May’s Monthly Challenge – Getting Ready For Summer

Day 21:
How Eating Regularly And Frequently Can Help You Lose Weight

eating regularly

When it comes to our eating habits it is not only what we eat that is important but when we eat and how often. Our body is a machine, and like many machines it likes to run on a schedule. As a result, eating regularly or on a schedule will actually help your body keep your metabolism up, and digest your food more effectively.

As I said before, our body is a machine, and our digestive system is a complex system that is regulated via hormones, neurotransmitters, and messenger molecules called cytokines. These components not only tell our brain and body when we’re hungry but what our bodies are craving. Therefore if these components becomes misaligned in anyway, our entire digestive system is affected, and we will start craving more food, especially food that isn’t good for us.

Eating regularly give us the ability to keep the machine that is our digestive system and food craving system functioning properly. As our body gets acclimated to the continuous food schedule, it will actually start producing insulin and other digestive enzymes in anticipation of the food your body knows is coming. As a result you will have less food cravings, and will be able to eat less, maintaining greater portion control as you eat.

It is not only important to eat regularly but eating more frequently keeps your metabolism up. By frequently I mean eating three meals and two snacks between your meals. Eating often allows your metabolism to get a continuous workout throughout the day, so it doesn’t have time to slow down and store fat. In addition you are providing your body with a continuous supply of energy it can use. As a result, one of the pleasant side effects people often notice right away when they start eating better meals more frequently, is that they have more energy. Think about how much you would be able to accomplish if you didn’t hit the mid-afternoon hump that often sends many people back to the coffee machine or sodas.

So if you’re constantly hungry or craving food that you know is not good for you like processed carbohydrates and sugar, try to take back control of your body by eating regularly and frequently, more complete and balanced meals and snacks. Not only will you notice your cravings start to abate, but you will see that you will eat less and maintain more energy throughout your day.

 

Day 20:
Why Type Of Sugar Matters: Why High Fructose Corn Syrup Is Bad For Our Bodies

type of sugar

Recently there has been a lot of public discussion about the types of sugar in our diets. The sugar debate has even made it to television with commercials trying to convince us that high fructose corn syrup isn’t bad for us with compared to regular sugar.

When it comes right down to it, the type of sugar we put into our bodies does matter. This has nothing to do with how these different forms of sugars compare to each other, and everything to do with how they interact with our bodies when we digest them. Let’s start with the high fructose corn syrup to regular sugar comparison.

In the commercials you are told that high fructose corn syrup is the same nutritionally as regular sugar. This might be true, but how real sugar and high fructose corn syrup are digested into our bodies is different. Real sugar or glucose is the basic sugar metabolized in our bodies with the help of insulin. High fructose corn syrup is a combination of both fructose and glucose. While fructose is naturally occurring sugar found in fruits, it does not enable the production of insulin. In addition when we typically digest fructose it is from fruit and accompanied by other nutrients in addition to fiber, which slows the absorption of sugar directly into our blood stream. Since high fructose corn syrup is usually not accompanied with high concentrations of fiber, it is absorbed more quickly into our blood stream where it is metabolized by our cells into acetyl-CoA, an unstable source of carbon, and then turned into cholesterol and triglycerides.

In addition, high fructose corn syrup increases the amount of food we consume. This occurs due to the lack of insulin produced by high fructose corn syrup since it is too quickly absorbed into our blood stream. Insulin production also promotes the production of the hormone leptin, which is responsible for tell our brain that we’re full. Therefore without the production insulin when you digest the glucose in high fructose corn syrup, your body has to eat more to compensate for the lack of leptin production.

The fact of the matter is that the type of sugar matters. Just because something is chemically similar to another substance found in nature, doesn’t mean that it will be digested and metabolized the same way by our bodies. So even though high fructose corn syrup consists of glucose and fructose, our bodies can’t digest it the same way as it would the glucose found in other carbohydrates, or the fructose found in fruits. When it comes to sugar, it’s always best to keep it simple, and unprocessed.

 

Day 19:
Why A Resting Day Is Important When Exercising Regularly

resting day

As is the case with many things in life, our bodies function better after having a resting day to recover from a period of intense stress. This is especially true of our bodies when we exercise.

Our muscles consist of microfilaments that are being broken down and rebuilt every time we exercise. In fact it is theses microfilaments that are responsible for our muscles growing in size before our eyes as we get stronger. This is because exercise breaks down the microfilaments we currently have in our muscles and builds more microfilaments as it repairs itself, which allows us to get stronger. Due to this constant process of breaking down and rebuilding we need to make sure we give our muscles enough time to recover and rebuild themselves before we exercise again. This is why it is generally recommended that you exercise 3-4 times a week, giving yourself a resting day between every workout making sure that your body has enough time to recover and rebuild itself before it is broken down again.

This constant breaking down and building up of microfilaments in the muscle is why it is so important to make sure you’re eating a nutritious diet with plenty of protein to help rebuilding and repairing occurring inside your muscles. Athletes who exercise frequently will have an increased content of blood, that is sometimes visible to the eye when they urine due to the continuous breaking down and rebuilding of the muscles in their bodies.

When we don’t eat enough protein our body will start cannibalizing itself looking for the protein it was neglected. Anemia is a medical condition that many individuals who don’t eat enough protein or iron contract. This condition has symptoms like excessive paleness, fatigue, shortness of breath, unusual food cravings, cold hands and feet, dizziness, headaches, hair loss, and brittle nails. If anemia is not taken care of or treated, it can cause further complications including severe fatigue that can prevent you from performing basic daily tasks, and heart problems.

