The Truth About Gluten

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Last week’s article covered the myriad reasons not to go gluten-free if you don’t have to. Other than the high cost of specialty gluten-less products, cutting food groups from your diet isn’t healthy. Considering less than 7 percent of Americans have legitimate health issues with gluten, that means the majority of people who’ve jumped on the gluten-haters bandwagon are self-diagnosed. Their reasons for cutting gluten range from being “joiners” who feel the need to go along with everyone else, to “experimenters” who want to give the gluten-free lifestyle a try. When asked why they follow a diet that excludes many foods if they don’t have to, many respond that they felt better after giving up gluten, so they just assumed that it was a smart choice for them. Therein lies the aha moment

In researching the gluten issue, I came across loads of message boards on which people who claimed to be gluten-sensitive all had the same puzzling experience. Though they got headaches, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal distress when eating wheat products here in the U.S., they all gave in to the temptation to indulge in the irresistible crusty breads, fresh pastas, and flaky pastries when vacationing in Europe. To the surprise of the vast majority, these splurges didn’t end up causing the health issues they were used to experiencing back home.  Researching the possible cause has resulted in four explanations.

All Wheat is Not the Same

First, there are multiple classes of wheat, and five major ones are typically planted in the United States. Of those, hard red winter and hard red spring wheats make up the majority of America’s wheat crops. Those classes were developed to be able to be heartier so they could be planted in off-seasons, allowing wheat to be grown year-round. This small and harmless tweak to wheat genetics increased the gluten content in those hard wheat types. For American bakers, that was seemingly a good thing, as more gluten means softer bread doughs that rise higher. That’s why the two hard red wheat types are used in the majority of bread products produced in the U.S. However, here’s where we come back to the advice we’ve given over and over: most things in moderation are perfectly safe and healthy but in excess, anything, including drinking water, can become dangerous and even deadly. Over years of eating foods with high levels of gluten, it’s no wonder that many people have developed health issues related to it.

What does that have to do with European baked goods? Most of the wheat grown in Europe is soft wheat, so it contains lower levels of gluten. Additionally, many European farmers cultivate heirloom wheat. It’s not the variety that makes this type of wheat special, though heirloom wheat tends to fall into “soft” classifications. Instead, it’s that heirloom wheat hasn’t been tampered with—it hasn’t been engineered or modified to grow in difficult climates or during off-seasons, a factor that has affected gluten levels and, apparently, digestibility.

Whole Wheat Toast, Hold the Pesticide

Then there’s the toxicity issue. Non-organic wheat in the U.S. is saturated in pesticide before harvest. Yep, the wheat that makes your hot dog buns was drowned in Roundup before it was made into flour. The ingredient in Roundup (glyphosate) that kills insects is supposedly safe for humans and animals. However, studies have found a link between the increased use of glyphosate and an escalation in gastrointestinal disorders. Though dousing wheat crops in Roundup is business as usual in America, many European countries and cities have banned or restricted its use, so the flour made from European wheat, whether it’s heirloom or not, is healthier for eating from the start.

What’s more, domestic wheat that claims to be pesticide-free isn’t necessarily safe. Part of the genetic engineering U.S. grains have undergone include injecting a gene that produces glyphosate–the exact toxin in Roundup that kills insects. That makes the crops “naturally” resistant to insects, but essentially makes the poison a part of the food that makes it onto your table. Again, although glyphosate supposedly doesn’t affect humans, doctors have found a rise in gastrointestinal issues, such as intestinal permeability, that coincides with the increased use of Roundup.

The Ultra-Processing Piece of the Puzzle

Eating ultra-processed foods has been found to affect your brain’s wiring–literally changing how you react to food, interfering with signals between your stomach and your brain and making you want to eat more and more.

The final piece to the puzzle is that many foods tend to be fresher and undergo less processing in Europe. First, the flours aren’t as processed and don’t contain any additives to extend their shelf-life. What’s more, not only are the flours made from soft wheat that hasn’t been doused in poison, but the breads, pastries, and pastas European flour is used in are made to be consumed immediately. They don’t contain the additives and preservatives that make U.S. wheat products last for a year or more. Don’t think that’s a big deal? Well, considering recent research points to ultra-processing as the real culprit in the obesity epidemic, we should all think again.

A nutrition researcher working for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recently published results of experiments that found that eating highly processed foods interferes with the signals your stomach sends your brain. Essentially, your brain doesn’t get the message that you’re full, so you tend to keep eating. And, other researchers have discovered that eating a lot of ultra-processed foods can end up changing the way your brain is wired, changing your sensitivity and reaction to food. On top of not recognizing that you’re full, you also don’t feel satisfied, so you keep on eating. While those studies may not explain a seeming gluten sensitivity, they do explain why, at least in the United States, bread, pastries, pasta, and other wheat-based, carb-laden foods make you gain weight and make it even harder to take it off.

Also, on a quick aside, ultra-processed foods can cause a spike in blood sugar levels. It’s one of the reasons why people turn against carbs and gluten when they go “keto” or go on other low or no-carb diets. However, European flour made from heirloom wheat and with minimal processing and little to no additives doesn’t interfere with ketosis, so your body can still burn stored fats for energy if you don’t overeat.

A Viable Solution

When you make your own baked goods, you control what ingredients go into them so you know you’re not getting toxins or excessive levels of gluten.

