"I am enjoying a relationship with two men simultaneously. The first is called Ben, the other, Jerry. Number of current boyfriends: zero." — Bridget Jones, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004 movie)
In the Friends episode “The One with the Thumb”, Monica dates a man named Alan. As the rest of the gang comes to know Alan, they become even more enamored with Alan than Monica. When Monica breaks up with him, the whole crew takes it pretty hard. At one point, she walks in to find them collectively drowning their sorrows in tubs of ice cream.
Why is it that this common trope in television and movies seems to persist? We often see the heartbroken individual turn to a dessert-like food for solace. Many people will see this and at least understand what’s being conveyed, if not have a level of empathy for having a similar experience. We seem tied to this recurring imagery because it resonates with us. It feels familiar. Many people are familiar with and understand the concept of “comfort food”, but did you know that there’s ancient biological wisdom hidden beneath this comedic messaging? For generations, fables and mythical tales have been often told to convey moral lessons or wisdom. In our current age, television and film are our most common vehicle of storytelling, and it’s possible that television could be passing along innate, ancient wisdom.
For most, the common reaction to stressful events is either a noticeable increase or decrease in appetite. But why is that? Why would appetite change at all in response to stress, and why is it different in different people? And with that, why is it we would rather reach for something like ice cream than celery?
Like many of the baffling phenomena related to food and eating, we have to start by looking at the brain. Specifically, we are concerned with the motivational circuit, where dopamine is released after positive experiences to serve as the ‘rewards system’. This motivational circuit overlaps with the limbic system, which is the part of our brain responsible for emotions, reactions to stressors, and responses that are critical to maintaining homeostasis (keeping us safe and functioning). You could refer to the limbic system as our “caveman brain” or “survival brain” because it only knows how to respond to emotions and try to keep us alive. In addition to the limbic system, we need to be familiar with the prefrontal cortex (PFC). The PFC is responsible for what you might call “higher-level thinking”. This is the region of the brain that is typically responsible for executive functioning, planning, and control of impulses, desires, and cravings. You might call this part of our brain, the “mature adult” brain. During times of high stress, our “mature adult” brain (PFC) is overtaken by the “survival brain” (limbic system). With the limbic system in the driver’s seat, we are more prone to “automatic” behaviors done for survival. In other words, our brain only knows that it is stressed and needs to survive. Back in the “caveman days” where food was scarce, seeking out food in response to stress meant avoiding starvation. This reaction of seeking higher fat and/or carb foods in response to stress is actually a brilliant survival mechanism. In times of high stress, our ancestors didn’t have time to sit back and
contemplate their 5-year plan. High stress meant danger. Danger meant a need for immediate action. Eat to avoid starvation or run to avoid predators.
To support this survival instinct, our body has established metabolic and hormonal reactions to further help endure stressors. In a normal stress-response, cortisol is acutely elevated, causing metabolic changes (like increased blood glucose mobilization, blood flow redirected to the muscles/heart/muscles, and increased heart rate) designed to prepare us for “fight or flight”. As these changes occur, our body decreases the priority of digestion and appetite. Historically, sitting down to eat never seemed like a top priority when running away from a hungry tiger.
These responses are all what we expect and actually want in response to normal, short-term stress. This is what helps us perform better on the test, in the big meeting, or during our athletic competitions. Where we run into problems is when that stress doesn’t come back down.
Chronic stress can contribute to a host of unsavory health issues. In the context of stress eating, we are concerned with chronic stress causing dysregulation to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This dysregulation can have consequences for our appetite regulation. In general, people already under chronic stress are more prone to experience greater appetite and cravings in response to additional, acute stressors. In these scenarios, research has also shown that people show greater preference for foods higher in carbohydrates and/or fats.
But what happens when, or if, you choose to follow these cravings? What happens, physiologically, when you reach for that pint of ice cream your body beckons for after a brutal day? Interestingly, choosing to abide these cravings may help dampen the stress response. It’s been shown that insulin action helps to reduce cortisol. Insulin is released in response to eating foods, particularly those with carbohydrates. The greater the carb intake, the greater the insulin response. In other words, that sweet treat could actually be just the medicine your body needs to take the edge off your stress. If anything, this speaks to the innate wisdom your body holds related to food and health.
What happens if you resist the ice cream? What if you are committed to a particular diet-style and have decided that whatever your body is craving doesn’t fit in the plan? This is called “restrained eating”, and research has shown that this perspective only serves to further raise cortisol levels during a stress-response and, ultimately, contributes to more frequent and/or intense cravings in response to future stressors.
By fighting these cravings, you are fighting your biology. You’re opposing your survival instincts. The body doesn’t understand the difference between a rough day at work and being chased by a tiger. In the same way, the body doesn’t understand the difference between you choosing to not eat something and starving from lack of available food. To the body, stress is stress. Hunger is hunger. Following a stressful event, your limbic system (“survival brain”) takes over, causing you to be more ‘reactive’ to your stress and emotions. By resisting the drive and urges of “survival brain”, cortisol stays high, the limbic system stays in the driver seat longer, and you feel stressed out longer.
So, what do I suggest? Stop fighting your biology. Eat the ice cream. Help your cortisol return to baseline more quickly, which will let the limbic system take the back seat and put the prefrontal cortex back in control. Once you’re not in ‘max stress’ mode anymore, you can address the thing that stressed you out in the first place and try keep the stress from becoming a chronic issue.
Did I get your attention? Great.
Okay, this recipe might not exactly be carrot cake, but don’t leave now because it does taste pretty darn close! I like to say that these muffins are “carrot cake in disguise”. More specifically, these muffins pack many of the same flavors of carrot cake but are “in disguise” as a nutritious breakfast pick.
How did I stumble upon this life-changing recipe? Well, yours truly interned with a non-profit, educational farm in Sheboygan Falls, WI, called Nourish Farms. At this farm, they have a beautiful facility that is host to weddings, farm-to-table events, cooking classes, community dinners, cooking competitions, and much more! During my time here, I had the opportunity to work in their state-of-the-art kitchen and cook up some meals using some of their locally-sourced ingredients (including those grown right on the farm!).
One of these recipes was the “Nourish Morning Glory Muffins”. Whether you’re the type that needs an easy breakfast to grab on the way out the door or you’re looking to help your picky eaters sneak in more fruits and vegetables, these muffins will do the job! The whole-food ingredients in these muffins, such as the sunflower seeds, carrots, apple, and coconut help to boost both the nutrition and flavor. Compared to typical muffins, these deliver a greater dose of antioxidants, fiber, protein, potassium, and vitamins A, C, E, and B! Enjoy the nutritional boost at breakfast or anytime you’re craving a healthy sweet treat!
Before you scroll down to the recipe take a second to check out the amazing Nourish Farms and then sign up for our Farm-to-Table event and get your own tour and taste of Nourish! Learn more at westernracquet.com/events.
Want to see a video of the recipe being made? Check out the link below to see a video from my internship days when we did a cooking demonstration for the local WFRV Channel 5 news: https://www.wearegreenbay.com/local5live/local5live-recipes/nourish-morning-glory-muffins-recipe/
Below is the complete recipe. Happy baking!
Nourish Morning Glory Muffins
Courtesy of Nourish Farms in Sheboygan Falls, WI
· 2 cups flour
· 1 ¼ cup sugar
· 2 tsp. baking soda
· ¼ tsp. salt
· 2 tsp. cinnamon
· ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
· ½ cup sunflower seeds
· ½ cup raisins
· 1 apple, shredded
· 2 cups shredded carrots
· 3 eggs
· 2 tsp. vanilla
· 1 cup vegetable oil
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Mix wet ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a separate mixing bowl, mix dry ingredients.
3. Add wet ingredients to dry, stir until batter is smooth and evenly distributed.
4. Distribute muffins evenly into greased muffin tins or muffin tins with muffin liners.
5. Bake for about 20 minutes, until toothpick inserted into muffin comes out clean.
“You have to spend money to make money.” This phrase is quite common in the business world, but I am instead going to relate this to "time". In the case of meal prepping, we have to spend time cooking, prepping, and portioning our food to later save time when we want to be able to quickly grab a meal. But what happens when you don’t have the prep time to spend?
As the summer months roll in and bring the warmth with them, many peoples’ schedules seem to rapidly fill. Between time at the beach, hiking the trails, concerts in the park, and various barbecues or picnics, it seems there’s less time in the day to spend on the less-as-desirable activities – like meal prepping.
If you are finding that you have less and less time for meal prepping because your schedule is too packed with fun in the sun, you’re in the right place. Below are some options, ideas, and tips for quick meals to fuel your week:
1. Costco, Sam’s Club, and some major grocery stores now sell pre-made meals in bulk – often all that’s needed is the final heating or cooking of the combined dish! Distribute into separate containers and you have meals covered for the week! Options can widely vary, but some common grabs include pre-prepared salads, full pans of enchiladas, full pans of chicken alfredo, pre-grilled chicken breasts, and even easy to assemble taco platters!
