Author Archives: Lisa

What? Lose Weight Eating Carbs!

Carb-lovers take heart: Resistant Starch makes you healthier and helps you lose weight.

Dietary carbohydrates have been so demonized, admitting to your love of bread and pasta can make you feel like an addict in a 12 step program. If you’ve tried to go Keto or attempted Atkins, there was probably a point where you would have gladly bartered your grandmother for a baked potato or a bagel with schmear. Thankfully, Prevention has good news for carb-lovers, and it turns out it’s not all that new. Based on studies from 2009 that actually expanded on a discovery from the early 1980s, nutritionists are saying almost any carb can be manipulated into a type of carbohydrate that not only helps you lose weight but can also make you healthier.

The “RS” Factor

Amylose is RS’s secret weapon that makes carbs harder to digest. Image via NEUROtiker/Wikipedia

There are two types of carbohydrate molecules that make up any starch: amylopectin and amylose. Amylopectin is highly branched, and they’re the ones that affect blood glucose and insulin levels. Amylose, however, is linear and limited, and they don’t tend to digest so well. Actually, Amylose starches don’t fully digest in the small intestine, and it’s this resistance to digestion that has earned them the title of “Resistant Starches” (RS).

What RS Means for Weight Loss

RS makes you feel fuller, faster, so you’re less likely to overeat.
Image via Rob and Stephanie Levy/Flickr

Your body can’t absorb what it can’t digest, so foods with a high RS factor offer all sorts of benefits when it comes to weight loss. Prevention says Resistant Starch can be considered a dietary fiber and that it works like other fiber does, taking up room in your stomach to make you feel fuller faster so you’ll eat less. In addition to that benefit, RS has been shown to actually turn off hunger hormones, offering more help in eating less. What’s more, nutrients are released into the bloodstream at a slower rate after eating RS, so your appetite will remain stable.

According to Precision Nutrition, you’ll only use around half the calories per gram when eating RS versus consuming other starches. That means only 50 percent of the RS calories you eat will be absorbed by your body. Since you can’t digest RS, it gets moved along from your small intestine to your large one, where it ferments and creates butyrate, a beneficial fatty acid that programs your body to use stored body fat and recently consumed fat for energy. By making sure that as little as 5.4 percent of the carbs you eat are RS, you could burn 20 to 30 percent more fat after a meal.

RS Fights Disease

The butyrate that encourages your body to burn fat also protects the colon lining, so it hinders the absorption of things that can cause cancer and helps your colon resist DNA damage that can lead to diseases such as cancer. Also, the fermentation process that RS promotes encourages high levels of healthy bacteria in your gut which results in a strong immune system. Plus, when RS bypasses the digestion process, your blood glucose and insulin levels stay on a more even keel. That’s good news not only for diabetics who thought they had to say “buh-bye” to carbs but also for those concerned about heart disease caused by arteries clogging up and hardening when blood sugar and insulin levels get chronically high.

Making Starch Resistant

Slip some hi-maize fiber into your pancakes and other baked goods to up the RS factor.

Some foods already carry RS, such as whole grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables and fruits like bananas. The starch in certain foods can be manipulated, however, to turn it into RS, and the process is so simple you may already be doing it for some of the carbs you consume. Apparently, heating and cooling foods such as pasta, potatoes, rice, tortillas, and bread crystallizes part of the starch into RS. That doesn’t mean you have to eat your baked potato cold, but allowing it to cool off after dressing it and before you eat it will increase the RS. Freeze your bagels and bread (they’ve already been heated when they were baked), and run cooked pasta under cold water–the heating and cooling cycle is what transforms regular starch into RS. And, if you want to get even more RS in your diet, make pancakes and bake muffins using RS-rich flour in place of about 1/4 to 1/3 of the all-purpose flour called for in recipes. Just look for “Hi-Maize Natural Fiber” on the label.

The Super-Charged Super-Nutrient You’re Not Getting Enough Of

Think your diet is pretty healthy? If you’re eating the USRDA recommended daily amounts of the various food groups, then there’s a good chance you are eating healthy. However, if you aren’t making the right choices when it comes to some of the foods you eat, specifically in the fruits, vegetables, and grains categories, you probably aren’t eating as good as you think. The fact is, studies have shown that only about 5 percent of adult Americans get enough fiber in their daily diet. Because many foods contain fiber, you can’t exactly call it a super-food, but it is a super-charged nutrient that’s essential for health. Read on to find out why you need more of it in your diet and how to increase daily fiber intake to make your body healthier and even help with weight loss.

Benefits of Fiber

Sufficient fiber in your diet keeps the bacteria in your gut healthy–and that helps keep you healthy and trim.

So, here’s the odd thing about fiber: you can’t digest it, so your body doesn’t absorb nutrition from it. “Why should I eat something I can’t digest?” you may ask. Because your body can process it into something useful that has important health benefits. Fiber used to be categorized as either soluble or insoluble, but researchers have found that there are different sub-types including viscous and fermentable fiber, both of which your body is capable of processing. Those types of fiber get broken down in your system and can serve as food for the bacteria in your gut. If you don’t eat enough fiber, the “microbiome” in your intestines becomes imbalanced. The bacteria can begin eating away at the mucous lining of your stomach resulting in stomach and digestive problems and, eventually, immune reactions.

Remember, though, that a variety of different types of fiber is necessary for health, including the insoluble type. Even though your body can’t digest or process it at all, it’s still useful because it keeps your digestive tract clean. As it moves through your intestines, it activates movement of everything else, so nothing remains behind to keep your system from working properly.

If those benefits sound a little too vague to get you excited about dietary fiber, the Mayo Clinic points out that the fiber in oats, beans, and flaxseed helps lower cholesterol and can assist in keeping your heart healthy by also lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation. Soluble fiber also helps control blood sugar, making it useful for people with Type 2 Diabetes and even helping reduce the risk of developing the disease altogether. Plus, the Institute of Cancer Research reveals that fiber-filled fruits and vegetables can protect against various cancers such as:

  • colon
  • esophagus
  • larynx
  • mouth
  • pharynx
  • rectum
  • stomach

The Weight Loss Factor

There are numerous ways fiber helps you keep the weight off.

