Archives for May 2012

What Everyone Needs To Know About Faster Post Workout Recovery

Too Tired To Work After Your Workout?  

About an hour after an intense workout – as the effects of the endorphins begin to wane- do you ever feel a great big ‘Ugh’ take over your body?   This is something that I’ve experienced, especially when I try to increase the intensity of my workout with speed drills or put more power in another benefits  Even though I focus on eating the right post-workout foods and drink plenty of water, some days the fatigue is so overwhelming all I can think about is taking a nap.  Since I go directly from the gym to work, that’s not an option.

Too tired to work after your workout?

I mentioned this to a co-worker of mine who is a professional body builder and personal trainer for competitive builders, and she recommended I try taking the supplement L-Glutamine after working out.

So I did.  I started the practice of taking L-Glutamine post workout a couple of years ago and didn’t realize how much is was helping until I got out of the habit awhile back when I ran out.  Before long, the sluggish, tired feeling was back.

L-Glutamine 101

If you research Glutamine you’ll find that it is extremely popular in the bodybuilding world and has been found to be vital to muscle recovery and growth. Glutamine is the most common amino acid in the body.  Over 60% of skeletal muscle is glutamine.

During training, glutamine levels become depleted and it can take up to six days for them to return to normal.  Knowing this, it’s easy to see why the muscles would be easily fatigued if you’re training on a daily basis.  Making any kind of progress with strength and endurance is nearly impossible with the glutamine stores in a constant state of deprivation. A daily supplement can help the body catch up so you’re ready to give 100% to the next spinning class, CrossFit session or training run.

Not only is glutamine effective in muscle recovery, there are plenty of should not take to having an adequate amount of the amino acid in your system:

  • Glutamine helps prevent the muscles from being catabolized (eaten up) in order to provide glutamine for other cells in the body.
  • Glutamine helps maintain cell volume and hydration.
  • It speeds up wound and burn healing recovery.
  • It replenishes the glutamine that is lost during intense workouts.
  • Glutamine assists with the production of the growth hormone.
  • It boosts the immune system.
  • Glutamine provides a component in muscle metabolism and cellular support not shared by any other amino acid.

There are very few side effects with L-Glutamine however people that should not take supplements are:

  • Women that are pregnant and breast-feeding
  • People with severe liver disease
  • People that are sensitive to MSG (monosodium glutamate)
  • Individuals that have mania
  • People that have seizures.

L-Glutamine supplements are also beneficial for the liver, intestines and bowel.  They have been used in the medical setting to treat leaky gut syndrome, colitis and Crohn’s disease and to help protect the liver from chemotherapy toxicity.

Is It For You?

Glutamine is sold in a variety of forms: powder, capsules, pills and sticks.  Dosage is individual and varies according to body weight.  Some experts believe that you can’t take too much glutamine because if you supplement with more than the body needs it will just make less of its own.  It would be wise to start out following the directions on the package and make sure it agrees with you.  As with anything, just because a little of something is good doesn’t mean that a lot is better.

Dietary sources of glutamine include beef, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, daily products, wheat, cabbage, beets, beans, spinach and parsley.

Remember, it’s always best to check with your doctor before taking this or any supplement.  

Post workout recovery requires good nutrition and hydration and an adequate amount of rest before you hit the gym or pavement again.  Along with that, a daily dose of L-Glutamine may catch you up, prevent that running-on-empty feeling, and peak your energy level so tomorrow’s workout can be just as effective as the one this morning was.

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Your Pancreas On McDonalds Frozen Raspberry Lemonade. It’s Not Pretty.

How Much Sugar Is In That? 

It’s going to be a hot summer and you’ll no doubt do a lot of running around in your car.  Some days the AC won’t keep up with the heat and you’ll need a refreshing beverage.  Don’t let the temptation to run through McDonalds and get one of their frozen raspberry lemonades (that you hear advertised on the radio after every other song) get the best of you.  Just ask yourself, “Do I really need 13 teaspoons of sugar right now?” The answer should be no.  Your pancreas can’t take it.

Here's the sugar. If only I had the raspberries and lemons.

The sweet tea, iced coffee and $1 pop from McDonalds are just as bad.  Here’s the stats on all of those high-sugar drinks:

  • Frozen Raspberry Lemonade – 16 oz – 250 calories; 65 grams of sugar (13 teaspoons)
  • Sweet Tea – 32 oz – 230 calories; 59 grams of sugar (11.8 teaspoons)
  • Iced Caramel Latte –  180 calories; 31 grams of sugar (6.2 teaspoons)
  • Large Coke – 310 calories; 86 grams of sugar (17 teaspoons) – Keep your dollar.

Things aren’t any better at the Taco Bell down the road.  The Lemon and Strawberry Frutista Freeze that covers billboards in every city during the summer is also your pancreas’ worst nightmare.  A 16 ounce lemon strawberry freeze is 280 calories and has 12 teaspoons of sugar.  The mango strawberry frutista is even worse at 300 calories and 14.6 teaspoons of sugar.

Just in case you’re curious – because I was – the summer drink favorite at Starbucks is the Mocha Coconut Frappuccino at 410 calories and 12 teaspoons of sugar.  And that Mountain Dew Slushie that’s so easy to grab when you run into get gas is 240 calories and has 12 teaspoons of sugar.

