Exercise Your Autumn Allergy Demons

Fall allergy symptoms are miserable but exercise can decrease or even eliminate them.

Everyone associates allergies with springtime, but they can hit any time of year. Fall is actually a high-allergy season, with the air drying out, mold growth increasing in in damp fallen leaves and compost piles, and the dreaded ragweed continually releasing pollen over the course of 2 to 3 months. Web MD says that one in five Americans suffer from allergies and/or asthma and that over half of the U.S. population is sensitive to at least one allergen, and often more than one.

Allergies are as miserable as colds. With your eyes uncontrollably pouring fluid and your nose constantly stuffed up not to mention the sneezing, it’s tough to get in the mood for a workout, but that is exactly the thing that could get you feeling better.

First, the Disclaimer

Allergy and asthma sufferers should check with their doctors to get recommendations on proceeding with exercise. Image by Vic/Flickr

We’d like to think that exercise is a one-size-fits-all solution for everything that ails everyone, but there are always the exceptions to the rule. A very small percentage of people with allergies or asthma might have a negative reaction during exercise. That is why it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about your workout plans before beginning. Also, exercise and some medications don’t mix well. Both issues are very good reasons to get your doctor’s input and a green light before exercising to fight allergies.

Study-Backed Prescription

In most circumstances, doctors will actually encourage patients to work out to combat symptoms of allergies and asthma. That is because studies such as the one published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology have shown marked improvement for patients who exercise. Researchers have found that increasing exercise can play a big part in decreasing symptoms and severity, prompting them to recommend an “exercise prescription” as part of treatment.

How Exercise Helps

Getting your circulation going during a workout will ease your allergy symptoms, including alleviating congestion so you can breathe better.

Getting your blood flowing is as close to a cure-all as you’ll get for allergy symptoms. Increasing circulation draws blood to the parts of your body that are working hard and away from parts that aren’t a priority. In the case of allergies, that means redirecting blood from the vessels in your nose and causing them to constrict, resulting in clearing your airways. Plus, Fitness and Wellness News says that if your blood isn’t flowing well, allergens can accumulate in your body, but increased blood flow moves allergens out of your system.

Another benefit of exercise is that it strengthens the immune system and curbs stress-related hormones in your body. Everyday Health says that sets you up to withstand allergies better than others with weaker immune systems.

Things to Consider

Jump on the treadmill or other cardio equipment for your warm-up and cool-down during allergy season to get your blood flowing and open up your airways.

If you prefer an outdoor workout to hitting the gym, you may have to change your routine or at least become more vigilant during the fall pollen season. Web MD advises checking the weather and pollen levels each day. Pollen counts tend to be higher when the day is warm and the breeze is light, but windy days can wreak havoc with allergies, too. If the outlook seems questionable, move your workout indoors. Also, pollen levels tend to peak midday, so work out in the morning or the evening if you can.

Sometimes, even when you add exercise to your allergy-control plan, you still might need pharmaceutical help. You should always take medications as prescribed. However, in the case of 24-hour medicines that are taken only once a day, try taking them at night. That will allow you to sleep off the drowsy feeling antihistamines can cause so you won’t feel groggy all day, especially when it comes time to work out. Also, it’s extremely helpful for people with allergies or asthma to warm up and cool down aerobically. It gets the blood flowing before you start the actual exercising part of your workout so you can breathe through your nose as much as possible. And, it keeps things flowing while you ease your heart rate down afterwards.

Strength Training: The Best Anti Aging Secret You’re Missing Out On

Wanna turn back time? Start strength training!

Nobody lives forever, but it would be great if our bodies could at least function “normally” right up until checkout time. The multi-billion dollar anti aging industry is proof that pretty much everyone would like to turn back time if they could. The irony is that the best anti aging product isn’t a product at all. Instead, the secret to anti aging is strength training.

If you’re skeptical that strength training can affect the aging process, consider this: “The Runner’s Handbook” lists 10 biomarkers of aging identified by researchers at Tufts University

  • muscle mass
  • strength
  • basal metabolic rate
  • body fat percentage
  • aerobic capacity
  • blood sugar tolerance
  • cholesterol/HDL ratio
  • blood pressure
  • bone density
  • internal temperature regulation

These are the things that slowly deteriorate and go awry as you age. Strength training, however, affects and can control nine of these 10 biomarkers. But it goes even further than that. A study published on PLOS|one found that when older adults engaged in strength training, 179 of their genes associated with aging underwent a significant reversal of aging, literally restoring them to a youthful level. So why, if you could flip the calendar back about 10 years or so, wouldn’t you start strength training?

Eliminate the Excuses

People have many excuses for not exercising. The top three:

  • I don’t have time.
  • I’m too old; it’s too late for me.
  • I don’t want to bulk up.
  • I have a bad heart. –or– Heart disease runs in my family.
bench press

It’s worth it to make time to train at least 2 days a week for anti aging benefits.

As for the time issue, you have as much time as you need if reversing the aging process is important to you. To take the pressure off, though, the CDC says you only need to strength train a minimum of two days a week (combined with 75 to 150 minutes of cardio exercise). The beauty part is that if you engage in strength cardio training such as circuit training, you can do resistance and cardio at the same time.

