Author Archives: Lisa

The Best Way To Control Diabetes

Like you don’t have enough to worry about, now the CDC reveals that you have about a 40 percent chance of developing type 2 diabetes during your lifetime, according to Health Day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Diabetes Statistics Report actually has more than just that bad news to pass on, such as the fact that 30.3 million Americans are estimated to have diabetes. Also, nearly 7.2 million diabetics are undiagnosed and, therefore, go untreated.

Diabetes carries a cost of roughly $245 billion (say it like Dr. Evil: beel-yin) in overall expenses. Additionally, complications from the disease can result in other issues such as

  • nerve disease
  • loss of hearing and/or eyesight
  • kidney and/or heart disease
  • high blood pressure and cholesterol
  • hypo- and hyper-glycemic crisis
  • amputations

Diabetes-Curing Diet

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Sure, diabetes can be reversed with the right diet–but how many people want to limit themselves to 850 calories of liquid nutrition per day?

One of the first things diabetics get used to is watching everything they eat, and being careful about your diet is definitely an effective way to control the disease. A recent study in the Lancet showed just how effective. Participants were put on a rigorous diet for the year-long study and monitored for another 6 years. For over half of them, the diabetes went into remission without the need for medication.

Sounds great, right? Well, it depends on how well you’d do on a liquid diet that consisted of about 850 calories per day. That’s what the researchers meant by “rigorous.” Sure, the participants only had to be on the liquid diet for about 3 to 5 months, but even after they went back on solid food, the diet for the rest of the year was still very structured.

Exercise: The Missing Element For Controlling Diabetes

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“Cardio and resistance training” may soon be the indecipherable scribble on your doctor’s prescription pad.

So, what if there was a way for you to eat a little more freely and still prevent or reverse diabetes? Actually, there is. Physical activity could be the diabetes solution you’re looking for.

Even if you’d rather rely on a vial of insulin and a syringe the rest of your life, your doctor might soon be prescribing exercise as part of your treatment if he hasn’t already. The Wall Street Journal reports that doctors have jumped on the Exercise is Medicine bandwagon. Initiated by the American College of Sports Medicine, it’s a program that promotes regularly including exercise alongside medication as part of health-care providers’ treatment of patients.

How Exercise Works for  Diabetes Control

Muscles are more sensitive to insulin and readily absorb glucose from the blood to use as energy when working out.

If all you know about exercise and health is that it gets your heart rate up, you need a quick course in Effects of Exercise on the Body 101. As Health explains, your muscles’ sensitivity to insulin increases when you exercise. This is especially important for diabetics because insulin assists in absorbing glucose from the blood into the muscle cells for energy. It’s the reason patients can manage diabetes with exercise. Their bodies can regulate blood glucose levels more effectively, reducing their dependence on insulin. There are even instances when patients who have added consistent exercise to their weekly routines have been able to get off insulin treatment altogether.

Multiple Benefits for Diabetics

The benefits for diabetes with exercise go beyond controlling blood sugar and decreasing the need for insulin injections. MedlinePlus says that regular physical activity is vitally important to diabetics because it helps

  • manage weight by building muscle and burning fat
  • increase blood flow and circulation, having a positive effect on blood pressure
  • improve energy levels and reduce stress

If you refer back to that shortlist of secondary complications that can arise from diabetes, you’ll understand why these additional benefits are so significant for people battling the disease.

Best Exercise Plan for Controlling Diabetes

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High Intensity Interval Training with resistance bands is ideal exercise for helping control diabetes.

If you’ve led an inactive lifestyle thus far, you won’t be able to jump right into a high-intensity exercise program. Start out slow, such as walking 10 to 20 minutes a day and taking the stairs instead of the elevator when possible. You’ll eventually want to work up to 2 hours of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week, as advised by the CDC. You’ll also want to include resistance training at least two days a week. When you’re looking for the absolute best plan for controlling diabetes, it’s a combination of strength training and aerobic activity. In an interview posted on Medical News Today, Dr. Ronald Sigal said the results of a study he authored revealed that, although aerobic exercise and resistance training each on their own was effective for controlling blood glucose levels, subjects who participated in both enjoyed doubled benefits–and those benefits are magnified even more when you eat a healthy diet.

Once you’re up and “running,” so to speak, participating in resistance bands training with a HIIT workout is an excellent choice for exercise. You’ll take care of your resistance and cardio with one quick workout. Additionally, a HIIT workout routine  offers variety to keep your workout interesting and fresh, and it increases your fat-burning potential and improves the regulation of your blood glucose levels for up to 24 hours after your workout.

Exercise Tips for Diabetics

Consult with your doctor to ensure the exercise you’re starting is appropriate for you, and to set a range for your blood glucose levels.

It’s wise for anyone to consult with their doctor before starting an exercise program, but it’s essential for patients with diabetes to do so. Your physician will recommend an optimal range for your blood glucose levels and will also advise you on avoiding hypoglycemia during and after your workout. Make a plan each week to schedule when and how long you’ll work out. If you carve that time out beforehand, you’ll be more likely to stick to your workout agenda. If you need some support or motivation, find a buddy to workout with. You’ll be more inclined to keep an appointment with a friend, and there will be someone there to help if you feel your blood sugar dropping too quickly. Track your physical activity in some tangible way, such as writing what you did each day on the calendar, or even creating a weekly spreadsheet. Also, the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse recommends rewarding yourself for meeting your weekly workout goals as well as hitting weight and blood sugar milestones. Eliminating your reliance on insulin is reward in itself, but it’s nice as well as motivating to have short-term incentives to look forward to.

Want To Lose Weight? Get Real!

11301701If you’ve struggled with losing weight, restrictive diets that claim to be the best diet for fast weight loss or the best diet to lose belly fat sound like the answer. If you just quit eating fat, if you just quit eating sugar, if you just quit eating carbs, then you’ll finally lose weight. The problem with that strategy is that there’s not much left that you can eat. Plus, when you go at the food pyramid or the healthy plate with a machete and hack away most of the food groups, the result won’t be a healthy diet.

