Tag Archives: health

The Chihuahua Effect

Fitness is important in our house. I’ve written in previous blogs how my husband and I both wear the UP Band by Jawbone to track our daily activity. Since then I have added four more people to my team on the UP app and we’re all ‘competing’ to be the most active.  (No one will say it, but we all secretly want to beat everyone else).

The UP app gives you a base goal of 10,000 steps to reach each day. It’s really not that easy, especially if you’re not into cardio. A gut busting boot camp or weight session barely makes a dent in your daily step goal. Doing 100 push-ups is pretty impressive but since it doesn’t give you any steps, it doesn’t help in your daily feat to win the step game.

The people on my team who run, hike or take daily walks are the ones who are the lead steppers. I do cardio about four days a week and these are the days that I easily reach anywhere from 12,000 to 17,000 steps by the end of the day. I have an advantage over most of my teammates when it comes to topping the stepper chart on my cardio days.  I call it the ‘chihuahua effect’.

chihuahua-and-big-dogPhoto credit: http://www.chihuahuawardrobe.com/is-it-safe-to-raise-a-chihuahua-around-larger-dogs/

I’m 5 feet tall and my husband stands at 5’6″.  When we go on a weekend hike, we travel the same distance, but time after time I end up with significantly more steps than he does.

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This doesn’t go over very well with him most of the time. I really can’t blame him! He traveled just as far. He worked just as hard.

After each hike he will ask me how many steps I took and as he’s groaning I will say (with much pleasure), “It’s the chihuahua effect”. Simply: He has longer legs. He has a longer stride. I have to take more steps to keep up. We figured that I take about one and one-quarter to one and one-half steps for every one of his. This adds up over time.

Below, my stats are on the left, and my husband’s are on the right. (Somehow it shows he traveled farther than I did. This happens a lot when we use RunKeeper).

My stats His stats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the course of continuous activity for an hour the UP band calculated I took about 600 more steps than he did. So what does this mean over the course of an entire day?

Well, it’s hard to say exactly because we didn’t walk everywhere together. However we did take pretty similar paths. At the end of the day I ultimately took about 1,200 more steps than he did. (Again, I’m on the left).

His final stats My final stats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What does all this mean exactly?

Well, not much really.

For me it’s one reason to be thankful for my very short legs. Is this fair to all my tall teammates?  Sure!

Understanding Protein

If you’re confused about how much protein you need per day, you’re not alone. There’s not a cut-and-dried answer. Everyone has a different “need” depending on gender, weight, activity level and goals.

I’ve been doing a lot of research to try to answer this question for myself. There is a lot of information out there. Here is the lowdown on what I found.

What is the RDA for protein:

The purpose of the RDA guidelines is to inform you how much of a specific nutrient your body needs on a daily basis to function properly. So basically, depending on your weight and activity level, the RDA for protein can be viewed as the minimum requirement to keep you healthy.

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein for men is 56 grams per day and 46 grams per day for women.

Chances are you may need more. But how much more and why?

What is Protein?

Protein is one of the basic building blocks of the human body, making up roughly 20 percent of your total body weight. Muscle, hair, skin, and connective tissue are mainly made up of protein. Also, protein plays a major role in all of the cells and most of the fluids in your body.  Although your body is good at “recycling” protein, you use it up constantly, so it is important to continually replace it.

Protein is made up of smaller units called amino acids. Your body can produce some of these amino acids, but others must be consumed through the diet. Animal products (meat, eggs, dairy) and many plant foods are good sources.

Follow this link to see what’s included in the protein food group:

http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/protein-foods.html#

Protein and Weight Loss

When you want to gain muscle and lose fat, eating the right amount of protein is key. Protein and the amino acids that make it up are required for two main reasons.

1) To construct muscle – they are the building blocks

2)  They act as a switch to ‘signal’ that it’s time to start up the “muscle building machinery”.

Leucine is probably the most important amino acid that stimulates this “switch” and is highly present in protein rich food.

Because protein is required to build muscle AND to signal the body to start this process, it’s important to spread out protein consumption evenly throughout the day.

How Much Do You Need?

“When it comes to building muscle and losing fat, research consistently shows that doubling the RDA spaced out throughout the day is the path you want to take to get the best results the fastest”. (BJ Gaddour, “Men’s Health, Your Body is Your Barbell”). This seems like a good rule of thumb in general. Let’s see what other people say.

Nutritionists use a standard to estimate your minimum daily protein requirement.

Multiply the body weight in pounds by .37.

