Monday, December 23, 2013

Going NUTS or Not Going at All.... The Scoop On Some Diet Suggestions

There are some serious studies being conducted to confirm the efficacy of tree nuts as a weight maintenance food. The Purdue University study (you can read about it here) is testing to see how such a calorie rich food can help control appetite and contribute to weights loss. There are the obvious suggestions that it is rich in fiber and protein which help satiate, but the study is trying to see if there's some neurological or sociological response to their consumption which can keep people coming back to them instead of going for  candy bars.

Another diet trend has its roots in ancient practices. A new trend to weight loss, blood glucose maintenance, and a possible Alzheimer's reducer, is to conduct fasts twice a week. This practice is referred to as 5:2 fasting. The Wall Street Journal recently talked about it, and you can read about it's implementation here. Basically, it's about having zero to 500 calories on fasting days twice each week and eating normally (or abnormally for some people) on "feast" days five times each week.

What's fascinating about this diet trend is how ancient it really is. For Islam, there is a Sunnah practice of Sawm (fast) on Monday and Thursday (You can find out about it here) which are voluntary fasts. In Judaism, the custom of fasting on Mondays and Thursdays is older and has a different meaning, but isn't as regular an occurance as the Sunnah custom in Islam (read more about BeHab in Judaism).

Monday, December 2, 2013

To Actually Mind Your OWN Business

Very often we discuss activities that you can do to help you stay fit, stay healthy, and stay on top of your wellness. We live in a world of constant do-ing. Now, since my interest is in your best possible health, I wanted to share how important it is to focus on your OWN stuff. Give yourself time to unwind, unplug, and un-do.

Yeah, I know you have to get ready for winter...
The folks over at Lifehacker have a great article about (and cool pictures!) the positive effects of meditiation, it's ability to focus you on your singular task, and to relax the brain. Yeah, it's like stretching for the synapses. You see, with stress and anxiety, the brain stays very active- kinda like mental push-ups. This does burn calories, but just as with regular exercise, using your brain should be within limits and get it some good rest.
There has even been some studies that chillaxing is one of the best ways to improve worker output and reduce health care costs. The Economist has a great piece on the mental market of 'mindfulness' and you can read the article here. There's thought of paying for people to just take a yoga class because it will cost insurers less money if employees are idle and relaxed.
A meditation block using a verse from Psalms
However, modern 'mindfulness' has become part of the quick fix self-help movement. It's important to understand that meditation has been used for centuries to focus people on their tasks and alleviate their stress. One of the best methods is to focus on an inspirational passage (like the one featured above). Focus on your OWN business, take charge of your life, and relax your brain. Your body will thank you.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Get your 'Fitness Age' to see how your fitness level compares

Over the years, we have thrown around words like 'VO2 Max', Resting Heart Rate, Oxygen Intake, and so on. I actually blogged about this about a year ago How to ACTUALLY go from Couch to 5k, and I had some funny pictures of Homer Simpson running and a cool chart showing oxygen intake and deficit relationship. Today, I am going to give you some tools on how to calculate VO2 Max, make it meaningful to you, and have you start making any necessary changes to your lifestyle to get you feeling your 'fitness' age.
What's your fitness age?

Let's start with VO2: this is the volume of oxygen your body will use in one minute. It's the ratio between the amount of oxygen in the air you inhale divided by the amount of oxygen in the air you exhale, all during the course of one minute.

To save you the thousands of dollars it would cost to measure this with specialized equipment, some fantastic sport scientists have developed some simple formulas that you can use to calculate this and give you some useful numbers. A couple of them can be found here.

Once you have your VO2 Max number, you can compare it to a chart that looks at age and score. Here's a link to charts for both men and women. Men between ages 25-55 should have a VO2 Max between 32-42, and women should have scores between 28-38

To get a better sense on where you are fitness wise and calculate your 'fitness age', you can use this fitness age calculator. You will need to also know your waist size (the measure around your belly button, not your hips) and resting heart rate (measure this after having been settled for about five minutes).

If you are having trouble calculating, then just comment on this page and I will help you out!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Should we go gluten-free? Will that give me the energy I want?

Last week, there was yet another article in the WaPo Health section about the benefits of going gluten-free. Sports Illustrated had an article about gluten-free athletes a couple of years ago, touting the benefits of freeing up your body's metabolism from the breakdown of gluten in the intestine to more athletic performance work (reallocating scarce resources in the body makes sense right?).

I shoulda eaten more carbs...
To be fair, nobody is advocating carb-free diets for athletic performance. In "Endurance Sports Nutrition", Dr. Eberle points out that the science is pretty straight forward on this: you need carbs to perform and keep you going for the long haul until the body can access glycogen stores, but carbohydrates are the main thing that will keep you in the long races. You can read more about this from the publisher's website

What we are discussing is whether gluten, being a difficult protein to break down, can slow you down just a little. In a race where every step matters to the elite athlete, this would be a profound advantage: the difference between the top of the podium and just being on the podium. Yeah, it's not that big of a deal really for most people. If you had a gluten allergy, then the bloated feeling would be so uncomfortable that you wouldn't be running at all.