Sometimes science comes up with the “answer” to your dieting woes, creating products in the lab that will supposedly allow you to indulge in foods you crave without having to deal with the fat or calories. But here’s the hitch you should have seen coming: the ingredients Nature makes are healthier for you than ones cobbled together in a lab. Your body knows how to process and deal with real sugar and real fat. It isn’t quite sure what to do with sugar and fat substitutes, however, and that can result in health issues including weight gain, which is what you were trying to avoid in the first place.

The Not-So-Sweet Truth About Sugar Substitutes

“Sugar free” doesn’t automatically mean healthy.
Image by theimpulsivebuy/Flickr

Harvard Health points out that five artificial sweeteners have been approved by the FDA as safe for human consumption. Sure, the FDA’s process has determined that they aren’t likely to give you cancer, but that doesn’t mean they’re the healthier alternative to real sugar. Neither will they make your diet healthy and help with weight loss. In an interview with Harvard Health, obesity and weight loss specialist Dr. David Ludwig revealed that, because artificial sweeteners are so much sweeter than actual sugar–and even high-fructose corn syrup!–they over-stimulate your sugar receptors. That can result in an intolerance for foods that aren’t as intensely sweet, meaning you’ll be turned off from eating healthy things like fruits and vegetables.

Additionally, artificial sweeteners tend to be addictive. They make you crave more sweets which you feel justified in eating because they’re sugar free, right? That usually results in weight gain rather than being a solution for it. A study originally published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that subjects who drank an average of three diet sodas each day were twice as likely to be overweight, even obese, as the participants who didn’t indulge in diet drinks.

Scientific American says that part of the weight gain issue with sugar substitutes is that they upset the balance of bacteria in your digestive system, interfering with your body’s ability to properly digest food and extract energy, even from nutritious foods. But their nefarious actions don’t stop there. Artificial sweeteners also encourage populations of bacteria that turn energy into fat and send it for storage to your tummy, thighs and hips.

On top of all of that, research published on the American Diabetes Association website concluded that drinking diet sodas daily was associated with 67 percent greater risk for type 2 diabetes as well as a 36 percent increased risk for metabolic syndrome, a condition that includes elevated abdominal fat as well as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol.

The real sweet thing about turbinado sugar is that it has nutritional value.

If you’re going to contend that common white table sugar isn’t healthy either, you’ll get no arguments here. Granulated sugar goes through so much processing that empty calories are all it has left to offer you in the end. According to Livestrong, however, turbinado sugar goes through minimal processing and is the product of the first pressings of sugar cane. Also known as raw sugar, turbinado sugar has a high moisture content so, measure for measure, it has fewer calories than white sugar. Another bonus is that the chemical-free processing procedure leaves turbinado sugar with a significant amount of nutrients including

  • potassium
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • phosphorus
  • iron
  • copper
  • niacin
  • manganese

And! One teaspoon of turbinado sugar only has 5 grams of complex carbohydrates, a definite diet win.

Making the Case for Fat

Weight gain is more likely when you eat foods made with fat substitutes, so you’re better off opting for the real thing.

If you’ve been following along, you know that we’ve already covered the subject of fats in your diet, but it bears bringing up briefly again to discuss the weight gain that is likely if you opt for fat substitutes instead of going for the real thing. ABC News reported on a study that found that a diet that included fake fat resulted in higher weight gain than one that contained basic, plain and simple natural fat.

It seems one of the major issues is the same as with artificial sugar: fat substitutes screw up your body’s ability to effectively control what it eats. They also interfere with digestion and metabolization of food so, once again, energy is turned into fat and packed onto your “problem areas” for storage.

You’ll be happier and healthier if you simply combine a real food diet with exercise to burn calories.

Instead of trying to outwit Nature by “tricking” your body with fake fat and sugar substitutes, just go for the real thing — but, for the love of all that’s holy, do it in moderation! Having permission to eat real sugar and real fat isn’t the same as eating as much of it as you can cram into your cakehole. The best way to lose weight is a diet and fitness program that includes sugar and healthy fats — yes, even real butter — along with an exercise regimen. Your body was designed to move. People who eat the good stuff then work it off with exhilarating exercise lose weight more effectively and keep it off in the long haul.

Money Talks–The Best Exercise Incentive Yet

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Increasing the cash in your pocket is serious incentive for getting fit and healthy.

For some, losing weight and getting back into shape isn’t enough motivation to work out and eat healthy. They think about it, and they’d like to be thinner and feel better in general, but the thought of doing the work or depriving themselves of favorite foods stops them even before they get started. If you’re one of those who need more incentive to finally act on your intentions to start a fitness exercise program and get healthy, consider all the ways that doing so will positively affect your budget. Ah, money talks!

Eating Healthy Saves $$$

You don’t have to give up eating out. Just save that for dinner excursions once a week or so, and cook at home the rest of the week.

Eating healthy will save you money on day one. When you prepare your breakfasts and lunches at home instead of grabbing a quick bite at the diner or from a fast food drive-thru, you’ll have an extra $50 or more each month. Cut out the candy bars, sodas and other vending machine “treats” during the day, and your savings go up. Yes, you’ll still need to eat breakfast and lunch, and no one says you can’t snack at all if you’re not eating chips or slurping a frappé. Your healthier alternatives, though, will be less expensive because microwaving an egg and a half (one full egg plus one egg white), seasoning it with a sprinkle of Italian seasoning and sliding it between two halves of a whole-grain bagel costs less — and is tastier — than buying a breakfast sandwich at a convenience store or fast food joint.

The Department of Health and Human Services offers some tips for making sure you save money when you opt to ditch the restaurant scene and eat healthier. For instance, plan your meals and make a list, then stick to it when shopping. Buy in bulk and buy in season, and plan your meals according to what you have on hand. Also, cook at least two large meals each week, so you have healthy leftovers for the rest of the week.

Fewer Doctor Bills

Working out boosts your immune system, cutting down on doctor’s visits and saving money.