Your Pancreas On Sugar

When you down a high sugar beverage like the ones mentioned, here your pancreas has to spit out an unusually large amount of insulin to get the blood sugar back to normal.  When we drink too many of these – and one a day is too much – or eat sugary foods, over time the pancreas begins to lose its ability to react.

When too much insulin is released regularly over a long period of time there are several things that occur:  an increase in triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower HDL (good) cholesterol, high blood pressure, increased appetite, obesity, insulin resistance and the risk of development of Type-2 Diabetes.

A combination of these factors creates the perfect storm for Metabolic Syndrome, which is defined as “a collection of heart disease risk factors that increase your chance of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes”.

The health risks associated with metabolic syndrome are damage to the lining of the coronary and other arteries, an inability of the kidneys’ to remove salt which leads to high blood pressure, increased risk of blood clot formation and a slowing of insulin production which is the precursor to type 2 diabetes.  You have to ask yourself if the drink specials at the fast food places are worth all of that?

A Drinkless Summer

This doesn’t mean that you have to drink water only all summer.  Although H2O is always the best choice, there are some other options that won’t give you sugar overload.  Here are a few suggestions for you:

  • Iced Skinny Latte – Add skim milk and honey to your favorite brewed coffee chilled or try Dunkin Donuts Iced Hazelnut coffee with skim milk – 20 calories and 2 grams of sugar (16 oz.)
  • Flavored Iced Tea – Zero calories and zero sugar.  It’s easy to make your own.  Add flavored tea bags to the ice tea maker or you choose from a variety of flavors from the Honest Tea line.
  • VitaCoco  Coconut Water With Pineapple – Very refreshing at only 80 calories and 20 grams of sugar.
  • Lemonade Slush – Make your own with lemonade concentrate, skim milk, water and ice.
  • Frozen Raspberry Lemonade – The recipe calls for lemonade, raspberries, lime juice, and a 12 ounce carbonated beverage.

Wasting 300+ calories on a sugary drink that has no nutritional value will catch up with your pancreas and your waistline.  Remember that you only need 3,500 additional calories to gain a pound.  It won’t take long to put on – or back on – the pounds at that rate plus the health risks just aren’t worth it.

Coffee and Almond Milk Are On My List Of Superfoods. What’s On Yours?

My Ten Favorite Foods That Are Super Nutritious 

We hear a lot about ‘superfoods’.  There are numerous lists and some foods seem to make every one.  I decided to create my own top ten list.  In order for a food to make the cut it had to meet certain criteria:

  • It has to be one of my favorite foods.
  • It has to be a food that I eat on a regular basis (daily or at least weekly).
  • It must be low in salt, sodium and fat.
  • It must be high in nutrition.
  • It must be versatile.

Not only are the foods on this list super nutritious, they are also delicious and I never tire of them. When we get right down to it isn’t that what is really important?  A food can be on every list, but if you don’t enjoy eating it or know how to prepare it after you buy it, being on a list somewhere is pretty irrelevant.

The key for each of us is to seek out foods that we truly enjoy, can eat on a regular basis and are low in fat, calories and sodium yet high in nutrition.

So here’s the list of my favorite foods.  Let me know what you think.

Salmon and asparagus. Two of my favorite foods.

Karen’s Superfoods:  The Top Ten List

1.  Black Beans – I could probably write an entire article on black beans.  I won’t do that now, but if you’d like to know anything and everything about them click here.   One cup of black beans provides 59.8% of the daily nutritional value of fiber, 64% DV of folate, 30.1T magnesium and 28% of Vitamin B1.  Did I mention protein?  Black beans are an excellent meat replacement because they contain a substantial amount of protein (30.4% of daily value in one cup).  One cup is 227 calories. Most of all, they are versatile.  I put them on nachos, pizza and cook them into soups and salads.

2.  Mini Sweet Peppers – It’s no secret that the mini sweet peppers are on my top ten list. I buy a bag every week and usually run out before it’s time to go back to the store.  I take them in my lunch as a snack almost daily.  They are sweet, crunchy and pretty.  If you enjoy chips with your sandwich or to munch on, try sweet peppers instead.  Three sweet peppers provide 180 m potassium, 35% DV of Vitamin A and 270% DV of Vitamin C.  (Check on bag for nutritional content)  I have looked at recipes to find other ways to enjoy the peppers but haven’t tried any of them.  Most of them suggest stuffing the peppers with ingredients like shrimp and cream cheese and for me that would defeat the purpose of eating a snack that is only 25 calories.

3.  Chocolate Almond Milk – If you haven’t tried chocolate almond milk you’re missing out on a nutritious treat.  One cup of almond milk will quench your thirst, satisfy your chocolate craving, and provide 25% DV of Vitamin D, 50% DV of Vitamin E and 50% DV of Vitamin B12 and all for only 120 calories.  Poured over ice, chocolate almond milk is an excellent post work-out drink and makes a refreshing afternoon snack.

Chocolate almond milk is a nutritious, low-calorie treat.

