Author Archives: Lisa

Simple Things To Know When Living Alone

This week, TargitFit is pleased to bring you a post by John Hawthorne:

02161801While many people enjoy the solitude of living alone, others, who unexpectedly find themselves in an empty home, can face a difficult transition period. Aside from simply missing the company of another human being, living alone means you don’t have another person to help with certain chores.

Tasks that you used to do with another person, such as folding bed sheets, you now have to tackle on your own. This can be a particularly tough challenge for older individuals who may not have the strength to complete certain routine tasks. For example, routine tasks such as carrying out the trash or dusting high places can be an extreme challenge for some older adults.

Surviving alone takes a lot of independence, but it also takes some ingenuity. Being able to solve problems on your own and overcome the challenges that come with living alone is crucial.

To help with some of the obstacles of living alone, here is a list of 10 helpful survival tips. Many of these tricks require very little energy or effort, yet they can make your solo life worlds better and even keep you safe.

Your Dishwasher Can Wash More Than Dirty Dishes

A dishwasher is a big help when it comes time to clean up after a meal, but it can also be a huge help in other aspects of cleaning.

Rather than climbing up on a ladder or chair to clean your fan blades, you can just remove them and wash them in the dishwasher. They’ll come out cleaner, and you won’t be risking a bad fall. Most hard plastics are entirely fine to wash in the dishwasher.

Other handy things to clean in a dishwasher include lamp shades, broom and mop heads, dust pans, gardening tools, pet toys, plastic combs/brushes, sink sponges and many more items that would otherwise be hard to clean.

By giving your dishwasher this double duty, you’ll have a much cleaner home, and you won’t spend a ton of time keeping it clean.

Use Peppermint Oil To Ward Off Mice

02161802Musophobia (the fear of mice and rodents) is one of the more common phobias out there. Not everyone can handle trapping and removing mice from his/her home.

If you’re one of these people, there’s a very inexpensive fix that doesn’t force you to interact with the mice at all: peppermint oil. Mice hate this stuff and will steer clear of it. By mixing some peppermint oil with water in a spray bottle, you can give a quick spritz to any area with mice activity.

You never have to remove the mice yourself; they’ll get one whiff of the peppermint and move on. Plus, it is a very humane way of dealing with a small mice problem (if you have a large infestation, you may want to seek out more extreme measures of removing the mice).

Peppermint oil has a lot of uses. Even when the mice leave, you can still find ways to use it. Peppermint oil can be found at many pharmacies and large box stores. You can also buy it online.

Open Stubborn Jars With A Rubber Kitchen Glove

Nothing is worse than a jar that you just cannot open. Even after banging it on the side of a counter, turning it until your face turns red and soaking it in warm water, you still cannot get it to open.

There are tons of products out there that are designed specifically for opening stubborn jars. One easy trick, which doesn’t require you buying some As Seen On TV product, is to use a rubber glove. You probably already have a pair under your sink, and the rubber of the glove will give your hand much better traction and grip on the lid.

Another trick is to put one rubber band around the lid and another around the jar, wherever your hand is going to hold it. The concept is the same, the rubber of the bands helps provide much-needed traction, and you can pop the lid quickly.

Use Windex To Move Heavy Furniture And Appliances

02161803Moving heavy furniture and appliances is typically a two-person job, no matter what age you are. But, for older individuals, the challenge of moving something heavy on your own is much more difficult.

Luckily, there is a solution. By spraying Windex at the feet of an appliance and in a track of where you’re moving it, the item will slide with ease. Thus, you won’t have to strain yourself pushing and pulling it. Plus, it should protect some floors from marks, as you move the furniture.

Scotch Tape, Safety Pins, and String Are Your Friend For Dressing Up

“Can you zip me up?” A small request for a quick and easy task, if there’s another person around. When you are living alone, however, even getting dressed and wearing certain garments or jewelry can be a minor annoyance.

There are a few small things you can do to make life a little easier when you are trying to dress up for a night out. A string and a safety pin attached to the zipper of a dress makes it a breeze to zip up while using scotch tape on your wrist to hold a bracelet in place while you secure it means you can accessorize with one hand!

Put Your Mind At Ease With An Alarm System

02161804When others are around, you don’t feel vulnerable and alone. You have someone else around to put your mind at ease when you feel uncomfortable or insecure. That isn’t the case when you are living alone.

Maintaining a sense of security can be hard, especially if you have an active mind that often creates added fear or anxiety. A medical alert system may seem like a significant, unnecessary investment, but the cost of having a mind that feels secure and at ease is priceless.

Plus, many modern systems are extra affordable. You shouldn’t be afraid of living alone or have your mind racing at every small bump in the night.

Invest in a Silicone Microwave Lid

Transitioning into living alone means adjusting how much you spend on groceries and how much food to cook and prepare. You’re probably used to feeding others (or being fed by someone), but now you are just cooking for yourself.

This might mean you need to take some rudimentary cooking lessons and it means getting used to eating leftovers and reheating food in a microwave more often. Reheating rice, pasta and other similar dishes can be a real pain in the microwave.

There are some tips and tricks associated with microwaving food and an even greater number of gadgets, but the only one you need is a silicone microwave lid. This product traps in steam and heat to provide a more thorough cook. No more cold spots or mushy leftovers.

Budget and Shopping For One

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Aside from adjusting how much you need to cook, you also have to learn how to manage your finances. The good news is that budgeting for one is a lot easier than learning how to budget and spend with a significant other or a roommate.

Nonetheless, it may take some getting used to, as you no longer have someone to split costs with and have to buy everything on your own. Groceries are going to be one of the areas that take a lot of adapting. You have to transition to buying smaller quantities, instead of in bulk. This is also going to be your biggest area of savings, which you’ll probably need to cover your payments and utilities.

In any scenario, budgeting takes some careful planning and smart innovating. You should track all of your spendings. Then, once you have a good amount of data, you can begin to see where you are spending money, how much you need each month and where spending can be cut.

Schedule A Daily Phone Call Or “Check In”

This tip serves two purposes. First, regular communication is important because for your mental health. Just because you live alone doesn’t mean you have to live without social interactions. People often underestimate how impactful a little chatting can be; a daily phone call can help in lifting your spirits up to get through the rest of the day or give you an ear to complain to and get some things off your mind to de-stress.

For retired individuals, this daily call can also be a lifesaver, if you’ve fallen and didn’t have a way to notify anyone. Your loved one will be expecting the call, and when it doesn’t come, they will know you are in trouble and send help.

Get To Know Your Neighbors

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One of the best resources you can have when living alone are the people living around you. Not everyone likes meeting neighbors, and there are certainly neighbors you should avoid, but don’t let a little social awkwardness deter you from establishing connections in your neighborhood.

Not only are these valuable sources of social interactions, but you never know whom you might be living next to. You may come to find out that your next door neighbor is a handyman or a plumber, which is valuable knowledge if you have repairs or plumbing issues. Also, you may be able to call upon them to help with some tasks that are simply too difficult to do alone.

Final Advice

The last thing you need to remember to survive living alone is to have fun. Sure, it can be a scary, hectic transition that makes you have to alter your lifestyle and how you spend your money and live your life.

However, it’s also an excellent opportunity to learn things about yourself that you didn’t already know, explore new things and do things in your way. You no longer have to worry about the needs of another, so make bold decorating choices. Start a new hobby that takes up way too much space. Be messy for a week. Budget for the vacations and things that you want. Entertain guests and dazzle them with your newfound cooking skills.

There’s so much potential growth to be experienced from living alone, so shed the fear and anxiety and enjoy it!

