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

Advertisements

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

Four Things We Need to Focus More on

It can be a challenging process for many when attempting to follow the latest diet plan or exercise program claiming various health benefits. There is an easy way to cut through all the rhetoric regarding these types of diet plans and so-called healthy programs by simply getting more of the following each day: sleep, spinach, steps and strength. Here are some of the health benefits when you get more of each on a regular basis.

GET MORE SLEEP: Sleep should be first on everyone’s list of things to try to get more of because when you’re deficient in it, everything from how you feel to what you eat is affected negatively. Research has shown that people who get less than six hours of sleep a night have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get more than 6 hours of sleep.

This is important because inflammation is linked to diabetes, stroke, heart disease, arthritis, and premature aging, according to data published in the Centers for Disease and Control and Morbidity and Mortality Report.

Research conducted in 2004 has shown that sleep deprivation can enhance the release of specific peptides in the body that produce hunger. Men that slept only four hours each night for two days witnessed a decrease in specific hormones such as leptin and an increase in ghrelin compared with men who slept ten hours during that same time period. Leptin is an appetite suppressant hormone that is produced by adipose (fat) tissue, and ghrelin is released from the stomach in response to someone fasting and promotes the feeling of hunger. The hormone leptin acts on the central nervous system, most notably the hypothalamus, by not only suppressing food intake but stimulating energy expenditure as well. Ghrelin levels typically increase before meals and decrease after meals. This particular hormone stimulates appetite as well as fat production and can lead to increased food intake and a gain in body weight. A second 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, on average, an additional 553 calories typically choosing foods higher in fat when they were kept awake until the early morning hours. So  you may want to start getting more Z’s beginning tonight. A good tip is to eliminate all caffeinated products by early afternoon if you typically have trouble sleeping.

Recommended reading: The Promise of Sleep by William Dement, MD, Dell Publishers, 2000.

Research study: A Prospective Study of Change in Sleep Duration: Associations with Mortality in the Whitehall II Cohort, Sleep, 2007.

benefits-of-sleep
Photo Credit: http://www.12keysrehab.com

EAT MORE SPINACH: Eating more of a plant-based diet, including spinach, would in fact be a good thing for all of us. There is a 32 percent less chance of getting heart disease on a plant-based diet. Spinach is considered at the top of the healthiest vegetable list for nutrient richness. Not only is it rich in vitamins and minerals, it also has an abundance of health-promoting phytonutrients such as carotenoids and flavonoids to provide you with powerful antioxidant protection. In one study on the relationship between the risk of prostate cancer and vegetable intake — including the vegetables spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, collards, and kale — “only spinach showed evidence of significant protection against the occurrence of aggressive prostate cancer.” If you’re interested in trying to eat cleaner, healthier and more of a plant-based diet, like we were, than the Boston-based food delivery service Purple Carrot may be just what the doctor ordered. Visit Purple Carrot and use the promo code “koko” for a $25 discount on your first order.

Recommended reading: What to Eat by Marion Nestle, North Point Press, 2006 and Always Hungry? David Ludwig, MD, PhD, 2016.

Research study: Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets, 2013.

purplecarrot_logo_long-web-01-1
Photo Credit: Purple Carrot (https://purplecarrot.com). Use promo code: “koko” for a $25 discount on your first delivery.

