Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Purpose of a Sweatshirt

You may already know that I love to do cardio and my favorite format is Turbo Kick. I am extremely motivated in a room full of fellow, high energy, Turbo lovers with the music blasting. It’s my favorite way to start the day and I get to a class whenever I can! On Saturday morning I hopped in my car and sang my way to the gym, anticipating the happy, sweaty mess I would be in an hour or so.

There are two scenarios that can put a wrench in my “perfect” cardio plan. The first is forgetting my water bottle. Although this is pretty inconvenient, it’s not a total spoiler as there are water fountains at the gym.  I’ve forgotten water a couple of times. The good news is that I remembered my water on Saturday.  In fact, I had two bottles with me. Yes, I was quite the example that morning.

The second scenario is forgetting my gym towel. This did happen on Saturday, and trust me, it will never happen again. Leaving your towel at home is absolutely the worst thing to do when you’re planning on having a sweat fest. And when I say sweat fest, I don’t mean a little dewy glow. I mean full on, totally drenched, drops flying, puddle underneath me, sweat shower. I apologize if this is too much information, but I don’t go to the gym to look cute. If you’re going to do anything at all, do it big! I move big, I sweat big. When I realized my most important  asset was missing, my heart sank. Shoot! I was already there. I had “my spot”. Now what?

Many things whirled through my head at this point. I know from wearing my UP band that an hour of Turbo is 7,000-8,000 steps for me, depending on my energy level and the pace of the class. This means about 3.5 – 4 miles of kicking, punching, lunging, squatting and jumping in my 3 x 3 square foot space in the group exercise room. At what mile marker does the sweat start pouring? And what do I do when it does?

Lucky for me it was a cool, misty August morning and I wore a light sweatshirt to the gym. Certainly it could work as a substitute towel, right? I thought I was saved and took a breath of relief as the music began. Turbo time!

As the warmup started I was still thinking about my sweatshirt. I’m not really sure why little cotton jackets with hoods and zippers are called sweatshirts in the first place. I certainly don’t wear one to sweat in, and if I do sweat with one on, I take it off. I later learned with my initial mopping of the brow that the sweatshirt I chose did a terrible job of absorbing sweat. And later, when I got a zipper in the eye, I decided maybe dripping dry was worth considering.

I feel bad about the drips I left on the gym floor as I raced to the car after class. I’m always very good about cleaning up after myself. Well, I guess I can’t say that anymore, but, hello, this was truly an emergency! There was a box of tissues in my glove compartment and I needed them right away.  Granted they were a messy way to dry off, with little bits breaking off and sticking to me, but they made a better towel than my sweatshirt did.

I learned a few things on Saturday morning. First, I think I sweat more when I’m worried about how much I’m going to sweat. Second, I need to leave extra towels in my gym bag, or the car, or both. And third, little cotton summer weight sweatshirts make terrible towels. They are designed for wearing and to make you feel cozy.

Hopefully this whole thing is a one-time experience. Hopefully it was something you could relate to, or made you chuckle or maybe even grossed you out a little. (Hey, I’ll take anything!)


Fun Facts: Fats, Water and Sodium

Here are a few fun facts on fats, water and sodium that I find helpful. Enjoy!

The Skinny on Fats:

You’ve heard eating too much saturated fat is bad for you, but how do you distinguish a food that’s high in saturated fat from one that’s not?  

Food fats are never ‘only’ saturated or unsaturated, but are a mixture of different fatty acid types. As a general rule of thumb, foods that are higher in saturated fat are more solid at room temperature (like butter) and foods that contain more unsaturated fatty acids tend to be more liquid at room temperature (like oils). When you’re cooking and making a choice of what to use in your stir fry, choose liquid over solid (oil over butter). The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat intake to less than 7% of total daily calories.

If you’re a label reader, you’ve probably seen the word “hydrogenated”. What does this mean?

An example of hydrogenation is a manufacturer altering a liquid vegetable oil to act like a solid fat. This makes the fat more saturated and more effective for them in making baked goods, snack foods and a product that spreads like butter (margarine). This process also protects the end product from oxidation and rancidity. Hydrogenation produces a great end product for the manufacturer, but it’s not a good choice for the consumer. The hydrogenation process transforms a primarily unsaturated fat (vegetable oil) into a trans fat. The American Heart Association views trans fatty acids more harmful than saturated fats and recommends trans fatty intake to less than 1% of total daily calories. For good heart health, read labels and avoid hydrogenated products.


The average human body is 60% water!

This is only an average and can actually vary from 45 – 75% depending on much muscle you have. Lean muscle mass is nearly three quarters water by weight! Fat tissue contains only 10% water. The more muscle mass you have, the more water weight you have!

How much water do you need?

Everyone needs a different amount of water depending on their size, body composition and activity level, as well as the temperature and humidity level of the environment. There are so many opinions on exactly how much water you need.  I go by this rule of thumb: Divide your weight by 2 and drink that many fluid ounces of water per day at a minimum.  I increase this number when I exercise or if the weather is hot. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty! Thirst is an indicator that you’re already dehydrated!

