Fitness & Nutrition Blog

Healthy Sources of Vitamin D



1. Salmon
Salmon is a popular fatty fish and a great source of vitamin D.
According to the USDA Food Composition Database, one 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of salmon contains between 361 and 685 IU of vitamin D.
However, it’s usually not specified whether the salmon was wild or farmed. This may not seem important, but it can make a big difference.
On average, wild-caught salmon packs 988 IU of vitamin D per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, or 165% of the RDI. Some studies have found even higher levels in wild salmon — up to 1,300 IU per serving.
However, farmed salmon contains only 25% of that amount. Still, a serving of farmed salmon provides about 250 IU of vitamin D, or 42% of the RDI.

2. Herring and Sardines
Herring is a fish eaten around the world. It can be served raw, canned, smoked or pickled.
This small fish is also one of the best sources of vitamin D.
Fresh Atlantic herring provides 1,628 IU per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, which is nearly three times the RDI.
If fresh fish isn't your thing, pickled herring is also a great source of vitamin D, providing 680 IU per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, or 113% of the RDI.
However, pickled herring also contains a high amount of sodium,  which some people consume too much of.
Sardines are a good source of vitamin D as well — one serving contains 272 IU, or 45% of the RDI.
Other types of fatty fish are also good vitamin D sources. Halibut and mackerel provide 600 and 360 IU per serving, respectively. 

3. Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil is a popular supplement. If you don't like fish, taking cod liver oil can be key to obtaining certain nutrients unavailable in other sources.
It’s an excellent source of vitamin D — at about 450 IU per teaspoon (4.9 ml), it clocks in at a massive 75% of the RDI. It's been used for many years to prevent and treat deficiency in children.
Cod liver oil is also a fantastic source of vitamin A, with 90% of the RDI in just one teaspoon (4.9 ml). However, vitamin A can be toxic in high amounts.
Therefore, be cautious with cod liver oil, making sure to not take too much.
In addition, cod liver oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, in which many people are deficient.

4. Canned Tuna
Many people enjoy canned tuna because of its flavor and easy storage methods.
It’s also usually cheaper than buying fresh fish.
Canned light tuna packs up to 236 IU of vitamin D in a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, which is nearly half of the RDI.
It’s also a good source of niacin and vitamin K.
Unfortunately, canned tuna contains methylmercury, a toxin found in many types of fish. If it builds up in your body, it can cause serious health problems.
However, some types of fish pose less risk than others. For instance, light tuna is typically a better choice than white tuna — it's considered safe to eat up to 6 ounces (170 grams) per week.

5. Oysters
Oysters are a type of clam that lives in saltwater. They’re delicious, low in calories and full of nutrients.
One 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of wild oysters has only 68 calories but contains 320 IU of vitamin D — over half the RDI.
In addition, one serving packs 2–6 times the RDI for vitamin B12, copper and zinc — far more than multivitamins. 

6. Shrimp
Shrimp is a popular type of shellfish.
Yet unlike most other seafood sources of vitamin D, shrimp are very low in fat.
However, they still contain a good amount of vitamin D — 152 IU per serving, or 25% of the RDI.
They also contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, although at lower amounts than many other foods rich in vitamin D.
Shrimp also pack about 152 mg of cholesterol per serving, which is a significant amount.  Yet, this should not be a cause for concern.
No strong evidence supports the idea that dietary cholesterol intake increases heart disease risk.
Even the US Department of Health and Human Services has removed its upper limit for cholesterol intake, stating that overconsumption of cholesterol is not an issue.

7. Egg Yolks
People who don't eat fish should know that seafood is not the only source of vitamin D. Whole eggs are another good source, as well as a wonderfully nutritious food.
While most of the protein in an egg is found in the white, the fat, vitamins and minerals are found mostly in the yolk.
One typical egg yolk from chickens raised indoors contains 18–39 IU of vitamin D, which isn't very high.
However, pasture-raised chickens that roam outside in the sunlight produce eggs with levels 3–4 times higher.
Additionally, eggs from chickens given vitamin D-enriched feed have up to 6,000 IU of vitamin D per yolk. That’s a whopping 10 times the RDI.
Choosing eggs either from chickens raised outside or marketed as high in vitamin D can be a great way to meet your daily requirements.

8. Mushrooms
Excluding fortified foods, mushrooms are the only plant source of vitamin D.
Like humans, mushrooms can synthesize this vitamin when exposed to UV light.
However, mushrooms produce vitamin D2, whereas animals produce vitamin D3.
Though vitamin D2 helps raise blood levels of vitamin D, it may not be as effective as Vitamin D3. 
Nonetheless, wild mushrooms are excellent sources of vitamin D2. In fact, some varieties pack up to 2,300 IU per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving — nearly four times the RDI.
On the other hand, commercially grown mushrooms are often grown in the dark and contain very little D2.
However, certain brands are treated with UV light. These mushrooms can provide anywhere from 130–450 IU of vitamin D2 per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).

Vitamin D To Help Fight Colds and The Winter Blues




Vitamin D plays a major role in disease prevention and maintaining optimal health.  It has long been known to be important for bone health, but it serves many other functions. Vitamin D has been linked to the prevention of cancer, immunity to the cold, and the reduction of depression.  It supports cardiovascular health and proper immune function, making you much less likely to get the flu when you have optimal levels!  

Your body can make its own vitamin D when you expose your skin to sunlight.  The UVB rays react with your skin and produce vitamin D3, which is sent to your liver and converted to calcidiol, also known as 25(OH)D.  Generally, 20-30 minutes of mid day sun exposure is sufficient for light skinned people, if you have darker skin you may need to double the time.  Interestingly, once your body has produced enough vitamin D through sun exposure, those same UVB rays will begin to prevent excess vitamin D production.  This means there’s no need to worry about getting too much vitamin D from sunlight.

This is a great natural system, however, if you live the US (or other northern latitudes) it’s very difficult and likely impossible to meet your Vitamin D needs from sunlight during the winter months. 

During this time just about everyone in the US is in need of vitamin D supplementation.  One caveat with taking vitamin D orally is that it is possible to take too much.  However, this is unlikely as you would have to take large amounts very frequently.  As an oral supplement vitamin D3 is preferred over D2 as researchers have found that vitamin D3 is twice as effective as vitamin D2 in raising levels in the body.  Recent research indicates that taking 4000 IU  - 8000 IU per day will put you at an optimal level.  When you take vitamin D orally it is sent to your liver where it is converted to calcidiol, or 25(OH)D, the same as when your body creates it from sunlight. Since vitamin D is fat soluble it’s beneficial to take your vitamin D supplement with a healthy fat for better absorption.  The only way to know for sure the proper supplementation amount for you is to get a blood test for 25(OH)D before you begin supplementing and check it after 6-8 weeks.  An optimal level for 25(OH)D is 50-60 ng/mL.  

In addition to playing a part in your emotional health maintaining optimal Vitamin D levels will support and enhance your athletic performance.  Studies have shown that athletes with optimal serum vitamin D concentrations bounced back better after intense exercise.  As athletes, we know that being able to get out there and feel good in our training also plays a part in our sense of well being!

The Truth About Carbohydrates




1. Carbs Are Not Uniquely Fattening
Scientists once hypothesized that carbs increased the risk of obesity more than fat and protein.
According to this hypothesis, carbs are the primary cause of obesity  due to their ability to raise insulin levels, which in turn promotes the storage of calories as fat. This idea is known as the carbohydrate-insulin model of obesity.
Of course, excessive intake of any calorie-providing nutrient — fat, carb, or protein — is an effective recipe for weight gain and obesity.
But no compelling evidence supports the idea that high-carb diets are especially fattening. In fact, many studies suggest that there is no significant association between high carb intake and obesity.
Nevertheless, healthy low-carb diets have been proven effective for weight loss — at least in the short term.
Scientists believe that their effectiveness is due to the elimination of refined carbs like sugar and an increased focus on healthy, high-fiber carb sources, as well as protein and fat.
Still, one large, 12-month study that compared the effectiveness of a healthy low-carb diet with a healthy low-fat diet detected no significant differences in weight loss.
In short, the quality of the carbs you eat is of greater importance than the proportion of carbs in your diet.
Thus, you should avoid eating a lot of sugar and other refined carbs, and instead focus on whole, carb-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, roots, and tubers.

SUMMARY Carbs don’t cause weight gain unless they contribute to excessive calorie intake. Carb quality is of greater importance. Avoid unhealthy, refined carbs and focus instead on healthy, high-fiber carb sources.

2. Early Humans Frequently Ate Carbs
Learning to cook was a game-changer for early humans, as cooked meat provided increased protein, fat, and calories.
Yet, new evidence indicates that carb-rich foods like root vegetables, legumes, and even grains were cooked and consumed by human ancestors as well.
Cooked carbs would not only have been more nutritious but also more appealing to a hungry hunter-gatherer.
This theory is supported by emerging biological evidence showing that early humans began developing extra copies of the amylase gene, which helps produce the enzymes you need to digest starchy carbs.
In fact, this change in DNA occurred long before humans started farming.
That's why people today can have up to 18 amylase gene copies, indicating that humans have evolved to digest starches more efficiently.
Also, consider that every single cell in your body runs on glucose, which is a carbohydrate sugar. Even the most fat-adapted brain requires at least 20% of its energy from carbs.

SUMMARY Genetics and archaeological evidence suggest that humans ate high-carb foods long before they started farming.

3. Gluten Intolerance Affects Few People
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. By cutting carbs from your diet, you automatically cut out gluten, too.
A gluten-free diet  is necessary for the small number of people with celiac disease or some other types of autoimmune disease.
Gluten-free diets may also benefit people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity or wheat intolerance.
However, studies indicate that few people with self-reported gluten sensitivity have this condition at all. One study showed that only 3 out of 59 participants who believed they were gluten sensitive reacted to gluten.
New research strongly suggests that the condition known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity is not sensitivity to gluten at all.
Instead, it appears to be sensitivity to fructan, a type of soluble fiber or FODMAPs found in wheat.
FODMAPs like fructans cause digestive symptoms like gas, diarrhea, and stomach pain in some people — especially those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
If you have FODMAPs sensitivity, there is no reason for you to avoid carbs altogether. Instead, try to identify and avoid only those foods to which you’re sensitive.

SUMMARY Though removing gluten is crucial for some people, current evidence suggests that most people don't benefit from a gluten-free diet.

4. Fiber — a Carbohydrate — Is Important for Optimal Health
Nutrition is rarely black and white.
Still, most experts agree that eating fiber is good for your health.
In particular, soluble fiber is known to benefit heart health and weight management.
The thick and sticky soluble fiber found in high-carb foods like legumes, fruits, and oats helps slow down digestion.
Fiber also increases the time it takes to digest and absorb nutrients, contributing to reduced body weight and improved health.

SUMMARY Most dietary fiber is made of carbohydrates. Soluble fiber is particularly beneficial for weight maintenance and heart health.

5. Gut Bacteria Rely on Carbs for Energy
The balance between beneficial and harmful gut bacteria may influence your risk for many lifestyle diseases, both physical and psychological.
To grow, your beneficial gut bacteria need carbs that they can ferment for energy.
As it turns out, soluble fiber appears to be the important nutrient they feed on.
Once again, some of the best food sources of soluble fiber include legumes and oats, which are high in carbs.

SUMMARY Eating soluble fiber may play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy balance of gut bacteria.

6. Legumes Are a Superfood — on a Nutrient-To-Cost Basis
Legumes are edible plant seeds that include beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts.
They’re naturally high in carbs and thus often excluded from low-carb eating patterns. They’re also eliminated on a strict paleo diet. 
However, legumes are nutritionally unique.
They’re one of the few foods rich in both protein and fiber. Legumes are also high in vitamins and minerals. Plus, calorie for calorie, they’re one of the most nutrient-dense foods available.
Additionally, they’re very cheap to produce and package compared to other high-protein food sources like meat and dairy.
This remarkable nutrition-to-cost ratio is why legumes are an important food staple in many developing countries.