Exercising excessively can also make you more prone to injury. By constantly working out and breaking down your muscles, you can weaken your body to the point where a little fall can result in a sprained or twisted joint. Even professional athletes make sure they give their bodies breaks from their strenuous exercise routine to make sure their muscles have time to recover, and they can perform better.

So make sure you take a resting day from exercising every now and them to make sure you’re not over working your muscles and putting yourself at unnecessary risk for injury. But don’t take too long of a break between workouts. Breaks of a week or longer will result in the loss of progress.

 

Day 18:
Why Chocolate Is Good For Us

chocolate is good

If there’s one thing all women seem to love, it’s chocolate. Unfortunately, if it’s one thing most diets seem to prevent us from eating, it’s chocolate, but why? Chocolate, more specifically dark chocolate is good for you. So diets that prevent us from eating chocolate in moderation are actually making us more prone to cheat, and are limiting us from food sources that have been shown to be good for our health.

Chocolate is derived from the cacao plant, which naturally grow in areas 20 degrees above and below the equator. Most of the world’s chocolate comes from West Africa, the most along the Ivory Coast. Chocolate is typically classified into three different types, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate, all of which are made from cacao butter, but have varying degrees of cacao solids (white chocolate in fact has no cacao solid, which is why it maintains a white appearance).

Because dark chocolate has the highest concentration of cacao solids, and is considered to be the lease processed version of chocolate, it is considered to be the healthiest form of chocolate available. Dark chocolate is good for us in moderation, as it has the most antioxidants, and has been linked to reducing the possibility of having a heart attack when consumed regularly in small quantities. This might have something to do with the fact that chocolate has also been shown to make those who eat it happier. This is due to the presence of alkaloids or nitrogen rich compounds that have been linked to the production of serotonin. Serotonin is one of the neurotransmitters in our bodies that allow us to feel good. Serotonin also readily interacts with our blood, where it has been shown to work as a vasoconstrictor and helps regulate blood flow and blood clotting.

Many individuals don’t like dark chocolate stating that it has a “bitter” taste. The truth is that dark chocolate has such an intense flavor that our taste buds quantify it as being bitter if we take too big of a bite. However, this intense flavor is why dark chocolate is preferred when cooking, as it yields the best chocolate flavor. Try letting the chocolate slowly melt in your mouth the next time you take a bite. Not only will this increase your heart rate and brain activity more than a passionate kiss, it will last four times longer.

In the end, chocolate is good for us and we should enjoy it in small quantities, especially dark chocolate. Not only will you receive the benefit of increased serotonin levels, but you’ll get anti-oxidants, improve your cognitive abilities, and reduce your chances of having cardiovascular disease.

 

Day 17:
Exercise Increases Happiness, Health And More

increases happiness

In our basest form, we’re all animals looking to increase happiness in our lives and decrease the amount of pain we experience. All the goals we may have, however philanthropic or altruistic they may be, are to about increasing our overall pleasure and decreasing our pain. What if you can give make yourself experience increased happiness every day, whenever you wanted?

Exercise has been proven to increase happiness due to the production of a neurotransmitter called endorphins, which substance produced by the body that is similar to morphine. Endorphins is a natural drug produced in our pituitary gland that is released when we exercise, are excited about something, in love or experiencing an orgasm. Endorphins create a feeling of power, control and well-being over oneself, which is sometimes just what you need when you’ve had a rough day at work.

Endorphins are released from our pituitary gland directly into the blood stream and into the spinal cord and brain via neurons. The endorphins then interact with various receptor sites, producing more dopamine in our bodies. Dopamine while more commonly known for its sleep inducing properties, also improves our cognitive abilities, mood, and ability to experience sexual gratification.

As stated previously endorphins are similar to morphine, meaning that they also interact at the same sites as morphine, giving us the same resistance to pain and suffering felt when taking morphine. This is one reason why exercise can help you overcome troubling moments you might be experiencing. For instance if you’re having a rough day at work, going to the gym and exercising allows you to clear your head, overcoming the stress, anger, or frustration you might have experienced while at work.

Endorphins are released during long, continuous exercises like running, and other cardiovascular workouts like dancing, when the intensity is moderate to high, and the breathing starts to become more difficult. So in order to experience the wonderful effects of an exercise induced endorphin rush, you have to challenge yourself while working out. You can’t just leisurely walk on a treadmill, or casually lift weights. Push yourself, if you have trouble challenging yourself effectively, try taking a group exercising class or getting a personal trainer who can help motivate you.

Thanks to endorphins exercise now has more benefits than just helping your get in shape and improving your body’s overall health.  Exercise increases happiness, makes us smarter, improves our mood, and helps us sleep. In the end, a good workout can be said to be a cure-all to the everyday woes of modern life.

 

Day 16:
Stress Affects Our Weight

stress affects

As we all know modern day life can be stressful. We’re constantly in touch with work due to our smart phones, so we’re working more than we’ve worked in previous generations. With lives busier than they once were, it’s no wonder the majority of people today say that they’re stressed. Stress affects more than just our moods, and our ability to sleep or concentrate; it affects our weight and our health as well.

Stress is a psychological state we induce based upon our surroundings, and is actually a part of our fight or flight response mechanism. Therefore “stress” is really when our bodies perceive some sort of danger that might require the immediate flight from the vicinity. Stress affects our body by triggering the only known way our body knows how to protect itself when it perceives danger – it slows the metabolism and stores more energy or fat to be used later. When our bodies are stressed, or perceive a danger, the hormones adrenaline and cortisol are produced. These hormones increases your breathing, blood pressure, as well as the blood fat, sugar and insulin levels, all in preparation to meet the needs required during flight. To make matters worse, cortisol decreases leptin sensitivity in our bodies, and leptin is the hormone responsible for telling our brain that we’re full. So not only do we store more fat because of cortisol, but we eat more too.