More about Dehydration 

Dehydration occurs when you lose more water than you take in. You can have chronic mild dehydration by losing just 1-2% of body weight in water. Symptoms include not only increased thirst, but a decline in alertness and ability to concentrate, fatigue and headache.

Your body is constantly losing water

Your body is continuously losing water through evaporation through your skin and lungs. This accounts for 1/4 to 1/2 of your water loss per day and is called ‘insensible water loss’.

Insensible water loss increases dramatically when you’re sick. Fever, coughing, rapid breathing and runny nose all significantly increase water loss. This is why it’s suggested you drink plenty of fluids when you’re under the weather.

Other Cool Facts

People generally get 81% of their water through drinking fluids and 19% through food consumption.  Think of all the water in the fruits and vegetables you eat. That counts too!

After you drink water, your body can take from 30 – 60 minutes to distribute it throughout your body. To avoid dehydration during exercise or hot weather, you need to drink fluids early and often.


Sodium is an essential nutrient

Sodium is needed in the body to maintain proper water distribution and blood pressure.

How much do you need?

For health benefits, it’s suggested people limit sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. For many (pretty much half the American population), it’s suggested this amount be further reduced to 1,500 mg/day.

The typical American diet contains 3,000-6,000 mg. of sodium per day! Holy Cow!

77% of sodium consumption comes from processed food. Fast food and prepackaged frozen dinners are such a convenience but are very high in sodium.

Too much sodium raises blood pressure, causes hypertension and contributes to osteoporosis.

 Sodium is necessary but too much is not good for your health. Be sure to check labels and watch your intake!



Insel,P., Ross,D., McMahon,K., Bernstein,M., Nutrition Fourth Edition. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett, 2013

Vitamin E – The Antioxidant

I’m still studying Nutrition and if you’ve been following this blog, you know I’ve recently been posting about individual vitamins. To keep them straight I like to create a picture in my mind that helps me remember why each vitamin is so important.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant and I picture it as a mini super hero or warrior. Why? Because this amazing vitamin is fighting for you! It helps defend, protect and prevent!

What is Vitamin E?

Vitamin E is not a single compound. It is actually two sets of four compounds each: the tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma, delta) and the tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma, delta). Don’t worry, the confusing stuff stops here. They are collectively known as vitamin E and that’s what we will call them.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant and protects your body from all kinds of damage. It’s found in virtually every cell in your body.

Vitamin E defends your cells from free radicals, it protects your lungs against contaminants in the environment, it helps protect your eye, liver, breast and muscle tissue, and it may help prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Wow, that’s a lot from one vitamin!

How Much Vitamin E Do You Need?

The RDA for adults (both men, women and pregnant women): 15 milligrams/day

The RDA for women who are breastfeeding: 19 milligrams/day

15 milligrams of vitamin E per day has been shown to decrease chronic disease risk. It doesn’t sound like much, but most Americans consume less than this amount.

Sources of Vitamin E

Vitamin E is found in many plant and animal foods:

  • Wheat germ oil (contains the highest concentration of usable vitamin E)
  • Vegetable and seed oils (such as safflower, cottonseed and sunflower seed oils)
  • Foods made from vegetable oils (such as margarine and salad dressings)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Strawberries, spinach and other leafy greens
  • Meat, poultry and fish

In the typical American diet, 20% of dietary vitamin E comes from oils, salad dressings and margarine, 15% from vegetables, 12% from meat, poultry and fish, 10% from cereal and 9% from fruit.

As you can see, vitamin E is widely available in things you eat everyday.

Storage and Food Preparation Concerns

Oxygen is vital for our survival as humans, but it’s destructive and attacks and destroys the vitamin E content in food through oxidation. Both light and heat accelerate oxidation.

Here are a few examples of what oxidation does:

  • Safflower oil, stored at room temperature for 3 months, loses 55% of vitamin E
  • Peanut oil, frying for 30 minutes, loses 32% of vitamin E
  • Almonds, roasting, loses 80% of vitamin E
  • Bread, baking, loses 5-50% vitamin E

Also, processing takes a substantial toll on vitamin E.

  • Processing wheat to white flour reduces vitamin E by 92%
  • Vegetable oil is a refined food. During the purifying and refining process, so much vitamin E is removed that the by products are used to make supplements.

Vitamin E Deficiency

Vitamin E deficiency is rare in North America because vegetable oils and other sources rich in vitamin E are so widely used. Those at risk, however, are infants born prematurely and those who can’t digest dietary fat.

Vitamin E deficiency causes a condition known as hemolysis (the premature breakdown of red blood cells) and an associated anemia.  This anemia is most common in premature infants because vitamin E transfers from mother to fetus in the last 2 weeks of pregnancy. Babies born prematurely are lacking this essential nutrient. In cases like this, supplements and special formulas are used to help correct the problem.

