Four of the Best Health and Fitness Apps for 2017

We all love a good app. But does the old saying (that Apple actually trademarked) “there’s an app for that” – still apply today? Well it seems so, even though the average person may not keep as many apps on their phone as in previous years, they are still being downloaded in record number. About 75 percent of U.S. users download at least one app monthly while teenagers download 6.3 apps per month based on measured installs from 50 million Americans. According to analysis done in 2016 from the app intelligence firm Sensor Tower, the App Store is expected to more than double its size over the next four years, reaching 5 million apps by the year 2020.

Here are what I consider to be the best apps for 2017. I look for an app that is free/low-cost, educational, intuitive in terms of use and can hopefully help myself and clients change mindset and create new habits. The following apps have done just that.

Welltory. This is a great app that helps you become aware and manage your stress and energy levels. It reminds me of another app that made my list, Headspace. I understand the importance of stress and energy but now I have a tool that can help me manage it. The app is free and you can upgrade to the Pro service for a small fee. “The idea is to work out the effect of how, for instance, morning meditation, working from home or a diet change might affect stress and energy levels. You then keep what works for you and discard what doesn’t” (TechCrunch).

Credit: http://welltory.com

2. Human Anatomy Atlas: Complete 3D Human Body. Personally, I can never seem to learn enough when it comes to human anatomy and physiology. Even after many undergrad/graduate level courses, I still find myself learning new things about the body – and now I’m able to do it right from my phone. This app typically costs $25 to download but now you can get it for only $1. This is an amazing 3D app, it feels like you’re in a human anatomy or cadaver course – seeing in amazement for the first time – the organs, nerves and actions of every muscle, bone etc. I enjoy picking one body part and learning something new and then have the ability to quiz myself. This is ideal for any type of student. My daughter is taking an EMT course and studying human anatomy in coming weeks and guess what app I recommended to her?

Credit: Human Anatomy Atlas

3.  Headpace. This is a mediation app develop and founded by Andy Puddicombe. You’ll love everything about this free app (also has upgrades for a cost) from how seamless it is to the look and feel. They refer to themselves as “bite-sized meditation for busy schedules” which in today’s fast-paced, over scheduled world – is quick enough to fit right in. There is a great deal of research coming out on the value of daily meditation on both mind and body. It’s worth your time to take a look and give it a try!

4. Myfitnesspal. It has been said that “you can’t manage it if you don’t measure it.” This free nutrition app, in addition to Welltory, does just that. It offers valuable insight and helps you monitor what you’re eating on a daily basis. It has some really cool features like the ability to take pictures of the barcode of any food and in turn instantly downloads the micro/macro-nutrient composition of the food. I love this app for helping me monitor my daily added sugar. You can upgrade to get more bells and whistles for a nominal fee.

Reference

Perez, S. (2016). App Store to reach 5 million apps by 2020, with games leading the way. Tech Crunch.

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5 Tips to Improve Your Mind, Body and Spirit

Let’s face it, there are plenty of ideas circulating around that you could try to use in your everyday life that may potentially help you become more healthy. But what are the best things to try and how should you implement each into your lifestyle so they eventually take hold and become a habit? Here are a few ideas that I have tested that may be just what you need in order to become a healthier 2.0 version of yourself!

 

“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be”
John Wooden, former UCLA Basketball Coach

 

  • Try a yoga class. Keep in mind, that it may take time to find the right class and instructor that ends up working for you and your body. Personally, I have not found any activity that hits on all three areas of mind, body and spirit better than yoga. It’s simple, you will continue to lose joint range of motion, mobility and flexibility as you age and yoga can help bridge the gap between health and disability. After you leave a class – all three (mind/body/spirit) feel like they have been re-energized. Research continues to demonstrate that a regular yoga practice can improve everything from back pain to depression.
  • Focus on both mobility and strength training.  The majority of people focus on one or none. They are both critical in the aging process. If you want to maintain functionality as you age you must do both on a regular basis. Think “mobility and strength for life.” Make it a priority adding in mobility work before and/or after – each strength training session. Individuals continue to load their joints and muscles without spending the necessary time on improving mobility. Ever wonder why chiropractors, orthopedic docs and PT’s are continually taking on new patients? Work on mobility to prevent disability.
  • Let technology help. It seems everyday there are new apps coming out that can help make us more aware of our current health status. I actually came across one such app called Welltory that does just that. It basically documents how well your body is handling stress each day and what your energy level looks like. Take a look at this free app for a week or two and see how well you’re doing in those areas. When your body releases too much cortisol (known as the stress hormone), from lack of sleep, too much stress, etc. – you’ll have trouble in other areas, like trying to build muscle. Another cool meditation app that can help reduce stress and improve mood is Headspace. I have previously written about it here and here.
  • Don’t neglect sleep. In my opinion, sleep is one of the key missing pieces of the human puzzle.  Have a few bad nights with inadequate amounts of sleep and you’ll (always) pay the price.  We have become a sleep-deprived society and the evidence supports this; showing that we sleep on an average 6.8 hours as opposed to 9 hours a century ago. About 30 percent of adults report sleeping less than 6 hours per night. A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that individuals who got less than 5.5 hours of sleep each night lost 60 percent more lean muscle that those who got adequate sleep. Another study from the University of Colorado showed subjects that got minimal sleep on consecutive nights gained two pounds on average over the course of the study. A third study from the University of Pennsylvania Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory looked at the sleeping and eating behavior of 225 people. They reported in the journal Sleep, when you’re awake between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., you’re more likely to consume extra calories. The group ate an average of 553 more calories, typically choosing foods higher in fat, when they were kept awake until the early morning hours. Make sure you get or catch up on your ZZZZZ’s.
  • Cut back on added sugar. This one tip that hopefully turns into a habit can significantly improve many different facets of your life, including sleep, energy, oral health, body weight and body fat, to name a few. The average American consumes about 40 teaspoons of sugar each day (about 600 calories) and this far exceeds what your body needs. The American Heart Association recommends the amount be cut to a maximum of six teaspoons (100 calories or 25 grams) a day for women and nine teaspoons (150 calories or 38 grams) for men. One study that was completed at the University of California at Davis, found adults who consumed 25 percent of their daily calories from HFCS for two weeks had increase levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, indicators of increased risk for heart disease. And in 2011, researchers at Georgia Health Sciences University concluded that high fructose consumption by teenagers could potentially put them at risk for heart disease and diabetes.