4.  Strawberries – Blueberries are on every superfoods list, but I’m not a blueberry lover so I didn’t include them.  Bright red, ripe strawberries are my berry of choice.  Strawberries are great just as they are but are extremely versatile too.  They can be sliced and added to spinach or romaine lettuce salads, fruit salads and desserts.  Strawberries are also loaded with Vitamin C (141.1% DV), Manganese (28%), and fiber (11.5%).  Plus they are low in calories.  One cup has only 49.

5.  Spinach – Spinach knocks most of the other vegetables out of the park when it comes to nutrition. Take a look:  Vitamin K – 1110.6% DV, Vitamin A – 377.3%, Manganese – 84%, Folate – 65.7% and Fiber 17.2%.  And the best news is one cup is only 7 calories.  I often use spinach as the primary ingredient in salads, put it in vegetable lasagna, cook it as a side dish and add it to my fruit smoothies.  I know that many people aren’t fans of this dark, leafy green so I recommend adding a couple of handfuls to the blender when you’re making your favorite fruit smoothie.  I tried the green smoothie out on my co-workers and even the people that don’t like the green stuff agreed the only give-away that it was an ingredient  was the color.

6.  Asparagus – This is another vegetable that I find people turn their nose up at.  I think it’s because they haven’t prepared it properly.  If your only experience with asparagus in out of the can you should give fresh grilled spinach a try.  When cooked on the grill or sautéed in a pan on the cook top with a drizzle of olive oil and garlic, asparagus is crunchy and delicious.  I made an asparagus salad and my family loved it.  Asparagus, like spinach, has high nutritional value and an abundance of anti-oxidants.  It’s high in Vitamin K (69.6%), Vitamin A (20.2%) and Folate (17.4%).

7.  Salmon – This is one of my family’s favorite foods and now that we know how important the omega-3 fatty acids are to heart health it definitely has a place on the top ten list.  It is also abundant in Vitamin D (264.7% DV), B12 (109.6%), Tryptophan (109.3%) and protein (61.9%).  The omega-3s come in at 61.2% DV.  Four ounces of salmon is 233 calories.  There are endless ways to use salmon in salads and main dishes.  At times when I’m in a hurry I make salmon loaf using canned salmon, however, fresh grilled is my first choice.

8.  Brown Rice – We made the shift from processed grains to whole grains a couple of years ago and I now find it hard to eat white rice.  It seems so bland and sticky compared to brown plus the process that takes rice and makes it white removes most of its nutritional value.  Brown rice makes a good base for grilled vegetables, salmon, or chicken.  One cup of brown rice delivers 88.0% DV for manganese, a mineral that helps produce energy from protein and carbohydrates and is a key component to a healthy nervous system.

9.  Almonds – Almonds are one of my favorite snacks.  The fact that I eat them every day and never get tired of them along with their ability to lower LDL Cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease secures them a spot on the list.  Almonds are high in monounsaturated fats, in other words, healthy fats that can lower the risk for heart disease by up to 45%.  They are also a good source of Vitamin E (44.8% DV) and magnesium (24.6%).  Almonds are higher in calories than the other foods on the list so portion control becomes a factor.  Twenty three whole raw almonds are about 164 calories.

A skinny latte that you make yourself is not only better for you, it's cheaper too!

10.  Coffee – Although it’s not actually a food, coffee makes the list and not just because it one of my favorites things.  The more studies are done on coffee the better the news gets for java lovers like me.  The most recent study shows that coffee drinkers are less likely to die from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes and infections.  It has long been believed that coffee is good for the liver and helps protect against Parkinson disease.  I drink coffee black so I don’t have to worry about sugar or cream undoing the benefits I’m getting from the antioxidants in the coffee beans.  Hot or cold, coffee is my beverage of choice both before a workout and as a mid-afternoon pick me up.

I had to put some thought into compiling this list.  There are a lot of good foods out there that fit the criteria of ‘superfood’ but I wanted to drill down to my absolute favorite ten.  These are foods that are on my shopping list every week and that are great eaten alone or as an ingredient in a favorite main dish, soup, salad or dessert.

What did I miss?  What’s on your super food list?

 

To Keep The Weight Off Dieters Need 300 Fewer Calories A Day.

One More Reason Why Strength Training Needs To Be A Part Of Your Day

You’ve worked hard to lose weight and chances are you’re going to have to work even harder to keep it off. At least that’s the news from Columbia University.

Professor Michael Rosenbaum of New York’s Columbia University has monitored dieters for years.  Rosenbaum believes that ‘dieters’ that have lost weight need to eat 300 fewer calories a day than a non-dieter at the same weight.

What this means is that if you weighed 170 pounds, went on a diet and lost 30 pounds, you will need to eat 300 fewer calories a day than someone who has always weighed 140 pounds [for their adult life]. “The number of calories you are going to have to eat to maintain that weight loss falls by 22 per cent,” according to the professor.

And that doesn’t change over the years.  There’s no so-called reset of the metabolism.  You will have to eat 300 fewer calories a day forever.

Not only is strength training the fountain of youth, it's the remedy for yo-yo dieting.

Loss Of Muscle Mass Is The Enemy. 

The most interesting thing about the article is the reason it gives for this revelation: “The phenomenon can largely be blamed on the effect dieting has on muscle.” “In slimmers, muscle uses fewer calories to do its work than in someone else of similar weight who has not dieted.” That might sound like a lot of mumbo jumbo unless you understand the impact muscle mass has on metabolism.