So, what’s a red-blooded American bread-lover to do, especially if you’re not planning on visiting Europe soon? The solution is fairly simple but, like any diet or exercise plan, it takes commitment. First, if you’re not already a label reader, become one now. At the very least, look for organic, non-genetically modified foods when shopping for domestic products. Alternatively, you can buy imported pastas made in Europe. Sometimes you can get them from a local store, but they’re readily available online. Read the label to see that what you’re buying is a product of Italy. The same goes for some cookies and pastries made in Belgium and other European countries. You may find the shelf life isn’t as long as similar American products, but your body will thank you for that.

No, you probably won’t be able to get imported bread, rolls, or pizza dough. This is where the commitment comes in because if you don’t want to give up bagels, bread, muffins, and cake, the best alternative is to make them yourself using Italian flour or other imported flour. It isn’t as cheap is domestic flour, but it’s massively less expensive than gluten-free flour. It will have a much shorter shelf life than that 50-pound bag of hard-wheat flour you got at the grocery warehouse, so just store it in the freezer. The slightly higher price tag is more than worth it for healthier, delicious fresh-baked bread and pastries that your body knows how to process.

Of course, homemade treats also do not last as long as highly-processed baked goods you buy at the store. A loaf of bread may start to taste stale after 3 days and will start to grow mold by day 5 or 6, depending on how humid and warm your house is. The logical solution is making only what your family will consume in a week’s time, but it’s likely that you will have more than you can eat from time to time. Again, your freezer is the answer. Freeze bagels and extra waffles or muffins immediately and put uneaten bread in the freezer by the third day. Baked goods won’t last forever when frozen, but the process cuts down on waste and gives you a chance to eat your healthy homemade food at a more leisurely pace. If you’re tempted to binge-bake and freeze it all, go ahead, but don’t make more than a month’s supply of anything. Helpful hint: bread will dry out if left in the freezer too long, but the texture is perfect for delicious baked French toast.

Try it Yourself

Even if you’re skeptical, why not try baking with European flour for just a couple of weeks? There’s no comparison for the flavor. Homemade simply tastes better, so you’ll at least appreciate that. But don’t be surprised if eating food made from European flour can satisfy you without making you feel bloated, causing stomach upset, making your joints ache, or causing any of the other effects you may be attributing expressly to gluten. Also, you’ll find the doughs easier to work with. One result of using flour with a lower gluten content is that it isn’t as sticky. That means you won’t need to use much more flour than the recipe calls for when working with bread dough or rolling out pie crusts, rolls, cookies, or pizza crust. In fact, I’ve started home-making pasta again. I’d become frustrated with the pasta dough made from domestic flour getting stuck in my pasta maker but dough made with Italian flour and semolina goes through the machine easily without sticking.

Now that you have the facts and first-hand accounts, you can make up your own mind. If you are celiac or have been officially diagnosed with gluten sensitivity, sorry, the solutions outlined here aren’t for you. Any amount of gluten, even if it’s from European wheat, can be dangerous to your health. For others, if your body handles domestic wheat and flour products okay, that’s great. No changes need to be made. On the other hand, if you’ve resorted to avoiding gluten because you suspect it’s affecting your body and health in negative ways, your wish to eat bread, pasta, and cake again may just have been granted.

Gluten Free?


Gluten-free is probably the most misunderstood and misused diet currently being followed. Yes, there are people who, for medical reasons, truly should avoid gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and related grains, but the percentage of them is extremely low. Besides, most people don’t even understand what gluten is or why they’re avoiding it. Don’t be so quick to get on the gluten-free bandwagon if you haven’t been officially diagnosed and advised by your doctor to do so. Your body requires nutrition from all the food groups, even the biggest sources of gluten, grains and carbs. So, if your plan is to diet healthy, it doesn’t make sense to embrace a diet plan that forces you to cut out entire food groups. It’s not a smart way to diet, and it can actually be detrimental to your health.

Not the Quick Weight Loss Diet You Think

Gluten itself doesn’t necessarily make you fat, but many gluten-free foods contain extra sugar, fat, calories, and other ingredients that will add pounds on the scale.

If you think gluten-free is a viable quick weight loss diet, you’ll probably end up disappointed. Sometimes a gluten-free diet plan will have positive effects initially, but much of what you see is a result of the changes you make in general. Your body is shocked by having to do things differently, processing more or less of certain nutrients and the response can take the form of modest weight loss. Additionally, a diet plan that has you eliminating carbohydrates will definitely bring early results if you’ve been eating like a carbo-holic most of your life. However, Medical News Today and Consumer Reports both say a gluten-free diet can actually thwart weight loss goals and lead to weight gain because gluten-free products often contain more sugar, fat, calories, and additives than regular food.

Other Nutritional Issues

Without a healthy, balanced diet that includes grains and carbohydrates, you could develop a nutritional deficiency.

When you adjust your diet to go gluten-free, you give up a lot of nutrients that you get from a healthy diet, according to Web MD.  These include:

  • calcium
  • fiber
  • folate
  • iron
  • niacin
  • riboflavin
  • thiamin

So, you could end up with a vitamin or mineral deficiency if you opt to go gluten-free without the medical need to do so.

On top of developing a nutritional deficiency, a gluten-free diet can interfere with your efforts to maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. According to Medical Daily, studies have shown that gluten has positive effects on triglycerides and blood pressure. Plus, gluten helps sustain the healthy bacteria your digestive system needs. That means that if you don’t have a true health issue with gluten that causes gastrointestinal distress, going gluten-free could cause you to develop those symptoms anyway.