SUMMARY Legumes are incredibly healthy and amazingly cheap. They’re rich in protein, fiber, and other valuable nutrients. Calorie for calorie, they’re one of the most nutritious foods.

7. Cutting Carbs Does Not Improve Exercise Performance
It’s a myth that a low-carb diet can outperform a conventional high-carb diet for athletes.
In a well-designed study in cyclists performing a 62-mile (100-km) trial with intermittent sprints, participants followed either a low-carb or a high-carb diet for the week leading up to the test.
Though both groups had similar race times, the high-carb group outperformed the low-carb group's sprint output on all four occasions.
While a single study is insufficient to draw solid conclusions, the weight of evidence overwhelmingly supports these results.
If you're fat-adapted on a low-carb diet, you can still perform very well, but no high-quality studies show that cutting carbs allows you to outperform those on higher-carb diets.
This holds true for cardio endurance events like cycling, as well as weight training and bodybuilding for muscular strength and endurance.
For those who simply exercise to keep fit, a low-carb diet will likely not have a negative impact on your performance — but it probably won't improve it either.

SUMMARY Athletes don’t perform better on low-carb diets than higher-carb ones. Performance is similar for endurance but worse for sprinting if you’ve cut down on carbs.

8. Carbs Don't Cause Brain Damage
Some claim that carbs cause harmful brain inflammation. However, this idea is not based on scientific evidence.
Unlike refined grains, whole grains are high in magnesium and fiber — both of which are linked to less inflammation.
In fact, the extensively studied Mediterranean diet, which is rich in whole grains, is strongly associated with slower age-related mental decline and a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease.
On the other hand, high intake of refined carbs and added sugar should be avoided. As part of an unhealthy lifestyle, these ingredients reduce overall health, adversely affecting your body as a whole.

SUMMARY There is no evidence linking whole carb sources to brain damage or diseases like Alzheimer's. In fact, the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in whole grains, is linked to improved brain health.

9. The World's Longest-Lived Populations Eat Plenty of Carbs
The Blue Zones — the regions where people live measurably longer — provide scientists with unique insights into certain eating patterns.
The island of Okinawa in Japan has the most centenarians (people who live over the age of 100) in the world.
Their diet is very high in carb-rich sweet potatoes, green vegetables, and legumes. Prior to 1950, a whopping 69% of their calorie intake came from sweet potatoes alone.
Another long-living population inhabits the Greek island of Ikaria. Nearly 1 in every 3 people lives to be 90, and they eat a diet rich in legumes, potatoes, and bread.
Several other Blue Zone regions share similar dietary traits, indicating that carbs are not causing problems for these people.

SUMMARY Some of the world's longest-living populations eat diets with plenty of high-carb plant foods.

The Bottom Line
It's important to think about foods as a whole and not just consider their individual nutrients. This is especially true when it comes to carbs.
For instance, carb-laden junk foods are unhealthy, providing no nutritional value. They’re today's biggest contributors to excess calories. 
And though low-carb diets can be an effective tool for weight loss and diabetes control, that doesn't mean carbs alone cause weight gain or disease — nor are they the sole cause of the current state of public health.
This depends entirely on the context and varies between individuals.
Some people do well with fewer carbs, while others function just fine eating plenty of carbs from healthy food.  
In any case, whole-carb foods can be part of a healthy diet and don’t need to be avoided at all cost.

Super Healthy High Carbohydrate Foods



It is a myth that carbs are unhealthy. The truth is that some of the world's healthiest foods are high in carbohydrates and are important nutrient sources.  
While refined carbs may be unhealthy in high amounts, whole food sources of carbs are very healthy.

Here is a list of 12 high-carb foods that also happen to be incredibly healthy.

1. Quinoa
Quinoa is a nutritious seed that has become incredibly popular in the natural health community.
It is classified as a pseudocereal, a seed that is prepared and eaten like a grain.
Cooked quinoa is 21.3% carbs, making it a high-carb food. However, it is also a good source of protein and fiber.
Quinoa is rich in many minerals and plant compounds. It has been linked to health benefits including improved blood sugar control.
It does not contain any gluten, making it a popular alternative to wheat for those on a gluten-free diet. 
Quinoa is also very filling since it is relatively high in fiber and protein. For this reason, it may aid in weight loss.
Summary Quinoa is highly nutritious. It numerous health benefits include improved blood sugar control. Quinoa is also high in protein and fiber, so it may be useful for weight loss.

2. Oats
Oats may be the healthiest whole grain food on the planet.
They are a great source of many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  
Raw oats contain 66% carbs, nearly 11% of which is fiber. They are particularly high in a powerful soluble fiber called oat beta-glucan.
Oats are also a relatively good source of protein, containing more than most grains.
Research suggests that oats may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels.
Eating oats may also lower blood sugar levels, especially in people with type 2 diabetes.
Furthermore, oats are very filling and may help you lose weight.
Summary Oats contain many beneficial nutrients, including fiber and protein. Oats have been shown to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

3. Buckwheat
Buckwheat is also a pseudocereal.
Despite the name, buckwheat is not related to wheat and does not contain gluten.
Raw buckwheat contains 71.5% carbs, while cooked buckwheat groats contain about 20% carbs.
Buckwheat is very nutritious, containing both protein and fiber. It also has more minerals and antioxidants than most grains. Additionally, it may be particularly beneficial for heart health and blood sugar control, especially in people with diabetes. Buckwheat is the main ingredient in soba noodles, which are popular in Japan.
Summary Buckwheat is highly nutritious and contains more antioxidants and minerals than most grains. Eating buckwheat may have benefits for heart health and blood sugar control.

4. Bananas
Bananas are among the world's most popular fruits.
They are made up of about 23% carbs, either in the form of starches or sugars.
Unripe, green bananas are higher in starches, which transform into natural sugars as the bananas ripen, turning yellow in the process.
Bananas are high in potassium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C. They also contain several beneficial plant compounds.
Due to their potassium content, bananas may help lower blood pressure and improve heart health.
Unripe bananas also contain decent amounts of resistant starch and pectin, both of which support digestive health and feed friendly gut bacteria.
Summary Bananas are high in potassium, which may help regulate blood pressure. Unripe bananas also contain resistant starch and pectin, which can improve digestive health.

5. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a delicious, nutritious tuber.
Cooked sweet potatoes contain about 18–21% carbs. This carb content consists of starch, sugar and fiber. 
Sweet potatoes are a rich source of provitamin A (from beta-carotene), vitamin C and potassium.
They are very rich in antioxidants and may help reduce oxidative damage, lowering the risk of several diseases.
Summary Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of provitamin A (from beta-carotene), as well as several other vitamins and antioxidants.

6. Beetroots
Beetroots are a purple root vegetable, commonly referred to as beets. 
Raw and cooked beets contain about 8–10% carbs, mainly from sugar and fiber.
They are packed with vitamins, minerals, potent antioxidants and plant compounds.
Beets are also high in inorganic nitrates, which transform into nitric oxide in your body. Nitric oxide lowers blood pressure and may decrease the risk of several diseases.
Beet juice is also very high in inorganic nitrates and is often used to enhance physical performance during endurance exercises.
Summary Beets are loaded with vitamins, minerals and plant compounds. They contain high amounts of inorganic nitrates, which can improve health and boost physical performance.

7. Oranges
Oranges are among the world’s most popular fruits.
They are mainly composed of water and contain 11.8% carbs. Oranges are also a good source of fiber.
Oranges are especially rich in vitamin C, potassium and some B vitamins. In addition, they contain citric acid as well as several very potent plant compounds and antioxidants.
Eating oranges may improve heart health and help prevent kidney stones. They may also increase your uptake of iron from food, reducing the risk of anemia.
Summary Oranges are a good source of fiber. They also contain high amounts of vitamin C and other healthy plant compounds. Eating oranges may benefit heart health and help prevent anemia.

8. Blueberries
Blueberries are incredibly delicious.
They are frequently marketed as a superfood due to their high amounts of plant compounds and antioxidants.
They consist mostly of water as well as about 14.5% carbs.
Blueberries also contain high amounts of many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese.
Studies have shown that blueberries safeguard your body from oxidative damage. They may also improve memory in older adults.
Summary Blueberries are phenomenally healthy. They contain many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and protect your body from oxidative damage.

9. Grapefruit
Grapefruit is a citrus fruit with a sweet, bitter and sour flavor.
It contains about 9% carbs and has high amounts of several vitamins, minerals and plant compounds.
Eating grapefruit can aid weight loss and reduce insulin resistant. Furthermore, eating grapefruit may help prevent kidney stones, lower cholesterol levels and protect against colon cancer.
Summary Grapefruit contains various vitamins, minerals and plant compounds. It may help with weight loss and provide numerous health benefits.

10. Apples
Apples are a popular fruit with a sweet flavor and a distinctive crunchy texture.
They are available in many colors, sizes and flavors, all of which generally contain 13–15% carbs.
Apples boast many vitamins and minerals, but usually only in small amounts.
However, they are a decent source of vitamin C, antioxidants and healthy plant compounds.
Eating apples may benefit health in several ways, such as improving blood sugar control and reducing the risk of heart disease. Apples may also decrease the risk of some types of cancer.
Summary Apples contain a decent amount of vitamin C, antioxidants and plant compounds. Eating apples may improve blood sugar control as well as reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers.

11. Kidney Beans
Kidney beans are a variety of the common bean. They are part of the legume family.  Cooked kidney beans contain 22.8% carbs in the form of starches and fiber. They are also high in protein.   
Kidney beans are rich in many vitamins, minerals and plant compounds. They’re also rich in antioxidants like anthocyanins and isoflavones.
Their numerous health benefits include improved blood sugar control and reduced risk of colon cancer. However, never eat them raw. Raw or improperly cooked kidney beans are toxic.
Summary Kidney beans contain many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Cooked kidney beans are also a good source of protein and are linked to several health benefits.

12. Chickpeas
Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are part of the legume family.
Cooked chickpeas contain 27.4% carbs, 8% of which are fiber. They are also a good source of plant-based protein. 
Chickpeas contain many vitamins and minerals, including iron, phosphorus and B-vitamins.
Chickpeas are linked to improved heart and digestive health. They may also help prevent cancer.
Summary Chickpeas are an excellent source of plant-based protein and contain many vitamins and minerals. Eating chickpeas has been linked to benefits for heart and digestive health as well as cancer prevention.




Healthy Ways To Transition Into Fall



1. Journal About Your 10 Best Summer Memories
Gratitude or happiness journals can help retrain your mind to focus on the positive. Put a new spin on the gratitude journal and spend 20 to 30 minutes (or longer, if you like) writing about each of your top 10 favorite memories from summer. 
The act of writing accesses your left brain, which is analytical and rational. While your left brain is occupied, your right brain is free to create, intuit, and feel. Journaling about positive memories from your summer can evoke a state of mindfulness as you close the chapter on summer and focus on the present.

2. Preserve Your Memories in a Photo Collage
Photos are one of the best ways to induce positive memories. Think about how happy you are when you look back on pictures of yourself and your loved ones enjoying the summer season. Surround yourself with fun photographs that will keep you in happy spirits for months to come. They're also a great conversation piece when friends and family come to visit.

Put together a collage of photos from the summer that you can put in your home or office. Perhaps you can select one photo from each of the fun times you spent time journaling about to represent your "Summer 2015" memories.
Another fun project is to make photo books (you can do this through online photo galleries like Snapfish or iPhoto) to put on your coffee table, or calendars that you can send as gifts.

3. Organize and Pack Away Your Summer Gear
Set aside time to wash and purge this season’s supplies. Now is a good time to wash all summer clothing and determine what you want to hold on to for another season and what can be donated, or given to younger relatives as hand-me-downs.
Do the same with your outdoor supplies like tents, tablecloths, grilling supplies, pool toys, and other items you collected over the summer. Box everything up and store them for next year.

4. Find Your New Flow
Our routines tend to shift with the seasons. For many families, fall is when kids begin a new school year and join extracurricular activities. For others, it may be a time to focus on work, whether it’s at an office or starting new projects around the house.
Going back to school or work doesn't have to be a bummer. It can be an exciting new chapter in your life, if you place your intention on setting new goals and having fun.