Next, you’re never too old. A few years back, Huffington Post reported on a woman who was morbidly obese when, in 1986, she decided to change her life and start exercising at 45 years of age. By 2010, she was 69 years old, still working out and had become a competitive swimmer winning medals in senior competitions.

Exercising for building muscle strength includes building muscle but not necessarily bulking up if you don’t want to. You’ll have to put in a lot of time with the weights and pay obsessive attention to your diet in order to build bodybuilding-quality muscle.

Finally, if you have heart disease, or are concerned because it runs in your family, you should absolutely consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Just don’t be bummed if he thinks it’s a capital idea. According to Tanner Skyler, a top fitness trainer who holds a Master of Science in Exercise Science, strength training is good for those with heart disease. Skyler cites a study which showed that the vascular system opens up to allow for more blood flow during resistance exercises such as leg presses. That also explains how strength training reduces blood pressure, just to slip another little bennie in there for ya.

Fight Osteoporosis

Healthy bones and fighting osteoporosis is an issue for both men and women that can benefit from strength training.

 

 

Bone is living tissue and it needs exercise just as much as muscles do. Much is made of the issue of osteoporosis for women, but even men experience a decrease in bone mass as they age. Building muscle through resistance training is just what the doctor ordered for avoiding osteoporosis. The stronger muscles put tension on your bones causing them to continually regenerate and build new, strong bone tissue.

Never Utter the Words: “I’ve Fallen, and Can’t Get Up!”

You’ll have better balance and fewer chances of falling when you strength train.

Poor balance and falling are hallmarks of aging, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The CDC  recommends strength training to improve flexibility and range of motion that also helps with balance, and you won’t be likely to take any spills if you don’t lose your balance. If you need the data to back that up, though, the CDC also cites a study of women over 80 years of age who participated in strength training. The results were a 40 percent decrease in falls. You won’t have to worry about the other 60 percent, either. With stronger bones, you’ll be less likely to break a hip if you do take a spill and, with stronger muscles, you can get yourself up off the floor.

Improve Your Mood and Mind

Strength training keeps you happy and healthy at any age.

Yes, the benefits of strength training for aging go on and on from weight reduction to controlling blood sugar and even improving sleep patterns. An important issue that shouldn’t be overlooked, however, are the psychological benefits. A study published in Applied Human Science put 42 adults with an average age of 68 on a 12-week strength training regimen that included high and low intensity resistance training. The results were improved positive mood, a boost in self-confidence, and lowered trait anxiety.

Time Back to School With Back to Exercise

Back-to-school is the perfect time for back-to-exercise.

Back-to-school coincides with autumn, and both are usually associated with ends. The end of summer; the end of long days; the end of warm temperatures; the end of vacations; the signal of the end of the year. The negative outlook combined with all the changes fall ushers in stress some people out so much that they struggle to keep their schedules on track. Working out often falls by the wayside when the days grow shorter and colder, and school causes schedules to tighten up.  

Try taking a look at it from a different angle. Make back-to-school synonymous with back-to-fitness. See the season as energizing beginning to your fitness workout program along with education. Autumn is the perfect time to revitalize your exercise plan because it gives you the chance to build the habits you will need to keep working out through the holidays, one of the times during the year when people fall entirely off the workout wagon. Plus, getting started (or continuing) with fitness in the fall gives you a killer head start on your next New Year’s Resolution.

 

The Weather Enables

Beautiful scenery and cooler temperatures are an excuse to workout, not to quit exercising.

Instead of seeing cooler autumn temperatures as a reason to throw in the towel, see the weather as an excuse to change up your workout program. If you exercised outdoors when it was warmer, you will love how energizing the crisp fall air is. Since a lot of people quit working out or at least head indoors when autumn arrives, you might notice that you have more space to yourself, whether on the hiking trail or the beach. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy a fall outdoor workout even after just one session.

 

On the other hand, even the most perfect Indian Summer can have a few rainy days. The health website SecondsCount.org lists inclement weather as one of the top reasons people stop exercising. Don’t become one of those statistics! Whether you choose to move your workouts indoors for the fall or just need a backup plan for those days when it is too cold, windy, rainy, or all of the above, LA Fitness suggests a group fitness class for your plan B. You might be tempted to participate in a class you are familiar with. If it keeps you motivated, there is nothing wrong with that. However, in the spirit of back-to-school and back-to-exercise, consider a class you have never taken before. Working out with kickboxing, dance class, or a warrior workout like Forza will get you fit and give you the chance to master a new skill. 

Exercise Earlier

It’s nice to get your workout done in the morning and out of the way. Plus, with the extra hour daylight savings time provides, it’s not even like getting up earlier.

LIVESTRONG points out that the fall time change coupled with shorter days can make your body start prepping for bed long before it’s time because it seems later than it is. That can cause your exercise enthusiasm to fizzle. The solution is to work out in the morning or at least the daytime. If you already exercise in the morning, this one won’t be hard to adjust to. On the other hand, if you have been setting aside time in the evenings to workout, already having exercise out of the way gives you a little bonus time after work.

Look for Excuses to Exercise

 

kid workout

Use commercial breaks to workout while watching TV–and get the family involved.

