Fuel for Fitness: How to Power Up for a Workout

When it comes to exercise, we often forget that setting ourselves up for success requires more than just what we do in the gym. How we treat out bodies before and after the gym plays a big part in our health. One easy way to ensure we get the most out of our workouts is to properly fuel our bodies beforehand.

 

Pre-workout nutrition is a balance between eating enough to prevent low blood sugar, weakness, and strength, but not eating too much to where we feel sluggish too full. A good rule of thumb is to eat larger meals 3-4 hours before a workout or a smaller meal/snack 1-2 hours before exercise. During a workout the body pulls energy from carbohydrate storage. Therefore, the best things to eat before a workout should be primarily made of complex carbohydrates (whole grains), with moderate levels of protein and fat to maintain long-term energy.

 

Some examples of good pre-workout meals to eat 3-4 hours before a workout include:

  • Turkey sandwich on whole wheat with fruit
  • Whole wheat pasta with ground turkey and vegetables
  • Grilled chicken breasts, steamed vegetables, and a sweet potato

 

 

 

Some examples of snacks that can be eaten 1-2 hours before a workout include:

  • Low fat cheese and crackers
  • Apple slices with peanut butter
  • Nuts, fruit, and cheese

 

 

Another way we can maintain energy levels before a workout is to fuel our bodies throughout the day with healthy snacks. This will keep our blood sugar level stable and prevent overeating at meals. Pick foods that are satisfying and nutrient dense, providing plenty of vitamins and minerals. Keeping these snacks handy throughout the day make it easier to make good food choices and have appropriate fuel for exercise.

 

Good snack options:

Nuts- high in protein and healthy fat

Bananas – high in potassium and fiber

Avocados – high in healthy fats, fiber, and Vitamins A, E, B, and K

Cheese and Yogurt – good source of calcium

 

Avoiding sugary and fatty foods keep us from feeling sluggish from a drastic drop in blood sugar during our workouts. This spike and drop is caused by foods that have sugar that is quickly absorbed and then dropped out of the blood stream. These foods are “high” on the Glycemic (or blood sugar) Index. A quick way to tell which foods are high on the Glycemic Index is to think about how quickly those foods dissolve in your mouth. For example, cotton candy is made of just sugar so it dissolves in your mouth instantaneously. On the other hand, more complex foods such as nuts don’t dissolve in your mouth (or it would take a really long time!). This rate of absorption in your mouth mimics the rate of absorption of the sugar into your bloodstream.

 

Finally, if we drink water consistently throughout the day we can hydrate our bodies ahead of our workouts. Dehydration reduces performance! Once we are thirsty, we are already dehydrated. So stay ahead of the issue with continual hydration before and during a workout. These tips of proper pre-workout habits will ensure our bodies are fueled for optimal performance.

News Roundup: Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

Science suggests that the Mediterranean diet may play a beneficial role in our health, including heart and brain health.  This week’s news roundup brings a collection of articles related to the potential health benefits of the Mediterranean diet.

Mediterranean Diet vs. Statins to Prevent Heart Attack and Stroke? “According to a recent study, for example, found that switching to a Mediterranean diet prevented about 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease in people at high risk.

Mediterranean diet may reduce risk of form of breast cancer“The study published in the International Journal of Cancer on Monday suggests it could also significantly reduce the chances of women getting estrogen-receptor-negative (ER-negative) breast cancer, a postmenopausal form of the disease that cannot be treated with hormone therapy.”

Mediterranean diet may have lasting effects on brain health  “A new study shows that older people who followed a Mediterranean diet retained more brain volume over a three-year period than those who did not follow the diet as closely.”

Many large scale clinical and population health studies have tested the efficacy of the Mediterranean style of eating.  The results indicate that a diet similar to that of the Mediterranean region is linked with many physical health benefits including reduced risk of heart disease; reduced risk of death from heart disease, cancer and Parkinson’s; reduced blood pressure and cholesterol; reduced risk of obesity in children and adults; and reduced risk of Type II Diabetes.

March is national nutrition month 2017 which discusses many topics about why  Mediterranean diet is still a very popular diet. 