As you set your new routine, consider your responsibilities, health and wellness as well as your favorite leisure activities. Make a list of what is most important to you and your family. Your list might include exercise, sleep, proper nutrition, setting new goals, scheduling down time, beginning (or getting back into) a meditation practice, organizing activities, making time for fun and leisure, and establishing a new hobby.
Get the whole family involved to ensure everyone is on ready and excited for the fall routine.

5. Create a New Meal Plan
Fall means new seasonal fruits and vegetables will hit store shelves and your local farmers’ market. Revisit your meal plan and design one that includes fresh seasonal veggies and fruits, and explore new recipes for more grounding foods as you move into the cooler months.

Remember to shop around the outside perimeter of the grocery store, where all the fresh foods can be found. Minimize processed foods that are frozen, come in a box or a can; do your best to get all the colors of the rainbow in your diet each day.
Make it fun and involve the whole family when preparing your meals. Cooking together can be a lot of fun.

Plan and prep your snacks and meals for school or work in advance. Pack smaller containers with seeds, nuts, fresh-cut veggies, and fruits to keep you healthy when you’re on the go. Having healthy snack-size portions to munch on between meals will keep you satisfied and away from the vending machine or cookie jar. The key is to get creative and have fun, while keeping it healthy.

6. Get Daily Exercise or Movement
An active body is an important component to physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise or movement every day. Do your best to make sure you're doing some form of cardio to get your circulation moving, strength-building exercises to develop strong bones and muscle, and stretching to loosen and lengthen your muscles. Whether you're hitting the hiking trails, taking a yoga class, cycling, or swimming, choose an activity that you enjoy. If it’s fun, you'll keep doing it! 

*Remember to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you haven't exercised for a long time or have chronic health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, or arthritis.

7. Get Social
Research shows that individuals who lack social connections or report frequent feelings of loneliness tend to suffer higher rates of infection, depression, and cognitive decline, according to an article published in Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 

Plan fun get-togethers with friends regularly. Whether it’s a weekend getaway, lunch, dinner, a social gathering with friends, or an event in your community, be sure to take time to stay connected with others and have fun. When we maintain a social connection with friends we tend to laugh more, have engaging conversations, and feel more supported through life's challenges.

8. Find an Activity for Shorter Days
Hobbies or activities that keep us mentally stimulated and bring us joy are a great way to pass the time indoors when the temperature falls and the days get shorter. Many people take on various creative projects such as expressive writing, arts and crafts, reading, and re-arranging interior spaces to keep them actively engaged during the fall and winter seasons when outdoor activities aren't as accessible.

You might find that this is a good time to explore taking an online course in an area that you want to learn more about. Coursera is a resource for free online courses offered by top universities and organizations worldwide. Here you can find more than 1,000 options for different topics to study at your own pace. Whatever you choose, find a class that inspires you to learn and keep growing, or one that brings you happiness, joy, and fulfillment.

9. Take Some Down Time
The Western world has trained us to be intently focused on the frenzy of doing, accomplishing, and acquiring. We spend the majority of our days outwardly focused. Unless we’re able to balance our lives with down time, we may find ourselves overloaded or exhausted. Many people think of down time as watching television, running errands, or scrolling through their social media feeds.
For Dr. Deepak Chopra, down time means doing no mental work and just letting the mind and brain simply be. Taking a hot bath, gazing at a fire in the hearth, meditating, or cozying up on the couch with a good book can be incredibly nourishing down-time activities. Down time allows you to rest and reboot, which should give you the focus and stamina to take on work or other challenges.

"The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done," essayist Tim Kreider wrote in The New York Times.

Transitioning gracefully from free-spirited, rule-breaking, and fun-loving summer back into fall routines can be fun, if that is your intention. A smooth transition to fall comes down to identifying how you want to spend your time and creating healthy new habits for the next six months. A small shift in perspective and a bit of self-discipline will help get you into a great new routine in no time at all.

Remember to design your routine with balance in mind and you’ll set yourself up for success as you transition into the fall season.

Shift Your Mindset For Weight Loss




Shifting your mindset about how to lose weight is the biggest factor in losing weight.  We can't shift our weight from the outside without realizing the correct inner resolve and intention. Most people try to lose weight with the worst state of mind possible: wanting to "fix" themselves. They jump into diets and exercise plans out of self-deprecation, all the while pinching their "trouble" spots, calling themselves "fat" and feeling altogether less-than. They get obsessed with results, focus on quick fixes and lose sight of sustainability and even health.

This type of thinking can be destructive, rather than focusing on the good that can come of weight loss – such as better health, a longer life, more enjoyment in everyday activities and the prevention of diabetes and heart disease – these folks focus on negative thoughts. Ultimately, a negative mindset leads to failure.
Yes, shifting your attitude around weight loss isn't just about feel-goodery; it's about results. In fact, research from Syracuse University shows that the more dissatisfied women are with their bodies, the more likely they are to avoid exercise. And simply thinking that you're overweight predicts future weight gain, according to 2015 research published in the International Journal of Obesity.

While psychologists stress that how you see yourself and your core identity predicts your actions (see yourself as overweight, averse to exercise or unworthy, and you'll act accordingly), biology may also play a role. Research published in Psychosomatic Medicine even show that the stress hormone cortisol, which your adrenal glands secrete every time you get down on yourself or worry about how you measure up on the scale, increases distribution of fat around the abdomen. 

Fortunately, the mind is a flexible thing. Follow these 10 expert-approved tips to change your mindset and make your weight-loss approach healthier, happier and way more effective.

1. Change Your Goals
Losing weight might be a result, but it shouldn't be the goal. Rather, your goals should small, sustainable things over which you have full control.  Did you eat five servings of fruits and veggies today? There's one goal met. What about eight hours of sleep; did you get them in? If so, you can check another goal off of your list.

2. Gravitate to Positivity
Surround yourself with positive people. Doing so provides you an encouraging, emotionally healthy environment in which to invest in yourself. Don't be afraid to ask for help or support. 

3. Rethink Rewards and Punishments
Keep in mind that making healthy choices is a way of practicing self-care.  Food is not a reward, and exercise is not a punishment. They are both ways of caring for your body and helping you feel your best. You deserve both.

4. Take a Breath
Taking a few minutes at the beginning of your workout, or even at the beginning of your day, to slow down and simply focus on the act of breathing can help you set your intentions, connect with your body and even lower your body's stress response, Hutchins says. Lie on your back with your legs extended and place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest. Breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold for two and then exhale through your mouth for six, she says. With each breath, the hand placed on your stomach should be the only one to rise or fall.

5. Throw Out the Calendar
Patience is also important when you are losing weight in a healthy and sustainable matter. Plus, if you focus on meeting truly actionable goals, like taking 10,000 steps each and every day, there's no need to get wrapped up in a timeline of goals ahead. Every 24 hours comes with new successes; focus on those.

6. Identify Your 'Trouble Thoughts'
Identify the thoughts that get you into trouble and work to stop and change them. Maybe it's your internal dialogue when you look into the mirror. Or cravings when you get stressed. Consciously make them stop by saying 'stop' out loud.  It might sound silly, but that simple action will break your chain of thought and allow yourself the opportunity to introduce a new, healthier one. The best way to do this is to count from one to 100 as many times as you need until the destructive thoughts subside.

7. Don't Step on the Scale
While the scale isn’t intrinsically bad, a lot of us have learned to associate it with self-destructive thoughts and actions. If that's you, don't even bother stepping on the scale until you get to a place in which the number on the scale doesn't define your worth.

8. Talk to Yourself Like You Would a Friend
When it comes to ideals of beauty and body image, we are incredibly hard on ourselves. The standards we adopt for ourselves are punishing. And we'd never hold our friends or loved ones to many of those standards. You deserve the same respect and compassion as anyone else; treat yourself like it.

9. Forget the Whole 'Foods Are Good or Bad' Mentality
Somewhere along the line, we've learned to feel either proud or guilty about every food choice we make. But it's just food, and you shouldn't have to feel guilty about wanting the occasional cookie. Give yourself permission to have a glass wine or a piece of chocolate cake. Remember, all foods fit.

10. Focus on the Attainable
If you have never stepped into a gym before, your goal shouldn't be doing 30 minutes on the elliptical on day one. A better goal may be to go for a 20-minute walk.  If you want to cook more, but have little experience with healthy recipes or are strapped for time, don't expect yourself to craft new healthy recipes every night after work. Maybe consider using a delivery service such as HelloFresh or Blue Apron in which pre-portioned ingredients and recipes are sent to your door, helping you to get acquainted with new ingredients, try out new recipes and build fundamental cooking skills. Start where you are and build from there.

Healthier & Tasty Pumpkin Spice Latte Alternatives




It’s the start of fall, and we all know what that means: pumpkin spice lattes are back! And while the fans of the so-called “PSL” are everywhere, most people don’t know much about the ingredients or nutritional value of their beloved drink. Let’s take a closer look.

A medium, 16-ounce pumpkin spice latte made with reduced fat milk that’s topped with whipped cream is about 380 calories. While that might seem like a compromise — no whole milk, and not the largest size – it’s still the calorie equivalent of a meal! The medium PSL contains 14 grams of fat (half of it saturated) and 50 grams of sugar (12 teaspoons!).

It’s not all bad news, however. A PSL has a good protein boost with 14 grams (the amount in nearly two eggs or half a chicken breast).
The bottom line: If the PSL is part of your fall tradition, enjoy it – but in moderation. Look at it as a special indulgence, rather than a daily go-to drink.

Keep the same taste you know and love, but consider downsizing your portion. Going down a size saves 100 calories and cuts the fat and sugar by 25 percent. If you also swap out the reduced fat milk to skim milk (or unsweetened soy or almond milk) and skip the whipped cream, you’ll save about 140 calories, and wind up with a drink around 250 calories. And if you think 140 calories isn’t much — if you saved that every day, you’d lose a pound at the end of a month!

There are also a number of good alternatives to get the PSL experience, without the added calories, fat, and sugar.

1. Try a pumpkin pie spice ready-to-drink creamer. 
At a mere 35 calories per tablespoon, you can get the essence of the PSL with a tablespoon or two added to your coffee. Add a splash of the milk (or alternative) of your choice to boost the flavor.

2. Try this 60-calorie pumpkin spice coffee drink.
Take a large mug and add eight ounces hot coffee (regular or decaf), four ounces reduced fat milk (or unsweetened almond, soy or your choice), one teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, ½ teaspoon vanilla, one teaspoon sugar (or low calorie sweetener).

3. Consider this pumpkin spice chai.
Take a large mug and add one cup of oat milk (or milk of your choice), one chai tea bag, ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, ¼ teaspoon ginger, ½ teaspoon vanilla, and one teaspoon sugar (or low calorie sweetener). Heat in a small pan or the microwave. Stir and enjoy. (around 150 calories).

4. Go to town with this frappuccino-esque PSL.

Blend together one medium banana, 1/3 cup canned pumpkin puree, one cup unsweetened milk of your choice (non-fat or low fat milk, almond, soy, oatmeal), ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, one teaspoon sugar (or low calorie sweetener). Mix and enjoy — serves two and has just 125 calories per serving.

Eating For Optimal Brain Health



The brain is an energy-intensive organ, using around 20 percent of the body's calories, so it needs plenty of good fuel to maintain concentration throughout the day.
The brain also requires certain nutrients to stay healthy. Omega-3 fatty acids, for example, help build and repair brain cells, and antioxidants reduce cellular stress and inflammation, which are linked to brain aging and neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease. 

This article explores the scientific evidence behind the best brain foods.

1. Oily fish
Oily fish are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help build membranes around each cell in the body, including the brain cells. They can, therefore, improve the structure of brain cells called neurons.

A 2017 study found that people with high levels of omega-3s had increased blood flow in the brain. The researchers also identified a connection between omega-3 levels and better cognition, or thinking abilities.
These results suggest that eating foods rich in omega-3s, such as oily fish, may boost brain function.