GET MORE STEPS: The odds are that you have heard the old adage “use it or lose it” more than once. It can be a good idea to do a reset, especially before the upcoming Holiday season that is about to take over your life and have a goal of changing your mindset regarding daily activity. The fact is if you’re not finding the time to stay active as you age, your body will slowly begin to “shut down.” When this begins to happens over time – everything from energy levels to metabolism to aerobic capacity to strength – are effected and slowly begin to decrease. Simply getting out for a walk/run/hike will help offset those areas and more. Hippocrates once said, “walking is a man’s best medicine.” To find out if his 2,400 year-old remark was actually valid, two scientists from University College London performed a meta-analysis of research published between 1970 and 2007 in peer-reviewed journals. After studying more than 4,000 research papers, they identified 18 studies that met their high standards for quality. These overall studies evaluated 459,833 test-subjects who were absent of cardiovascular disease at the start of the investigation. The subjects were followed for an average of 11.3 years, during which cardiovascular events (i.e. heart attacks and deaths) were recorded. Their meta-analysis makes a strong case for the benefits of good old walking. The group of studies showed that walking reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by 31 percent, and decreased the risk of dying during the time of the study by 32 percent. A good tool for your tool box is to wear a pedometer to make you more aware of your daily activity via daily steps. Find your 3-day average for steps and start adding 500-1000 steps/week until you’re in the 7,500 to 10,000 steps ball park. For additional information on the benefits of pedometers look into my TBC4 Plan.

Recommended reading: The Step Diet, by James Hill, PhD et al., Workman Publishing, 2004 and Move a Little, Lose a Lot by James Levine, MD, PhD, Three Rivers Press, 2009.

GET STRONGER: There is no way around it, you need to get stronger and maintain strength as you age. Getting and staying stronger as you age will help you hold onto your functional ability. The only way to “hold on” to your strength is work on getting stronger now by becoming more active and sticking with strength training for the rest of your life! An area that is often neglected, when it comes to strength, is grip strength. Research has shown for a long time now that elevated grip strength level is associated with increased longevity. In addition to grip strength, focus on getting your big muscle groups stronger, like your back, buttock and legs.

According to research, individuals who did not strength train lost about 5 to 7 pounds of muscle every ten years and the by-product of this 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. With the loss of muscle mass comes the loss of strength and power. A person’s balance, mobility and functionality are also compromised. 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 60 years of age, according to research published by Doherty in 2001.

Research study: Prognostic value of grip strength: findings from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study, Lancet, 2015.

References

Doherty TJ, (2001). The influence of aging and sex on skeletal muscle mass and strength. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 4:503-508.

Centers for Disease and Control and Morbidity and Mortality Report.

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

Spiegel, K. et. al, (2004). Sleep Curtailment in Healthy Young Men is Associated with Decreased Leptin Levels, Elevated Ghrelin Levels, and Increased Hunger and Appetite. Annals of Internal Medicine, 141: (11) 846-85.

Rogers, M. A. and Evans, W. J. (1993). Changes in skeletal muscle with aging: Effects of exercise training. In J. O. Holloszy (Ed), Exercise and Sport Science Reviews. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins.

The Total Body Conditioning Plan, Wood, M, (2016).

8 Tips for Maintaining Weight Loss Based on a 20-Year National Study

To learn more about the science of weight loss, researchers founded the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) as a long-term study project back in 1994. There are currently more than ten thousand people who have joined in the project. Researchers compiled self-report data from subjects who have successfully maintained weight loss and the finding were published in The Journal for Nurse Practitioners.

The results from of the data showed that 90 percent of NWCR participants were still maintaining at least 10 percent weight loss 10 years after losing weight. These people had various ways to achieve that, but they also used eight common strategies, including:

  1. They eat a low-fat, low-calorie diet primarily prepared at home. On average, they consumed 1,306 calories per day, with only 24.3 percent of calories from fat.
  2. They eat breakfast. Studies have shown that regular breakfast is associated with low BMI.
  3. They have diet rules for weekdays, weekends, and holidays. Their food intake is very consistent from day-to-day.
  4. They exercise about 1-hour a day. About 75 percent of people expended at least 1000 calories/week in physical activity. Walking is the most common exercise used.
  5. They regularly drink low-calorie or no-calorie beverages, especially water. Only 10 percent of people drink sugar-sweetened beverages.
  6. They weigh themselves on a regular basis. Regular self-weighing may serve as an early alarm for weight regain.
  7. They spend limited time on watching TV. Most of them watch TV fewer than 10 hours a week.
  8. They sleep 7 or more hours a night. Studies have shown that people who sleep less than 7 hours are more likely to be obese.
HOW IMPORTANT IS BREAKFAST
Image Credit: http://backtoedenwithliz.com

We know from research and our personal experiences that there are no “one size fits all” strategies for successful weight loss maintenance but these eight behavioral tips can be used as tools to develop a customized approach to maintain a healthy weight.