If you have kids in school or are a student yourself, the first few weeks of the fall semester will likely be busy–so busy that it will be hard to work exercise into the equation. Web MD recommends thinking outside of the box to work exercise into unconventional areas of your life. Make a game out of raking the leaves by timing yourself, or make it a competition and get the family involved. Walk the perimeter of the soccer or football field while your kids practice. Even an evening in front of your favorite must-watch TV shows can be an opportunity to exercise if you get moving during every commercial break. Some are as long as 5 minutes, some as short as 2 1/2, and the individual commercials might be as short as 15 seconds or as long as a full minute. Run in place for the duration of one commercial, then switch to pushups for the next one, and jumping jacks for the next. A typical 60 minutes of network programming should give you close to 20 minutes of exercise.

 

 

Get Your Cardio On: Boredom and Plateau-Busting Workouts

Some people get bored easily with cardio exercise. But if it can help you break through a plateau, it’s worth doing.

 

Even among diehard workout fanatics, there is a faction of cardio-haters. Some hate the monotony of walking or biking to nowhere on stationary cardio equipment. On the other hand, taking their aerobic workout outside to jog or bike doesn’t appeal to them, either. However, personal trainers and other experts say cardio is an excellent way to eliminate boredom when your workouts get stale. If you’re among the haters of cardio, keep an open mind. Aerobic exercise is necessary for health and fitness. Plus, if it can get you over a fitness hump, why not give it a try?

Benefits of Cardio Exercise

Less colds and flu and overall improved health are other benefits of aerobic exercise.

Bodies are built to be active. That’s why aerobic activity is good for everyone of every age and fitness level. According to the Mayo Clinic, cardio activates the immune system, so you’re less likely to come down with common, communicable illnesses including the flu or a cold. Furthermore, it even goes beyond that. Because aerobic exercise helps you lose weight and keep it off, you’ll have less risk of more serious diseases that are linked with obesity such as high blood pressure, some forms of cancer, stroke, and heart disease, to name a few. In fact, cardio exercise helps you manage conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes if you already have them. Also, aerobic activity can sharpen your mind, chase away depression, and help you live longer, too.

How Aerobic Activity Can Overcome a Plateau

Everyone hits plateaus at some point, whether their goals are specific and aggressive or general and basic. Bodybuilding.com says that a plateau occurs when your body adapts to the stress of your workout. Essentially, positive changes happen when your body is struggling to keep up with the demands you put on it. However, once your workout is no longer a challenge, the changes get less noticeable and sometime becomes nonexistent.

Doing the Opposite Can Change Everything!

You can only break through a plateau by entirely changing up your workout–doing the opposite of what your body is used to. If your normal workout includes little or no cardio, toss in some aerobic exercise. That will wake your body back up and get it building muscle and burning fat again. You don’t have to permanently switch to all-cardio, all the time. That’s actually the good news about breaking plateaus. The key is to keep your body guessing. So,after a few weeks of cardio-focused workouts, feel free to go back to more resistance training. Just don’t go back to the exact workout, in the exact same order. Freshen your routine with new exercises. Then, shake it up even more by avoiding working the same muscles on the same days each week.

Cardio Equipment Workouts

Many trainers tout treadmill workouts for breaking plateaus with cardio. However, you can do them on stationary bikes or elliptical trainers, too. If you bite the bullet and give aerobic exercise a try, pick the equipment you like most. That will help you stick with your plateau-breaking workout long enough to make a difference. Notably, high-Intensity Intervals are effective for motivating your body off of a plateau. What’s more, they can take as little as 10 to 20 minutes to do.

Jen working out

Incorporate resistance exercises like triceps kickbacks with stints on cardio machines to double the benefits of a plateau-busting cardio workout.

We like cardio equipment workouts that incorporate some resistance into the mix to satisfy the need to exercise muscles along with the cardiovascular system. WebMD recommends a routine that starts out on the treadmill for 5 minutes, moves to the floor for some resistance exercises, takes you back to the treadmill for 5 more minutes and finishes up on the floor with more resistance. You can customize it to fit your preferences and goals by doing the cardio portions on an elliptical or bike if the treadmill isn’t your thing. First, set up your TargitFit Trainer nearby. That will allow you to do more than just body-weight exercises when it comes time for the resistance exercises. The perceived exertion (PE) is on a scale of 1 to 10. It’s relative and based on your perception of the exertion you’re putting forth.

Sample Workout

5 1/2 minutes on the cardio equipment:

Time                Speed              PE

60 seconds      3.5 mph           4 percent

60 seconds      4.5 mph           6 percent

60 seconds      3.5 mph           4 percent

60 seconds      4.5 mph           6 percent

60 seconds      3.5 mph           4 percent

30 seconds for gradual slowdown before completely stopping.

Resistance segment on TargitFit Trainer or using dumbbells (move from one exercise to the next with no rest):

  • 15 triceps kick-backs
  • 30 “dumbbell” bench presses
  • 15 overhead triceps presses

Back to the cardio equipment for another 5 1/2 minutes:

Time                Speed              PE

60 seconds      3.5 mph           4 percent

60 seconds      4.5 mph           6 percent

60 seconds      3.5 mph           4 percent

60 seconds      4.5 mph           6 percent

60 seconds      3.5 mph           4 percent

30 seconds for gradual slowdown before completely stopping.