 

John Hawthorne is a health nut from Canada with a passion for travel and taking part in humanitarian efforts. His writing not only solves a creative need, it has also lead to many new opportunities when traveling abroad.
This article was originally published on BayAlarmMedical.com.

Exercise During Pregnancy: The Ultimate Guide

This week, TargitFit is pleased to bring you a post by Jenny Silverstone:

02081801

Have you ditched your old exercise routine because you’re worried it’s too aggressive for you now that you’re pregnant? As you see the numbers on the scale creep up every week and your energy levels start to lower, the last thing you may feel like doing when you’re pregnant is exercising. But it’s exactly what you should be doing.

When done correctly, getting exercise while you’re pregnant is good for both you and your baby. As a side perk, it can help you cut down on all the extra junk in the trunk you’re starting to store up.

During my pregnancies, staying active helped keep me sane. It made me feel better — both physically and emotionally. This guide will show you why you should consider exercise during pregnancy and hopefully it’ll help you find motivation to do so.

While women will always have to tough out the full nine months of pregnancy, exercise is one of the biggest things you can do to help both yourself and your baby. It helps in every aspect of your pregnancy. Let’s take a look at 40 of the big benefits of exercising during pregnancy.

Physical benefits of exercise during pregnancy

Physical Perks for Moms

  1. Can ward off or help with gestational diabetes: Weight gain and inactivity during pregnancy set the stage for gestational diabetes for some mothers-to-be. Exercise can help control weight gain that in part leads to gestational diabetes. And getting exercise can help lower blood sugar if you do develop gestational diabetes, which can eliminate the need for insulin injections.
  2. It can help prevent extra weight gain: While some weight gain during pregnancy is healthy, you don’t want to overdo it. If you burn 300 calories per day during pregnancy from exercise, in 40 weeks, you will have prevented a weight gain of 24 pounds.
  3. More energy: Pregnancy can sap your energy like nothing else can, but exercise can help restore it.
  4. Fighting morning sickness: The next time you suffer from morning sickness, you can try putting down your crackers and doing some exercise. It helps with that queasy feeling.
  5. Alleviate back pain: Back pain is a well-known side effect of pregnancy and physical activity can help loosen it up.
  6. Gets things moving in the bathroom: Those iron pills we have to choke back in pregnancy can lead to some fierce constipation. Exercise can help loosen things back up again.
  7. Fight off muscle cramps: When your muscles start painfully tightening up during pregnancy, exercise can loosen them up.
  8. You’ll sleep better: Getting sleep is so important for both you and your baby during pregnancy. It helps your body deal with all the changes and it prevents you from being so overtired and frazzled.
  9. It builds up your immune system: Exercise is a known immune system booster, which is great when you’re trying to dodge any harmful colds or flus in pregnancy.
  10. You’ll be more flexible: If you’ve always envied other people’s flexibility, you’ll be pleased to know that your joints are more relaxed during pregnancy. You may be able to do yoga poses you’ve only dreamed of.
  11. Lower your blood pressure: Preeclampsia is a big problem in pregnancies and you can lower your risk for this complication by exercising three to five times a week.
  12. Less swollen legs: Leg swelling can be intense during pregnancy. Luckily, exercise can cut back on that pesky swelling.
  13. Exercise can help smokers quit: You shouldn’t be smoking when you’re pregnant and exercise can stop you from wanting cigarettes. That’s a win for you and the baby.
  14. Get ready for extra pounds: Weight training in early pregnancy can get you ready to carry the extra pounds your baby will add on to your body.
  15. It can give you balance: As you get further into pregnancy, you start to lose your balance. Exercises like bike riding in early pregnancy and pilates can help you maintain that balance.
Emotional benefits of exercise during pregnancy

Emotional Encouragement for Moms

  1. Take the stress off: Pregnant women seem to have the weight of the world on their shoulders — we worry about our health, our baby’s health, finances and the birthing process. Exercise is a known stress buster so it can help take that emotional edge off at the end of the day.
  2. It helps avoid that “just a baby incubator” feeling: You’re more than just a pregnant woman and exercise can help you remember that — you’ll feel more like your old self.
  3. Better mood: You’ll continue to get that exercise high even when you’re pregnant.
  4. You’ll get a lot of encouragement: Everyone loves to see a pregnant woman pursuing fitness. Be prepared to get some high fives from family and friends for your efforts.
  5. You’ll make your doctor happy: One of the biggest stressors for moms-to-be can be those nerve-wracking doctor’s visits where we worry we’ll be lectured about taking care of ourselves and having reasonable weight gain. You might earn a gold star at the doctor’s office for the exercise you’re doing.
  6. Feel more attractive: Let’s face it — losing your looks even temporarily isn’t fun. No one likes feeling dumpy and pregnancy can do that. Exercise can make you feel more attractive.
  7. Make new friends: If you join an exercise class, you can meet other moms there and develop a strong circle of friends.
  8. A sense of control: So much about pregnancy is beyond your influence, but exercise can make you feel like you’re in the driver’s seat.
  9. You’ll boost that pregnancy glow: While we may be heavier and winded easier, pregnancy does give us a Jennifer Lopez-like glow. That effect is increased by exercise.
Benefits of exercise for pregnant women in labor

Assistance for Moms in Labor

  1. It makes you stronger: For labor, you’re going to need strength and endurance. You’ll get both from regular exercise.
  2. Better chance of handling pain: Exercise can help you achieve the mental toughness you’ll need to get through labor.
  3. It can strengthen those pelvic muscles: Strong pelvic muscles can make for a better delivery experience. Exercise is a great way to build up those muscles.
  4. Cuts your risk of C-section: Getting a moderate amount of exercise in your pregnancy can help you avoid a C-section. Most moms I know would rather run or walk a few miles a week than deal with surgery pain.
  5. Shorter labor: Moms who continued to exercise throughout pregnancy often have shorter labors than those who didn’t.
Benefits of pregnancy exercise after labor

Benefits for Moms After Labor

  1. You bounce back quicker: Having the physical conditioning throughout your pregnancy can help you be in better shape right after delivery because your body is stronger. When you do begin your exercise program a few weeks after delivery, you won’t be starting from scratch.
  2. Fight off those post-baby blues: Exercise is the ultimate mood booster. With a short workout, you can feel less depressed and more able to tackle the challenges you’re facing.
  3. You’ll enjoy better lifelong fitness: Taking that exercise break during pregnancy can lead to you being less fit even years later. It’s often hard to find motivation after taking a long break from exercise.
  4. Trying new activities: Pregnancy is good for expanding your horizons. If you normally do a lot of skiing, which is a no-no in pregnancy, maybe you can try an activity you wouldn’t normally do instead.
Benefits of pregnancy exercise for baby

Bonuses for Your Baby

  1. A better birth weight: Exercise lowers mama’s blood sugar and cuts down on the risk of an obese baby.
  2. Greater oxygen flow: Your baby will be treated to increased oxygen when you exercise and start taking deeper breaths.
  3. More brain power for your baby: It may seem hard to believe but exercise for just 20 minutes at a time three days a week can boost your child’s brain activity. That’s worth the struggle to put your tennis shoes on!
  4. More mature lungs: Your lungs aren’t the only one benefitting from your exercise. Your baby’s lungs will too.
  5. Better immune system: Your baby’s immune system will also benefit from regular exercise during pregnancy, just like yours will.
  6. More blood vessels: When exercising during early pregnancy, extra blood vessels develop to help carry nutrients to your baby. Those blood vessels will still develop without exercise, but there will be more of them with exercise.
  7. Lower heart rates: By late pregnancy, fetuses whose moms exercise have lower heart rates than that of fetuses whose moms don’t exercise.

warning sign

Risks of Exercise During Pregnancy

Exercise during pregnancy isn’t without risk. But doctors continue to recommend it because, despite its risks, it gives both you and your baby the best chance at health.