Gluten-Free and Old Lace

Web MD reveals that all rice has some level of arsenic contamination — and “healthy” brown rice has more than white rice!

You don’t mind a little arsenic in your diet, right? Hopefully not, especially if you’re going gluten-free. Consumer Reports tested over 60 gluten-free products and found measurable quantities of arsenic in nearly every one of them, reporting that many contained “worrisome” amounts in inorganic form. The reason for the high levels of arsenic is because rice, usually in the form of rice flour, is often used in place of wheat products in gluten-free foods. Since all types of rice have some level of arsenic contamination, eating those foods daily could put up to 10 times the quantity of inorganic arsenic into your diet than is considered “safe.” Just one more reason not to give up gluten if you don’t have to.

Let’s Talk Sensitivity

“Yeah, but there really is a medical condition that requires patients to avoid gluten!”

Absolutely. There’s no denying that people who have celiac disease must avoid gluten because it causes their immune systems to attack the lining of their small intestines. Medical News Today reports that the condition inhibits the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and typically results in anemia and causes unpleasant symptoms such as bone pain, rashes, and diarrhea. Here’s the thing, though, the really big thing: Web MD says that only about 1 percent (!) of Americans actually have celiac, and less than 7 percent have true food sensitivity related to gluten. If you are in the elite percentage, that kind of “luck” with the odds suggests you might want to invest in a few lotto tickets. If you haven’t been diagnosed with it, though, there’s no real reason to kick gluten out of your life.

There are those who haven’t been officially diagnosed with celiac who claim to have a “non-celiac gluten sensitivity.” An interesting study was conducted, however, by a researcher, Professor Peter Gibson of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, who had previously published findings that seemed to prove the validity of non-celiac gluten sensitivity. According to Real Clear Science, Professor Gibson was puzzled by the absence of an explanation of what it was about gluten that supposedly caused the sensitivity, so he conducted a follow-up study.

In the second study, the subjects were fed three diets with differing levels of gluten, from low to high as well as a placebo diet. They weren’t told which diet they were on at any given time, but everyone reported an increase of symptoms on all the diets, even the placebo diet. So, the conclusion was that gluten did not elicit specific negative responses and that the gastrointestinal distress reported by the subjects had no apparent physical cause. That’s why responsible experts recommend not buying into the gluten-free-is-best premise. Foods other than gluten can cause similar symptoms and, if you’re convinced that you really do have an issue with gluten, you’ll be unlikely to get to the bottom of the real problem and get it treated.

Dinner costs a whole lot more when you have to shop gluten-free.

We haven’t even touched on the issue of the astronomical price tags on gluten-free foods, yet another strike against the anti-gluten movement. If you’re not truly celiac or gluten sensitive but simply avoid gluten as a lifestyle choice, you’re likely paying more than necessary to dodge gluten.

All of that said, elevated levels of gluten in wheat products may be an issue worth examining, as it is the excessive amounts in certain types of wheat that seem to cause problems for people who are non-celiac. Stay tuned. We’ll take a look at that issue next week.

Kicking up Weight Loss with Keto and CBD

This week, TargitFit is pleased to bring you an informative diet/health article by Kim Torres:

New diet and exercise fads tend to come and go in the blink of an eye, and by the time you make a decision to commit to following a specific food and exercise plan, the next bigger and better weight loss trend is already the talk of the town. More well-known diets are the Atkins Diet and the Paleo Diet and of course, let’s not forget fasting and juice cleanses. But one particular diet that continues to be used to improve your health and consistently help you lose weight is called the Ketogenic diet.

But fans of the Keto diet are not always content with just sticking to their high fat, low carb eating regimes, and many avid followers of this controversial eating program are now complementing their strict Keto diets with CBD tincture for an increased boost when it comes to health and weight loss. CBD has become one of the most talked-about healing remedies in history and it is thought to be even more effective at treating a range of physical and emotional issues when paired with a healthy diet and exercise.

Why Is The Keto Diet Good For Weight loss?

The Ketogenic diet, or Keto diet for short focuses on a high intake of fats alongside consuming minimal amounts of carbohydrates. Low carb diets have risen to fame thanks to the Atkins Diet, which helped hundreds of thousands of people worldwide shed those pesky extra pounds. When your carbohydrate intake is dramatically reduced, your body turns to fat instead of carbs for energy, and you enter the metabolic state known as ketosis. This is what makes your body start burning fat and converting it into useful energy. Additionally, the liver converts fat into ketones that fuel your brain functioning.

Which Foods Are Permitted On The Keto Diet?

The following foods can be consumed when following this diet:

  • Meat of any kind
  • Fatty fish
  • Eggs
  • Cream and butter
  • Unprocessed cheese
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Healthy oils such as olive, coconut, and avocado oil
  • Avocados
  • Low-carb veggies, in particular, leafy greens

Foods to be avoided:

  • Sugary foods and drinks like soda and fruit juice.
  • Grains, starch or anything that is wheat-based
  • All fruits aside from berries in minimal quantities
  • Beans and legumes
  • All root vegetables, including potatoes
  • Low-fat products
  • Dressings and sauces that contain sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Sugar-free foods

What’s So Appealing About It?

Weight loss is the number one driving force behind people starting the keto diet and studies like this one have revealed that the keto diet is far more effective than a low-fat diet. Completely cutting out sugars and starch means that it’s easier not to cheat, as the meals will leave you feeling full, and you don’t need to count calories so much. This diet is considered to be incredibly healthful when suffering from the following conditions:

  • Epilepsy
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Parkinson’s
  • Acne
  • Heart Disease

How Does CBD Complement the Keto Diet?

