Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Pros of Slow #3

You have to choose a really difficult class and exercise as hard as possible to get an effective workout, right? Maybe not. Slow fitness may be a way to get lighter and leaner without pushing your body further than it wants to go. Check out this research on slowing down your workouts.

Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist, says, "Less-intense cardio and strength workouts can actually be more effective in some ways than the very difficult ones." High intensity cardio causes you to work anaerobically, which means that most of the calories you burn will be in the form of carbohydrates. Your body needs fuel - fast - and carbs are the go-to energy source.  Less intense workouts, in which you keep your heart rate lower, may burn fewer carbohydrates but the duration of the workout tends to be longer. This means more total calories burned. The key here is the longer workout.

Slow may be healthier than hardcore. Researchers followed people who did similar amounts of slow, moderate and strenuous running over the course of twelve years. They found that the light exercisers had a much lower mortality rate than the intense group. The moderate exercisers fell somewhere in between. Experts aren't sure why slow may be superior but some believe the stress that super-hard workouts place on your system may be a factor. Intense exercise causes a cascade of hormones which create a lot of free radicals and inflammation in the body. Over time, this has the potential to damage your immune system and may lead to chronic health issues.

McCall says, "I'm not saying you should never take another spinning class, but what we now know is that slow and steady is often better than hard and fast." My take-away from this information is the confidence to know that my moderate intensity workout days are good for my body and help create balance in my workout week. McCall adds, "There's the perception that if your workout doesn't make you feel like you're going to die, it's somehow lame - or beginner. That's not the case."

For my body, I find it works well to push for a high intensity workout once or twice a week and then feel good about balancing the rest of my week with slower movement.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Enjoy Your Food

Friday, March 16, 2018

Upgrade Your Calories

When people want to lose weight, they often search for the latest and greatest diet. Eliminate fat!  Fast one day a week,! No carbs after noon! The list goes on and on. While we all have different health characteristics based on our unique makeup, losing weight might be more about the quality of what we eat rather than the type of diet. 

A recent study found that dieters following either a healthy low-fat diet or a healthy low-carb diet lost on average about the same weight. Dieters were not instructed to count or cut calories but were taught to maximize vegetables and minimize refined flours, sugars and trans fats while focusing on whole foods that are minimally processed, nutrient-dense and home-prepared.

The participants were not forced to follow a restrictive diet but were guided on how to eat healthy foods without feeling deprived. This focus on food choices and eating behaviors led participants to embrace a positive relationship with food and resulted in success.

The researchers found that the genetic differences in fat and carbohydrate metabolism did not predict success with low-fat and low-carb diets. This means that the diet quality seems to be more important for weight loss than any specific food restriction.

Here are six ways to build a high quality diet to help you feel healthy and shed some pounds without the fuss of counting calories:

1. Eat nutrient-dense nuts, nut butters, seeds and beans daily.

2. Choose whole fruit instead of juice and fruit drinks.

3. Consume foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, sardines, avocado, olives and olive oil.

4. Balance out your plate with complex carbohydrates from starchy vegetables like beets, carrots yams and winter squash.

5. Opt for pasture-raised and grass-fed animal products which have been found to have more omega-3 fatty acids and higher levels of anti-oxidants than conventional meat and dairy.

6. Plan ahead to prepare more meals at home using whole foods.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Upgrade Your Calories with Whole Foods This Week

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Pros of Slow #2

Foam rolling can increase flexibility and reduce muscle soreness. But if we are in a hurry, we miss many of the benefits of this simple tool.

Exercise (or repetitive movements in daily life) causes your muscles to go through a constant process of breakdown and repair. Over time, this causes the muscles to become tight when the fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds the muscles, starts to thicken and shorten to protect the underlying muscle from further damage. Sometimes the fibers and fascia contract so much they form trigger points, which manifest as sore spots needing to be released. Fascia also has the ability to contract independently of the muscles it surrounds. It responds to stress without your conscious command. When fascia becomes restricted, adhesions form causing soreness, restricted movement, gait change and potential injury.

Foam rolling can be painful. While it feels better to go fast, and it does circulate blood flow, releasing fascia takes time. Fascia is a thick, fibrous web of tissue. As such, it can’t be released with a quick pass of the foam roller. You need to be slow and deliberate in your movements. Once you find a sensitive area, slowly work back and forth over the spot. Be thoughtful and think of foam rolling like melting through the muscle and fascia.

A slow tempo allows the muscle to relax into the roller and release. Take a full ten seconds to roll up and down whatever muscle you're working on. Set a timer or watch the clock if you need to consciously slow yourself down. Pause for three counts on any spots that feel uncomfortable. That's actually the area you need to target most. This should make you wince a little - it should not be searing pain. (If you feel searing pain, stop foam rolling.) Breathe into the discomfort and consciously relax the tight muscle. Taking those few extra seconds will really get into the muscle.

For more on foam rolling, check out two of my previous blogs - Foam Rolling Basics and Recovery and Foam Rolling.

Foam roll in slow motion this week.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Enjoy Your Food

Friday, March 2, 2018

Soup for Chilly Winter Evenings

Winter weather has finally come to Southern California and chilly evenings always make me think of soup. Everyone who knows me understands I do not like to cook but I do like to eat healthy food. I have two easy "go-to" soups that I like to make every couple of months. They are very similar - I just change up the seasonings - and I can freeze them to pull out for simple dinners and lunches.

I really do not like to follow a recipe. I guess I just feel like it takes too much time to measure everything. Here is how I make lentil or split pea soup.

1 bag gray green lentils OR split peas
1 potato - leave the peel on if you use organic
1 onion, sliced in chunks
Some chopped garlic
a handful of baby carrots
salt  - about a teaspoon

I fill the big pot about 3/4 full of water and dump everything in. I know the cooks out there are gasping in horror. But you like to cook and I don't and this actually does work.

I bring it to a boil and simmer it for about 40 minutes. You just want to make sure the vegetables and lentils are soft.

Then I add seasoning. Sometimes I want a curry flavor. Last time I had fresh savory. You could try sage or thyme. What flavor does your family like? I always add fresh ground pepper.

Put a couple of cups of the soup in a blender. Put the lid on, leave the center section off and cover with a clean cloth, then blend the soup. Pour into a second bowl or container. Do this until all the soup is smooth. If you have an immersion blender, use that.

Divide into BPA-free plastic containers according to how you will use it. I usually fill one large container for a dinner and then divide the rest into single servings for lunches. Label the container. It might not be recognizable in the freezer.

To use, take it out of the freezer the night before, thaw in refrigerator. Pour/dump the soup into a saucepan and heat on low. You can microwave, if you want. You might want to add more water if it seems too thick. Taste it to see if it needs more salt. Easy dinner prep! Serve with whole wheat pita, rolls or cornbread.

Vegan, no cholesterol, no oil, low sodium, gluten-free, dairy-free - and easy. What more could you ask?

Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Enjoy your Food!