For certain women, exercise should be avoided during pregnancy because it can endanger their health or the health of their baby. At other times, doctors recommend exercise just as they would with any other pregnancy, but they’re unaware of a problem that’s developing like uncontrolled high blood pressure.

Treadmill

 

Don’t pursue any aerobic exercise if you:

There are many medical conditions that will put the brakes on your aerobic exercise programs.

  • Suffer from lung and heart disease.
  • Have cervical insufficiency.
  • Are dilating early.
  • Are expecting multiple babies and your doctor is worried about preterm delivery.
  • Have had bleeding issues in your second or third trimesters.
  • Had placenta previa following your 26-week mark.
  • Are in preterm labor.
  • If your water has broken.
  • Have preeclampsia.
  • Suffer from severe anemia.
medical doctor

Consult your doctor exercise if you:

While some medical issues make exercise an automatic no-no, there are other ones your doctor will consider on a case-by-case basis. They may indicate exercise won’t be safe for you.

  • Are extremely obese or severely underweight.
  • Have anemia.
  • Have irregular heart rhythm.
  • Are suffering from chronic bronchitis.
  • Have uncontrolled blood pressure.
  • Don’t have your diabetes under control.
  • Have done very little exercise in the past — this isn’t the time to suddenly decide to exercise intensely.
  • Have bone or joint problems.
  • Suffer from seizures that you can’t control.
  • Have hyperthyroid issues that aren’t controlled.
  • Are a very heavy smoker.
warning sign

Warning signs to watch out for:

Whether you know exercise is risky or you believe you’re perfectly safe to exercise, you should always pay attention to any signs that things might be wrong. Whenever I exercised during pregnancy, I always paid attention to my body afterwards, just in case.

  • Any unexpected shortness of breath — more than usual in pregnancy.
  • Leaking fluid or vaginal bleeding.
  • Abdominal pain that keeps happening or any contractions you experience.
  • Pain in your chest.
  • Pain in your calf or swelling that’s different from the swelling you get in your ankles.
  • Racing heartbeat or skipping heartbeat.
  • Headaches.
  • Lightheaded feeling, dizziness or feeling faint.
  • Your baby isn’t moving as often.

If any of these things happen, you need to call your doctor right away.


15 Rules for Safe Exercise During Pregnancy

While there’s no guarantee that following any rules will safeguard your and your baby’s health during pregnancy, they can give you a better chance of getting to the delivery room safely for both of you.

Here are 15 rules you should consider following:

exercise schedule

Do It Consistently

Exercising once every couple of weeks isn’t going to earn you all the benefits you want to see for both you and your baby. The key to getting everything you want out of physical activity is to do it every week multiple times.

Write it on your calendar, just as you would any other appointments. Try to do at least 20 minutes a day as many days as you can every week.

walking shoes

Do Some Walking and Stretching

Don’t sit on the couch the minute your workout ends. If you do, you’ll feel sore and stiff soon after. After your workout ends, try to find time to take a five minute walk to cool down your muscles.

When that’s done, do some gentle stretching. Your muscles will thank you the next day.

jump rope

Don’t Jump to Your Feet

Pregnancy isn’t the best time to start adding burpees into your routine because changing positions quickly during pregnancy can leave you feeling lightheaded and dizzy.

You don’t want to faint of risk falling because you’ve changed positions too quickly. So whatever activity you’re doing, take it slow when you go from sitting to standing positions.

sunshine

Stay Away From Heat

I had summer babies and for me, along with every other mom I’ve ever talked to about it, summer heat was brutal. I felt hot in 85 degree weather, let alone those days when the thermometer hit triple digits.

Because of our increased metabolic rate when we’re pregnant, we should stay away from exercising in hot or humid weather. You might overheat and end up dehydrated, dizzy or having trouble breathing.

Know Your Limits

You don’t need to run a marathon while you’re pregnant to reap the benefits of exercise. All you need is a minimum of 20 minutes a few days a week.

Make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew with your exercises. You shouldn’t feel like you have to crawl back into your house afterward — if you do, reduce the intensity or duration of the exercise.

free movement

Move Around — Don’t Stand Still

Exercises like yoga are good for pregnant women because they help us stay limber and more flexible. Plus, they feel good and can be energizing.

But make sure you’re not holding those poses for too long. Standing still for too long in pregnancy can decrease your blood flow, which in turn can lower your blood pressure and make you feel lightheaded.

If this happens to you, sit down until you feel better and make sure to move around a bit more in the future.

sit ups

Stay Off Your Back

At your doctor’s visits after you first found out you were pregnant, your doctor probably told you that you should stop sleeping on your back. When you do that, your heavier-than-usual uterus puts pressure on a big vein. That pressure cuts back on how much blood flow your heart, brain and uterus receive.

To be on the safe side and avoid any dizziness that position can cause, you’re best off to stay off your back.

water bottle

Stay Hydrated

Drinking enough water is important when you’re exercising and after you’re done. You don’t want to become dehydrated, which is a real possibility if you’re a heavy sweater or it’s warm out.

Instead of counting ounces, which can be hard to remember with the effects of the forgetful pregnancy brain, keep tabs on your urine color. If you see it’s darker yellow, you need to increase your fluids.

weightlifting

Don’t Go From Zero to Hero

You don’t want to go from sitting down right into a hard workout with no warm-up time in between. That’s asking for more soreness the next day and your muscles will feel tighter after the workout ends too.

Start with some milder exercise to warm up your body first, like walking.

fitness clothing

Keep Your Clothes Loose

It’s best to avoid the form-fitting workout clothes that you probably favored pre-pregnancy. Go for loose-fitting clothes that let a lot of air circulate. You’ll stay cooler as you exercise so you’ll feel more comfortable and stay safer.

stationary bike

Stay With Doctor-Approved Sports

You might have been an avid skier before you became pregnant, but you’re going to have to hold off on that activity until after your baby is born. It’s just not safe. You should avoid any exercise where you risk falling because you can hurt your baby.

During pregnancy, once my belly started expanding, I gave up bicycling because I didn’t trust my balance and I knew a fall could be catastrophic. Instead, I stuck with a stationary bike because it was safer.

pregnancy diet

Don’t Skimp On the Calories

Pregnancy isn’t a time when you should be losing weight. Make sure you’re eating enough calories to support your baby’s nutritional needs as well as your own. Keep in mind that if you’re exercising you’ll need a little more food than you normally would.

But you should also remember that you don’t need more than a couple hundred extra calories a day if you’re exercising for 20 or 30 minutes at a time. Doing some exercise doesn’t give you a free ticket for repeated trips to the buffet line.

maternity doctor

Always Check With Your Doctor

Before you begin to exercise, you need to get clearance from your doctor. It doesn’t require a special doctor’s visit. Ask your doctor when you are at a regular pre-natal appointment if there is any reason you shouldn’t be exercising.

Most moms-to-be can safely incorporate exercise into their schedules.

yoga during pregnancy

Change Exercises as Your Body Changes

What may have seemed easy for you during early pregnancy can seem challenging as your belly expands and you become a little more breathless. Be prepared to adjust your routine accordingly.