You may have heard that fiber can help with weight loss, but maybe you don’t understand how it works. Fiber tends to be low in calories, but it’s bulky, so it makes you feel full faster than less substantial foods do. Your body has to work at processing it—remember, some of it can’t even be processed!—so, you burn more calories when you eat fiber and it increases the amount of time your stomach takes to empty out. That means not only do you feel fuller after eating fiber, but you’ll feel fuller longer, so you won’t be tempted to snack between meals that include healthy amounts of fiber.

That explanation can sound like smoke and mirrors, but there’s more to fiber’s weight loss factor than trickery. One very specific type of fiber—glucomannan—has been shown to be exceptionally effective in reducing how much protein and fat your body absorbs. Plus, going back to those friendly little bacteria in your gut, studies have shown a link between obesity and decreased stomach bacteria, also finding that increasing dietary fiber to improve the microbiome in the intestines decreases obesity and risk factors for metabolic syndrome. Of course, you’ll get the best weight loss results if you not only increase your fiber intake but also shift gears on your overall diet to eat healthier along with increasing your physical activity, too.

Upping Your Fiber Intake

Mixing and matching fiber-filled foods is a delicious way to get more of the super-charged nutrient into your diet.

Yep, getting more fiber in your diet works to ward off horrific diseases and helps keep your weight down. So, how much do you need, and how can you make sure to get more of it each day? Basically, an adult should eat around 30 grams of fiber daily. While some people would like to think that’s as simple as taking a fiber supplement like Metamucil and not worrying about the fiber/diet/exercise factors, unfortunately, it’s not that easy. You may see some minimal results from supplements like those, but it’s better if you get a variety of different types of fiber from a variety of foods. The good news is, there are loads of delicious things you can snack on and use to prepare meals that contain fiber. Healthline lists over 20 of them, including:

  • pears
  • avocados
  • bananas
  • pears
  • pumpkin
  • beets
  • artichokes
  • legumes like lentils, garbanzo beans, split peas, and kidney beans
  • quinoa
  • whole grains
  • nuts and seeds such as almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and Chia seeds
  • sweet potatoes

Each food delivers a different amount of fiber, but it all adds up. The good news is that some of the tastiest nibbles contain the most fiber, such as oats (10.6 grams of fiber per 100 grams of raw oats), popcorn (14.5 grams of fiber per 100 grams of air-popped corn), and dark chocolate (10.9 grams of fiber per 100 grams of chocolate).

Get creative when thinking of ways to eat more fiber. Combine food and fiber types, like topping a banana yogurt smoothie with whole grain granola and nuts. Cook up a delicious pot of seven bean soup. Or, go gourmet with a savory plate of pasta smothered in a delectable fiber-packed sauce. There are so many options, you might forget you’re actually eating healthier.

Getting in Shape at 50: What’s Your Motivation?

The impossible actually happened: you got older. You used to be younger, faster, thinner, more muscular — a whole lot different than you are now. Maybe there was a significant event that knocked you off course, or it may have been a combination of different things. Whatever it was, it changed the You you used to know into an older, slower, out-of-shape You. Right around 50, many people take stock and are dismayed at what they see. Some aren’t sure what to do about it, so they go out and buy a sports car or get some “work” done. Others know what they should be doing, but have trouble getting started.

The Mid-Life Nudge

No doubt–that sports car is fun to drive. But it won’t get you in shape or improve your health.

Everyone evaluates themselves in mid-life. It’s your body’s way of nudging you, saying it’s time for getting back into shape. No, there’s no scientific stats to back that up, but think about it: the people who buy the sports cars or who opt for plastic surgery are looking for a shortcut to feeling good about themselves. The irony is that they know that working out is healthy for them and may even realize that it will make them feel great, but they want to pass Go and skip directly to the feeling great part without putting in the work.

You already know why working out is important, especially as you age. If you used to be fit in your youth, it’s frustrating to no longer have the drive and dedication for it now. Compared to the essentially indifferent feeling you have today about working out, it seems like you were a different person back then. But you were. When you were younger, your reasons and motivation for getting in shape were different. Other things were important to you. You didn’t necessarily do it to keep your heart healthy or to ward off diabetes or osteoporosis. You did it because it was a challenge, because it put you in control of how your body looked and, in doing so, made you feel great. Plus, you had the energy to do it. The thing is, all of those reasons can still hold true. You want to feel good about yourself again? That should be motivation enough. When it isn’t, set aside all of the reasons you “should” start working out again. Revert back to the reasons that resonated with you the first time working out.

The Challenge

Targit Squats (2)

Challenge yourself with alternative resistance training.

There’s no doubt about it. It’s a challenge to get back into working out when you’re knocking on 50 or are looking at that age in the rear-view mirror. However, considering it that way could be what is interfering with your motivation. The type of challenge you need is related to improving yourself — meeting a new goal or learning a new skill — rather than simply getting started again. IDEA Health and Fitness says that when people master something new, it’s more likely to motivate them to keep working out. This could be learning a new aerobic dance routine, signing up for jiu-jitsu classes, or setting a goal to run in a marathon next year. If you used to lift free weights and want to build muscle and strength now, learn a new technique with a different form of resistance, such as the TargitFit Trainer offers. Enjoyment and seeing results are two top  motivating factors so, whatever you do, make it something you’re going to like doing.

Lock in a Goal

There’s no turning back once you’ve locked in your goal.

While we’re talking about marathons and such, don’t just set the goal. Commit to the marathon or any other sports/fitness competition you’re interested in. Signing up gives you a deadline instead of leaving your goal open-ended. If you’ve already obligated yourself to run the race next June or to attend the regional jiu-jitsu competition in the fall, you know you have to get started and keep working at it to be ready to go when the time comes.

It’s important to make your goal health or fitness related, though. The problem with using a wedding or class reunion as motivation to get in shape is that people tend to stop working out once those events are over. When your goal has to do with your training, reaching that goal sets you up to continue the forward momentum. Once you run the marathon or place in the amateur masters bodybuilding or power lifting competition, you can start thinking about doing even better next year or competing in new contests.

Eat the Elephant

Getting back into working out is as easy as eating an elephant.