In the eternal source for more energy in the morning- the solution is really simple: simple sugars and protein that is. If you start your morning with a run or bike, then you'll want to judge when you last ate dinner, how long of a cardio workout you are doing, and how you are feeling. Safe bet is to have a banana, maybe some yogurt, some milk, a small amount of oatmeal or cereal. These are just suggestions- don't eat too much before exercising! You can read some more suggestions here

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fitness News From Around the Web

Have you used a FitBit to track your activity during the week? They've released their third model called Force to compliment the Flex model. It tracks steps, distance, calories, and amount of sleep!

DNP FitBit Flex Review    

For those of you using Android devices, Google Now has a card to track your walking and biking mileage. Make sure to give it permission to track you!
The Google Now Card
   First diet, then exercise, and now attitude! A Washington Post article discusses how health professionals want to end the big diet debate by focusing on taking small steps in the right direction for long term, not just short term gains.

Having a tough time finding healthy places to eat out? Not a problem anymore! Someone built a website to make it easier to find those places.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Developments in Nutrition and Weight Loss

A Calorie May Not Be Just A Calorie

Recent Studies Show That Genes or Bacteria May Affect Matabolism

A recent article in the Economist gives a synopsis of four very fascinating studies into how different people may metabolize glucose in different fashions. The metabolic pathways could change based on either certain genetic features of the person (or mouse in the study) or the presence of certain types of bacteria.
Fat Mouse, Healthy Diet!

There is another more extensive article in the New York Times looking more closely at how diets higher in fruits and vegetables but lower in saturated fat would not only result in weight loss, but also correlated in a change in the types of bacteria present in the mice that were losing weight in the study: the fat mice started to have similar bacterial compositions as the lean mice.

 Eating healthy is an important part of changing the stomach flora, and we have discussed on this blog about some important dietary changes that you can make right now. 
Finally- for a good laugh about keeping healthy- read about Surviving Whole Foods!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Time for Another 5 Minute Workout!

5 Minute Core Workout!

Try one, two, or three rounds

  • 1:00 Push-Up With Opposite arm and leg Raise  
Start with both arms and legs on the floor, perform one push-up, and finish the push-up by lifting opposite arm and leg (pictured). 
  • :30 Single Leg Squat Right 
  • :30 Single Leg Squat Left             
Use a bench, couch, or whatever you find stable.              Shift your weight to your toes as you stand up. To modify, place your straight leg's heel on the floor to assist you as you stand up
  • 1:00 Alternating Side Planks  
 Start with arms straight as pictured, transition to side plank on right arm, return to straight arm plank, switch to side plank on left arm
  • 1:00 Jump Squats   
I think the picture says it all.

  • :30 Side Plank Toe Touch    
You can go into the side plank either on your hand or on your forearm. Raise your upper leg towards your hand straight out in front of you. Repeat this on both sides for :30 seconds.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fitness News From Around the Web

Rituals make our food more flavorful - some simple gestures, not necessarily related to the food, make our involvement, and therefore our enjoyment, of the food, much higher.

Nutrients are better on a plate than in a bottle - the food-first approach is everyone's best recommendation. Living on pills isn't.

Get Informed! - know what to look for and what to know about supplementing your diet without risk of side effects or wasting your money on stuff that won't get absorbed.

Get the app! -  have all your nutritional information on your smart phone

Another "things you might be getting wrong" list - this focuses on weight perception and weight loss

Best points about meals and weight loss:

  1. Only eat when you know what you're eating- so try to make the food yourself
  2.  Foods higher in fiber and higher in flavor go best together- like broccoli and garbanzos
  3. Watch the dressings on your salads- vinegar and olive oil are best bets for low calorie flavor fests!
  4. Lean meat doesn't always mean no red meat- just grill it to release the fat or switch to bison meat which is leaner than almost all meat, chicken, and fish.
  5. Finally- if you're still hungry, reach for fresh fruits and veggies to snack on.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Stress Relief- Breathing Techniques for Everyday Use

Use Breathing to Relieve Stress

Ever notice how athletes will take a breath or two before going for the big play?

Breathing is one of the easiest ways to relieve stress. You can read up on stress and the different forms of relief at this great article on I want to focus on a simple technique to reduce stress and light anxiety.

Firstly, breathing is a stress response as part of our natural "fight or flight" response. However, we are able to access this response and slow our own breathing to reduce the hormone secretion during a stress response. Controlling breathing will also regulate heart rate and blood pressure. Combining breathing techniques with exercise is an added effective technique at changing our overall pathology of stress relief which usually manifests itself as neck and shoulder pain, which can be relieved through good old fashioned "talking about your stress". Research has shown that punching a bag, for example, my actually relieve your stress significantly more than talking about your problems.

Breathing the right way
The simplest form of relaxation is good ole' diaphragmatic breathing.

You inhale through the nose, feel your stomach lift (that's the diaphragm pushing down into the abdomen), count to 8, and then exhale trough the mouth. That's it! That's also the best way to breathe while running for example.

Other factors are to make your area around you quiet and simple, no noise or distractions so you can listen to the breathing.

In a future post, we will discuss meditation as an additional stress reliever.