Is Your Food Causing You Stress?

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Tired young businessman in office

When you hear the word stress, what comes to mind? Your commute to work, paying all the bills this month, or trying to function on four hours of sleep. We all have a good understanding of what stress feels like and where it comes from, and many of us even practice techniques to manage that stress.

Other types of stress may not be as apparent or we just don’t recognize the signs.

For example, food can act as either an ideal fuel for the body or a poison that should be avoided. When you eat certain foods, they may be causing stress within your body – also known as inflammation. Inflammation is our body’s response to illness, injury, or stress. Inflammation can actually be beneficial when it’s short term. Sprain an ankle and it will become inflamed to begin the healing process. But, if inflammation is long-term and systemic, it could lead to many diseases and health problems.

Diseases associated with long-term systemic inflammation include cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and many auto-immune diseases. So it would seem logical to try to minimize or at least control inflammation.

Taking control of systemic inflammation begins with the digestive system. Changing the types of foods you eat will have a dramatic effect on the health of your digestive tract. Cutting out processed foods, sugary foods, chemical laden foods, and trans fats is a good place to start. Adding healthy fats such as fish oil while limiting certain plant oils such as soybean oil may help balance out your Omega 3 to Omega 6 fat ratio. Omega 3 fatty acids have a natural anti-inflammatory effect while too much Omega 6 fatty acids can have an inflammatory effect when consumed.

“Healthy” foods could also be causing inflammation if your body can’t tolerate them. Common food allergies include gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, soy, and nuts. These allergens could be causing un-needed stress on the body every time they’re consumed by causing your immune system to react. It’s almost as if your body thinks you’re sick every time you eat an intolerable food. If you think you may have a food allergy or intolerance, talk to your doctor. By taking a sample of your blood, a lab can determine if you have reactions to certain foods.

Imagine living life in a constant state of inflammation fundamentally caused by the foods you’re eating. Your body would be constantly stressed out. To put that in perspective, just think if you were mentally stressed all the time. Life wouldn’t be much fun would it?

So give your body a break from this stress by choosing foods that produce benefit rather than harm. You’ll have less stress, more energy, and live a longer and healthier life.

A quote by Dr. Ann Wigmore sums it up best – “The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison.”

Still the Most Important Meal of the Day

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Corn Flakes

We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It seems like such a logical concept – wake up, feed your body, and get on with your day. But, many people ‘don’t have time’ or ‘just aren’t hungry’ and either skip breakfast altogether or grab less than desirable options.

Here are 5 great reasons to eat breakfast every day.

Control blood sugar levels. By the time morning rolls around, your body has been without food for several hours. Depending on the time of your last meal, your blood sugar levels are on the lower end of the optimal range and need replenished before you become too active. If you skip breakfast your blood sugar will drop below the desirable range and negatively affect your health. Eat something high in sugar and you may temporarily feel energized but crash later. Avoid both scenarios by eating a complete meal that contains lean protein, healthy fats, and a natural carbohydrate.

Support metabolism. If you’re running on fumes until lunchtime, your body will slow down its own metabolism to conserve energy. When you do finally eat, your body is more likely to store calories in an attempt to make it to the next meal. This will slow down your metabolism, negatively affect your body composition, and eventually lead to weight gain.

Stay healthy. A daily dose of breakfast increases the amount of nutrients available to your body. Remember, our bodies don’t thrive on calories alone, but on the nutrients that make up those calories. Studies have shown that non-breakfast eaters are more likely to be malnourished than regular breakfast eaters. A malnourished body is more prone to injury and disease.

Feel better. No one likes feeling hungry for extended periods of time. This is what your cells feel like when you skip breakfast. They’re hungry, tired, and not very happy. But, by eating a balanced breakfast, you’ll recharge your cells and improve your energy, mood, mental clarity, and productivity.

Take a break. Breakfast is a perfect opportunity to relax for a few minutes before starting your busy day. So many times breakfast gets neglected because it doesn’t seem important at the time, or you scarf something down on your morning commute. Use breakfast as a chance to slow down and take a moment to do something good for yourself.

So what should you eat for breakfast? First, get out of the mindset that you have to eat ‘breakfast foods.’ A bowl of cereal or a breakfast bar everyday might be convenient, but it’s just not an ideal food. A cup of coffee might give you a boost, but by itself, it’s only a false sense of energy. Think in terms of pairing up a protein, fat, and carbohydrate from natural foods. How about leftover chicken and vegetables from last night’s dinner or a 2 egg omelet with spinach, tomatoes, and mushrooms, or a smoothie consisting of a banana, kale, blueberries, protein powder, and a scoop of almond butter. Put together a list of different options that work for you.