2. Many gas stations now carry a variety of convenience foods that also provide fairly solid nutrition. Here’s some examples for great grabs on the go:
3. Pizza night can be every night! If you order a large enough pie for leftovers, pizza can act as your main dish for meals and stay good in your fridge for up to 4 days. The crust of pizza delivers a solid dose of carbs for sustained energy while the cheese boosts the protein for more staying-power. Choose plenty of vegetables to top your pizza to further enhance the nutritional punch! Add a small side salad or some fresh fruit for a well-rounded meal.
Some of my favorite take-out pizza picks?
4. Save your time on making sandwiches. Have someone else make them for you! Order a few larger subs from Subway, Jimmy John’s, or whatever your favorite sandwich shop may be. Pile them high with proteins and veggies to keep you full. Word of caution, ask them to hold the mayo or sauces (if possible) to keep the sandwich from getting soggy. Keep them wrapped and grab throughout the week for an easy on-the-go meal.
5. Frozen meals have come a long way from their “TV Dinner” ancestors. Many not only taste quite delicious, but many are actually quite nutritious, as well. While the options can be overwhelming, a few excellent brands to look for include:
6. Let’s not forget that Western is also here to help meet your needs wherever we can! Stop at the Fuel Bar for a bite of something tasty! No prep needed! Want some ideas on what to have and when to have it? Here’s some of my favorites:
Before a workout:
After a workout:
Don’t stop with the summertime fun! The warmer months are limited, so we have to make all the memories we can. If that means there’s less time to spend in the kitchen, know that you have plenty options to pick from to keep healthy meals within reach all week.
It seems superfoods are “discovered” more rapidly than Marvel or DC can drop its next movie or TV series. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for a good superhero story. Despite that, it can feel pretty overwhelming trying to keep up with the break-neck pace that these shows get released. It can often feel the same way with all the mighty “superfoods” that seem to be discovered.
“This just in! This new root, found deep in the Amazon Rainforest, might be the best food to cure inflammation, make you feel 10 years younger, help you make more money in your job, and it will even do your taxes!”
You might think I’m sounding crazy, but the claims that made around these supposed “superfoods” make it seem like you’ve been bitten by a radioactive spider and can now scale walls or swing from webs. Truth be told, some of these “magic elixir” powdered greens or ‘health’ drinks taste so bad, I’d rather just get bit by the spider and take my chances.
Why, then, does it seem that our diets are populated by the mundane, superpower-less types of foods (“Hello boring ol’ white potatoes, broccoli, and carrots!”) while we are constantly bombarded by the “next major superfood to take you from zero to hero”? When you really boil it down, it comes back to our same fascination with superheroes. There’s nothing exciting about the everyday staples, the boring, the normal, but there’s something endlessly fascinating about the incredible, new, or unique. So, as you stare down at yet another boring salad, you dream of the superpower promises brought on by goji berries and dragon fruit.
But when we think about it, we have to ask the question – what makes a superfood super? When we strip it down, remove the masks and capes, are these foods really super or are they just posers with a great PR department? Do they stack up like Superman, wielding impressive otherworldly powers, or are they more like Batman – a grown-up karate kid with plenty of money and impressive gadgets?
Let’s take a look at the humble spud, the white russet potato, and its super counterpart, the sweet potato.
|The Contender:||White Potato (medium, baked)||Sweet Potato (medium, baked)|
|% Daily Recommended Intake|
Credit: Information sourced from Precision Nutrition Infographic
Upon analysis, it appears that the sweet potato might not be as dramatically superior to its “less-as-super” counterpart. The sweet potato comes in at lower overall calories per serving, but also with less carbs and protein – nutrients that can be critical to fueling an active lifestyle (or fighting crime!). As far as dietary fat and fiber are concerned, these potatoes are a dead-tie. The sweet potato weighs in heavily with a Hulk-sized punch of vitamin A. Besides just beating out the white spud in vitamin C, the russet potato demonstrates a strong lead with a number of highly important dietary minerals, particularly electrolytes that are often lost in sweat.
After combing through the results, what can we conclude? That both potatoes certainly carry their own unique traits and contributions. My verdict? These both have their place when you assemble your plate, in the same way that every hero has their role to fill when the Avengers assemble.
Truly, the definition of a superfood according to Oxford Dictionary is, “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.” When you really dig into it, you might come to realize that this definition applies to any fruit or vegetable.
Did you know that carrots, broccoli, and garlic are among some of the best kryptonite for various forms of cancer? Also, the healthy monounsaturated fatty acids found in olive oil defend you from inflammation in the same way that Iron Man’s suit defends him against – well, everything. These foods are anything but new or exciting, but they carry immeasurable potential!
As a dietitian, I often get asked “What’s the main foods I should eat for [insert goal here].” In this moment, I know people are asking me for a specific answer - the foods that I’ve supposedly learned of in my years of studying that are apparently not known to the public. In this moment, these clients see me as some sort of nutritional Nick Fury – a man who’s investigated and assembled the most powerful superfoods on the planet, wielding the power of the superfood Avengers to come to the rescue at any moment. Unfortunately, the answer is rarely one they want to hear. The truth is that the fix to most nutritional goals rarely lies in the next, up-and-coming hero of a food. The truth is the answers lie within the mundane, within the everyday staples of life. Unfortunately, nutrition isn’t as easy as finding the next magical cure of a food.
That’s the bad news, but here’s the good news: optimizing your nutrition isn’t always easy, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Captain America makes for a wonderful example. Steve Rogers gained his incredible abilities from a Super-Soldier serum, but he never would’ve mastered these abilities without all of his rigorous training and dedication. In Captain America’s case, the serum and his powers weren’t what made him super. Steve Rogers’ dedication, heart, and discipline are what truly made him into Captain America.
Well, that’s nice… but what the heck does that have to do with food?
It means that committing to consistency – consistently eating plenty of fruits and vegetables (not just the “super” ones), consistently drinking enough fluids, consistently getting in your exercise to train towards your goals – is the key to accomplishing what you seek. Finding dedication to the mundane and everyday – in the same way that Captain America commits to his training – is what will constantly and consistently move you forward.
This means that you can stop searching for that next magic food. You can rest assured that the capability for (nutritional) greatness already lives within you! It lies within the ‘boring but oh so fundamental’ truths we’ve been told growing up. Maybe mom was onto something when she told you to eat your vegetables so you could be “big and strong like a superhero”.
As you start to discover the freedom and power that comes with embracing the basics, never forget: with great power comes great responsibility.
After seeking the “quick fix” of nutrition for so long, it can be hard to figure out what the fundamentals even are and how to apply them to your life. Just like every hero needed guidance in the mastery of their powers, you may want to consider talking to a Wellness Coach or dietitian about how to harness your newfound nutritional powers. Check out the link to our website below to answer your Call to Adventure and begin your own Hero’s Journey!
Another way to tap into the potential powers found in all fruits and vegetables is finding more ways to get them in the house and on the table! Thankfully, Western will be partnering with a local farm, Moder’s Gardens, this summer to offer Western members the opportunity to purchase farm boxes. These boxes are filled with seasonal, local produce that can be picked up directly at Western! If you’re interested in learning more, speak with a Western employee at the Fuel Bar.
Hello Western Racquet members! My name is Taylor Erholtz, a Dietetic Intern through the University of Wisconsin- Green Bay. Upon completion of my internship at Western in May, I will be able to take the Registered Dietitian Exam and become a Licensed Registered Dietitian. I love all things nutrition and hope to make an influence in whatever route I take in my future career in nutrition. I have had the amazing opportunity to intern at Western for 4 weeks. By the time you read this post I will be gone, however I hope my time there was as influential for you as it was for me. The atmosphere here is inspiring, not only because of the family-like culture, but because of the strong passion and commitment each member and staff has here.
During my time, I had a discussion with someone regarding their metabolism. Now I know, the word metabolism can be a troubling issue for people. I think in today’s wellness world it is constantly thrown around, when in reality so many people do not even know what our metabolism is and how it is affected by so many things throughout our life. So, I wanted to take this chance to talk about what our metabolism is and how it functions, some of the most common metabolism myths, and what are ways to improve its capacity.
“Metabolism refers to a series of chemical reactions that occur in a living organism to sustain life”. When we eat carbohydrates, protein, and fats, our body converts that food into energy (measured in calories). The energy through food helps support daily life functions and physical activity in addition to digesting food, breathing, eliminating waste from your body, building muscle, and providing nutrients to cells. Our metabolism is what breaks down or builds up the energy given to us through two ways: catabolism and anabolism. Catabolism involves breaking down larger molecules into smaller ones, releasing energy. Anabolism involves building up or synthesizing compounds, requiring energy. The rate at which we burn calories (or energy) is called your metabolic rate. Metabolic rate is what most people think of when references their metabolism. Two numbers that are important are Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), the number of calories required to sustain essential body function, and Active Calories, the calories burned during physical activity.
Myth 1: Our metabolisms are permanent
Our metabolism can be affected by many different factors like activity level, hormones, muscle mass, body temperature, food intake, and body size.