Finish up on the TargitFit Trainer or just the floor:

  • 25 ab crunches
  • 50 bicycle crunches, alternating to the right and left
  • 2 sets of incline planks, placing your forearms on the TargitFit Trainer or a bench and holding for 1 minute for each “set”

Remember to stretch afterward!

Additionally, keep in mind that High-Intensity Training can be accomplished even without cardio equipment. You just have to maintain a pace that keeps your hear rate up. Choose 10 to 12 resistance exercises and do as many reps of each as you can in 30 seconds.  Also, keep proper form and take a 15 second break between each exercise. Doing three sets of each exercise will give you an intense, plateau-breaking workout that will take less than 20 minutes.

Understanding and Conquering Weight Loss Plateaus

Image by Pixabay.Most people who have tried to lose a significant amount of weight and maintain that loss have also experienced the insidious weight loss plateau. The weight comes off easily at first but then, after weeks of watching the numbers on the scale drop almost daily, the progress stops and doesn’t seem to want to start up again. It’s frustrating enough when a plateau hits before you’ve reached your weight loss goal, but it gets even more aggravating when your weight remains the same after days, weeks, and months of working out and eating right, just has you had been during those first few exhilarating months of losing weight.

Many personal trainers recommend varying your workout routine, or even switching to an entirely different exercise style, and that is good advice, but it only addresses one issue that causes weight loss to stall. There is more than one reason your progress grinds to a halt, so the best strategy for getting off a plateau is to address as many causes as possible. Once you understand why you hit a plateau, you can jumpstart your weight loss and get back on track to meeting your goal.

Maintain That Muscle

Include resistance training along with cardio to ensure you maintain fat-burning muscle mass.

One of the worst culprits that cause weight loss plateaus is the loss of muscle mass during the first successful weeks of a new diet and exercise regimen. According to the Mayo Clinic, since muscle mass burns more calories to maintain, losing even a small amount of it will slow your metabolism down. You’ll be burning fewer calories doing the same activities and exercises you were doing during your initial weight loss. That can result in a plateau or even reversal, especially if the number of calories you burn no longer exceeds the amount you take in.

A change in workout routine or exercises can help with this one, but MyFitnessPal recommends re-evaluating your caloric intake and burn after every 5 to 10-pound loss to stay ahead of a plateau. Additionally, it’s important to include strength training as part of your workout routine to give your body a chance to at least maintain muscle mass, if not build more for better weight loss results. What’s more, be sure to include lean protein in your diet. That will not only help you build and maintain muscle mass, but WebMD points out that protein suppresses the hunger hormone that stimulates your appetite, making it easier to stick to your weight loss diet plan.

Get More Sleep

Setting the alarm for an early workout can cut into necessary sleep time and hinder your weight loss goals.

If you’ve been getting up early to exercise, the lost sleep could be counteracting your workout. According to the University of  Chicago Medical, dieters who cut back on sleep also cut the amount of fat they lose. Instead of commandeering sleep time for exercise, try to schedule your workouts for some other time of day. If morning is the only time you can work out, then go to bed earlier, so you still get a full night’s sleep. Have a hard time falling asleep if you hit the hay earlier than midnight? Prevention has some tips for sleeping better starting with going to bed at the same time every night. It may take some getting used to, but once your body is accustomed to going to bed at that earlier hour, it will be easy to drift off within a reasonable amount of time.

Other sleep-better tips include

  • giving yourself a 4-hour buffer between working out and bed time
  • talking to your doctor about how your medications may be affecting your sleep
  • eliminating caffeine after 2 pm
  • plugging in a sound machine that emits soothing sounds such as rain falling, wind blowing, or white noise
  • turn off and block out all sources of light when it’s time for bed

Also, it can be helpful to develop a bedtime routine and stick to it. Going through the same motions night after night such as laying out your clothes for the next day, brushing your teeth and washing your face, and relaxing in bed for 15 to 20 minutes before lights-out will signal your body that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep.

Relax Yourself Off a Plateau

A few minutes of deep breathing or meditation is relaxing. It snuffs out stress and can help get you off a weight loss plateau.

Stress is often overlooked as a reason people hit weight loss plateaus, but it is one of the worst offenders because it affects your ability to sleep as well as sabotages your willpower when it comes to your diet. Prevention‘s solution is to take up meditation, citing a study published in Obesity Reviews that showed meditation had positive effects on all three types of stress-related eating: emotional eating, binge eating, and overeating. The recommendation when stress over anything including a plateau makes you think you want or need to eat is to take 5 minutes to empty your mind, focus on relaxing one body part at a time starting with your toes and working up to your head, and just concentrating on inhaling and exhaling fully and deeply.

Stay tuned–next week we’ll talk about an effective way to bust through plateaus.

The Truth About Detoxing for Health and Weight Loss

Garnish a detoxification smoothie any way you want–it might be healthy, but it won’t improve your body’s ability to get rid of toxins.

Everyone is detoxing these days, from the rich and famous to the guy next door. With promises of increased energy, rapid weight loss, ridding your body of nefarious “toxins,” reducing risk of disease, and improving the condition of your skin, the hype might make you feel like you’re missing out if you don’t jump on the bandwagon. Plus, there are about a million ways being offered to detox including detoxification drink recipes, body cleansing diets, and detoxing supplements that are supposed to work without having to go on a fast or drink green sludge.