CBD and ketosis are often used to improve the same conditions such as those mentioned above, and whilst there are still quite a bit of research studies and clinical trials to be done on cannabinoids until they can be formally labelled as medicine, the World Health Organization has already deemed CBD to be safe for use as a complementary supplement to support traditional treatment for mental and physical illness. Full spectrum CBD oil like those produced by the popular brand Sunday Scaries work so well as they are made using the whole plant and all of its beneficial nutrients and terpenes, instead of CBD isolate, and the terpenes present work synergistically with CBD to produce an entourage effect of health and wellness. Taking this into account, could CBD oil and other CBD products work synergistically with the Keto diet to supercharge the effects of weight loss?

The best way to adopt a healthier lifestyle and become leaner is to find a combination of tools that work together harmoniously to help you achieve your ultimate weight loss goal. CBD has received a stellar reputation based on anecdotal evidence from users who have felt more motivated to work out and have found it easier to curb their cravings for unhealthy food and alcohol. Many foods on the ketogenic diet and CBD both contain an excellent amount of fatty acids, proteins and omega-3–all of which contribute to losing weight and toning up.

But the good news doesn’t stop there: CBD maintains homeostasis in the body via the interaction with your endocannabinoid system. This helps you to keep your body balanced and when using CBD in conjunction with the Keto diet, the results will be supercharged.

Can Pairing CBD With A Ketogenic Diet Promote Weight Loss?

Starting a new diet can provoke cravings, especially when you are making such a sudden dramatic change to the types of foods you eat and also the ones you will be required to stay away from. Especially on a low-carb diet, we can start to crave sugary junk foods instead of our healthy options like peanut butter, or fruits and vegetables. Although CBD is derived from the cannabis plant, which is known to induce the munchies, CBD actually helps to curb cravings by helping to regulate homeostasis. Plus, a high-fat diet like Keto also helps to keep you full, because you’re eating all sorts of rich and filling fats, like cheese and avocado.

Also, successfully losing weight through dieting is made possible by increasing the amount of exercise you do, which can be a bit of a problem if aches or pains associated with being overweight are deterring you from working out. CBD is proven to provide relief from pain and inflammation, so there will be no excuse for skipping the gym if you decide to start taking it as an additional supplement.

The Takeaway

Maintaining your health and well-being and eating wholesome, nutritious foods is an excellent way to ensure that you improve your emotional well-being, as well as nourishing your body. The benefits of CBD can definitely help you on your way to fat loss. CBD and Keto are the perfect teammates during your weight loss journey as they both work to achieve the same goals with regard to your overall health.

Sources:

Kimberly Torres is one of the voices behind the SundayScaries blog. She actively contributes to helping people overcome stress and anxiety and promote self-care and self-improvement, allowing people to appreciate themselves and enhance their inner beauty and strengths. Aside from writing, Kim also spends her time reading books, listening to music and traveling.

This article first appeared on SundayScaries.com.

5 Ways You Can Reduce Stress Naturally

This week, TargitFit is pleased to bring you an informative health article by Daniel Kupnicki:

The idea of stress can be quite an ugly thought. There are healthy forms of stress that can help motivate you when under pressure, however, anything beyond that can lead to problems down the road such as anxiety and depression.

An even uglier thought is the idea of taking over the counter medication or getting prescriptions to handle your stress. If you’re to that point, then you’ll appreciate these 5 ways to reduce stress naturally to help you gain control again.

Start Exercising

Exercising regularly is one of the best ways to reduce stress. Any kind of physical activity, whether it’s walking, running, playing sports, resistance training, or aerobic exercises, can help boost your body’s natural endorphins. These endorphins are essentially the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitters in our brain which deliver sensations of positivity and confidence.

Studies have shown that sleep is also a big underlying factor when it comes to stress, especially in those who take on a large workload. Regular exercise can help improve the quality of your sleep which is also linked to stress, anxiety, and depression.

Socialize with Friends and Family

Social interaction with others has proven to be one of the best ways to lower stress levels. In fact, Medical News Today reveals that researchers from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) found that socializing has a positive effect on cancer patients, and may even increase their chances of survival.

Becoming social and having face-to-face interaction with others during stressful times, whether severe or minimal, can even help promote better and healthier lifestyle habits. Recent studies showed that activities involving exercise with friends can significantly increase the quality of life holistically.

Practice Meditation

Meditation can help to reduce stress by decreasing stress hormones in your body, primarily cortisol. These stress-response hormones can disrupt healthy sleep patterns, increase blood pressure, and cause cloudy thinking which may contribute to both anxiety and depression.

The best kind of meditation for reducing stress is called ‘mindfulness meditation‘. A study concluded that the practice of this kind of meditation can reduce the cortisol responses in our brain, therefore reducing the production of stress hormones.

Get A Massage

Massage therapy is not only a great way to relax but can help alleviate stress. However, not all types of massages are to be treated equally. Many techniques and forms of massages will target different parts of the body which alleviates stress in a different way.

One of the most effective massages for relieving stress is scalp massage therapy. These can be performed by a massage therapist, or you can practice yourself by investing in a scalp massager. Both are just as effective and can help relieve stress and anxiety if implemented regularly.

Cut Out Bad Habits

One of the biggest factors that promote mental stress is substance abuse, such as drinking and smoking. These habits can cause you to build tolerance and a dependency on the addiction or habit itself and, if you try to quit, can increase the production of stress hormones due to withdrawal.