Why Mediterranean-based eating is trendy…again  “But the biggest proof that what’s old is new again just might be supermarket shelves. Beyond the piles of tomatoes and peppers in the produce aisle are an influx of products elevating some of the diet’s core foods (think olives, fennel, and the aforementioned yogurt).”

What is Mind/Body Exercise?

 

 

It has been shown that breathing exercises used to help with relaxation can have beneficial effects on overall health (Hoge, Guidos, Mete, Bui, Pollack, Simon, & Dutton 2017) A guided relaxation exercise with a focus on the breath allows us to relax our body, reducing anxiety, tension, and stress. It has also been shown to decrease Post-traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms in military veterans (Seppala, Nitschke, Tudorascu, Hayes, Goldstein, Nguyen, Perlman, & Davidson 2014).

Breathing is a great way to relax and increase our awareness. Developing a “breathing awareness” will not only allow us to relax now, but it can also help us to stay calm and focused during stressful situations.

To get a full, deep breath, close your mouth, breathe slowly through your nose, and feel your diaphragm rise as you gradually fill your diaphragm and lungs with air. Hold for one second. Exhale through your nose slowly. Repeat.

Mind/Body exercises are also exercises that involve movements/poses while focusing energy on form and breath. Some examples of these mind/body exercises are yoga, Pilates, and gyrotonics. These types of mind/body exercises allow a focused mental energy on the body, its form and its function. Gyrotonics is a type of exercise that includes movements from other types of exercise such as yoga, dance, gymnastics, swimming and tai chi.

Allowing time in our schedule to learn breathing, relaxation, and other mind/body exercises such as yoga or pilates will foster a healthy relationship with our mental and physical self. This relationship can often help to promote a sense of  overall well-being. 

What are the Biggest Myths about Sleep?

We all know sleep is important. Sleep helps your body and brain rest and recover, keeps your mood under control, and prepares you for the day ahead. What we may not know is the truth behind some of the most common sleep myths out there. Knowing the difference between these myths and reality is crucial in order to get the good night’s rest you deserve.

It’s possible to catch up on missed sleep over the weekend.

This is a big one, especially in the busy chaotic world we live in. Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night on average. Skipping an hour or two a night may not seem like much, but that missed sleep adds up to something called “sleep debt”. If you miss one hour of sleep each night in a week, that adds up to five hours’ debt by Friday night. Sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday mornings may seem like a good way to pay it off, but those extra hours throw off your snooze schedule even further. By the time Sunday night rolls around again, you’ll find it harder to fall asleep than the week before!

Plus, the interest on this debt is killer. Your sleep shortage during the week slows your reaction time, making driving much more dangerous. In fact, sleep shortage is to blame for roughly 100,000 traffic accidents, 76,000 injuries, and 1,500 deaths a year.

Any debt has to be repaid, and the best way to clear a sleep debt is slowly and steadily. Stick to a regular sleep/wake schedule (yes, even on weekends), try going to bed even just 15 minutes earlier each night, and, if possible, a daytime nap may help you pay off that debt. But, as with any debt, the best way to deal with it is to avoid adding to it at all.

Daytime naps are good for your sleep schedule.

A daytime nap may be good for helping catch up on lost sleep or ditching drowsiness before driving long distances, but there is such a thing as “too much”. Long naps in the middle of the day disrupt your body’s usual sleep/wake rhythm. This can make it even harder to fall asleep at night, which can add to your sleep debt. Try limiting daytime naps to 30 minutes, and make sure to leave at least four hours between your nap and bedtime.

Exercising in the evening helps you sleep better.

While exercise does help you sleep better, exercising too close to bedtime can keep you wired when it’s time to turn in. To make sure you’re settled down by bedtime, it’s best to work out in the morning or afternoon. Morning workouts have been linked to longer, deeper sleep and more time spent in reparative stages of sleep. If morning workouts aren’t your thing, take advantage of the slight increase in your body temperature throughout the day to help your muscles work more efficiently during an afternoon workout. Aerobic afternoon workouts in particular can help you fall asleep quicker and stay asleep through the night. Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, be sure to leave four to six hours between your workout and your pillow.

Watching TV and/or using your laptop in bed helps you relax.

