Tuesday, November 30, 2010

In the Zone

How many times have you heard people talk about making sure you are in the "fat burning zone" or the "cardio zone" when you exercise? There are even modes on elliptical and bikes designed for these special zones! What has been assumed is that you have to exercise and low intensity levels in order to burn fat. Lets pick apart this myth, shall we?

First off, there is some truth to it. How many calories you burn during a given workout is directly related to intensity level. Furthermore, fat is the main source of energy during low intensity workouts. That is where people got the idea that they should exercise at low intensity to burn more fat.

Just for your information, when people do talk about fat burning and cardio zones, they are referring to heart rate. You are in the fat burning zone when you're heart rate is below 70% of your max. Then as you exercise consistently above 70% of your max, your body starts using carbohydrates as the primary source of fuel. This kind of exercise burns lots of calories.

 So what's the conclusion? Real weight loss and fat loss comes from expending more calories than you consume. Therefore, you should concentrate more on burning calories than working out at a low intensity. Unless you have a large amount of time, I would recommend just kicking it into gear for a good, intense 45 minutes workout. Or better yet, interval workouts get your body to work in both zones. So mix it up, push yourself, and see the results. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sweet Poison

**Before taking any credit for the title of this post, or the majority of the information I have below, I would like to direct you to this link. But I am going to incorporate information I already know, as well as some of the information I got from that sight. 
I love that she calls aspartame sweet poison. To start out, though, what exactly is aspartame? Aspartame is a dangerous chemical food additive. Furthermore, it is most devastating to children and women that are pregnant. But beyond that, it harms everyone, no matter what age you are.
The problem with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame is this: when we eat sugar, our body registers sweetness and comes to understand that very sweet things mean lots of calories. When you drink or eat things with artificial sweeteners (like diet soda), your body thinks “here’s the sweetness, but there aren’t many calories – that must mean I have to eat a lot of sweet things to get my needed calories.” Then the next time you are given something sweet to eat, your body doesn’t recognize how many calories it is getting, so you eat more and your body doesn’t try as hard to burn those calories.

Despite that harmful side effect, what's worse is the fact that aspartame dissolves in solution, so it is carried through our whole body. Therefore, it can effect us in a range of ways that most people would never attribute to eating something with an artificial sweetener.
Here are just some of the side effects:
Eyes: pain, decreased vision, blurry vision or decreased tear production
Neurologic: headaches, dizziness, hyperness, restless legs
Psychological: depression, anxiety, insomnia
Gastrointestinal: abdominal pain, nausea

So a lot of these are pretty generic symptoms, right? I think the main point is that a lot of the day to day aches and pains that we seem to be getting more and more frequently could be a result of what we are eating. Actually, most likely they are. When you are filling your body with things with artificial sweeteners and preservatives, our bodies don't know what to do with it, so it reacts. So next time you don't feel so great after eating, think about what you ate and try to make some changes. Avoid "sugar free" things, or foods that have a long shelf life. Your body will thank you!

*Aspartame is only one of many artificial sweeteners. Take some time to do some research and find out all the names this "poison" can hide behind, so when you look at ingredients you will know!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Drinking Away Your Immune System

I taught a nutrition class a couple weeks ago and the topic of soda came up. To get one thing straight, I think the best thing to do when it comes to soda is not drink it at all, ever. I will explain why below. But further, I understand some people like to have a sweet drink on a special occasion. So I will also talk about a different option that has pure ingredients and is much better for you than regular (or diet) soda.

Why soda is harmful to our bodies:
First of all, drinking soda has been proven to suppress your immune system. So much so, that after just one can, your immune system is impaired for 5 hours after because of the high levels or sugar that impair your white blood cell function. That being said, if you are drinking soda frequently, your body is losing it's ability to fight away disease and illness more and more each time you drink some. Also, soft drink consumption has been proven to be a huge factor in causing osteoporosis. This is because soft drinks have long been suspected of leading to lower calcium levels and higher phosphate levels in the blood. When phosphate levels are high and calcium levels are low, calcium is pulled out of the bones. The phosphate content of soft drinks like Coca - Cola and Pepsi is very high, and they contain virtually no calcium. Furthermore, the relationship between soft drink consumption and body weight is so strong that researchers calculate that for each additional soda consumed, the risk of obesity increases 1.6 times.
These are only a few of the problems, but to sum it up, in the words of MD Barnet Meltzer:
"But soft drinks are far from soft. High in phosphorous and phosphoric acid, they infiltrate bodily fluids and corrode stomach linings, upset the alkaline-acid balance of the kidneys, and eat away at your liver. Soft drinks also contain hidden caffeine, refined sugar, and artificial chemicals."