Myth 2: Our metabolisms worsens as we age
There is minimal impact on metabolism as we age. I know I have heard many times that someone’s metabolism is slowing down because they are getting older. That is not most likely the case since our calorie needs do not start to change until we are in our 60s, and even then there is not a big change.
Myth 3: Someone with more body fat has a slower metabolism than those who have less body fat.
The larger the body, the more energy it typically takes to support movement and basic functions. To understand, if two people are doing the same exercise, the person with more body mass with most likely burn more calories, in turn increasing their metabolic rate.
Myth 4: Eating breakfast increases my metabolism
Although breakfast is important to start your day with energy, breakfast itself does not increase your metabolism. Your metabolism is more affected by the total amount of food a person eats through the day than by the time those calories are eaten.
With all of this in mind, who do we improve our metabolism?
1. Exercise: Exercising increases the number of calories you burn, thus improving your metabolism. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week (30 min/day), or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week (15 min/day).
2. Eat your protein: Protein has the highest thermic effect of food which refers to the increase in your metabolism after eating. For basic protein needs, we recommend 0.8 grams protein/kilogram of body weight. 1.2-2 grams of protein/kilogram is ideal for recovery and muscle building.
3. Build muscle: Exercise that includes strength-training increases muscle mass which can improve the metabolism. Muscle requires calories to function properly.
4. Improve daily activity: Exercise and physical activity are different. If you find it hard to fit exercise into your day, try to increase the number of daily activities throughout your day like doing chores, walking the dog, laundry, going up and down the stairs, and making your bed.
5. Get more sleep: probably the most underrated aspect is lack of sleep and its negative impact on your metabolism. Lack of sleep is also related to increased blood sugar levels. Try to aim for the recommended 8 hours of sleep, however find what amount works best for your body.
With anything in life, it is always sensible to consult with a professional to help your diet and lifestyle, especially with a certified dietitian. Setting goals will help improve so many aspects of our lives. I hope the information I provided gave you even a tidbit information to help adapt into your life today. Best of luck in your nutrition journey!
Part 2: Why Your Workouts Aren't "Working Out"
After years of scouring through fitness and nutrition research, I have discovered quite the assortment of tips and tricks to ‘maximize results’ in the gym. By this, I mean I have put in considerable time and effort towards understanding all the ways to help my clients most efficiently and effectively reach their fitness goals. Throughout this research, I have come to find that much of the ‘big picture’ or ‘fundamental’ truths for fitness seem to be glossed over, neglected for the sake of defining and understanding the minutiae. In other words, we often seem to “miss the forest for the trees” when seeking or giving advice to make progress in the gym. Many of the popular articles in the news and on the internet are announcing the next ‘breakthrough technique’ or product that will ‘take your fitness to the next level’. While we are obsessed with finding the cutting-edge difference-makers, we forget that fundamentals are… well… just that: fundamental. The “tried and true” basics of how to be successful in the gym aren’t shiny, sexy, new, or exciting. So, while we frantically search for the next secret to make that 1% difference, we forget to attend to the other 99%. Among the chatter of all the ‘new research’, we seem to no longer hear about what has worked for so many people over so many years prior.
In this three-part blog, I would like to introduce the major errors I see fitness enthusiasts make that prevent them from reaching their goals or their fullest potential. The intention with this article is that you use it as a sort of “checklist”. As you read through each bullet, consider whether any of these fundamental missteps sound familiar. If this is the case, addressing this factor could be the missing link in truly accelerating your health and fitness goals. With that, I also recommend treating this list in sequential order, working from top to bottom. If you find that there are multiple points you need to work on, start with the upper-most point (closest to #1) and work your way down. The higher on this list the point is, the more foundational it is. If you don’t resolve any issues in the earlier points, any changes in the later points will not have as significant of a result, if any. Whether you are starting a new fitness journey or have been working out consistently for years, this list is essential to ensuring you find a fitness plan that works for you.
As this is a 3-Part blog post, be sure to read part 1 prior to moving on to this section, which you can find here.
Error #3: You aren’t chasing your dreams.
Now that you’ve chosen workouts that you love and have goals that align with these activities, it’s time to start focusing on how to continue fueling yourself for these activities. Points #1 and #2 focus on the fitness activities and goals we choose, because this sets the course for our fitness journey. If we are consistently active and working towards goals we care about, we have the foundation needed to make progress. From here, we need to consider other factors in our days and lives that will either accelerate or hinder our fitness progress.
There are many different variables that may come to mind when I say that recovery is critical to making fitness progress. Many health and fitness experts would agree that the quality of your recovery matters more than the actual effort made in they gym when it comes to making progress. This point should not be overlooked, so read it again if you need to. It is very intentional that this point is the very next fundamental to follow up your activity and goal selection.
Don’t believe that your recovery is just as important, if not more so, than your effort in the gym? Consider this: all forms of exercise are a physical stressors. The common lesson many of us receive regarding how a muscle grows and gets stronger stands as an excellent example. As you may have heard, damage is done to a muscle as it works. This damage is known is “microtraumas” or “microtears”. When the body repairs this damage, it is supposed to grow back bigger and stronger. While this is an oversimplification of the process, at its core it is true. Considering this, you may realize how significant recovery is. Without the recovery or repair process, the muscle simply remains damaged. In this case, you’re not just delaying progress but possibly causing regression. It is for this reason that significant progress in any fitness endeavor demands adequate rest and recovery.
With that in mind, we must address sleep. Sleep is the cornerstone of our health. Without adequate sleep, nearly all your health and fitness efforts will be more like an uphill battle. During sleep, your body and brain are restored and repaired from a full, exhausting day. The more you miss out on this opportunity to reset and recover, the less motivated you’ll feel and the less energy you will have for nearly anything else.
Unfortunately, there are many different things that can interfere with our ability to get a good night of sleep. Stress, blue light from screens, caffeine intake, or any number of factors can seriously hinder our ability to drift off to dreamland. Feel like your sleep needs some improvements? Check out this link to find tips for improving your sleep from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Error #4: You make it to the gym, but you aren’t present for the workout.
At this point, you are certain that you have picked forms of exercise you enjoy, you have set goals that keep you coming back to these activities to seek progress, and you are getting enough sleep to recover from all the hard work you put in. This next rule focuses on your mindset in the gym. More specifically, we are concerned with the principle of prioritizing ‘quality’ over ‘quantity’. In other words, it doesn’t matter how long you spend in the gym, but how intentional you are about working towards your goals. To put it bluntly, nobody ever hit their fitness goals staring at their phone. Distractions during our workouts diminish the quality of our workouts and the benefits we will receive from them. Among the top offenders for distractions: phones and stress.
If you find yourself getting sucked into your phone during your usual time for fitness, it may be time to find ways to distance yourself from the phone. If that isn’t a possibility (perhaps you listen to your music through your phone or need to be close to your phone for work), it may be worth at least exploring options to reduce distractions. For some, putting the phone on ‘airplane mode’ or silencing notifications is enough. For others, it may mean putting the phone in the locker or the gym bag. Can’t quite part with your phone during a workout? Try to at least leave it on the other side of the gym. This way, you may be less tempted to pick it up as often.
If you find stress is the main culprit distracting you during your workouts, you’re not alone. Many people struggle with balancing busy schedules and various responsibilities, more than a few of which tend to creep into our mind during our fitness time. In this scenario, having routines or strategies to create a ‘mind-shift’ into fitness mode can be very helpful. Sometimes it may be as simple as having a favorite playlist of music to blast in your headphones. Other times, it may require some creativity. Having a routine or ritual to your workout can help you get into the proper headspace. Some people feel they need an activity that is mentally challenging and stimulating, like boxing or playing basketball with someone else, to pull them out of their headspace and into the present. Other people sometimes find that changing the time of the day that they workout can be a simple fix to stress-levels and distractions. For some, the morning workout is too stress-inducing to squeeze into an already-packed morning schedule. For others, the evening workout is too difficult, as they still have thoughts from work swirling in their head and find they can’t focus. Finding your sweet-spot may take some trial-and-error.
Still feel that you’re struggling to manage your stress and finding that it is hindering your fitness goals? Contact a Wellness Coach here at Western to see if we can help you find effective stress-reducing strategies!
Every December 31, many of us start thinking about what the new year will present to us. We set goals, we break them. We make other goals and break them as well. It's hard to create new habits; oftentimes harder than we realize!
What’s your goal? Do you want to lose weight? Run a marathon? Sleep more? Or do you have a physique that you’re working towards? At the root of it all, a plan with self-discipline will get us to where we need to go.
In order to keep a New Year’s resolution, breaking down our goals and creating smaller, short-term results is key. Do you want to lose 40 pounds this year? For many, the sound of it sounds unattainable or unrealistic. But, does losing one pound in two weeks sound possible? Absolutely.
Do you have a plan? Do you need help creating a plan? A plan is like a road map. If you don't know what you’ll be doing, how to do it, or even where you’re going, getting to a specific destination is really difficult.
Below are some strategies you can use to assist in your New Year’s resolution.
Happy New Year from me and all of us here at Western! We can't wait to help you with your goals in 2022!
