Fuel Up

fuelupExercise is very important to me and to general wellbeing. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness, the average adult should engage in moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes, 5 or more times per week – or at least 150 minutes each week. We often hear about which nutrients to consume for recovery after a workout, and I often see people pounding protein shakes at the gym, but we don’t talk as often about what to eat before a workout.

In college, I boxed and tried martial arts; now, I run, yoga and CrossFit. This month, to mix up my routine, I joined a kickboxing training program. We meet at 6:00AM to work on techniques, box, and do a variety of functional activities for strengthening – and after one hour I am bushed! I have a very hard time eating early in the morning, but according to data from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, limited intake of carbohydrate impairs training intensity and duration. I see these effects sometimes: I don’t eat after dinner and if I don’t eat before a morning workout I feel sluggish. Since exercise requires energy and carbohydrate has roles in multiple energy pathways, providing substrate for muscular work from quick carbohydrate foods is a good choice. Every body is unique, and different activities, intensities, and durations require different amounts of energy and nutrients. I know that I perform better in an intense one-hour class or run if I eat between 100-200 calories beforehand. This morning I grabbed a medium pear, approximately 100 calories, on my way out the door and I felt great during class. Fruit is an easy choice for me since it is portable and I can grab it on the go, but some mornings I have a little protein, nuts or yogurt, with it. It took trial and error to figure out what works best for me, but you can figure it out, too. If you don’t generally eat before exercise, why not give it a shot and see if you get more from your workout? If you’re starting on a training program, consult with a sports dietitian for personalized eating plans.

 

Don’t Be a Yo-Yo!

RBP9037046 Woman with PearThat dreaded time of year is here again – swimsuit season. I have helped countless people lose weight, including myself, and despite many new and radical diets, the science still points to one principle: To lose weight, expend more calories than you eat. Sounds simple, right? Nope. What this doesn’t take into account are cravings, lack of motivation, hormones, metabolism, boredom, emotions, workplace and social saboteurs… Should I continue? Unfortunately, many experience the yo-yo effect, losing weight, gaining it back and having to start over again. For lasting weight loss, small changes must be made and maintained over time for true behavior change – and to end the weight loss/regain cycle.

Research from the National Weight Control Registry, a registry of more than 10,000 people who have successfully lost weight and kept it off, points to a variety of factors. The average weight loss for those on the registry is 66 pounds (range 30 to 300 pounds), maintained for an average 5.5 years (range 1 to 66 years). Most participants report maintaining a low calorie, low fat diet and four common trends, 1) eating breakfast, 2) getting on the scale at least once weekly, 3) watching fewer than 10 hours of television each week, and 4) exercising – participants exercised one hour/day on average. [1] Noted early in the research, once weight loss was maintained for 2-5 years the chance for longer-term maintenance improved dramatically. Not surprisingly, those who did regain weight reported significant decline in physical activity, increased consumption of calories from fat, and decreased restraint in food choice. [2, 3]

So, how can you put these principles into practice? Get moving, fill up on healthful foods that are generally lower calorie – particularly fruits and vegetables – and make small, sustainable changes!

1. http://www.nwcr.ws/Research/default.htm
2. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/82/1/222S.full.pdf+html
3. http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(13)00528-X/abstract

Love Your Heart!

HERO red pear with heart check logoThis Valentine’s Day, love your heart! Have you heard of phenols, flavonoids, and antioxidants? Phenols and flavonoids are families of phytonutrients, nonessential nutrients found in plant foods that provide color, flavor, and health benefits, particularly as antioxidants. In the body, antioxidants inhibit molecules that cause damage to body cells. Because of these antioxidants and other nutrients, increased fruit and vegetable consumption has been linked to decreased risk for many chronic illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases. Does this mean pears are good for your heart?

Well, a systematic review of pears and health published in the November/December 2015 issue of Nutrition Today supports what I’ve been saying all along. To be specific, pears contain many nutrients, including fiber, vitamin C (an antioxidant!), potassium, and phytonutrients that act as antioxidants – in particular, pears provide between 27 and 41mg of phenolic compounds per 100 grams (1 small pear). Many antioxidants are found in pears, and those with high phenolic and flavonoid contents – such as the anthocyanin in the skin of red pears – had significantly higher antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities. Does this mean that pears may fight heart disease? It’s possible. One study by Mink et al included in the review found that dietary intake of foods rich in flavonoids, particularly pears and apples, was associated with a reduced risk of death due to cardiovascular disease.