People who can not absorb dietary fat or who have rare fat metabolism disorders can develop a deficiency in vitamin E. In adults, the malabsorption would have to exist for 5 – 10 years for symptoms to surface and can result in neurological problems that affect the spinal cord and peripheral nerves.

Vitamin E Toxiciy

Vitamin E is relatively nontoxic.

Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin, but unlike vitamins A and D, vitamin E does not accumulate in the liver. 90% of the vitamin E in your body is stored in fat tissue. The remaining 10% is found in pretty much every cell in every tissue in your body.

It is difficult to consume too much of this vitamin from food.

Taking high dose vitamin E supplements may interfere with blood clotting and therefore may increase your body’s vitamin K requirement.



Insel,P., Ross,D., McMahon,K., Bernstein,M., Nutrition Fourth Edition. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett, 2013

Vitamin D – The Sunshine Vitamin

sunDo you have a favorite vitamin? I sure do! Mine is definitely vitamin D!

Vitamin D is different from any other vitamin. If you get enough exposure to the sun, your body makes all the vitamin D it needs. Imagine how wonderful the warmth of the sun feels on your skin. Now consider that as you are basking in the rays, you are fortifying your body with this important nutrient. Sounds like time well spent to me!

Why is Vitamin D Important?

Vitamin D is essential for bone health. Vitamin D and calcium work together to keep your bones strong. When vitamin D is lacking, only about 10-15% of your dietary calcium is absorbed by your body. Your body needs adequate vitamin D for calcium to do its job.

Vitamin D has other roles in the body too. It aids in cell growth, the immune system and reducing inflammation in the body. There is also some evidence that getting enough vitamin D may lower your risk of certain cancers, including those of the colon, breast, prostate, skin, and pancreas.

How much Vitamin D do You Need?

According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, : the following amounts are recommended:

Male and female aged 1-70: 15 mcg/day (600 IU)

Male and female over 70: 20 mcg/day (800 IU)

Sources of Vitamin D

The Sun

You can get the required amount of vitamin D solely from sun exposure, but here are several factors to consider:

  • Exposure of arms and legs for 5 to 30 minutes, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., twice per week is generally adequate.
  • Sunscreen almost entirely blocks the ultraviolet light necessary for your body to make vitamin D.
  • The sun delivers more radiation in the summer months.
  • The sun delivers different amounts of radiation depending on where you live. Areas closer to the equator have more intense sunlight.
  • 80% or more of the sun’s UV rays penetrate clouds but window glass blocks these rays.
  • Lighter skinned people absorb these rays more quickly than darker skinned people.
  • People over 70 years of age have a 75% reduction in their ability to produce vitamin D through sun exposure. This is why they require more vitamin D in their diet.
  • Infants are born with stores of vitamin D that last about 9 months.

A rule of thumb is to expose your hands, arms and face to the sun for about one-third the time it would take you to burn. Doing this two to three times per week should provide you with adequate vitamin D. (Disclaimer: This rule of thumb is stated in my Nutrition book, but please be careful exposing your unprotected skin to the sun for any amount of time. My dermatologist would be very disappointed in me for suggesting you do this for even a minute. I’m just stating the facts as I have learned them and everyone can make their own choices.) Now back to the learning!

Food Sources

You can get adequate vitamin D through your diet as well, however, few foods naturally contain this nutrient. For this reason, many foods are fortified with vitamin D including milk, breakfast cereal, orange juice, yogurt and breads and grains.

Vitamin D is found naturally in oily fish (such as swordfish and salmon) and in fish oils (such as cod liver oil). Egg yolk, butter and liver also supply some vitamin D, but the amount depends on the amount of vitamin D consumed by the animal source.

Plants are a poor source of vitamin D.

Vitamin D Deficiency

In children, vitamin D promotes bone development and growth. If a deficiency exists, the bones weaken and the skeleton fails to harden (a condition known as rickets). Rickets can cause skeletal deformities such as ‘bow legs’ or ‘knock knees’. Rickets is pretty rare in the the United States and Canada these days thanks to foods fortified with this nutrient, like vitamin D fortified milk.

In adults, a deficiency can cause a skeletal problem called osteomalacia or “soft bones” and also contributes to osteoporosis.

Besides skeletal issues, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to increased risk for cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and type I diabetes.

Vitamin D Toxicity

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and like most other fat soluble vitamins,  your body stores the excess in the liver for future use. If you consume too much, you can exceed the liver’s storage capacity and vitamin D becomes toxic in your body.

Sun exposure does not cause vitamin D toxicity, but high supplement doses can.

Vitamin D toxicity is severe and causes a condition called hypercalcemia, which is a high concentration of calcium in the blood. This affects many tissues in the body and can result in bone loss, kidney stones and can affect the central nervous system.

Large doses of vitamin D should only be taken under a physician’s supervision.



Insel,P., Ross,D., McMahon,K., Bernstein,M., Nutrition Fourth Edition. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett, 2013