This response is a reaction of our sympathetic nervous system, one of the two parts of our autonomic nervous system. The other part of our nervous system is the parasympathetic nervous system, and it is responsible for relaxing our body and returning it to its normal functions. One of the main issues people have today is the fact that they’re so continuously stressed that they can’t activate their parasympathetic nervous system and allows their bodies to return to a normal, unthreatened state of being.

Considering the ways stress affects our bodies and the increased stress we experience on a daily basis it is more important than ever to consciously activate our parasympathetic nervous system more, and returning our bodies to equilibrium. To achieve this you need to take control of your psychological state and learn to relax. Learn to take more time for yourself to just relax and de-stress from your day. Also try to slowing down your eating if you’re in a stressful state. Eating slower will allow your brain time to register if when you’re full, mitigating some of the decreased leptin sensitivity we might be experiencing.

 

Day 15:
At Home Leg Exercises

leg exercises

Legs are one of our most important aspects of our bodies. We utilize them daily as we walk, sit, stand, etc. Our ability to take care of them effectively allows us to experience more mobility in our lives, and can transform them into one of our best physical features. While often avoided by many due to their painful nature, leg exercises are essential to maintaining our legs physical health.

As summer approaches we are often exposed to the desire to experience more and be more active. We want to be outside more walking, swimming, running, biking, or playing golf or tennis. Whatever our activity of choice, our legs help us be and stay more active in our life. Here are some leg exercises you can do at home to help keep your legs in shape and maintain an active lifestyle.

  • Wall Squats – Using a wall for support, pretend that you’re sitting in a chair with your knees forming a 90 degree angle. Try keeping your hands away from resting on your legs by keeping your arms against the wall. Hold this position for 30 seconds or more, and repeat as necessary.
  • Frog Hops – If you have young children you can turn this into a fun little game with them. From a standing position, sink down into a squat or a sitting like position. To make sure that you are doing a squat with good form, stick your butt out before sinking down into a sitting like position. From the squat position you then want to jump straight up into the air. Try jumping at least three inches off the ground. As you land, absorb the shock to your knees by sinking back down into a squat position and hold for a second before you jump again.
  • Walking Lunges – If you have room to walk in a straight line for at least 15 feet, you have room to do walking lunges. Starting at one end, step one leg forward, pause to get your balance, and then sink your knees down to the floor stopping right before you touch. Pause again, and then rise back up taking a step forward and continue this movement forward alternating leg lunges. When lunging, try to keep your knee over your ankle, not past, as this can make you more prone to injury.
  • Forward and Backward Lunges – Some of us don’t have room in our homes to perform walking lunges. If this is the case with you, try doing forward and backward lunges. A forward lunge is when you step forward, and then sink down to the floor, stopping just before you touch it. A backwards lunge is when you step backwards and then sink down to the floor stopping before you touch it. Remember to pause at the bottom before you rise back up to your standing position, and to make sure you alternate legs so you’re exercising each leg the same amount.
  • Side Lunges – Side lunches work your inner and outer thighs. To perform a side lunge, step out to the side and keeping your stationary leg straight (don’t lock your knee), sink down on your other leg until your knee forms a 90 degree angle.

Remember by doing leg exercises and keeping your legs in shape you will be able to maintain an active lifestyle throughout your life. This will allow you to take better advantage of those beautiful warm sunny summer days that make your body with the desire to be outside.

 

Day 14:
Why Eating More Fruits And Vegetables Is Important

more fruits and vegetables

Growing up we’re always told to eat our fruits and vegetables. What if you were told that by eating more fruits and vegetables your body would burn more fat, age less quickly and become less prone to chronic disease, would you eat more then? Fruits and vegetables are the only source in our diet for phytonutrients. The word defines itself with the Latin suffix “phyto,” which means plant. So phytonutrients are nutrients that can only be derived from plants.

When you hear people talking about eating whole foods, foods don’t get more whole than eating more fruits and vegetable. Fruits and vegetables are un-process, un-tampered foods that contain nutrients our bodies themselves can’t produce. With such a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to eat, the ones with the most phytonutrients are the one that are the deepest and darkest in color. With this knowledge in hand you can accurately surmise that iceberg lettuce doesn’t have much nutritional value, while spinach and broccoli do. In addition, blueberries are considered to be a super-fruit due to their high natural content of anti-oxidants.

As I mentioned before, phytonutrients help our bodies burn more fat by turning on and off the genes that control our metabolism. Therefore, with the popularity of low-carb even no carb diets, many of us are hurting our bodies without even realizing it. In fact, we think that we’re doing something good for our bodies and eating healthy with these diets, when we’re really just limiting or eliminating the only source of phytonutrients in our diet. The carbs that should be eliminated or restricted from our diets are the processed carbohydrates like pasta and breads. These carbohydrates have relatively little nutritional value with little to no vitamins and minerals and no phytonutrients. While phytonutrients like polyphenols found in cocoa, resveratrol in red wine have been touted for their positive effects on the body for years.

One way to make sure that you’re eating more fruits and vegetables in your diet is to try and eat more colorful and varied meals. Have you ever looked at your plate and noticed how everything was the same color, or was of varying hues of the same color? By trying to eat a more varied and colorful meal you’re making sure you’re getting a wider range of nutrients, including phytonutrients. Try playing a game the next time you cook, and see how many different colors you can get into your meal. This will not only keep your body happy nutritionally, but it will keep your palate happy with the variety of flavors.