References

Webb WB and Agnew HW (1975). Are we chronically sleep deprived? Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, vol. 6, p. 47. (82)

National Sleep Foundation, Sleep in America Poll (2003). National Sleep Foundation, Washington, DC, USA.

Nedeltcheva AV, et al., (2010). Insufficient Sleep Undermines Dietary Efforts to Reduce Adiposity. Annals Internal Medicine 153, 435-441.

Basu S, Yoffe P, Hills N, Lustig RH (2013). The Relationship of Sugar to Population-Level Diabetes Prevalence: An Econometric Analysis of Repeated Cross-Sectional Data. PLoS ONE 8(2): e57873

Stanhope KL, Bremer AA, Medici V, Nakajima K, Ito Y, Nakano T, Chen G et al. (2011). Consumption of Fructose and High Fructose Corn Syrup Increase Postprandial Triglycerides, LDL-Cholesterol, and Apolipoprotein-B in Young Men and Women. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 96(10); DOI: 10.1210/jc.2011-1251

Pollock NK, Bundy V, Kanto W, Davis CL, Bernard PJ et al., (2011). Greater Fructose Consumption is Associated with Cardiometabolic Risk Markers and Visceral Adiposity in Adolescents. Journal of Nutrition, 2011; 142 (2): 251 DOI: 10.3945/jn.111.150219

The Zen of Water Running

I didn’t really ‘learn to run’ until I was a junior at San Diego State University, running the streets around the University.  I started running with a pair of Reebok High tops, running just a block or two. Then I would walk or run when I felt like it. No one was telling me what to where, how far to run, or what pace to run; none of that. I began listening to my body, letting the stresses of a packed school and work schedule drift to the recesses of my mind, and over the spring term of 1987 I was running for hours without even thinking about it. I would be enjoying my surroundings, the architecture of the homes, the birds, landscapes, my breathing – all of it…. And no, there wasn’t any music (this was way before iPods).  I found my “zen” and I didn’t even know that term.

What happened? I spent years trying to run on someone else’s terms (my true first running experience was in junior high. I was the person who would hide in the tule fog during the mile run just to avoid running two of the four laps of a mile). When I finally took time to do the sport on my terms, I started having fun. I learned to take the training in my own direction as well, and this direction took me back to the water.

Now, I know we all look for the “next big thing” in fitness, but maybe we have been walking by it every time we go into the gym or drop the kids at the pool so you can get your land based workout.  Possibly, in this world of trying to pound out the troubles, stresses and all things life hands us, we instead need to dive in, unplug, and find zen in a whole other way.

Why Water?

Because water is a great neutralizer.  What I mean is that the training environment is more receptive to any type of athlete, from the novice to an ultra-distance athlete like me.  We can all work out at the same time together if we choose.  The reason for this is that neither can truly tell how hard each are working.  With only your head above water (bodies submerged), we cannot look at each other for some type of comparison. Effort isn’t determined by the speed of which individuals are traveling through the water, rather it is based on how hard they work against the water. In some cases, the harder you work the slower you actually travel. Therefore, only the coach (and the individual) knows how hard they are working.

Without any judgemental comparison, the activity becomes a completely internalized fitness program lending itself to a zen-like feeling. When I train in the water, I am not distracted by other people’s movements. Rather, I’m focused on my body and how I’m moving. In turn, my mind opens up for greater clarity and focus. This is where the zen comes into play.  I talk about this hyper focused attention in my book, as I see my athletes ‘lock in’ when I’m taking them through an intense workout. It is the same place athletes go on a long distance run when they get their “second wind.”

When I feel good on the trail, time elapses and great things happen. The same thing occurs in a water training session; it is my panacea. I find that running through a routine which is an hour-long can feel like I only just started. Whether I run in a group or go solo, that same zen is achieved. Currently, my regular summer routine is to hit the pool on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I wake up excited about having an hour totally for myself.  Even when others join me, we chat for a bit, but then fall into our personal space. We enjoy the camaraderie of being there together – but we enjoy doing our own workouts as if we were running at different points on a trail.