So take advantage of the most important meal of the day and feel the benefits.

Does Fat Make You Fat?

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Health Nutrition: Longevity Food

Most everyone would agree that the word fat does not conjure up good thoughts. Dietary fat seems to be the bad macronutrient that many people try to avoid. But, is fat such a bad thing?

The food we eat can be classified into three macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Furthermore, fat can be classified as saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and trans fats. The different classifications come down to the molecular makeup of the fats, but for this article we’ll address the most practical differences between these four types of fats.

Most fats are a combination of saturated, monounsaturated, and or polyunsaturated, but we’ll classify them based on their most abundant component. Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature and include dairy products, animal fats, coconut products, and palm oil. Monounsaturated fats include olive oil, nuts, and avocado. Polyunsaturated fats come from vegetable oils such as soy, sunflower, and corn, as well as fish and fish oils. And finally, trans fats are not derived from natural foods but are instead man-made and found in many processed foods.

So, which fats are the best? This is where things can get complicated, but our recommendations are always based on eating as natural as possible. With that being said, let’s get rid of trans fats before we go any further. They are not a natural part of the human diet so we recommend avoiding them altogether. Polyunsaturated fats are also found in many processed foods, and we recommend limiting these types of fats, such as soy and corn oils. However, we do recommend adding fish to your diet on a weekly basis as a great source of polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and avocados are recommended daily, as well as a moderate consumption of natural saturated fats such as coconut oil and organic pasture-raised meats that contain some animal fat.

It’s worth noting that fats have a higher calorie content than protein or carbohydrates, 9 calories per gram vs. 4 calories per gram, so it’s important to limit your fats to still fall within your daily caloric needs. We recommend getting up to 35% of your daily calories from healthy fat sources.

Why are fats so important? First off, fats are an essential nutrient for the metabolic processes of our bodies, such as our ability to absorb nutrients and metabolize energy. Healthy fats support brain, skin, and joint health as well. Including fat with your meals will help you stay satiated longer by helping to control abrupt changes in blood sugar levels which is key for long-term health and weight loss. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that eating medium chain triglycerides, such as coconut oil, before your workout will increase fat oxidation during the workout. This means that consuming healthy fats will actually help you burn more body fat as a fuel source, therefore improving your overall body composition.

So learn to see healthy fats as an integral part of your diet and you’ll be one step closer to overall wellness.

Do you Deadlift?

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Deadlift_1

When it comes to getting the most value from a particular exercise, there aren’t too many movements that can beat the deadlift. This total body exercise demands strength, power, cardiovascular efficiency, and postural control. When performed correctly, the deadlift works the entire posterior chain – including the hamstrings, glutes, low, mid and upper back, as well as muscles of the quads, core, shoulders, and arms.

The deadlift is great for total body strength and conditioning as well as improving your muscular and cardiovascular endurance. A set of deadlifts may leave you more winded than a 100 yard sprint and the muscle overload and fatigue will elicit gains in strength and muscle density.

To Perform

Step up to a weighted barbell with shins nearly touching the bar and feet hip-width apart. Squat down and lean toward the bar as you keep your heels firmly planted while maintaining a natural posture through the back. Grasp the bar slightly wider than shoulder width and tense your body. As you lift the weight, push your feet into the floor while exhaling. Be sure to keep the bar close to the body as you lift. Maintain your posture throughout the lift, keeping tension through your shoulder blades as you rise to the top position. Control the weight back down to the floor and repeat.

Mistakes to Avoid

The most common mistake with the dead lift is not getting the hips fully involved. If you are rounding forward over the top of the bar rather than squatting down to the bar, you are compromising your low back as well as missing out on all the benefits of efficient biomechanics. A forward rounded posture further accentuates common muscle imbalances, but proper form will help to improve these imbalances and minimize your chance for injury.

How to Incorporate

Include the deadlift in your weekly workouts by treating it as a total body exercise. If you’re doing a split routine, include it as either a leg or a back exercise. By sticking with light to moderate weights and high reps you will greatly improve your muscular endurance and cardiovascular efficiency, while heavier weights will help build muscle density and overall strength. Try light to moderate weights one week and perform higher reps (10-20), then follow it up the next week with a heavier load and less reps (3-8).

Once you realize all the benefits of the deadlift, you’ll be ready to include it in your weekly workouts.

