Top 4 Fitness Myths

It’s not hard to find someone willing to lend advice about how to gain muscle faster or how to lose weight quicker, especially if you ask around at the gym. Unfortunately, some fitness advice is based off of hearsay or personal opinion, not on facts. Some advice is just plain outdated (as with our first myth). It’s time to break down some of the most popular fitness myths.

Myth: Isolated Static Stretching before working out is critical to prevent injuries.

Fact: It is best to do dynamic stretching before and static after working out.

Forget what your 6th grade gym teacher taught you. If you perform static stretching (the type where you sit and hold a stretch), you are more likely to be injured and perform at a slower rate. One research study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports found that static stretching could negatively affect strength, power, and explosive performance. Another study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that static stretching before weight lifting made people feel weaker when compared to dynamic stretching. Instead, try static stretching after a workout. It will help cool down your muscles slowly and safely.

Dynamic stretching (constant movement, think running in place or high knees) before exercise has been shown to be more effective in helping prevent injury and improving performance. In summary, it is recommended that athletes do dynamic stretching before working out and static after working out.  

Myth: I don't need to do cardio if I'm strength training.

Fact: Both strength training and cardiovascular exercise are important.

Most people who are trying to increase the size of their muscles focus on strength training/weight lifting. Others, who wish to lose weight or body fat, tend to focus on cardiovascular training. Which one is better? Whether you are looking to get bigger muscles or just be more fit and healthy overall, it is important to do both strength and cardiovascular training. Here’s why. When you are lifting weights and working out to say, get abs, you will need to both build the muscle (by doing a variety of ab exercises) and also reduce the amount of body fat in your abdomen…this is where the cardiovascular training comes in (and also a healthy diet). Cardiovascular training will help burn excess fat and reveal the abs you’ve worked so hard for.

For those focusing on improving health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you do at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous cardiovascular activity in addition to 2 days of strength training per week. By following these guidelines, you are at a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and many other weight-related diseases.

Myth: Doing crunches is the best way to get abs.

Fact: Abs are made is the kitchen (have a healthy diet) and by doing a variety of ab exercises.

The days of ab roller infomercials may be long gone, but for many this myth still exists. The problem is that no matter how many crunches you do, if you don’t have a healthy diet, your abs will be hidden behind layers of fat. This is why it is important to eat a healthy diet full of lean protein, whole grains, and fruit and vegetables. It is also important to incorporate a variety of ab exercises into your routine. By adding diversity, you will work all the different muscles in your abdomen, not just the same ones over and over. 

Myth: The more you sweat, the harder you’re working (and more calories you’re burning).

Fact: Sweating is simply the body’s ability to regulate your body temperature.

Sorry, heavy sweaters, just because you are sweating more than your neighbor doesn’t mean you are burning more calories. Sweating is simply the body’s way of cooling off. The good news is that sweating may be indicative of being more “fit”. Studies have shown that more fit people sweat faster and more than less fit people. 

Protein-Packed Meals and Snacks

Whether you’re nursing an injury or simply looking for some high protein options to add into your weekly meal rotation, check out these ideas.

Breakfast

Ground Beef and Butternut Squash Breakfast Skillet from the Healthy Foodie. This high protein breakfast skillet is also high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Iron, Calcium, and Fiber. You could easily omit the butternut squash if you want to reduce the number of carbohydrates as well.

This BLT Frittata from Paleo Grubs is as easy to make as it is delicious. Not sure what frittata is? It’s similar to a quiche but without the crust. This is something you could easy make ahead of time and reheat throughout the week.

Lunch

This Quinoa and Shrimp Paella from SkinnyMs. is a well-rounded meal which will leave you feeling satisfied and energized. Using quinoa instead of rice amps up the protein as well as substitutes a refined carbohydrate for a complex carbohydrate (your blood sugar will thank you).

If you’re in a hurry and need a quick high protein lunch on the go, check out these Turkey Avocado Wraps from All Things G&D. Only three ingredients and you’re good to go.

Dinner

Serve up this Cilantro Lime Grilled Chicken from Chef In Training with your favorite side. For best results, marinade overnight and throw on the grill the next day. You could also bake these in the oven using the B.B.R.R.R. method.

This Baked Salmon with Garlic and Dijon from Natasha’s Kitchen is full of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Pair with some asparagus or green beans for a quick and easy meal.

Snacks

High in protein and fiber, these roasted chickpeas are the perfect snack. After roasting, they are a bit crunchy, which is great for those who crave crunchy snacks like potato chips. It’s easy to make them according to your taste (cinnamon, garlic Parmesan, spicy).

For a no preparation required high protein snack, pick up some mozzarella sticks, cottage cheese, or peanut butter. 

News Roundup: The Dirty Dozen

Earlier this week the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released their annual “Dirty Dozen” list, which names the fruits and vegetables that rank the highest in pesticide residue.

This week’s news roundup brings to you a collection of articles and blog posts related to the 2016 Dirty Dozen.

Strawberries Have the Most Pesticide Residues: Report. Time. “The report, compiled by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), is based on an analysis of tests of more than 35,000 samples of fruits and vegetables conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).”