You know how to eat an elephant, right? One bite at a time. Take on your return to working out at the same pace. One step at a time. According to the Thought Catalog, sometimes it will go as slow as

  • deciding you’re going to work out
  • changing into your workout clothes
  • driving to the gym (or walking into your home gym, if you’re working out at home)
  • warming up
  • doing the first exercise, then the second, then the third, etc…

Often, even if it’s a struggle for the first four steps, by the time you do your first exercise, you won’t be resisting as much, if at all. The Thought Catalog also advises promising yourself that you can quit after 10 minutes of exercise if you’re still not feeling motivated. That’s kind of a dirty little trick because your endorphins will kick in, and you’ll usually start feeling pretty good before 10 minutes is up.

Finding the Energy

Eating foods with a low glycemic index keeps your energy up.

Much of the time, just the thought of working out is exhausting. If you don’t have the energy to get back in shape, make a few tweaks to your lifestyle. First, make sure you get enough rest. Everyone needs a different amount of sleep each night, but not getting your required amount will ensure you don’t feel like going through with it when it’s time to work out.

Adjust your eating habits, too. You don’t have to go on an all-out diet, just eat more foods with a low glycemic index, so you have the energy to work out. Harvard Health lists high-fiber veggies, whole grains and nuts (Brazil nuts, anyone?) to have a low glycemic index and reveals that protein and fat glycemic indexes rate almost at zero. Yep, that means exactly what it sounds like: fat is a better, more efficient food choice for energy than sugar.

Buddy Up

Having a workout partner gives you someone other than yourself to be accountable to.

If you really, really do want to start working out again, make a pact with a workout partner. Someone who has similar fitness goals and who will help keep you accountable to show up for workout dates. No fair turning off your phone or letting it go to voicemail! When you just cannot muster the gumption to put down the beer, get out of the easy chair, and get to the gym (or the track or the aerobics studio…) that’s when you need your workout buddy the most, so take his calls! Yes, his infinite enthusiasm is irritating, but payback is sweet revenge when he takes a turn at trying to ditch the workout. Make it interesting, if it helps. Anytime someone misses working out, they have to pay the other person $10. Or $50. Or $100. Whatever amount is low enough to be realistic, but high enough to hurt.

Important Things to Remember

If it’s been awhile since you were working out consistently, it might be a good idea to check with your doctor first, just to make sure you’re good to go. You won’t be able to jump right in where you left off, so take it easy and allow yourself to ease into working out again. Start slow and be mindful of your heart rate and how you feel physically, stopping if you recognize that you’re overdoing. Remind yourself how great you felt in those younger days when you did work out consistently. No, there’s no guarantees that you’ll feel 20 again, but you will feel better and that’s a fact. Set a goal to get three resistance training workouts in each week and 120 minutes of cardio, but be lenient with yourself. If you only do two days of resistance training and 90 minutes of cardio, you’re still doing fine according to the CDC. Just keep going, working out whenever and wherever it fits into your life and your schedule. Pretty soon it will be just another part of your life, like doing laundry or brushing your teeth. Just like it was back in the day.

Great Guns! How to Build Big Arms

Strike a pose: biceps are one of the most commonly trained muscles.

 

Everyone wants big “guns.” Guys showing off their muscles strike a double biceps pose pretty much every time. Often the pursuit of big arms results in the neglect of other, just as important, muscle groups. While it is essential to build all the muscles in your body, this particular post is for those who have been searching for the best biceps workout. The research has been done, the experts have weighed in with their advice so, here it is. Help for building bigger biceps.

What Works?

Get off the plateau–work your biceps more frequently to increase size.

First off, you know that building big arms requires attaining hypertrophy in your biceps muscles. You have probably read and heard a lot of different and sometimes conflicting advice on how to go about that. Thankfully, someone finally sat down to compare the studies and came up with a conclusion. According to Strength and Conditioning Research, hypertrophy occurs more readily for trained people when they exercise the muscles more frequently. That means if you are not a beginner but have been working out long enough to see results and have hit a plateau, you should benefit from changing up your regimen to work your biceps more than once a week. You will still need to allow days in between for recovery, but the increased frequency will get you back on the building track. Frequency does not appear to have the same effect for untrained individuals, however, but beginners should see results from as little as one arm workout a week because any increase in activity will affect untrained muscles.

The Best Arm Exercises for Biceps

Exercises that activate the long and short heads of the biceps are the ones that are most effective for increasing size.

Arm exercises that activate the long and short heads of the biceps brachii are the best for an effective biceps workout. Pretty much any move in which you bend and straighten your elbows will activate the biceps either directly or indirectly. Indirect exercises are essential for developing bigger biceps, but we’ll talk about those in a minute. It is the exercises that directly activate the biceps brachii by challenging them to pull weight that are most effective for building big arms. These include all manner of curls such as cable and barbell curls, concentration, incline, and preacher curls.

 

Concentration curls are the most effective biceps exercise for isolating and activating the long and short heads of the biceps brachii. Image via Howcast/YouTube

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) commissioned a study to determine which biceps exercise is the most effective, as well as how effective the others are. Dumbbell concentration curls isolate the biceps more than other curls and were found to activate almost 100 percent maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) in biceps. The big surprise? No other arm exercises come close. The nearest contenders are cable curls and chin-ups, activating a respectable but still not competitive 80 percent MVC. That does not mean you should shun all but those top three arm exercises. Most curls will still help you build big arms. Even the lowest on the ACE list, preacher curls, still activated almost 70 percent MVC in biceps muscles.

A Biceps Workout

bench press

The incline bench press may be a chest exercise, but it indirectly works your biceps by recruiting them as dynamic stabilizers.

As you increase weight to challenge your biceps, you run the risk of straining your joints and experiencing wrist and elbow joint pain. Stack‘s solution to this dilemma is to employ those indirect exercises we were previously talking about to work on building while giving your joints a rest. Since many upper body exercises indirectly work the biceps, the recommendation is to work arms alone or work them with legs on the same day. Doing an arms day plus a legs and arms day, and incorporating different arm exercises each time you do your biceps workout will give you the increased frequency you need to build biceps muscles. An example of a week’s worth of training might look like this:

Monday: chest and back

Tuesday: off or cardio

Wednesday: legs and biceps

dumbbell concentration curls

chin-ups–weighted

EZ curls, both wide and narrow grips

Thursday: off or cardio

Friday: shoulders and triceps

Saturday: biceps

dumbbell concentration curls

cable or barbell curls

incline curls

preacher curls

Personal trainer Jim Ryno spelled out his biceps workout in a past issue of Muscle and Fitness1. Naturally he recommends a variety of curls, but the especially useful takeaway is the method that he uses. Known as the 6/20 drop set, you use a heavy weight for your first set, one that limits you to no more than 6 reps. Then, with no rest in between, immediately do 20 reps with half the weight. You can rest 60 to 90 seconds–seasoned lifters know when to go again–before grabbing the heavier weight to go through another drop set. Do a total of 3 to 4 drop sets of each exercise.