 

Day 13:
Arm Exercises For Men And Women

arm exercises

When it comes to arms women want nice lean arms without the under arm giggle, while men want to be strong and show off their guns. In order to achieve these two goals, men and women need to have different arm exercises.

When it comes to women’s arm exercises the goal is to have nice long lean arm muscles, not bulky masculine arm muscles. Therefore in order the best way to achieve this goal is to use our own body weight and resistance to strengthen our arms and to try and do the exercises slowly allowing all our smaller stabilizing muscles to be engaged. In addition, women tend to store fat in the underarm area, so it becomes especially important for women to work out the triceps muscles in their arms.

  • Chair/bench triceps dips – Sit at the edge of a stationary chair or bench, and grab the edge of the seat on either side of you. Move your body off the edge of the seat but keep your body supported and upright using your arms. Slowly lower yourself towards the floor until your elbows are at 90 degree angles. Do not go past 90 degrees as this can result in and injury. Pause at the bottom, before slowly rising yourself back up. To increase the challenging nature of this workout move your feet further away from the chair.
  • Triceps push-ups – If you move your hands closer together so their more in front of your face you engage your triceps more when as you do a push up. Remember you want to do these exercises slowly, pausing when you get to the top or bottom of a move before switching directions. To increase the challenge level of this exercise try balancing with your hand on a hard medicine ball as you’re performing this exercise.

Unlike women, men want to be strong and have “guns” to show off. Here are some arm exercises to help accomplish this goal.

  • Pyramid workout – A pyramid workout used in conjunctions with your basic bicep curls has been shown to increase the size of your muscle fast than normal bicep curls. Starting with a lighter weight do 15-20 bicep curl repetitions, keep in mind you will have done 5 sets of bicep curls by the time you’re done with this workout. Increase your weight during the next set and do 10-15 repetitions. Increase the weight again for the third set and try to do at least 8 repetitions with the heavier weight. For the remaining two sets start decreasing your weight so you’re ending with your lightest starting weight.
  • Bicep pull ups – Most personal trainers and fitness aficionados will agree that the best exercise to strengthen your biceps is the bicep pull ups. This is when you do a pull up with your palms facing you. To increase the challenge of this exercise, try holding a weight with your feet as you perform the pull up.

When it comes to arm exercises, it’s important to understand that men and women have different objectives and to adjust your exercise accordingly. Women generally want long lean muscles, and slower, precise movements make that more achievable, while men want to be the big, strong protector, so their exercises are geared towards increasing strength and bulk faster.

 

Day 12:
Drinking Affects Weight Too

affects weight

Are you having trouble losing weight even though you’re exercising and eating a balanced diet? When it comes to losing weight or trying to get into shape, we always look at how diet and exercise affects weight, but what about our drinks. When it comes to counting calories, it is significantly easier to count the calories of the food you eat rather than the calories you drink. This is because it is easier for us to lose track of how much we drink as opposed to how much we eat.

According to recent studies, Americans consume at least one fifth of their daily calorie intake through their drinks. This equates to at least 400 calories a day from our beverages. That’s equivalent to having an additional small meal during the day. No wonder it affects weight as much as it does. The biggest culprit contributing to beverage weight gain is sugary beverages. These sugary beverages include soda (including diet soda), fruit juices, and sweetened coffee and teas.

The best beverages for our bodies are water and unsweetened teas. Unfortunately most individuals don’t find water or unsweetened teas appealing. There’s also the argument that certain beverages have added benefits to drinking them like fruit juices, red wine, and caffeinated teas and coffee. While caffeine does have its benefits, the sugar the majority of the population puts in its coffee is not a benefit. Therefore ideally we should be drinking unsweetened coffee as well as unsweetened tea. With regards to fruit juice and red wine you could counter-argue that one could receive the same benefits and more by just eating the actual fruit. In fact most doctors and nutritionist believe that it is better to consume your food than drink it or take vitamins.

Alcohol also affects weight. In fact alcohol slows our body’s metabolism, especially its ability to use and burn fat. This is because once the alcohol is digested it is converted into acetate by the liver, which takes precedent in our body’s other metabolites like carbohydrates, and fats. In addition, alcohol stimulates our appetite, making us more likely to eat more during dinner or to snack more throughout the night. In fact one study showed that there’s a 20% increase in the amount of food we eat when we drink.

Therefore the best solution, as with the case anything that affects weight, is to drink your caloric drinks in moderation.

 

Day 11:
Abdominal Workouts To Get You Ready For Summer

abdominal workouts

Probably the most sought after bodily feature by both men and women is a nice stomach. Especially during the summer time when we all hit the beach. Here are some of my favorite mat abdominal workouts that will help get your stomach in shape for the beach.