Did you know that the Anjou and Red Anjou pear was recently certified as a Heart-Healthy Food by the American Heart Association? So this Valentine’s Day when you and your loved ones are surrounded by love and candy hearts, do something good for your actual heart and eat a pear!

Six Simple Habits for the New Year

Woman Texting In Kitchen

A new year brings many things, a fresh start, a year of possibilities, and broken resolutions… We often set lofty goals and envision working out every day looking cute in our gym outfits, not the sweaty messes we really are. Visions are easy, reality is usually harder. Picking a healthy habit to work toward, rather than a resolution, might be simpler and more realistic. Give it a shot!

1. Make a plan. Whether you want to exercise more or lose fifty pounds, have a plan in place. Make it simple, such as walking 20 minutes twice a week or prepping meals on Sundays. Simple is easier to stick to and gives your schedule more flexibility.

2. Add a fruit or veggie. It’s not news that Americans don’t eat enough fruits and veggies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that about 13% of Americans eat the recommended 1.5-2 cups of fruit and 9% eat the recommended 2-3 cups of vegetables. Keep it simple: pick up a pear or some baby carrots to munch between meals.

3. Move more. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested inactivity may impact health more than obesity! But you don’t have to run a marathon, or run at all, to be active. If you don’t currently exercise, work steps into your day or walk 30 minutes each week. If you’re already active, add one more workout each week. Small steps lead to big changes.

4. Don’t like exercise? Grab a buddy! Working out with someone may increase motivation; it may even improve intensity or performance. I have a gym buddy: We motivate each other to exercise and have much more fun doing it. For someone who used to be obese and hated exercise, I actually look forward to our work outs now!

5. Dust off your knives and cook a little. You don’t have to win Chopped to get a little creative in the kitchen. Plus, cooking with friends or family may improve dietary quality and enjoyment of meals. And if you’re preparing food at home you’re less likely to grab take out, right?

6. Finally, get back up again. Everyone has fallen short of goals or fallen off the wagon – sometimes many times. Life isn’t suddenly better when you reach the top, so stop beating yourself up. Get back up, brush yourself off, and jump back on that wagon. Happy New Year!

Make Time for You

Lonely SeckelI have an influx of stressed calls and emails this time of year, mostly from clients and students trying to manage health and holiday stress at the same time. I know how frustrating this time of year is, I struggle with the same problem! Don’t fret, there are simple solutions to help you have a healthy holiday season.

First, make a schedule and stick to it. I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it, if you schedule time for exercise, food preparation, and sleep and you follow the schedule, you’re better equipped to take care of yourself and manage stress. Second, eat before events and move away from the treat table! At my friends’ parties, we always stand around the food, chatting and snacking. This is such a hard habit to break, but if you eat ahead of time and pull your friends away from the table you’re less likely to overeat. Third, make time to decompress. Whether you enjoy stretching, reading, games or simply sitting quietly, allow yourself at least 10 minutes every day for quiet time and positive thoughts. Finally, and most importantly, be kind to yourself! Nobody is perfect and there is always tomorrow. Remember that the holidays are about celebrating family and friends, so allow yourself to splurge a little, then get back on track the next day. Happy Holidays!

Keep Moving!

RBP9037046 Woman with Pear

With chilly weather sweeping the nation, it’s easy to stay inside and put exercise on the back burner. Although that’s certainly a good idea if it’s icy or the weather is too cold to exercise safely, after a few days it’s important to get moving again! To put this in perspective, consider these benefits of moving during cold weather.

  1. Prevent weight gain. Especially with the holidays approaching and the abundance of winter comfort foods, moving more can counteract excess calories consumed.
  2. Prevent seasonal depression. When I’m stuck inside for too long, I notice I get the blues (and cabin fever!). Getting out for a brisk walk, hike, or snowshoe helps clear the mind and increase endorphins that improve mood.
  3. Reduce stress and sleep better! This time of year is rife with stress, but moving more can balance stress and reduce negative effects of stress on the body, such as increased risk for illness. And here’s another benefit to decreasing stress – more energy AND better sleep!
  4. Improve immunity. The flu and cold season is upon us, and exercise boosts the body’s ability to fight illness by naturally cleansing itself and improving circulation of antibodies and nutrients.
  5. Prevent health conditions and diseases, such as cardiovascular disease. ‘Nuff said!

So get moving! Bundle up in layers that wick sweat away from your skin, drink a glass of water, power up with a piece of fruit such as a pear, wear appropriate footwear, and have fun!

Fun (and Safe) in the Sun!

girls with fruit

It’s warm, you’re outside more – maybe playing sand volleyball or enjoying a cocktail on the patio. Who doesn’t love summer? But beware: too much fun in the sun can lead to a serious problem. When it’s warm, we sweat to keep cool; excess sweat can lead to too much fluid and electrolyte loss. This means we need to consume more! But what the heck are electrolytes and where do I find them?