An all-natural detox cleanse is especially alluring to those who have felt fatigued, sluggish, tired, and just icky overall for an extended length of time. The “all natural” part is surely healthy, right? And if all it takes to feel better and lose weight is to simply follow this diet for a week or whip up these smoothie recipes and drink them before each meal for a month, then it’s worth a try. The problem is, if the protocol doesn’t actually clean your system of toxins or result in lasting weight loss, then it really isn’t worth it.

The Argument for Detoxification

In addition to famous personalities, there are actual authoritative advocates of detoxification, and they all use health as their reason for doing a detox cleanse. They say that it’s vital to cleanse the liver and other organs of toxins that supposedly accumulate in your body and hinder weight loss and optimal health. These unnamed poisons are blamed for cancer and other diseases and even for keeping you from losing the extra weight you’ve been trying to shed without success.

The Studies Say…

A healthy body is programmed to detox itself without fasting or slurping detoxification drink recipes.

Since basic high school biology taught you that your liver and kidneys work like filters, it sounds plausible that toxins could become trapped in them like lint in the dryer. However, that is not really how it works. LiveScience explains that your internal organs don’t typically harbor toxins. Instead, your liver, for example, converts potentially harmful substances into ones that are water-soluble and sends them to be sweated or otherwise excreted out of your body.

Though the liver and kidneys of a generally healthy person do a bang-up job of detoxification all on their own, people with liver or kidney disease are exceptions to the rule. Additionally, if you constantly bombard your body with unhealthy food, drink, and habits, it will start to wear down your system and inhibit or entirely destroy its ability to effectively get rid of toxins in its own natural way. Still, an improved diet (which we will discuss in just a minute…) has shown to be more helpful for promoting health and optimal organ function than detoxing.

Some detox regimens do more harm than good, causing symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, nutrient deficiencies, and more.

In fact, most authoritative sources say that detoxification hasn’t proven to be effective. Additionally, a body cleansing diet may even cause risky side effects such as fatigue, low blood sugar, nutrient deficiencies, and fainting, according to Web MD and the American Council on Exercise. And what about the claims that fat cells supposedly store toxins and any weight loss due to a round of detox will burn toxins along with the fat? LiveScience weighs in on this issue, too, pointing out that the body’s natural detoxification process is not connected at all to burning fat cells.

What About the Testimonies?

Body cleansing diets make you feel great because they eliminate all the unhealthy elements from your diet.

Many people who have undergone detoxification swear by it and can’t wait to do it again. They claim to have more energy, feel more focused, and generally healthy overall after–and sometimes during–detox. Some even report rapid weight loss. So, how could all of the anecdotal evidence so starkly contrast with clinical facts? The Mayo Clinic says that the healthier, more focused feeling could come from the fact that detoxers have eliminated all the unhealthy elements from their diets such as fats, sugar, and highly processed foods. The diet could also explain part of the weight loss, but gaining the weight back is likely once the detox is over, and the regular diet is resumed.

A Detox Alternative

If all the facts have burst your bubble, there is an alternative to a short-term detoxification regimen that is actually more effective in keeping your body in working order for the long haul. It starts with understanding that a healthy body will take care of detoxing itself, so lifestyle has everything to do with making sure your organs are healthy enough to do what they’re supposed to. For example, Dr. Oz recommends eating foods that are rich in selenium for reviving your thyroid. The good news there is that you probably already eat a lot of them:

  • fish, including shellfish
  • meat such as beef, lamb, pork, and poultry
  • eggs
  • whole grains
  • sunflower seeds
  • Brazil nuts

 

Greens and cruciferous veggies, such as spinach, arugula, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli, will get your liver back on track. Omega 3’s and soluble fiber from oatmeal, citrus fruits, pears, apples, beans, and carrots will help with a cardiovascular “cleanse.” And, if you get your digestive tract working right, you won’t have to worry about cleansing your colon. Foods including Greek yogurt, whole grains (cooked), raw garlic and onion, and honey will do the trick to get your digestive tract on track.

 

cartoon

 

Once you’ve tweaked your diet to exclude the majority of unhealthy foods and include detoxing ones, you will have more energy. Put it to good use by adding exercise to your schedule to further keep your system working optimally and finally achieve sustainable weight loss. Don’t think you have time? The CDC says that, as long as you resistance train twice a week and get a total of 75 to 150 minutes of aerobic activity (depending on the intensity), you can divide it up any way you like, even if you get it in 10 and 15 minute increments here and there. If it improves your health and means not having to fast or down dubious drinks (even if they’re all-natural), it’s worth it!

The Surprising Miracle Health Drink That’s Been Around For Centuries

Good news for the day: coffee is no longer a guilty pleasure. Before we get too far into it, we have to point out that we’re not talking about foo-foo drinks masquerading as coffee. You know, frappucinos, those bottled “mocha” drinks, and the like. We’re talking about ground and brewed and doctored with a just a minimum of cream and/or sugar if you need them. Turns out, when it’s served in that form, coffee is almost a miracle drink.