You may find yourself swapping your daily run for a walk during later pregnancy and that’s perfectly okay. A brisk walk is still better than nothing.

dangerous sports

Stay Away From High-Altitude Activities

You should try to stay under 6,000 feet when it comes to elevation because it can be harder to breathe at higher elevations — you’re already having that problem just being pregnant. It’s not smart to aggravate it by throwing high elevation into the mix.

You should also pass on scuba diving because the change in pressure.


This article is an excerpt from a piece that originally appeared on MomLovesBest.com.
Jenny Silverstone is the chief editor at Mom Loves Best, a website she developed to help steer you in the right direction as well as save you the money, time, and frustration that comes along with being a first-time mother. For ultimate guides to quick little tips & tricks, Jenny will help you find the best for your baby!

Exercise During Cold and Flu Season

Strengthening your immune system will reduce your chances of becoming ill during cold and flu season.

Starting in the fall and lasting until spring, the season of sickness typically peaks in late January/early February. This year’s flu bug is especially nasty, and the colds don’t want to seem to let go once they’ve taken hold, either. You can always get a flu shot, but make sure your pharmacist or physician isn’t injecting you with a vaccination for last year’s virus. If it’s not designed to fight this year’s strain, you might as well go without. It may be surprising, but the solution to staying healthy during this notorious time of year isn’t found in a doctor’s office or pill bottle.

Exercising Strengthens More Than Muscles

Exercise literally transforms your T cells, making them into warriors ready to fight infection and even cancer!

Building strength and losing weight are the typical reasons for working out, but physical activity also strengthens your immune system, which is essential for defending your body against all types of infection. Of course that includes colds and influenza, but EurekAlert! reports that exercise bolsters the immune system enough to fight off cancer. If working out can help defend against the #2 cause of death in America, it can be trusted to help you stay fairly healthy throughout cold and flu season. If you’re the type who needs science to prove that physical activity really does help, consider the study published in the American Journal of Medicine. It found that women who engaged in moderate-intensity exercise–as little as a 30-minute walk every day–had half the number of colds than women who did not exercise at all.

How Working Out Helps

Working out increases blood flow and your temperature, which flushes your system and helps your body fight off infection.

When something works well, it’s always interesting to know why it does. In the case of working out and exercise as cold remedies, however, doctors admit that they don’t know exactly why they are effective. According to MedlinePlus, some theorize that increased blood flow during exercise causes white blood cells and antibodies to circulate throughout your system more quickly. Also, when you exercise, your body temperature goes up kind of like when you have a fever, inhibiting bacteria growth and helping your body fight infection. The increased blood flow and quicker, elevated breathing during exercise flushes your system, helping eliminate bacteria from your airways and lungs, too. Plus, working out reduces stress hormones in your body which chip away at your immune system. Fewer stress hormones equal stronger immune defenses.

Benefits of a Healthy Diet

Packed with healthy, healing foods, chicken soup comes by its illness-fighting reputation naturally.

Nutrition plays a big part in staying healthy any time of the year. Healthy Eating recommends padding your diet during cold and flu season with immune-boosting foods such as garlic, beef and chicken, peanuts, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products that contain probiotic cultures. Chicken soup has a legitimate reputation for being a flu and cold remedy because it contains zinc from the chicken, antioxidants and vitamins from the veggies, and antibiotic and healing properties from garlic. Don’t wait until you get sick to stay hydrated, either. Drink plenty of water and fruit juices, specifically citrus juice which contains Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant.

When You’re Sick

If increased heart rate is a side effect of your cold meds, skip exercise until you’re off medication.

When you do catch a cold, working out might be the last thing you feel like doing. However, working out is OK if you don’t have a fever, and exercise can even help you feel better. It will get your temperature up in a healthy way and increase blood flow. Plus, exercise often helps decongest your sinuses and lungs. WebMD points out the importance of listening to your body to determine if an illness is serious enough to keep you from exercising. For example, if you have a fever, skip the workout. Also, taking prescription or over the counter cold and flu medications that affect heart rate is another reason to forego exercise. If you do decide to workout, don’t share your germs. Minimize the chances of passing on your cold by wiping down all the equipment you use when you’re finished and washing your hands or using hand sanitizer frequently.

Don’t Resolve To Lose Weight and Get In Shape–Make It a Habit!

When organizations such as the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition publish statistics like ones that say only one-third of adults get the recommended amount of physical activity every week, do you ever wonder why the other two-thirds don’t exercise? Most people just accept the numbers without giving them a second thought, while some go the judgmental route and assume the non-active people are just lazy. However, it could simply be that they never got in the habit of exercising.

If you analyze your day, you will see that your habits get you through it. You put the same amount of sugar in your coffee each morning, and you probably have the same food for breakfast almost every day. You leave for work at the same time, and your evening routine is probably somewhat scheduled and automatic, too, right down to the time you go to bed.

No, not this kind of habit. Change your behavior, not your clothes, to lose weight, get fit, and stay healthy.

 

Being a creature of habit isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Habits can actually work to your advantage, and the really great thing is that you can change ones that don’t benefit you or form new ones that do work for your good. Life coaches and inspirational speakers motivate people by listing habits of highly successful people. Why not get motivated by imitating the habits of the fit and healthy?

Make a Commitment

People who are fit and healthy don’t play hit and miss with their food choices and workouts. They don’t view eating healthy and exercising as something they’ll do for a couple of weeks once or twice a year long enough to lose weight. Instead, they recognized long ago that being fit does not come from a crash diet or boot camp. It is a lifestyle, and they commit to it.

Give Yourself Some Slack

Factor in meals or entire days for your favorite “cheat” foods. Cutting yourself some slack with workouts, too, will keep life from derailing your fitness goals.

Making a lifestyle change doesn’t mean no more goodies or never getting a day off from the gym. It’s actually the reverse. According to LIVESTRONG, highly fit people go into their fit and healthy lifestyle change with significant slack built in known as the 85/15 Rule. It means eating healthy most of the time, but allowing themselves to indulge up to 15 percent of the time. In seven days, that translates to one entire cheat day or three to four cheat meals spread out over the week. That makes healthy choices way more doable.

As for working out to lose weight or just stay in shape, give yourself some leeway there, too. Set a high and low goal, such as working out three to five days each week and plan the days and times, too. That way, if you can only get in three days of exercising before life intervenes, you can feel good about having met your goal. On the other hand, if you can get in four or five days consistently, you can consider those weeks exceptionally successful and can feel even better about missing a few days on your “short” weeks.

Make it Fun

Take a fun fitness class or compete with yourself or a workout buddy to make exercising enjoyable.

Fun exercise might sound like an oxymoron, but fit people know that workouts they enjoy are ones that they’ll be more likely to stick with. In an interview with Parade Magazine, Biggest Loser Trainer Bob Harper says workouts that challenge him are what he considers fun. Take a kickboxing class or do your cardio on a computerized bike with animated scenery–or even take your workout outdoors. You can also turn your exercise into a competition whether it is with a workout buddy or with yourself. See how much farther you can bike or run, or how long it takes you to move up to the next heavier dumbbells in the gym. When you can start to enjoy your workouts, you’ll be amazed at how anxious you are to do them.

Stick With It

Sure there will be times when you want to just quit. Sticking with it despite that urge is what makes highly fit people successful in reaching their goals.

You’ve probably heard that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. The Huffington Post says that isn’t actually an accurate number. According to “Psycho-Cybernetics,” the original publication where that number appeared, it takes at least 21 days, but can take up to eight months or maybe even more to ingrain a new habit. The point here is that you need to stick with exercise and healthy food choices if you want to be fit and healthy. Yes, there will be days when you just don’t feel like it and, yes, there will be times when your strength, weight loss, or both plateaus. MyFitnessPal points out that one of the habits of healthy people is that they continue with their fitness routine no matter what. They embrace the challenge and recognize tough-going as an opportunity to switch up their workout routine or try different types of healthy cuisine. There won’t be a time when you’ve “made it,” but that shouldn’t discourage you. Welcome the opportunities for change and celebrate every victory no matter how big or small–and keep on going.