So, rather than hitting the trails or pounding the pavement every day, consider going to your local pool (or use your backyard pool) and jump into the deep end to give water training a try.   Maybe you too will find a new opportunity to unplug from the outside and plug into YOU.

Melis Edwards has over 30 years of experience as a running and triathlon coach, personal trainer, fitness instructor and athlete, having participated in Ironman distance triathlons, and the Western States 100 mile endurance run. Ms. Edwards holds a Master’s Degree in Health Promotion, a Bachelor’s in Health Education, and several teaching and training certifications. Her newly released book, Deep End of the Pool Workouts: No-Impact Interval Training and Strength Exercises is available wherever books are sold. Check out www.hitmethodfitness.com for more info.

20 Health and Fitness Facts Based on Research that Could Help You

We are inundated each day with hundreds of adds while online, on our phones, watching TV, or from just about anything else we may read. With that said, there is a great deal of conflicting information and more than one view on just about any health/fitness/exercise topic. I’m always interested in where the content and data are coming from and are they backed by science. Even when it is, there can be times that the information or data collected has been taken from a small sample size or the researcher had a vested interest in the research being done.

Here are a few health and fitness facts for you that come from prominent academic sources involving research that you can hopefully use to improve your own health and fitness.

  • The University of Pennsylvania Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory looked at the sleeping and eating behavior of 225 people. They reported, in the journal Sleep, when you’re awake between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., you’re more likely to consume extra calories. The group ate an average of 553 more calories, typically choosing foods higher in fat, when they were kept awake until the early morning hours.
  • Research published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, show mind-body interventions (MBIs) such as meditation, yoga and Tai Chi do more than just relax us; they can ‘reverse’ the molecular reactions in our DNA which cause ill-health and depression.
  • Research from the journal Obesity, shows exposure to higher levels of cortisol, an indicator of stress, over several months is associated with people being more heavily, and more persistently, overweight. The research involved 2,527 men and women aged 54 and older who participated in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, that looked at data over a four-year period.
  • Dr. Robert Lustig, author of Fat Chance, and his colleagues have shown through their research that every additional 150 calories of added sugar consumed above daily requirements was associated with a 1.1 percent increase risk of type 2 diabetes. A second study showed subjects who got 17-21% of their calories from added sugar had a 38% risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to those who consumed 8% of their calories from added sugar. The risk was more than double for those who consumed 21% or more of their calories from added sugar (D’Adamo, 2015).
  • “Fat (in our diet) is not the problem,” says Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. “If Americans could eliminate sugary beverages, potatoes, white bread, pasta, white rice and sugary snacks, we would wipe out almost all the problems we have with weight and diabetes and other metabolic diseases.” Research from Harvard University published in the New England Journal of Medicine followed subjects over a twenty year period and determined that the food most often associated with weight gain was you guessed it, white potatoes (NEJM, 2011).
  • The fact is that a brain hijacked by a diet high in sugar and flour blocks weight loss. It does this in three ways: (1) sugar and flour raise baseline insulin levels far past what our bodies were designed to handle. The elevated insulin not only sets us up for diabetes, but it turns out its blocking the brain from recognizing a critical hormone: leptin. (2) after eating the average American amount of sugar for just three weeks, 22 teaspoons, the brain’s pleasure receptors do something called “down-regulating.” Essentially, to cope with the excessive stimulation, the brain takes some of its receptors offline. (3) willpower isn’t a dimension of your personality, something some people are born with and others simply lack. Willpower is a cognitive function and we all have about the same amount, fifteen minutes, give or take. Meaning any successful diet MUST expect that your willpower will fail AT LEAST once a day and work anyway (source: Susan Pierce Thompson, PhD).
  • The average American consumes too much added sugar on a daily basis. Americans currently eat about 76 pounds of different forms of sugars every year. Even though we have seen a 15% decrease in added sugar consumption since 1999, according to government data, the typical person still eats about 94 grams (or 375 calories) on a daily basis (U.S. Department of Agriculture).
  • A meta-analysis published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise reviewed 49 studies of men ages 50 to 83 who did progressive resistance training and found that subjects averaged a 2.4-pound increase in lean body mass.
  • Approximately three decades of age-related strength loss and two decades of age-related muscle mass loss can be recovered or reversed within the first couple of months of starting a strength training program. (Ivey, 2000).
  • A study in the journal Nutrients suggests a daily intake of 1 to 1.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for older adults who do regular strength training. This is much higher than 0.8 grams/kg/body weight than you may have previously read or been told. This would mean, for example, that a 175-pound man would need about 79 grams to 103 grams a day. If possible, divide your protein equally among your daily meals to maximize muscle protein synthesis.
  • It was reported in Stuart Phillips 2016 paper, Protein “requirements” beyond the RDA: implications for optimizing health, that “evidence suggests that intakes of high quality protein in the range of 1.2-1.6 grams/kilo/body weight is a more ideal target to achieve optimal health outcomes in adults.”
  • The average American spends more than 9 hours a day sitting. Research shows that people who sit the most have a 112 percent increase in the Relative Risk (RR) of Diabetes and a 147 percent increase in the RR of cardiovascular events compared to people who sit the least. Sitting down for a large part of the day has similar mortality rates to smoking (Wilmot et al., 2012).
  • According to research, individuals who did not strength train lost about 5 to 7 pounds of muscle every ten years and a by-product of this was that there was a reduction in their metabolism by about 50 calories a day. As you grow older, the loss of muscle becomes more pronounced and by the time you reach the age of 70, the muscular system has experienced a 40 percent loss of muscle mass and a 30 percent decrease in strength.
  • Strength appears to peak between the ages of 25 and 35 and is maintained or slightly lower between ages 40 and 59 and then declines by 12-14 percent per decade after 50 years of age, according to research published by Doherty in 2001.
  • Research has demonstrated that individuals who use a pedometer take an additional 2,000 steps each day compared to nonusers and their overall physical activity level increases by 27 percent. Looks like its time to break out the pedometer and start to step it up!
  • In a 2014 study in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Australian researchers looked at the relationship between various personality traits and exercise and other health-related habits. The researchers found that people who thought they had control over their lives were more likely to exercise and adopt other healthy steps than those who felt that luck or fate largely dictated their lives.
  • According to Len Kravitz, PhD, a researcher at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, “High intensity interval training (HIIT) adds up to 15 percent more calories to the total calories expended.” That means if you’ve worked off 550 calories doing HIIT, you can reasonably expect to burn at least another 83 calories post-exercise.
Credit: https://sunstonefit.com
  • Research has shown that drinking 17-ounces of water upon waking up in the morning will increase your metabolic rate by about 30 percent over the next few hours. The same researchers believe that over the course of a year, individuals who increase water consumption by just 1.5 liters a day could burn an extra 17,400 calories and experience a five-pound weight loss.
  • Research from the University of Massachusetts Medical School determined that those who skip breakfast are 4 ½ times more likely to be obese compared to people who make time to eat in the morning.
  • According to a Georgia Centenarian Study, individuals who eat breakfast regularly have lower rates of Type 2 diabetes and are less likely to develop heart failure over the course of their lifetime compared to than those who don’t eat breakfast. The study that looked at older Americans, over a 13-year period, suggests that regularly eating breakfast may lead to a longer-than-average life span.