Reference

Raphaelidis L. (2016). Maintaining Weight Loss: Lessons from the National Weight Control Registry. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, 12: 286-287. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nurpra.2016.01.009

Resource

The National Weight Control Registry, Providence (RI).

 

What to Do and Not to Do Before You Workout

Whether at the gym, on the pavement, or in the yoga studio, there are a few general rules that help ensure the best workout possible. Everyone has different pre-workout routines, but nutrition, sleep, stretching, mental attitude, and other factors all affect how you’ll feel during your sweat session.

Here, we break down the best habits to embrace before a workout, along with some unexpected speed bumps that can hinder any good workout.

How much should I eat?

Chowing down before a workout helps us feel energized while exercising. Food-fuel allows the body to gain muscle and burn fat, and also helps the body recover faster (so you can rinse and repeat).

Which foods to eat and when to eat them really depends on a few conditions: hunger, the size of a meal, and your specific fitness goals. If you just need a quick snack, aim to eat 30 to 60 minutes before your workout. Choose something with digestible carbs and a bit of protein, like a banana and peanut butter. If you would like something heartier, have a bowl of oatmeal or scrambled eggs with fresh veggies. For people looking to gain some serious muscle, consider amping up protein intake with foods like egg whites, chicken, nut butter, or a smoothie with protein powder.
Make sure to avoid foods with too much fiber, which can cause unwanted bloating and gas. Stay away from junk food too, which can deplete the body of nutrients we need for workout fuel. Plus, it can be hard to digest. On the flip side, don’t skip out on eating altogether. Though some people who intermittent fast regularly work out during a fasting period, training hard on an empty stomach deprives most people’s muscles of glycogen, which makes them lose steam faster.

How much should I drink?

Hydration is key to any workout, from an intense HIIT session to a few laps in the pool. A good rule of thumb is to drink about two cups of fluids two hours before starting the clock. Water is the best option, but you can try other liquids, such certain sports drinks for electrolytes, which provide extra carbs, sodium, and potassium.

Unless you’re an intense endurance athlete, beware of sugary sports drinks. (Not so fun-fact: A 20 ounce bottle of Gatorade contains nine teaspoons of sugar.) While some sugar is definitely okay before a workout, excess amounts can cause vitamin deficiencies and increase the risk for heart complications. A good alternative is coconut water, which has 15 times more potassium than conventional sports drinks. Just look for one with no sugar added; naturally, it contains about four grams of sugar. Or get creative with your pre-workout routine and make your own sports drink with one of these homemade recipes.

Coffee connoisseur? A cup of joe during the day can actually help your workout. Various studies have found a positive connection between caffeine and improved circulation, reduced pain, and improved muscle preservation. In fact, one study found that athletes who sipped caffeine before they exercised burned 15 percent more calories than those who skipped out.

But don’t always reach for a big cup. Stick to 12 ounces of coffee, which is about 300 milligrams of caffeine for a little boost. Keep it light before a workout by adding skim milk and a dash of cinnamon and drink a glass of water as well to remain hydrated.

If you prefer evening exercise, coffee may be a no go. The caffeine could have you tossing and turning at night. A good rule of thumb is to avoid coffee roughly six hours before you plan on hitting the hay.

How do I get motivated?

Sometimes the hardest part really is that first step. Even when you’re feeling a pang of “I’d rather stay in bed,” there’s a good chance you won’t regret a workout.

There are many creative ways to get pumped about pumping iron. An easy one: Put on your workout clothes. Once you have your sneakers on, it’ll be pretty hard to want to change back into work shoes. Another idea is to keep a workout journal to document how you feel after every workout. Use the journal to remind yourself how awesome it is to get a dose of endorphins. And don’t forget the power of friends. Schedule a workout with a pal to hold yourself accountable and to make the workout more fun.