You won’t get sick as often if you start a workout program, so you won’t have as many doctor’s visits to pay for. According to ACE Fitness, studies have shown that people who engage in a moderate exercise program on a regular basis see immediate, positive effects on their immunity, but they also get cumulative effects for long-term strong immunity. One study ACE references showed that simply walking at a moderately fast pace for as little as 40 minutes a day cuts the occurrence of sore throats and colds in half.

What’s more, a study published by the Journal of the American Heart Association found that exercise can put a huge chunk of change back into your pocket. Depending on whether you’re already fairly healthy or if you have a serious health issue such as heart disease, exercising can save anywhere between $500 to $2,500 each year on medical expenses. That’s like getting paid to exercise.

Save Money on Meds

Medications are expensive, but working out can reduce or even eliminate the need for prescriptions.

The CDC says that lack of exercise is linked to chronic diseases that force patients to rely on daily medication to function and survive. These include heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. The solution is exercising to reduce or even eliminate your need for some medications. Building muscle through exercise reduces your chances of incurring injuries requiring painkillers, but the endorphins released while you exercise along with getting your blood flowing to all parts of your body act as natural painkillers. The endorphins also act as natural anti-depressants, too.

A workout program that includes resistance training and cardio exercise will keep your heart healthy, reducing your chances of developing cardiovascular disease. As mentioned above, that can save you money on medical care expenses as well as medications but other diseases can be avoided or even reversed with exercise. According to Dr. Mercola, research has shown that exercise and healthy eating can help control and in some cases even reverse diabetes, eliminating the need for costly insulin. A vigorous fitness exercise program will help you sleep better, too, saving you money on prescription or OTC sleep medications.

Curb Your Clothing Budget

Working out maintains your weight, so no more constantly shopping for new clothes in different sizes.

When you exercise regularly, your clothing will fit better and last longer because your clothing size won’t be constantly changing. Reader’s Digest Best Health points out that once you lose weight, you should splurge on a few new outfits for your new physique, but don’t hold onto your bigger clothes. The plan is not to need them in the future. Instead, donate them to Goodwill or another charity store. Not having your “fat pants” in the closet to fall back on will be valuable incentive to maintain your trimmer figure–plus, the donation is tax deductible. Cha-ching!

Save on Transportation Costs

Save gas and parking money and get your cardio at the same time!

Exercising will increase your endurance along with your fitness, and that suddenly makes alternative transportation not only doable, but logical. You’ll be capable of walking and biking to places including work, grocery shopping, or a friend’s house. Walking and biking everywhere may not be feasible all the time but even if you do it a few times a week, you’ll save money on gas and parking as well as wear and tear on your car. Plus, you can count your commute toward your weekly cardio exercise — score!

Advance Your Career

Getting fit can increase your income by improving your job performance and overall outlook on life.

You don’t have to work in the fitness industry for your health and fitness workout plan to positively affect your career, and that will do more than save you money — it will increase your income. Personal trainer Julia Derek points out that the health benefits of working out are important for self-employed people because it reduces sick days as well as making you stronger so you can give your business serious effort and attention. Even if you are salaried or punching the time clock for an employer, if you aren’t fit and healthy you’ll tend to be depressed and tired more than those who exercise regularly. When you don’t feel good mentally and physically, your job performance suffers and, don’t kid yourself, your boss will notice. On the other hand, if you’re energetic, happy and mentally alert, you’ll perform at peak and be on the fast-track for raises and promotions.

Won’t Getting Fit and Healthy Cost Me Money?

Up until now, maybe part of your excuse for not getting fit and healthy was that you think it costs money to do it “right.” It’s true that you could fork out some serious cash to hire a trainer, join the most expensive health club, and/or outfit your home with home fitness equipment, but none of that is necessary. There are plenty of home gym equipment options that cost less than $400 and offer a wide range of exercises to give you the most for your money. However, there are tons of cardio exercises and ones for building muscle that don’t require specialized equipment — and some don’t need any fitness equipment at all.

TargitFit class

Splitting the cost of a personal trainer with others helps make fitness more affordable.

As for the expensive personal trainer, you have access to the public library and the world wide web. You have all the health and fitness knowledge in the world at your disposal. Keep in mind, though, that some health clubs and even free-agent personal trainers offer group training sessions that allow more than one person to split the cost of the trainer’s time. That gives everyone the benefit of working out with a personal trainer without the high price tag. Investing in one or two group training sessions will give you some starter knowledge and experience to fuel your money-saving workout plan. Just imagine how great it will feel to watch your waistline shrink while your bank balance expands.

The Beautiful Benefits Of Beer

This week, TargitFit is pleased to post an article by John Hawthorne, which originally appeared on beergifts.com.

Milk is for babies. When you grow up you have to drink beer. – Arnold Schwarzenegger

We all know the phrase, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Of course, this is a ridiculous statement with almost no truth to it. Eating one piece of fruit per day isn’t going to magically ward off sickness, like some sort of powerful fruit of eternal life. An apple per day keeps the doctor away only if you throw the apple at the doctor, which we don’t recommend. Usually.

There’s another, similar statement, that is much more accurate: a 24 pack of beer per day keeps the jobs away.

Unfortunately, as delicious as beer is, we can’t recommend drinking a case of beer per day. If you do, there’s a good chance you’ll end up living in a van down by the river.

Plus, beer, like anything in excess (sweets, sweatpants, Nicolas Cage movies), isn’t good for your health. If you feast upon too much beer in a single day, your body will begin to go on strike, demanding better working conditions.

But how much beer is too much? How much is healthy? Is it a bad sign if you’re drinking beer in the shower (probably)?

Let us guide you on a beerlicious tour of your body, helping you understand how to treat your body without cheating your body.

(Note: We’re not doctors. This isn’t intended to be medical advice. Talk to your doctor before making any medical decisions.)

How Much Beer Per Day Is Too Much?

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Let a man walk ten miles steadily on a hot summer’s day along a dusty English road, and he will soon discover why beer was invented. – Gilbert K. Chesterton

Most guidelines state that moderate beer consumption is safe for your health. For men, that’s between 2-3 beers per day and for women that’s 1-2 beers per day (sorry ladies).