Don’t forget the importance of hand grip exercises to improve your arm strength and performance for pretty much every arm exercise you do!

 

1Ryno, Jim (2015, October). Straight Up: Biceps. Muscle and Fitness, Volume 76/Number 9, page 108

 

7 Tips to Get Working Out When You Just Don’t Want To

Everyone has those days they just don’t wanna–and some have them more than others!

Guaranteed—everyone, no matter who they are, experiences not wanting to work out. From fitness models to powerlifters to couch potatoes, we all know what it feels like to not be in the mood to exercise. Then, the guilt, whether the reason is health-related or goal-related, makes things just that much worse. We waffle with giving ourselves permission to take a day off, then feel like slugs for not doing what we know we should. Active rest has its place in any fitness regimen, but it’s far different from not working out simply because you’ve grown bored or outright hate doing it. Often, the times you don’t feel like working out are exactly the times when you might need it most. When you can’t get on board with the Nike slogan, here are some hacks to get over the hump.

1–Don’t Force It

Find an exercise that makes you feel good enough to smile while you’re doing it.

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all exercise plan. People have different goals, different mentalities, and different abilities and limits. Lifehacker Dick Talens suggests you pick an exercise you’ll actually enjoy. If you love to run, do that. If you have fun doing aerobics, sign up for a class. If you’re just getting started, try walking in addition to an assortment of other solo activities and classes to see which activities you truly enjoy. Then, build your fitness regimen around them instead of trying to force yourself to participate in the latest fitness craze. If you like it, you’ll be more likely to do it on a regular basis instead of resisting and looking for excuses not to work out.

2–Set the Mood

Load up some tunes that make you feel like moving–then move!

Health.com recommends using music to condition yourself to workout, even when you’re not in the mood. Create a playlist of energizing, upbeat music and listen to it when you exercise. Whenever you get a case of the I-don’t-want-to’s, suit up in your workout clothes and pop your earbuds in. The combination of being dressed for the task and hearing the music will get you in the mood to sweat.

3–Incentivize Your Exercise

Treat yourself to something healthy and yummy for following through when you didn’t want to work out in the first place.

 

Whenever you feel like skipping a workout for no good reason, pick a reward that will entice you to get through exercising. It could be a whole wheat bagel and a light schmear, a non-fat latté from your favorite coffee shop, or that new pair of yoga pants you’ve had your eye on. Of course, incentivizing every workout can get a little spendy, but it’s an effective tactic for those days you just don’t feel like it.

4–Fuel Up

A wholesome snack replenishes your energy so you can feel like working out.

If you don’t feel like working out because of fatigue or lack of energy, you need to fuel up before exerting yourself. Have a snack to replenish your energy supply. Excellent pre-workout goodies include a protein shake, a hard-boiled egg and half a bagel, a pear and a tablespoon of nut butter for dipping, a handful of trail mix, or a yogurt topped with granola. About 30 minutes after your snack, you might be surprised to find that you actually do feel like working out. Also, remember to drink plenty of water during the day as well as during exercise. Dehydration can be another factor that makes you feel sluggish.

5–Change It Up

The library and YouTube are filled with videos of great workouts you’ve never tried before.
Image by FitnessBlender

Even if you’ve found an exercise plan you love, there are times when boredom kicks in and threatens to undo all the progress you’ve made. A great solution that you can implement immediately is to change up your routine. Do something different, like adding in an extra resistance training day at home or in the gym, or trying a kickboxing class. Heck, you can even check out some exercise DVDs from the library or find some on YouTube. If you don’t end up liking something, fine. At least you worked out when you didn’t feel like it. On the other hand, you might end up discovering your new favorite workout.

6–Phone a Friend

 

It’s a whole lot easier to do something you don’t want to if you have some support. When you feel a cop-out coming on, make plans with a workout buddy to exercise. Being accountable to someone else will ensure you show up. Plus, you’ll push each other to make it time well-spent. This is an exceptionally good tip for those who typically work out alone. Adding a partner to your exercise element is another way to change things up and make your workout more interesting.

7–Let the Dogs Out

When no humans on your contact list have time in their schedule for a workout, get some help from your true best friend. Playing with your dog is great exercise, especially if you take him for a walk or run. Prevention advises that even a game of tag or fetch can provide an effective workout. Don’t have a dog of your own? Borrow one or, better yet, talk to your local animal shelter about volunteering to walk shelter dogs.

 

The “Best” Workout Shoes Depend on the Workout

Old-school high tops have their purpose, but they aren’t appropriate for all types of exercise.

The adage to “dress for success” applies to everything you do–including your workout. Maybe we should say especially your workout. Not so much the clothing, though you do want to wear comfortable clothes that are light weight, allow your skin to breathe, and don’t interfere with movement, but it’s the shoes that really make a difference. Offering protection and support for your feet, the shoes you choose should provide a sturdy foundation for whatever exercise you do. With the innovations in athletic shoes over the years, the basic one pair of gym shoes for every activity is a thing of the past. You now have more choices than Keds or Converse, and you need to consider what your personal exercise routine involves when you pick a pair of workout shoes.

Weight Lifting Shoes

When you lift weights, your body has to support excessive loads that you don’t normally haul around during a typical day. That means you need weight lifting shoes that offer support without being too cushioned. Shannon Clark of BodyBuilding.com points out that those with weak ankle joints should look for shoes that extend up over the ankles for added support. You don’t want or need a lot of cushioning, either. Many weight lifting shoes are made with little or no cushion at all because too much padding in the insole makes for an unstable foundation. Wrestling shoes are often the gym shoes of choice for weight lifters because they’re kind of like high-tops but without the ample cushioning that basketball players need, plus the soles have traction to keep your feet from sliding when you lift. The one element that makes them less-than-perfect as weight lifting shoes is that the forefoot tends to be tapered, as many traditional shoes are. Nick Colas‘s article for BodyBuilding.com explains that your toes need to be able to spread out when you lift weights, to provide the most sturdy foundation possible. That’s why good weight lifting shoes are wider in the forefoot area than other gym shoes.

