Friday, September 23, 2016

Critical Calcium

Calcium plays an important role in muscle contraction, transmitting messages through the nerves, and the release of hormones. If people aren't getting enough calcium in their diet, the body takes calcium from the bones to ensure normal cell function, which can lead to weakened bones and osteoporosis.

Knowing which foods to avoid when taking a supplement or eating calcium-rich foods can help your body use more of the calcium you consume. Research reveals that consuming certain foods can interfere with calcium absorption. That's important because we typically use only 30 - 50 % of calcium from food. Try these tips to increase your calcium levels and maintain bone health.

Foods That Dilute Calcium

The oxalates in spinach, sweet potatoes and cocoa reduce the absorption of calcium from those foods. To increase calcium intake, combine with some cheese.

Salt increases calcium excretion through urine and sweat. Try increasing potassium-rich foods like bananas or cantaloupe to help counteract this effect.

High fiber foods reduce the absorption of calcium in other foods eaten at the same time. For example, cereal and milk. When you increase fiber, try to increase calcium intake, too.

Caffeine, a diuretic, can also increase calcium loss through urination. A smart option is to take your supplement in the afternoon or evening when you're probably limiting caffeine intake already.

Phosphorus, found in meat, poultry, corn and potatoes, also interferes with calcium absorption. Choosing a few meatless meals can reduce your phosphorus intake and increase overall calcium levels in your diet.

Ways to Boost Calcium Intake

*Increase Vitamin D to aid absorption

*Add magnesium, which keeps calcium soluble and available for your body.

*Take your supplement with orange juice because Vitamin C improves absorption of calcium.

*Try splitting your supplement into two 500mg doses - one in the afternoon and one in the evening.

*Consume more calcium-rich foods: navy or white beans, Chinese cabbage, dairy products, leafy greens, nuts, seafood (crab, salmon, sardines, shrimp), and seeds.

Make one or two changes this week to increase calcium levels. Enjoy eating a variety of foods and keep those bones strong! 

Stay Active, Keep Moving and 
Enjoy Your Food

Friday, September 16, 2016

Strength vs. Power Training

Exactly what are strength and power training? Is there a difference? Which one is better for me?

Strength training is the popular term for exercises that build muscle by harnessing resistance - that is, an opposing force that muscles must strain against. Strength training is sometimes called resistance training or weight training. Resistance can be supplied by your body weight, free weights such as dumbbells, elasticized bands, or specialized machines. No matter what kind of resistance you use, putting more than the usual amount of load on your muscles makes them stronger.

Examples of strength exercises are weighted squats, dead-lifts and chest presses. Each of these exercises are done with consistent, slow exertion focusing on the contraction of the muscle and the extension of the muscle as the weight is lowered. The goal is larger muscle mass and the ability to lift more weight.

Power training is aimed at increasing power, which is the product of both strength and speed. Power reflects how quickly you can exert force to produce the desired movement. Power can help you react swiftly if you trip or lose your balance, helping you avoid a fall. Power moves are very practical for many sports and activities and create control over your strength.  Most power exercises are performed repetitively over a period of time to improve speed, quick reflexes and stamina.

Some power moves are just strength training moves done at a faster speed. Other power routines rely on the use of a weighted vest.  Plyometrics are power moves such as jumping and throwing that involve a rapid loading and stretching of the target muscles before a powerful counter contraction. Examples include depth jumps, hurdle jumps, lateral hops and clap pushups.

When you go to the gym, you have a limited amount of time to spend. Training for power is much more of a balanced approach to physical fitness. Not only will your muscles get stronger, but they will be better coordinated for quick, precise motions. You will gain strength and power while being efficient with your time.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Enjoy Your Food

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Save the Date for this Fun Circuit Class!

The Saturday morning classes are returning for a short time in October! As a bonus, on the last morning of the series, we will use real pumpkins as part of a Halloween-themed workout. Block out the time slots on your calendar and join us for high-energy fun.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Weight Loss Plateaus #2

Last week I discussed some of the biological and environmental challenges that are faced when you continue with your weight loss plan. It might seem as if the deck is stacked against you, but I offered a few smart changes that can help you push past the plateau. Here are three more strategies to recharge your weight loss.

Cycle Your Eating
Calorie cycling is a fancy term for cutting back calories periodically rather than all the time. This can help you eat less without feeling deprived. Try eating just 1000 to 1200 calories of protein and vegetables for two days a week. On the other days, eat 1500 - 2000 calories.

Go Hard on Protein
Eating fewer carbohydrates and more protein and fat could give your weight loss a jump start.  Low carb diets can increase your metabolism and reduce your appetite because they're high in protein. Plus eating too many carbs can increase your levels of insulin, a hormone that prompts your body to store calories as fat.