Examples of oily fish that contain high levels of omega-3s include:
salmon
mackerel
tuna
herring
sardines

People can also get omega-3s from soybeans, nuts, flaxseed, and other seeds.

2. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate contains cocoa, also known as cacao. Cacao contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant.

Antioxidants are especially important for brain health, as the brain is highly susceptible to oxidative stress, which contributes to age-related cognitive decline and brain diseases.

Cacao flavonoids seem to be good for the brain. According to a 2013 review, they may encourage neuron and blood vessel growth in parts of the brain involved in memory and learning. They may also stimulate blood flow in the brain.

Some research also suggests that the flavonoid component of chocolate may reverse memory problems in snails. Scientists have yet to test this in humans.

However, a 2018 study in humans also supports the brain-boosting effects of dark chocolate. The researchers used imaging methods to look at activity in the brain after participants ate chocolate with at least 70 percent cacao.

The researchers concluded that eating this type of dark chocolate may improve brain plasticity, which is crucial for learning, and may also provide other brain-related benefits.

3. Berries
Like dark chocolate, many berries contain flavonoid antioxidants. Research suggests that these may make the berries good food for the brain.

Antioxidants help by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. The antioxidants in berries include anthocyanin, caffeic acid, catechin, and quercetin.

A 2014 review notes that the antioxidant compounds in berries have many positive effects on the brain, including:
improving communication between brain cells
reducing inflammation throughout the body
increasing plasticity, which helps brain cells form new connections, boosting learning and memory
reducing or delaying age-related neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline

Antioxidant-rich berries that can boot brain health include:
strawberries
blackberries
blurberries
blackcurrants
mulberries

4. Nuts and seeds
Eating more nuts and seeds may be good for the brain, as these foods contain omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.

A  2014 study found that a higher overall nut intake was linked to better brain function in older age.

Nuts and seeds are also rich sources of the antioxidant vitamin E, which protects cells from oxidative stress caused by free radicals.

As a person ages, their brain may be exposed to this form of oxidative stress, and vitamin E may therefore support brain health in older age.

A 2014 review found that vitamin E may also contribute to improved cognition and reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease.

The nuts and seeds with the highest amounts of vitamin E include:
sunflower seeds
almonds
hazelnuts
Fully exploring vitamin E's effects on the brain will require further research.

5. Whole grains
Eating whole grains is another way to benefit from the effects of vitamin E, with these grains being a good source of the vitamin.
Whole-grain foods include:
brown rice
barley
bulgur wheat
oatmeal
whole-grain bread
whole-grain pasta

6. Coffee
Coffee is a well-known concentration aid — many drink it to stay awake and encourage focus.

The caffeine in coffee blocks a substance in the brain called adenosine, which makes a person feel sleepy.

Beyond boosting alertness, a 2018 study suggests that caffeine may also increase the brain's capacity for processing information.

The researchers found that caffeine causes an increase in brain entropy, which refers to complex and variable brain activity. When entropy is high, the brain can process more information.

Coffee is also a source of antioxidants, which may support brain health as a person gets older. One study has linked lifelong coffee consumption with reduced risk of:
cognitive decline
stoke
Parkinson's disease
Alzheimer's disease

Caffeine can, however, affect a person's sleep and doctors do not recommend caffeine consumption for everyone.

7. Avocados
A source of healthful unsaturated fat, avocados may support the brain.
Eating monounsaturated fats may reduce blood pressure, and high blood pressure is linked with cognitive decline.

Thus, by reducing high blood pressure, the unsaturated fats in avocados may lower the risk of cognitive decline.

Other sources of healthful unsaturated fats include:
almonds, cashews, and peanuts
flaxseed and chia seeds
soybean, sunflower, and canola oils
walnuts and Brazil nuts
fish

8. Peanuts
Peanuts are a legume with an excellent nutritional profile. They contain plenty of unsaturated fats and protein to keep a person's energy levels up throughout the day.
Peanuts also provide key vitamins and minerals to keep the brain healthy, including high levels of vitamin E and resveratrol.

Resveratrol is a natural non-flavonoid antioxidant found in peanuts, mulberries, and rhubarb. Evidence from a review article suggests that resveratrol can have protective effects, such as helping to prevent cancers, inflammation, and neurological diseases, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

9. Eggs
Enjoyed by many for breakfast, eggs can be an effective brain food.

They are a good source of the following B vitamins:
vitamin B-6
vitamin B-12
folic acid
Recent study suggests that these vitamins may prevent brain
shrinkage and delay cognitive decline.

10. Broccoli
As well as being a low-calorie source of dietary fiber, broccoli may be good for the brain.

Broccoli is rich in compounds called glucosinolates. When the body breaks these down, they produce isothiocyanates.

Isothiocyanates may reduce oxidative stress and lower the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

Broccoli also contains vitamin C and flavonoids, and these antioxidants can further boost a person's brain health.

Other cruciferous vegetables that contain glucosinolates include: 
brussels sprouts
bok choy
cabbage
cauliflower
turnips
kale

11. Kale
Leafy greens, including kale, may support brain health.
Like broccoli, kale contains glucosinolates, and leafy greens also contain other key antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. This is why many consider kale to be a superfood.

Supplements for brain function
In addition to making dietary changes, some people consider taking supplements to improve their brain function. But do these supplements actually work?

Taking vitamins B, C, or E, beta-carotene, or magnesium may improve brain function if a person has a deficiency in any of them. If a person does not have a deficiency, these supplements are unlikely to improve mental performance.

Research suggests that taking ginseng may improve this performance. However, further studies are needed before doctors can recommend ginseng to enhance brain function.

Summary
The foods listed above may help improve a person's memory and concentration. Some may also reduce the risk of stroke and age-related neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Some of the foods contain compounds such as healthful fatty acids, which can help improve the structure of brain cells called neurons. Other compounds, such as sugars and saturated fats, may damage brain cell structures.

Brain-boosting foods tend to contain one or more of the following:
antioxidants, such as flavonoids or vitamin E
B vitamins
healthful fats
omega fatty acids

Beyond adjusting the diet, a person can optimize their brain function by:
not eating too much or too little
getting enough sleep
keeping hydrated
exercising regularly
reducing stress through yoga mindfulness, or meditation
reducing alcohol intake

Eating a brain-boosting diet will also provide many benefits for the entire body.

Tips For Healthy and Safe Tailgating




Take a Tailgate Time Out
Before you dive into the buffet, follow these tips to curb your caloric intake: 
Earn a little splurge on Saturday afternoon by saving a few food items from your eating plan during the week.
Before the festivities begin, have a small snack that contains protein and fiber (like cereal and yogurt) so you'll be less tempted to overeat.
Survey all the offerings before you load your plate, then select plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean dairy and protein.
Eat from a plate instead of continually grazing from the buffet. This will help you keep track of how much you're eating.
Remember that alcohol has plenty of calories. One tactic is to alternate alcoholic drinks with zero-calorie beverages throughout the day. Remember that too much alcohol can lead to increased hunger. 

Score Points With Guests
If you're the party host, do your fellow fans a favor by making sure your buffet includes plenty of healthy offerings such as:
Fresh fruit, sliced or in salads or kabobs
Assorted vegetables with low-fat dips and salsas
Low-fat snacks such as popcorn, pretzels, and baked chips
Lean meats and seafood and low-fat cheeses
Whole-grain breads and crackers
Salads made with light dressings
Salsas, wraps, salads, or stews made with fiber-filled and high- protein beans

Touchdown Tips for Food Safety
According to the American Dietetic Association, the average sports fan partakes in tailgating five times during a football season. And according to a recent survey, most tailgaters take unnecessary food-poisoning risks. Food is often kept at temperatures that promote bacterial contamination. Many tailgaters also recycle pre-game picnic food to eat again after the game.

Follow these guidelines to keep your food out of the danger zone:
Make sure foods that will be served cold are cold before you put them in the cooler.
Don't use a cooler that's too large. A full cooler will keep foods cold longer.
Carefully package raw meat. Put it in the bottom of the cooler to avoid drips and cross-contamination
Pack coolers just before you leave for the game, and use ice packs to maintain temperatures.
Use a thermometer in your cooler to be sure foods stay at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keep coolers out of the sun, perhaps under a tree.
Bring waterless hand sanitizer or moistened towelettes to keep hands clean.
Bring a meat thermometer to ensure that burgers and brats are cooked to 160 degrees and chicken breasts to 170 degrees.
Throw away any perishable foods that are left from your pre-game picnic so no one will be tempted to eat them after the game.
Do not leave food unrefrigerated for more than two hours. In hot weather (90 degrees or above), the time limit is one hour.

Why You Need To Stretch After Your Workout




Stretching after working out is a highly recommended practice. The benefits of stretching before a workout are often discussed, emphasizing its role in injury prevention. When you stretch after a workout, you benefit from both physiological and psychological effects.

Your muscles should be warm before you begin your stretching. Do a warmup before a workout that simulates the movements you’ll be doing in order to warm up and prepare your body. Stretch after the workout when your muscles are already warm.
Benefits of Post Workout Stretches:

Increased Flexibility
One of the foremost benefits of stretching is increased and enhanced flexibility of the different muscle groups. It helps constricted and contracted muscles release back to their more comfortable state and your body will eventually become more flexible, which can help prevent injuries
With consistent post -workout stretching, the body becomes more flexible. You will find it easier to bend, stand, squat and do a host of other flexibility related exercises, which would have otherwise not been possible. It has been seen that leg stretches done after a long run increases muscular power and endurance especially for runners.

Improved Blood circulation
When you indulge in an intense workout, the body pumps blood faster to the heart making it beat at a rapid rate. Stretching allows the body to cool down and also helps the heart beat to return to normalcy. The release of lactic acid during an intense workout is broken with stretching.
This allows muscle recovery and repair. The blood circulation to the muscles is once again resumed with stretching. This also allows the heart rate to come back to its original resting rate.

Eliminates Lactic Acid
The moment you workout muscles, the body produces lactic acid which makes the muscles fatigued and sore. Hence, it is important to stretch as stretching eliminates the lactic acid that has accumulated inside the body and also relaxes the muscles.

Boost your energy
If you stretch properly, you’ll likely notice that your energy level is steady and consistent. When the body cools down, the brain releases endorphins, a natural and healthy feel-good chemical. After a good post-workout stretch, you’ll be energized and ready to meet any challenge.

Pain Prevention
Stretching properly after a workout will not dissipate the pain but will definitely minimize it to a large extent. On the other hand, if your muscles remain tight after a workout, it increases your risk of muscle injury. Stretching can actually minimize and reduce your predisposition to injuries.

Improved Range of Motion
Muscles that have not been stretched tend to remain constricted which prevents you from using them to their full capacity.
If you use your muscles and stretch them after a workout, you will be able to utilize the same muscles towards a greater range of motion. This will get your better results because you will have used your muscles to their maximum capacity.

Increased Muscular Coordination
Enhanced muscle coordination is a common benefit of stretching, especially for people participating in strength training. When you stretch tired muscles, you give them better functional mobility and allow them to synchronize properly.

Gradually slows down the body
When you go through an intense bout of exercise, your body can feel drained and fatigued, but stretching and breathing techniques will help you feel rested and relaxed. By gradually slowing down the body, as opposed to just stopping cold, you maximize the benefits of your workout.

Mental clarity and mind-body connection

Stretching isn’t just for the muscles. It also helps harmonize your mind, relax your mood, and relieve stress. Stretching also gives you a chance to tune into your body, taking notice of any sore muscles or joints that need extra attention or a break.

Time Management to Achieve Your Fitness Goals




1. Have a goal.
You’ve heard the saying: “If you don’t know where you are going, how will you ever get there?” It can be easy to lose track of time and direction if you don’t have an end goal in mind. It is important to get pretty clear on what exactly your goals are. Whether you want to lose weight, increase muscle, change your eating habits, manage your stress or change careers, deciding what your goals are is an important step to managing your time and being successful. Write your goals down and place them somewhere where you can see them every day. This will help serve as a reminder when life gets hectic, and will help you stick to your goals when it may seem easier to skip them.