Power nap: yay or nay?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, a power nap of 20 to 30 minutes can improve alertness and even help boost workout performance. At that time range, a power nap won’t make you feel groggy or hinder your sleep when it’s finally time to hit the hay. If you do take a short nap, allow yourself at least 30 minutes to become fully alert before jumping into your warm up.

What’s the deal with sex before exercise?

Despite myths, sex before a workout will definitely not hinder exercise performance. In fact, some studies link orgasms to reduced pain for women and increased strength (from testosterone) for men. As far as the psychological side, there’s a lack of research on how doing the deed may affect your mental game before a workout. For now, it’s a personal choice.

I feel a bit sick. Should I rest or push through it?

All of this depends on what kind of sick you’re dealing with. If you’re feeling lousy, it’s best to let your body rest so it can recover faster. If you feel crummy above the neck (a sore throat or a runny nose), light exercise could help clear out your sinuses and actually make you feel better. If it’s something from the neck down, like muscle aches and pains, a cough, or congestion, then it’s probably best to skip the gym.

If you feel up to something light, good options for exercise include a brisk walk, a yoga class, or a few laps in the pool. Definitely avoid intense scenarios such as crowded machines at the gym, heavier weights, and endurance runs.

What’s the best way to warm-up?

To make sure your body is prepared to work out, you need to get the blood flowing before going into full-power mode. Warming up is crucial to avoid injuries. It can also lead to a better workout.

Set aside 10 minutes for foam rolling and dynamic stretching before any workout. Foam rolling helps remove knots and scar tissue that builds up in the body. Spend at least five minutes rolling out muscles before dynamic stretches; the latter means you move as you stretch. Dynamic stretches help to activate the muscles you plan to use during your workout and also improve range of motion. Some great examples are bodyweight lunges, squats, hip stretches, and high kicks. Avoid static stretching (holding a stretch for a longer period of time), which can do more hurt than help before a workout.

woman-foam-rolling
Source: http://frankwallfitness.com

Don’t Forget These Pro Tips Before Your Next Workout

There are also some unexpected annoyances that may inhibit a good workout. Be aware of the weather, sleep, and workout attire. All three could make or break your time at the gym, or wherever you break a sweat.

Check the weather.

If you’re an outside exerciser, there’s nothing like heading out the door to realize it’s pouring. Avoid the outdoors in heavy rain or thunderstorms or during a snowy or icy winter when the streets are extra slick. Take note of heat, too. Exercising in extreme heat puts extra stress on the body, which could lead to some serious health hazards. Very hot temperatures, generally 90s and above, should draw a red flag.
If it is warm out, hydrate well before and during your workout, and apply sunscreen. Avoid working out midday, when the sun is at its strongest. And if it’s cooler, keep your head, hands, and feet warm, and dress in layers made of wicking materials (avoid cotton). Common sense is the best tool when the weather is iffy.

Get enough sleep.

There are limited studies on physical activity and sleep deprivation. Exercise and sleep are intertwined. In fact exercise can help us sleep better. But if you wake up feeling super groggy with less than seven hours of Zzs under your belt, it’s probably best to sneak in some more shuteye, and save the workout for later.

Dress right.

There’s nothing worse than getting to the gym and realizing you packed pants that are too tight. With the right fit, workout gear won’t limit your range of motion and can help the body cool down. The right clothes are dependent on personal preference, but aim for gear that wicks sweat away from the body. Dress right for the weather and bring layers in case you need to strip down or add some extra warmth.

Conclusion

With just a little bit of planning, a positive attitude, and a delicious pre-workout snack, your next sweat-session will be better than the last.

Laura Schwecherl is the Marketing Director at Possible, a nonprofit healthcare company based in New York and rural Nepal. She was the previous Marketing and Partnerships Director at Greatist, which exposed her love of writing about health and wellness. In her spare time, she is either training for a marathon, writing poems, or eating tacos.