References

Phillips SM et al., (2016). Protein “requirements” beyond the RDA: implications for optimizing health, Appl. Physiol. Nutr. Metab. 41: 565-572

Sarah E. Jackson, Clemens Kirschbaum, Andrew Steptoe (2017), Hair cortisol and adiposity in a population-based sample of 2,527 men and women aged 54 to 87 years. Obesity, 25 (3):539 DOI: 10.1002/oby.21733

Ivana Buric, Miguel Farias, Jonathan Jong, Christopher Mee, Inti A. Brazil (2017). What Is the Molecular Signature of Mind–Body Interventions? A Systematic Review of Gene Expression Changes Induced by Meditation and Related Practices. Frontiers in Immunology, 8 DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.00670

Wilmot EG1, Edwardson CL (2012). Sedentary time in adults and the association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death: systematic review and meta-analysis, Diabetologia. 55(11): 2895-905. doi: 10.1007/s00125-012-2677-z

Poon, L.W., Clayton, G., & Martin, P., et al. (1989). Individual similarities and differences of the oldest-old in the Georgia Centenarian Study. The Gerontologist, 29, 43.

Boschmann M, Steiniger J, Hille U, Tank J, Adams F, Sharma AM, Klaus S, Luft FC, Jordan J. (2003). Water-induced thermogenesis. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 88(12):6015-6019

Ivey, FM et al., The Effects of Age, Gender and Myostatin Genotype on the Hypertrophic Response to Heavy Resistance Strength Training. J. Gerontol: Med Sci 55A: M641-M848, 2000.

Mozaffarian D, Hao T, Rimm EB, Willett WC, and Hu FB, (2011). Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men. New England J Med; 364:2392-2404.

Thompson SP (2017). There Is A Reason You Can’t Lose Weight

D’Adamo P.J (2015). The Many Consequences of Sugar Imbalance

Choosing the Fitness Program that Works for You

In a sense, current fitness landscape is very reminiscent of a kaleidoscope. It is intriguing, it’s impressive to look at, and it’s a horrible mess. Don’t believe us? Just look at the things that are considered “fitness” – power yoga, BodyPump, CrossFit, swimming, power lifting… The list goes on and on. What makes this confusing situation even worse is that each of these activities represents a viable fitness approach. Which one will work the best for you depends entirely on you. So, let’s see how to make the right choice.

Make the list of things preventing you from exercising

These would be the common roadblocks people face on a daily basis. We won’t preach you that it’s all in your head – some of these obstacles are legit. Instead, we’ll try to offer the solutions.

  • You don’t have enough time – Try focusing on the bodyweight options you can do at home or at work. This approach can be applied if you can’t stand the gym environment as well.
  • You are way out of shape – It’s better to start late than never. But, don’t expect the changes to occur over night. Start your fitness journey by introducing casual physical activities like walking in your daily routine, and work your way up.
  • You find working out boring – Just find a fitness partner or sign up for a group activity and turn a physical activity into a social activity.
  • You are on a tight budget – Though hiring a professional trainer or at least enrolling for a program that offers a certain level of mentorship, extensive research and a couple of fitness DVDs will do sufficient of a job at filling your blanks.