Just last week I posted an article on the role strength training plays in the retention of muscle mass as we age. We naturally lose muscle as we age unless we have a plan to hang on to it.  (You can read about it here.)

Strength training is just as important to weight management as it is to anti-aging. When people go on a diet to lose ‘weight’ they don’t just lose body fat.  They lose precious muscle mass too.  That loss of muscle mass slows down the metabolism and what remains is a never ending battle to keep the weight off.  Replacing that muscle mass by doing two to three strength training sessions a week is key.

I bookmarked an excellent article several months ago called “How To Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle – Burn Fat, NOT Muscle” and am sharing it with you here.  I hope everyone that is dieting now or has reached their weight loss goal and realizes the next challenge is to keep the weight off will read this article and take it seriously. This article talks about how everyone wants to lose ‘weight’.  What they mean is they want to lose fat, but they get a lot more than they bargained for.  A significant amount of muscle is lost right along with the fat.

ACE And Strength Training

While the article siting Professor Rosenbaum’s discovery about the challenges that people face once they’ve lost weight doesn’t mention strength training, it’s easy to connect the dots. The American Council on Exercise says that “muscle tissue is partly responsible for the number of calories burned at rest (the basal metabolic rate or BMR).  As muscle mass increases, BMR increases, making it easier to maintain a healthy body weight.”

People that lose ‘weight’ lose lean muscle mass along with the body fat and are left with a lower BMR so they have to eat fewer calories to maintain their ideal weight.  As they continue to cut back on their calories the muscle continues to decrease and the vicious cycle of weight loss, weight gain, weight loss, weight gain begins.

Whether you’re in the process of losing weight or have reached your weight loss goal, the best thing you can do for yourself is to add regular strength training to your weekly workout regime.  Here are links to the previous posts that I’ve written on this topic along with additional links to workout programs that are worth checking out:

You Don’t Have To Be A Heavy Lifter To Benefit From Strength Training.
Six Exercises That Will Get Your Arms Ready For Summer Tank Tops.
Sure Fire Tips To Rev Up Your Metabolism.
Moving Beyond Exercise TV.  There Are Plenty Of Options. 

Whether you want to look lean and mean, be forever young or keep off the pounds that you’ve worked so hard to lose, don’t overlook the benefits that strength training has on all of these.

You Don’t Have To Be A Heavy Lifter To Benefit From Strength Training.

If You Think Cardio Is King, You Might Want To Think Again.

Maybe you’re not strength training because you’re intimidated by the idea of lifting weights. Or you don’t know where to begin.  Maybe you just really like to do cardio stuff – like running marathons.  Whatever the reason, you’re making a big mistake if you’re not including at least two sessions of strength training in your weekly workout schedule; a mistake that might bite you in the you-know-what two or three decades from now.

Purchasing a set of dumbells that you can add and take away weight gives you more options.

Strength Training Keeps Us Young

It’s not new news that that strength training is the fountain of youth and is superior to cardio exercise when it comes to keeping us young.  We naturally lose muscle as we age.  In fact, after the age of 35 we lose an average of five percent every ten years.  If we don’t do anything to hang onto that precious muscle tissue, we will end up weak, bent and frail in our ‘golden’ years.  The only way to maintain, retain and gain muscle mass is through strength training.

Don’t Get Bummed Out.  Keep Reading – There’s Good News.  

Most people can get a good cardio workout by doing some things that come more naturally than tossing dumbbells around, like walking, running or riding a bike. Figuring out how to strength train is more complex plus many people are intimidated by the idea of going to a gym and feeling silly once they get there because they can’t lift anything more than a 10 pound dumbbell.

The good news is you don’t have to lift heavy weights to increase muscle mass and gain strength.  You can use lighter weights with increased repetitions and as long as you reach the point of muscle fatigue you will see good results.

Researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario studied how various combinations of weight loads and repetitions affected the leg muscles in young men.  All of the participants did three strength training sessions a week for 10 weeks.  The training regimen consisted of doing one set at 80 percent maximum load, three sets at 80 percent maximum load and three sets at 30 percent maximum load.  A set was defined as doing as many repetitions as possible with the assigned load.  Typically with the 80 percent maximum load a set was eight to 12 repetitions.  With the 30 percent maximum load a set was more like 25 to 30 reps.

Cam Mitchell, a lead study author and a Ph.D candidate in McMaster’s kinesiology department said that they found that “loads that were quite heavy and comparatively light were equally effective at inducing muscle growth and promoting strength”.

How Does This Help You?

What the most recent news out of Hamilton really means is that you don’t have to join a gym, hire a trainer (although having an expert’s help is always a good idea) or push heavy weights around to reap the benefit of muscle work. A couple sets of dumbbells of varying weights – or a set where you can add and take away pounds – along with a medicine ball or kettle ball will get you started.

Weight Training for Dummies

If you’ve never done strength training, or it’s been a very long time, joining a gym and hiring a personal trainer for a few sessions to get you started is a great idea. If that’s not feasible there are some other options.  You can purchase “Weight Training for Dummies” – no, I’m not kidding – from Amazon for $14.45 new and for a couple bucks used.  Weight Training for Dummies also has a web site which shows all types of strength programs.

Thinq Fitness is also an excellent resource for workouts that you can do at home with very little equipment and a membership is only $4.99 a month.