Sleep Deprivation Could Be Sabotaging Your Weight Loss Efforts

unnamed-2

Not catching enough zzz’s at night? Sleep deprivation could be sabotaging your weight loss efforts! A recent study published in the Journal Sleep found that those who get 4-5 hours of sleep a night consume significantly more calories and gained more weight than individuals getting at least 8 hours of sleep.

Tips for a Great Nights’ Sleep”

1.       Stick to a similar routine, this will allow your body to get on a regular sleep / wake cycle.

2.       Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening and limit yourself to 1 or 2 cups a day.

3.       Set an electronic curfew and turn off all screens at least 1 hour before bed.

4.       Avoid a high sugar diet, this causes spikes and drops in blood sugar and ultimately energy levels.

5.       Staying active and getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days.

6.       Try meditating for 15 minutes before bed; clearing your mind can help you get to sleep faster and help you sleep better.

Set yourself up for success by following these tips to feel better rested and boost your weight loss efforts!

unnamed-1Amanda is a registered dietitian with a Masters in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. As a dietitian at Selvera, she works one on one with clients developing personalized weight management plans that address nutrition, activity and lifestyle.

How to Maximize Muscle Adaptation

It is clear as day that building muscle mass is a painful process that demands considerable devotion, diligence, time, planning, and physical endurance. Unfortunately, most people will stop pursuing this goal within the first six months of training. This is because reaching such formidable level of fitness and definition can protract, cause impatience, and as well as having improper training, can lead to lousy results and loss of enthusiasm. Still, there should be no room for discouragement; a sound body doesn’t go anywhere without a sound mind. Developing a stable and focused mind set is the first step to succeeding in this endeavor.

So, how do you train adequately? How do you stimulate muscle growth and memory? “When muscles are used they adapt and change. Changes are dependent on the type of activity and muscle fiber types used, the load exerted on the muscle, and the velocity and duration of the contraction.” (Marieb, 2004) The point is to persevere through all the hardships, because muscular growth or hypertrophy can only be accomplished through these adaptations and changes. It takes about 16 workouts to have a noticeable ‘superficial’ effect. There is simply no other recipe to do this in a healthy, orderly, and long-lasting manner.

Training stimulus

url
Photo Credit: http://fitnesshealth101.com

Without a training stimulus, you won’t get any proper results. This will be the main goal that everyone has to with when having such individually rough training regimes. Otherwise, everything can go down the drain. The highlight should be put on systematically overloading your body in a progressive pace in order to reach a momentary failure with each new set of exercise. This is what develops your base level of strength, and the same thing goes with your aerobic capacity when it comes to cardio. High interval training on a bike, rowing machine, elliptical, or plain sprinting will get your body working. Be consistent when using protocols like Tabata (8 series of 20 seconds of intense work, followed by 10 seconds of rest), or Gibala (30 seconds of same intense work, 4 minutes of recovery done at least 4 times).

“Whether training for sports performance or health enhancement, much of the success of the program will be attributable to the effectiveness of the exercise prescription in manipulating the progression of the resistance stimulus, the variation in the program design and the individualization of the program.” (Kraemer, 1994)

Diet and protein intake

Health comes within the body, and, what we eat influences how the body functions. In this meticulous, physically empowering case, it’s very important to keep track of the required amount of protein needed to maximize the process known as protein synthesis. This is what gets the engines running! It’s up to you to estimate how your body reacts to 1 gram of protein intake per kilo, and slowly progress comparing the effects with the same dose (but only per pound of your bodyweight). On average, it will all boil down to about 20-30 grams of necessary protein intake with each meal or snack. The best way to continue nurturing yourself in this fashion is by drinking whey protein, especially after workout and before going to sleep.