As Western Racquet’s Fitness Consultant I am in a position to talk with many of our new members about their goals when it comes to their health and fitness. I typically hear many of the same responses with weight loss being the number one desire for many out there. Weight loss isn’t easy and it tends to become more difficult for most of us as we age. It definitely doesn’t help that we see a plethora of commercials daily advertising silly things like lose 30 pounds in 30 days when most of us in our heart of hearts know that isn’t reasonable. These ads give people unrealistic expectations that can often lead to them giving up way too early when the end goal of losing significant weight feels unattainable. As someone who lost 40 pounds over an 18 month period, I am here to help you find some practical ways to make this dream a reality.
I hope these ideas helped and reaching your goals is something you can definitely do with the right motivation, work ethic, and some help from the family here at Western Racquet.
With the recent Labor Day weekend wrapping up we now officially enter one of the busier times of the year for gyms and health clubs everywhere. Many people find themselves overwhelmed during the summer months with an abundance of traveling, sporting events, family activities, etc. and simply fall out of their regular fitness routines. If this sounds familiar to you then there is simply no time like the present to reassert your commitment to your health and fitness. That being said, what is the best way to go about doing this?
There are a plethora of different ways to get back into shape and you ultimately need to do what is best for you. For some people this will mean group fitness classes, others will hire a personal trainer, or people who love running may dust off their shoes and start hitting the pavement once again. No matter which avenue you choose to go down there is one thing all these methods will need in order to be successful - a combination of both short and long term goals.
Long term goals are extremely important because they offer you something you can strive to achieve over an extended period of time. Some examples of long term goals would be: lose 20 pounds, decrease your body fat percentage by 5 points, run a marathon, or increase your squat max by 50 pounds. Long term goals are more successful when they are something you truly care about, so make sure you pick out something that is important to YOU. It’s also important to pick out a goal that is measurable. While “living a healthy lifestyle” is important there is no true way to dictate whether or not you are legitimately achieving this goal. My last point on long term goals is that, while they are extremely important for achieving long term success, they need to be coupled with short term goals. This is necessary because long term goals can be intimidating and overwhelming. There is no way to quickly achieve long term goals and this can create a mental roadblock for many. However, if you also create a series of short term goals you can succeed at in a shorter period of time the feeling of accomplishment will push you and become a motivating factor.
What are good short term goals? Just like long term goals, short term goals will be met with success more often when they are personal and something you care about. Also, just like we mentioned with long term goals, make sure you pick out something that is measurable so you can quantify if you are actually reaching or surpassing these milestones you set for yourself. A good example of long term goals vs short term goals could be, I have a long term goal to run a half marathon (this training could take a year depending on where you are starting) but my goal this week is to run 10 miles over 3 sessions. Never hesitate to give yourself a reward for achieving your milestones, it often time will help to give yourself an incentive to push it harder!
For anyone reading this, I challenge you to take 15 minutes this week and write down some short term goals and long term goals for your health and fitness. You may find this is something that is really helpful for you when it comes to achieving being the best version of yourself!
“It’s all in your head.” Whether you have struggled with anxiety, depression, or even overwhelming stress, this is a phrase you may have heard at some point. Even if it comes from a well-intentioned friend or family member, this “advice” or suggestion is literally less helpful than someone saying nothing at all. If you or a loved one has struggled with their mental health, you might also agree that this statement couldn’t be further from the truth. What if I told you that research continues to find evidence that psychological conditions are actually a manifestation of physical imbalance or illness and not simply just a result of “a bad mindset”. You may be thinking of the “chemical imbalances in the brain” often discussed with mental illness, but that isn’t what I’m referring to here. No, I’m actually discussing an imbalance in the body that is nowhere near the brain. Instead, we need to look lower. Much lower. We need to look to the gut.
More specifically, I’d like to focus on the trillions of bacteria that live in our intestines, primarily the large intestine but to a lesser degree the small intestine. The numbers and types of bacteria that live in our gut differ from person to person and changes across the lifespan due to many different factors. Regardless of the make-up, the collective of these bacteria is referred to as the gut microbiota. Some of the variables that influence a person’s microbiota include diet, exercise, stress, sleep, medical conditions, medications, and much, much more! Though they are very small, the importance of these bacteria shouldn’t be underestimated! On a fundamental level, these bacteria ferment many of the different foods we eat. While this sounds insignificant, the byproducts of this fermentation provide our bodies a host of benefits. Some of the direct byproducts include vitamin K and a number of B vitamins, all of which are directly used by our body. Other byproducts help maintain the health of the gut, which in turn helps prevent issues like bloating, indigestion, diarrhea, and malabsorption. Another role of gut bacteria is to assist our immune system by fighting off harmful bacteria and preventing them from crossing the border of the intestines into the bloodstream. Some byproducts even produce a cascade of events in the body that controls the level of inflammation in the body. While all these roles are interesting and valuable, perhaps most incredible is the gut microbiota’s effect on the brain.
During the fermentation of certain foods, the microbiota produces short-chain fatty acids (which I will abbreviate as SCFA). Of these, the most prominent and active SCFA are butyrate, valerate, and propionate. These byproducts have the ability to travel in the bloodstream and impart effects on the brain. Emerging research has been investigating the relationship between certain concentrations of these SCFA in the blood and the presence, absence, or severity of conditions like depression, anxiety, ADHD, and even autism. This isn’t to say that an increase or decrease in certain SCFA is directly related to the onset or prevention of these conditions. Unfortunately, it is a bit more complicated than that. In general, it is more about a certain balance of these different SCFA for ideal health. To achieve that, there is a certain balance of bacteria needed in the gut to produce the ideal amounts of these SCFA. It is often simplified down to a balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gut. In essence, the “bad” bacteria promote inflammation, weaken the immune system, are harmful to overall gut health, and produce proportions of SCFA that promote mental health issues like anxiety and depression. On the other hand, the “good” bacteria do just the opposite. Throughout your life, these “good” and “bad” bacteria are in a constant battle to populate your gut. The best thing you can do for your health, both physical and mental, is to support your “good” bacteria in consistently winning the battle.
Years are spent by researchers studying the countless strains of bacteria in your gut. They spend immeasurable hours investigating which specific strains have what effect in your body and how various lifestyle factors can increase or decrease the presence of said strains. Despite the seemingly endless research, one resounding message seems to hold true: habits we know as part of a healthy lifestyle also support the healthy bacteria in our gut. In other words, eating plant-based foods (fruit, veggies, and grains), exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep, and managing stress all help support the presence of “good” bacteria in the gut.
Certain foods are particularly good at boosting levels of “good” bacteria in your gut, helping them win the war for your colon. Foods that have prebiotic fiber provide fuel for your “good” bacteria, fermenting these fibers to produce healthy byproducts that fight off “bad” bacteria. In other words, the “good” bacteria are your troops and prebiotic fiber is the supplies and ammo they need to fight. Some excellent prebiotic foods include oats, bananas, berries, apples, and asparagus. On the other hand, probiotic foods are those that already have “good” bacteria in them. This helps to directly add more “good” bacteria directly to your gut. In other words, probiotic foods are like reinforcements for your bacterial ‘army’. Some excellent probiotic foods include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha.
Filling your life with healthy foods, physical activity, stress management, and good sleep habits can help create both a balanced life and a balanced gut. In turn, you’ll fortify your gut against the negative effects of imbalanced gut microbiota. Not only will this help minimize inflammation and boost your immune system, it might actually boost your mood and help you stave off anxiety and stress! When it comes to struggling with any number of mental health struggles, whatever level of severity, I can confidently say that, no, it is not, “all in your head.” In fact, one of the best things you can do for your mental health is to take care of your body, and then watch how, in turn, it will take care of you.
Sugar! People love it and it’s practically found in everything. The average American consumes 47 pounds of sugar and 35 pounds of high fructose corn syrup per year! We all know sugar is in foods like cakes and other desserts, but it’s often hidden in other “healthy” foods as well. Cereal, yogurt, Nutrigrain bars, protein bars, Gatorade, and many others, all contain it. Sugar-dense foods, such as these, are linked to heart disease and obesity, but they can also affect your joint health, as well.
High sugar diets spike your insulin levels. This leads to several biochemical reactions that can produce inflammation in the body. For example, when a person consumes a high sugar diet, it can lead to an increase in visceral fat, or abdominal fat. This type of fat secretes inflammatory proteins and hormones that create chronic inflammation in the body. If a person is injured and eats a lot of sugar, the healing process may take much longer.
Sugar also depletes the body of important minerals, like magnesium, calcium, and others. Muscles need these minerals for normal contractions and relaxation. Magnesium supports muscle and nerve function and energy production. Some studies show that the body requires 28 molecules of magnesium to break down one molecule of sugar! Therefore, a diet high in sugar can deplete the body of the magnesium needed for muscle contraction.
If you suffer from joint pain or stiffness, try eliminating sugar from your diet and focus on natural foods that haven't been processed. Any questions, please feel free to contact our Registered Dietitian, Tad, and he’ll be happy to go over anything with you!