2. Create a timeline.
Once you have determined what your goals are, spend some time creating a timeline. I like to start from the finish line and work backwards. For example, let’s say your goal is to run a particular, figure out how much time you will need to prepare. The same concept can be applied for other goals such as weight-loss, gaining mass or even getting more sleep. Start at the end and figure out how much time you will need to reach your goal.

3. Figure out what you need to do.
Now that you know where you are going and how much time you will need, it is time to write down exactly what you will need to do. If you want to lose weight, for example, you will likely engage in exercise, change your eating habits, drink enough water and get adequate sleep. Tackle each of these areas individually. What will you do for exercise? How many days a week? Will you take classes? Run outdoors? Get super specific and write these things down. Changing your eating habits requires you to make a grocery shopping list and plan your meals. If you eat out, set up some guidelines, such as choosing vegetables for side dishes, having a source of lean protein and drinking water or other calorie free beverages. Getting enough sleep requires you to make some healthy changes, too. Again write down these steps to help you get where you need to go. The clearer, more vivid you get, the better you will be in managing your time and reaching your goals.

4. Schedule your workouts.
Keep your workouts, trips to the grocery store and other healthy “to-dos” in your calendar, just as you would your work meetings or doctor’s appointments. Set reminders on your calendar to help you stay on track. Even better, arrange to exercise with a friend, which will increase your commitment and keep you accountable.

5. Plan your grocery trips.
Make it a point to schedule in time each week to go grocery shopping. Create a list and, if possible, keep it on your phone. By making it a point of going to the grocery store and taking a list with you every week, you will save yourself time and guess work, and reduce the temptation to fall off track with your eating habits.

6. Prepare your food in advance.
Now that you have gone to the store, build in time to prepare your meals. This can be done a few times a week (say Sundays and Wednesdays) or every morning for the day. Whatever your timeframe may be for preparing your food, it is important to build it into your day to make it easier to stay on track and work toward your goals. If you end up eating out often, spend some time reviewing the menus ahead of time so you have an idea of the healthy options available.

7. Take advantage of your “down” time.
When the kids are down for a nap or you have an extra few minutes at the office or on the weekends, take advantage of this time. What tasks have you been putting off? Use this time to get them done. If you are at work, take a walk. If the kids are asleep, get in a home workout. While it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and feel like you just “don’t have the time,” the reality is we can create the time if we make our goals a priority.

8. Check in weekly.
Once a week, take the time to evaluate your progress, your time and the plans for the upcoming week. Do things need to shift a bit? What were your barriers? This step is important as it will help keep you balanced and present. It allows you to shift things around and refocus for the next week.

Yoga, Benefits Beyond The Mat




Yoga, an ancient practice and meditation, has become increasingly popular in today's busy society. For many people, yoga provides a retreat from their chaotic and busy lives. This is true whether you're practicing downward facing dog posture on a mat in your bedroom, in an ashram in India or even in New York City's Times Square. Yoga provides many other mental and physical benefits. Some of these extend to the kitchen table.

Types of Yoga
There are many types of yoga. Hatha (a combination of many styles) is one of the most popular styles. It is a more physical type of yoga rather than a still, meditative form. Hatha yoga focuses on pranayamas (breath-controlled exercises). These are followed by a series of asanas (yoga postures), which end with savasana (a resting period).
The goal during yoga practice is to challenge yourself physically, but not to feel overwhelmed. At this "edge," the focus is on your breath while your mind is accepting and calm.

A Better Body Image
Yoga develops inner awareness. It focuses your attention on your body's abilities at the present moment. It helps develop breath and strength of mind and body. It's not about physical appearance.
Yoga studios typically don't have mirrors. This is so people can focus their awareness inward rather than how a pose — or the people around them — looks. Surveys have found that those who practiced yoga were more aware of their bodies than people who didn't practice yoga. They were also more satisfied with and less critical of their bodies. For these reasons, yoga has become an integral part in the treatment of eating disorders and programs that promote positive body image and self-esteem.

Becoming a Mindful Eater
Mindfulness refers to focusing your attention on what you are experiencing in the present moment without judging yourself.
Practicing yoga has been shown to increase mindfulness not just in class, but in other areas of a person's life.
Researchers describe mindful eating as a nonjudgmental awareness of the physical and emotional sensations associated with eating. They developed a questionnaire to measure mindful eating using these behaviors:
Eating even when full (disinhibition)
Being aware of how food looks, tastes and smells
Eating in response to environmental cues, such as the sight or smell of food
Eating when sad or stressed (emotional eating)
Eating when distracted by other things
The researchers found that people who practiced yoga were more mindful eaters according to their scores. Both years of yoga practice and number of minutes of practice per week were associated with better mindful eating scores. Practicing yoga helps you be more aware how your body feels. This heightened awareness can carry over to mealtime as you savor each bite or sip, and note how food smells, tastes and feels in you mouth.

A Boost to Weight Loss and Maintenance
People who practice yoga and are mindful eaters are more in tune with their bodies. They may be more sensitive to hunger cues and feelings of fullness.
Researchers found that people who practiced yoga for at least 30 minutes once a week for at least four years, gained less weight during middle adulthood. People who were overweight actually lost weight. Overall, those who practiced yoga had lower body mass indexes (BMIs) compared with those who did not practice yoga. Researchers attributed this to mindfulness. Mindful eating can lead to a more positive relationship with food and eating.

Enhancing Fitness
Yoga is known for its ability to soothe tension and anxiety in the mind and body. But it can also have an impact on a person's exercise capacity.
Researchers studied a small group of sedentary individuals who had not practiced yoga before. After eight weeks of practicing yoga at least twice a week for a total of 180 minutes, participants had greater muscle strength and endurance, flexibility and cardio-respiratory fitness.

Cardiovascular Benefits
Several small studies have found yoga to have a positive effect on cardiovascular risk factors: It helped lower blood pressure in people who have hypertension. It's likely that the yoga restores "baroreceptor sensitivity." This helps the body senses imbalances in blood pressure and maintain balance.
Another study found that practicing yoga improved lipid profiles in healthy patients as well as patients with known coronary artery disease. It also lowered excessive blood sugar levels in people with non-insulin dependent diabetes and reduced their need for medications. Yoga is now being included in many cardiac rehabilitation programs due to its cardiovascular and stress-relieving benefits.
Before you start a new exercise program, be sure to check with your doctor.
Researchers are also studying if yoga can help people with depression and arthritis, and improve survival from cancer.

Yoga may help bring calm and mindfulness to your busy life. 
Namaste.

Learn about Access Bars & Reiki



What is Reiki?
Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by "laying on hands" and is based on the idea that an unseen "life force energy" flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one's "life force energy" is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.

The word Reiki is made of two Japanese words - Rei which means "God's Wisdom or the Higher Power" and Ki which is "life force energy". So Reiki is actually "spiritually guided life force energy."

A treatment feels like a wonderful glowing radiance that flows through and around you. Reiki treats the whole person including body, emotions, mind and spirit creating many beneficial effects that include relaxation and feelings of peace, security and wellbeing. Many have reported miraculous results.

Reiki is a simple, natural and safe method of spiritual healing and self-improvement that everyone can use. It has been effective in helping virtually every known illness and malady and always creates a beneficial effect. It also works in conjunction with all other medical or therapeutic techniques to relieve side effects and promote recovery.
An amazingly simple technique to learn, the ability to use Reiki is not taught in the usual sense, but is transferred to the student during a Reiki class. This ability is passed on during an "attunement" given by a Reiki master and allows the student to tap into an unlimited supply of "life force energy" to improve one's health and enhance the quality of life.


What is Access Bars?
The Access Bars® is an amazing treatment that involves gently touching 32 points on your head.  This supposedly releases anything that doesn't allow you to receive. These points (aka bars) contain all the thoughts, ideas, beliefs, emotions, and considerations that you have stored in any lifetime. This is an opportunity for you to let go of everything!

Each Access Bars® session can release limitations in the area of your life that corresponds with the specific bar being touched. This is an incredibly nurturing and relaxing process, undoing limitation in all aspects of your life that you are willing to change.

How much of your life do you spend doing rather than receiving?
Have you noticed that your life is not yet what you would like it to be? You could have everything you desire (and even greater!) if you are willing to receive lots more and maybe do a little less! Receiving The Bars® will allow this to begin to show up for you.

How does it work?
Access Bars® has assisted thousands of people to change many aspects of their body and their life including sleep, health and weight, money, sex and relationships, anxiety, stress and so much more.

Some compare the brain to a computer and The Bars® treatment to a disk defragmenter.  The bars (points on the head) correspond to different areas of the brain (the computer files) that relate to aspects of everyday life, such as joy, creativity, money, control, creating connections,  calmness or experiencing gratitude etc.  We carry our own limiting thoughts, beliefs, emotions and patterns in these areas (like junk files, or spam) based on judgements absorbed from society, culture family, friends and personal experience.  Ideas about right and wrong, good and bad, interfere with accepting life as it is and making changes that empower us.  We may even be well aware of how these judgements draw us off-centre, away from our inherent connection to wholeness and oneness.

When an Access Bars® practitioner touches the bars on a person’s head, the electrical charge in the brain which holds these fabricated judgements is dispersed (i.e. the junk files deleted!).  Patterns and ‘programs’ we’ve taken on cause us to react to life on autopilot, with unconscious resistance to the very experiences we most long for.  Once cleared, we become free to function again with clarity and awareness, receiving who we truly are without fear and obstruction, and open to entirely new vistas of possibility.

Studies have shown that The Bars® treatment slows brainwaves down to a theta state allowing behavioral patterns and childhood perspectives to surface and be released, and a greater state of presence, allowance, and openness to arise.  Limiting thoughts, beliefs and feelings can be lifted, including fears about money, blocks to creativity, difficulty receiving, residual grief, or any other habits that no longer work for you.

The Bars® are a tool that facilitate a different way of functioning on the planet.  For trillions of years, human beings have functioned from the density of their thoughts, feelings and emotions. This is what people have identified with, this is what people have made valuable.  The more you get your bars run, the more you begin to perceive how much effort it actually takes to function from thoughts, feelings and emotions. You also start to perceive the possibility of functioning from perceiving, knowing, being and receiving.  For most people, getting their bars run is the first time that they actually allow themselves to receive without obligation and consideration. It's like activating a computer virus of consciousness!

Bars can be used to facilitate change in all areas of your life.  When you are willing to function from more consciousness, you begin to open the doors to all healing.  Science tells us that the shape of your cells actually becomes more elliptical when they are influenced by thoughts, feelings and emotions, which is the first step to dis-ease.  When you get your bars run, it unlocks this impact on the cells allowing the cells to return to their more spherical shape facilitating more ease in the body.
Access Consciousness® tools including The Bars® are used by Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Physiotherapists, Family Play Therapists, Massage Therapists, Acupuncturists, Chiropractors, Business Coaches and Trainers and everyday people to create simple fast change.

Why You Should Incorporate Planks Into Your Workout




With exercise, sometimes the simplest of movements result in the greatest gains to your fitness, and this is certainly the case with planks. To do a plank, you hold your body (the trunk portion) off the ground, making sure to hold it in a straight line.

If you’ve never tried one, a plank may look easy, almost too easy to be beneficial, but this is deceiving. While getting into the proper form is straightforward, holding the position takes strength and endurance in your abs, back, and core.

The plank is one of the best exercises for core conditioning but it also works your glutes and hamstrings, supports proper posture, and improves balance. There are many variations you can try to add intensity and work different areas of your body. 

5 Benefits of Doing Planks
Planking has become increasingly popular for core strengthening, and for good reason: it works – in large part because it engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously. What are some of the benefits you can expect from adding this exercise to your regular routine?

1.A Toned Belly
Planking will help build your deep inner core muscles that lay the groundwork for that six-pack look. As your abdominal muscles become stronger, your mid-section will tighten.
Keep in mind, however, that in order to really get "six-pack" abs, you have to shed fat. For men that would be a body fat of about 6 percent, and women around 9 percent, in order to achieve that classic six-pack. This is not necessarily healthy.