We know that some of you are reading this and thinking, Perfect! I’ll drink three 60 oz beers per night!

Nice try. The 2-3 limit is based on drinking 12 oz beers. Pint glasses you can fit your head into don’t count.

Now, we should note, there is some disagreement about exactly how much is too much. As Katie Kelly Bell notes:

In the UK, their Department of Health states that men should limit consumption to no more than 3-4 units/day and women to no more than 2-3 units/day…but take note, their unit is only 8 grams, and an American unit is 14 grams. Overall though, the UK guidelines allow for a bit more flexibility. The French Ministry of Health and Sports suggests no more than 30 grams (roughly 3 drinks) per day for men and women alike.

We’d all probably really like Spanish doctors from the Basque region, where the Department of Health & Social Security counsels men and women to no more than 70 grams a day, or roughly seven drinks a day.

So here’s what we recommend. At the end of the day (or whenever you like to relax), sit down with a cold craft beer or two. Drink them slowly. Savor them. Taste the hops and malt and grains. If you’re drinking an IPA, enjoy the sweet bitterness that only that beer produces.

If you’re worried that you’re drinking too much, you have two options:

  • Drink less
  • Move to Spain

The point is this: be smart with the amount of beer you drink. It’s delicious, and in moderation it’s the nectar of the gods. Don’t drink until you’re hammered and convinced that everyone is your best friend and that world peace is achievable.

Is Beer Good For Your Health?

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I’m gaining weight the right way: I’m drinking beer. – Johnny Damon

Some look at this question and scoff. They assume that drinking beer is healthy in the same way that eating glass is healthy. The next time you encounter someone like this, you can shove science in their face.

Beer Has Nutrients. No beer, isn’t in the same category as organic, gluten-free, cage free kale, but it certainly does have nutrients. These nutrients include trace amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, fluoride and silicon.

Beer also contains some antioxidants, which help your body eliminate harmful toxins.

Beer May Strengthen Your Bones. Check this out beer haters. A recent study by the Journal of the American Medical Association discovered that moderate drinkers were 38% less likely to develop osteoporosis. Another study showed that moderate drinkers have a 20% lower risk of fracturing a hip.

Milk does a body good. So does beer.

Beer May Reduce the Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes. A number of studies have shown that moderate consumption of beer can actually reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes by up to 30 percent. Beer May Boost Cognitive Health. Most people associate drinking beer with people slurring sentences and being unable to answer simple questions. Nope. Some studies have indicated that light to moderate drinking later in life can actually slow cognitive decline. So instead of playing all those brain games to try and stay sharp, just drink a few pints.

Beer Can Improve Your Digestion. In 2012, a study was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that showed that some beers can trigger the release of gastric acid in the stomach. Gastric acid is a key component in digestion and also helps control the growth of unhealthy gut bacteria.

Obviously, drinking too much beer isn’t good for your health. Your liver won’t be your biggest fan if you’re downing a case every night after work. But drinking beer in moderation can be very good for your health. So, to quote Homer Simpson, “Shut up liver!”

What Does Beer Do To Your Body?

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I do condition my hair with honey and beer. I smell like the bottom of a beer barrel for days afterwards, but it’s very good for the hair. – Catherine Zeta-Jones

Beer affects your body in a number of ways. None of these is problematic if you drink in moderation.

Beer alters your brain’s neurotransmitters. The reason you feel a little fuzzy when you drink beer is due to the way beer interacts with your cerebellum, which helps with coordination, and cerebral cortex, which is responsible for thinking, memory, and learning.

Beer dilates your blood vessels. Why does your face turn beet red when you have a few drinks? Because alcohol causes your blood vessels to dilate and more blood flows through them. That blotchy skin isn’t because you’re embarrassed, it’s because you’ve tossed back a cold one.

Beer sends you to the restroom. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it causes you to have to urinate more frequently. This is why you find yourself going like a racehorse after just a few beers.

Beer can lower your blood sugar. Alcohol inhibits your liver from converting glycogen into glucose, which then causes your blood sugar to drop. A simple way to avoid this is to eat a hearty meal beforehand.

Does Beer Have Health Risks?

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Beer, it’s the best damn drink in the world. Jack Nicholson

Beer, like every other good thing, has health risks when consumed in excess. There’s nothing particularly new or profound about that. There are health risks if you eat fast food every day or watch too much Netflix.

One of the best ways to avoid drinking excess beer is to drink good beer. Beer that was made with care. Beer that wasn’t mass produced in a giant warehouse. When you drink good beer, it’s an experience. You’re not pounding down fifteen beers in order to pass out on the couch. You’re savoring a few delicious, flavorful beers that have an amazing flavor profile.

Don’t cheat yourself by drinking terrible, cheap beer. Invest in something that will make you want to slow down and appreciate what you’re drinking.

Conclusion

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There are few things better in life than beer. And thankfully, beer can be good for you when consumed in reasonable, moderate, not frat party amounts. It can help your digestion, be good for your heart, strengthen your bones, and help you relax.

Most importantly, beer can make you happy. We’ve all had the experience of coming home after a long, hard day and enjoying a delicious beer.

There’s simply nothing like 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 beergifts.com.

What If Your “Healthy” Diet Is Sabotaging Your Weight Loss?

If you’ve read any of our posts that mention diet, you know we harp on eating healthy just as much as anyone. A healthy diet combined with exercise is the best way to lose weight, build muscle and get into shape. You might think you’re eating healthy, reaching for the foods on the supermarket shelves labeled “low-fat,” “multi-grain” or “all-natural” but, if you’re not seeing the weight loss results you want, the roadblock could be all that “healthy” food you’re eating.

Translation: Low-Fat=High Sugar & Calories

Low and reduced-fat products usually have more sugar and as many calories as their “regular” counterparts.

The problem with eliminating ingredients from foods is that you need to replace them with something. In the case of low-fat and fat-free foods, most manufacturers use extra sugar to fill in the flavor-gap left when fat is removed or reduced. Increasing the sugar content may make the low-fat versions more palatable, but it also increases the calorie count to equal or exceed the full-fat varieties.