  • The Basic Crunch – Often times when I see people doing crunches, I see them perform the move exceedingly quickly or with a curled back and/or neck, which is not good for either. Try keeping your back and neck straight when you perform a curl. One trick I’ve learned to help keep my form is by picking a spot on the ceiling above me and keeping my eyes on it throughout the crunch. Try to also slow down your crunch, and hold at the top of the crunch for 1-2 seconds before slowly lowering yourself back down. Slowly lowering yourself back down is a key component since the reverse action of the crunch develops more muscle than the forward action.
  • Bicycle Crunches – When performed in a show controlled manner bicycle crunches are for developing your oblique muscles. Again to maintain good form and make sure you’re getting a good workout keep your eyes on the ceiling, and slow down the motion, pausing slightly at the end of each turn.
  • The Plank – One of the favorite abdominal workouts among personal trainers and fitness aficionados, the plank is an abdominal workout derived from yoga. This exercise will actually help strengthen the stomach muscles responsible for keeping your stomach “sucked in”. For an added challenge try incorporating an additional workout component to your plank. For example incorporating a push-up into your plank holds.
  • Leg Raises with hip-ups – For those pesky lower abdominals leg raises are great. Keeping your legs straight slowly raise your legs up towards the ceiling till your legs are perpendicular to the ceiling. While in this position try lifting your hips off the ground while keeping your legs perpendicular to the floor. Lower your hips back down to the mat, and then slowly lower your straightened leg back towards the floor, stopping and holding just before touching the mat before raising your legs back up in preparation for your next hip-up.

While not terribly extensive as far as abdominal workouts go, these four exercises target all of your abdominal muscles. Remember, if you want to have amazing abdominals, than you have to exercises them regularly. Try doing the above workout for at least 15 minutes a day to help your stomach get ready for the beach.

 

Day 10:
Do Cardiovascular Workouts Really Burn The Most Fat?

cardiovascular workouts

One of the most popular forms of exercising among women is cardiovascular workout, because they are thought to be extremely effective at burning fat, which is what most of us are trying to lose. Cardiovascular workouts do burn fat, they might not be the best method employed. In order to learn the best method of burning fat, you need to understand a little about human anatomy and how our bodies work.

Our bodies have two different types of muscles we utilize commonly referred to as “fast-twitch” and “slow-twitch” muscles. Fast-twitch muscles are muscles that are used during anaerobic exercises. These muscles are our responsible for out sprinting ability, and typically consist of the bulkier muscles men like to build. Slow-twitch muscles are used during aerobic exercises. These muscles are responsible for our endurance, and are typically muscles that are long and lean. As the word aerobic suggests, slow-twitch muscles require oxygen in order to function properly, while anaerobic fast-twitch muscles don’t require oxygen. Therefore slow-twitch muscles are red in color due the increased presence of blood vessels, which brings oxygen to the muscles and removes the lactic acid that builds up in our muscles as we use them.

Most workouts can be both an aerobic and anaerobic. Cardiovascular workouts, are predominantly aerobic, but also challenge our cardiovascular system. By strengthening our cardiovascular system, we not only strengthen our heart and lung muscles, but we also improve our body’s circulatory system allowing us get more oxygen to our muscles, and remove more lactic acid from our muscles in turn. This increases our body’s overall endurance while exercising, allowing us to workout longer, faster, and/or with greater resistance.

When it comes to how our bodies burn energy, we are able to measure this amount by using a scientific unit of measurement called a calorie. The calories we burn come from either carbohydrates or fat. Throughout our day our bodies are breaking down a ratio of carbohydrates and fats, not just one or the other. During periods of intense activity, for instance exercise, our bodies initially start breaking down more carbohydrate calories than fat calories. However, the longer we exercise the more fat calories begin to get burned. This is where the 20-30 minute time period comes into play, because at this point in your exercise you start burning more fat calories than carbohydrates.

In the end, what really matters is how many calories you burn. This is because it doesn’t matter if you’re initially burning more carbohydrate calories than fat calories, the more calories you burn, the greater the likelihood that you’ll burn more fat calories. Therefore, if you have a shorter period of time to exercise, than a higher intensity workout that burns more calories is more beneficial than a low intensity workout in the same period of time, and the best method of burning calories is through cardiovascular workouts.

 

Day 9:
What Is Food Sensitivity Or Intolerance

food sensitivity

Many of us know what food allergies are, but few of us know what food sensitivities are. Food sensitivity or intolerance as it is sometimes called to make it sound more severe is when our bodies react to the food we eat, but in a less severe manner than allergies and can sometimes occur several days after having eaten. Reactions can include breakouts, bloating, gas, irritability, lack of energy, upset stomachs. Due to the minor irritant nature of these symptoms, many individuals will go through their lives not even realizing that they have food sensitivity.

To diagnose food sensitivity one of the most common methods employed by nutritionists and nutrition coaches is the use of a cleansing restrictive diet eliminating any food product that may cause the intolerance. After purging your body of any potential irritants food products are added back into the diet one at a time. When a food item is added back into our diet that we have an intolerance towards, our body’s produces an elevated reaction, clearly showing us and our nutritionist or nutrition coach that we have a sensitivity.

The most common forms of sensitivities include dairy, yeast and wheat. A dairy intolerance occurs in approximately 75% of the population and is caused by either a sensitivity towards lactose, which is more common, or an intolerance towards milk protein. Generally if you’re sensitive to lactose you will suffer from internal issues like bloating, diarrhea and nausea, while an intolerance towards milk protein will manifest in the form of skin rashes. 33% of the population suffers from a yeast intolerance, which has a wide variety of symptoms varying from skin irritations to mood swings and breathing problems. Wheat intolerance only occurs in approximately 15% of the population and generally manifests itself with digestive issues. One thing women should be aware of is that both yeast and wheat intolerances can be affected by birth control pills. So if you experience monthly episodes of intolerance reactions, this might be due to your birth control.

If you suffer from digestive issues or skin issues, it might behoove you to doing a cleansing restrictive diet, and then gradually adding food items back into your diet to see if you suffer from food sensitivity. Finding and treating intolerances has often allowed people to experience an instant improvement in the quality of their lives, allowing them to achieve more with their lives by awakening their full potential.