 

Nutritional Support to Boost Your Workouts

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Sports nutrition

A great workout starts with great nutrition. The positive stress from strength training builds muscle and burns fat, but, the negative stress can actually cause more harm than good if you’re not properly fueled.

Pre and Post workout nutrition are a must if you want to maximize results and improve overall health.  Pre-workout nutrition gives your body the fuel and nutrients it needs to get through the activity of the workout. Post-workout nutrition gives your body the fuel and nutrients it needs to repair and recover from the effects of the workout.

The following tips will keep you performing at your absolute best.

Don’t overlook the importance of water. If you’re dehydrated, your workout performance will suffer and you will feel exhausted. Dehydration increases your chances for headaches and head rushes, muscle cramps, nausea, and poor overall performance – not the recipe for a healthy workout. Try drinking half your bodyweight in ounces of water a day. So if you weigh 160 pounds, you need 80 ounces of clean filtered water daily.

Timing of calories and nutrients before and after each workout is key. A pre-workout snack should be consumed about 30-90 minutes prior to your workout depending on the complexity of the food consumed. A meal or snack will take more time to digest than a simple liquid shake. A post-workout snack should be consumed immediately after or up to 45 minutes after the workout is completed. Your body is a sponge during this time and has already begun the recovery process – so nutrient ingestion is a must.

The types of foods consumed will affect your results.  A great option for pre and post workout nutrition is to bracket your workouts with a simple liquid shake.  Add the following ingredients to a shaker bottle: 3 oz orange juice, 3-6 oz coconut water, and 1 scoop protein powder, along with 1-2 fish oil capsules. This will ensure simple carbs for energy, electrolytes, protein for muscle repair, and healthy fats to combat inflammation. Another option could be 1-2 hard-boiled eggs and a piece of fruit. The goal is to get a balance of healthy macronutrients but not to consume so much that you feel bloated or too full.

Listen to your body. If you’re feeling weak or you find yourself shaking or you sometimes have a headache during your workouts, chances are your blood sugar is too low. Try changing the timing and types of foods you’re eating before your workouts so you feel more energetic. If your stomach feels bloated during your workouts you may have to lighten your snack or allow more time for digestion. If you feel ravenous after your workouts, ensure that you’re getting enough sustenance in your post-workout snack and that you’re consuming it as soon as your workout it completed.

So prepare yourself for a great workout and feel the difference it makes.

Spring Clean Your Diet

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Box with fruits and vegetables

With spring finally here, it’s time to give your diet a thorough cleaning. Changing the types of foods you eat can help your body rid toxins and absorb new nutrients – giving your cells and systems a much needed recharge.

The first step is getting rid of ‘dirty’ foods. This list seems to be never-ending but includes most processed foods, fast foods, sugary foods and drinks, foods containing enriched flour, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners. Non-organic foods also contain chemicals that can slowly poison the body and put added stress on the liver, kidneys, and other vital organs. These foods make the body dirty by causing inflammation, digestive problems, inadequate detox, weight gain, dehydration, and lack of energy.

Once you throw out the dirty foods, you can bring in the ‘clean’ replacements. Eating more of these foods will actually aid in your body’s natural cleansing process. These clean foods include raw organic vegetables and fresh fruits, omega-3 fats, green tea, and filtered water. Organic foods provide valuable nutrients without all the unwanted chemical disruptors.

By eating more raw vegetables and fresh fruits you are increasing fiber intake and plant nutrients. Fiber will capture toxic particles in the body and improve bowel movements. Other foods like lemons, spinach, and olive oil will help to support a neutral pH balance. Maintaining a neutral pH will help minimize many problems that exist in an acidic body, such as fungus and bacterial growth, which could lead to allergies, fatigue, and even obesity.

Increasing your water intake will help flush your system of toxins and accelerate fat loss. A general recommendation is to drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water every day. So a 150 pound person should aim to take in around 75 ounces. This is much easier when you eliminate or minimize other fluids such as colas and juices and make water your beverage of choice.

All these factors will help your body do its job of absorbing the good and eliminating the bad. So make the effort to improve your body’s ability to keep itself clean and healthy. You’ll see and feel the difference!

 

PUSH RECOMMENDS

REMOVE

LIMIT

INCREASE

 

Fast Foods

Sugary Drinks

Sugary Foods

Gluten

Processed Foods

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Added Sugars

Artificial Sweeteners

Genetically Modified Foods

 

Non-Organics

Caffeine

Alcohol

 

 

Organics

Raw Vegetables

Lemons/Limes

Grapefruit

Berries

Garlic

Olive Oil

Green Tea

Filtered Water

 

 

Improving Kids Nutrition

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Happy family preparing a healthy dinner at home.