Determine your fitness goals

Now that you have a somewhat clearer picture about your future approach to fitness, let’s take a look at another huge determining factor – your fitness goals. They can roughly be divided into three groups:

  • Endurance – The most common endurance-building activities are running, swimming, cycling, and rope exercises. When you are building endurance, you are burning calories that would, otherwise, be spent for muscle building, so we can say that building muscles and building endurance are two mutually exclusive processes. However, you can combine strength days and cardio days, cut the rest between sets, and do fast-paced lifting and marry the best of both worlds.
  • Bigger muscles – Building muscles means eating more, so you’ll find combining this approach with losing fat reasonably hard. Also, the most conventional way to build muscles is in the gym. If you have a natural aversion to the gym, you can build your self-confidence and make your stay there more pleasant by finding a gym companion, buying quality gym wear or bringing your headphones.
  • Burning fat – The thing with losing fat is that you simply need to outrun your fork so as long as you’re burning more calories than you are ingesting you’re good to go. The most efficient way to do this, on the other hand, is through high-intensity interval training. The good news is that you’ll also be able to pack some muscles along the way. Not as much as with plain old body-building, but you’ll definitely look leaner.

Special affinities

Last but not least, you have to take into consideration your special affinities. For instance, if you are impressed with nature, you may put the fitness goals on the backseat and simply go hiking. Spiritual persons may find the most enjoyment in yoga or tai chi, while people who like music will probably appreciate dance lessons the most.

All you have to do now is to put these three categories together and find the lowest common denominator that works your needs. Every one of us has a distinct personality and distinct needs. You don’t need to force anything upon yourself. Just find the approach that suits your goals and your qualities the best.

Diana Smith is a full time mom of two beautiful girls interested in fitness and alternative medicine. In her free time she enjoys exercising and preparing healthy meals for her family.

How to Fuel Up for a Race

Fueling up properly is a crucial element of your preparation before a race. Unfortunately, many runners do not pay too close attention to this, and instead focus on their training, their gear and they running shoes instead.

You must know that running causes the body to use up and loose fluids, carbs and other essential units, which can cause both physical and mental fatigue, if they are not stored up properly. So, fueling up has a great impact on your performance at the race.

Re-fueling your body after the race is equally important for your wellbeing and for restoring your energy levels and boosting the repair of your muscles as well.

So, what kind of approach should you take in regard to your nutritional consumption prior, during and after a race?

Focus on filling your shopping basket with a lot of veggies and fruits, which are excellent sources of vitamins, antioxidants, phytochemicals and minerals all essential for your body. Also, make sure you eat a lot of healthy fats, carbs and lean proteins when you are fueling up for a race.

Here are some guides for the proper diet to follow depending on the length of the race you are running:

For 10K and 5K races which are less than 90 minutes

Pre-race diet: eat a small 400 calorie meal a few hours before the race, or eat a snack about an hour before the start.

During the race: such short runs do not require consuming any food or snacks during the race. Make sure you drink an electrolyte drink or 16 ounces of water a couple of hours before the race, and drink 7-10 ounces every 15 minutes during the race itself

Post-race: just eat a normal meal once you feel hungry.

For a marathon or half marathon

Pre-race fueling: you may want to stay away from the “carb-loading” thing the night before the race. Rather, try to eat easily digestible carbs, such as plant-based foods in the day before the race.

Nutrition during the race: races longer than 90 minutes require that the runners eat some snacks to keep the body fueled and to enhance your performance. Start at the 30th minute of the race and eat a snack every half an hour after that. You calorie intake should be 300-350 calories per hour. You can consume sports gels, sports chew, sports drinks and others.

Post-race re-fueling: eat a light snack of 200-350 calories after a marathon or half-marathon. You should opt for raw nuts or lean proteins. It is advisable that you weigh yourself proper ad after the race to make sure that you drink enough water and fluids to resolve the weight loss. Is a cold beer OK after a race? Sure, but make sure you drink a glass of water per beer.

For beginning runners, the diet before during and after a run must be balanced, and in case the mileage is increased, an increase in the calorie intake is recommended as well.

So, what are the best foods to fuel up before, during and after a race?

  • Sweet potatoes and bananas which are very rich in potassium. They are easily digestible carbs and will help load up the body with potassium, which is lost through sweating during a race, and is essential for preventing the painful muscle cramping which can often occur and hinder your performance.
  • Lean proteins, such as: turkey or chicken breast, eggs, fish, peanut butter, and others. These will help replace the glycogen used up during a race and thus boost muscle repair.
  • Whole grains will make you feel fuller for a longer time. They too are easy to digest and low processed carbs which are rich in essential nutrients.
  • Almonds are an excellent source of iron, which long distance runners often have a deficiency of. • Chocolate milk is a great protein replacement which you can quickly drink after a race to refuel the body.
  • Sports drinks or Nuun tablets will help restore the lost electrolytes and fluids in the body during and after the race.

Take the time to plan your diet before, during and after the race to make sure that you perform at your top ability, and also that you are able to complete the race in good form. Make sure you hydrate and supply your body with the nutrients essential for the functioning of your body and mind, and the race will become a much more enjoyable experience!