Do a Workout Revamp
Besides the obvious benefits, exercise makes your brain more sensitive to leptin, the hormone that triggers fullness. If you've been working out faithfully, a few small changes to your routine can have major payoffs. Adding fat-blasting strength training or intervals to your sessions can help accelerate weight loss by raising your metabolism. Your muscles can get bored with the moves and burn fewer calories when you do the same thing repeatedly. Try adding five minutes of jumping rope, spinning instead of swimming or 10 minutes of cardio after your strength routine.

Stay the course when the scale stalls. Don"t let the weight loss plateau prompt you to quit your diet altogether. Use these science-backed strategies to move forward and see results.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and 
Enjoy Your Food

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Weight Loss Plateaus #1

The dreaded weight loss plateau - it's something most dieters encounter around the six-month mark. You continue working out and eating right, yet you don't see any progress. What is going on?

After you lose weight, your body operates more efficiently and needs less energy to do everything, including your workouts, which means you burn fewer calories. At the time, your system is biologically programmed to get you back to your former, heavier weight - a survival mechanism to help prevent starvation. The phenomenon, called adaptive thermogenesis, puts the brakes on your metabolism. A 10% drop in your body weight will slow your metabolism as much as 25%. And the more you lose, the greater the effect. 

Your hormones also make you hungrier than ever. If you shed 10 - 15% of your body weight, your level of leptin - a hormone critical for making you feel full - plummets by 50%, convincing your brain that you've lost half you body fat. At the same time, your level of the "hunger hormone" ghrelin also spikes disproportionately after weight loss. 

It takes a tremendous amount of physical and emotional effort to overcome all the biological and environmental challenges to weight loss. Initially, you can stick with it because you see the results and you get a lot of positive reinforcement. But after a few months, you become tired and discouraged by all the work required. 

But don't give up! A few smart tweaks to your diet will get results and help renew your commitment.

Get Back to Basics 
If you used to track your food and exercise, it's time to restart that routine. Logging meals and workouts can help you see where you need to step up your efforts. Be careful about portion control. Analyze the weeks that you were particularly successful, figure out what you were doing differently and go back to it. 

Find Your Happy Weight
Often people pick their goal weight arbitrarily, which can set them up for failure. If you’ve hit your plateau and are within 5 or 10 pounds of your target, consider whether the weight you’re at now might be right for you. You’ve already improved your health enormously by reducing your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Don’t be obsessed with reaching a certain number on the scale. Think about what makes you feel good. That’s your happy weight.

Next week, I will share three more strategies
for pushing past a weight loss plateau.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Enjoy  Food

Friday, August 19, 2016

Diversify Your Workout

We know workout variety is good, but some of us love our everyday boot camp. How much variety do you really need to see results?

When you're trying to jump-start a workout routine, choose a couple of go-to workouts for cardio and strength and then up the variables.

For six weeks, play with upping the ante on things like the amount of weight you're lifting OR the number of sets or reps you're doing OR decrease the rest time between each exercise or interval. That helps you create a benchmark by which you can judge your progress and it also helps you master skills. Then pick one goal - lose weight, get stronger, build up your endurance - and spend six weeks gearing your workouts to that. It's important to choose ONE goal so that you can focus your work and see progress.

For the next phase, throw your body a curve-ball by taking two weeks or so off from your regular routine and doing just Pilates or yoga to work smaller muscles and try different types of movement patterns.

Workout variety allows you to take advantage of an unusual class, try a sport you used to do in high school or meet a new group of people. Diversifying your exercise also helps prevent injury caused by repetitive motion. Planning your workouts intentionally will allow you to see results that an auto-pilot workout might not deliver. Keep your body guessing, explore new movement and work to create muscle balance.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and 
Enjoy Your Food

Friday, August 12, 2016

Second Breakfast is a Good Thing!

If you are familiar with the books or movies based on The Lord of The Rings, you know that Hobbits not only have one breakfast but also Second Breakfast (and Elevenses and Lunch and...). It turns out that Second Breakfast is a great way to help maintain or lose weight. 

A recent study found that those who ate two breakfasts (one at home and one later in the morning) didn't gain more weight that those who ate just one. And the participants were less likely to be overweight than those who skipped the meal entirely.

Most adults don't need two full breakfasts (unlike Hobbits) but if you exercise in the morning or eat late lunches, a hearty mid-morning snack with produce and protein is a good idea. What does that look like? Your breakfast could be a slice of whole wheat toast, eggs scrambled with spinach, sliced tomatoes on the side. Then mid-morning you could have a banana and handful of walnuts.

More mid-morning snack ideas:
  • clementines and a latte
  • smoked salmon on cucumbers
  • plain Greek yogurt and blueberries
  • whole wheat English muffin and peanut butter
  • apple slices and cheddar cheese
  • lowfat cottage cheese on whole wheat crackers topped with salsa
  • pear slices sprinkled with cinnamon and a handful of almonds

Front-load your calories for the day and enjoy a lighter lunch and dinner.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and 
Enjoy Your Food