Rest and sleep

Resting is part of a workout, just as silence is a part of music. You have to know when to put your previously strained body at ease in order for it to heal, and reap what it has sowed while pumping iron. Naturally, 7-8 hours of uninterrupted, comfortable sleep each night is crucial. This is important, because it reduces the production of cortisol (the stress hormone) which can otherwise put you in a very disruptive situation should it overrun your system. Still, the primary reason why sleep is so important is pretty simple – health! Only when your body is fully regenerated, stout, and free of fatigue, you can effectively train to the max. On the other hand, once your body is weak and spent, you should aim to pacify such ailments and get back on track as soon as possible, no two ways about it.

Finally, remember to do your research, because any additional information that can help you in this process is always beneficial. Consult yourself with professionals, see what other enthusiasts know, think and feel, check if there are some answers online, and primarily get all of your facts straight. The more you discover, implement, and analyze, the better you are at figuring out what suits your body’s growth and strengthening the best.

Author

VsafL3XZ_400x400Mathews McGarry is passionate about many forms of strength training, and spent years lifting, dragging and flipping all manner of heavy objects. After graduating from the Faculty of Health Sciences, he started writing about his experiences, and sharing tips for better life at highstylife.com and other health blogs. Follow him on Twitter.

National Sleep Foundation Updates New Sleep Guidelines

sleep-on-books-1.10.12
source: http://blog.eventbrite.com

The National Sleep Foundation along with a panel consisting of experts in the field of anatomy and physiology, pediatrics, neurology, gerontology and gynecology, came out with new sleep recommendations this week. The report recommends wider appropriate sleep ranges for most age groups and the results were published in Sleep Health: The Official Journal of the National Sleep Foundation. The new guidelines look like this:

Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)

Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)

Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)

Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)

School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously was 10-11)

Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)

Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)

Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours

Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)

“This is the first time that any professional organization has developed age-specific recommended sleep durations based on a rigorous, systematic review of the world scientific literature relating sleep duration to health, performance and safety,” said Charles A. Czeisler, PhD, MD, chairman of the board of the National Sleep Foundation, chief of sleep and circadian disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Baldino Professor of Sleep Medicine at the Harvard Medical School. “The National Sleep Foundation is providing these scientifically grounded guidelines on the amount of sleep we need each night to improve the sleep health of the millions of individuals and parents who rely on us for this information.”

Suggested Reading 

The Promise of Sleep (Dell Publishing, 2000, 512 pages), William Dement, MD, PhD

How to Develop a Healthy Mindset this Holiday Season

We are coming into the Holiday season where many of us have a long history of eating more and exercising less. Here are a few health and fitness tips that if implemented today, could lead to habit formation over the next few months, just in time for the start of the new year. According to the website Psychology Today:

“Habit formation is the process by which new behaviors become automatic. The behavioral patterns we repeat most often are literally etched into our neural pathways. The good news is that, through repetition, it’s possible to form new habits (and maintain them as well).”

ChangeYourMindset-LynnwoodHypnosisThis is the week that you actually want to start changing your mindset and begin focusing on the following principles that if done correctly could lead to habit formation. Keep in mind the old adage of it takes 21-days to form a new habit does not actually hold up when you look at the research. That statement actually came from a book back in the 1960’s. Research has shown it takes about 66 days for that habit to form and in some test subjects it was as high 256 days. The good news is if you start following these suggestions today, habit formation has a good chance to be fully baked and delivered come the new year!

Focus on Getting More Sleep

Sleeping more is your primary focus. Look at your sleep patterns over the next three nights and determine the average number of hours of sleep you’re getting. If that number is less than seven hours, work on building it up to 7-8 hours a night. A sleep study was done by Mah and colleagues on Stanford University’s mens basketball team. They had members of the team work on increasing their amount of sleep from 6.5 hours a night to 8.5 hours and saw a 13% improvement in all aspects of sports performance. Additional research has demonstrated people who reported sleeping fewer than five hours per night significantly increased their risk of having or developing type 2 diabetes. As you continue to get more of the second principle (exercise), you improve your chances of sleeping longer and deeper. The reason why sleep is your main focus is because when you don’t get enough of it you suffer on two fronts – nutrition and exercise. Studies show individuals who get insufficient sleep tend to eat more unhealthy foods and end up skipping exercise or if they do exercise, they lack the energy to have an optimal workout.