Using this formula, a 150 lb. man would require a minimum of 55 grams of protein per day. This falls right in with the RDA.  And if you’re very active and exercise frequently, professionals agree you can nearly double this requirement. Be advised, though, if you’re shooting for a gram of protein per pound of body weight, or more, you’re probably overdoing it. The extra protein will not necessarily benefit you. Also, that’s a lot for the body to process and the extra calories will most likely end up as fat.

To look at it another way, it is recommended that 10-35% of your daily calories come from protein. This is a rather large range and where you fall in it also depends on your weight and activity level. For a  diet of 1800 calories per day, this means anywhere from a minimum of 45 grams of protein to over 150 grams of protein per day. That 35% is a pretty high number and may be overdoing it for a lot of people. In my diet, I lean towards around 20% protein.

So you see, there are various rules of thumb to figure out the ideal protein for you.

Tracking the Protein Grams you Eat

Many foods contain protein, but at the end of the day, how do you know how much you’ve consumed?

Here is an easy rule of thumb:

Remember the numbers 1, 5, 10, 15, 25 to roughly estimate protein intake.

That’s:

  • 1 gram of protein for every serving of fruit and vegetables
  • 5 for every egg or handful of nuts you eat
  • 10 for every cup of milk or yogurt
  • 15 for every cup of beans or half-cup of cottage cheese
  • 25 for every 3-4 ounce serving of meat

Protein and Exercise Recovery

After a workout your body switches immediately from performance mode to recovery mode. It’s important to rebuild broken down muscle so you can come back stronger in your next training session. It is a great idea to refuel with protein right after your workout. Try a protein shake. Whey is a rapidly digested protein source loaded with leucine that will help maximize muscle recovery and growth.

Nutrient Timing: Exercise Recovery and Carbs

I found an extra helpful tidbit in my research about muscle recovery and carbs.

Nutrient timing is the concept that certain foods benefit your body more at specific times of the day than at others. After exercise, your muscles want to restock their supply of carbohydrates in the form of  glycogen. This is the time that your muscles are primed to take in the carbs you eat. In fact, after exercise is one of the few times carbs are preferentially transported to your muscles and away from your fat cells.

It’s a great idea to plan your starchiest meal of the day within 2 hours of your training. This could be breakfast, lunch or dinner depending on when you workout.

Your other meals of the day should consist of protein and nutrient dense carbs and vegetables.

A Few Last Words…

I hope this helps answer some questions you have about protein or got you thinking more about nutrition. As a trainer I am all about the workout but honestly, 75 – 80% of the weight loss equation concerns what you put in your mouth.

Wishing you much success!

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http://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/what-to-eat/protein-guide-maximum-muscle#sthash.cEiKJ5O5.dpuf

http://www.nutritionexpress.com/article+index/authors/jeff+s+volek+phd+rd/showarticle.aspx?articleid=807

 

 

Hand Washing 101

washing-hands-mdWashing your hands is one of the first things you learn to do as child. It’s so basic, right? And there are so many styles. There’s the “2-second rinse and wipe on your pants” or the “5-second squirt soap in your palms and rinse the soap blob down the drain” just to name a couple. Both of these styles have to be better than the not “washing” at all, right? Maybe not.

I saw a little blurb on the news about hand washing which prompted me to do some research and examine my own habits.  I’m the first to admit that I wasn’t putting in proper time.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) set forth the following guidelines to help remove germs, avoid getting sick and prevent the spread of germs to others:

How to Wash your Hands:

1) Wet your hands, turn off the tap and apply soap.

2) Lather your hands with the soap. This includes the backs of your hands, in between your fingers, under your nails, and your finger tips.

3) Now that you’re all nice and soapy, scrub your hands for 20 seconds. If you sing or hum the ‘Happy Birthday’ song twice you’ll be good to go. The CDC even suggests this!

4) Rinse

5) Dry

It’s that simple!

Soap and water is the best way to kill those germs but if you don’t have access to clean running water, an alcohol based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is a good option. Be advised that hand sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs. When applying, make sure you rub in until dry.

We’re in the height of cold and flu season and I think we owe it to each other to take a few extra seconds to lather up and scrub.

I will if you will!

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Source:

http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html

Germs and the Gym

It’s the end of January. You’ve finally got yourself into a little workout routine and maybe you’re starting to make some progress and see some results. This makes you happy. You should be! This is hard work! And just when you’re starting to believe you will see your goal, BAM, you get the plague.

This scenario is all too familiar to me! And it raises the question, “Should you work out if you’re not 100%”?

I have a definite opinion on this, but only because I repeatedly made the same mistake for years until I learned to listen to my body.