As alarming as the obesity epidemic has become in America, children are especially vulnerable due to the poor nutritional habits of many parents as well as the abundance of affordable and convenient processed foods.

Clients often ask us, ‘What should my kids be eating?’ Fortunately, since a lot of the problems that lead to weight gain in adults also lead to the same in children, improving the diets of parents usually leads to a healthier upbringing for kids.

Here are the most common nutritional issues we find with the kids we work with and how we fix them.

Eating the same foods every day. As a general rule, try to give your kids as much food variety as possible. This ensures a wide array of nutrients and minimizes their chances of getting burned out on a particular food. Think of getting variety within each of the three macronutrient groups – protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Protein foods include meats, eggs, fish, and dairy. Healthy fats include nuts and natural nut butters, avocado, oils, seeds, olives, and natural cheeses. Carbohydrates include all fruits and vegetables, along with beans, potatoes, rice, cereals, and breads.

Missing out on nutritional density. Along with variety, pick foods that are the most nutritious. Nutrient-dense foods will give your kids more of the things they need and keep them satisfied longer. In general, natural foods are more nutritious than processed foods. Natural foods are minimally or totally unaltered from their original state, such as fresh meats, fruits, vegetables, eggs, and nuts. Processed foods include cereals, crackers, cookies, hot dogs, and frozen dinners, just to name a few.

Eating too much sugar. Get a balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates with each meal. Although a banana is healthy, it’s all carbohydrates, so pair it up with a hardboiled egg or a tablespoon of peanut butter to balance it out. This will give variety, but will also help control blood sugar levels so they don’t spike too high or drop too low – an effect of eating pure carbohydrates that is sure to make your kids feel hungry again a short time after eating.

Drinking too many empty calories. Finally, be aware of the calories your kids are drinking. Cut out soft drinks and minimize processed fruit juices. Drinks containing sugar or caffeine will again spike blood sugar levels and alter energy levels and appetite. Replace these types of drinks with filtered water, coconut water, milk, and natural juices.

Teaching kids healthy eating habits while they’re young will increase their chances of maintaining those habits well into adulthood.

Kids Nutrition Chart (2)

 

Resistance Training for Weight Loss

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DB Thruster

Although many people realize the importance of diet and exercise, few fully understand the value of resistance training and how it may be one of the most important types of exercise for long-term weight loss. Adding just 2-3 workouts per week can have a dramatic effect on your metabolism and your body’s ability to burn fat.

Don’t be one of the many who spend hours on the treadmill every week but see minimal results. Instead, implement the following workout designed for overall muscle toning and fat loss. Perform each exercise for 30 seconds using a moderate weight. Your goal is to get through all five exercises with minimal rest time – then recovering for 1-2 minutes before starting back at the first exercise. Repeat this series for a total of 3-5 rounds.

Dumbbell Thrusters – Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height with feet placed shoulder width apart. Squat down slowly until upper leg is near parallel to the floor then rise up out of the squat forcefully as you press the dumbbells overhead. Repeat.

Pushup – Assume a pushup position with hands placed shoulder width and feet placed hip width. Your body should be in a straight line from shoulder to ankle, making sure to keep your abs engaged. Bend your arms and drop down to a challenging depth before pushing back up to the starting position. Note: Pushups can be performed from the knees to decrease the resistance if needed.

Plank – From a pushup position, bend your elbows to 90 degrees and rest your weight on the underside of your forearms. Focus on holding your body in a straight line from shoulder to ankle, while tightening your abs and maintaining a neutral posture. Hold for 30 seconds.

Kettle Bell Swing – Grip a kettle bell with both hands while standing with feet shoulder width apart. Drop into a partial squat while folding forward at the waist and let the kettle bell swing down and back between your legs. As soon as the kettle bell reaches its lowest point, stand up forcefully as you push your hips forward and swing the kettle bell upward to shoulder height. Drop back to the starting position by moving with the momentum and repeat.

Mt. Climber – Assume a pushup position with more of your bodyweight shifted forward onto your arms. Now, bring your right knee forward and rest your right food on the floor while the left leg is still straight. With a light hop, quickly switch your foot position. Continue switching back and forth as you focus on driving your knee forward and engaging your abs.