New Fruit Tops “Dirty Dozen” list of most contaminated produce. CBS News. “Though some of the chemicals found on the strawberries are relatively benign, others have been linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental damage, hormone disruption, and neurological problems, the group reports.”

EWG’s 2016 Dirty Dozen List of Pesticides on Produce: Strawberries Most Contaminated, Apples Drop to Second. EWG. “Avocados, on the other hand, remained atop EWG’s Clean Fifteen™ list with less than one percent of samples showing any detectable pesticides. No single fruit sample from the Clean Fifteen tested positive for more than four types of pesticides, and very few for more than one.”

The 'Dirty Dozen': Group lists produce with the most pesticides. CNN. “While the pesticides in the USDA samples may be at a legal level, if you would like to avoid them, look for organic versions of these fruits and vegetables. Studies have shown organic products do 'expose consumers to fewer pesticides associated with human disease.'”

 

 

 

You are what you eat, BUT...

 

You are What You Eat

But… did you know that what you eat can also affect how you sleep? The relationship between sleep and diet is a complex one. The foods that we eat can either positively or negatively influence our sleep. Conversely, the amount of sleep we get can also influence what foods we tend to eat during the day.

For example, research shows that those who consume caffeine up to 6 hours prior to bedtime report taking longer to fall asleep and less sleep time overall. Those who drink alcohol prior to bedtime may fall asleep faster, but are likely to experience less deep sleep. On the other hand, foods that contain the amino acid tryptophan, are more likely to make you feel sleepy. This is because tryptophan is a building block that is required to synthesize the sleep hormone, serotonin. It is important to note that you may not experience a dramatic sense of sleepiness after eating foods that contain tryptophan. The effect of tryptophan on sleepiness is different for everyone. You will most likely experience a noticeable affect if you were not getting enough tryptophan in your diet previously.

This relationship between sleep and diet also extends in the other direction as well. Reduced sleep has been linked with reduced levels of the hormone leptin which is an appetite suppressant; and increased levels of the hormone ghrelin which is an appetite stimulant.  With these two key hunger hormones out of balance, it is more difficult to regulate dietary intake and this is when we often see overall increased caloric consumption as well as increased consumption of carbohydrates, specifically.

You are How Much You Eat

A study published in the journal, Appetite showed a correlation between how much people ate and how well they slept. The results indicated that those who ate the most were sleeping the least. The study also found a correlation between the types of food consumed and sleep. For example, those sleeping for the shortest amount of time (<5 hours per night) consumed less tap water, total carbohydrates, and a compound found in red and orange foods, compared with the other kinds of sleepers. Additionally, the study also found that those who consumed a less varied diet were likely to either sleep less or more than is recommended. 

What can I do?

It’s all about balance. Try to consume less of the foods that will keep you awake and more of the foods that may help you sleep. Remember, everyone does not respond to food and drinks in the same way. It may take some time to pinpoint which food/drinks are influencing your sleep. Keeping a food diary and sleep log will help you to track everything and look for patterns.

Foods to avoid

 

  • Caffeine 6 hours prior to bedtime
  • Excessive alcohol consumption (>2 drinks for men, >1 drink for women).
  • Fatty fried or spicy foods. They can cause heartburn, which will keep you awake.
  • Nicotine. It has been linked to insomnia.

Foods to eat

As mentioned above, tryptophan can make some people feel sleepy. Turkey is a well-known food that contains tryptophan. Other foods, such as chicken, fish, eggs, and nuts also contain tryptophan. Carbohydrates make tryptophan more available to the brain, so if you want to increase the impact, try consuming a small turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread or peanut butter on whole grain crackers before bed. Keep it to a snack size, as eating a normal or large sized meal before bed can actually keep you awake, due to increased digestion. Try to eat your snack at least an hour prior to bedtime.

News Roundup: Stress Reduction

Image credit: http://blog.dougdvorak.com/use-mindfulness-for-sustained-motivation/

Whether it’s over money or health problems, many Americans feel stressed out on a daily basis. Stress seems to be a normal part of life. Unfortunately, if it goes too long unchecked, it can get out of hand and lead to new or worsened health problems, such as depression and anxiety. Fortunately, there are many free resources available for those who want to learn how to reduce stress levels.

This week’s news roundup brings to you a collection of articles and blog posts related to stress reduction.

Stress management. Mayo Clinic. “Without stress management, all too often your body is always on high alert. Over time, high levels of stress lead to serious health problems. Don't wait until stress has a negative impact on your health, relationships or quality of life. Start practicing a range of stress management techniques today.”

20 Scientifically Backed Ways to De-Stress Right Now. Huffington Post. “While just about any walk will help to clear your head and boost endorphins (which, in turn, reduces stress hormones), consider walking in a park or other green space, which can actually put your body into a state of meditation, thanks to a phenomenon known as “involuntary attention” during which something holds our attention, but simultaneously allows for reflection.”

10 Scientifically Proven Ways to Reduce Your Stress. Inc.com. “Countless studies prove the myriad health benefits of working out, including recent research that found strengthening your muscles releases enzymes that detoxify a substance called kynurenine, a byproduct of stress and inflammation.”

Four Ways to Deal with Stress. American Heart Association. “Negative self-talk increases stress. Positive self-talk helps you calm down and control stress. With practice, you can learn to turn negative thoughts into positive ones.”