Skip the foo-foo drinks and go for the real thing if you want to reap the health benefits of coffee.
Image by hirotomo t/Flickr

Research tends to ping-pong between showing something is healthy for you one year, and then recanting that to say that it’s deadly the next. The thing about coffee research is that it’s trending toward getting better and better. More benefits of the brewed beverage are being discovered all the time. That’s good news for the coffee-drinking public, considering that 400 million cups of coffee are consumed each day in the U.S., according to the Huffington Post. If you’ve been trying to quit coffee, under the misguided impression that it’s bad for you, you may want to reconsider.

Antioxidant Heaven

Drink up! No other dietary source comes close to the antioxidant content of coffee, giving your cells extra protection against free radicals. Image by ImmunoViva/YouTube

 

If you’re trying to get more antioxidants in your system, you can’t do better than downing a cuppa java. Medical News Today reveals that coffee is the top source of antioxidants, hands down. MNT even quotes Dr. Joe Vinson of the University of Scranton in saying that no other dietary source of antioxidants even comes close to coffee. BAM!

Live Long and Prosper

When you stumble into the kitchen and pour that first cup, your only thought is to get through the morning. However, drinking at least two and up to four cups of joe each day can add some years to your life and improve your health. According to Harvard Health, research has shown that consuming at least two 8 ounce cups of coffee per day resulted in 15 percent fewer deaths in women from all major causes including heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease and more. The study also showed a 10 percent death reduction in men from all causes. Plus, more is better, within reason. Research published in the British Medical Journal found that three to four daily cups of coffee offers the maximum health benefits in general.

Improve Endurance and Performance

Cyclists increased speed and endurance by drinking caffeinated coffee before riding.

It’s healthy and can lengthen your years, so you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that coffee can lend a hand with your workout. A study published on the PLos One site showed that cyclists who drank caffeinated coffee before a ride improved their endurance and were faster by about 5 percent. Caffeine does seem to be the key element in this study, as some of the participants drank caffeinated beverages other than coffee and got the same, impressive results. But that’s still good news for coffee-aholics.

The Disease Eliminator

One drink keeps numerous health issues in check.

No one is claiming that coffee is chock-full of nutrients. It isn’t the best source of vitamins and minerals though it does contain minimal amounts of magnesium and potassium. It’s actually a combination of the over 1,000 different substances it does contain — including but not limited to caffeine — that makes it useful to your health. Harvard Health lists disease-by-disease the numerous health conditions that are affected positively by coffee to include

  • Alzheimer’s
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Stroke

Drinking coffee can even lower your risk of some types of cancer including prostate and breast cancer. Additionally, a 2013 study showed that coffee drinkers who indulged in four cups a day had a 20 percent lower risk of developing UV-induced tumors, a.k.a. skin cancer.

Unleaded or Regular?

Removing the caffeine still leaves the majority of health benefits intact. Image by Amy/Flickr

Different people have different tolerance levels for caffeine. That’s why some can drink coffee right before bed and enjoy a full night of restful sleep and others can’t drink it after 11 a.m. without risking a restless night. Regardless of the rumors, water processed decaf coffee is a healthy alternative to caffeinated coffee. It’s true that even decaf contains a tiny bit of caffeine, but it truly is so miniscule that it won’t affect you. You won’t get the benefits from coffee that the caffeine specifically delivers, but the rest of the healthy elements are still there.

Drink Up!

Serve some java over regular ice or flavored cubes for a refreshing chilled drink.

There’s more than one way to serve a cup of coffee and, if the goal is to drink more of it to reap the health benefits and improve your workouts, you might want alternatives to a basic hot cup of go juice to add variety to your life. Iced coffees are a delicious way to down the drink for an afternoon pick-me-up or before exercise. Try mixing vanilla flavored protein powder with 8 ounces of coffee, a splash of skim milk and some ice cubes in a blender for a tasty coffee protein shake. Alternatively, try freezing up a tray or two of flavored ice cubes to pour chilled coffee over. Mix a teaspoon of cinnamon with 1 1/2 cups of almond milk, pour into an ice cube tray and freeze. Or, mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder with a 15-ounce can of coconut milk and a teaspoon of powdered sugar to make frozen chocolatey coconut cubes that will give your iced coffee a delicious candy bar flavor.

One Simple Thing That’s an Overlooked Weight Loss Secret

People often think that they need to make sweeping, massive changes in their lives to reach goals that they’ve set. It’s true that lifestyle changes are the best way to lose weight and get in shape, but you don’t have to do everything at once to start seeing results. If you were to ask, “What is the one thing I can do to lose weight and improve my health?” that would be tough to answer because the solution is different for everyone. However, there are simple, one-step strategies that have shown big results over and over, and giving up soda is one of them.

Giving up soda, or at least cutting down from three cans/day to one, will help you lose weight and improve your health.

 

It’s true, and recommending that people at least cut down on super-sweet, carbonated beverages is one of the top things personal trainers advise. Ditching the Dew is harder on some people than others. With the high caffeine and sugar content, they’ve essentially gotten themselves addicted though they’re not likely to get the dirty looks in public that smokers do these days. Still, whether or not you have to have it, saying “buh-bye” to soda offers a ton of health benefits, including serious weight loss.