2.Reduce Back Pain
Planks work for back pain because they strengthen your core, which has the pleasant “side effect” of reducing back pain. They also strengthen your back muscles, especially those in your upper back. Because the plank exercise requires minimal movement while contracting all layers of the abdominal fascia, it is an excellent way to strengthen the core, which, in turn, helps reduce low-back pain.

3.Flexibility
While building strength, planks also increase flexibility in your posterior muscle groups. The muscles around your shoulders, collarbone, and shoulder blades will expand and stretch (an area that often receives little attention), as will your hamstrings and even the arches of your feet and your toes.
If you do a side plank, you can also stretch out your sides (especially if you extend your arm up over your head in line with your body). To increase the stretching benefits, try a rocking plank – once in basic plank form, rock your body back and forth by moving your toes a few inches either way.

4.Improve Your Mood
Virtually every exercise has the potential to give you a mood boost,   and planks are no exception. Planks are unique, however, in that they help stretch and ultimately relax muscles groups that often become stiff and tense from prolonged sitting. The tension release that planks provide is uplifting for your spirit.

5.Improve Your Balance and Posture
To do a plank correctly, you must engage your abs to stay upright. Side planks or planks with extensions are particularly beneficial for building balance, as are planks performed on a stability ball. To test and strengthen your balance, try a side plank with a leg raise – get into side plank position, then lift your top leg and hold for one count. Lower it and repeat, then switch sides.4 In addition, planks work all the muscles you need to maintain proper posture, like your back, chest, shoulders, abs, and neck. If you do planks regularly, you’ll find you’re able to sit or stand up straighter with ease.

Health Benefits of Grilling



There are health benefits to cooking your food on the grill versus on the stove or oven. We’ll go over some of the health benefits and give you some tips to serve up some tasty and healthy meals. Let’s start with the five health benefits.

1. You Eat Less Fat
When you grill, you eat less fat because the excess drips off the grates. Think about cooking a burger on the grill versus in a pan on your stove-top. On the grill, the fat cooks off. In a pan on the cooktop, the fat has nowhere to go, so it pools and is eventually re-absorbed by the meat.

2. Vegetables on the Grill are Better for You
Most people don’t realize that vegetables retain more of their vitamins and minerals when they’re grilled. This is especially true with veggies that have a low water content.
Plus, vegetables that you toss on the grill are usually fresh and in season, which are a step above the canned versions. Wrapping in tin foil or just placing on top of your grill, cooking your veggies in this manner is nutritionally advantageous than boiling or frying.

3. Meat Retains Nutrients
When you toss a slab of meat over the fire, it actually preserves more riboflavin and thiamine. Both of these nutrients play a vital role in a healthy diet, as well as have many health benefits associated with each of them.

4. You Use Less Butter
If you’re a master with the grill, and not overcooking your food, you’ll have juicy cuts of meat and tasty veggies. Because the grill locks in more moisture, you’ll be less inclined to reach for the butter or other condiments to jazz up your food. Not only does that means you eat fewer calories, but you put less unhealthy stuff in your body.

5. Grilling Goes With Outside Activities
The act of grilling gets you outdoors. A lot of parents toss around a Frisbee or kick a ball around the grass with their kids while grilling dinner. The act of cooking and eating outdoors encourages more activity, which we all know is just an added health bonus to go along with your delicious dinner.

5 Tips for Healthy Grilling
Before you fire up the grill for tonight’s dinner, we have a few tips to make your next meal even healthier. Here are five tips to improve your family’s diet as you grill away.

1. Buy Lean Meats
While cheeseburgers are grilling staple, you should vary your outdoor menu. Try lean cuts of meat like chicken, fish or pork. When you’re craving a burger, pickup the leanest beef you can find. Look for 93/7 marked on the package. That means just 7 percent is fat. The leaner the meat, the healthier it is for you.

2. Grill Your Veggies
Every meal should have veggies, so when you’re grilling, add a few peppers or zucchini to the grill. Try grilling sweet corn or make veggie kabobs as a side dish. A spinach salad with light vinaigrette dressing is another nutrient-packed addition that is a favorite amongst many people.

3. Use Gas Rather Than Charcoal
Depending on who you ask, some doctors have suggested that charcoal used during the grilling process can expose you and your food to cancer-causing chemicals.
If you want to use charcoal to cook, it’s recommended that you don’t overcook the meat and keep it out of the smoke as much as possible. If you can, doctors recommend using a gas grill. Not only is it a cleaner way to cook, you also avoid the possible side dish of a well-known carcinogen. 

4. Marinate Your Meats
Who doesn’t love a steak marinated in a honey garlic glaze, or lemon pepper pork chops?
The good news is that marinating doesn’t just improve the taste of your dinner, it may actually improve your health. When meat is cooked at high temperatures or cooked over charcoal, there are some concerns about cancer-causing chemicals seeping into the meat. Marinating the meat, however, is believed to help eliminate these chemicals by up to 99%.

5. Try Healthy Alternatives
If burgers and steak are your go-to grilling options, you can always take to the Internet for some inspiration. There are all sorts of creative and surprising recipes for the grill. For example, have you ever tried making a pizza on the grill? It’s an option. Grab some whole-wheat dough at the store, turn the grill on high and add some sauce and veggies to grill something other than beef.

While summertime is usually synonymous with grilling, when the weather starts to chill and the seasons change, you can also try a small electric grill that you can use indoors. It will tide you over until you fire up the barbie once again.

Why Summer Is Good For Your Health



Get your dose of vitamin D
Perhaps, the most obvious benefit of the extra sun is getting a daily boost of Vitamin D. Maintaining a steady supply has been shown to slow down aging, prevent inflammation, improve bone health, and improve immunity and resistance against diseases. Recently, a study found that the vitamin can reduce the risk of early death in people diagnosed with heart problems.

The season of the fruits
With all the fresh produce filling up grocery stores and farmers markets, it can be difficult to avoid fruits during the heat of the summer. Due to the high levels of humidity, we are more likely to crave a few slices of watermelon or a delicious mango smoothie. Other healthy summer fruits including berries, pineapples, kiwis, oranges, and peaches can prevent dehydration and provide a generous diet of vitamin C and vitamin E. 

You're sweating and that's good!
The more you sweat, the cooler your body gets and the more your blood circulation improves. Perspiration also helps clear out your skin by purging bacteria, dirt, oil and other impurities. The benefits aren't just limited to physical health. Prolonged sweating is associated with the release of endorphins which improve your mood and overall mental health.

Nature and the great outdoors
Ecotherapy simply cannot be underestimated and summertime means no more excuses to hide indoors. A 2016 study found that spending just 30 minutes in nature every week would reduce the risk of high blood pressure and depression.
Exposure to fresh air is important, particularly for those who live in a busy city and are subject to pollution. Breathing cleaner oxygen can increase your levels of serotonin, promoting happiness and well-being.

Rejuvenate with a vacation
Research has suggested that taking a break from your usual life and schedule to travel and relax is required to keep yourself healthy and productive in the long run. No matter how old you are, taking some time away from the corporate and academic environments can provide some well-rounded benefits that include reducing stress, boosting creativity, improving focus, and developing family bonds.  

Your heart is healthier

Studies have shown that the risk of heart disease peaks during the months of winter, but reaches its lowest point during summer. Experts have yet to identify the exact cause but the aforementioned benefits may suggest why your overall health is better during summer. Good cholesterol levels are said to be higher during this season compared to colder months, possibly since the hot weather is not as likely to constrict blood vessels.

How To Embrace Chaos For A Happier Life




We live in chaotic times. Our days and weeks are taken up by fast paced modern living, mad rushing to get a lot done each day, crazy amounts of information and messages vying for our attention, and more and more stuff going on around the world. Plus, uncertainty about so many aspects of life; who knows what next week will be like? Life is chaotic, inherently so. The very nature of life is quite chaotic and we often use a lot of energy attempting to create some order of it.

The pain and positivity of Chaos:
Chaos is new, unexpected and sometimes even undesired and distressing. It can often have a darkness to it. But embracing chaos as a positive in our lives is a wonderful way to deal with the unknowns and the possibilities of how things might be; it’s where and how we learn, explore and find meaning. When we attempt to tame the innate chaos in life and control all that cannot be controlled, it can cause us to feel depressed, anxious or sad.

Most of us experience times when the chaos feels like it is too much for us – when we feel overwhelmed and swamped, where life is out of control and where we fantasize of a simpler way of being, that takes less out of us.

The impossible promise:
What’s wrong with chaos anyway? Chaos is one of nature’s greatest forces, and it has brought forth much more wonder and joy than we realize and typically tend to imagine. It is probably unrealistic to think or hope to control chaos. Today, let’s focus on why we should and how we can embrace chaos. How we should let it wash over us from time to time, and focus more on the things we can control.

By accepting and embracing chaos as our friend or guide, we manage to organize a work life that is conducive to both performance and happiness.

Most of the time we’re multitasking. That’s just what it takes to live modern lives like ours. But that doesn’t mean it is ultimate chaos, it is just how our minds work. That is how we work. We do multitask, but when we focus on one specific task, it is with the greatest of our attention. We get in the zone. By accepting and embracing chaos as our friend or guide, we can manage to organize our life that is conducive to both performance and happiness.

How to Embrace Chaos in Life? 
Here are some ways…. Only Attempt to Control “the Controllable”
DO not try to control the uncontrollable! We can plan for the future, but most of the variables that can change our plans in the future are unpredictable, so focus instead on what you can control.  Most of us want to feel like we are in control of things, but when it comes to people and situations beyond our control we have to let go.  Stuff happens.

Most of the thoughts stored in our brain are not totally true, outright false or not applicable. If you have set up, ahead of time, criteria to judge a thought, you have the ability to discern, distinguish and judge a thought. Once you realize that imagined fears are baseless (which is the 1st test), then you understand there is no immediate need for action on your part, and you can choose to consider the thought further and select it or deselect it.

Counter Negative Thoughts:
Since many of the thoughts stored in our brain are skewed, we need to create a health-producing filter to accept or reject each thought. If you have already prejudged the criteria for assessing a thought, by expecting a positive outcome, you then have the ability to discern, distinguish and judge a thought from a perspective of hope.
Find out whether it is your own thought, or someone else’s. Also, decide whether it is for your own good to follow. This will lead to more control over your thinking process. 

Be Present:
Be present. Be mindful. See the flowers in your neighbor’s garden, hear the birds in the early morning, feel the warmth of the sun on you while you are driving. Stop being in another place in your mind all the time. Stop cluttering your brain with what happened yesterday and the discussion you are going to have with your partner because of his/her misbehavior, and what you are going to cook for supper.
Be present – really BE where you are, stop being somewhere else in your mind.

Observe:
So often we can’t name the emotion we are feeling. We just know that we are not comfortable with what we feel. And we dwell in that feeling of discomfort – whether it is sadness, jealousy, anger, fear. It is just easier to really settle into the comfort of your discontent.

Attempt to be your own observer and explore your emotions. What emotion am I feeling? What triggered this emotion? Why?

Strategize:
Thinking about your thinking. How can I change this? What can I do differently next time? How can I handle this situation NOW? Responsibility really means “the ability to respond”, to make an active choice. You can make an active choice in terms of how you interpret things and how you act on them.  Research on the brain also reveals a direct link between patience and a vivid imagination. When we can counter an initial impulse, it leads to better decision making at a later time.

David Rock in his book, “Your Brain at Work” refers to this process as “reappraisal”. How to interpret what things mean to you differently. If you can shift your interpretation, your emotional response will shift too.

Do this 3-step exercise:
Step 1: Awareness. Think of an example last week you responded in a “less favorable” way; in other words, you had a strong emotional reaction to this situation. For example, when you were stuck in traffic for hours, someone said something very negative about you, or perhaps a business meeting that was canceled on short notice. Think of such an example now.

Step 2: Label it; give this emotion a name.

Step 3: See if there is maybe another way of thinking about what happened to you. Try to reinterpret, normalize, reorder, or to reposition.
Next time you become aware of the fact that you are experiencing discomfort in terms of your emotions, apply these 3 steps. It will create a greater awareness of your emotions and your reactions.