“Summer shred” is a common phrase or phenomenon around the gym. If you aren’t familiar with this term, it is otherwise known as working on the “beach-ready body”. This pursuit often pushes gymgoers to hop on a treadmill or elliptical and pound away for hour upon sweaty hour. The belief is that burning enough calories will whittle away the fat, shedding pounds and revealing a physique akin to those of Greek statues. Unfortunately, it’s more common than not for many ‘summer shredders’ to burn endless calories and still not end up looking like Michelangelo’s David. If the science says that staying in a calorie deficit helps to burn fat and lose weight, why does it still feel like all that running on the treadmill is really going nowhere?
If this resonates with you, the source of your frustrations may be boiled down to an observation of human biology and metabolism known as “Setpoint Theory”. This is likely a phenomenon you, yourself, have experienced but maybe didn’t realized has a name or scientific explanation. While this theory can be explained through an intricate interplay of metabolism, genes, and hormones, I feel this theory is best represented by a rubber band. Imagine you have a rubber band wrapped around an immovable stake in the ground. That stake is your body’s current “setpoint” weight. This is the weight that your body would prefer to be at, based on the many interactions of your physiology. The rubber band is your genes trying to always pull you back to your setpoint weight. Your pull on the rubber band, wrapped around this stake, is like your efforts to change your weight. It is true that you can pull and stretch the band, but note that rubber bands become much harder to pull the more they are stretched. In the same way, your weight is malleable, but only to a point. Truly, your weight will move more easily when it is closer to your setpoint weight. As you continue to stretch that rubber band, it becomes more and more difficult to pull the further from the stake it is. In the same way, your weight becomes harder and harder to budge the further it is pushed from the setpoint. Your efforts to ‘stretch the rubber band’ are reflective, usually, of dieting and exercise to try and lose weight. The more you slave away on the treadmill and lose pounds, the more the weight-loss slows to a crawl and, eventually, a dead-stop. In this instance, you’ve pushed your limit on how far you can truly push your weight from your setpoint. Further, what happens to the rubber band once you release the effort to stretch it? It snaps back toward the original length, looped around the metal stake. This is the same with our efforts to diet and exercise to burn calories. Once all the efforts stop, the body settles back towards the setpoint weight. Note, this theory applies to weight/muscle gain, as well.
So what do we do? Do we despair in the hopeless efforts to change our weight, only to have our genes snap us right back to our setpoint? Not quite. There are various lifestyle and dietary factors that can actually make it easier to move away from our setpoint (and stay there). Some choices, like eating fresh fruits and vegetables, managing stress, and engaging in exercise that supports muscle mass and a healthy metabolism, can all serve to reduce your body's pull back to the setpoint. Some lifestyle factors can even effectively move your setpoint! In the case of our rubber band, our changes in nutrition and fitness are like swapping out our current rubber band for a much thinner one. In this way, the pullback to our setpoint (the stake) is much weaker. In other words, your weight change goals not only become easier to achieve but also more sustainable. These changes often require that you try things you might have never thought to try or develop habits you might have never even considered. For you it could mean trying meditation, cooking a new recipe, attending a new yoga class, having a trainer guide you through a new workout plan, or getting nutritional guidance from a professional.
Don't waste energy and time pulling on that thick rubber band pulling you back to your setpoint. Choose a new approach and swap in a thinner rubber band for greater success in your health and fitness goals.
Do you dread meal planning each week? Here are some easy tips to make this “chore” become a choice you look forward to completing each week or month.
If you choose to try these meal planning tips, you may reap these benefits.
Enjoy! With a little practice, meal planning can become a part of your normal schedule.
Many people in the fitness community fall into one of two categories. The first category is filled with those that view their time at the gym as a necessity. These people feel energized, refueled, and fulfilled by their trips to the gym. A missed session would make for an incomplete day. The second category dreads every workout. The trip to the gym is a box to check off on the “to-do” list, and the workout is anticipated to be long, painful, and unpleasant. These categories are not necessarily distinct from each other. Rather, these categories fall on opposite sides of a spectrum. Regardless of which side of the spectrum you feel you typically fall, it may benefit your fitness journey to consider the following.
Why is it that there can be such dramatic differences in perspectives on exercise? There’s no denying that people are diverse in past experiences and preferences. Further, different physical baselines can make certain ways of being active more or less enjoyable. But what if there was something even more fundamental impacting your enjoyment, or lack thereof, of exercise? What if I told you your diet is killing your exercise joy?
This may be something of an understatement, but weight loss is a common goal among gym-goers. The saying “eat less, move more” is the paramount mantra of the weight-loss industry. Eating in a caloric deficit is touted as the only way to achieve the “ideal” body. But in actuality, how does “eat less, move more” make you feel? Lethargic? Weak? Irritable? This shouldn’t be surprising, as the body doesn’t function properly under circumstances of self-induced starvation.
If you have only ever used exercise as a means to lose weight or prevent weight-gain, you have likely experienced most workouts while in a caloric deficit. In other words, most of your workouts have been spent demanding your body to work harder while being provided less fuel. A workout without enough calories for energy is bound to feel like torture. In this state, it is no wonder workouts would be something to dread.
If you have always associated workouts with dieting, exercise has always been associated with feeling tired and weak. Exercise has always been a means for aiding weight loss and nothing more. Further, the exercise stops when the diet stops. And because diets are not sustainable, they always stop, eventually. Sometimes the break from the diet lasts a week, sometimes a month, and sometimes years. Regardless, the exercise often doesn’t resume until the diet does. If you’ve found that you fall into some iteration of this cycle, you may have not given yourself the permission nor opportunity to find a love for fitness. On the other hand, phases of “bulking and cutting” may be to blame for dips in motivation for the frequent gym-goers. Feel like your drive to be active is less than ideal? Consider the state of your nutrition.
If you forced yourself to go to the movie theaters starving and sit through a movie you don’t care for, you might find that going to the movies is an unpleasant experience. Why would the gym be any different than this? You may find that your time in the gym is much more enjoyable when you have the energy to run, jump, and row. Further, freeing yourself of the weight-loss goal may allow you to find methods of exercise you actually like. Feeding your body the calories it needs and giving yourself permission to do activities that sound exciting, instead of those that “burn the most calories”, might actually spark joy for movement. If you don’t dread the gym, or exercise in general, you won’t find yourself constantly digging deep for every morsel of motivation. When going to the gym is no longer a chore, but instead something to be excited for, you won’t need to dig for any motivation. You’ll no longer need to worry about “falling off the wagon” because you never got on the “wagon”. Instead, your purpose for exercise becomes enjoying the process of moving and feeling better.
At this point, I’m afraid I might have lost you. Whenever the suggestion of “eating more calories” comes out, most people shut down. These blasphemous words go against every tenant of the weight-loss and dieting culture we live in. The truth is, eating more calories may not be the fastest way to lose weight. Despite this, choosing not to starve yourself may give you the energy to explore new ways to enjoy exercise. Choosing to be active while giving your body what it needs may at least provide the motivation to be consistent with a workout routine. Consistency in a fitness routine is much easier to achieve when you aren’t scraping the bottom of your “willpower barrel” for every workout. With enough energy to enjoy every workout, you’re much more likely to stick to your fitness journey and reach your goals.
Have you ever sat down to eat a meal and instantly thought, “I should not be eating this!"? Or, did you ever think that “My day was awesome! I owned it, I am going to enjoy this cheeseburger, fries and beer!”? Nutrition is often a love/hate relationship because some foods that you truly enjoy may not be what you ‘should’ be eating. Yet, who is to say that you should or should not eat a cheeseburger and fries or enjoy a venti peppermint mocha with extra whip and sprinkles? Granted having those high fat, high sugar, highly processed foods daily can lead to some future health concerns, but they may be consumed in moderation.
I know for myself that when I have a craving, I will give myself a day to see if other foods I eat can provide that fix. If I am not satisfied and the craving still lingers, I will eat whatever it is I am craving. Usually, it is not a specific food it is more of a taste craving; salty, sweet, sour, or bitter. It could be pizza (maybe a whole one), candy, sugary coffee drinks, chips, or a dessert. At times, I find that after eating the ‘not so healthy’ food and going back to my usual meals I see results and feel great. There is nothing wrong with indulging these foods but knowing it should not become a staple in your daily diet is very important. Many would be surprised to know that people in the health and fitness industry don’t always stay on point either. After surveying some of the Western staff the following food items were listed as their go-to indulgent foods: ‘pizza, wings and beer, ‘doughnuts’, ‘cereal or Chik-fil-A’, ‘burger and wings’, ‘Culver's', Starbucks cheese danish, doughnuts and coffee, 'candy, tacos, cheese pizza, cake' and ‘protein balls’.
I would like to encourage you to read the article in the linked here, entitled Mind Over Food. Part of it talks about how your mood, brain and hormones can affect your digestion and the other part talks about the power of expectation. The first portion is very eye-opening and it has me being more mindful about my mood when I am eating my meals. It is amazing to think, the mood you have about the food you are eating will play a role in your digestion.
With the holiday season upon us, I encourage everyone to give yourself compassion and grace to eat the cookies and pies (in moderation 🙂), have a second helping of cheesy potatoes or have a glass or two of your homemade baileys.