Finally, if you’re thinking about purchasing a workout-at-home DVD you can review before you buy at Collage Video.  I know that I mention the Collage Video option often, but it’s a great way to see if a video is the right fit for you before you buy.

Benefits Go Beyond Sexy, Strong Muscles

The benefits of strength training far surpass having a stronger, leaner appearance.  Increased muscle mass can reduce the development of several chronic diseases including arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, back pain and depression.

What’s your favorite way to strength train?  In the gym, or at home?  Please share your tips in the comment box below.

 

If You Need A Quickie – Workout That Is – Quickie Chick Can Help.

Laurel Has Made ‘The Quickie’ Famous 

Quickie Chick's Cheat Sheet

Laurel House, also known as Quickie Chick, has made the ‘quickie’ famous.  Laurel is a personal trainer that was a Fit Life expert on Exercise TV.  She’s published three books.  Her fourth is hitting the bookstores now and her quickie workouts have had over seven million views on YouTube!

Laurel was an editor for Fit Magazine and Fit Yoga Magazine, contributed to Men’s Journal, Men’s Health, and Women’s Health.  Just this week People Magazine contacted Laurel about doing a piece on her book and E! News is interested in doing a photo shoot of one of her quickies.

Quickie Chick’s quickie workouts include Quickie Workouts in Bed, Workouts at Work and Stiletto Quickie Workouts. Here’s a workout from Quick Chick that you can do at work.  This is perfect for the goal you’ve made to sit less and move more.

Stiletto Quickie: Butt Squeezes: 

For those of you still wondering what happened to Exercise TV, Laurel said that the parent company decided to terminate the show, but several of the fitness ‘stars’ have moved over to BeFit by Lionsgate, one of the new YouTube/Google inspired channels.

For more quickie workouts, challenges and give-aways check click here. Stay tuned for updates about Quickie Chick’s book give-away right here at Put That Cookie Down Now!

Don’t forget to let your friends know about Laurel and the quickie workouts by clicking one of the share buttons below!

15 Ways to Improve Your Health Without Losing A Pound

How Can You Be The Healthiest You Can Be?  This Is How. 

Saturday on CNN, Randi Kaye interviewed Augusten Burroughs, author of  “Running with Scissors” and “This Is How”.  “This Is How”, Burroughs new self-help book, was the focus of the interview.  Burroughs wrote “This Is How” as a way to tell other people how he’s managed to survive the things that have happened to him in his life.  He says that people always ask him, “How did you survive this?” or “How did you survive that?”  Hence, “This Is How”.

The book covers a wide range of topics, one of which is obesity that he mentions in the interview. Augusten tells Randi about the struggle that people have with trying to be thin.  In the book he talks about our obsession with losing weight and refers to those people always seeking weight loss as ‘serial dieters’. (I like that term.)  He says a more “disappointment-resistant plan would be to get thin happy” which means to be happy at whatever weight you are right now.   You can read an excerpt from that part of the book here.

Be the healthiest you that you can be.

Be The Healthiest You That You Can Be

What if we decided that rather than trying to get to a desired weight we made up our mind to be the healthiest we could possibly be in the body that we have now.  Would thinness follow?  Maybe.  But whether it did or didn’t we could improve both our physical and emotional health because we would be focused on self-care instead of a number on the scale. We would also free ourselves of the pressure of the weekly – or daily – weigh-in.

Here are 15 things that you can do to improve your health without rearranging your entire life or getting feedback from the scale to see how you’re doing.

1.  Increase your physical activity.  This doesn’t mean you have join a gym.  Just make it a point to move more throughout the day.  A good place to start is with the sit for 60 move for 3 program. After every hour of sitting, move for three minutes.

2.  Prepare 80% of your meals at home.  It’s not impossible to eat a healthy diet when you dine out, but it’s definitely more of a challenge.  If you view going out to a nice restaurant as a treat you’ll enjoy it more.  In the meantime, check out some of the healthy recipe web sites, make a grocery list and start having fun in your own kitchen!

3.  Get in the habit of reading food labels.  You’d be surprised at how much sodium, sugar and fat is lurking in ‘healthy’ foods.  The Traffic Light Food app downloaded to your phone can be a big help in deciphering labels.  The app is also available for Smartphone.

4.  Wear a pedometer for two or three days and see how many steps you walk on average each day.  Try to increase your daily average by a thousand.  There’s nothing like a pedometer that registers ‘0’ to motivate movement.

5.  More and more research shows that strength training is the fountain of youth.  As we age our muscle mass is in a natural state of decline.  We begin to lose muscle mass rather rapidly after the age of 35.  You don’t need to join a gym to do a couple sessions of strength training weekly.  There are many excellent strength training workout DVDs that you can do at home. Review them before you buy at Collage Video.  At Collage.com, put ‘strength training’ in the search bar and find one that suits your age, ability and fitness level.

6.  Try a new vegetable every week.  If you’re stuck on broccoli and green beans it’s time to give your palate a treat.  Kale, bok choy, turnip and mustard greens are all inexpensive to buy and easy to prepare and will add vitamins and minerals to your diet that you might be missing. Cooking Lite has tons of recipes and ideas for preparing different veggies.