When you’re faced with choosing between two products that have equal calories but one has a balance of fat and sugar and the other has excessive sugar but not fat, pass up the fat-free option. According to an experiment outlined in the Daily Mail, you’ll lose more weight cutting down on sugar than by eliminating fat. Plus, a healthy diet includes both sugar and fat to help you function normally.

One other issue to keep in mind when contemplating reduced fat products is that they may eliminate or reduce healthy fats. Cooking Light points out that low-fat peanut butter, for instance, has less fat overall than regular peanut butter, but the regular variety includes monounsaturated fats that are actually good for you. The solution instead of eating low-fat peanut butter is to opt for a natural peanut butter that hasn’t had extra oils added to it.

Not All Oatmeals Are Your Friend

Skip the instant oatmeal with its extra salt and sugar and opt for regular or steel cut oats with honey or fresh fruit.

You may have adopted what you believe is the healthy eating habit of having oatmeal for breakfast almost every morning. If, because of your busy schedule, you usually scarf down a bowl of the convenient instant type, that’s where your healthy diet is getting derailed. According to Prevention, instant oatmeals typically contain added sugar and sodium as flavor enhancers. The better diet-healthy move is to boil up a pot of whole or steel cut oats and enhance the flavor yourself with fresh fruit, a sprinkle of cinnamon or a drizzle of honey.

The Tall Tale of 7 Grains

Sure, it has 7 grains, but if they’re not WHOLE grains, they don’t have more to offer than any other refined grain product.

You’ve ditched the soft white bread of your youth, and now only craft sandwiches out of hearty, multi-grain bread. If you don’t read labels, that 7-grain loaf of bread is probably not the healthy diet food you think it is. Fox News reports that “multi-grain” on the label doesn’t mean that the loaf tucked inside is healthier for you than any other bread. It only indicates that more than one type of grain was used to make it. Those grains were still likely refined, so you won’t be reaping the benefits of the whole grain. That’s the key, though: look for baked goods that are whole-grain. Also, when reading labels, the first ingredient is all-important. With breads and other baked goods, if the first ingredient is bleached or unbleached wheat flour, it’s still a refined product and not 100 percent whole-grain, even if it’s “enriched.”

Let’s Talk Turkey

Packaged meats have a lot of extras that outweigh the healthy elements meat can bring to your diet.
Image by robertstinnette/Flickr

…or any other packaged lunch meat. The packaging is the problem. The price you pay for the convenience of having what’s typically considered a healthy meat already cooked, sliced, and ready to put into a sandwich or on top of a salad is the additional ingredients. Not only does packaged, sliced turkey contain an alarming amount of sodium, it also usually has artificial flavoring, preservatives and sometimes even coloring. WBUR in Boston says that researchers are  now looking at artificial additives in foods as a contributing factor in obesity. Bypass the convenient but unhealthy packaged meat and roast a chicken or turkey on the weekend. Then just slice it up yourself for a week’s supply of nutritious protein.

Read the entire label — nutrition facts, ingredients and all — to get an accurate picture of how healthy the foods in your diet really are. Image by ilovebutter/Flickr

Of course a healthy weight loss plan is one that includes exercise, a healthy diet, and monitoring your caloric intake versus energy expenditure, but becoming a label reader is essential. Not just the big words splashed across the top of the packaging, either, but the actual nutritional information found in small print on the back. It will make all the difference in the world for your weight loss plans to finally, truly be eating healthy, and could even be a little liberating, too.

 

Try This If You Think You’ve Tried Everything To Lose Weight

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When you’re trying to lose weight, getting sufficient amino acids and protein can get the scale moving in the direction you want it to.

When you hear statistics like “90% of Americans Have a Nutrient Deficiency,” you probably place yourself in the nutritionally complete 10%, especially if you take your vitamins and do a fairly reasonable job at watching what you eat. However, if you are fatigued, chronically lack energy, frequently catch colds and/or have a hard time losing weight, maybe you should think again. Those specific symptoms are signs of amino acid deficiency. Plus, if you don’t get enough aminos, Medical News Bulletin says that you won’t be able to sufficiently absorb that multivitamin and mineral supplement you take.

Additionally, since amino acids are the essential elements that make up protein, if you’re short on aminos, you’re likely not getting enough protein, either. If you’ve been trying to lose weight and nothing seems to work, add amino acids and more protein to your diet. Those elements could be what’s been missing the whole time.

Protein and Weight Loss

Eating lean protein lets you discount 20 – 30% of the protein calories you eat. Your body uses up that much just to digest it.

Protein is essential to good nutrition and, if you think about it, protein for weight loss is good common sense. One reason is that you burn more calories digesting protein than any other food. According to Precision Nutrition, 20 to 30 percent of the protein calories you eat are spent on processing it so, right from the start, protein boosts your burn potential. Next, when you eat protein as part of a weight loss plan that includes building muscle, protein helps build lean muscle mass that also increases the amount of fat and calories your body burns.

The Studies

Scientific studies are what really give legs to the protein for weight loss premise because actual results are hard to argue with. One study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that increasing protein helped stabilize glucose and insulin that, in turn, enhanced weight loss. Another study published in the Annual Review of Nutrition showed that protein helped with weight loss by providing energy along with curbing the appetite. Yet more research published in the Nutrition Journal showed that supplementing whey protein and essential amino acids helped with weight loss during a restricted calorie diet. The protein and aminos working together allowed subjects to feel full on fewer calories and increased their bodies’ ability to absorb nutrients, giving them more energy.

Research discussed on Web MD indicates that whey protein is most effective for helping to reduce body fat. The study focused on two groups that were given protein meal replacements, but one group’s protein was specifically whey and included essential amino acids. Both groups successfully lost weight, but the whey/aminos group lost more fat than the other group.

Am I Getting Enough?

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Protein supplements are quick and convenient ways to get more protein in your diet.