Don’t Cut Back–Eat More Often To Kick Start Weight Loss

Cutting back or entirely eliminating meals for reducing calories seems like the logical thing to do when you’re trying to lose weight. However, it’s the counter-intuitive approach that will charge your metabolism and encourage your body to let go of the fat it’s holding on to. The experts and the studies all point to eating more often instead of only eating once, twice or the common three meals a day to program your body for losing weight.

3 Vs. 5

Skipping meals makes your body want to hold onto fat for survival.

American society is conditioned to eat three squares a day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Just because that was the way you were brought up, though, doesn’t mean it’s the only or best way. According to Human Kinetics, research shows that people who eat five meals instead of three in a 24-hour period stay leaner. Essentially, your body is like that paranoid, needy person you dated in college, constantly requiring reassurance. If you go for more than three or four hours without eating, your body will freak out and start conserving energy because it thinks you’re trying to starve it. It will slow down your resting metabolism, and your cells will put a sleeper hold on fat stores. If you don’t eat every few hours, your body will do what it can to ensure it uses as little fuel as possible to hopefully live to see another day.

The rub is that if you’re participating in strength training exercise with the intent to build muscle for burning fat, infrequent eating essentially shoots that idea in the foot. Part of the protocol when your body goes into starvation mode is that it starts using muscle mass for energy. By eating more frequently, you’ll assure your body that it isn’t in danger of starving and it will leave your muscle tissue intact. Consequently, since maintaining lean muscle mass actually burns calories, your metabolism will increase.

Stay Mindful of Calories

Cut down your meal sizes and add in 2 snacks a day, such as fruit, nuts or a protein bar.

When stress over reducing calories has you eating less than three meals a day, the thought of increasing the number of times you eat might make your head explode. The secret is to spread your calories out over the course of five meals instead of getting them all in one or two sittings. Eating smaller portions during actual sit-down meals and then supplementing with protein bars or shakes in between meals is the easiest way to accomplish that, especially if you work a typical 9 to 5 job. That method still allows for your three meals a day, and you’ll easily be able to munch a protein bar or suck down a shake during breaks at work.

Drinking a protein shake 20 – 60 minutes before your workout can count as one of your 5 meals and will help burn calories.

 

As for fitting your workout into your eating schedule, or vice-versa, while you don’t want to exercise immediately after eating, you do need some fuel in your system. Otherwise, your body will slip into conservation mode. The ideal timing is to exercise 20 minutes to an hour after having a protein shake. Research shows that timing your workout after ingesting protein, specifically whey, elevates your resting metabolism up to 48 hours after your workout and can encourage fat burning.

Your Last Meal (…of the Day…)

Officially close your kitchen for the night to enforce the evening eating cut off.

So, if you’re eating five times a day, you might wonder how close to bedtime your last meal of the day should be. Most experts agree that it isn’t a good idea to eat and then immediately hit the sack, but they disagree on a specific amount of time between your last meal and bedtime. Some experts say that you should at least give it 2 hours after you eat before you go to bed, but that is mostly for digestion reasons rather than weight loss plans. One study performed in the Department of Exercise Sciences at BYU examined restricting night eating and focused more on avoiding eating between certain hours than on the amount of time between dinner and bedtime. It showed that when subjects effectively shut down the kitchen at 7 p.m. and didn’t eat again until 6 a.m., they reduced their caloric intake and experienced modest weight loss.

Going to bed neither full nor famished will help keep your body from holding onto excess weight — and you’ll sleep better, too.

If you’re trying to lose weight, take a cue from BYU. Decide on a time to place the kitchen off limits. Runner’s World advises posting a sign, if it helps, to remind yourself and support your evening eating cut off. What you eat for your last meal of the day matters, too. Go light on the fat, protein and carbs. That’s not to say you can’t have food that contains any of that, just limit the amounts. Your last meal should be the lightest of the day and designed to get you through the night to breakfast. After all, going to bed hungry red flags your body that it could starve. In the end, it’s all a balancing act. Put 2 to 4 hours between your last meal of the day and bedtime. That will ensure that you’re neither full nor famished when you hit the hay and will provide the opportunity to burn a few more calories, whether it’s doing housework or walking the dog before you call it a night.

Cheating Can Help You Stick to Your Diet

No, the headline isn’t a typo—it’s a fact. Bodybuilding pros, dieticians, and doctors all know that a planned cheat day can improve the results of most diets. It might seem counterintuitive to encourage someone who has been trying to lose weight to indulge in “real” food on a regular basis but hear us out. There are benefits to cheating, especially if you do it right.

The Leptin Factor

01111701

Dieters often have lower leptin levels, which signals the brain to slow down metabolism. Cheat days give you a chance to increase leptin and keep your metabolism burning.

Low calories are one of the reasons diets fail. Cutting the number of calories you eat often results in hunger which, in turn, causes leptin levels to drop. Leptin is the hormone that informs your brain that you have plenty of energy in reserves, but when the levels drop, your brain thinks that you’re starving. The result is that your metabolism slows down, adjusting so that you burn fewer calories. It’s a vicious cycle that typically causes frustrated dieters to quit dieting altogether.

Toss a cheat day into your dieting schedule, however, and, according to EatThis,  your leptin levels will go up, notifying your brain that all is well. It will keep your metabolism set to burn calories instead of conserving them.

Avoid Feeling Deprived

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Knowing you can eat what you want to on a regular basis will keep you from feeling deprived.

Another reason it’s tough to stick to a diet is that you usually can’t eat many of your favorite foods, and you end up feeling deprived before you start seeing results. Consequently, working a cheat day into your diet will make you feel like you’re not being deprived at all. Bodybuilders like King Kamali tell Muscle & Fitness that cheating gives them a mental break. Knowing that you’ll be able to treat yourself on a specified day will make it easier to stick to stricter meal plans the rest of the time. What’s more, you might notice you perform better in the gym or TargitFit class the day after you cheat. Those extra calories will give you the energy to power through a beast of a workout, which will benefit your weight loss goals in the end.

Tips for Cheating the “Right” Way

Make a plan. If you want to use cheating as a dieting strategy, you can’t just randomly decide that today’s the day and you’ll go back to dieting tomorrow. Having a plan is always the best bet. Decide if you’re going to allow yourself one cheat meal every 10 meals or an entire cheat day every 10 days. There’s nothing magic about the number 10, so don’t get hung up on that. The point is to pick specific times for cheating and stick to that.

Don’t over-restrict your calories before your cheat day. You’re already cutting back by being on a diet, so it’s not necessary and will likely result in binge-eating on your cheat day—which is unacceptable…and it’s the next tip.

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Taking a cheat day isn’t the same thing as having permission to eat yourself into a coma. On cheat days, eat moderate amounts of the foods you miss most when you’re following your diet. Image by Chelsea Marie Hicks/Flickr

Don’t binge! Allowing yourself a cheat day is not the same as getting permission to eat everything in sight. You’ll still need to eat reasonably on your cheat day; it’s just that you’re allowed to have foods typically off limits. Eating slowly can help. Not only will you get to savor every delicious crumb of chocolate cake or drop of silky Alfredo sauce, but eating slowly will give your stomach enough time to signal your brain when you are full.