7.   Create a picture board that reflects the vision that you have for your life.  Not only will creating the board allow you to use the creative side of your brain which releases stress, if you put the board in a place where you’ll see it throughout the day it will serve as a constant reminder of what you want to achieve.

This is a picture of my co-worker (#126) after she ran her first 5k.

8.  Turn your dream of running a 5K into a reality.  The results of a study recently completed as part of the Copenhagen City Heart research project shows that jogging an hour a week can increase your life expectancy by around six years. The Cool Running Couch to 5K program makes going from jogging to walking something thousands of people have achieved and you can too.  There’s nothing like crossing the finish line of your first race to make you feel like a rock star!

9.  Start a Happiness Project.  I wrote about the Happiness Project in December when grouchy people were trying to put the kibosh on my holiday cheer.  We can’t ignore the impact our emotional well being directly has on our physical health.  If we’re frustrated, angry and impatient, it’s harder to maintain a state of positive wellbeing.  Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project web site is one to bookmark for year ‘round inspiration.

10.  While we’re on the subject of emotional wellbeing, here’s another web site that I visit regularly.  Pick The Brain – Grow Yourself.  This site has been around site 2006 and is one of the fastest growing self-improvement sites on the web.  One of my favorite articles is “Are You Postponing Your Life Until Tomorrow?”.  Be sure and check out the archives for posts that appeal to you at Pick The Brain.

11.  This is your life and you are the author. Act like it.  This is another take-away from the interview I watched with Augusten Burroughs.  His message is ‘stop playing the role of the victim’. Only you can make the changes that need to be made.  It’s time to take charge of your life.

12.  Yoga anyone? It’s no wonder that yoga has been around since 1500 A.D. This spiritual form of exercise provides some benefits that other program can’t.  Whether you join a yoga studio or buy a yoga DVD to do at home, you’ll gain strength, flexibility and focus if done at least once a week.  If you’ve never done yoga check out Rodney Yee’s DVD series.  Yee is a true yogo guru and his workouts can be purchased at Amazon.

13.  Try a fitness class at your local Y or health club.  Most Y’s will let you try classes at least one time for free.  Working out alone is fine and a preference for some people. Most of us stick with an exercise program longer and enjoy it more if we have an instructor providing verbal cues and a ‘good job!’ every now and then.  Plus, you’ll make new friends that have the same interest as you and develop a support system that will get you through when your motivation wanes.

 14.  Get at least seven hours of sleep a night.  One study after another has shown that a chronic lack of sleep leads to weight gain, and depression and can have detrimental effects on your immune systems.  Set a bedtime for yourself each night just like you do for your children and stick to it.  The National Sleep Foundation web site has an article on sleep hygiene that’s worth reading if you have trouble falling and staying asleep.  Check it out here.

15.  Live in the moment.  Checking Facebook, tweeting, texting, and constant e-mail reminders all take us away from the here and now. Losses that we’ve suffered in the past or anxiety about the future may also keep us from focusing on the present. Did you know that how often your mind wanders if a predictor of how happy you are? It’s important to focus on each moment as it happens without constantly reflecting back or looking forward. For additional tips on practicing mindfulness, here’s a link to a good article at Peace&Projects.com.

You can see the list isn’t about going to the gym five times a week, eating six servings of fruits and veggies a day and drinking the recommended amount of water.  Those things will help keep you physically healthy, but a big part of being well takes place in that large organ that rests inside your head:  your brain.  If you take control of what’s going on there the rest will follow.

Maybe it’s time to forget about the scale and focus on being the healthiest person you can be physically, emotionally and spiritually.

 

Flaxseed Oil Supplements Are In Vogue, But Do You Need Them?

Should I or Shouldn’t I Supplement With Flaxseed Oil?

A Venti size container of flaxseed oil has landed on my kitchen counter and I’m not sure what to do with it. My husband read an article about the health benefits of taking flaxseed oil. The article must have been compelling because, as you Starbucks fans have figured out, we now have about a year’s supply. I’m not convinced that we need them, but I’d like to know what you think.

Flaxseed Oil supplements are popular, but are they necessary?

Flaxseeds

Flaxseed and flaxseed oil is definitely trending. If you’re thinking about supplementing with the oil or adding seeds to your dishes and baked items here are some things you should know.

The health benefit from eating flaxseeds comes primarily from the omega-3 fatty acids that they contain. Flaxseeds also contain lignans and both soluble and insoluble fiber. The combination of the Omega-3 fatty acids, lignans and fibers all provide health benefits in several different ways. Here’s a run-down of some of the benefits of adding flaxseeds to your diet from Web M.D.

  • Studies suggest that flaxseeds may protect against the development of certain cancers including breast, prostate and colon.  The omega-3 fatty acid found in flaxseeds has been shown to inhibit tumor growth in animals.
  • The lignans in flaxseeds seem to provide protection against breast cancer and, if consumed in adolescence, may decrease the risk for the development of breast cancer later on in life.
  • Heart healthy benefits include normalizing of heartbeat, a reduced risk of hardening of the arteries, and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
  • Daily intake of flaxseeds may modestly improve blood sugar which lowers the risk for diabetes.
  • Some studies have shown flaxseeds reduce the inflammation that is found to be prevalent in certain diseases like Parkinson’s and asthma.

Seeds or Oil. Which is Better?