 

Day 8:
How Exercise Improves Your Posture

improves your posture

Posture is often an over looked attribute. While growing up we are often told by our parents not to slouch or to stand tall and/or proud, but to this day there is still and epidemic of poor posture especially in younger generations. Exercise improves your posture, so it can be theorized that the obesity epidemic sweeping this country can also have a contributing effect on this poor posture epidemic.

Posture is important not only because it makes you look better and more confident, but it also minimizes the potential for developing back problems. When we stand up straight our back bone is in alignment. This means that our backbone is completely supported by its surrounding muscles, and there is no impact stress on the backbone itself. When we hunch or slouch our backbone is no longer supported by the surrounding muscles, and there are stress points in the backbones alignment. Exercise improves your posture the best since one of the main reason people have poor posture is because their muscles aren’t strong enough to support their bodies.

There are two main muscle groups that help our posture, our abdominals and our back muscles. Our abs are our core muscles, they support the majority of our bodies. If we have weak abdominals, we’re not going to be able to be able to support our upper body appropriately. Doing more abdominal muscles exercises will help your body support itself. Your back muscles are also important when it comes to maintaining posture. The stronger your back muscles the longer your muscles will be able to support your backbone in alignment. One issue that you see more with men than with women, is when the back or shoulder muscles are stronger than the chest muscles. This results in the shoulders rolling forward. The only way to prevent or remedy this situation is to make sure you’re not over exercising one part of your body over another.

Yoga has been touted for years over the fact that it improves your posture. This is due to the stretching and elongating of muscles rather than the contraction of muscles seen with normal weight training. Yoga also uses only your body’s weight and resistance, so there is no way for you to over work one part of your body resulting in the forward shoulder roll. In addition, many of the positions in yoga also force you to keep your back in alignment and abdominal muscles engaged while bending, reaching, etc. thereby teaching your body how to maintain good posture for longer periods of time.

 

Day 7:
Common Dieting Myths And Why They Don’t Work

Dieting Myths

When it comes to weight loss and dieting many of us have been told things throughout our lives that are simply untrue. These myths are often the culprit for our yo-yo weights or why certain diets might work initially, but then we hit a plateau. Here are some of the basic dieting myths that we have been taught over the years.

The most prevalent dieting myths many individuals believe is that eating fewer calories will help you lose weight. This might be true initially, however, your body needs a certain amount of calories every day called your resting metabolic rate. An estimate of your resting metabolic rate can easily be calculated by taking your weight and multiplying it by ten (i.e. add a zero at the end of your weight). If you eat less than this amount of calories than your body will think that you’re starving and in an effort to protect itself, will slow down your metabolism and start storing food, usually as fat, instead of metabolizing it.

This starvation factor is one reason why it’s so important to not skip meals like breakfast. When you go to sleep your body’s metabolism slows down. When you wake up eating breakfast is an important step to re-awakening your body’s metabolism. If you start your day with a workout before breakfast, or just skip breakfast your body is burning calories it has in storage. This might sound like a good idea, however, this triggers the starvation mentality in your body sooner, resulting in your metabolism staying slow even after your first meal and more of that meal being put back into storage rather than being metabolized.

Another way we trigger the starvation mentality in our bodies is when we eat the same thing for an extended period of time. This means if you’re on a diet that stipulates you only drink juice or eat salad, your body will start to think that there’s a famine occurring and activate it’s starvation protocols, slowing the metabolism and storing food. Or bodies created these safety protocols over hundreds if not thousands of years. As a result, on a genetic level our bodies crave variety in the food we eat due to the variety of food our ancestors ate while still hunters and gatherers. Taking this into account, the only time our ancestors would eat the same thing over and over again was when they were facing a starvation, which is why diets that severely restrict your diet make our bodies think that it’s starving.

One of the biggest issues of these dieting myths is that when you lose weight initially half of the weight lost is from fat and the other half is from muscle, but when you stop dieting the weight you gain back is all from fat. Whenever you start a diet you want to include an exercise element as well. This is because muscle burns seventy times more calories than fat. So if you’re only dieting and you’re losing half your initial weight loss from muscle, you’re hurting yourself more because you’re decreasing your body’s ability to effectively burn calories.

 

Day 6:
Creating An Exercise Routine That Works For You

an exercise routine

Exercise, if you want to lose weight, keep it off or increase your muscle tone, you need to exercise in addition to eat well. Unfortunately many of us claim not to have the time to exercise in our busy lives. The first step towards creating an exercise routine that works for you, is the understanding that everyone has the time to exercise, you just make the choice as to whether or not you use that time to exercise or not.

Making the time to exercise is easier than you think; you just have to be committed to your goal of exercising more. The best way to get to the gym is by creating a pleasure-pain association. You want to create a pleasure association with going to the gym, and a pain association with not working out. One effective pleasure-pain association is to buy personal training packages. This forces you to work out more because if you miss a training session you have the pain of losing money associated with not going to the gym. Many gyms also have a policy of cutting locks on daily lockers at the end of every day and donating the contents to charity. Sometimes, the simple act of leaving your gym clothes in one of these daily lockers can be motivation enough to go to the gym or risk losing your property.

Creating an exercise routine with a friend who’s also trying to exercise more can be mutually beneficial. By agreeing to workout with each other at a specific time you’re more likely to actually go workout, than leave a friend stranded. Plus if you don’t show your friend can help create a greater pain association with not meeting them at the gym to workout. This type of buddy system can be great motivation for individuals who need to go to the gym in the mornings rather than in the afternoons or after work.

