January 14, 2013

10 Superfoods Everyone Should Have in Their Diet

Everyone knows about the food pyramid. To be healthy means to maintain a good balance between those dreaded veggies and the sweet indulgences. However, some foods are better at doing their job than others, and are packed with more of those vitamins and minerals that you need. This is not a list of the absolute best foods ever, but rather it is a well-rounded assortment of choices that you could really benefit from by adding into your meals. Ultimately, these foods are the best way for you to provide your body with essential nutrients, without the excess saturated fat or carbohydrates. It's no secret, but once you learn about these power-packed foods, you will never leave them out of your daily diet.

Blueberries

Blueberries

Blueberries are great because not only are they high in antioxidants, but also contain a high amount of Flavonoids, which serve to preserve your brain's memory function. In addition, its naturally high water content is good for healthy skin. Whether you mix them into a yogurt parfait, eat them as a snack, or include them in your dessert, blueberries are a versatile fruit that provide many health benefits.

Kale

Kale

Kale, a cousin of cabbage, comes with green or purple leaves, but regardless of which one you prefer, this "Queen of Greens" is bursting with nutrients. First, much like any robust leafy green, it is high in fiber and low in calories and fat. In addition, kale contains many essential amino acids that promote cardiovascular support. Finally, it is high in multiple vitamins and crucial minerals such as iron and magnesium

Salmon

Salmon

Salmon is so great because it is one of the best examples of a high protein food with healthy fat. The omega-3 fatty acids serve a number of functions including lubricating joints, lower risk for heart disease, and even potentially help prevent memory loss. The good news is that you don't have to get sick of eating just salmon because there are other similar types of fatty fish; sardines, herring, and mackerel are all great as well.

Quinoa

Quinoa

Let's be honest for a second: starchy foods taste delicious and are almost essential to making any meal complete. However, the downside is that they are almost always loaded with way too many carbohydrates. Although it is not technically a grain, quinoa is a great substitute for white rice or potatoes. It is loaded with protein and essential amino acids for building muscle. In addition, it is easy to cook and incorporate in a number of different ways. Other great substitutes that fall within the same category are couscous, lentils, and brown rice.

Dark Chocolate

Dark Chocolate

Before we go any further, this disclaimer is necessary for this one superfood: Keep in mind, everything is great in moderation. Dark chocolate – more specifically 70% cacao – surprisingly has many benefits. The antioxidants found in cacao have shown to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, and improve overall heart health. Like blueberries, dark chocolate is rich in Flavonoids, and although there is no scientific backing, it has shown to boost your mood. (Probably because you're eating, well, chocolate). 

Raw Almonds

Raw Almonds

The emphasis on "raw" is very important to this superfood. Many packaged nuts come roasted and salted, but be aware. Although they are "plain," the roasting process that some manufacturers use produces nuts that are high in salts, fats, and even sugars. Raw almonds, however, are rich in protein and fiber. They contain phytochemicals, which are plant components that promote heart and vascular health. Get some freeze-dried fruit and mix it in with some dark chocolate nibs to make a healthy home-made trail mix.

Eggs

Eggs

Ideally eggs should be consumed raw for optimum nutrient absorption, but not all of us are like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. Not only are they an eggcellent (excuse the terrible pun) source of protein, but eggs also contain choline which helps block fat absorption. Many people recommend eating egg whites only because the yolk is high in cholesterol, but as long as you don't eat more than 4 eggs a day you will be fine. Once again the key word here is moderation.

Yogurt

Yogurt

Before you run to the grocery store and buy all kinds of flavors, realize that not all of your favorite brands are necessarily healthy. Some yogurt brands are actually just a sugary snack.  However, plain yogurt provides you with more than 20% of your daily calcium needs, and is good for those who are lactose intolerant because the bacteria cultures are easier to digest. In addition, probiotics help with intestinal health and regular digestion.

Avocado

Avocados

Out of all the possible fat sources from various foods, avocado is one of the very few (along with salmon) foods that is a healthy source of raw fat. This means that this rich and delicious superfood is great for daily caloric intake without the excess grain carbohydrates or saturated fat. In addition, avocados are packed with high amounts of fiber, Potassium, Vitamin E, B-Vitamins, and Folic Acid.