Electrolytes are charged minerals, specifically sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, phosphate, and calcium. Those of greatest import during warm weather or activity are sodium and potassium because they are lost through sweat. In the body they are kept in cells and blood and used to communicate; they carry impulses that stimulate nerve and muscle contractions. When you sweat too much or don’t consume enough, your body becomes deficient and this can lead to dire consequences, such as dehydration, cramping, shaking, and even death! So how do you protect yourself? Drink your fluids, eat your fruits and veggies – appropriate sources of electrolytes, and avoid excessive alcohol consumption that causes excess fluid and electrolyte loss. So what’s the perfect summertime snack? Try a glass of water and a sliced pear topped with one ounce of cheddar cheese. Yummy!

(Provides approximately 214 calories, 234mg potassium, 176mg sodium, and 204mg calcium.)

Mahan, L. Kathleen., Escott-Stump, Sylvia., Raymond, Janice L.Krause, Marie V. (Eds.) (2012) Krause’s food & the nutrition care process St. Louis, Mo. : Elsevier/Saunders.

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/9?fg=&format=&offset=&sort=

http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2401?fg=&man=&lfacet=&format=&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=&qlookup=pear

You Can Do It!

VictoryBite

Those of you who know me know I started my health journey 70 pounds heavier than I am now. I’ve completed seven half marathons, but never experienced the exhilaration of completing a full… until now. I ran my first full marathon this past weekend! Although the training was a chore (to be quite honest, it was sometimes boring), it was worth the toil when I ran across the finish line. If I can do it, anyone can! A goal is something to be accomplished, no matter what it is.

Looking back to when I was unhealthy, I think about how little I exercised, the processed junk I ate, and how horrible I felt. Life was different then: I slept a lot more, craved junk food, and didn’t even try fruits, vegetables, or exercise. Now, I have more energy, enjoy working out (…most of the time!), and take pride in my health. Plus, I love eating fresh food: Fruits and vegetables are the foundation of a healthy diet. I know the difference between watching life and living life! This life feels really, really good.

What is your goal? What’s your motivation? You can do it, too!

Pears Shape Up

RBP9037046 Woman with Pear

 

As I was walking across campus today I was struck by just how unique each human body is. As a dietitian, I’ve seen healthy people of all shapes and sizes. I was reminded of this today when a fit, but curvy jogger ran by me. She obviously exercises regularly, but didn’t have a traditional runner’s shape. She is a happy, healthy reminder that we can be fit no matter our genetics!

It is best to nix excess body fat because of its role in chronic diseases, but maybe even more importantly, it is vital that we each maintain a healthful diet and exercise regularly. Even if you are carrying a few extra pounds or don’t feel as fit as you used to, eating healthfully and exercising will help you feel your best and perform your best. Some of my school days are 12 hours on my (tired!) feet… If I don’t eat well and exercise, I’d be deathly tired by the end of the day! Since I take care of my health I have more energy, am more engaging with my students, and wake up feeling energized every day. So what is the recipe for living your best? Add more fruits and vegetables every day then blend in a little exercise. Fruit and vegetables work to clean our bodies by supplying nutrients and fiber; fiber and exercise help to clean out waste products. Not sure where to start? Take a walk for fifteen minutes today then follow lunch with a delicious pear. Each medium sized pear contains 6 grams of fiber – 24% of your daily needs. Happy munching, happy body!

Love your Heart!

love

February is American Heart Month, and not just because Valentine’s Day is right in the middle of the month. Now that our New Year’s resolutions have worn off, we need a reminder that health should be a focus every day of the year. According to the CDC, 715,000 Americans have a heart attack and 600,000 people die from heart disease every year. Indeed, heart disease is the leading killer of men and women in the US. But, studies suggest that simple changes leading to a drop in excess body fat can dramatically reduce risk of a heart attack.

So how can you live healthier? Simple: Eat well and exercise. That’s it. There is no magic pill, drink, or cream. You need ten minutes of planning and ten minutes of doing. When you visit the grocery store, instead of heading down the candy, chip or soda aisle, head to the produce section. Grab some pears, lettuce, carrots, and anything else you like, then, fill your lunch and your fruit bowl. This simple change can save you hundreds of calories over a week. Next, take ten minutes to be more active. Getting off the couch burns calories, and studies show us that if we get active for ten minutes, those ten minutes often turn into twenty. So what are you waiting for? Love your heart!