So how do you know if you’re getting “enough” protein? The CDC has it all neatly broken down into dietary needs based on age and sex, with adult women needing about 46 grams of protein each day and adult men requiring 56 grams per day. However, your lifestyle and your body weight play a part in your protein needs. That means, if you’re working out as part of your weight loss plan, you’ll need more than the bare minimum the CDC recommends. Health magazine has a more accurate way to figure protein needs based on your activity level. Start with your body weight in pounds and then multiply it by a certain number based on how active you are:

  • sedentary, little to no exercise, X by .4
  • active, regularly work out, X by .6
  • athletic, competitive athletes, X by .75

The answer is the number of grams of protein you need each day.

Once you figure out how much protein you should be getting, don’t increase your intake all at once. If your body isn’t used to processing a lot of protein, suddenly flooding your system with it can be hard on your kidneys. Instead, gradually increase your protein by about 5 grams at a time once or twice a week until you’re at the level you should be.

Aminos’ Role

Each of the over 20 amino acids are essential for proper nutrition and health.

There are over 20 amino acids, and each one plays a part in nutrition. Some are specifically tied to metabolism and other functions that affect weight. The branch-chained amino acids (BCAAs), for example, typically show up in weight loss supplements because they not only support energy levels, but the specific BCAA leucine has numerous effects on the metabolism, including increasing calorie burn, telling your body to burn fat while keeping muscle, and helping curb your appetite. One study published in the Nutrition Journal even found that supplementing with leucine resulted in a higher loss of body fat than dieting alone.

Livestrong recommends other aminos essential for weight loss goals including:

  • carnitine — which tells your body to use fat for energy instead of storing it
  • tryptophan — which helps stabilize hormone and insulin levels, stabilizes blood glucose levels, and encourages your body to produce growth hormone by promoting restorative sleep
  • tyrosine — which speeds up your metabolism for fat burning and enhances other aminos’ appetite suppressant effects

As if helping you to lose weight weren’t enough, an article in the May 2015 issue of “First for Women” reveals that getting enough protein and amino acids in your diet will also improve your mood and decrease depression, give you more energy, help you concentrate and enhance digestion of all the food you eat. Even better, Health Central says that amino acid and protein-rich foods like turkey and soy products will help increase your skin’s elasticity. So consider younger looking skin the cherry on top of the amino acid/protein cake.

Healthy Secret: Lower Your Blood Pressure With Resistance Training

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Natural ways of lowering blood pressure are the healthiest.

There used to be a time when doctors would counsel hypertension patients against resistance training. The prevailing opinion was that lifting weights would increase blood pressure, so those already fighting it should avoid aggravating the condition. However, once medical professionals became aware that bodybuilders had lower overall blood pressure than those who didn’t follow a strict workout regimen, they began rethinking the issue. Several studies have been done over recent years that all indicate that resistance exercise is one of the best natural ways to lower blood pressure.

Gifts With Purchase

Resistance training incorporated with aerobic exercise lowers blood pressure and makes you feel great!

Resistance training improves your overall cardio health, so you might call a decreased blood pressure reading a side effect. It’s a pretty significant side effect, however, for people who have tried everything to bring their systolic and diastolic numbers down. Resistance exercise is an effective way to lower blood pressure because it makes your cardiovascular system perform more efficiently, transporting oxygen-rich blood throughout your entire body with less effort.

However, resistance training works to reduce your blood pressure from many different directions. Web MD explains that it will help you increase muscle mass and boost your metabolic rate. With those elements in play, you should be able to lose body fat even with minimal or no change to your diet, and that’s another piece of the blood pressure puzzle. Losing as few as 10 pounds has been shown to lower or even prevent high blood pressure in people who are overweight. Just to sweeten the pot, in his book “High Blood Pressure for Dummies,” Dr. Alan L. Rubin lists a few non-blood pressure-related perks including increased strength and fitness, improved confidence, stronger bones, and better balance.

Lifestyle Change Alert!

Even committing to taking BP medication is a lifestyle change — so why not opt for working out to look AND feel great?

Those who want to lower blood pressure with a quick-fix instead of shifting gears for a lifestyle change should probably stick to medication. That isn’t the healthiest route with the best prognosis, but you can’t just add resistance training to your schedule for a few weeks or months with the plan of stopping once your numbers come down. According to Volume III of the Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine, people who engaged in short-term resistance training didn’t show as much of an improvement in blood pressure as people who added working out permanently to their schedules. The bottom line is that whether you commit to taking medication the rest of your life, decide to cut salt out of your diet from here to eternity, or include resistance training on your agenda, you’re making a lifestyle change. The workout option offers the most benefits with the least drawbacks. (When have you ever seen the same list of adverse side effects attached to exercise that usually comes with every bottle of medication?) Since resistance training can reduce your blood pressure up to 20 percent, according to the Department of Health Sciences at Appalachian State University, isn’t that the best option on the table?

Resistance Training to Reduce Blood Pressure

Talk to your doctor before beginning a resistance training program to lower blood pressure. Image by Vic/Flickr

The first thing to do if you want to give resistance training a try for lowering high blood pressure is to talk to your doctor. He can help you tailor your program to your specific circumstances and offer warnings or advice. You’ll want to start out lifting light and with more reps until your blood pressure improves. Only do one set of 12 to 15 reps at first, and don’t lift so heavy that you’re struggling at the end of the set, just heavy enough that you’re starting to fatigue by the 12th or 15th rep. Rest a full 90 seconds between sets and exercises. As your strength and blood pressure improve, increase your weight and the number of sets you do. If you’re looking for a specific workout that has proven to lower blood pressure, you could always try the one researchers used in a study on the positive effects of resistance training on blood pressure. According to Precision Nutrition, the participants worked out three days a week with a minimum of one rest day in between, completing three sets of 12 reps each of:

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A workout that incorporates all the muscles in your body helps you look great — a nice side effect to lowering blood pressure.

  • leg curls
  • leg presses
  • lat pulldowns
  • chest presses
  • biceps curls
  • shoulder presses
  • triceps extensions

It’s a full-body workout that’s useful as part of a comprehensive exercise program that also incorporates 75 to 120 minutes of aerobic exercise each week for lower blood pressure and overall better health.

The Best Way To Flatten and Tone Your Abs

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You don’t need to spend $1 million on tummy trimming equipment or secrets. Read on for flatter, toner abs.