Barefoot shoes are a comfortable fad, but you won’t get much protection with them for weightlifting and they may not provide the traction you need, either.
Image via osseous/Flickr

Then there are the barefoot lifting and special weight lifting shoes that are designed to offer an experience as close as possible to lifting barefoot. Aside from freeing your feet up to do what they naturally do when you lift weights, the argument for barefoot lifting and minimalist weight lifting shoes is that they place your feet in a flat, or almost flat, position. That is supposed to allow you to muster the force you need to lift heavy. Also, if you’re lifting barefoot or in a barefoot shoe, there will be no cushioned sole to cause instability. Though barefoot lifting and minimalist shoes do have their devotees, Muscle and Fitness advises that those two options don’t provide much, or any, protection for your feet if a weight or bar is dropped. Also, you won’t have any traction in bare feet, and the flexible soles of barefoot shoes aren’t great at holding your feet stationary, so you won’t have stability with them.

Running Shoes

Running shoes are designed to provide comfort, support, and shock absorption during your run. The surface you prefer to run on may make a difference in which running shoe you choose.

High impact exercise such as running requires different things from a shoe than weight lifting does. Running shoes typically have thick, medium-firm soles and significant cushion inside to help absorb impact. Runner’s World offers up a few different areas runners need to consider when buying running shoes, starting with a snug heel that doesn’t slip. When your foot pushes off to propel you forward, your toes will need room to spread, so a forefoot area that is wide enough for your foot to move a bit from side to side is essential. The shoe’s upper should feel secure without putting pressure on your instep. Running shoes should flex in the same place your foot flexes, so test them by pressing the tip of the shoe on a hard surface such as the floor or a countertop to see where the natural flex point is. Runners put their shoes through a lot, requiring running shoes to be replaced more frequently than other types of athletic shoes. Web MD recommends dating your running shoes and keeping track of the mileage you put on them, then replace them every 6 months or 500 miles, whichever comes first.

Aerobic Shoes

Just like running shoes, aerobic shoes should have a wide sole and cushioning, but the placement of the padding is different.

Even low-impact aerobics subjects your joints to some level of force, so you’ll need shoes with cushion for shock absorption if you favor aerobic workouts. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your thickly padded running shoes can serve double duty. According to Happy Feet Podiatry Clinic in Napa, California, the majority of cushioning in running shoes is in the heel, while the cushioning in aerobic shoes needs to be under the balls of your feet. Aerobic shoes should support your arches without putting pressure on them, and the upper should be comfortable but provide support as well. The forefront of the shoe shouldn’t be tight, either, as you’ll be executing a number of lateral and side to side moves.

Cross Training Shoes

No one shoe is ideal for every workout, but cross trainers come close.

Many people enjoy getting their exercise through more than one means, and buying a special shoe for each workout may not be in the budget. That’s where cross training shoes come in. Designed to be worn for a number of different types of workouts, they are as close to one-shoe-fits-all-activities footwear as you can come. However, you’ll probably find that, although they get the job done, they aren’t ideal for every type of exercise you wear them for. LIVESTRONG explains that, though cross training shoes are breathable, their multipurpose design tends to make them heavier than you might want for some activities. They do have ample cushioning, though, and tend to have thick, wide soles that offer good support, stability, and traction.

When fitting any athletic shoe, your toes shouldn’t be crammed up against the front. Instead, make sure there’s about a finger-width of space to prevent irritation, injury, and discomfort. Also, shop for workout shoes in the afternoon or evening. Your feet swell over the course of the day, and they swell during exercise as well, so it’s best to try on shoes after you’ve walked around for several hours.

 

6 Simple Lifestyle Changes to Lower Blood Sugar

This week, TargitFit is pleased to bring you an informative health article by Emma Lymn:

Thanks to soda, junk food, and juices, the incidence of Type 2 Diabetes continues to rise. In fact, it’s gotten worse.

Today, we’re seeing young kids being diagnosed with the condition. And what was once a disease that only affected adults is now making its way to teenagers.

Type 2 Diabetes occurs when your blood sugar stays high for long periods of time. This happens because there’s too much glucose in your bloodstream.

Left uncontrolled, it can damage the vessels that carry blood to your organs, affecting the supply of blood they receive. As a result, it can trigger even more serious health problems in the long term, including heart and kidney disease, poor vision, and nerve problems.

To help prevent this from happening, here are easy things you can do to lower your blood sugar naturally.

1. Don’t Sit for Too Long

Most of us work behind a desk. That’s why the average person spends about 12 hours a day sitting down (1). If you spend 8 hours sleeping, that means 75% of the time you’re awake is spent seated.

That’s a bad thing.

According to a 2017 study, too much sitting or being sedentary increases your mortality. (2) In fact, those who sat more than 13 hours daily had a 200% higher risk of death compared to those who sat less than 11 hours a day.

This happens because prolonged sitting causes a host of health problems, including hypertension, high blood sugar, stroke, and heart attack. (3)

The good news is that standing up every few minutes or so helps. Research also shows that getting up and standing one and a half hours after eating lowers post-meal blood sugar by 43% compared to sitting down. (4)

Since the biggest glucose spikes tend to happen after you eat, enjoying a post-lunch or after-dinner walk is a good idea. Just getting up from your chair and walking will help prevent your glucose levels from spiking too much after meals.

2. Make Sure to Get 7 to 8 Hours of Sleep Nightly

Getting enough sleep also helps keep your blood sugar down. When you sleep, your body is able to repair and recover. Sleep also allows it to properly regulate your hormones. These are just a few of sleep’s many benefits to your health.

On the other hand, lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep has been shown to cause weight gain and increased blood sugar levels. (5)

That’s because it prevents your body from recuperating. It also disrupts your hormones which help regulate your appetite, insulin, and cortisol levels—all of which affect your blood sugar.