Eliminating these habits and replacing them with new ones such as healthy dieting and exercise will promote proper brain and hormonal function. Forming new habits can also significantly reduce the chances of anxiety, depression, and life-threatening diseases including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

 

Daniel is the founder and one of the authors of TrueWellnyss.com. Coming from a military background, he has developed a passion for helping people achieve success in multiple areas, including health and personal development. He now focuses on providing value to the lives of others through his experiences as an entrepreneur and health advisor.

Should You Workout if You’re Tired?

Sleep doesn’t always come easy–and neither does working out the next day.

Sleepless nights happen to everyone now and then. Sometimes after a restless night, you’ll drift off in the early morning hours and at least get a little shuteye, but many people consider that worse than not sleeping at all. Who wants to hear the alarm blaring after only a couple hours of sleep? Sleep or no, life goes on. You have to get up and go to work. You have to plow through your day as if everything was normal, and that can mean working out if you happen to have exercise scheduled the day after a sleepless night. If you’ve read that insufficient sleep can cause a weight loss plateau, you might think you have justification to skip your workout. That’s not the case, though. There’s a difference between working out tired and exercising while exhausted. In fact, exercising when you don’t feel like it can actually generate enough energy to get through the workout and leave you feeling invigorated afterward.

How Does That Work?

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More times than not, you’ll feel energized after a brisk but moderate workout.

In a study published in the Journal of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, researchers found that subjects felt up to 20 percent more energized and as much as 65 percent less fatigued after exercising. Specifically, the exercise was aerobic training, so you know the workouts weren’t simple, laid-back activities and the people involved in the study were getting their heart rates up above resting rate. On a normal day, after getting a good night’s sleep, you probably feel bushed after exercising, so you might wonder how, if you start out exhausted, you’ll have enough energy to get through the workout let alone wind up with more energy in the end. Web MD explains that it all has to do with your body’s natural power plants: mitochondria. When you exercise, you actually trigger your body to make more mitochondria which results in more energy. Essentially, your body can’t pass up a challenge and, when you challenge it with exercise, it rises to the occasion by manufacturing more than enough energy.

Most Beneficial Activity Level When You’re Tired

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Don’t push yourself after a sleepless night. Save those weight increases and other challenges for when you’re well-rested.

If you’re bummed to hear that being tired is no excuse for skipping a workout, here is the good news: you officially have permission to take it a little easier on those days when your energy level is low. The same study mentioned in the previous section also showed that the level of intensity plays a part when the goal is to increase energy. The subjects who experienced the best results were the ones who kept the intensity at a low to moderate level. Naturally, if you’re going to spend time exercising you want to benefit from it, so you might be tempted to push yourself. However, the day after a sleepless night is no time to increase the weight you’re trying to lift or try that new Yoga Burn class. If you’re fairly active, a moderate workout will do wonders and, if you’re a beginner, low-intensity exercise is just fine. Save those push days for when you’re sufficiently rested.

How Tired is “Too” Tired?

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Fatigue has been described as feeling as if your limbs are weighted or you’re slogging through quicksand.

Yes, there is a line you cross from just being tired and looking for an excuse to ditch a workout to being officially too tired to exercise. If you’re only dragging a little, hit the gym, Sally! If you’re outright fatigued, though, it’s probably best to reschedule your workout or bag it and start fresh on your next regularly scheduled workout day. If you have to ask what the difference is, you probably haven’t been fatigued enough to skip a workout. While fatigue is difficult to describe, the Multiple Sclerosis Trust asked a few people who are intimately familiar with the condition to explain it, and they did a pretty good job. One person compared it to being submerged up to your neck in mud and trying to walk. Another one compared it to attempting to function with your limbs weighted down. Someone else said it feels like they’re a beach ball that’s had the air stopper pulled out. If you’re feeling completely drained and it’s an effort to move or think, those are good indications that you shouldn’t exercise until you’ve gotten some rest.

What If I’m Always Too Tired?

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It’s time to see your doctor if you feel like you never have any energy at all.

Low-energy days and even occasional bouts of fatigue are natural, but if you’re too tired almost every day to exercise, you might have a more serious problem. According to MedLine Plus, fatigue and exhaustion are symptoms of a number of health issues including thyroid problems, diabetes, kidney disease, autoimmune diseases, and many others. If you find that you have to push through a half-hearted workout often or always seem to feel too wrung out to exercise, make an appointment with your doctor. He’ll help determine what’s causing your exhaustion and recommend a protocol that may include medication as well as regular exercise to get your energy levels back to normal.

 

Metabolic Disturbance: Lose Weight With MetCon Workouts

Workout gurus are constantly looking for the next trend to help clients reach their fitness goals. The thing is, there really is nothing new under the sun. That’s not necessarily a problem because it means every few years trainers can reach back into the archives, dust off an old but effective workout technique, and pass it off as the latest and greatest weight loss solution. One such example is being touted as the newest singular solution to many goals including boosting metabolism, increasing speed and endurance, building muscle mass, and burning fat.

When the reading on the tape measure hasn’t changed in months, a MetCon workout might be just what you need to push off a weight loss plateau.

Known as MetCon (Metabolic Conditioning), this workout style has been around for years, and it sounds like the answer to everyone’s fitness problems no matter what they are. It’s a type of circuit training/HIIT hybrid that is most effective when it includes both intensity and volume, with a bit more emphasis on intensity. As trainer Rob Sulaver points out, training intensely is better for fat burning than it is for building muscle, so the truth is that, while MetCon really is an effective workout, it isn’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all solution. Still, if you’re having a hard time getting off a weight loss plateau, MetCon done properly will definitely provide the metabolic disturbance necessary for weight loss, and it can help enhance endurance, too.

