Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Gadgets and Gizmos Galore!

   So you made your New Years Resolution to get healthy; you're going to eat better and exercise more. And then life picked back up, you got a little busy, and started falling off the wagon. I know it happens, because I experience it too, and I legitimately enjoy being healthy and exercising. What is my solution? Keep it fun! How? Rewards! We've already gone over this, but what I do is reward myself with new training toys which got me thinking that maybe you've heard of them, but don't really know the scoop. So, I decided to take a slightly different approach to do a review of sorts. Who doesn't have a smart phone these days? Even my mom got on the smart phone train. Who doesn't love apps? Well move over flappy bird, I have apps you can use to increase your knowledge and help  you stay on track. Technology can be a great thing, but it can also hinder. Don't spend all day looking on pinterest at recipes and motivational workout pictures-- get up and do it! I've been trying out new apps and pieces of equipment for a few weeks now and here's what I think about each:

1. My fitness pal ****/5
   I love this app. Absolutely love it. It's user friendly and quick which are two huge advantages when you are busy, like most people. It saves common foods which makes entering common meals or snacks even quicker, and has a scan option to find products. It even has homemade options you can search for, or you can add the recipe and it will give you the nutritional breakdown. AWESOME! It tracks your weight loss and you can put in how active you are, what you want to weigh and lose each week, and it creates a calorie goal for you. It also tracks exercise and makes graphs and charts. At the end of the day when you complete your entry, it gives you a "If everyday were like today, you would weigh X lbs in 5 weeks". If you are eating too little, it also tells you. You can add friends to see what they're doing (a great way for a trainer to keep an eye on clients!) but it also holds you accountable to yourself. Can you lie? Of course. Who are you really hurting? Only yourself. I've given up many a food because of this app (pop tarts, hot pockets, dunkin donuts, etc.) because not only does it calculate calories, but fat, carbs, proteins, and the major nutritional information like cholesterol, sodium, sugar, and vitamins/minerals. You can look at your nutrient intake per food, and for the whole day and the week.
   The only cons I have with this app is sugar is usually low; many people eat way too much sugar (see my previous blog; The Downlow on Sugar) but if you eat a lot of fruit you will blow your sugar allowance out of the water. So just be mindful of that... I'm okay with you seeing red in the sugar column because you had the recommended serving of fruits that day. It sometimes also shoots people into super low calorie ranges. Luckily you can change this in the settings manually. It sucks to see you coming up in the negative every day, it gets discouraging. If you are new to the diet and exercise thing, start slow. Even if it only recommends 1200 calories a day, change it to something 200-300 calories less than you would normally eat. I recommend logging meals for 3-5 days as you would usually eat to see what your average daily calorie consumption is. Also, you don't want to lose more than 1-2 pounds a week, it's unhealthy to lose more that quickly and if you are exercising, you need the calories to sustain your energy. Be realistic, and use it as a tool not an all or nothing. You can also use my fitness pal on a computer or tablet.

2. Nike Apps *****/5
   I love the Nike apps; I'm currently using Nike Training Club and Nike Running. Nike Running tracks your runs, your mile time, and gives you trophies. Who doesn't love trophies?! I've decreased my mile time by over a minute using Nike Running. They also have a new setting called "Coach" that helps you prepare for a 5K, 10K, or half marathon. You can add friends and create challenges also to keep it interesting. You can also use it outdoors or inside on a treadmill.
   Nike Training Club is a bunch of exercises and 3 programs that you can chose from. I'm currently doing the "Get Lean" program and let me tell you, it's vigorous but it's working. The workouts are created by professionals and talk you through the movements, as well as provide videos. You can chose workouts anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes in length if you need to switch up your workouts.
Nike Running Screen Shot
Nike Training Club Screen Shot

 3. PumaTrac */5
   Maybe I was doing something wrong, but I'm pretty tech savvy, and this app didn't work. It claims to tell you when you run fastest; to a certain music or weather and keep track of all your statistics, indoor or outdoor. Well I ran a mile and it didn't log anything, but it played the music when I hit "Run". I was not happy! I'm willing to give it another shot, because it's a cool concept, but I think it might have a bug or so to fix. 

4. Fooducate ***/5
   The fooducate app is fun, especially if you are having trouble finding healthy snacks. You can also use this app to log calories, but I prefer my fitness pal for that. Fooducate allows you to search for a food, and then it gives it a grade. The grade is based on how healthy it is for you. It also gives you alternatives, which I love...a try this, not that kind of scenario. It also backs up it's grade with facts about the food. Education is your best tool, get all the education you can!