So make resistance training an integral part of your workouts and start seeing results.

2016 New Year’s Resolution

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Woman Thinking

As 2015 comes to a close, now is a great time to reflect on the past twelve months and look ahead to 2016. For many, the New Year brings new hope, new adventures, and New Year’s resolutions. If your resolution has anything to do with losing weight or improving your health, keep reading.

Setting a New Year’s resolution isn’t necessarily the challenge, but implementing it can be. Following through to the end can sometimes be harder than expected and lead to failure. The following tips will help you put together a resolution that will have you moving in the right direction in 2016.

Set Realistic Goals. ‘I want it all and I want it now’ is not a practical theme for long-term weight loss success. Pick a resolution that’s challenging and requires focus, but not one that burns you out in the first month. If you have a weight loss goal of 30 lbs for example, break it up into three manageable goals of 10 lbs. Give yourself adequate time, and set secondary goals along the way to you keep you consistently moving forward.

Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses. Pick out your three strongest qualities and incorporate these into your game plan. For example, if you’re well organized, use that to your advantage by mapping out a schedule to keep you on track. On the other hand, do your best to avoid known weaknesses. If you have no self-control around sweets, keep them out of sight. Breaking a bad habit is tough, even when you’re fully committed. So, give yourself a better chance by knowing what to use and what to lose.

Have a Support System. Your New Year’s Resolution starts with you, but it can be supported by friends and family. If you show how important your resolution is to those around you, they will support you and motivate you along the way. Also, by making your intentions clear to others, you will feel a sense of accountability around these people. Another great option is teaming up with a friend or family member who has a similar resolution. This team effort can add much needed motivation and accountability.

Don’t Give Up. So it’s been two months and you’re not quite where you expected to be. That’s okay! As long as you’re making progress and you’re staying motivated, things will happen. If it wasn’t challenging, it wouldn’t be as rewarding in the end. This resolution holds personal importance to you, but you may have to remind yourself of why you’re doing it from time to time.

Reward Yourself Without Sabotage. As you create your resolution, incorporate some rewards into your plan ahead of time. If you hit your secondary goals, for example, go out to dinner at your favorite restaurant for a ‘cheat meal.’ This positive reinforcement only adds to the feeling of accomplishment and can give you a break from your diet. But, remember not to sabotage your overall progress by going overboard with too many rewards.

With the right tools, you can be on your way to crushing your 2016 New Year’s Resolution. Find the motivation and get the results!

How to Finish Strong in 2015

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Helping-Hand-Small

As the weather turns colder, you may feel your energy levels dropping with the temperature. This causes many people to abandon their workout routines until New Year’s Resolutions come around in January. Don’t be one to let things slip at the end of the year. Practice the following tips to keep your health on track through the remainder of 2015.

Set a new goal. The ‘lose 10 lbs to look good in my swimsuit this summer’ goal is now expired, so it’s time to get creative again. Maybe you’d like to run a 5K with a co-worker or you’ve always wanted to try kickboxing. Now is a great time to set a goal that forces you to try something different – something that challenges you mentally as well as physically. Forget about the pressure of trying to reach a certain weight or pant size and instead, take up a new activity.

Re-evaluate your diet. Just as fresh food options change with the seasons, your diet should never be the same year round. Getting tired of the same old foods day after day? Now is a great time to introduce some new foods into your diet. Get creative and find ways to make the meals of the holiday season fun and healthy.

Keep a journal. Numerous studies show that keeping a food or exercise journal supports positive changes. Sometimes we don’t realize what we eat until we write it down or we’re just too embarrassed to write down some of the things we do eat. As far as exercise, how can you progress if you can’t remember your workouts from last week? Keeping track of all this keeps you moving in the right direction.

Get a friend involved. It feels great to inspire someone to lead a healthier lifestyle, but the unexpected outcome is that while you’re inspiring others, they are inspiring you as well. Support and accountability from those closest to you is a great way to build your relationship while keeping each other on track. Getting a friend involved in that 5K or new exercise routine will be helping you as much as it helps them.

Have fun with it. If exercise seems like a chore, it won’t take long for you to make excuses on why you don’t have time for it. If you hate doing traditional cardio on the treadmill, get into a sports league or join a martial arts class. Exercise should be an enjoyable part of our lives, not something we feel like we have to do. Active people understand that exercise is just part of their lifestyle and they make it as enjoyable as possible.

So while others are making excuses on why they can’t exercise as the year winds down, don’t lose sight of how important a consistent routine is for your body and mind.

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