What is MetCon?

MetCon workouts are high-intensity–just what you need to recondition your metabolism to start burning calories and fat.

It might be more accurate to call it MetReCon–metabolic REconditioning. That’s because a MetCon workout essentially shocks your system, causing the metabolic disturbance that is effective for resetting your metabolism to burn higher, kind of like resetting the thermostat in your house. As for the anatomy of a MetCon workout, it’s essentially a circuit done as a HIIT workout. Typically, you’ll have four to five exercises, and will perform one set each per circuit, repeating the circuit a prescribed number of times, usually three or four. That’s the part most trainers agree on, but the technique varies from there. For example, Muscle and Fitness recommends doing a certain number of reps of each exercise before immediately moving on to the next exercise, going through the circuit as many times as you can in 15 minutes. A favorite TargitFit MetCon workout has clients perform as many reps as they can of each exercise for 30 seconds, with a 10-second rest in between exercises, and going through the circuit three times.

Making it Work

MetCon workouts work best when you are able to stick to proper form while busting out a ton of reps in the allotted time.

To get the most out of a MetCon workout, you have to strike a balance between form and speed. For the HIIT-style workouts where you’re going all-out for 20 to 30 seconds with 10-second rests, the main objective is to do as many reps as you can in the allotted time. However, you shouldn’t go so fast that you sacrifice form. Proper form trumps all, but you’ll need to perfect your form to the point that you can do the exercises quickly enough to cause a metabolic disturbance. It might seem like a chicken-and-the-egg issue, and that’s why MetCon isn’t the best choice for beginners. People who are just starting out exercising will benefit simply from getting moving. Any exercise should shock a beginner’s metabolism into working differently. MetCon works best for experienced exercisers who need to change things up significantly enough to cause metabolic disturbance.

What About the Exercises?

Though the intensity of MetCon might keep you from bulking up as much as you want to, you can still add an element of resistance when you use bands.

Bodyweight exercises and ones that use minimal equipment are best for MetCon workouts. Because of the fast pace involved, you won’t really have time to move around the gym from one piece of equipment to another or to load and unload plates. Exercises that make for effective MetCon workouts include:

  • pushups
  • burpees
  • box jumps
  • lunges
  • bodyweight or kettlebell squats
  • mountain climbers
  • speed skaters
  • medicine ball cleans

Alternatively, resistance band equipment such as the TargitFit Trainer is a great way to easily incorporate resistance into a MetCon workout because the positions and resistance levels (weight amounts) can be changed quickly to accommodate the pace.

The Food Factor

Eat in moderation and opt for lean, fresh, and healthy over excessive amounts of processed and high-fat and sugar foods.

What you eat will affect the success of any workout you do, but if you’re trying to push off a weight loss plateau with MetCon, you’ll definitely want to tweak your diet. Bon Vec Strength reminds readers that you can’t make up for a lifetime of eating garbage with intense MetCon workouts. Plus, if you don’t get a handle on the amount of calories you’re eating each day, you could still be taking in more than you’re burning, even with an over-the-top workout protocol. That’s not to say that you have to switch to a merciless, stringent diet and become obsessive about counting calories, though you can if you want to. Essentially, however, opting for lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains instead of fat-laden fast foods and processed pre-packaged fare will do a lot for your workout and your waistline. Additionally, remember the moderation mantra. Don’t eat until you’re stuffed, or even full. Eat enough. That means realistic serving sizes that are the right size to satiate hunger and fuel you for a MetCon workout or whatever your day will bring.

Back to School Workout Plan

Back to school time is the ideal time to get back to a consistent workout schedule.

The reason gym memberships drop off in the summer is that, with the kids out of school, schedules get busier than ever. Plus, many people set the good intention of taking advantage of the nice weather and doing more outdoor activities. Whether you were successful in that endeavor or not, back-to-school is the perfect time to reset your workout schedule and get back into a routine. It’s good advice for anyone, whether you or your kids are headed back to school–or not!

Schedule in Your Workouts

Sit down with your day planner and schedule in time for exercise every week.

Your schedule won’t magically ease up once school starts; it’s just that everything will shift. Get out a calendar or your day planner and block off time that’s already taken up by work, after school activities, housework, homework, etc. That will leave you with specific options for scheduling in workouts. Hopefully, there will be 20 to 60 minutes available at least 4 or 5 days a week, but even 10 minutes here and there will add up, so schedule them in. Shooting for 5 days will give you some flexibility in case you need to ditch a workout if something comes up. Some days your level of inactivity, i.e.: sitting and not moving around much, will mean you need more exercise than on others, just as some days you’ll be able to squeeze in a couple of brisk walks during break-time at work to put in the exercise bank. The bottom line to scheduling your workouts is that you’ll be more likely to stick with them and make sure they get done if they’re on your calendar.

Pick a Program–Or Three!