1. Polar HR Monitor *****/5
   I LOVE MY HR MONITOR. I used to think "I don't want to spend that much on a sports watch." Now I think "I don't want to spend less than x amount on my sports watch." and it's for a good reason. More often that not, a more expensive product is a better product. That's not to say you have to drop a ton of money though, it just depends on what you're looking for. My first two sports watches had nothing to do with hr, just time so I could watch the seconds go by on my planks. My third sports watch (sportline brand) had a HR monitor that you used with your finger, no strap. It was fairly accurate, but way over guessed how many calories I had burned and was sometimes difficult to use while running. Finally I invested in the Polar FT4 HR monitor with strap (the strap has electrodes and goes across your chest, and connects to a small hr monitor) and I love it. It tells me my Target HR zone, if I'm in it, my calorie burn, duration, and how long I was in my zone for. The calorie burn is much more accurate and the strap isn't even noticeable or uncomfortable. All HR monitors have the downside of being able to pick up other signals close by, but I haven't had this happen yet. Unless you are going to run around with a portable EKG strapped on though, it's a possibility.

2. Armband *****/5
   This might seem silly, but invest in an arm band for your phone. Mine can hold a key also, which has come in handy. Go to marshalls or five below and get a cheap one. Trying to run while holding your phone is a pain, and putting it in your pants or sport bra isn't safe for the phone and then it gets sweaty (yuck!). I don't suggest leaving your phone at home either, you never know if you might get hurt (or lost, it's happened to me!) and you need your phone to call for help or use the GPS. Plus that way you can have your tunes!

3. Running Shoes vs. Sneakers *****/5
   If you are going to run, your need running shoes. I can't stress this enough. Running shoes should be recycled too, every 3 months or 500 ish miles. (Nike Running can track your shoes too!) You need proper support and I recommend going to a legitimate running shoe store and having an associate help you. All girls love shoes, but while some friends have boots and heels and cute flats, I have around 8 pairs of sneakers. I use "retired" sneakers for when I work on the farm, and then I have other retired shoes that aren't completely beat for working in. I have current running shoes (Under Armour) that get carried into and out of the gym. I have shoes I strength train in, and shoes I kickbox in. There have been days I decide to run and have the wrong shoes, and it's usually awful. Running shoes should be flexible, light, and give your foot support. Strength training shoes should be comfortable and supportive. Don't try and save money on the shoes!

4. Exercise Clothing ***/5
   I could care less how I look when I exercise. I usually wear shorts or yoga pants, a sports bra, and an old shirt. I'm there to get sweaty, not look cute. I do have some cold gear pants and hot gear tanks that I do love, but for the most part you don't need the high dollar stuff to train better. It makes it fun, and if making it fun makes you more likely to do it, by all means, splurge! Sports bras, like shoes, should be thrown out after they've done their time. I also have different sports bras for different activities (more supportive ones for running days!) but after they start to lose elasticity they get retired or thrown out. The gym is not a beauty contest, and I know this message has evaded many people, but you should be there to kill it, and your workout doesn't care what you're wearing as long as you are comfortable, safe (don't run in the summer in sweat pants or in the winter in shorts!), and can move!

Take home message: try new things! Don't be afraid to find what works for you. I only just touched on a few things, but I hope this helps! I will keep trying new things to keep the fitness world updated!
Love the Burn!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Downlow on Sugar

   Who doesn't have a sweet tooth or at least get a craving once in a while? Usually it's for chocolate, which has a high sugar content but some people just enjoy candy in general. Sugar can become addictive, and you have to make a conscious effort to break the habit and the addiction. Here is the problem with sugar; it releases chemicals into your brain that make you feel happy (dopamine) and your brain reacts to sugar quite the same as it does to drugs. A little visual aid to help you understand how sugar works on the body:

   Sugar is not supposed to account for a large chunk of your diet and you would be surprised how much sugar is in what you're eating or even drinking. Sugar content of soda, juices, and even sports drinks is extremely high. Sugar is also found in fruits and vegetables, as glucose or sucrose. We will come back to that topic though. Sugar, as in the table variety, can add up quick in a day if you aren't monitoring it. Are you putting it in your tea or coffee? Did you know that any kind of carbohydrate will have a sugar content. Just because a food doesn't taste sweet, doesn't mean it doesn't have sugar... read your nutrition labels and be aware! If you are keeping a food journal, start keeping a closer eye on your sugar content. Many people see this, and see how much sugar is in fruits and vegetables, and say well no more for me. WRONG!
Sugar content in fruits and veggies