So, again, I would ask that you really try to take soda out of your life. It will benefit you tremendously! But, if you need a sweet drink, try Gus Grown-Up Soda. It is 100% natural, with no preservatives or caffeine and not as sweet as regular soda since it is sweetened with natural cane sugar. You can find it at most health food stores. So give it a try!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Health Benefits of Pumpkin

So I've already posted a couple recipes using pumpkin, and this time of year pumpkin desserts and foods are quite common. They sure do taste good, but what's even better is that pumpkin has some health benefits to go along with the great taste! However, it doesn't make it okay to eat that second piece of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving...just do you know :)

Canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling, is full of vitamins and minerals, meets a vegetable requirement and, as an antioxidant-rich vegetable, offers other health benefits.
- Nutrient-Rich: Canned pumpkin is a nutrient-rich food. It is low in calories and fat, and relatively high in fiber. It is a good source of Vitamin A, like other orange vegetables, and also contains two trace minerals, iron and manganese.
- Protects the Heart: Pumpkin is rich in beta-carotene, a vitamin A precursor responsible for its deep orange color. Beta-carotene offers powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, so it's beneficial for heart health.
- Vegetable Serving: Because of hour nutrient dense it is, with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, it definitely counts as a serving of vegetable. But! Beware of eating it with tons of sugar...it can cancel out all the goodness!

Monday, November 15, 2010


It is getting a bit cooler outside, which for me means indoor cycling classes! When it starts to get chilly, I'm still able to get my runs in outside, but biking is just too cold for me. So I hit the cycling room ready for a killer workout - and that is what I get! If you are looking for something new to do that will really burn calories, and it doesn't involve layers of clothing outside in the cold, these classes are perfect! Here are answers to some common questions:

What is Indoor Cycling?
Indoor cycling is an intense workout done on special stationary bikes that works the lower body while giving you your cardio workout. It focuses on the quads, glutes and hamstrings, as well as the core. Frequently, classes will simulate hills, sprints, and intervals into different rides.
Do I need special shoes to cycle?
Serious cyclists like to have cycling shoes that allow them to clip into the pedal. It allows better work distribution between the hamstrings and the quadriceps. These shoes are nice if you will be biking long distances frequently, but for indoor classes they aren't necessary. Normal gym goes work just fine!
Can I do it if I'm a beginner?
The nice thing about cycling is that all the classes are multi-level, since you determine your resistance and how fast/hard you peddle. Make sure your instructor knows that it is your first time, and take things slower than the rest of the class. Know that you will build up, but at first you might not go 100% and might end a little early. The next time you can try a little more.
How do I prevent saddle soreness?
First of all, if you are a beginner don't go the whole time, and expect to be sore. But don't let that stop you from going again! Also, be sure to engage your abdominal muscles to stabilize the hips as your ride and prevent excess bouncing in your seat. Make sure you are riding on the back of the seat and keep your core tight. And always take time to to a "standing jog" on the bike to give your tush a break through the class. Just remember that if you get sore, the best way to get through it is keep moving and exercising. Take a few days off the bike, but keep running or doing other things to keep your muscles moving.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pumpkin Waffles

Here is a healthy version of some yummy pumpkin waffles! Enjoy!