Have a few different types of workouts in your schedule to fit the various amounts of time you have for working out. Image via fishyseahorse53/YouTube

Back-to-school is the perfect time to change things up including starting a new workout program. Giving your body a new routine to learn prevents boredom and it could be the kick in the pants your metabolism needs to get off a plateau. Choose several different workouts because your body responds better to changing up your exercise than it does to routine. That strategy fits perfectly with the different amounts of time you’re likely to have for exercising throughout the week. For example, a HIIT resistance workout is perfect for those days when you might only have 15 to 20 minutes for exercise, but a yoga workout will be a nice change of pace on a day when you have 45 to 60 minutes available. Smaller chunks of time, anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes, can be spent biking, jogging, or on the elliptical. Whatever programs you choose, make sure they’re ones you enjoy doing. It’s way too easy to blow off a workout you’re not looking forward to.

Recruit the Family

kid workout

Workouts everyone can do are a positive, healthy way to spend family time.

Since daily routines change for the whole family when it’s time to go back to school, it’s also the perfect time to get everyone moving. Parents.com points out that exercise is a great–and healthy–way for families to spend time together. No, you don’t have to drag everyone to the weight room or a step aerobics class. Taking a bike ride, practicing a sport the kids are interested in (such as tennis or baseball) or even playing at the park are effective ways for families to exercise together because they’re appropriate for a variety of ages. Alternatively, if your kids are a bit older and are interested in something like tai chi, kickboxing, or resistance training with the TargitFit Trainer, plug in a workout DVD and learn to do it together right in the comfort and privacy of your family room.

 

Your Workout Unplugged

Your smartphone goes everywhere with you, even to the gym. It’s such an integral part of your life that you’re probably unaware that the device could be hindering your fitness and weight loss goals. There’s a time and place for checking emails, social media, texting, and even using your cell for having an actual, spoken conversation with someone else. But the time will never coincide with your workout, and the place will rarely, if ever, be the gym.

Training Interference

When all your attention is on your smartphone, you can’t put much effort into your workout.

When your attention is on your phone’s screen, you can’t give your workout everything you’ve got. That’s not just an assumption. Research has proven it several times over in study after study. One Kent State study in particular found that the more time a person spends on their cell phone, the less fit they are likely to be. Those findings were in general, however, so the same researchers conducted another study to specifically determine how using a cell phone during exercise would affect intensity.

The results showed that, although talking and texting while working out made exercising more enjoyable, redirecting attention from the workout significantly reduced the intensity. If you can still carry on a conversation while working out, you’re not putting enough into exercising, and most people need to slow down considerably or stop physical exertion altogether in order to type out a text, Tweet, or Facebook post. The bottom line is that you won’t see the health, fitness, and weight loss benefits that you go to the gym for in the first place.

The Etiquette Issue

Smartphone use in the gym can interfere with everyone’s workout if you’re taking up space on equipment while your text or Tweet.

Aside from the fact that talking, texting, and Tweeting cancels out the positive results you might get from exercise, smartphone use in the gym can be a distraction to those around you, as well. It’s easy to get sidetracked entirely from working out and instead just take up space on equipment while you scroll through Facebook posts or peck out a text message. That amounts to poor gym etiquette when others are waiting to use the bench, machine, or space you’re in. Even your phone conversations can be annoying, especially if you’re speaking loudly or having a heated or personal conversation.

On the Upside

Accessing fitness apps is one of the few ways smartphones can be helpful during a workout.

It’s best to leave your smartphone in your gym locker while you work out, but the devices do have a feature that has shown to improve workouts. While talking, texting, and checking social media reduces workout intensity, using a smartphone to listen to music during a workout significantly increases the intensity of exercise. Music is a very motivating factor when it comes to working out. It distracts you from fatigue and keeps you flooded with strong emotions, both factors that enhance endurance so you’ll work out harder and longer, according to Scientific American. Additionally, downloading apps that enhance your workout such as ones that count steps, recommend workout routines, or show proper form for exercises are another positive way your smartphone can be used while exercising.

 

Healthy Hydration: Drink Up!

08181601Everyone from doctors to personal trainers to health and fitness blogs preach how vital it is to consume enough water every day. There are many formulas for calculating just how much water “enough” is. For example, one common formula is to multiply your weight by two-thirds and the answer is the number of ounces of water you should drink each day. Alternatively, you could reference the Recommended Nutrients table published by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Sciences. The advice you’ll find there is general, but based on scientific study. However, actual water requirements vary by individual and are subject to your metabolism, activity level, and environmental conditions. Your best bet for accurately figuring a personalized recommended water intake might be to use Bodybuilding.com’s Water Intake Calculator. At least it figures in your activity level.

Just knowing that you need water and how much of it you personally require is only half the battle. You have to actually consume the necessary fluid. If you’re among those who don’t particularly enjoy drinking the unexciting, flavorless liquid, there are alternative ways to ensure you stay hydrated, and many of them are quite tasty.

Fruit Juices

08181602Juicing essentially removes the water from fruit, with the included bonus of a delicious taste as well as a dose of nutrients, and who doesn’t appreciate a drink that multitasks? The vitamins and minerals you get from juice will depend on which kind of fruit it comes from, but you have plenty of choices out there from orange to apple to pomegranate. Even ades made from citrus fruits are terrific alternatives to water, but Health Status recommends using actual fruit to make lemonade or limeade instead of a drink mix. Just place the juice from six to eight limes or lemons in a pitcher and fill it with boiling water. You’ll want to be conservative at first and adjust the actual amount of the water to fit your taste. Take off the fruit’s bitter edge by sweetening with agave nectar. Chill, then serve your fruit-ade over ice.