Oats

Oats

For some, oats may already be an integral part of your diet. If not, start incorporating them now! Besides your typical breakfast oatmeal, oats can be incorporated many different ways in your diet. This fiber-rich superfood provides you with enough of your daily value in one serving. In addition, oats are a resistant starch, which is a healthy carbohydrate that boosts metabolism and burns fat.

All of these superfoods taste great and are easy to integrate into your daily diet. In addition, most of these ingredients are not expensive to buy in stores! Eat these foods as a snack by itself or find creative ways to mix them into your meals. Regardless of how you do it, make sure you are getting a healthy serving of all of these foods; your body will thank you for it.

January 11, 2013

Improve Your Life: Learn to Exercise

Learning to Exercise

One of the most common New Year's resolutions is: "I want to exercise more." However, this is also the most commonly unkept resolution. Many times people go into the New Year with a refreshed and positive mindset of wanting to be healthier and not feeling so lethargic all the time. Gym membership sales go through the roof, and people begin to plan their goals.  However, as time progresses, excuses are made, resolve fades, and the crowd at the gym thins out noticeably. So how do you avoid the cycle of trying, stagnating, and failing? The truth is that there is no magical formula. However, by learning how and why you want to exercise, you can set a frame of mind that is both realistic and manageable.

Stick to your New Years Resolutions

How do I exercise?

Exercise does not (and should not) always involve a grueling activity that you despise doing. Any form of movement that gets your heart rate going is considered exercise. That does not mean you can sit in front of your TV, do jumping jacks during the commercial breaks, and call it a day. It does mean that you need to start somewhere. If you're not a runner, don't expect to be able to run a mile with ease on your first day out! Start by going out for a brisk walk, just enough to work up a little sweat and increase your heart rate. Eventually, you'll find yourself picking up the pace, going farther each time, until you finally turn off your mind and run without thinking. If running is not your thing, find another activity that you can ease into the same way. The most important thing is to choose what works for you and stick to it. Don't set unrealistic expectations for yourself right off the bat; you will only become more discouraged. Instead, track your progress by thinking about how you did the last time, and making a point to run longer, lift heavier, work harder. 

Why do I want to exercise?

If you are exercising just to look good at the beach for summer, then your motivation is not directed in the correct path. Exercise is not meant for anyone else but yourself. Until you can acknowledge that you truly want a healthy lifestyle, you will be exercising in vain, and your drive will fade quickly. Your mind is your biggest obstacle, and only you have ultimate control over it. Whatever thought or feeling that encouraged you to exercise in the first place, isolate that in your mind and use it to empower yourself. Place motivational quotes on your bathroom mirror so you can read it every day and use it as a reminder. Remember how the endorphin high feels after you're done exercising and motivate yourself to chase that high. Think of exercise as a hobby and buy yourself cool gear [LINK: www.legsmart.com/cep] that you can use during your activities. Eventually, exercise will not only be integrated into your routine, but also the most sought after time of your day. 

Don't think, Just do

Though it may be easier said than done, here I argue that exercising is MUCH easier done than said. Many times people think about exercising and begin to talk themselves out of it.

"I would go on a run, but it's too cold outside."

"I would go to the gym, but I just had a really long day at work."

Before you know it, your excuses will be reduced to that of "I would exercise, but I just plain don't want to."At this point, your motivation is little to nothing, and you have wasted time thinking about exercising when you could have been utilizing that time to move your body. Before you give yourself a chance to complain about the cold, throw on your running shoes and a light jacket and just get out there; your body will warm up. To avoid losing motivation after a long day at work, bring your gym bag with you so you don't get a chance to go home and make excuses. So what are you waiting for? By now you must have exercise on your mind and are considering doing something about it. "Yesterday you said 'tomorrow', just do it!"