There’s no shortage of ab exercise machines, fitness exercise programs that target the midsection, or late-night infomercials about toning and trimming the tummy. There are plenty of people ready and willing to tell you how to lose belly fat in exchange for your credit card number. The cold, hard truth is that you don’t need a special ab exercise machine (even if it does look and feel as comfortable as a hammock), and there’s no one magical ab workout that will suddenly accomplish what your half-hearted attempts at diet and exercise haven’t in the past. There are three keys to flat-ab success, and you can have them right here for the price of your time.

Step One: Get Your Cardio

Cardio equipment is useful for HIIT workouts or for longer duration, less intense workouts to burn belly fat.

Any fitness exercise program worth its salt includes aerobic exercise. That’s because getting your heart rate up and expending energy burns fat and calories. The goal is to burn more calories than you take in so that your body is forced to use up stored fat, including the flab affectionately known as your “love handles.” Military.com recommends doing cardio four to five times a week, for 20 to 45 minutes a shot. You know the drill: any activity that increases your heart rate such as biking, running, aerobics classes or working out on the treadmill or elliptical trainer. More is not necessarily better when it comes to duration or level of vigor. IDEA Health and Fitness Association recommends two different approaches to maximize fat loss overall as part of a plan to lose belly fat:

  • short, dynamic workouts, such as 30 minute HIIT sessions
  • long bike rides or similar activities of 90 minutes to 2 hours during which your heart rate hits and maintains about 65 to 70 percent max HR

Step Two: Work Those Abs

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Skip the fad workout gadgets — the best ab exercises don’t use equipment.
Image by XpeSports/Flickr

There is no such thing as spot-reducing, but it is useful to perform abdominal exercises to strengthen and tone your core. Toned ab muscles give your midsection the flat look you desire–especially after you start losing the layer of fat located over your abs–and, when you work to develop those muscles, you can even get a six pack going if that’s what you want. The really terrific thing about ab workouts is that the best ab exercises without equipment are essentially the best ab exercises, period. Over the past few years, planks have become the ab workout darlings of many personal trainers, but the American Council on Exercise says that jacks, mountain climbers, and even side planks are more effective for working your abs from top to bottom and side to side. ACE actually did a study on ab exercises and found the most effective ones to be the bicycle maneuver and the captain’s chair (leg lifts). They’re both effective for working the obliques as well as the main ab muscles that run along the front of your torso.

In your impatience to lose belly fat and flatten your tummy, don’t work your abs every day. Your abdominals are just like every other muscle in your body, and they need recovery time between workouts. That doesn’t mean you can’t do ab exercises more than once a week. Just be sure to allow 48 to 72 hours between workouts.

Step Three: Get a Grip on Your Diet

Healthy food for trimming your tummy can be tasty — and you can still eat a few treats, but in MODERATION.

Ack. There’s that four letter word. Again! Unfortunately, you cannot eat trash and expect to have a trim tummy. Remember the saying: what you eat in private, you wear in public — right around your middle. No one is saying you can’t eat food you like, just think “moderation.” That means limiting sweets and fried foods, choosing naturally low-fat cheeses over the creamy fat-filled ones, eating ample fresh veggies and fruits, and opting for lean meats instead of fatty ones. TargitFit’s never-fail extreme weight loss diet recommends cutting out soda altogether, but if you can’t go cold-turkey on the cola, cut back until you’re off it entirely. Drink water instead as part of ensuring you get enough H20 each day. Try eating five smaller meals throughout the day instead of three large ones. If you get a grip on your diet and include both cardio and ab exercises in your routine, you’ll be sportin’ that six pack in no time.

How to Lose Weight: Breaking Through Those Pesky Plateaus

It happens to everyone: you start a fitness and weight loss regimen, you start seeing results and feeling good about yourself and your progress…then you hit a plateau. That’s when your enthusiasm and motivation will take a dive and, if you don’t find a way to break through that plateau, you may be tempted to bag it.

The first thing you can do is to expect the plateaus and let go of ideas of rapid weight loss. You’ll go through periods of quick weight loss and periods when it seems like you’re not making any progress at all. Don’t be surprised or bummed out by that. If you expect it, and you have a few weight loss tips for plateaus in your bag of tricks, you’ll be more inclined to stick with your original weight loss plan, work past the plateau and start a new cycle of losing weight and building muscle.

Change Up Your Workout

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Try a different workout or form of resistance to break through plateaus.

Weight-loss plateaus hit when your body predictably adjusts to your routine of physical activity. Military Fitness recommends changing up your workout when this happens. Don’t fight it. You may be comfortable with your workout and know it by heart, but the familiarity is what’s causing you to plateau. Drop some of your usual exercises and replace them with different ones that still work the same muscles. ExRx.net has a comprehensive exercise directory that cross-references exercises by muscle groups, but the site also has a search option that lets you search by muscle or exercise.

Also, consider changing the time of day you work out if possible, or even the equipment you use. If you typically gravitate to the free weights, give the cable machines or resistance bands a try for a few weeks. Additionally, a plateau can be an indication that it’s time to increase the amount you’re lifting. Don’t be afraid to add some weight to your workouts to increase muscle mass and build strength, as well as kick-start your weight loss program again.

Fine-Tune Your Cardio

Take your cardio outdoors or even use a different piece of equipment to get your metabolism into fat-burning mode again.

Some people avoid cardio and some do it instead of resistance training, but it’s important that cardio and resistance training are both included in your weight loss plan. If aerobic exercise isn’t included in your workout, add it. If you already do cardio, add another day and increase the amount of time you’re spending on it. Mike Mahler recommends increasing your cardio workouts by 5 to 10 minutes at a time to find your cardio sweet-spot. That can be anywhere from 30 – 45 minutes per session, but it shouldn’t exceed 60 minutes. Also, change the type of aerobic exercise you’re doing. Ditch the treadmill or stationary bike for awhile and give the elliptical a try. Attend a class at your health club or, if the weather is nice, go for a run outdoors. Maybe even give HIIT a try. Anything to shock your body back into weight-loss mode.