Coconut Water

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Drinking pure coconut water is a nutritional way to hydrate. Image by Vita Coco Coconut Water

Coconut water is another way to hydrate and get a few extra nutrients. According to Skinny Ms., pure coconut water is packed with more potassium than bananas, plus it contains five electrolytes essential for your health. A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that coconut water was just as useful for re-hydrating after a workout as bottled water and sports drinks, proving that coconut water isn’t just a fad. It’s actually a valuable way to get part of your daily fluid intake.

Cuppa Joe

08181605Outdated studies are responsible for coffee’s reputation as a diuretic. Turns out that the data wasn’t complete. More recent studies such as the one published on PLOS|one showed that if you routinely consume caffeinated drinks, your body has essentially learned how to deal with caffeine and drinking it won’t negatively affect your level of hydration. We’ve gone on and on about the nutritional and health benefits of coffee such as reducing muscle pain after a workout, helping to burn fat, providing a load of antioxidants, and Home Grounds lists many more. Now you can add to those benefits the fact that your morning (or afternoon) cuppa can count toward your daily fluid intake.

DIY Sports Drinks

Sports drinks are useful for rehydrating after a workout. They’re tastier than water and replenish nutrients such as electrolytes that water doesn’t have.

Addicted to your sports drinks? That’s OK because they’re providing your body with electrolytes as well as hydration. They can get kinda spendy, though, and even though they’re supposed to be good for you, many contain sugar and additives that you might not want in a “healthy” drink. The Daily Burn‘s solution is to make your own sports drinks, using fresh ingredients and low glycemic sweeteners such as agave. One of our favorites is quick and easy to mix up. Just combine the juice from oranges and lemons with coconut water for a Gatorade-like beverage that is healthier than the original.

Eat Your Hydration

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Strawberries and watermelon are both more than 90% water, making them tasty and terrific ways to get more fluid in your diet.

Oh, did we forget to mention that water you get from the foods you eat can officially count toward your daily fluid intake? Develop Good Habits advises eating foods with high water content to increase how much fluid you get on average, which can typically be around 20 percent of the total amount you need. Cucumbers, iceberg lettuce, celery, strawberries, and, of course, watermelon are all foods that are more than 90 percent water, making them excellent alternatives to drinking water for staying hydrated.

Physical Therapy: Beyond Injuries

If you’ve ever had a sports-related injury or orthopedic surgery, physical therapy has probably been part of the deal. PTs specialize in evaluating your condition and developing a plan to help you recover while safely getting you back to your naturally active self. With the changes the medical and insurance climate has undergone over recent years, physical therapists have taken on a more prevalent role in healthcare. Now, in addition to helping out in rehab, PTs are stepping in to help prevent possible injuries, assist with weight loss, and, in some instances, physical therapy can make it possible to avoid surgery altogether.

Bypass-ing Surgery

Avoid going under the knife–unless there’s severe damage such as muscle or tendon tears, physical therapy can be an effective way to cure chronic pain.

Considering the cost and the physical pain, who wouldn’t rather go through a few weeks of physical therapy rather than go under the knife and end up in PT anyway? In her article for Fitness magazine, Maura Kelly talks about injuring the tendons in her knee, and having the orthopedic surgeon suggest physical therapy first to see if surgery could be avoided. Obviously, if Kelly’s tendons had been torn, an operation would have necessary. However, more and more doctors are prescribing physical therapy for treating less serious injuries and chronic pain instead of jumping to the surgery conclusion.

Physical therapists are trained to evaluate your physical condition and can pinpoint areas of weakness you might be compensating for, ultimately causing the chronic pain you’re experiencing. For example, if your left hip is weaker than your right hip, it won’t be able to stabilize your left knee properly, causing chronic knee pain and possible frequent injuries. Additionally, you’ll be compensating by leaning on your right, stronger hip, throwing your body out of alignment and likely causing lower back or shoulder pain, or both. You may not have noticed anything but the pain, but your PT will trace your symptoms to the root of your problem and can develop a program to stabilize and strengthen your left hip which will alleviate chronic pain without surgery.

Prehab to Avoid Rehab

Your physical therapist is trained to identify weak and problem areas and develop a plan for strengthening them so you can avoid injury.
Image via Roger Mommaerts/Flickr

Fitday points out that those PT evaluations that identify weakness and imbalances can not only help avoid surgery in some cases but can also help prevent injuries in the first place. No matter what lifestyle you live, from sedentary to super-athlete, you can benefit from a few sessions with a physical therapist. That’s because lifestyle activities such as long-haul driving, working at a computer all day, pushing wheelbarrows full of concrete, or lifting weights, for example, can result in limited mobility and/or muscle imbalances, which can eventually cause injuries that will send you to the physical therapist anyway. If a golfer, for instance, indulges in a few sessions of prehab and then keeps up the exercises her PT recommends such as knee to chest hip stretches, thoracic rotation, and T push-ups, she will build the strength and mobility necessary to avoid the lower back pain and injuries that many golfers experience.

Really? PT for Weight Loss?

Whatever your age or weight control history, a physical therapist can tailor a weight loss program to help get you in shape.

Yep, your friendly neighborhood physical therapist can  help with weight loss, even if losing weight has been difficult for you in the past. Their experience and knowledge are very similar to personal trainers’, but a PT might more quickly recognize mobility issues and other concerns that are common for those who are overweight. Taking all of the pertinent information into consideration, a physical therapist will design a workout program for you that includes exercises tailored to your abilities, range of motion, etc., and they’ll help you set realistic, achievable goals. What’s more, your PT can work with you on generalized goals such as overall fitness, health, and wellness, or can help you train for another goal, such as marathon running or improving your golf swing.