Although it might be relaxing to chill out with a TV show or your favorite internet site, screen time can interfere with signals that tell your brain to prepare for sleep. Exciting (or stressful) content may hype you up, and the “blue light” emitted from your screens mimics daytime sunlight – tricking your brain into thinking it’s time to be awake. Doing these activities in bed can further confuse your brain into thinking that your bed is a place to stay awake rather than fall asleep. Try to keep the laptop and TV out of the bedroom and turned off in the 30-60 minutes before bedtime (we know it can be hard!). Instead, fill that time with a relaxing bedtime routine to help your brain power down too.

If you wake up in the middle of the night, it is best to lie in bed, count sheep, or toss and turn until you eventually fall back asleep.

Insomnia is not just having trouble falling asleep; it can also be waking up in the middle of the night, unable to fall back asleep. Some research suggests that the classic counting sheep may actually be more distracting than relaxing. Other relaxing imagery or thoughts may help, but if you can’t fall asleep within 15-20 minutes, it’s best not to stress yourself out by watching the clock or tossing and turning. Instead, try getting out of bed and doing a relaxing activity in another room (such as listening to music or reading). When you feel sleepy, go back to bed and try to catch those elusive Zzz’s again.

Bottom Line

Sleep is important in maintaining many aspects of our health, but there are many myths that can spread confusing information on the best sleep practices. By making sure we stick to the truths about sleep habits, we can be sure that we’re getting the best rest possible for our bodies.

Daylight Saving Time 2017

 

 

It seems like Daylight Saving Time sneaks up on us every year, leaving us confused and having trouble adjusting our schedules. Thanks to modern technology, most of our clocks automatically adjust with the time change, somewhat preventing the days of missing that next Monday morning meeting. Daylight Saving occurs this year on Sunday, March 12th, when all clocks will roll forward one hour.

So why do we have trouble adjusting to an hour time change? Well, it has a lot to do with our circadian rhythm, which is our internal clocks that manage our sleep and wake cycles. When we change the time, we essentially put our circadian rhythm out of sync.  Luckily, our circadian rhythm can be adjusted through our environment. Here are a few things we can do to make this adjustment easier.

Gradual Shifts

If you are someone who has a lot of trouble adjusting to time changes, you may want to prepare my slowly changing your habits 10-15 minutes at a time the week before. If you go to bed and wake up a little earlier each day, your body will slowly adjust. It is important though to keep relatively the same schedule to adapt the time change. Be consistent with the times you eat, exercise, and socialize. You may be tempted to sleep in later or take a long nap during the day to catch up on that hour, but these strategies often backfire causing you more difficulty falling asleep at night further disrupting your internal clock.

Exercise

If you already exercise, keep up the routine! If not, exercise could help your body adjust to the time change. When we exercise, our bodies release serotonin, a chemical in the brain that stabilizes our mood, helps digestion, and stimulates the parts of our brain controlling our sleep and wake cycles. Exercise will also help to induce fatigue to allow your body to relax and sleep sooner. However, be careful about exercising too late in the day as it could interfere with the quality of your sleep.

Nighttime Ritual

There are a few things we can remember to do that will help us to fall asleep at a decent time.

  1. Avoid caffeine after midday – Caffeine is a stimulant that could keep you awake at night. Many people feel restless at night when they are attempting to fall asleep if they consume caffeine in the afternoon. Know your body and how it is affected by caffeine to set a time after which caffeine is off limits for you.
  2. Don’t rely on alcohol – Alcohol consumption may initially make you feel drowsy, but it can interfere with your sleep cycle, causing less deep REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and more disrupted sleep. If you do consume alcohol, supplement it with water and try to stick to only one or two drinks.
  3. Allow food to digest before bed – Meal times may be affected by the time change, but don’t allow yourself to eat so late that your food doesn’t have time to digest before you lie down in bed. Letting food sit in your stomach can also interfere with your sleep quality by causing heartburn or acid reflux.
  4. Light Cues – Our circadian rhythm responds best to natural indicators of time, such as light and dark. To help with this, make sure you dim the lights in the evening when it’s time to wind down and open the blinds (or turn on lights) in the morning to encourage your body to wake. Exposure to light, especially natural sunlight, helps sync our natural circadian rhythm. Using bright lights at night or dark environments in the morning will make it more difficult for your body’s internal clock to adjust.