great achievement and you should be proud of your efforts. Now make a little extra effort to tighten up your loose skin and you will be even more proud of yourself and how amazing you look!
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