Sugar content in common junk foods

The Sugar found in fruits and veggies is NOT nearly as high as the sugar in junk food... not to mention that fruits and vegetables have a ton of other benefits for your body; they are packed full of vitamins and minerals, have anti-oxidant and cancer fighting properties, and a high water content. Do I recommend you eat 3 bananas in one day? No. But do I suggest eating a handful of grapes instead of a candy bar... absolutely. This comes back to the "Everything in Moderation" theory I've told you about before. Stick to reasonable and realistic serving sizes of the good stuff and you can't go wrong. What's going to be more satisfying, 4 oreos or a peach? Ok so maybe the oreos but are you really going to stop at 4? Probably not. But are you going to eat double the sugar content by eating 2 whole peaches? Probably not. Another thing to keep in mind, the sugar in nature grown foods is NATURAL. It's not made by chemicals in a processing plant. The body is excellent at breaking it down, using it, and not getting addicted to it. The fake stuff on the other hand is harder on the body and does create for an addictive environment.
   Think that one little can of soda isn't hurting you that badly or making that much of an impact? Think again. Drinking diet or 0 calorie... you're still wrong. The reason those drinks are 0 calorie and diet is because they are made with chemicals the body can't even digest, let alone absorb, so they are going right through your body. I would much rather you drink a glass of chocolate milk or juice and get the vitamins and minerals and a sweet fix over a soda. Need the caffeine, start trying a stronger coffee or have black tea with a little bit of honey. Again, honey is a nature made form of sugar and is considered a staple in the paleo diet!

   Nutritionists know for a fact that sugar consumption has led a helping hand to the nations obesity epidemic; be mindful and educated on what you are putting in your body and make smart decisions. Junk food is something you should be avoiding, not fruits and vegetables. Last time I checked, you aren't going to get anything of value from a snickers bar or mcdonalds sweet tea. Don't believe me still, research it... but in case you are too lazy I have included more visual aids for you!

Take home message here: EAT YOUR FRUITS AND VEGGIES! They'll never do you wrong or do you harm. Always be willing to try new ones too, don't just stick to the same arsenal of healthy foods when the more variety you include, the more vitamins, minerals, and benefits you consume. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Muscular Fitness & Aging

   I was recently asked "is it harder to build muscle when you're older". The answer: Yes. Impossible? Of course not. As people age there are lots of things that happen in the body that makes everything a little bit harder and here is the breakdown. Unfortunately, as you age your muscles start to atrophy (shrink) and lose the ability to hypertrophy (get bigger) and the cause of this is not too well understood as far as researchers are concerned. What they do know, is that around 50 your strength begins to decrease by a certain percentage each year and this is inevitable, even if you've been lifting weights most of your life. The main reason muscles begin to atrophy is protein degradation; the proteins in your body are just not rebuilding and repairing muscle tissue as fast as they once were. As people age, they also have a harder time fighting the common cold or may come down with more serious ailments that cause them to be bed ridden for any amount of time and that will also greatly affect the ability to build muscle. Now for those of you who aren't yet out of your prime, it's never too late to start so don't feel like it will all be for wasted effort. Will you look like a VS model? No, because not only are they on crazy diets and air brushed, they are younger and looking like that is their career. Will you have more energy and feel better? Absolutely.
   Now, everyone knows muscle burns more fat at rest, so even if you can't see the muscles you have, they are there, and they are doing something and you should work to build them, but at a safe and moderate pace. Also, never take cardio for granted! The heart is a muscle and working that even just a little can do wonders for anyone's health, young or old.
   1. Nerves slow down.Your nerve endings and fibers start to fire more slowly as you begin to age. This means it might take you a second longer to think about how to do something because the neural pathway is no longer active. Muscle does have memory, but it's not immediate! A bicep curl or squat might not be second nature, even after a few weeks of exercising you might not have perfect form but exercising works those nerves and the brain, as well as the muscles. 
   2. Collagen levels decrease. Collagen is what keeps things looking smooth and tight. This is why anti-wrinkle creams have collagen in them. Collagen is found in the skin, and once lost there is only so much you can do to restore it. Start taking care of your skin NOW... avoid sunburns, use moisturizer, keep your muscles toned. Excess fat stretches the skin, and as you age your skin has less elasticity to bounce back after weight loss.
   3. Muscle proteins decrease. The body just doesn't put as much work into building the muscle as much as simply repairing it. Still, repairing the small tears you create from strength training will help to hypertrophy the muscles a bit.
   The bottom line is, building muscles takes a large commitment and aging is inevitable. But if you have realistic goals, there is no reason to not start, just know it might take a little more "sweat, blood and tears" motivation to get the results you want. Every body has a genetic "set point"; a weight and size it prefers to be. Of course the set point can be modified through diet and exercise, but usually where you hit your plateau is a good indicator.
   My biggest suggestion; learn to love your body for what it can do, has done, and will do rather than hate it for what it cannot. Being healthy is always the ultimate goal, and health comes in all shapes and sizes.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Budgeting Nutrition