When your glucose level gets high enough, your kidneys will work overtime to flush it out by urinating. Thus, you’ll likely wake up in the middle of the night to visit the bathroom, which further interrupts your sleep.

To prevent this vicious cycle from happening, try to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. This gives your body enough time to fully rest and recover.

3. Keep Your Stress Levels Down

Deep breathing, meditation, and yoga help reduce stress which can, in turn, help keep blood sugar down.

Studies have shown that stress increases your blood sugar. (6) That’s because any time you feel stressed, your body goes into fight or flight mode. This is its natural way of preparing to react or protect itself in case there’s an emergency.

To do so, it increases the production of certain hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones cause your liver to secrete glucose into your bloodstream. That’s why you’ll feel a burst of extra energy and feel more alert when you’re stressed.

While it isn’t bad if it happens once in a while, being chronically stressed keeps your blood sugar elevated for long periods of time. Thus, increasing your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Since you don’t always have full control of things in life, stress is inevitable. Thus, the best way to help reduce it is to have a few stress management techniques you can turn to. Meditation, deep breathing, and yoga are just a few things that work well against stress.

4. Walk After Meals

In a healthy individual, blood sugar starts to rise about 10 to 15 minutes after eating a meal. It continues to do this for the next 2 hours or so.

How long it stays up and how high it goes often depends on what you just ate. The more carbs and sugar you consume, the higher and longer it stays elevated.

Unfortunately, large and prolonged glucose spikes that happen day in and day out are bad for your health because they increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes.

One simple way to reduce the magnitude of these spikes is to take a walk right after your meals. Research shows that walking 15 minutes after eating helps lower post-meal blood glucose levels. (7)

In doing so, it helps regulate your blood sugar and keeps it from spiking too much.

5. Keep an Eye on Your Coffee and Caffeine Consumption

Big coffee drinker? Find out how caffeine affects your blood sugar and adjust your consumption accordingly.

Caffeine, which is the main ingredient in coffee, affects people in different ways. For some, it can cause a short-term increase in blood sugar. For others, it has no effect on their glucose levels.

Meanwhile, some research suggests that long-term coffee consumption helps lower diabetes risk. (8) But, if you have type 2 diabetes, its effects can be more erratic.

So, if you drink coffee or consume other things that contain caffeine, it may be a good idea to see how they affect your blood sugar levels before making them a regular habit.

Here’s a simple way to test coffee’s effects on your glucose level.

  • When you wake up in the morning, don’t eat or drink anything. This ensures you’re on an empty stomach.
  • Take your blood sugar level. This will give you a baseline to compare after you consume a cup of coffee.
  • Next, it’s time to enjoy your cup of coffee. Ideally, drink it black so you don’t introduce other factors that can affect the results.
  • For the next 2 hours, don’t do anything that can affect your blood sugar. This includes eating, drinking, getting stressed or any kind of physical activity.
  • Once 2 hours are up, retake your blood sugar and compare the result with your baseline.

This will give you a good idea on how your body reacts to coffee and the caffeine in it.

  • If your blood sugar goes up, then you may want to limit how much coffee you consume in order to reduce the spikes that can occur after each cup.
  • If your blood sugar stays the same or drops by a little bit, then caffeine probably doesn’t affect your blood glucose.

6. Limit Soda, Juice and Energy Drinks

It’s no surprise that soda is packed with sugar, but there’s a lot of it hiding in “healthy” beverages like fruit juices and energy drinks, too.

Soda, fruit juices and energy drinks all taste great. They’re definitely more flavorful than water. But they also contain a lot of sugar.

Here’s a quick look at how much sugar your favorite drinks contain. To make it easy to compare, we’ve set all the drinks to 12-ounce sizes. (9)

  • Cola = 10.25 teaspoons of sugar
  • Orange juice: 7.5 teaspoons of sugar
  • Orange soda = 13 teaspoons of sugar
  • Sweet tea = 8.5 teaspoons of sugar

The problem here is that the American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of added sugar you consume daily to 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men.

That means drinking one 12-ounce can or bottle of these beverages will easily put you over the limit for the day once you add other foods or drinks you consume.

Closing Thoughts

By applying some or all of these simple changes to your current lifestyle, you’ll be able to improve your blood sugar levels and stay healthy so you can keep doing the things you love.

References

(1) https://www.juststand.org/the-facts/

(2) https://edition.cnn.com/2017/09/11/health/sitting-increases-risk-of-death-study/index.html

(3) https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/blog/sitting-with-diabetes/

(4) http://oem.bmj.com/content/71/2/109.long

(5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4394987/

(6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28244581

(7) http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2013/06/03/dc13-0084

(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20008687/

(9) https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/downloads/tip-sugar-in-drinks.pdf

 

Emma Lymn is the editor of Health Grinder, a health and nutrition blog. She is passionate about helping others learn to eat healthy and lose weight. A proud mom of two kids and a very spoiled dog, she enjoys traveling and volunteering in her spare time.

Strength Training After 40 — and Beyond!

Recently, we talked about losing weight and staying fit as we age. The earlier you start, of course, the better, but once you start aging, you’ll notice your body reacts differently to your workouts. Everyone is different, but typically it’s right around the 40-year mark that things start changing. You’ll notice that sore muscles last a bit longer and that you can’t increase the amount of weight you lift as much, or as often. If you’ve been lifting since your 20s, this might not be enough to discourage you. It can put a damper on your enthusiasm, though, if you’ve only been working out for a few years and suddenly develop difficulty with muscle aches and plateaus. The secret to strength training after 40 is to understand and expect the changes, and make accommodations for them.

Don’t Skip the Warm-Up

Get your blood flowing by running in place or doing jumping jacks.
Image via Jump Rope Dudes/YouTube

When you were younger and invincible, you probably did your first three sets of any given workout at about half of your maximum lift and considered it a warm-up. While a younger body can handle that, lifting light isn’t an acceptable warm-up for anyone. Warming up is supposed to do just that: warm your muscles to improve their flexibility and performance by getting the blood flowing. For those over 40, this part is vital for good muscle building workouts because, as Bodybuilding.com points out, older muscles and ligaments tighten up more and, therefore, are at a higher risk for injury. Spend 5 to 10 minutes jogging in place or on the treadmill. Alternatively, you can do 5 to 10 minutes of calisthenic-type exercises such as jumping jacks. Then spend a few minutes activating your muscles with some dynamic stretches such as leg lifts, walking lunges, arm circles and triceps stretches. Foam rollers are another effective way to warm up muscles and get blood flowing. Start every workout this way to get the most benefits of strength training without injuring yourself.