Wishing you all a very merry holiday season to you!
Have you found yourself stressed from the COVID-19 pandemic? The virus and many changes over the last few months have impacted all of us in some way. Are you having a difficult time managing your stress during the pandemic? One common reaction to stress is overeating. Here are a few tips to help you turn stress and eating into a positive influence for your life.
Knowledge is control. Know your personal triggers when it comes to eating.
Resilience. Overeating is bound to happen from time to time and that is okay. Overeating is not desirable, but the self-destructive “after talk” that occurs after overeating can be more damaging. One of the most important lessons to learn is to forgive yourself before you make another unhealthy choice or overindulge.
Exercise is a wonderful stress-reliever. Choose the form of exercise you enjoy and do it often. Whether that be a round of golf, weight-lifting, yoga, hiking a nearby trail or walking to your favorite hunting spot. Make it work for you! Even a short walk can get your mind off food and help you deal with what’s stressing you out.
Meditation can help you handle stress. Try taking three to five deep breaths before giving in to a food craving. After your deep breaths and taking a moment to pause, ask yourself if you still want that specific food.
Mindful eating can help stop stress-eating before it even starts. Slow down and savor the foods you choose to nourish your body. Being mindful takes time, so be patient with yourself. Read these mindful eating tips to help you refresh your eating habits.
Sleep may be the answer to deal with stress and overeating. When you repeatedly don’t sleep well or go to bed too late, the lack of sleep can play a role in your ability to fight off infection, keep your weight at bay and feel focused and energetic. By getting the recommended amount of sleep (seven to eight hours per night for adults), you will be able to better manage and likely not overeat. Read these sleep tips to help you get a good night’s sleep.
Coloring helps relieve stress as well. And as an added bonus, eating is hard when your hands are occupied! Find adult coloring books online or at your favorite book or craft store!
Hope these tips help you manage your stress and eat healthier during the pandemic.
What are they and why are we afraid of them?
Fats are a macronutrient, meaning they are one of the three main ways the body obtains energy or calories.
CALORIES are ENERGY.
According to health.org: Dietary fats are essential to give your body energy and to support cell growth. They also help
protect your organs and help keep your body warm. Fats help your body absorb some nutrients and produce
important hormones, too. Your body definitely needs fat.
WHY ARE THEY BAD?
Fats gained a bad name around the 1980s when professionals became aware of the harms of saturated fat.
From there, food industries started pulling ALL fats from their foods and then adding more products (like sugars) to
alter the taste back to normal!
Unsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature. Look for these types of unsaturated fats when purchasing
prepared foods and cooking:
Monounsaturated fats: found in nuts, avocados, olive, canola, and peanut oils
Polyunsaturated fats: found in soybean, corn, sunflower, sesame, and safflower oils
Omega-3 fatty acids: found in fish, ground flaxseed, chia seeds and walnuts
REMEMBER...FATS ARE FRIENDS!
Is the answer to the question of what to eat… to eat nothing at all?
Advice for what to eat, when to eat, and how to eat can be confusing and conflicting. I’ve talked to many people that say the amount of nutrition information out there tends to be more overwhelming than helpful. When this happens, it seems easier to simply eat nothing at all than navigate these muddy waters. It’s for this reason that intermittent fasting often seems so appealing. Proponents of intermittent fasting will proclaim the amazing benefits of simply not eating, saying that fasting will make you leaner, stronger, smarter, and even live longer. Are these claims true? Let’s find out!
If you’ve never heard of it, intermittent fasting is a dietary approach that involves abstaining from food for a particular period of time. There are many different forms that intermittent fasting, but the most popular forms are time-restricted feeding and alternate-day fasting. Time-restricted feeding includes a prolonged period of fasting followed by a shorter eating, or “feasting” period. This can often look like a 16-hour fast with 8 hours to eat, an 18-hour fast with 6 hours to eat, or a 20-hour fast with 4 hours to eat. On the other hand, alternate-day fasting involves eating little to no food for an entire day, while other days involve unrestricted intake.
Of course, one of the first things that come to mind with fasting is fat-loss. During a normal eating schedule, the average person eats enough food to provide their body with a consistent supply of energy. The body converts nearly all food to glucose, the body’s preferred energy source. At the same time, the body is able to store some glucose in the muscles and liver as glycogen. This stored energy is there for when you are pushing through intense exercise or go a short period without eating. When you don’t eat for 12 hours or more, though, you begin to drain your glycogen storage. Around the 16-hour mark of no food, give or take, is where the body is out of glycogen and forced to switch to fat-burning. The body is extremely efficient as storing fat (to many people’s dismay) because it wants to tap into using it for energy when food is sparse. This metabolic shift occurs to make the body no longer rely on glucose, but instead use its own stored bodyfat as fuel. To do so, your body breaks apart stored fat and turns it into ketone bodies, or ketones. These ketones circulate in the blood for readily available energy, and they are actually the namesake for the ever-popular “Keto diet”. The ketogenic diet is a whole other conversation, but this diet shares a similar process to intermittent fasting. It is by this mechanism, though, that intermittent fasting has become very famous for burning fat. Truly, there is a variety of research backing intermittent fasting’s ability to aid people trying to leaning out.4 The effect of fat loss with fasting is multiplied with endurance exercise, or cardio. Endurance exercise classifies as longer duration and usually lower intensity. Exercises like jogging and biking would qualify. With this type of exercise, your body actually prefers to burn fat for energy. If you do cardio in the fasted state, your body has already started liberating stored fat and converting it into ketones. As you jog, your working muscles are happy to pick up the fat and ketones circulating in the blood and burn them for energy.4 How can you practically apply this to your own fat-loss journey? If you are able to fast overnight and exercise before breakfast, cardio in the morning will have your body burning fat much more efficiently than after breakfast or any other meal of the day. It’s worth noting these effects aren’t a magic bullet, though. Fat-loss doesn’t happen overnight. Even if you were fasting during that night! There is limited research saying that people didn’t lose fat using intermittent fasting,3 but this research was done over a short period of time and in a very small group of people. In the end of the day, being consistent with your exercise and nutrition will always be the key to leaning out.
What about those of us that care more about living longer? Some research has related intermittent fasting to a variety of general health benefits that fight some of the most common ailments leading to death and disease. Some research has found that intermittent fasting has helped improve cholesterol levels, protect heart health, improve the balance of gut bacteria, and even help to fight cancer. Limited research saw that intermittent fasting actually decreased peoples’ triglycerides and LDL (bad cholesterol), while increasing their HDL (good cholesterol). Further, different fasting regimens have been found to slow down cell proliferation (excessive growth), decrease inflammation, and reduce hormones that are indicated in uncontrolled growth of cells. All of these processes are related to the belief that fasting can help prevent certain forms of cancer. In the gut, the metabolic changes that occur with fasting influence the “good” and “bad” bacteria. In short, fasting has been seen to increase the good and decrease the bad bacteria, which is a piece in improving digestion and gut health, as well as even helping to reduce and fight obesity. Part of these benefits from intermittent fasting stem from the ability to help the body reconnect with its circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is the body’s internal clock, telling us when to sleep, wake up, eat, exercise, and much more. Our current lifestyle that involves unpredictable eating and sleeping patterns disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm, causing improper brain and hormone signals and patterns. Providing the body with set times to eat, fast, and sleep helps realign this rhythm and can correct the body’s metabolism. In doing so, our ability to regulate our bodyweight, fight cancer, and generally stay healthy is vastly improved. Further, there’s some research beginning to suggest that a properly executed intermittent fasting regimen can even help reduce stress and improve learning abilities.1,2,4
What about working out? Won’t fasting hurt my performance in the gym? Well… it might. Generally, exercise performance during “feasting periods”, or the times that you can eat, is unaffected. Unfortunately, a good number of studies has found that individuals that exercise during their fasting periods usually perform worse.4 In other words, intermittent fasting might help you lean out faster, but you most likely won’t be able to lift any heavier or run any faster. The evidence doesn’t suggest your workouts will be worse, they just won’t likely be any better.
How would you know if intermittent fasting is worth trying? Intermittent fasting may be achievable and sustainable if you’re someone who finds that they “forget to eat” when they’re too busy, has a work/life schedule that makes eating or snacking more difficult, or finds that they simply “don’t get hungry” very often. With lifestyles like this, intermittent fasting may be an easy dietary pattern to adopt. When you don’t feel like eating or don’t have time to eat, just don’t eat! On the other hand, intermittent fasting may not be sustainable if you’re someone who gets very tired or “hangry” from not eating, quickly gets hunger pains, or has better energy levels when they snack on small meals throughout the day. If you’re an individual in the latter group, you might feel like there’s no hope for reaping the benefits of intermittent fasting. Fear not! Even shorter periods of fasting carry their own benefits. Research has found that simply eating dinner at a normal time, say about six o’clock, and not eating the rest of the night until breakfast can have health benefits. Fasting between dinner and breakfast could help improve your quality of sleep and even help regulate blood sugar levels for the whole next day.5 Both of these benefits can lead to sustained energy levels for the entire day, prevent you from feeling the need to overeat, and prevent fat storage during the day. Even if fasting for 16 hours seems quite daunting, refraining from some late-night snacking can impart benefits similar to intermittent fasting without all the hunger pains.