Be brave enough to explore alternative ways of thinking and be bold enough to embrace whatever insights come your way.

“In the space between chaos and shape, there was another chance.” – Jeanette Winterson.

When there is a sense of chaos, raise your arms in the air and embrace it, let it happen, resistance is futile. Embrace the chaos.

Why You Should Strengthen Your Core Muscles




Core exercises improve your balance and stability
Core exercises train the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen to work in harmony. This leads to better balance and stability, whether on the playing field or in daily activities. In fact, most sports and other physical activities depend on stable core muscles.

Core exercises don't require specialized equipment or a gym membership
Any exercise that involves the use of your abdominal and back muscles in coordinated fashion counts as a core exercise. For example, using free weights in a manner that involves maintaining a stable trunk can train and strengthen several of your muscles, including your core muscles.

You may also try several specific core exercises to stabilize and strengthen your core. Some examples of core exercises include planks, situps and fitness ball exercises. A bridge is another example of a classic core exercise. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Keep your back in a neutral position, not arched and not pressed into the floor. Avoid tilting your hips. Tighten your abdominal muscles. Raise your hips off the floor until your hips are aligned with your knees and shoulders. Hold the position for as long as you can without breaking your form.

Core exercises can help tone your abs
Want more-defined abdominal muscles? Core exercises are important. Although it takes aerobic activity to burn abdominal fat, core exercises can strengthen and tone the underlying muscles.

Strong core muscles make it easier to do most physical activities
Strong core muscles make it easier to do many activities, such as swing a golf club, get a glass from the top shelf and bend down to tie your shoes. Strong core muscles are also important for athletes, such as runners, as weak core muscles can lead to more fatigue, less endurance and injuries.

Weak core muscles can also leave you susceptible to poor posture, lower back pain and muscle injuries. Strengthening core muscles may also help improve back pain.

Core exercises can help you reach your fitness goals
Aerobic exercise and muscular fitness are the primary elements of most fitness programs. But to have a well-rounded fitness program, consider including core exercises in the mix as well.
Whether you're a novice taking the first steps toward fitness or a committed fitness fanatic hoping to optimize your results, a well-rounded fitness program is the best way to reach your fitness goals.

Tea Has Amazing Benefits




At the very least, it’s a flavorful way of getting enough fluid into your body each day. On top of that, studies have shown teas can help protect your teeth and your heart, as well as possibly even helping to stave off cancer.

Which type of tea you drink can make a difference. All non-herbal teas are made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. The amount of time the leaves are processed determines whether you end up with a green, black or oolong tea.

The green teas are the least processed and tend to have the highest amounts of polyphenols, and the only type that contain the polyphenol, catechin, which is why many studies have been done using only green teas. Certain herbal teas are known for their medicinal values, including soothing the digestive system.

Here are health benefits of tea and some options for delicious teas to try:

Tea contains antioxidants. 
Antioxidants work to prevent the body’s version of rust and thus help to keep us young and protect us from damage from pollution. Load up on antioxidants with a white tea, which is less processed than black or green tea so it retains more beneficial antioxidants.

Tea has less caffeine than coffee. 
Herbal blends have no caffeine, while traditional teas have less than 50 percent of what typically is found in coffee. That means you can consume it without those pesky effects on your nervous system. If you're trying to switch from coffee to tea, try a chicory root tea which has a mouth feel and flavor similar to coffee. Chicory root is also known to help reduce stress and is a prebiotic so may be helpful to your gut. Bonus: this tea will give you a kick of energy without the caffeine.

Tea may reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
There’s a lot of literature out there on tea and heart health. This is a health effect for which there is the strongest evidence. In fact, a study published earlier this year that combined data from a host of earlier reports found a nearly 20 percent reduction in the risk of heart attack and a 35 percent reduced risk of stroke among those who drank one to three cups of green tea a day. Those who drank four or more cups of green tea daily had a 32 percent reduction in the risk of having a heart attack and lower levels of LDL cholesterol. Four cups of green tea may keep you running to the bathroom, but you can get the same benefit from drinking one cup of matcha tea, which is made from ground green tea leaves and is said to be the nutritional equivalent of 10 cups of regular green tea.

Tea may help protect your bones.
Data from recent animal studies has shown that green tea may prevent bone loss. Moringa, a plant that's native to South Asia, has been known for its medicinal properties and is now quickly becoming a mainstream superfood. With more calcium than milk, as well as iron, vitamin A and K, moringa tea is a great addition to help keep those bones strong.

Tea may help you smile bright.
Japanese researchers have found that tea can decrease tooth loss. It changes the pH in your mouth when you drink it and that may be what prevents cavities. Beyond that, tea, unlike many other beverages does not appear to erode tooth enamel.

Tea may boost the immune system.
Studies have shown tea can tune up immune cells so they reach their targets quicker. Holy basil or tulsi tea has been used by Ayurvedic practitioners for centuries to help keep the immune system strong after injuries or illnesses thanks to its antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties.

Herbal tea may smooth the digestive system.
Herbal teas, in particular chamomile, can be good for people with irritable bowel syndrome because it is an antispasmodic. And ginger teas can calm nausea. Get a dose of both with a ginger chamomile tea.

Tea -unadulterated, that is- is calorie free. 
It’s a great no-calorie alternative to water.  It provides so many options for flavor and versatility. You can have it hot or cold. And you don’t have to put anything in it, though you might want to add a cinnamon stick or some ginger. That means you’re able to hydrate with something other than water alone.

Stay Motivated and Reach Your Fitness Goals



Set Realistic Goals and Expectations
Planning to lose 20 pounds in one month? Unless you're a contestant on The Biggest Loser, it's unlikely you're going to do that. Unrealistic goals actually set you up for failure; you won’t stay motivated to continue when it doesn’t work out.

If you read about a diet or exercise plan promising super-speedy results, remind yourself of the adage we’ve all heard a million times: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is!” Weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint and lasting results take time and effort, so get real!

Keep a Photo Diary of Your Successes
Having a collection of progress photos is an awesome way to keep your spirits high! One study even shows how a photo diary can keep dieters motivated, making them more likely to reach their target weight.

It makes sense. When you look at your body in the mirror every day, it's hard to see a difference. But having photographic proof of what you looked like before and after (and during) your weight-loss journey will show you how far you’ve come. For even more motivation, post your photos on social media to share with supportive friends.

Enjoy What You Do for Exercise
If you hate running on the treadmill, chances are, you won’t do it. It’s hard to stay motivated if an activity feels like torture! But there's good news: Exercise comes in so many forms; you just need to find something you love!

Like to dance? Check out Zumba classes or online videos. Eager to squeeze in some quality friend time? Enlist your buds for daily walk and talks. Not sure where to start? Grab a class schedule from the local gym and see if any of the options pique your interest. Sometimes an inspiring instructor is a motivation you need to get your butt to class! Find a workout that you truly look forward to, and motivation won't be a problem.

Get a Full Night’s Rest
This might seem like an unlikely tip for motivation, but it works. Why? When we're tired, our ability to think straight falters and our emotions take over. And who hasn’t reached for a pint of ice cream when feeling yucky? Seriously, sleep could be the sup rising reason you aren't losing weight! 

Buddy Up!
Finding a partner in your weight-loss efforts will make a huge difference in your success. Having someone to hold you accountable is extremely motivating. You’re less likely to skip that workout if you know your friend is counting on you, right?

And even if you don’t have someone to lose with, you can find support from all over the world, courtesy of social media. There are so many inspirational weight-loss groups on Facebook that you can join. Get involved!

Finding a partner in your weight-loss efforts will make a huge difference in your success. Having someone to hold you accountable is extremely motivating. You’re less likely to skip that workout if you know your friend is counting on you, right?

And even if you don’t have someone to lose with, you can find support from all over the world, courtesy of social media. There are so many inspirational weight-loss groups on Facebook that you can join. Get involved!

Reward Yourself
Who isn’t motivated to succeed by the promise of reward? Choose something that correlates to your weight-loss success. Drop a pants size? Buy yourself a new pair of jeans! Are muscles sore because you’ve been working out hard? Sounds like you’ve earned yourself a massage. There are even apps and group challenges that promise financial rewards for weight-loss success... Put your money where your mouth is!

Don’t Live or Die by the Scale
Yes, the scale is the most tangible way to monitor weight loss, however, we put too much weight (pun intended) into the numbers. Many factors affect your weight, like how much water you’ve had to drink that day and how much sodium you consumed the day before.

If you weigh yourself daily you may lose motivation. I recommend picking the same time once a week to weigh yourself. Wear similar clothing when you weigh in. And to really grasp your progress, use other things, like the fit of your jeans and those photos I mentioned!

Don’t Be a Perfectionist
Get rid of that all-or-nothing attitude. It's awful for motivation. When goals become un-achievably rigid, we give up. One inevitable slip-up, and you'll want to throw in the towel.

Don’t be that way. Be kind to yourself. You're only human, after all! Setbacks are normal. You don’t have to give up all your favorite foods when dieting; that's a total weigh-loss myth.   Remember that, and weight loss will get easier. 

Stay On Track Over Memorial Day Weekend




1. Hydrate!
You may indulge in a few alcoholic beverages this weekend so be sure to drink lots of water! Alternate alcoholic beverages with water. This will prevent dehydration and prevent a hangover. Add lemon to your water to replenish electrolytes. You'll feel great the next day and won't miss a morning workout! 

2. Get up early and get in a good sweat!
You may overindulge a little this weekend and that's ok, however it's a good idea to crush a PPW before the barbecues and festivities begin!  If you wait too long the day will get away from you and chances are you won't fit it in, so get moving early!! 

3. Go for lean meats when barbecuing this weekend!
Load up on chicken, fish and veggies! And stay away from condiments! Those sauces are loaded with sugar and fat and those calories add up! Choose fruit instead! Make a fresh pineapple salsa to add to burgers, brats and hotdogs. It's also a great dressing for fish and chicken. 

4. Weekend Parties: NEVER go hungry!
Grab a handful of almonds or an apple with all natural peanut butter before heading out to parties. 
This will prevent you from overeating and you will make better choices. If you don't love it, leave it!… Indulge in the things you love but don't pick at foods that aren't worth your calories. 

5. Most importantly, enjoy yourself!
Portion control is important but don't stress out over every calorie. Get in a few PPWs this weekend, hydrate and have fun with family and friends. 

Do Workout Supplements Give Us An Edge?




Maybe, but results vary from person to person. When scientists study these products, mixed reviews are pretty common. Also, most research focuses on highly trained or pro athletes, so your results might be different. But if you're healthy and have no problems with your heart, kidneys, or liver, the most popular sports supplements are safe and inexpensive.

It's best to talk with your doctor before you take any product, even if it's natural, in case you have any conditions or take medications that it could affect.

Caffeine for Endurance
Caffeine gives you a pick-me-up in the morning, and it can pick up your game, too. If you take it about 30 minutes before your race, game or workout, it could improve your endurance. For long challenges, like a marathon, caffeine during the event can help, too.
Tennis players, cyclists, soccer players, runners, rowers, and others got an edge from caffeine in scientific studies. In some trials, the stimulant boosted athletes’ speed. In others, it helped them last longer before they spent all their energy. Some studies show that it can curb soreness after exercise, too. This means you could get back to your training sooner.

You can get caffeine from energy drinks and shots, tablets, chewing gum, sport gels, and sprays. Each product will give you different doses, so read the label before you take it.
You don’t need all that much caffeine to get the effect, and it is possible to overdo it.  No matter what form you take, make sure you don’t get more than 400 milligrams a day. And don’t forget to count your other daily sources of caffeine -- there’s about 100 milligrams in your morning coffee.

Too much caffeine can cause headaches, irritability, stomach upset, dehydration, and trouble sleeping.

Creatine for Reps
Are you a sprinter or weight lifter? Creatine monohydrate could help with these and other repeated short bouts of intense exercise. It doesn’t seem to benefit players of other types of sports. And, like studies of many supplements, not all studies show that it benefits athletes.