Robert Brown is a blogger, sports fanatic, and the founder of Runabees – a website where he and his team share tips how to choose and use quality running shoes for various footwear problems like high arches, flat feet, bunions or plantar fasciitis.

6 Outdoor Exercise Ideas to Change Up Your Cardio Routine

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. Not so much for those who have waited until the last minute to work on their beach body. Hitting the gym and sweating on a treadmill doesn’t sound too appealing and it makes you feel like a hamster on a wheel. Now that the weather is warm, you can spice up your cardio routine with various outdoor activities that will not only help you sculpt your body, but also allow you to spend some time in nature, which is extremely beneficial for your overall health. Here’s a list of outdoor exercise ideas to bust out of your fitness rut.

Trampoline workouts

Yes, we are serious. Trampolining is usually perceived as an activity suitable for kids’ playdates, but this is just a common misconception. It’s true that jumping and bouncing on a trampoline is exhilarating and it helps kids’ channel their energy while having a lot of fun, but it’s also an amazing way for adults to burn fat. A research study by NASA has shown that it’s even more effective than jogging when it comes to staying fit, so a 10-minute trampolining session makes for better cardio than 30 minutes of jogging. In other words, if you want to train hard without even realizing it, find the nearest outdoor trampoline.

Rock climbing

This one might seem too extreme, but what’s actually extreme about it is how many calories you can burn in just one hour: 800. Rock climbing will perfectly tone and shape your arms and legs, while strengthening your core in the process, too. The fitness benefits of this exercise are obvious, but what many people don’t take into consideration are its psychological and social implications. Namely, there’s no better way to face your inner fears and obstacles, learn how to overcome them, and boost your self-confidence than rock climbing. This is a team sport, which means you’ll also develop a sense of belonging and connect with your teammates on a deeper level.

Credit: http://pexels.com

Rowing

Why spend your time at the stuffy gym on a rowing machine when you can have the real McCoy? Rowing is a perfect cardio workout and it engages 9 major muscle groups. An hour of moderate-effort rowing or canoeing can burn up to 400 calories. What’s also great about this low-impact activity is that although it practically melts fat, you can stay injure-free as there’s no pressure on your joints and knees. It’s equally effective for upper and lower body muscles, as well as for strengthening the core. Last but not least, rowing is a fun, exciting, and invigorating way of shaping up.

Longboarding

Longboarding has become increasingly popular over the past few years and for good reason. This isn’t your traditional sport but, believe it or not, it can be even more beneficial than running, even though it’s significantly less physically demanding. With 3.5 to 7 calories burned within a minute, longboarding qualifies as effective cardio training. A list of its positive effects is long, and it’s topped by the fact that your balance will be greatly improved. Even when you’re too busy to fully dedicate your time to exercising, you can use your longboard as a means of transportation. Of course, it can’t be denied that proper equipment is crucial if you want to stay safe when you hit the road, but luckily, finding a well-stocked, specialized skate shop in the US isn’t a problem.

Credit: http://pexels.com

A stair-climbing workout

Regular stair-climbing workouts can do wonders for all those who aren’t exactly adrenaline junkies, and who like to keep it simple. If you’re strapped for time, but still want to do something for your body and health, all you have to do is put on your sneakers and go to a nearby tall building. It’s effective, affordable, and it only takes half an hour or so. When it comes to caloric expenditure, an average 140-lb person can burn more than 80 calories by running up seven flights of stairs in 5 minutes. The effect is even better if you carry a heavier object.

Trail running

No workout list is complete without running, but it would be a good idea to change your urban scenery for a more beautiful natural setting and enjoy some fresh air. Many people find track running boring and monotonous, and trail running can provide them with much-needed excitement. Due to the uneven terrain, you’ll have to adjust your pace and put even more effort into covering steep slopes. All this will result in a 10% increase in your calorie burn, not to mention that this kind of cardio puts less strain on your bones and joints than running on the sidewalk.

As you can see, there are many interesting cardio workouts that will not only help you stay fit, but also improve your mental health, and overall well-being.

6 Manly Tips for Men’s Health Month

It was much too difficult to pick just one topic to discuss for Men’s Health Month so as you can see, I picked six things to talk about. These items have been on my mind as of late and are relevant for all the men out there so let me know your thoughts and own experiences regarding the following topics.

1. If it has been more than a year since your last full physical exam then pick up the phone today and call your primary care physicians office and book yourself an appointment. When you’re done have the secretary book you in advance a year from that date. I try to make it each year the same month as my birthday. A great number of ailments and for that matter diseases that people end up getting would never exacerbate if caught early and a yearly check-up could significantly improve your odds in those areas. While you’re at it do the same thing regarding regular teeth cleanings and eye exams.

2. We like to say at Koko, that lean muscle is like the fountain of youth, the more you have the better off you and your metabolism will be as you age. Research shows staying active coupled with regular strength training is the best prescription to help fight your cause.

3. If you’re really interested in seeing how healthy you are then take a look at your blood profile. I have used Inside Tracker, a company founded by scientists from MIT, Harvard and Tufts University to “give you blood-based, science-driven, effective advice on simple changes you can make to optimize your performance and health.” I really enjoy looking at what is going from a “deeper” perspective and track those metrics over time. Inside Tracker also does a great job at suggesting food options if you’re low in specific areas to help you drive those numbers back into a healthy range (think testosterone here guys).