Whew! There’s a lot that has to do with “not eating”! What’s the moral of the story? Intermittent fasting is simply another approach to how we eat, and it may have certain health benefits if you find it to be sustainable. Just as important as how we eat is what we eat, though. Regardless of how you approach nutrition, what matters most is that you eat a balance of food that is good for you and that you enjoy. Food is fuel, true. But food is also emotional. Food is tradition. Food is social, and food is meant to be shared and enjoyed. So, whether you’re slurping a kale smoothie or splitting a pizza, rest assured that you’re living a healthy life if you’re enjoying what you consume without allowing it to consume you.
WHAT ARE CARBS?
Carbs. Aka. Carbohydrates.
What are they and why are we afraid of them? Carbohydrates are a macronutrient, meaning they are one of the three main ways the body obtains energy or calories. Yes... CALORIES are ENERGY.
"The American Diabetes Association notes that carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy. They are called carbohydrates because, at the chemical level, they contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen." - Livescience
Why are they bad?
Carbs gained a bad name when professionals realized reducing carbohydrates in a diabetic diet could make a positive impact on their patient's lives. Soon enough the whole country was in a frenzy of reducing carbs for EVERYONE and many believed it was the magical secret to weight loss.
Shouldn't I cut carbs though?
NO! Reducing your intake of healthy carbs can lead to the following problems:
A slower metabolism
Lower levels of muscle/strength-building hormones
Higher levels of stress hormones
The result? You might find yourself feeling cranky, fatigued, weaker, or even sick at times.
Aren't carbs just sugar?
Yes. Carbs DO turn into sugars in the body, but here's the thing: fiber is one of the things that makes the carbs usually described as "good carbs". Fiber helps the digestion process and gets this human factory moving! According to the USDA, most of the carbs you should be getting from your diet should be complex carbohydrates: the unprocessed, fiber-laden, long chain complex carbohydrates like whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Less than 10 percent should be coming from simple carbohydrates, like table sugar, refined or processed.
Are there "good" carbs?
Carbs are carbs, but some are going to digest much more efficiently in your body than others! Check out a list of some of the most optimal carbs to include in a healthy diet according to Heathline:
Now that I have your attention — yes, you can eat pizza! If you make it right, that is. Make it with a thin crust (preferably whole grain or gluten-free) and load it up with tomato sauce or pesto sauce, plus lots of flavorful vegetables.
This powerhouse seed acts and tastes like a nutty grain, but it’s actually a gluten-free seed. It’s higher in nutrients and protein than most grains, meaning that you can forego the cholesterol, saturated fat, and cancer-causing compounds found in animal proteins.
Yum! Lentils are quick and easy to prepare in comparison to other types of beans. They’re high in protein and a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, which can be helpful for people with diabetes, as fiber prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal. Lentils contain many important minerals including iron, magnesium, and folate.
Dates can help fend off everything from night blindness to anemia, and constipation to seasonal allergies. The significant amounts of minerals found in dates like iron, calcium, and potassium can help with healthy bone development and maintaining a healthy gut. Incorporatie dates into my snacks and desserts!
Oats play a vital role in improving our feeling of fullness, and can be a boon to our digestive, cardiovascular, and overall metabolic health. Oats are rich in a specific type of fiber called beta-glucan known to help lower levels of bad cholesterol.
6. Whole wheat pastas
Yes! Spaghetti, linguine, farfalle. Give pasta a chance, in smaller portions and especially when paired with a plethora of vegetables.
7. Black beans
Black beans are classified as legumes. They’re easy to make, and chock full of protein, fiber, and iron. They also contain many minerals important in building and maintaining bone structure and strength, and contain selenium, which plays a role in liver enzyme function and helps to detoxify cancer-causing compounds in the body.
Apples are one of the best sources of carbs you can eat, since they contain large amounts of pectin, which helps keep you feeling full, as well as vitamin C and potassium. They’re also rich in natural sugars, which digest more slowly than those found in processed foods.
Chickpeas are particularly high in fiber and are loaded with health-building and bone-building minerals, including vitamin K, phosphate, and calcium.
Pears offer a large dose of potassium, vitamin C, magnesium, and fiber. They’re decadently sweet and aid in cleansing the digestive tract.
Did you know that vitamin D is comprised of more than one vitamin? Vitamin D is actually a “family” of vitamins that includes vitamin D2 (calciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Vitamin D3 is found in animal-based foods and vitamin D2 is found in plants. Although both help to fulfill your vitamin D requirements, research at times has shown that vitamin D3 may raise your blood levels of this important vitamin slightly more than vitamin D2. Keep in mind, both are still needed.
Vitamin D is important to your body because it helps to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. Too little vitamin D can lead to soft bones in children (rickets) and fragile, misshapen bones in adults (osteomalacia). Vitamin D deficiency has now been linked to breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease, depression, weight gain and other maladies. These studies show that people with higher levels of vitamin D have a lower risk of disease, although they do not definitively prove that lack of vitamin D causes disease – or that vitamin D supplements would lower risk. As with many nutrition findings, more research is still needed.
3 tips to increase vitamin D
1. Consume foods that contain vitamin D. Sources of vitamin D3 include liver, egg yolk, butter, fatty fish, fish oil and supplements. Vitamin D2 can be found in mushrooms (grown in UV light), fortified foods and also in dietary supplements. These foods can easily be added to your diet in the following ways:
*Since vitamin D2 is cheaper to produce, it’s usually the most common form found in fortified foods.
2. Spend time in the sun. Even in Wisconsin, you can get sunlight to help your body produce the necessary vitamin D it needs. However, this works best if you are without sunscreen and lightly clad with clothing, which can be difficult in the winter months. Bottom line, getting outdoors for some vitamin D is always a good idea, but even if you don’t get the formation of this precious vitamin, getting outside and breathing fresh air is never a poor choice. Climates like Wisconsin may require you to take a vitamin D supplement during the winter months.
3. Talk with your physician. Take an active role in requesting that your vitamin D levels be checked. If you need a supplement, the safe upper limit for vitamin D is 4,000 IU’s. Your physician may put you on a dose ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 IU’s or more a day. According to the US Institute of Medicine, the recommended daily allowance is 400 to 800 IU’s. Bottom line, make sure your levels are monitored and check your level before you decide to supplement.
“It’s in the bag.” This is a common expression often used confidently to mean that the results will be favorable. It’s primarily been used to refer to a winning team of a sporting event or perhaps a salesperson may say this right before they close the big deal. A more literal meaning of the phrase, “it’s in the bag”, is the focus for today’s topic. Let’s chat about packing lunches. Currently, what is your present schedule when it comes to packing lunches? Do you pack it every day? Twice a week? Does someone else pack it for you? Do you take mostly cold items or hot? Once you have answered these questions, you will have completed an important step to packing healthy lunches.
How often do you pack a lunch? The benefits of packing a lunch are insurmountable. You have choices that you can make in advance so spontaneous eating is at an all-time low. Second, cold lunches usually help you to be more frugal. This is plain common sense. You can pack at least three lunches for the price of one lunch at a restaurant. Third, planning is KEY for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Notice weight loss wasn’t mentioned as a benefit of this eating pattern, but planning meals/snacks (including and especially those outside of the home) will help with the numbers on the scale.
What are you packing? Is it the same cold sandwich and piece of fruit every day? While there is nothing wrong with a sandwich and fruit, variety is not only the key to life, but the key to gaining valuable nutrients and antioxidants. If you are following a pattern of sandwich and fruit, try these simple tips. Change your protein every other day. Try chicken breast, tuna, canned salmon or nut butters for your protein sources. Make a turkey breast in the oven and use it for sandwiches during the week. Choose whole wheat bread such as Dave’s Powerhouse bread or Ezekiel bread. Switch up your fruit daily, or at the very least, every other day with different colored choices. Also, your spread on your sandwich can change from an olive oil based spread to a variety of hummus or avocado.
When are you packing your lunch? This matters because if you take the time to put some energy and thought into it, chances are it will be much healthier. If you start packing five minutes before you run out the door, chaotic choices usually are not the healthiest ones. Good rule of thumb: pack your lunch with or after your supper meal. As you are putting away leftovers, put some in small containers ready for lunch the next day. Also, when making a dinner salad, prepare two or three salads for yourself or others that need a packed lunch. You have all the ingredients out anyway so making multiple salads at once will cut down on time.
Don’t let packing lunches become a chore. You can make “around the world” lunches. Have you ever attended a party or holiday that had an “all around the world” theme? Choose a country, a region, a state, etc. and choose cuisine from that area for the week, the day or the month. Eating can become mundane if you don’t give it a little spark or change it now and then. What do you have to lose? Well, maybe your packed lunch boredom.
Usually, when one sees the abbreviation “vs.”, it leads us to believe that one is better than the other and that we must make a choice. This is not the case with fermented and fresh foods as both are beneficial to a healthy diet.