Focus on Regular Exercise

This can be difficult if you’re traveling for the Holidays but try to plan it out ahead of time and be prepared with workout gear etc. When there is a holiday or work party on your calendar, focus on getting to the gym before and after each event to expend some additional calories. During the week when you have social events at night focus on increasing your daily activity and steps. A personal goal could be walking 10,000 steps and climbing 10 flights of stairs each day before going to a party that night. Focus on short, intense circuit strength training sessions and short, intense interval-based cardio sessions. The key here is to challenge your body more than you typically do by burning maximal calories in minimal time. Here are two free cardio sessions from Koko FitClub to help you do just that.

Focus on ELMO

Follow the ELMO rule: Eat little meals more often. This is a great tool for your tool-box during the Holiday season. Don’t fall of the wagon with your eating schedule. There could be lots of pies, cookies and other home-made dishes that could side-track you – stay focused. Eat a good healthy breakfast each morning and do the same for lunch during the day. Give yourself a treat only after a healthy lunch or dinner. Focus on eating a protein-focused meal/snack every 3-4 hours. Make sure you eat at least 20 grams of protein per sit-down, this in turn will keep your blood sugar levels stable. This is important because it will decrease the chances of any high-glycemic (high carbs) cravings that you may have.

References

The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball Players (2011). Cheri D. Mah, Kenneth E. Mah, Eric J. Kezirian and William C. Dement. J. Sleep. 34(7):943–950.

Role of Sleep Duration and Quality in the Risk and Severity of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (2006). Knutson KL, et al., Archives of Internal Medicine (2006). 166(16):1768.

Association of Sleep Time with Diabetes Mellitus and Impaired Glucose Tolerance (2005). Gottlieb DJ, et al., Archives of Internal Medicine. 165(8):863.

3 Key Factors Needed to Build Muscle and Strength

imagesThere are three key ingredients that you need as part of your recipe to successfully build muscle and increase strength.

Adequate Training Stimulus. Without this training stimulus it just won’t happen and if you’re not getting results, the odds are that you – like most people – will stop exercising within the first six months of starting. You need to focus on overloading your muscles in a progressive manner, pushing your muscles to momentary failure with each set of exercise. This happens only after you develop a strong base level of strength. The same hold true if you’re looking to improve aerobic capacity on the cardio side. Try adding in a few days of high-intensity interval training into the mix, using protocols like Tabata (20 seconds of hard work, 10 seconds of recovery x 8 rounds) or a Gibala protocol, 30 seconds of high intensity work followed by four minutes of recovery repeated x 4 rounds. This can be done on a bike, rowing machine, elliptical, sprint work etc.

Adequate Recovery and Protein Intake. This is where many drop the ball. It’s very difficult to get plenty of recovery between workouts while making sure your body is getting the required amount of protein to maximize protein synthesis. See how your body responds to 1 gram of protein/kilogram of body weight and slowly progress to 1 gram of protein/pound of body weight if needed. Here is what that might look like when I plug-in my own body weight:

1 gram/kilogram of body weight (228 lbs/2.2 = 104 kilograms or 104 grams of protein/day).

1 gram/pound of body weight (228 x 1 gram = 228 grams of protein/day).

To make this happens you will probably need to take in 20-30 grams of protein with each meal and snack. A good way to ensure this happens is to drink a whey protein drink especially post workout and before bed.

Adequate Sleep. Another difficult area for many people. Your goal is 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. If not the body’s hormonal system can get out of whack. Hormones like cortisol (known as the stress hormone) can increase with insufficient sleep. Read the following study here and article here. Researcher and author, Charles Poliquin puts it nicely into perspective:

“lack of sleep is like the opposite of strength training”

All three of these variables are under your control. You can manage this and you can definitely have success with it, you just need to choose to “commit to get fit.”