   I hear it a lot, "I can't afford to be healthy". I understand healthy foods can be expensive, gym memberships may not come cheap, and if you go vegetarian or organic you're looking at a whole different kind of expense. But do you know how much it costs a year for type II diabetes medication (Type II diabetes is often caused by obesity); you're paying for hospital care, a slew of medications you will be on daily, and then you have to pay for any of the nasty complications such as nerve damage and loss of vision to just name two! I did a little research, and you're looking at around $14,000 a year... that is more than a $1,000 a month! So, a decent gym membership might cost you around $30/ month, and the grocery bill might be around $500-$600 a month, depending on how many people you feed and what you eat... so that's only around let's say $700 a month. That's $300 you didn't have to spend on insulin medication and doctor appointments. And let's face facts, no matter what groceries you are buying, you're still buying them so it's not like that $600 a month would be money in your pocket. Put down the Ramen Noodles and hot dogs. What you put into your body matters! Still don't want to pay for a gym membership, read my Warm Weather Workouts blog; you don't need one! Move the couch or go to the playground, invest in a pair of dumb bells but get up and move! Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to hit the gym decked out in under armour... most of the time I'm there in shorts and an old tshirt. Even better, hit Marshalls; exercise equipment and clothes and shoes for cheap!
   Back to the food problem... I know produce is expensive, and it goes bad quickly so lesson #1: Don't overbuy! Set up a weekly meal plan, and only buy what you're planning to eat. If frozen veggies are on sale, stock up. Frozen has less sodium than canned, and is therefore healthier, but fresh is ideal. If you run out, there is nothing that says you can't go back to the store for just a few things. Keep the fridge and pantry organized so you know exactly what you have, and keep things that go bad quickly towards the front.
   Get Creative! Some foods, especially fruits, can still be used even after they are overly ripened. Bananas for instance are actually higher in cancer fighting agents when brown and freckled but if you're like me, you can't stand the mealy texture and strong banana taste. Throw them in a protein shake, or bake something that uses mashed bananas as the sugar. On my facebook page, ltip fitness, I have a recipe for apple oat muffins that uses bananas and they're delicious! Get on pinterest, tons of ideas! You can also use greens that are a day past what you want to eat in shakes. Try something new, if you don't like it, you were going to throw it out anyways. Consider starting a compost?
   Know what to buy in bulk! Safeway is having a sale! Awesome, but don't buy 12 boxes of cereal. Stock up on things that freeze well, and what you have room to freeze. Bread products and meats freeze well. When I buy meat in bulk I pre-portion it in baggies, because who wants to take a chainsaw to 10 pounds of frozen chicken breasts when they only need 2 pounds? It's not good food safety either to thaw and refreeze foods over and over again either. Yes, I realize this is time consuming but it's worth it! If you're going to eat a lot of brown rice and things of the sort, be sure to keep only one container open at a time and keep it cool and dry. Other than that, you should plan to buy things on a more weekly basis.
   Couponing! Sign up for the grocery store reward program too; it's free and it does pay off. Start checking out coupons too, but don't clip coupons for things you don't use unless you are interested in trying something new. Keep an eye on which stores are having which sales too. Not interested in couponing? Check out a local farmers market for your fresh foods. You can usually talk to the stand and get half of something for half of the price and you don't pay taxes, and it's usually cheaper, fresher, and more local than the grocery store. As a girl who works for a farm, at the farmer markets I have some advice; be nice! We have every right to say "Nope." but usually if a person asks nicely, we will happily oblige. Plus, being rude gets you nowhere and it's not good for your mental health!
   So while you're still sitting here, arguing that you can buy the entire taco bell menu for under $10, save it for your doctor when you develop diabetes or metabolic disease. And sorry to burst your little gas bubble, but that kind of food will only keep you full for around an hour or so and then you need more... more food, more money. Healthy food that is nutrient dense will keep you full for longer. Being healthy is more fulfilling and cheaper in the long run. I lived on my own, I know groceries can be expensive but it's a necessary expense in your budget. Go to the grocery store, and avoid the filler aisles as much as you can and you can lose... weight that is! Do it for yourself and for your family.