Keep working out. You should have rest days worked into your exercise schedule, but it’s a good idea to manage them so that they don’t coincide with your cheat days. Resting on a day when your caloric intake is low will help keep your body from thinking it’s starving, and working out on a day when you indulge will help work off those extra calories before they’re stored in fat cells.

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Dr. Oz recommends spreading out “cheat foods” throughout the day, such as having your “cheat sugar” as an afternoon snack.

Be strategic with your cheat meals. Dr. Oz  advises that having structured meals on a cheat day can minimize some of the cost of going off your diet. The Good Doctor’s plan even allows for you to eat three meals plus two snacks: have your “cheat fat” at breakfast, “cheat salt” during your morning snack, your “cheat carbohydrate” at lunch, your “cheat sugar” in the afternoon, and your “cheat protein” at dinner. This plan still recommends eating foods that you might consider to be diet foods and not cheating at all. If that’s the case and you don’t see Dr. Oz’s plan as a solution, another cheat day strategy is to cut down the number of eating hours on your diet day off—kind of like daylight savings time for your diet.

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One cheat day strategy is to eat a larger breakfast of your favorite things a little later in the day–like after 10:30 a.m.–so you won’t get hungry before late afternoon/early evening, when you can have another delicious cheat meal.

The way to do that is to eat a high-protein meal for dinner the night before your cheat day, so you’re not starving by the next morning. Then, push your first meal of the day to lunchtime. That doesn’t mean not eating first thing in the morning, but unless you are living for pancakes with syrup and bacon, have a protein shake or granola bar for breakfast and indulge in your cheat foods for lunch and dinner. Alternatively, have that big breakfast but be sure to include fiber and protein so that you can skip lunch and won’t be famished to the point of gorging yourself when dinnertime rolls around. Yet another choice could be to have the big breakfast and an early dinner while foregoing lunch.

You really have nothing to lose but pounds, so why not give cheating a try? It might feel a little naughty, but you may be surprised at how easy it is to stick to a diet and lose weight when you know you have a reprieve coming.

Planning Is the Key To Consistent Workouts

When your job is physically demanding, it’s tough to drag yourself into the gym at the end of the day.

Some of you are aware that, in addition to being a personal trainer and owning a gym, I do concrete construction. Recently, as I was planning my day, I realized how important it is to factor in everything you do outside of the gym into your exercise program. It’s all part of preparing for your workout. It’s easy for most people to compartmentalize their lives, separating out work from the gym. For me, though, it’s impossible. The work I do is extremely physical and, at the peak of the season, I’m outside in 80, 90, even 100-degree temperatures during the day. Then, at night, I have to be in the gym to train members or teach a TargitFit class.

Most people have the luxury of choosing whether or not to work out if their day was especially brutal. The problem is, if most of your days are like mine, it’s easy for you to fall out of the exercise habit altogether. With some forethought and pre-planning, however, you can make sure that you’ll feel good enough to work out and that your body is up to the challenge.

TargitFit class.2

Sometimes there’s no choice. I work all day and still have to hit the gym to instruct a class at night.

The majority of the planning you need to do is to look ahead at what tomorrow will be like. An example from my life looks like this: I will be pouring a driveway and stamping it during the hottest part of the day and will be scheduled to teach a class later that night. That means going to bed early enough to get at least 8 hours of sleep, eating a breakfast that includes carbs and protein, making sure I make time for lunch, bringing a supply of water with me for the long, hot day, and grabbing a snack of saltine crackers to help replenish the sodium in my body that I will most certainly be sweating out. That grueling day actually happened, but I made it through and you can, too, if you prepare yourself ahead of time.

Are You Tired, or Just Feeling Lazy?

Doing your best to get sufficient sleep helps ensure you’ll have the energy for a workout no matter what your day has been like.

You can’t always control the amount of sleep you get. You may hit the sheets in time to ensure 8 or 9 hours of shut-eye but, if you don’t fall asleep right away or if you toss and turn all night, your energy will be low the next day. Additionally, even if you get a full night’s sleep, your activities during the day could drain away all the stores you have built up. It’s not just physical work that will do it, either. Desk jobs that require a lot of focused attention and thinking will drain you mentally which can fatigue you as much as a construction job.

Before nixing your workout for the day, ask yourself why your energy is low. If it’s truly a lack of sleep or over-exertion then maybe it is a good idea to give yourself a break, provided you don’t have a group of people waiting at the gym for you to drive them through a workout. If it’s just that you had a stressful day, push yourself through and at least go for a jog or work through a two body part resistance training workout. As the Courier-Journal points out, getting your blood flowing is probably all that’s necessary to drag you up out of the mental fatigue funk and energize you enough for a full workout. Don’t be surprised if you end up feeling better and more alert after exercising.

Get Some High-Quality H2O

Be sure to drink water throughout the day so you’re hydrating before, during and after your workout.

You’re going to sweat up a storm during an intense exercise workout program, so you’ll be in a heap of trouble if the day’s activities prior to working out have already dehydrated you. According to Livestrong, exercising dehydrated can cause reactions such as cramps, muscle spasms, seizures, or even heatstroke. What’s more, Baylor College of Medicine points out that waiting until you’re thirsty before you take in fluids is inadequate; once you feel thirst, you’re already dehydrated. Instead, take a tip from the American College of Sports Medicine and begin hydrating several hours before working out. Regularly drinking water throughout the day and downing a sports beverage containing electrolytes before working out is a solid plan, especially if you’ve been active all day long.

Fuel Your Body, Fuel Your Workout

If you can’t eat healthy throughout the day, at least fuel your workout with protein and carb-packed trail mix.

Maybe you’re not tired at all. Your lack of energy could be due to not eating right before exercising. If you work out at the end of the day, you have all day long to eat right but, if you work out first thing in the morning, it’s still best to break the fast you’ve been on all night long to facilitate an effective workout. Eating “right” means getting enough carbohydrates as well as protein. If you didn’t eat nutritiously throughout the day or if you’re exercising in the morning, Eating Well has some recommendations for fueling your workout. Peanuts, brown rice cereal or toasted oats, dried blueberries, pumpkin seeds and chocolate chips will all combine to make a tasty trail mix that’s energy packed with protein and carbs.

Train Hard, Stay Clean!

–Matt

Get Your Mind Behind Your Fitness and Weight Loss Goals

If you’ve always had a tough time sticking with a fitness workout program, it’s probably your mind that’s standing in your way. Many people make a New Year’s resolution, join a gym or start running outdoors at the first sign of spring with every intention to lose weight and get fit. They start out strong but, as time drags on, their resolve wanes and within a few months many quit altogether. According to PT Direct, just under half of the people who join a gym as part of a New Year’s resolution quit within the first six months, only to start the cycle over again the following year, or whenever they get a wild hair to finally “do something” about their physical condition. Only this time, they weigh more and are in worse shape.

When it comes to losing weight and getting fit, the workout is the easy part.

You may not immediately see the connection to your mind but consider that even if you stumble across the best workouts to lose weight, knowing what to do isn’t enough to get you into shape. You have to actually do the workout consistently. However, once your workout motivation has lost steam, even a team of wild horses couldn’t drag you into the gym and make you work out. That’s where mentally preparing comes in, whether it’s for weight loss workouts, bodybuilding workouts or any fitness workout program. Knowing what you’re going to do and why accounts for 90 percent of the workout. Physically doing the workout is actually the easiest part.

Start With Why

Write down ALL the benefits you’ll get from your workout. List your personal goals, but also include all of the extra rewards you’ll reap.