Pumpkin Waffles


3 cups whole wheat flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/3 cup organic brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup applesauce
2 1/2 cups milk


Preheat waffle iron. In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. In a separate bowl, beat eggs with organic brown sugar. Blend in pumpkin, milk, and applesauce. Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture and stir just until ingredients are moist. Do not over beat. Bake in waffle iron for about 7 minutes. 
*I got the recipe from here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Beat the Junk

We are well into the holiday season, a time when every occasion is associated with sweets and treats. Although you might be staying on top of your goal to only eat a small treat every once in a while, once you eat one treat your body starts to crave that sugar again. So here are some tips on how to beat the junk food cravings so you don't keep eating those sweets!

1. Check your mood before you eat - If you are extreme on either end, sad or happy, people tend to eat. They either eat to make up for something, or eat to celebrate. Change that and go to a friend, go on a walk, or allow yourself a little more me time instead of eating.

2. Don't skip meals - When you skip meals, your blood sugar drops and you crave sugar more because your body thinks that is what it needs. It really just needs good meals at consistent times

3. Plan ahead - If you know you are going to a party, plan ahead how much you will eat. Once you ate that much, put a stick of gum in your mouth so you don't eat more. Also, tell friends or family about how much you want to eat. Another thing is to not eat as much throughout the day, and definitely pack in the veggies and good fruits and grains during the day, so you aren't over doing it in your calorie intake.

4. Drink lots of water - Any time you are drinking calories or carbonation, it isn't a good thing. So stick with water, and drink lots of it!

5. Improve on the original - If you are really craving your favorite desert, it is better to either make a batch and only eat one, then give the rest away, or try to find a healthier recipe for that dessert. Can you substitute whole wheat flour for white, or substitute honey for sugar, or reduce the fat used? The best thing still though, is to only allow yourself a small portion, and get the rest out of sight!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fit to Run

Running, if not done correctly, can either injure you, slow you down, or just make the whole experience horrible! Here are some tips on correct running technique to consider on your next run.

1. Keep your head and eyes up. Don't watch your feet...they will keep moving without watching them! It helps you relax and increases oxygen uptake
2. Relax those shoulders! This is one of the major mistakes people make, and usually without even realizing it. When your body gets tired or tense, you naturally tense your shoulders. Make a conscious effort to keep your shoulders relaxed, hanging loosely. If you need to, do some shoulder rolls to get our some tension.
3. Don't lean your torso forward. You want to lean your body more forward than back, but keep your torso from leaning forward and bending at the hips. Run tall with your back and torso upright. It keeps your hips in line and prevents tension from going places you don't want it.
4. Keep your arms relaxed and in a good rhythm. Don't bring them up high, just keep your elbow at a relaxed 90 degree angle and move arms back and forth - be sure to not let your arms cross your body. Arm movement helps propel legs forward when done correctly.
5. Imagine yourself gliding and skimming the ground. If you picture yourself moving in a smooth motion with both your legs and arms relaxed and in the correct place, and your legs gliding evenly back and forth, your body will be fit to run! So imagine it, and do it!

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Debate

So once you make it to the gym, you're warmed up and ready to lift, where do you start? Machines? Free Weights? What are the benefits of each of them? Which one is better for you? Well, here's some info on both. From there, you determine which best fits your workout. Most likely, though, it is good to do both and mix it up!

Benefits of Machine Weights:
Almost all the time when you go to lift with a machine weight, there are instructions on the machine regarding position and technique. This can definitely come in handy when using it for the first time. They also allow for a quicker workout once you know the settings you need. The trick is just remembering! So when you go, write down the weight, height of the seat and other information needed. From there you can hop on and off machines. They can also be convenient when you go to the gym alone and can't do lifts with a spotter - you don't need one with machine weights! Another advantage is that machine weights are better at delivering consistent weight on the muscle through the whole lift.

Benefits of Free Weights:
Free weights do a better job at integrating core conditioning into a strength-training workout, since you have to use balance while lifting. They also allow for a greater variety of lifts and movement patterns. You can work both arms and legs, for example, by doing a bicep curl with a lung. Another advantage is the greater range of weight. As opposed to machines that increase by 10 lbs, free weights allow slower progression and "in between" weights. You can also benefit from free weights because each arm becomes responsible for a given weight, whereas on machines, the stronger arm can take more of the weight designated. 

Clearly, both have their benefits. So mix it up, and figure out what you like best! Just keep working those muscles!
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