But before you hear from me:

What do the Doctors say?

If you google this subject you will find that doctors generally agree it’s ok to workout if you’re symptoms are “above the neck”. Imagine symptoms associated with the common cold including a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing and watery eyes. If you have “below the neck” symptoms, hacking cough, chest congestion and/or tightness, then it’s advisable to take some time off. Also, they advise against working out at all if you have a fever, feel fatigued or have widespread muscle aches.

While this medical ‘guidance’ is helpful it’s really not that cut and dry. People are different. Circumstances are different. You have to know yourself.

What I’ve learned:

The best way to get my point across is to give you an example.

A few years ago I was deep in my training when I got cold symptoms. I know a lot of people who don’t slow down for a cold. I decided to follow their example. The result for me? I believe I was responsible for giving myself pneumonia!

I have asthma, so I’m not like ‘a lot of people’ when it comes to the common cold. I didn’t always have asthma though. I developed it as an adult, so I had a lot to learn!

The first thing I learned is that dangerous illnesses can stem from a simple germ and feed on stubbornness. I didn’t ‘want’ to take a break. Heaven forbid I miss a workout! There were two things I didn’t realize. First, my body was laboring much harder doing a familiar workout because I wasn’t well. Second, my body was already working hard to get better. A lose, lose situation!

A simple cold turned into pneumonia because I refused to rest. I was out for weeks.

If you won’t do it for yourself, think about the other guy.

I truly believe that whenever I get the plague it’s from the gym (or shopping cart handles, but that’s another blog). No one who goes to the gym wants a germ infested person contaminating all the equipment. In my opinion, if your nose is all runny and you’re sneezing everywhere, you should definitely stay home no matter what the internet says.

The final question.

I’ve learned that if you have to keep asking yourself, “Should I work out, I’m not really feeling great,” the answer is “NO, you should not work out.” Give yourself a break. You will probably recover faster with a little rest and may just prevent your fellow gym friends from catching your plague.

Everyone wins!

Going Green

269538-green-teaI’ve always been a tea drinker. I look forward to a hot cup or two every morning. It gets me going.

For years I was loyal to Lipton black tea. Why? Because that’s what my parents bought. It was what I grew up on. I didn’t know anything else.

A few years ago I bought my first package of green tea because it was part of a cleanse I was trying. It tasted slightly different but it was good! Adding a little douse of fresh lemon made it taste just like what I was used to, BUT with added health benefits. I was sold and never turned back to the dark side.

Why is Green Tea a Great Choice?

269538-green-tea-leaves

Minimal Processing

In general, the best foods and beverages for you are the ones with the least amount of processing. All teas (except herbal) come from the same type of bush (Camellia Sinensis). The level of processing determines the type of tea. Green tea is the least processed type of tea and therefore contains the most antioxidants of all the varieties.

More on Antioxidants

Antioxidants delay or prevent cell damage.

The antioxidants in tea are called polyphenols.

Catechins are a type of polyphenol found in large amounts in tea and are a very powerful antioxidant. (Catechins are also found in much smaller amounts in red wine and chocolate). Catechins are like little warriors that are believed to help fight various cancers, heart disease, diabetes and also help reduce inflammation in the body.

By weight, green tea is 20-45% polyphenols. Of this, 60-80% are in the form of catechins. That’s a lot of natural power fighting for your health!

Considered One of the World’s Healthiest Drinks

There have been numerous studies on green tea over the years which show a multitude of health benefits. Unsweetened, natural brewed tea has zero calories and is packed full of antioxidants. Adding vitamin C in the form of lemon makes the healthy compounds of green tea easier to absorb. (Dairy, on the other hand, makes the good properties harder to absorb).

Low Caffeine

Green tea contains less caffeine than black tea and far less caffeine than coffee.

Weight Loss

There have been many studies on green tea and weight loss, but they don’t all agree. While some studies have shown that green tea helps increase metabolism and fat burning, others don’t show an increase at all. It’s possible the effects may depend on the individual.

In any case, replacing a sugary or processed beverage with green tea is a good thing!

Final Thoughts

This little list of mine just touches the surface of the health benefits of green tea. I know that not everyone is a tea fan. (Hey, I can’t stomach the taste of coffee. I get it!). But if you’re a tea drinker anyway, why not give it a try?

Cheers!

Deck of Cards – The Workout

If you play your cards right you can get an excellent workout whether or not you’re a few cards short of a full deck!

Just a little humor to introduce one of my very favorite workout formats! I’ve seen different versions of the Deck of Cards concept, but this is mine.

photo

What Is it?