First, a Word About Diet Soda

Diet sodas can be worse than regular sodas for your health. Image by Tony Webster/Flickr

Don’t be so fast to exclude yourself from giving up soda just because you’ve already switched to diet drinks. The data from a study conducted at the University of Texas Health Center at San Antonio showed that every diet soda a person drinks in a day makes them 65 percent more likely to gain weight to the point of becoming overweight, and 41 percent more prone to becoming obese.

Soda and Weight Loss

You’ll notice your clothes fitting a bit looser after you’ve given up soft drinks.

Another study tracked the soda-drinking habits of 1,177 subjects who either indulged in regular soda or diet sodas, and the results showed that drinking any type of soda was linked to weight gain. So, logically, swearing off the stuff, or at least cutting back on your current intake, should deliver weight loss results, especially if you replace soda with water which is calorie and sugar-free, and healthy for you for many other reasons. About Health spells it all out, giving the number of calories you will cut in a year and the potential weight loss you’ll see by eliminating soda. Depending on how much soda you cut out, it could be anywhere from just under 84,000 calories which could result in a 24-pound loss, up to nearly 210,000 calories and a 60-pound loss if you cut out 50 ounces of soda each day, which is the equivalent of a Double Gulp at 7-11.

The Heart of the Matter

The less soda you drink, the healthier your heart–and you–will be.

Soda is hard on your heart, and not just because it can cause weight gain. According to Medical Daily, soda-drinking participants in a Harvard University study had a 20 percent increased risk of heart attack. Plus, sodas raise your blood pressure and, the more you drink, the more it goes up.

It’s not just heart disease that increases with soda consumption, either. Healthy Holistic Living points out that, because soda can cause obesity, it can also be a gateway to many obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes and cancer.

This is Your Brain on Soda

Too much soda can damage nerve endings in your brain, and can cause impaired memory and affect your motor skills.

You might justify your morning, noon, early afternoon, and evening sodas by saying they make you more alert but, if you’re honest with yourself, you already know that any boost in focus and energy is short-lived. What you might not know is that soda is having a negative long-term effect on your brain. A study published in Neuroscience found that long-term consumption of sugary substances such as soda leads to impaired memory and learning. Additionally, the Alzheimer’s website TheADPlan.com outlines a study that linked soft drinks to increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.

What’s more, according to Prevention, diet soda alters brain chemicals and can damage nerve endings in the part of your brain that controls your motor skills. The damage can also result in migraines, insomnia, and anxiety.

Don’t Break a Hip–or Other Bones

Even drinking just one soda a day can weaken bones.

 

Researchers haven’t quite figured out what it is about carbonated beverages that affect bone health, but giving up soda will work in your bones’ favor and decrease your chances of suffering from fractures. Prevention Magazine talks about a study that found that for every soda a woman drinks in a day, her chances of postmenopausal hip fracture increased by 14 percent. That’s because, though the actual link between soda and bone health hasn’t been pinned down yet, it’s still a fact that women who drink soda have lower bone mineral density.

How to Kick the Habit

Replace your daily sodas with healthier alternatives such as coffee, tea, or flavored waters.

Maybe your spirit is willing to give up soda, but your flesh is weak. That’s not surprising, considering that HealthStatus says that the average American drinks about 2 quarts of soda per day. Just like any other addiction, though, it is possible to kick your soda habit if you set your mind to it…and if you know a few tricks that will make it just a little easier to curb your consumption. According to Prevention, addressing the craving in healthier ways will help you stay off the cola, and you could be soda-free and happy about it in under 2 weeks.

Some of the suggestions Prevention offers include:

  • Going for antioxidant-rich coffee or tea to give you the caffeine boost you crave.
  • Don’t risk a blood sugar drop that will have you jonesing for soda. Keep high protein snacks on hand and don’t skip meals.
  • Snack on soy products or naturally sweet treats such as berries, oranges, or dark chocolate to avoid the hormone fluctuations that drive you to drink soda.

And remember to increase your water consumption. Healthy flavored waters can be satisfying alternatives to soda that are far better for you. Yes, that includes flavor-infused sparkling waters, provided they don’t contain high levels of sugar.

Sleep and Recovery–ZZZs Please!

This week, TargitFit is pleased to bring you an informative health and fitness article by Kevin Graham:

Modern elite athletes are aware that physical conditioning and diet/nutrition are crucial for achieving their optimal fitness performance. More often than not, however, individuals will overlook an equally important training aid: their sleep. In the past, we previously discussed 7 tips for better sleep. Wonder why is sleep so important for active people?

Five Components of Athletic Readiness:

  • Nutrition
  • Hydration
  • Mental Preparation
  • Conditioning
  • Sleep

Five Impacts Sleep has on Athletic Performance:

  1. Improved Reaction Times
  2. Increased Endurance (short & long-term)
  3. Stronger Accuracy / Improved Timing and Reaction
  4. Fewer Mental / Human Errors (increased motivation, memory, focus)
  5. Reduced Chance of Injury

3 Ways to Increase Sleep Quality:

1–Establish and Revisit Familiar Routines:

Stretching, meditation, and yoga are active ways to relax the muscles as well as your mind. The fitness app Apptiv offers guided audio sessions that are easily followed on a phone from your bedside. Before turning in, always consider ways to physically and mentally unwind. Combatting a busy or wandering mind can be the recipe for better and longer sleep. Regularity around bedtime routines makes falling asleep feel more habitual rather than forced. For some people, it could be activities like reading or watching television while others prefer tea and a warm bath.