Most studies show that the seeds provide the most benefits. When the oil is extracted from the seeds, the lignans and fibers are left behind and they play an important role in contributing to the benefits listed above.

But, the seeds require more time and effort. The seeds are so small that they have to be chewed thoroughly otherwise the nutritional impact is diminished, maybe even lost. What I’ve read, and been told by the owner of our local food co-op, is it’s nearly impossible to chew them sufficiently with your teeth. Our co-op expert suggests running them through a small coffee grinder before adding them to soups, stews and muffins. That doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it may be just enough trouble to deter some people from trying them.

The oil or supplements containing the oil will still give you an abundance of the omega-3 fatty acids and may provide cardiovascular benefits but, as mentioned earlier, some of the benefits are lost because the fiber and lignans have been extracted. I didn’t find many articles or studies in support of taking flaxseed oil supplements except for the web sites that are promoting the sale of it.

Flaxseed Oil supplements are helpful if you don't include other sources of Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet on a regular basis.

Other Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

I am convinced that omega-3 fatty acids are critical to our overall health and most of us probably aren’t getting the amount we should. I’m not so sure all of us need to supplement with oil capsules.

There are plenty of other foods – mostly of the fish variety – that you can include in your diet that contain omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts, salmon, sardines, soybeans, halibut, scallops, shrimp, tofu and tuna are all good sources. Flax seeds are, however, at the top of the list and are the food with the highest content of fatty acids.

So, if the foods on the list are not a part of your diet and you can’t see yourself grinding up seeds and storing them for later use, you may end up on the deficit side of omega-3 fatty acids and that’s probably not the best place to be. In this case the oil capsule supplements would be a good option and would bump up your intake of omegas from zero to an adequate amount, depending on the dosage you decided on.

We eat a variety of foods from the omega-3 list weekly so I don’t know that we need to supplement, although adding the ground seeds to our diet for the full nutritional impact that they provide would be worthwhile.

I’ve decided I’m going to remain quiet about my findings and let my husband supplement with the oil all he wants. Nothing I’ve found says that they will do any harm and nobody likes a know-it-all.

What about you? Do you supplement with flaxseed oil or use ground seeds in dishes that you make? I would love for you to share you thoughts in the comment box.

Need A Break From Spinach and Broccoli? Try This Easy and Delicious Bok Choy Recipe.

Bok Choy Is Delicious, Nutritious and Easy to Prepare. 

If you need a break from broccoli and spinach this quick and easy stir fry recipe for Bok Choy is just what you need.  Bok Choy is a vegetable that could easily be classified as both a superfood and a free food.  It is extremely low in calories, yet has an incredibly high nutritional value.

Up until now our relationship with Bok Choy has been limited, making an occasional appearance in special dishes we order at an Asian restaurant.  But, as Bok Choy becomes more main stream, it’s easy to find in your local grocery.  The problem is you may not know exactly what to do with it.

Bok Choy. What do I do with it?

Don’t let that stop you.  It’s incredibly easy to prepare.  If you need a break from lettuce, broccoli and spinach, I’ve got a quick and easy recipe for you to try.

But first, the nutritional low-down on how good this vegetable really is for us.

Bok Choy Is A Nutritional Powerhouse

Bok Choy is a leafy Chinese cabbage that is primarily grown in China, the Philippines, and Vietnam.  Besides it’s sweet flavor, it’s popular because it is a rich source of many phyto-nutrients, vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, some of which you don’t find in most foods. Bok Choy is a good source of Vitamins C, A and K.  Plus it has B-complex vitamins including B6, B5 and B-1.  Calcium, phosphorous, potassium, manganese, iron and magnesium are also found in Bok Choy.

It can be eaten raw in salads, or paired with cabbage for slaws.  The most popular way to fix Bok Choy is stir fried which is how I’ve prepared it. Below is a very easy stir-fry dish that I made and wanted to share.

Besides the Bok Choy you’ll need olive oil, garlic, ginger and chicken broth.

First, cut the stem off of the Bok Choy. Separate the leaves, rinse and drain.

Preparing the Bok Choy

In a large skillet put about two tablespoons of olive oil, ginger and three cloves of minced garlic. Cook until the garlic is golden brown.  Add the Bok Choy.  Stir fry for three to four minutes.  Add a half a cup of chicken broth.  Simmer until crisp-tender.

Stir fry in olive oil, garlic and ginger.

The leaves will shrink as they cook so don’t worry if they overlap the pan at first.  Drizzle with a little more olive oil and a dash of salt.

Serve warm.

There is nothing to fear.  Not only is Bok Choy easy to cook, it’s delicious! If you’re interested in more detail about the nutrition of Bok Choy click here for a link to the Nutrition and You web site.

Super Broccoli, A Jump Rope Circuit and Better Workout Music All Found Right Here.

The Five Top Finds This Week.  It’s Friday I’m In Love 

I’ve found a really cool jump rope circuit workout, a site that finds good exercise music and sends it to my e-mail, and a way to make broccoli even healthier.  Is that even possible?

Here we go with the five top finds of the week with links that you’ll love.