4. Make a foam roller, a pair of tennis balls and a lacrosse ball your best friends. All that pain, stiffness and tightness that you typically experience may be due to restricted fascia. Fascia is basically connective tissue, along with ligaments and tendons, that acts as, among other things, as a support structure and plays an important role in overall health. Use the tools mentioned to roll away some of that residual pre/post workout stiffness. This helps just temporarily though and to get at the root of the problem speak to a coach and take advantage of applying some pressure to “tight” areas with those tennis balls or lacrosse ball. Have someone show you the right way to accomplish this or you could do more harm than good. In addition, get more sleep and drink more H2O to help your cause.

5. Work on reducing your body fat level by 1-2% this month. No, not by doing more steady-state, long duration cardio. Try completing eight short, high intensity interval (HIT) sessions over the course of the month. Get outside and do sprint intervals, try using a Schwinn Air-Dyne bike, maybe a Versa climber or a rowing machine, you get the picture. Separate the HIT sessions with 3-days between each session. On those “off” days watch your added sugar and do some form of strength training. In regard to added sugar, consume less than 150 calories a day (38 grams) and use the MyFitnessPal app to make you more aware of what you’re consuming and to help you document it. As for strength training, try using “giant sets” – choose five multi-joint movement exercises, like lunges, squats, deadlifts, chest press and pull-ups, and do each round for a desired number of repetitions or for a specific amount of time like 30-45 seconds each. Aim for a minimum of two weekly sessions. Like your cardio, it does not have to be long, quality trumps quantity especially during Men’s Health Month.

6. Finally, mix things up and take a yoga class. You may have to go out of your comfort zone here. There is a reason why more and more college and pro athletes are now doing more yoga. It’s great for your mind/body/spirit. If you don’t want to venture out or pay for it then download the Headspace app and meditate a bit. Adding these six health and fitness tips during the month of June will make you not only more manly but a better friend, brother, dad, and husband. Hopefully, this time next June, a few of these will stick and be part of your regular routine.

Is Your Job Putting You At Risk Of Diabetes

Getting type 2 diabetes is not as easy as catching a cold, thank God!

But if you neglect your health, you can gradually destroy your body and put you at risk of this metabolic disorder. Factors like family history, excess body weight and poor eating habits are contributors to high sugar levels and insulin resistance. Stress may seem an unlikely culprit as well, but recent studies suggests otherwise.

Stress on the job (or any kind of stress) can drive workers to take up poor lifestyle habits. These people are more likely to eat poorly, sleep late, and exercise less. Such behavior can drive a person to develop chronic diseases like diabetes.

Researchers have looked into the potential link of work stress and type 2 diabetes. According to a study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, 5000 participants within the range of 29 to 66 years old were gathered for evaluation.

Credit: http://www.medicaldaily.com

The contributors were asked to disclose their health status such as weight, smoking, and physical activity. Afterwards, each participant was assessed on his level of work stress using a detailed questionnaire. A follow-up about their health status was made after an average of 13 years.

This research found that the adults who were reported to have the highest stress levels had a 63% risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The category of people most affected by these results were men that lived on their own and had very high levels of stress.

Another culprit that plays an integral role in developing this disease is the hormone called cortisol – the substance that helps regulate blood sugar levels in your body. Stress levels also drive cortisol to spike up and affect the regulation of your blood sugar.

Past research about high levels of cortisol found links to other health problems like coronary diseases and the same connection has been found with recent studies on diabetes.

What Can You Do About It?

Work-related stress is a reality and this could be inevitable. If you feel like you have so much on your plate at work, below are some stress-relieving strategies you can try to stay healthy.

Organize

Organization is a key for achieving your goals in a timely manner. You can stay organized by keeping track of your projects and deadlines with an organizer or a mobile phone app.

If you are dealing with large projects, break them up into smaller tasks. Start your day with a to-do list and end it by crossing out what was accomplished within that day.

Never Procrastinate

A to-do list is a great starter for the day, but you won’t accomplish anything if you do not assign a timeline for each task. One method in avoiding procrastination is by tracking the hours allocated per task. Seeing that there is still time to finish a project can help you get to work and not waste time.

Avoid Taking Too Much Load

To avoid stress, know your limits. Do not overcommit to certain projects that you know you will not finish on time. If no one else can help you out on the task given to you, make sure to let your superiors know the timeline that they can expect for the finished work.

Limit Interruptions

If you are getting interrupted all the time by colleagues or other external distractions, try to address these issues before you start your duties. Ask your office mates to give you some block of time so as not to get disturbed. If there are other factors that are out of your hands, talk to your superiors about it.

Make Time

This means if there is no work left, leave the office on time. If you work at home, avoid answering business phone calls or checking work-related emails outside working hours. Make time for resting, to be with your family and do the hobbies you love.

Making a living from an office job can usually chain you to your computer and desk the entire day. To help reverse the negative effects of physical inactivity, try alternate strategies to keep you off of your seat.

Avoid sitting for prolonged periods of time. If you can work on a standing desk, go ahead and do it. Take the stairs instead of the elevator and walk briskly whenever you can. And if it is feasible, propose a walking conference.