Your body makes creatine naturally, and your muscles use it to do high-intensity exercise. When you do a lot of reps, you use up your natural store of it. That’s one reason your tenth rep is so much harder than your first. A supplement boosts the amount your body has to work with. You also can get creatine from beef and pork. If you already eat plenty of these, you won’t notice as much of a difference from a supplement as a vegetarian might notice.

Experts consider creatine safe for healthy people. Some people take a higher dose for the first week -- about four servings of 5 grams each per day -- to “load” their muscles with the supplement. Then they drop to a “maintenance” dose of about 2 grams per day. Others skip the loading phase and start with the lower dose.

Some studies have shown that creatine could increase fat and not muscle. There’s also evidence that high doses could cause kidney, liver, or heart damage, but it's unclear how much might be too much.

Beta-Alanine for Burning Muscles
When you do short bouts of exercise at maximum effort for 30 to 90 seconds (think indoor cycling classes), your muscles make a lot of lactic acid. That’s what makes you “feel the burn.” Athletes take beta-alanine in a capsule or a drink powder to curb that burn so they can push through their workout.

Does it work? Cyclists and runners who took beta-alanine for 4 weeks improved their game in scientific studies. But not all studies agree.
Some studies show a benefit. Others don’t, so it’s not completely clear yet. We need more studies on it.

Protein for Muscle Growth
Like branched chain amino acids, many athletes take protein, usually in a protein shake, after workouts to try to curb muscle damage and boost growth.
There’s a window of about at least 30 minutes after you stop exercising during which you can take in protein and promote [growth] of lean muscle mass. A number of scientific studies show that protein after exercise helps reduce muscle damage or promotes its growth.

Protein seems to work best after resistance exercise, like weight training.  But you don’t have to get the nutrient from a supplement. A high-protein meal after a workout would do the job, too. A protein shake on top of that might give you an extra boost.  Whey protein is a popular go to protein source, however, it is dairy derived which makes it hard to digest.  Whey is also acidic in the system.  Soy is also a common source for protein shakes.  Be mindful of soy because it mimics the effects of estrogen so it can impact your hormones.  Also, soy is a highly processed making most of it Genetically Modified.  Other vegan sources have become quite popular in the last few years, some examples are yellow pea, brown rice and cranberry.  Do your homework when choosing a protein supplement.  


Rules To Building Muscle Mass




Rule #1: Building Muscle Mass Requires SMART Goals
Wanting to add more muscle mass is a good goal, but it’s vague. SMART goals are designed to ensure you can actually reach them. Here’s how to make your muscle mass goal smarter:

Specific. Do you want particular muscles to get bigger? Are there areas of your body you want to create more definition?

Measurable. It’s reasonable to gain 1-2 pounds of muscle a month. Decide how many months you will invest in this goal and pick your pounds accordingly. Remember you might gain pounds faster at first, so don't set your long-term weekly goals based on the first few weeks of gains.

Achievable. Consider what else you have going on in the coming months. Adjust your goals accordingly.

Relevant. Remind yourself why you want to reach this goal. If it’s hard to stay on track, find ways to remember your reason on a daily basis, like hanging a picture of the physique you want where you’ll see it.

Time Bound. Determine how long you want to spend on this goal. Make a plan on your calendar in that timeframe.  A goal is not goal unless it is time activated.

Rule #2: Be Prepared
No one builds muscle mass by accident. If you want to reach your SMART muscle gain goals, you’ll need to have a plan and stick to it. Your plan will need to include a muscle mass workout program and a nutrition program, plus you’ll need to factor in more rest.

Besides your planning, you’ll need to have access to the right gym equipment. Strength training equipment and a wide range of free weights are important. 

Rule #3: Modify Workout Plan
Have you ever heard of a fitness plateau? That’s what it’s called when you’re working hard and a regular at the gym, but you just aren’t making visible progress towards your goals. Often, small adjustments will make the difference.

Some simple but effective changes you can make to your workout regimen to add muscle are:  

> Start with your free-weight exercises, then move onto machines
> Ask for feedback on your form since it’s easy to stand, grip, or lift improperly
> Do more compound exercises because they are simple and let you increase weights faster
> Lift heavier weights using more muscles instead of isolating a few and lifting less
> Try to move slowly as you lift weights
> Change your routine every 6-8 weeks because otherwise your muscle adapt to your usual exercises and progress slows down
> Pick exercises that pair large body parts (like your shoulders) with smaller muscle groups (like your traps)

Rule #4: Eat to Gain Muscle, Not Lose It
It’s easier to gain weight in the form of fat than it is to put on muscle. Just like with weight loss, what you eat matters. You’ll also need to be eating more calories than you are burning. A great rule of thumb is to have your diet be 12 to 15 percent protein, 55 to 60 percent carbs, and 25 to 30 percent fats.

Of course, not all calories are equal. Opt for healthy protein, carbs that are nutrient dense (like whole grains,) and fats that are good for you. Basically, aim to eat meals like steak and potatoes with greens. Snack on proteins like nuts or meats between meals, and definitely find a few good protein smoothie recipes.

Rule #5: Hit Snooze
Believe it or not, rest is one of the most important factors when building muscle mass. You need to take at least one day a week off from working out so your muscles have to adapt and rebuild. Avoid performing concentrated exercises on the same body parts two days in a row for the same reason.

Muscle building is a lot of work for your body. Getting anywhere from 9-11 hour of sleep a night is recommended. If that’s not possible, don’t dip below 8 hours. Your muscles need it.

Exercise Helps Your Gut Bacteria




Something new emerges from the world of gut bacteria seemingly every other day.  That's why it's worth taking a look at a study from the University of Illinois that was published near the end of 2017.

In the human study, 32 obese and lean individuals were tested. They did supervised cardiovascular exercises for 30-60 minutes three times a week for six weeks.  Short-chain fatty acids—in particular, butyrate, which promotes healthy intestinal cells, reduces inflammation, and generates energy—increased in the lean participants as a result. Short-chain fatty acids in general are formed when gut bacteria ferment fiber in the colon. In addition to butyrate's specific role, these fatty acids also improve insulin sensitivity and protect the brain from inflammation and neurodegenerative disease.  

Butyrate's role in your gut manifests itself in a variety of ways: if you have Crohn's disease, an increase in butyrate production can strengthen your intestines.  It also plays a role in guarding the body against diet-induced obesity.  

The study also found that lean individuals produced more butyrate than in obese individuals. Why this happened is still unknown and represents the next question for researchers to explore.

Perfect Your Push Up



The push-up has long been used to develop strength in the arms, shoulders and chest. However, the push-up is also a great core exercise. During the exercise, the trunk and hips should remain as stable as possible to create a lever for the working muscles. The deep core muscles, such as the transverse abdominus, become actively engaged to stabilize the spine and pelvis so that the force generated by the pectoral, deltoid and triceps muscles can move the body around the axis of rotation at the toes (or knees, for modified push-ups).

Before one can learn the push-up, it’s important to first develop the strength of the deep core muscles to maintain stability around the spine so the arms and shoulders can move the body. This is the role of the first three exercises described below—they create the foundation. Perform these exercises consistently for at least four to six weeks before progressing to the more challenging exercises described later in this article.

Quadruped
The first step is to develop the proper strength and placement in the wrists and shoulders. This can be done in a quadruped or all-fours position, which reduces the amount of weight directly on the arms. Position the wrists under the shoulders, the knees directly under the hips and keep the spine in a neutral position. Push the hands into the floor while pushing the upper back and shoulders up to the ceiling.

The goal is to push the hands down into the floor while pressing the shoulders in the opposite direction to create tension in all of the muscles. The hands have a high number of sensory nerve endings; when they are placed directly on the floor for a plank, the pressure of the hands pushing into the floor helps to engage and activate many of the muscles responsible for shoulder strength and spinal stability. Hold for 20-30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds and repeat for three to four repetitions. This exercise should be performed as part of warm-up when working on improving the push-up.

Modified High-plank
A common way to do the plank exercise is with the elbows on the floor directly under the shoulders. This position does not allow for proper strength to develop between the hands, shoulders and the muscles responsible for stabilizing the spine (see above). Doing a modified plank with the knees on the floor (instead of the feet) and the hands on the floor helps strengthen the connection between the palms, shoulders and spine by using a shorter lever (the distance between the hands and knees versus that between the hands and feet), which results in less resistance. This is helpful for developing the strength to do a push-up. Start by holding for 20 seconds, gradually progress to holding the modified plank for 45 seconds. After each plank, rest for the same amount of time you held the plank and perform three to four sets. Once you can do four sets of 45 seconds, your are ready for a greater challenge.

High Plank
The high plank is basically the “up” position of the push-up; practicing high planks helps develop the wrist, shoulder, upper-back and core strength to maintain a stable body throughout the entire range-of-motion of the exercise. Place the hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart so that the thumbs are pointing toward the midline of the body and the fingers are pointed the same direction as the head. To increase stability while pushing the hands into the floor, rotate the elbows to point back toward the feet to increase the strength and stability in the shoulder joints. Squeeze the thigh and glute muscles to increase stability around the pelvis (this is a more effective than “contracting the core,” which doesn’t address any specific muscle). Start by holding the high plank for 20 seconds and rest for the same amount of time as the plank; perform three to four sets. Gradually increase the time up to 45 seconds. Once you can hold a high plank for four sets of 45 seconds, it is time to work harder.

During the lengthening phase of muscle action, there is more tension within the muscle fibers so the muscle is capable of generating higher levels of force. Placing the emphasis on the lengthening phase of muscle action by practicing the lowering phase of the push-up can help develop the strength to control movement of the body through the entire range of motion.  Perform the following exercises for three to five weeks before progressing to the full range of motion of the push-up.

Modified Negative Push-ups
The word “negative” is used here because the weight is going down (as opposed to up), which causes the muscles to lengthen and increases the tension in the fibers. This is an effective strategy for initiating strength gains. Start in a modified high-plank position with the knees on the floor and the hands slightly wider than the shoulders. Slowly lower the body to the floor for a count of five or six seconds. At the bottom of the movement, return to the starting position in a way that feels comfortable. Working on the lengthening phase of muscle action can help develop the strength that will be used later for the complete range of motion of the push-up. Begin with two sets of six to eight repetitions, rest for 45-60 seconds after each set. Gradually add one or two repetitions each workout until the client can perform 10-12 reps with control. Complete four sets, resting 90 seconds between each one.

Negative Push-ups
Once you can easily perform 10-12 reps of negative modified push-ups, it’s time to progress to the full version. Assume a high plank position with the feet approximately shoulder-width apart. Keep the hands pressed into the floor and the thigh muscles squeezed while slowly lowering the body toward the floor. At the bottom of the movement, place the knees on the floor and return to the starting position. Start with two sets of six to eight repetitions and progress to performing two to three sets of 10-12 reps.

Modified Push-ups
Many people are familiar with modified push-ups, but these are obviously not the best starting point for learning the push-up, especially not for those who first need to develop a foundation of core strength. While the normal push-up has the feet and hands as the points of contact, bending the knees and placing them on the floor shortens the lever of the body significantly thus reducing the amount of resistance. Place the knees together on the floor so that they are bent and the feet are in the air. Keep the hands about shoulder-width apart with the fingers pointed away from the knees. Slowly lower the body to the floor and then push the floor away to return to the original starting position. To increase stability of the core, encourage your clients to grip the floor with the hands and squeeze the thighs to engage the deep spinal stabilizers. Start with two sets of six to eight repetitions and rest one minute between sets. Gradually progress to performing 10-12 repetitions and then start adding sets. Once you can perform three to four sets of 10-12 reps of modified push-ups, it’s time to progress to full push-ups.

Full Push-ups
To perform a full push-up, start in a high-plank position with the legs hip-width apart. Press the hands into the floor with the fingers pointed away from the feet. Contract the thigh and glute muscles to increase stability and slowly lower the body toward the floor. Press the hands into the floor to return to the up position. Start with two sets of five to six repetitions, resting for one minute between sets. Gradually add repetitions until you can perform two sets of 10-12 repetitions and then start adding sets.