Ease Up

Pushing yourself to lift too heavy is an invitation for injury.

If you love the lift-heavy, low-rep routine you’ve been using for putting on muscle mass, it’s a good idea to back off of it once you hit 40. Whether or not you’ve recently started a strength training program, the Huffington Post recommends significantly reducing or altogether eliminating low-rep training because after 40 it’s more difficult to recover from lifting excessively heavy weights. Don’t fret that you’ll lose muscle mass. You can still maintain and even see some increases in mass by lifting moderately heavy, an amount that you max out on in eight to 12 reps. Three sets of 12 to 14 reps each are actually what personal trainers and sports specialists recommend for older lifters.

Adjust Recovery Time

Take a day off between workouts to give your aging muscles a chance to rest and recover.

You may have tried to ignore it but, after you reach a certain age, you’ll notice that it takes longer to recover from a workout. You won’t be doing yourself or your body any favors by trying to push through and forcing yourself to stick to the three days on, one day off lifting schedule you stuck to in younger days. Studies have found that taking 48 hours between training sessions is optimal for recovery. This could be structured as a one day on, one day off routine during the week that would also give you weekends off from working out. ExRx.net calls it a three day split: chest and back on Monday, legs on Wednesday and shoulders and arms on Friday. Go ahead and do extra cardio one day over the weekend if you absolutely cannot take 2 days off in a row. Just remember to give your body adequate rest and time to recover before hitting the gym again. After all, your muscles repair and grow when you’re resting, not when you’re working out. Muscle For Life even recommends taking an entire week off every 6 to 8 weeks after you hit 40.

Try Different Equipment and Workouts

back-biceps-abs

TargitFit makes it easy to quickly move from one exercise to another to perform HIIT or circuit training workouts.

It can’t be denied that there’s a distinct feeling of accomplishment when you pump iron. Here’s the “but” you know is coming: free weights put a load on your joints and tendons that may cause discomfort at best, or can cause lasting injuries at worst. Since you already mastered the iron, open your mind to alternative equipment. Health professionals suggest switching to bands. They’re a safer form of resistance at any age, especially if you’ve had an injury in the past, because they don’t place a potentially dangerous load on your joints. With the right equipment, such as the TargitFit Trainer, you can do pretty much any exercise you can with free weights and all without damaging your joints and tendons. Additionally, because it’s easy to move from one exercise to the next, you can perform HIIT or circuit training workouts with the TargitFit. These types of workouts get your heart rate up, so they’re good for improving your aerobic capacity. Plus, they’re also good for muscle mass growth. According to Dr. Mercola, burst-type high-intensity exercises promote human growth hormone that encourages muscle growth.

The Amazing Muscle Recovery and Pain Management Tool You’re Not Using

Are you one of the many who have written off foam rolling as just another exercise fad? It’s understandable. You look at that rigid foam cylinder and wonder how rolling it under various parts of your body could possibly do anything for you. That’s the problem with judging books by their covers. It’s the same way with the TargitFit Trainer. You can’t even begin to imagine what an incredible workout you’ll get on it. You have to jump in and give it a try. But, I digress…

If you suffer from tight muscles, impeded range of motion, neck, back, or leg pain, or trigger-point sensitivity otherwise known as knots in your muscles, you should try foam roller exercises. We’ll quote some of the research and benefits below, but personal experience reveals that you’ll feel so much better after just as little as a 5-minute session, you won’t hesitate to add a foam roller to your regular routine every time you exercise.

How Does it Work?

If you’ve never had a really good deep-tissue massage, then you probably won’t understand what foam roller exercises can do for you. However, if you’ve experienced the bliss of a skilled massage therapist working the knots out of your muscles—and aches and pains along with them—then you’ll get the picture. It’s the same type of myofascial release, but it’s DIY.

Although the roller is made of foam, the material has very little give. As you roll it under your body, gravity works with your body weight and the ultra-firm roller to essentially massage away tension, relax your muscles, and alleviate joint stress and muscle tissue soreness. In fact, the benefits of foam rolling also include:

  • breaking up scar tissue and lengthening muscles
  • decreased muscle tension
  • correcting imbalances in muscles
  • increasing range of motion
  • improving circulation for better neuromuscular efficiency

What’s more, studies have also found foam rolling to be useful for aiding recovery after intense exercise as well as increasing muscle activation and even vertical jump height (!).

“Yes, but how does it work?” you may be asking. Just like with massage, foam rolling gets your blood flowing, bringing more oxygen to the muscle tissue to help it repair and work properly. Also, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, the pressure deactivates undue muscle spindle activity that causes muscles to tense, shorten, knot up, and become imbalanced.

Real Results

If you’re still skeptical and wonder how well foam rolling could possibly work, would you believe a personal testimony? After a recent chiropractic adjustment and wearing a soft collar failed to provide lasting relief from pain in my neck, shoulders, and upper back, I found a YouTube video demonstrating a couple of foam roller exercises for those specific areas and gave them a try. OMG doesn’t even describe how I felt after spending less than 10 minutes doing the exercises. It alleviated my pain for the rest of the day and increased the range of motion in my arms and neck—I could finally turn my head to look to the side, lift my arms over my head, and my fingers aren’t numb or tingling! The level of excitement over those seemingly small accomplishments should tell you what kind of pain and restrictions I’d been living with.

Full disclosure, the pain and restricted mobility came back the next day, but not as severely. So, 2 days after first trying foam rolling, I went through the exercises again and then performed a 20-minute yoga routine for stress-relief. It was the first time I’d been able to exercise in a week. The result was another pain-free afternoon and evening and I still feel great. The ultimate result? I’ll be starting all my workouts—yoga, resistance training, and even cardio—with foam rolling as part of my warm-up routine. Also, I will still visit the chiropractor and massage therapist as needed but, if these early indications end up being long-term benefits, that “as needed” basis will probably be less frequently than it has been over the last few years.