Having a plan for your workout is vital, but even before you hit the gym or the greenbelt or turn on the kickboxing DVD, you need to be aware of why you’re doing it all. If you have no reason, there’s no motivation, right? WatchFit recommends reviewing the positive things you’ll get from working out. Don’t just focus on your specific goal, such as gaining muscle or a desire to lose weight. Of course that’s very important, but take a look at the big picture and all of the bonus bennies such as improved fitness, lower blood pressure and blood sugar, increased energy, and better heart health. It’s like getting several gifts with purchase: you start a workout and weight loss program for one reason and reap a boatload of  extra rewards. Write it all down, paint it on the wall, or embroider it on a pillow. That way, you can refer to it before each workout or, at the very least, whenever your resolve starts to dissolve.

Now Comes the How

By applying the technique in the Harvard study to your workouts, imagine the results you’ll get!

This part is probably more involved than you’d like it to be, at least at first. After you’ve disciplined yourself to stick with your fitness workout program long-term, you won’t have to rely on it as often. Once you know the big “why” of your fitness program, then you set your goals and plan your workouts. Don’t roll your eyes, especially if you’re one of the on-again-off-again worker-outers. Setting goals is useful, but writing them down borders on magical. Need the proof? An article in Forbes outlines a study in which Harvard MBA students were asked about their goals and if they had them written down. The majority, 84 percent, had no goals; 13 percent had specific goals in mind but hadn’t written them down; 3 percent had their goals in mind and on paper. Fast forward 10 years, and the results are mind-blowing:

  • The small percentage of the class who had goals but hadn’t written them down was earning double the income of the majority who had no goals at all.
  • The tiny 3 percent who took the time to write out their goals was averaging 10 times the earnings of the entire rest of the class — and that includes the 13 percent who had goals and were doing fairly well themselves.

So! If writing down your long term and short term weight loss goals is the key to success — and in spades! — then it’s well worth it to spend the timing doing it.

Start with the long-term goal, where you want to be in a year, then set smaller goals for 6 months, 3 months, 1 month, next week. Next, write out your workout routine. Set it down on notebook paper or create a chart on the computer. Just get it down in print, so you have a plan to stick to. Each day, only consider what you’re going to do that day, whether it’s running a mile, working your upper body in the weight room, or attending a TargitFit class. Tackling your workouts and your goals one at a time keeps them manageable.

Focus, Focus, Focus

You don’t have to reach a full meditative state, but clearing your mind and focusing on your workout will improve your results.

Focus is vital for your workout and having a written plan for each workout helps. However, the importance of maintaining that focus and tuning out distractions while working out can’t be overstated. If your mind isn’t on the workout, your heart won’t be in the workout. Author and fitness expert Drew Baye recommends having a pre-workout ritual for quieting your mind, visualizing the exercises and activating your workout mindset. For just a few minutes, sit quietly (preferably alone and in a place with no distractions) and close your eyes. Breathe deeply, concentrating on nothing more than the breath entering and leaving your body. After about 10 breaths, start reviewing in your mind the exercises you’re going to perform, how much weight you’ll use and how many sets and reps you’ll do. Mentally move from one exercise to the next until you’ve gone through the entire routine. Baye’s technique for activating his workout mindset is to repeat three motivating phrases. You can pick one or two, and they don’t have to be the same as Drew’s.

“You know what you can do, do what you can’t.”

“Give it everything you got.”

“Train serious, train hard.”

Whether you use a well-known motto or one you made up on your own, if it means something to you, it will effectively get you through the workout. Plus, sometimes, it will push you past what you thought were your barriers.

You really are capable of increasing muscle mass or losing however many pounds you want to. In the end, though, no one else can do it for you. So, take control over your mind and get it working for you instead of against you.

Send Your Dopamine Levels Through The Roof – The Best Ways to Increase Dopamine Naturally

 

This week, TargitFit is pleased to post an article by John Hawthorne:

12201701You’ve probably heard of dopamine. It gets talked about in all sorts of circles. Scientists toss the word around when discussing depression and addiction. Exercise buffs rave about that crazy runner’s high they got.

But what exactly is dopamine? What does it do for your brain and why should you want more of it? How can you tell if you don’t have enough? And what can you do to up your levels?

It can be confusing, right? So many people have so many opinions and it can be difficult to sort out truth from fiction.

We’re here to set the record straight.

We’re going to help you understand the what, why, and how of dopamine.

 

Understanding Dopamine

 

Before we talk about why you should increase your dopamine levels, you need to understand dopamine itself. What the heck is it and why would you want to increase it?

Simple answer: it’s a chemical in your brain that makes you feel like a million bucks

12201702Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that allows you to feel pleasure, euphoria, motivation, focus, concentration, and more. When a brain cell releases dopamine, it crosses a brain synapse and connects to the dopamine receptor in the next cell. When your dopamine levels fall, you start to experience things such as poor mood, difficulty sleeping, impaired cognition, trouble paying attention, and more.

By increasing your dopamine levels, you become happier, more driven, more focused, a clearer thinker, and loads of other benefits. There’s a reason that dopamine is called the “happiness hormone”.

Sounds great, right? And it is. When your dopamine levels are high, you’re happy. Depressed people, on the other hand, have very low dopamine levels. Of course, if you’re one of those odd people who don’t like being happy, then don’t worry about trying to increase your dopamine levels.

 

Do You Have A Dopamine Deficiency?

 

12201703How can you know if you have a dopamine deficiency? Some straightforward symptoms are:

  • Altered sleep patterns
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Consistent fatigue
  • Lack of interest in things
  • Decreased drive and motivation
  • Inability to focus
  • Impulsive or self-destructive behaviors
  • Addictions to caffeine or other stimulants
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Quick mood swings
  • Excessive feelings of hopelessness or guilt
  • Poor memory
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Inability to focus/impaired concentration

The more symptoms present in your life, the more likely it is that you have a dopamine deficiency. If you can’t get out of bed, have lost all interest in watching Game of Thrones, and are guzzling twelve cups of coffee per day, you may have a dopamine deficiency.

Action should be taken to correct these problems.

 

Powerful, Natural Ways To Increase Dopamine

12201704There are some terrible ways you can increase dopamine. You can take illegal drugs and totally fry your brains out. Marijuana and painkillers are the most popular ways people try to increase dopamine levels (even if they don’t know exactly what’s happening in their brains).

People also rely on drugs like cocaine and meth to take their brains to the next level. Unfortunately, these tactics can lead to addiction/jail time/completely ruining your life.

Bethany Brookshire puts it this way:

But when most people talk about dopamine, particularly when they talk about motivation, addiction, attention, or lust, they are talking about the dopamine pathway known as the mesolimbic pathway, which starts with cells in the ventral tegmental area, buried deep in the middle of the brain, which send their projections out to places like the nucleus accumbens and the cortex. Increases in dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens occur in response to sex, drugs, and rock and roll. And dopamine signaling in this area is changed during the course of drug addiction. All abused drugs, from alcohol to cocaine to heroin, increase dopamine in this area in one way or another, and many people like to describe a spike in dopamine as “motivation” or “pleasure.”

Thankfully, there are safer, much more natural ways to increase dopamine. Ways that don’t involve sneaking out at night for a clandestine meeting with your Russian mob dealer.

Natural Ways To Boost Dopamine

 

#1 – Stop Eating So Much Sugar

12201705Those midnight donuts could be killing both your figure and your dopamine levels. Sugar follows the same brain pathways as alcohol and drugs, which is why you get the sugar high after downing three pieces of cake. Your dopamine levels spike.