Let’s start with the simplest form of foods: fresh. Why choose fresh? Fresh food is food which has not been preserved and has not spoiled yet. For vegetables and fruits, this means that they have been recently harvested and treated properly postharvest. For meat, it has recently been slaughtered and butchered, and for fish, it has been recently caught or harvested and kept cold. These foods are at their finest as they are fresh. Try to purchase fresh foods whenever possible. Perhaps you grow your own vegetables, raise chickens for their eggs, or hunt or fish for lean/healthy protein sources. These are all examples of eating fresh and an excellent way to promote healthy eating.
So what is all the hype regarding fermented foods? First, fermentation uses microbes, such as bacteria and yeast, to preserve food. It is an easy way to add beneficial bacteria to your gut to help support a healthy microbiome. This ancient technique of preserving food breaks down carbohydrates, like starch and sugar, using bacteria and yeast. Common fermented foods include kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, apple cider vinegar, tempeh and yogurt. These foods may reduce heart disease risk, aid digestion, immunity and weight loss. Let’s take a brief look at these as they are less familiar to most people.
Kombucha is a fermented tea that is fizzy, tart and flavorful. Since it is made from either green or black tea, it contains all of those health-promoting properties. During the fermentation process, the bacteria turn the sugar in the tea to alcohol leaving a low level of alcohol in this drink. However, commercial-made kombucha tea has less than 0.5% alcohol, so unless pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s usually not a huge issue. Homemade varieties can have up to 3% alcohol in them so be vigilant and ask questions.
Kimchi is a popular Korean side dish and is usually made from fermented cabbage, but it can also be made with other vegetables such as radishes. It is known to help with lowering cholesterol and reducing insulin resistance.
Kefir is a dairy product is similar to yogurt but has a thinner consistency. It can be used as a drink or it can be used with cereal instead of milk.
Apple cider vinegar has been noted to have many benefits. To name a few, besides its fermentation properties, research suggests it may help with lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.
Tempeh is popular in Japanese cooking. It is a soybean-based fermented food and is a popular meat substitute (similar to tofu). It does contain all the essential amino acids so it is a complete vegetarian protein source.
Vegetables are packed with powerful nutrients and antioxidants. Two of the most common fermented vegetables are sauerkraut and pickles. However, other vegetables can be fermented, such as eggplant, ginger, beets, broccoli, mustard greens, carrots, radishes, etc.
If fermentation sounds interesting to you, please note there are many different recipes, blogs and tips available for you. Here is just one basic recipe that you can use to start fermenting vegetables.
Choose fresh AND fermented foods for better health!
Tony Robbins said the secret to happiness in one word. ... “I always tell people if you want to know the secret to happiness, I can give it to you in one word: progress. Progress equals happiness.” That's because reaching a goal is satisfying, but only temporarily. It’s a feeling of satisfaction that needs to be replenished again and again. “Did I get that thing that I want? Yes, Now I’m happy. I didn’t get what I want. Now I’m unhappy.” Happiness doesn’t stay in one place forever and that’s why we need progress over and over because progress is an onward movement towards a destination. And moving forward is the only way to attain goals.
I believe that’s what keeps people coming back to the gym and working on themselves: goals. I don’t think it needs to be totally tangible either (while many are very tangible). Some people come to the gym to work out because they need a social connection every day while some come because they want to lift a particular weight. Some come because they want to make their golf or tennis better and others want to lose 15 lbs. by summer. Some work with a personal trainer towards a specific goal and many others make it a priority to make it to a high energy class a few times a week.
I think having a goal and working towards it is a very important part of progress. And progress leads to happiness.
To everyone out there who makes a goal and is working towards it, no matter what it is, I applaud you. Keep up the great work. If you’re new in the fitness world, my advice is this: Do things you like and keep doing it. If you hate running, don’t do it. Maybe you’d enjoy walking your dog every night for an hour instead. If you want to lose weight but can’t seem to figure out how, start with looking at what you eat. Try eliminating one unhealthy thing like sugary treats, candy, or perhaps cut wine down to a glass per day or every other day. You don’t need to overwhelm yourself with adding things you don’t care for such as grueling workouts. Try the process of elimination. You’re body and mind will respond for the better by default. That’s the start of progress which will lead to happiness.
Are you a tomato lover? Me too. There’s nothing quite like eating a fresh heirloom tomato right off the vine in the heat of summer. I’d love to share a tasty Caprese salad recipe from the blog of Elizabeth Rider, a health expert, author, and creative entrepreneur that I’ve been following for six years. Although this recipe is dairy-free, everyone in Wisconsin who can tolerate cheese should add freshly sliced mozzarella (or mozzarella balls) and pair this salad with grilled chicken. I love the seasonality component of the tomatoes and basil, especially if you have these beauties growing in your backyard. I enjoy the untraditional aspect of thinly sliced watermelon radish as it brings a crunchy texture and pop of color.
This salad becomes more satiating with the high amount of healthy fat from the ever-popular avocado. Something I’ve learned about avocados over the years is to buy them slightly green and wait a few days until the peel turns black and is slightly soft. This ensures that the avocado will be at its peak texture and flavor. Feeling extra fancy? Cut the avocado in half lengthwise, take out the pit, and peel off the skin. This allows you to slice away to perfection and amp up the aesthetics of this salad. Lastly, who doesn’t love balsamic? Even better, a balsamic reduction sauce adds a velvety drizzle of flavor. Not only is this salad simple to prepare, it can be whipped up in an easy ten minutes. It’s the perfect dish to pass at a cookout, graduation party, or a day at the lake - just don’t expect to bring any leftovers home. I hope you enjoy this recipe and savor the freshness that our summer season offers!
Fine the recipe here: www.elizabethrider.com/healthy-avocado-caprese-salad-recipe
Food additives are very present in our food supply. When is the last time you looked at a nutrition label strictly for food additives? Of course, it is always important to pay attention to the entire nutrition label focusing in on added sugar, calories, saturated fat, etc. However, I want to draw closer attention to the ingredient list on products and provide a few tips.
You may already know that ingredients are listed from the ones with the highest amounts added to the lowest. However, even if they are on the bottom of the ingredient list, there are additives you want to avoid completely. Please refer to the Chemical Cuisine web site and look at the key and the ingredients that are placed within the following categories.
Safe: The additive appears to be safe
Caution: May pose a risk and needs to be better tested. Try to avoid.
Cut back: Not toxic, but large amounts may be unsafe or promote bad nutrition.
Certain people should avoid: May trigger an acute, allergic reaction, intolerance or other problems.
Avoid: Unsafe in amounts consumed or is very poorly tested and not worth any risk.
If you have specific questions regarding one of the additives, the site provides a relatively lengthy description of why it was placed within a certain category. Too often, in an effort to eat healthfully, you may be choosing chemically ridden foods. I encourage you to use this resource as a reference and to expand your nutrition knowledge.
Debbie Guenterberg MS, RDN, CD
Prevea Health Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
There are few people I know that actually feel that they eat a sufficient amount of vegetables in a day. Many people try to eat healthy but recognize they fall short of incorporating sufficient fresh produce in their diet. Truthfully, those that actively seek to eat more veggies tend to be missing out somewhere, and those that don’t try to eat more vegetables regularly might find they almost rarely eat any! I won’t bore you with the stats, but the number of people that can go days to weeks without eating a fresh, plant-based food is astounding.
The most common kickback to trying a plant-based diet (be it vegetarian, vegan, or some off variant of the two) is that they won’t be able to get sufficient protein. Done right, this simply isn’t true. You can actually get quite a solid dose of protein whether you do a combo of foods, like rice and beans, or go for complete-protein plant sources, like hemp, soy, or quinoa. True, there are some common deficiencies seen with plant-based diets, like Vitamin B-12 and D, Omega-3, Iron, and Zinc. Are these all reasons to empty your vegetable crisper drawer to make room for those chicken breasts and ground beef? Absolutely not! Many of these nutrients can be obtained through careful planning, supplementation, or just a more balanced approach to your diet. The benefits of following a plant-heavy diet (ranging from improved energy levels and weight loss to cancer-fighting potential) vastly outweigh any of the potential drawbacks. Attempting to eat more fruits and veggies doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach. The best, long-lasting changes are the small ones that you can maintain with your lifestyle. Maybe instead of totally giving up meat, try the trendy “Meatless Mondays” option. You could even choose one meal a week to try and find an alternative protein source rather than meat. Done right, a diet more rich in fresh produce can greatly excel any of your health and fitness goals. Don’t believe me? Feel free to speak with Western Personal Trainer Devin Van Dyke, who is currently following a mostly plant-based diet. Even his performance in the gym speaks for itself.
If I were to summarize, I would just want to say this. Just lettuce be more open to turnip the amount of plants in our diet. Going bananas for fruits and veggies may kale any ailments you have, help you beet your friends in sports, and berry your cravings. This might seem corn-y, or you may even think I am nuts. But if bean healthy is your goal, you might want to eat more plants.
ACSM Personal Trainer