Miraculous Foam Roller Exercises You Should be Doing Right Now

By now, you get that I consider roam roller results to be magical. When you live with restricted mobility and a lot of pain, and something can take that away immediately, how else can you describe it? Still, before we turn you lose with a handful of foam roller exercises, there are a few things you should know. First, there are different sizes of foam rollers with different diameters and lengths. Smaller rollers are easier to transport and store and are good for targeting specific body parts. Larger rollers, however, are still pretty useful for most areas of the body and are especially good for larger muscle groups like your back or leg muscles.

Super-firm rollers or ones with ridges might be a little hard-core if you’re new to foam rolling. Opt for a softer, smooth roller at first to avoid discomfort.

You can get foam rollers with different firmness levels, too. Women’s Health warns that firmer rollers provide deeper pressure, even to the point of pain, if you’re not careful. I’ll admit: my first experience did include a little pain. My roller is quite firm and there are two smooth sides alternating with two sections of grooved ridges. But I adjusted, limiting the amount of pressure I allowed my body to create and using the smooth sides when I was doing the exercises on my ribs and lat muscles. Approaching it mindfully, my foam roller session went from “ouch!” to “hurts so good!

Up front, you should know that it’s advised not to use foam rollers to apply direct pressure to your spine, including the cervical area that makes up your neck. Also, don’t rush things. Time magazine points out that of all the studies done on foam rolling exercises, the ones that had the best results were those in which participants spent 90 seconds or more on each individual exercise.

The exercises that are most often associated with foam rollers tend to be for the legs such as:

glutes…

…quads…

…hamstrings…

…IT bands…

…and calves.

However, the exercises I found work great on the upper back and shoulders, including the area between the shoulder blades. Here’s that awesome sequence that worked wonders for me:

There are also roller exercises that target the lower back:

And, although you’re not supposed to use rollers directly on your cervical spine, there are ways it can be used to increase mobility and alleviate pain and tension in your neck:

Foam rollers…who knew?

Losing Weight and Staying Fit as You Age

Ironic, isn’t it? The only constant in life is change…and the most annoying constantly changing thing is how your body deals with fitness and weight issues as it ages. Wouldn’t it be great if in your 30s and 40s you had the same energy and drive that kept you almost effortlessly fit in your 20s? And wouldn’t it be just as wonderful if the exercise routine and eating habits that you finally found to in your 30s and 40s still worked at 50 and beyond? We wish there was some good news to share here about how to keep the status quo working but, unfortunately, that’s not how human bodies are built. The best thing you can do for weight loss and fitness as you age is to embrace change. Acknowledge you’re going to have to adjust how you do things and get on board whole heartedly.

Keep Exercise in the Plan

Weight gain with age is a vicious cycle. Your metabolism slows down and burns less calories and your energy levels drop. The right foods may give you more energy, but you won’t typically be able to eat as much as you used to and still maintain or lose weight. That’s why, although diet does play an important part, physical activity is the key for most health issues throughout any phase of your life, but especially as you age.

Resistance training is essential throughout your lifetime.

Resistance training, specifically, is as close to the magic bullet as you’ll find. Studies have shown that it increases lean body weight and the metabolism, reduces fat, improves balance, motor control, and cognitive abilities. Exercising with resistance training can improve blood pressure, keep your heart healthy, bring down your cholesterol, and increase bone density. Plus, it helps manage chronic illness such as diabetes much better than medication does.

There’s no form of exercise—resistance or aerobic—that’s one-size-fits-all. What works for you might not work for someone else, and what the other guy swears by might not be enjoyable enough to you to keep you motivated and coming back for more. The answer to that is to try different forms of exercise. Changing things up is an effective strategy any time, but particularly as you age because it forces your body to switch gears and start burning calories again. Move as much as possible in general, such as pacing the room whenever you’re on the phone or jogging in place during every commercial break while you’re watching TV. But also schedule actual workouts into your weekly routine.

In 2018, the CDC updated their physical activity guidelines. Although most of the basics remained the same, such as working out with resistance twice a week and averaging about 150 minutes a week of aerobic exercise, there’s now some additional guidelines for older adults. In general, the guidelines encourage maintaining exercise throughout your lifetime but paying attention to your health and your body’s cues so you can stay as fit and healthy as possible without overdoing it and risking injury or wellness. That boils down to an important takeaway: know how to listen to your body and recognize your limits, but push yourself right up to those limits rather than using them as an excuse not to exercise.

The Diet Connection

You’ll need more fruits and veggies as you age and less protein, but a healthy weight always boils down to balanced nutrition.

Even though trying to control diet alone isn’t enough for successful weight loss at most ages, it’s still an important enough factor that you should never feel free to eat as much as you want. When you’re young, a lightning-fast metabolism might make that possible, but it’s a hard habit to break when your metabolism changes. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has a cool little tool that helps you determine how many calories you need to eat each day to lose or maintain weight based on all the factors that matter. Pair it up with the My Plate for Older Adults (yes, your nutritional needs along with your calorie requirements change as you age), and you’ll have a formula for successful weight management no matter how old you are.

Meals are another time when it comes in handy to be in touch with your body. How do you feel after eating a high-protein meal? Or after one loaded with carbs? Federal guidelines are generalized and work for most people but if you find you don’t feel all that great when you eat a lot of meat, cut back. Try a few veggie meals each week, but supplement with amino acids and don’t shy away from plant protein—researchers have found that eating a variety of plants known for supplying protein like grains, beans, nuts, tofu, and legumes, throughout the day is sufficient for meeting nutritional protein needs.

And, just because you’re aging, that doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself. Naturally, you’ll want to keep a closer eye on your salt and sugar intake, especially if you have issues with diabetes and blood pressure. But allowing yourself to indulge now and then won’t derail your whole weight control and fitness plan. In fact, cheating can help you stick to your diet by keeping you from feeling deprived and giving you something to look forward to.

Looking and feeling good is possible no matter where you are in life–not “for your age”–but in spite of it!

Above all, take it all one day at a time. Move around. Schedule exercise onto your calendar and stick to the plan as much as possible. Eat healthy most of the time but allow some leniency for a treat on a regular basis. Then do it all over again tomorrow—and the next day and the next. Pretty soon, you’ll notice some changes have taken place and the best part will be how great you look and feel—not “for your age” but regardless of it.