2–Supportive Sleeping Essentials:

Well-known statistics show that we spend ⅓ of our lives asleep. Unfortunately, we often spend far too many years on over-worn and overused mattresses. The design and technology behind innovative foam mattresses provide sleepers with zoned levels of support through thoughtful foam layering. Softer foam under your shoulders and firmer foam support under your hips/core helps to achieve balance and proper spinal alignment while you sleep. Along with support, a foam mattress is designed with materials that promote breathability which stay cooler at night. A cool yet comfortable temperature is an important part of being able to enter deeper stages of sleep and achieve the best quality of rest to take on tomorrow’s workout!

3–Optimal Sleep Temperature:

In general, the recommended bedroom temperature range is between 60 – 67 degrees Fahrenheit. To fall asleep, our body temperature decreases to initiate deeper sleep cycles. A thermostat set too high or too low can hinder one’s ability to get to get the restorative rest needed.

For more information on rest and recovery check out this savvy guide below:

Casper_sleeplikeachampion

Kevin Graham is a freelance writer from New York. He is a mindful individual who enjoys running as much as he loves relaxing. Kevin is focused on finding the ultimate balance in his day to day lifestyle.

Muscle-Making Minerals

07131801

Minerals are just as essential to building strong, healthy muscles as vitamins are.

Last week we discussed the importance of taking a quality multivitamin/mineral supplement for bodybuilders, and we listed the top vitamins for building a rock-hard, chiseled physique. While supplements you take should provide all vitamins and minerals for complete nutrition and good health, just as with vitamins, some minerals are more important than others for muscle building. This week we’ll explore these muscle-making minerals.

Metabolize with Manganese

Image by fdecomite

Manganese is a double-duty mineral, one that not only helps build muscles by metabolizing amino acids but also helps construct bones to support those muscles. Most quality vitamin and mineral supplements include manganese, but you can get it through your diet, too, when you eat whole grains, nuts, and legumes.

Iodine for Muscle Function

Shrimp and other seafood are good sources of dietary iodine.

There’s not a lot of iodine in foods though it can be found in seafood and, of course, iodized salt. It’s an essential mineral, though, one that affects muscle function and is important for thyroid performance which can affect your metabolism and ability to build muscle.

Double Down With Iron

A nice, lean steak along with a serving of steamed or raw spinach is a tasty way to get iron for building muscle.

Iron helps build muscles in two ways. First, it helps oxygenate muscle cells for growth and performance via the blood. Second, iron is a component in chemical reactions that help your body make amino acids and hormones, both big parts of muscle building. You can supplement it or focus on eating iron-rich foods such as red meat, eggs, and green veggies.

Potassium and Sodium

Potassium doesn’t taste as salty as sodium, and it balances out sodium’s effects on blood pressure.

Your muscles won’t perform optimally without these two minerals. Both potassium and sodium work to balance the fluids in your body, and are a required for muscle contractions. Though you might worry about sodium raising your blood pressure, Harvard Health says that potassium counteracts it and lowers blood pressure. When you sweat during your workout, you’re losing sodium according to IDEA Health and Fitness. Extremely high doses of either mineral can be dangerous, however, so don’t overdo them. Although most comprehensive supplements will provide some potassium, you won’t find any that include sodium. You can typically get that from your diet or even by shaking some salt over your dinner. Plenty of foods already contain potassium, though, including milk, fruits, meat, grains, and legumes.

A Triple-Threat for Your Foundation

Calcium is good for more than building strong bones–it also helps build muscle by facilitating muscle function and helping with hormone secretion.

Building a strong foundation to support your bodybuilder physique is important, and that is why, along with vitamins and minerals for building muscles, we are also listing ones that support your bones. Fluoride, calcium, and phosphorous are the top three minerals for building strong bones though they do have something to offer your muscles, too. Phosphorous plays a part in converting food into energy and helps transport nutrients in and out of your cells. And if you thought calcium was all about teeth and bones, think again. Calcium is necessary for muscle contractions and helps with hormone secretion, both of which are necessary for building muscle.

Magic Bullet?

ZMA

ZMA is a precise ratio of specific minerals and vitamin B that promotes muscle building in multiple ways.

If you haven’t heard of ZMA before now, pull up a chair. It is a precise combination of two minerals, zinc and magnesium, and our old friend from last week, vitamin B6. On their own, each does its part to keep you healthy and help build muscles but when the three are combined in a particular ratio, they create a super-supplement that has been reported to increase testosterone and IGF-1 (Insulin-like growth factor-1) which both result in increased strength and muscle mass, plus it improves sleep for enhanced recovery, according to ExRx.net. It’s true that there isn’t a ton of research on the supplement, but what’s out there is favorable. Even though your go-to multivitamin/mineral likely provides zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6, remember that a specific ratio of the three is needed to see results. Because ZMA is relatively inexpensive as supplements go and because no toxicity has been reported from taking ZMA, it wouldn’t hurt to add it to your supplementation regimen when building muscle and losing fat is the goal.