There are two problems with this. First, you can develop a real sugar addiction. While this addiction may not lead to crippling financial problems and/or a criminal record, it’s terrible for your health. It can lead to a host of financial problems.

Additionally, sugar spikes are followed by sugar crashes. It’s no surprise that people feel most fatigued after lunch. Eating raises glucose levels, which then fall off the table a short while later, leaving you feeling like you need a nap.

Don’t turn to sugar to increase dopamine levels. It’s only a temporary solution and doesn’t produce the long term results you need.  

#2 – Cut Back On That Coffee

12201706This may be difficult to hear, but coffee doesn’t always play nice with dopamine. It’s true, coffee does provide a temporary boost in dopamine, which is why you feel like superman after that second cup. But these results are temporary and you can even develop a tolerance to caffeine.

One study noted that after repeated exposure to caffeine, rats developed a caffeine tolerance and didn’t receive any serotonin boost from the stimulant.

Practically speaking, this means that when you drink coffee all you’re getting is the jittery/anxious effects without much of the mood boost. And like sugar, you’re going to feel the crash a short while later when the caffeine leaves your system.

There are much more effective ways to boost your dopamine. If you desperately need caffeine, green and black tea are much better sources than coffee due to chemicals in them that promote dopamine.

#3 – Take Dopamine Increasing Supplements

12201707There are numerous stimulants that can naturally increase the amounts of dopamine in your brain. These stimulants include:

  • L-Tyrosine – The precursor to dopamine, increasing l-tyrosine levels can help your body create more dopamine.
  • Phosphatidylserine – Some studies have indicated that this supplement can boost mood, concentration, and endocrine response.
  • Mucuna Pruriens – The primary ingredient in mucuna pruriens is L-Dopa, which is an immediate precursor to dopamine. Studies have indicated L-Dopa can cross the blood-brain barrier and be converted into dopamine.
  • Ginkgo Biloba – There are scientific indicators that this herb can decrease anxiety, improve memory and cognition, as well as help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s.
  • L-theanine – An amino acid naturally found in green and black tea, it can improve dopamine levels in the brain.
  • Curcumin – Curcumin is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric and has been used in studies to treat depressive disorder.

#4 – Adopt a Dopamine Friendly Diet

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By now, you know that all that coffee and sugar is hurting your dopamine levels. However, this doesn’t mean you have to give up all delicious foods and only eat calorie-free soy. There are numerous foods that can improve dopamine levels, such as:

 

  • Bananas
  • Green and black tea
  • Almonds
  • Apples
  • Watermelon
  • Yogurt
  • Beans
  • Eggs
  • Cherries

While it’s difficult to significantly boost dopamine through food alone, eating a dopamine friendly diet in conjunction with taking supplements can cause your overall levels to rise.

#5 – Get Out and Exercise

Despite your possible hatred of all things running, the runner’s high is a real thing. Various studies have shown that vigorous exercise can produce a real increase in dopamine levels.

Ideally, the exercise will be intense and last for some time, but even a short walk can produce results.

If you want to feel happier, go to the gym, get out for a run, or hit the pool. Get your heart pumping and the sweat pouring off your body and you’ll feel the results.

Wrap Up

There are numerous ways to increase dopamine levels that don’t involve breaking the law. In fact, simply by cutting out a few things (sugar, caffeine) and adding a few practices (exercise, taking supplements, etc.), you can significantly blast those dopamine levels through the roof.

 

John Hawthorne is a health nut from Canada with a passion for travel and taking part in humanitarian efforts. His writing not only solves a creative need, it has also lead to many new opportunities when traveling abroad.
This article was originally published on vitamonk.com.

Thinking About Losing Weight? Sleep On It

If you’ve adjusted your diet, increased your cardio, and are resistance training but you’re still not  losing weight, building muscle or both, it’s time to take a look at your sleep habits. Sleep tends to be the first thing on your daily schedule that gets cut when there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to do every important thing. The problem is that, regardless of where you place sleep on the “importance scale,” it’s vital to your health, and the lack of it could be the deal-breaker when it comes to increasing muscle mass and losing weight.

Sleeping the Pounds Away

Your metabolism will work more efficiently when you get enough rest, making it easier to eat right and lose weight.

OK, it’s really not that simple. You still need to exercise and eat fewer calories than you burn each day for effective weight loss plans. However, a study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology found that sleep deprivation is linked to obesity. After reviewing the conclusions of over two dozen studies from around the world, the research consistently showed lower BMI numbers for those who slept 7 to 8 hours each night, with the odds for obesity going up for those who slept 5 or fewer hours.

Sleep for Building Muscle

You don’t need to inject growth hormone! Manufacture it naturally when you get proper sleep.

If you’re serious about resistance training, you know how important it is to allow your muscles to rest. That’s why you’d never work a muscle group two days in a row, and you likely wait 48 to 72 hours before you work the same muscle group again. It’s the rest rather than the workout — or more accurately, the two together — that builds muscle. However, just laying off a day or two between same muscle workouts doesn’t meet the requirements of “rest.” You actually need sufficient sleep to accomplish the rest necessary to build muscle. According to researchers, growth hormone is released throughout slow wave sleep. Plus, for those jumping to justify lack of sleep and discount the effects on muscle mass, a study published in the Medical Hypotheses Journal found that insufficient sleep interferes with muscle recovery and is even associated with muscle atrophy. Yikes!

How Much is “Enough?”

Don’t kid yourself — not being able to make it through the day without feeling exhausted or dozing off is one of the signs you aren’t getting sufficient sleep.
Image by Aaron Jacobs/Flickr

Once you understand the importance of getting enough sleep to further your weight loss plans and/or help build muscle, the next question is, “How much is ‘enough’ sleep?” Unfortunately, it’s not the same answer for everyone. Age along with a number of individual factors including genetics affects that number. You might be tempted to just keep depriving yourself of sleep, justifying it with the fact that you seem to function normally on just a few hours of shut-eye. Simply getting through the day isn’t enough, though. It’s true that research has proven that a very small percentage of the population possess a genetic mutation that allows them to feel fully rested on less than normal sleep. However, Scientific American points out that the mutation is “exceedingly rare.” The majority of adults actually need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep nightly, according to HelpGuide.

So! The dilemma then becomes how to figure out your personal sleep requirements. Business Insider recommends taking advantage of some vacation time to get a feel for your natural sleep needs. For a 1 to 2 week period, go to bed when you feel tired instead of pushing yourself to watch the end of “Conan the Barbarian” for the 285th time. Don’t set the alarm clock but, instead, allow yourself to sleep until you wake up naturally. Do normal things during the day such as walking the dog, getting some exercise, running errands. Since caffeine and alcohol affect the quality of sleep you get, the advice is to avoid or at least limit those elements during the experiment. Within a few days, you should start to notice a pattern which will give you an idea of your optimal sleep time, as well as what part of the day you’re naturally programmed to be awake and functioning. Turns out 9 to 5 isn’t necessarily the most common or perfect pattern for everyone.

Bonus Health Benefits

Getting enough rest affects your overall health and makes you feel like a million bucks!

Those who aren’t actively trying to lose weight or build lean muscle mass might think this is an informative yet irrelevant article — but they’re wrong on the second count. Getting enough sleep is significant to everyone’s health in general, and vital for avoiding catastrophic illness. According to Dr. Mercola, lack of sleep interferes with melatonin production, a hormone that’s essential to your immune system, helping to reduce inflammation and even protect you from cancer. Additionally, Business Insider reports that people who don’t get enough sleep have an increased risk for heart attacks, have higher blood pressure, and are more likely to develop diabetes.

So — enough, already! Let’s just get some sleep.