If for some reason you can’t workout at a gym, or workout in the surrounding area either via walking, running or cycling. With the advent of gaming systems like the Wii, Xbox Kinect and Playstation Move you don’t have to leave the house to get your heart rate up and burn some extra calories. There are even interactive games available that allow you to create a social element to your workout.

Today, there are many ways to create an exercise routine that works with your schedule. You just have to be committed to your goal of exercising more, and fine a method that keeps you motivated to workout. Everyone has the time to exercise in their day; it’s just their choice as to whether or not they actually do.

 

Day 5:
Why Is Organic Food Is Better For You

why is organic food

Organic food has become an industry unto itself in the food world. With grocery stores like Whole Foods, Trader Joes becoming more and more popular, along with local health food stores and farmers markets. But why is organic food better for you than the food in supermarkets?

Organic food is food that doesn’t use any modern day synthetic inputs. Meaning the produce doesn’t use pesticides or chemically altered fertilizer, and the meat doesn’t have any antibiotics or hormone additives. In other words, organic is 100% natural and unprocessed food.

Regular commercial produce and meat is produced by bigger commercial farms whose goal is to produce as much possible for the least amount of cost. As a result these farms use pesticides and chemical fertilizers on their plants, and feed their animals the cheapest grain available, which is usually corn.

Since the commercial farm’s mentality is to produce as much as possible many of these farms will continuously use all the land they have available for farming, instead of leaving some of their land aside to rest and let the nutrients return to the soil. As a result, the poor nutrient quality of the soil requires increased fertilization, and the produce grown in this type of soil doesn’t have the same nutritional content as produce grown in healthy nutrient rich soil. In fact studies have shown that the commercially grown produce of today has significantly less nutritional content than in previous years. Therefore with regards to why is organic food better for you, organic produce has more nutrients in it because it is grown in healthy, nutrient rich soil as opposed to heavily fertilized nutrient poor soil.

How cows are treated, fed and raised is also different on organic farms. As mentioned commercials farms feed their livestock the cheapest grain available, which in the United States is corn. Unfortunately, livestock like cows don’t have digestive systems that allow them to readily digest corn. As a result, the cows tend to get sick, and their growth is stunted. This is why hormones and antibiotics are found so readily in commercially produced milk. In addition, this diet combined with the sedentary lifestyle of livestock at commercial farms have resulted in commercial meat containing 500% more saturated fat than grass-fed beef.

As you can see there are a number of reasons that answer the question why is organic food better for us than it’s commercially produced counterparts? Unfortunately many of us cannot afford to pay the premium cost of organic food compared to their commercial counter parts. If you can’t afford to eat entirely organic food, try to at the very least purchase organic produce when you’re eating the skin of the produce, or to buy kosher meat, as kosher meat has stricter regulations than commercial meat and will be better for you.

 

Day 4:
The Real Whole Food Movement

real whole food

Recently there has been a lot of talk about “whole foods,” but what exactly does that mean, and why is it such a big deal? Real whole food is food that hasn’t been processed, they are foods that are as close to their natural state as you can possibly get. Fruits and vegetables are examples of whole foods, along with unprocessed flour, and raw honey. It means eating steel-cut oats that contain some of the outer bran husk as opposed to rolled oats which have had their husks removed, and the grain flattened, steamed and toasted to make them easier to cook. The easiest way to start eating a diet with more whole foods is to simply look at the ingredients and see if you can easily read and understand all of the listed ingredients. If you can’t easily read and understand the ingredients, put the food back on the shelf and move on.

Over centuries of living as hunters and gatherers our bodies have been designed for eating real whole food. As a result of this evolution, eating this type of real natural food is significantly better for you than the more processed versions because they generally contain more nutritional value, and our bodies know how to digest them better. In fact, most people don’t realize that processed food doesn’t keeps you as satiated, and can potentially slow down your metabolism due to added chemicals that your body doesn’t know how to digest. Just like we slow down at work when we don’t understand something and have to take the time to figure it out before moving forward, our metabolism does the same thing when confronted with an unknown substance that it doesn’t know how to digest, it slows down to figure out what to do.

Try thinking about your food from a different perspective, take a look at the food you have and ask yourself if your great-grandmother would instantly know and understand what you’re eating. If she were to look at the ingredients list of the food, would she be able to understand what all the ingredients are? Chances are, probably not. She’s from an era where the food in groceries was mostly unprocessed. She would buy food, and it wouldn’t have ingredients like “high-fructose corn syrup,” or “partially hydrogenated soybean oil.” Instead, she would buy food with ingredients like milk, cream, sugar and eggs; food with simple, whole ingredients.

Eating real whole food instead of processed food can help you lose weight and speed up your metabolism. Better yet, the “side-effect,” for eating a real natural food diet is increased energy, vitality and overall health.

 

Day 3:
Why Exercise And Nutrition Go Together

Exercise & Nutrition

When we want to get in shape, or live a healthier life we’re always told to eat healthier foods and exercise. This is because exercise and nutrition are so interrelated that you should always be aware of the effects they both have on our bodies. Simply put exercise determines how many calories we burn, while nutrition is the calories themselves. If we eat too many calories and don’t exercise enough we gain weight. If we exercise the same amount of calories we eat we maintain our weight. Or if we eat fewer calories than we exercise we lose weight.