Make Your Diet a Moving Target

Don’t overdo on the calorie deficit. Instead, change how and when you eat.

If making changes to your resistance training and cardio workouts aren’t giving you the weight loss results you want to see, it may be your diet that needs tweaking. You may be eating too close to bedtime, so try to start eating earlier, giving yourself four or more hours between your last meal of the day and the time you hit the hay. You can also break it up so that you’re eating smaller meals more often, five to six times a day. You can use the Harris-Benedict equation found on Medical News Today to determine how many calories you should be getting each day. Keep in mind that, if you don’t get enough calories, your body will start conserving them and shut down your weight loss plan. Instead of creating an extreme calorie deficit to induce rapid weight loss, concentrate on the foods you eat, making sure you eat enough protein, and change up your carb count a few days each week. ShapeFit recommends lowering your carbs one or two days in a row, then increasing back up for two to three days. It’s called carb-cycling, and the erratic amounts will keep your metabolism on its toes and in fat-burning mode.

Listen to Your Body

Without enough rest, your body wants to conserve fat and calories instead of burning them.
Image by Alexandra E Rust/Flickr

Hitting a plateau in your weight loss program is a huge signal from your body that you need to pay attention to if you want to continue losing weight. The best advice is to listen to your body and understand what it’s telling you. If you feel fatigued and worn out, you could easily burn out if you aren’t getting enough rest. If you’ve been at it 6 or 7 days a week non-stop since the beginning of the year, taking a week off will do you more good than  harm. When you are in full workout mode, take care to get adequate hours of sleep each night and do your body the favor of taking 1 to 3 days off each week. Giving your body enough rest and nutrition and keeping it guessing with changes to your workout will help bust through those plateaus and have you on the quick weight loss track again in no time.

Autumn Is An Awesome Time To Focus On Fitness

This week, TargitFit is pleased to offer advice on using fall to kick-start your fitness and weight loss plans courtesy of guest blogger, Helen Sanders:

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The dragon you’ll be fighting this fall is the urge to ignore your workouts until after the holidays.
Image by OnTheWeb/Flickr

Winter is coming, as Jon Snow is always telling anybody who will listen in Game of Thrones. Fortunately, in the real world, we don’t have to worry about dragons, ice kings or the imminent invasion of the White Walkers. Our main enemy, at least to our fitness levels and our health, can be the impending holiday season that comes with winter.

Healthy eating is often tossed aside during the holidays. Christmas and Thanksgiving usually include gut-busting turkey dinners and endless holiday parties. It can also be harder to motivate yourself to work out once the summer shorts and tank tops have been tucked away in your wardrobe for yet another year.

However, instead of being a time for winding down, fall can be the ideal time to get proactive and kick-start your fitness regime before the holidays even start. Weather conditions in the fall can be much more comfortable than the snow, rain, and ice of winter. Plus, there’s the added bonus that the gym will not be full of the post-Xmas part-timers when you visit in the off-peak fall season. So Why wait until January to make a resolution to get in shape? There’s no time better than now!

Get Out and Enjoy the Scenic Outdoors

In many parts of the U.S., fall is the most beautiful time of the year. A stunning array of autumnal colors make this an ideal time to go for a run, bike ride or even a brisk walk. Use the parks and countryside to your advantage for your fitness routine and enjoy this wonderful time of year while getting fit.

The change in season also brings about a change in climate, with temperatures often cooling down rapidly from the summer highs. Exercise can often be more enjoyable when you are sweating less but don’t have to layer up just yet. As it gets cooler, investing in breathable, moisture-wicking clothing can prevent having to peel the layers off as your blood gets pumping.

Experts in kinesiology have found that weather conditions can encourage or deter physical activity. Bad weather can actually be a barrier to physical activity, but exercising and being outdoors in nature have also been found to boost your mood. If you’re enjoying yourself, you’re more likely to stick with your fitness plan.

Take Advantage of Lower Prices

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Autumn is often the best time to find a bike on sale – and a new bike is a great motivator to exercise.

With fewer people trying for that beach body and most new year’s resolutions forgotten, fall is a quieter period for many gyms. Fall can be the perfect time to take advantage of the discounts and incentives offered by many gyms to attract new members. If you prefer a traditional gym workout, now could be the ideal time to join before the colder winter months see a gym membership rush.

Fall could also be the ideal opportunity to save money on that new bike you may have been eyeing all summer. Mountain Bike World Magazine says fall is often the best time to buy a new bike. Many bike manufacturers bring out their new models in September and will heavily discount the previous year’s models to clear them. 

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A stroll through the local farmers market is exercise in itself. Plus, you’ll go home with loads of fresh, healthy food.

Enjoy the Harvests of Fall

A healthy diet is an important part of any fitness plan. With autumn comes a wide variety of fresh seasonal produce full of the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants needed to fuel your body as you workout. A hike or bike ride could include a trip to the local farmers market to sample the fall harvest. You could also save money by buying local fresh produce at this time of year.

New Season, New Schedule

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Fall is the perfect time to enroll in a class you’ve always wanted to try. Image by John Seb Barber/Flickr

The kids going back to school after the long summer holidays can leave many of us with free time to fill. This provides the perfect chance to try that new gym or take up a new hobby which may help with fitness plans. Maybe a salsa dance class or a martial arts course can help revive your workout sessions.

Fall can also be a time when the TV schedules feature a return of many of your favorite shows. Try doing a few ab crunches or lunges while catching up on Life With the Kardashians or tuning in for the new Will and Grace.

After a long, hot summer, fall can be the best season to kickstart your fitness regime. By starting your plan early you will be free to enjoy the holiday season with fewer feelings of guilt. A little extra work now means not having to worry about a few extra calories here and there throughout the holidays plus, you can look stunning in that little black dress when the Christmas party season starts.

 

Helen Sanders is chief editor at HealthAmbition.com. Established in 2012, Health Ambition has grown rapidly in recent years. Our goal is to provide easy-to-understand health and nutrition advice that makes a real impact. We pride ourselves on making sure our actionable advice can be followed by regular people with busy lives.