To stay healthy, you still need to get at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise and 2 hours and 30 minutes for moderate workouts each week. Try to get off from work on time and allot a daily exercise routine to stay fit to avoid diabetes.

This blog post was sponsored by Katrina Rice.

3 Ways You Know Your Fitness Program is Off Track

Advice about how the best ways live and stay healthy is ubiquitous. A quick look on YouTube reveals hundreds of hours of video from sports therapists and trainers. Each one with slightly different and sometimes conflicting advice on the best exercises and forms. The advice can even appear to change as the latest fitness trends come into focus.

Bombarded with so much information, it can be very easy to get off track. You may find yourself not training consistently, losing motivation, using routines that work against each other or (worst of all) potentially using a routine that causes an injury. Below we will go through some key ways to see if your program is off track and simple ways to stop it from happening.

Are You Motivated?

The cliché is that exercise must be a chore, when the truth is exercise can be, and should be, fun. As Per Wickstrom, has shown through his research into the links between exercise and beating addiction, the right exercise can be a genuine life saver. It can help you build confidence, make new friends, counteract the effects of depression and help with other health problems. So, the simplest and most important question to ask is “How do I feel?” If the answer includes:

  • Sad
  • Uncomfortable
  • Bored
  • Frustrated
  • Not wanting to train

or a combination of any of them, then look at why you want to exercise and what you want to achieve. Find something that inspires you or try a new technique. Even running does not have to be dull if you introduce techniques like Fartlek.

What Have You Achieved?

While feelings and how motivated you are can be clear indicators of a program’s usefulness, it is essential to have some form of goal. Understand why you want to exercise and you will have a great framework to build from and great ways to measure progress over time.

For example, if you are looking to build strength, you will want to lift more weights and stick to short periods of intense cardio rather than long distance runs and cycling. For long distance running, a combination of specific weights, running 3 to 4 times a week and considering Pilates and yoga for core strength will do far more-good than hitting the bench press. Once

you have your why, this will give you your how.

Keeping a simple record of your progress is the compass that will keep your program on track. Without some reference, it can be easy to lose your way. Hitting a plateau, having a bad session or suffering from a condition such as dysmorphia can undermine your confidence. Clear evidence of progress will help you keep going.

Monitoring and measuring your goals and progress these days is remarkably easy. Modern fitness apps and devices allow you to keep an online record of distances walked in a day, your average heart rate, how many lengths you did in the pool and even how well you slept. If this sounds a little formal, start by asking yourself things like:

  • Do I feel better about myself?
  • Are the stairs at home easier to handle?
  • Can I walk for longer without a rest?
  • Do my clothes fit better?
  • Is my golf handicap improving?
  • Am I having fun?

Alternatively, you can ask a trusted friend for some honest feedback.

Does It Hurt?

Regular training, especially as part of a competitive sports team, weight training or distance running, can involve a certain amount of discomfort. However, certain types of pain can be an indicator of an injury or genuine harm being done. Sharp pain, deep in muscles and joints, can be indicators of strains and sprains.

However, not all injuries appear instantly as a sudden stabbing pain. If you are getting consistent pain in the hands when gripping, in the shins when running or in other parts of the body, these can be indicators of overuse injuries. Overuse injuries include such ailments as tennis elbow, shin splints, golfer’s knee and conditions such as tendonitis. Understandably, any form of injury is the ultimate indication that something is wrong with a routine. It cannot be stressed enough that prevention is better than cure. Many overuse or soft tissue injuries can become chronic conditions.

Things to watch out for include:

  • Not building enough rest into a program
  • Not warming up properly
  • Not stretching properly
  • Not hydrating enough
  • Sacrificing technique in a rush to results (e.g. trying to lift weights that are too heavy, or running harder and faster than you should)

Listening to your body is key. If your body is giving you warning signs, take notice. If you are getting regular joint pain, seek medical advice. Exercise with a trainer or a friend if possible, as it is often easier for someone else to spot any warning signs.

So, what can be done to help prevent things from going off track?

Staying on Track

As mentioned above, understanding why you want to exercise and setting simple goals can make all the difference. Not only when creating a program, but also maintaining it over time. One way of the best ways is to work with a qualified trainer. They will be able to tailor your program to your needs, help you monitor your progress and update your routine to make sure that it does not become boring. A good trainer will also monitor technique to maximize benefit and minimize injury risks.

If you cannot afford a trainer, then asking staff at your local gym for help is a good place to start. Alternatively, try training with a friend or a club. Most importantly, listen to your body. Improvement will happen over time with good and consistent training.

Keeping some form of record is also key. It can be as simple as a notepad and pencil or using apps like Couch to 5k or Zombie Run. Also, there are various devices from companies including Fitbit, Garmin, and TomTom. Most of this technology will link to social media, so you and your friends can support each other even if you cannot always train together. If you are using devices or apps with links to your PC or phone, especially if you are using public WiFi, remember to protect your data and keep your health information private.

Finally, have fun and enjoy your exercise, no matter what it is.

Please comment below and share your experiences. What ways were you going off track? How did you get back on the straight and narrow? We’re eager to hear your thoughts.

Diamond Grant is a fitness enthusiast, avid hiker, cyclist and marathon runner. She frequently writes fitness tips and recommendations to help lower the level of fitness misinformation available across the web.