There's nothing like a real jump rope

1.  Cinderella Dressed In Yellow – About a week ago I wrote about the dreaded plateau and gave some suggestions on how to move beyond it.  One of the tips was to incorporate circuit training.  Circuit training is bursts of cardio exercise followed by strength training moves.  The Jump Rope Circuit from Exercise.about.com is one that you can do at home with minimal equipment.  For the circuit you will need a jump rope, dumbbells and a medicine ball.

I love some of the moves in the circuit.  The rear lunge with med ball touch, single arm overhead squat and triangle pushups is pretty tough stuff.  This workout will build cardiovascular endurance and help increase muscle mass.  I recommend investing a few dollars in a jump rope rather than faux jumping.  Jumping to a pretend rope just does not have the same effect that jumping – and tripping – over the real thing does.  With a real rope you’ll get your heart rate up higher and regain some of the coordination you’ve lost since the playground days.

2.  Olive Oil Shooters – About three months ago I decided that I would make a deliberate effort to cut back on my consumption of olive oil which in my kitchen ends up in just about everything.  According to The Home Fitness Manual I don’t really need to do that.  This article even recommends olive oil shots for people that are having trouble getting their caloric intake up to where it needs to be.

I know what you’re thinking and you’re right.  That’s not what most people need to do.  But for people that are training for a running event – a half marathon – for example, or that are doing serious strength workouts to increase muscle mass, getting adequate calories can be a problem. Eating junk food that is loaded with calories will help you gain weight.  You’ll also end up consuming trans-fats, sugar, sodium and preservatives that can have a negative impact on your training and your health.

The HFM article links to a body building web site that discusses eating junk food to increase calories and refers to it as the “dirty bulk”.  The result of the dirty bulk is additional body fat, increased blood glucose, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.  Olive oil, however, is a clean food that can bump up your calories without the adverse side effects of a diet full of potato chips, Little Debbie’s and greasy hamburgers and French fries.

Honestly, I don’t think I’ll be doing the oil shooters, but I’m over the guilt of putting a little extra olive in my basil chicken.

Broccoli can be even healthier. Flick photo by Ben Sutherland

3.  Broccoli Gets A Shot In The Arm – The Iron You sites a study that shows that if you spice up your broccoli with a little myrosinase it will be even better for you.  Why does this news merit a place on the love link Friday post and where might one go to buy myrosinase?

I love broccoli.  It’s one of my favorite foods.  Plus it’s a superfood.  You know, one of those foods that if you eat it on a regular basis it has the ability to lower your risk for chronic illness and in this case cancer.  To find a way to make a superfood even more super is exciting to me.

Myrosinase is an enzyme naturally occurring in broccoli and many of the health benefits of eating broccoli, including reducing the risk of cancer, is attributed to it.  Putting broccoli with a food or spice that also contains myrosinase increases the vegetable’s cancer-fighting abilities.

Myrosinase can be found in broccoli sprouts, horseradish and wasabi.  Other foods to eat with broccoli to boost its benefits are radishes, cabbage, arugula, watercress and Brussels sprouts.

Try This – Roasted Brussels and Broccoli
For a quick recipe take a pound of fresh Brussel Sprouts halved and a head of broccoli cut up.  Place them on a baking sheet with a little olive oil.  Lightly salt and pepper and place in a 350 degree pre-heated oven.   Roast for about 20 minutes.  Sprinkle with wasabi and a lemon wedge before serving.

4.  Help! I Need New Workout Music – I’m constantly searching for motivating songs to workout and run to.  I’ve found a site that I can subscribe to that will deliver a list of the most popular workout songs for the month to me via e-mail. Run Hundred receives 40,000 workout song suggestions a month.  From this it creates a list of the top 10 and sends it to subscribers. A list of the top ten songs for May 2012 can be found here.

At Run Hundred you can search for songs by genre, decade, artists, and BPMs (beats per minute).  Once you make a selection you can download directly from iTunes without leaving the Run Hundred  site.

Shape Magazine also has a mini playlist from Powermusic.com with six songs that you can download by submitting your e-mail address. You can listen to samples of the songs, which I did and I think are pretty good, so I took advantage of the mini play list and added them to my iPod.

Organ donation just got easier. Flickr photo by MoneyBlogNewz

5.   Click ‘Like’ To Donate A Kidney – This is quite possibly the feel good story of the week.  Facebook has announced that it will allow its 900 million members to officially register as organ donors at the social media site.

The idea came to Mark Zuckerberg during a conversation that he had with his girlfriend, Priscilla Chan, a medical student and aspiring pediatrician.  Over dinner she tells Mark about the children that she sees each day.  She’ll see them getting sicker, then, all of a sudden, an organ becomes available, and she comes home and her face is all lit up because someone’s life is going to be better. 

Despite advances in medical technology the demand for organ, eye and tissue donation still ‘vastly exceeds the number of donors’.  Here are some stats from Donate Life:

  • More than 100,000 men, women and children currently need life-saving organ transplants.
  • Every ten minutes another name is added to the list.
  • An average of 18 people die each day due to the lack of available organs.
  • 90% of Americans say they support donation, but only 30% know the essential steps to take to be a donor.

The last bullet point is the one where a huge social media site like Facebook will have tremendous impact.  What’s to stop any of us from clicking ‘Like’?

Which reminds me.  You can click like, share or tweet this post if you know someone else that could benefit from Link Love Friday.

Happy weekend to all.