You really do use a full deck of playing cards to guide your workout! Place the deck face down and flip one card over at a time. Each suit is assigned a certain exercise, or in my version two different exercises, and the number on the card tells you how many reps to do. Face cards and Aces are always 15 reps. Your challenge is to complete the entire deck.

Why I LOVE it!

There is definitely an element of surprise. You can do this over and over again and always have a different result. You can also change out the exercises each time you do it so it’s a totally different workout. The possibilities are endless. If you want ho-hum and boring, please do not try this at home. It gets extra fun and challenging if you turn over 2 face cards of the same suit in a row. That’s 30 reps please!

How to Play

The first suggestion is to grab a friend or ten! Of course this can be done solitaire style, but a partner can help you press on if you end up having to do 30 Burpees in a row. Yes I did use the ‘B’ word, and it’s highly recommended you include them as part of this workout because they are awesome. I’ve done this format in a boot camp, with partners and by myself with my dogs licking my face. The last option would be OK minus the dogs.

Planning the workout

You can choose 4 body weight/cardio type exercises or use mine below. Each is assigned a suit.

  • Push-ups – Hearts
  • Burpees – Spades
  • Sit ups – Clubs
  • Squat Jumps – Diamonds

You can choose 4 strength exercises (add weights) or use mine below. Each is assigned a suit.

  • Overhead press – Hearts
  • Squat – Spades
  • Russian twist – Clubs
  • Hammer curl with tricep extension – Diamonds

First, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle the deck. You don’t want to know the order of the cards, that would ruin the fun!

Second, divide the deck equally in two.

The first half of the workout is your cardio time. You will only do the 4 body weight/cardio type exercises for the first 26 cards. For example, for every Heart you turn over you will do pushups, and for every Spade you will do burpees. Remember, you do the number of reps that’s on the card you turn over,  and all face cards are 15 reps.

After you complete the first 26 cards you move on to the strength portion of the workout. Now every time you turn over a Heart, you will do the overhead press, Spades become squats, etc.

I threw in a special exercise for Aces just for variety.

Every time you turn over an Ace, whether it’s in the first half of the deck or the second, you perform walking lunges with a twist, 15 each side or a total of 30.

Variations

My favorite way to do this workout is the way I described above, however, you can put it together in different ways.

First, you can just do the top 4 body weight/cardio type of exercises for the entire workout, while also adding in the walking lunges for the Aces. This  works especially well if you don’t have equipment. When you add up all the reps per exercise type, it’s quite impressive! (But if you like nice round numbers like me, you might want to throw in an extra rep of each!) Here are the stats:

  • Push-ups 99
  • Burpees 99
  • Sit ups 99
  • Squat Jumps 99
  • Walking lunges with a twist 120

Second, you can do the whole workout with weights, like the second half of the workout. I’ve never tried it this way though, so if you do, let me know how it goes.

Third, you can throw all my suggested exercises out the window and use your own!

Final Thoughts

I’m going to lay my cards on the table and say I love to combine cardio and strength in all my workouts. The beauty of this though, is that YOU hold all the cards. So what will it be?

Team Em

I often say in my day to day life there is strength in numbers and one person is never too small to make a difference in our world. In fact, if it weren’t for the cumulative efforts of many people, where would we be?

For this reason I am thrilled to introduce you to Emily.

Em photo

Emily is currently a senior in high school and was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when she was 12.  Growing up is hard enough, but dealing with Type 1 diabetes as a child is a challenging road for both the child and the parents. Suddenly their lives were changed. They had to learn a lot, and fast. The whole family’s schedule was disrupted throughout the day and night with insulin shots and checking blood sugar levels. Emily missed out on many activities over the years because of this demanding disease. It wasn’t a life she chose but one that was thrust upon her. Many people fall victim to such adverse circumstances, but not Emily. She wants to be a victor over the disease and be proactive in finding a cure.

This weekend I had the privilege of being a part of Team Em in the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes.

Em and her classmates

Pictured above is just 1/4 of the team Emily put together to raise money for diabetes research. She gathered family and friends, had t-shrits made and led her team of 40 with enthusiasm. Team Em raised $3,000 to date.

Learning to live with Type 1 Diabetes has been difficult for Emily, but according to her mother, “Understanding and living with the disease has taught her compassion, responsibility and how to rise above her circumstances”. These are lessons some people never learn.

Team Em inspired me. What a great example of taking the life you’re given and using it for the greater good. Embracing your circumstances, no matter what they are, to make a better tomorrow for many others.

Everyone can make a positive difference in this world. It doesn’t depend on your age, social status or bank account. It depends on your heart!