Many people don’t pay enough attention to how exercise and nutrition work together. For example, they use the fact that they exercise as an excuse to eat whatever they want. This can hurt the overall health of your body, because most of our dietary indulgencies include processed food that doesn’t have much nutritional value. When you exercise you need to make sure you’re getting the right nutritional content in your diet, like vitamins, minerals and especially protein. This is because exercising breaks down the muscles in your body and then builds it back up. In order to do this effectively your body requires the necessary nutrients, the primary one being protein. One way to ensure that your body gets the necessary nutrients to rebuild the muscles after a workout is to drink what’s commonly known as “muscle” drinks. These drinks will not make you big and bulky, they are just high protein drinks that make sure your muscles have the necessary nutrients to rebuild themselves after their workout.

Another reason why we might not be able to reach our body goals might be because we’re focusing too much on the calories of the food we’re eating and not the nutritious content of the food. As I mentioned before our bodies need certain nutrients like vitamins and minerals to run effectively. By focusing on the calorie content of food many of us lose a number of the essential vitamins and minerals we need in our bodies. Try focusing on eating more nutritional food versus low calorie foods. Foods that are high in protein and fiber will help us feel satiated longer and on less food.

When used in conjunction with each other an exercise and nutrition plan can not only help you reach your body goals faster, but it can make you feel healthier and more alive than previously.

 

Day 2:
What Is A Healthy Body Image And Weight

A Healthy Body Image

Many of us are not happy with our bodies in some way. We want smaller thighs, a flatter stomach, nicer arms, etc. But when it comes to our bodies, the most important thing we can do is cultivate a healthy body image and a healthy overall body weight.

Our bodies and the skin on our bodies are similar to a rubber balloon. If you don’t have enough fat or air in your body, the balloon is deflated, wrinkled and sagging. If you have the right amount of fat in your body or air in the balloon your skin is taught, but not stretched. Finally if you have too much fat or air in the balloon the skin stretches. Ideally you want the second scenario where you have enough fat to inflate the balloon and keep the skin taught. Understanding this and the fact that everyone’s body is different is the first step to obtaining a healthy body image.

Let’s look at this balloon analogy with regards to how we age. When we reach the age of twenty-five many skincare professionals say the collagen in our face starts to degrade and disappear. Therefore as we get older our face tends to become longer and leaner, with more defined cheekbones. When our bodies don’t have enough fat, this loss of collagen is more noticeable sooner in our lives, and can often leave us with the appearance of sagging skin. When our bodies have a healthy amount of fat in its face, the degradation of collagen in our skin merely leaves us with a leaner looking face. Finally, when our bodies have too much fat, the loss of collagen in our face is less noticeable due to the overabundance of fat in our skin. This is why individuals who are heavier earlier in their life and then lose weight tend to look younger than other individuals of the same age.

So what is a healthy weight for your body? Thankfully there are many resources now available on the web that allows us to quickly calculate what a healthy BMI or Body Mass Index is for our bodies using our height and our weight as measuring standards. BMI is not the only calculation we should look at if we want to get a better assessment of our body’s overall health, but it’s a good start. Knowing what our percent body fat and height to waist ratio are also important factors in determining overall body health.

It is important to be conscious of your body in order to have a healthy body image, but not too conscious. Having some fat on your body is not a bad thing, only the lack of fat or the excessive presence of fat is what can be dangerous to our health. Use the health resources available on the internet as a reference to see if you’re keeping your body healthy.

 

Day 1:
Getting Ready For Summer Doesn’t Have To Be Hard

Getting ready for summer

Memorial Day is fast approaching, which means summer is almost here. For many of us we welcome the warmer weather and the longer days, while others of us dread the idea of putting on a bathing suit after the long winter months, and the bulky layers that gave us an excuse to indulge ourselves. Getting ready for summer is sometimes just the motivation you need to get back in shape, and start turning your life around for the better.

The only way to get our bodies ready for the beach is by exercising and eating healthy. This doesn’t mean we have to restrict our diets to the point where we’re only eating salads, or go to the gym for two hours a day, but it does mean that we need to make a commitment to ourselves to eat healthier and exercise at least three to four days a week for about an hour. This commitment will not only allow you to feel better about yourself, but it will also allow you to shed some of those unwanted pounds we’ve accumulated over the winter months.

In preparation for getting ready for summer, eating healthier and exercising more I encourage you to go through your kitchens and start reading the labels of the food you have. Don’t look at the Calorie content, etc. but look at the list of ingredients. Can you easily read and understand the list of ingredients, or does it include chemical sounding ingredients like disodium inosinate? Go through your kitchen and take out everything with ingredients that contain chemical ingredients not found in nature. Even better, throw them out, especially anything with high fructose corn syrup or any hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. You also need to go through your sweet drawer and get rid of your sweets, with the only exception being dark chocolate that’s seventy percent or greater cacao. Getting rid of these products will make it easier to eat healthier, since we won’t have temptation knocking at our door every time we open the refrigerator or pantry.

When it comes to exercising more, you can easily increase the amount of calories you burn in a day by trying to be more active. Try walking to work on these increasingly nice days, or walking more in general by going for a stroll after lunch. You can even go so far as to walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator, just start being more active. If you live or work on a high floor of a building try seeing how far you can climb up the stairs and challenge yourself to do increasingly better.

Getting ready for summer doesn’t have to be a difficult process. It is primarily just a commitment to yourself, and learning to take small manageable steps towards achieving your goals. Remember attempting too much too soon can lead to injury and failure, so take small manageable steps to ensure to maintain your commitment to a healthier, fit you.

Comments
One Response to “May’s Monthly Challenge – Getting Ready For Summer”
  1. Audry says:

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    Please let me know where you got your theme.
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