January 09, 2013

Choose Healthier Options over Unhealthy Snacks

Choosing Healthy Snack Options

Picture this scenario: It is the weekend and you are relaxing on the couch in front of the TV. After strenuous hours of intense remote clicking, your stomach begins to grumble. What is the first snack that you reach for to satisfy your hunger? In an ideal world, we would all be good to our bodies and eat some fruit to hold us over until the next meal. However, chances are you reach for your favorite sweet or salty indulgence. So you plop back down onto the couch, and proceed mindlessly munching. Before you know it, you are staring into the shiny aluminum lining of the family sized bag that you finished yourself, left with nothing but feelings of guilt along with scattered crumbs and cheese coated fingers signifying the aftermath of an all out snacking rampage.

Cheetos Snacks

By the time dinner rolls around, your appetite is shot and you are reminded of the awful deed that you have committed not too long ago. It's understandable because snack foods taste great; plain and simple. However, it is these very foods that also ruin your appetite, cause bad eating habits, and are ultimately detrimental to your health. We all know these are unhealthy and should all be eaten in moderation, yet whenever we need a snack before a meal, we find ourselves reaching for the sugar, the fat, the salt, the MSG. This is not to say that no one should ever eat any unhealthy snacks. Much like many other things in life, it is okay in moderation. But by changing your snack habits, not only will you be able to curb your cravings, but you will also notice a substantial difference in your health and energy overall.

MSG can be found in almost any savory snack food. Why? Because it's the best flavor enhancer. The inconvenient truth is that the better your snack food tastes, the more likely it is to contain a heavy saturation of unhealthy ingredients. Check your snack cabinet right now and briefly skim over some of the labels; you will be surprised as to just what is going into these delicious snacks. Whether it is MSG, high fructose corn syrup, or "natural" colors/flavors, the majority of your favorite snack foods most likely contain unhealthy amounts of these ingredients in them. Surprisingly even those "healthy" energy/granola bars are not all that great for you either. Instead of natural energy derived from the fruits and nuts, these bars all have unnecessary amounts of sugar packed into them, giving you that temporary sugar rush with a hard crash later.

So how do you replace your favorite snacks with healthier options? Luckily you don't need to sacrifice too much. For starters, fruit is a great way to get natural sugars for some energy. Instead of buying trail mix at the store, try to make your own with dried fruit, nuts, and a little bit of chocolate. One of my personal favorite combinations is toasted almonds, craisins, banana chips, and white chocolate morsels.  Instead of getting EXTRA MOVIE THEATER BUTTER WITH MORE BUTTER, get plain popcorn and add your own favorite seasonings. Try dusting it with some yellow curry powder, cayenne pepper, or garlic salt; they all taste great! As long as you remember the one rule of moderation, you will begin to phase the worst snacks out of your diet and eventually you won't crave them as much. Eventually you will notice that all of the unhealthy snack foods contain ingredients that you can buy separately and turn them into a healthier option. Tell us about some cool snack ideas that you have come up with!

January 09, 2013

Simple Tips for Setting Goals

Setting Goals the Right Way

Every New Year starts with thinking about what goals you want to set for yourself. It's always important to think about what kind of change you want to enact for yourself that will make you healthier and happier in life. Here are some simple tips for helping you set goals for yourself.

Start Setting Goals

Start off simple and think about the big goals in your life you want to achieve. Think about setting goals in different aspects of your life. What goals do you want for your career? Your Finances? Personal improvement or education? Do you have goals for your family? What are your goals for your health?

Also think about how you'll accomplish your goals. When and where will you begin your journey? What are some things you need to help accomplish them?

Many people use the "SMART" acronym for setting goals:

S – Specific. Know clearly what your goals are in order to achieve them.

M – Measurable. Make sure your goals can be measured so you know when you fall short and when you complete them.

A – Attainable. You want goals that can be completed. Make your goals too extreme or to lofty and you'll be discouraged.

R – Relevant. Make goals that improve the health and wellness of your life.

T – Time bound. Give yourself a deadline.

After you identify some big goals for your life, think about how they break down into smaller goals. Set a 5 year plan for yourself. Then create smaller plans for 1 year, or 6 months. Each of these plans should relate to the previous plan. Then create a daily To Do list to help you stay organized throughout the process. Your smaller short term goals are the stepping stones to your bigger long term goals.

After you've come up with a plan, review them and see if it fits into the way you want to live your life. Your goals don't have to drastically change your life. Settings goals that are too big or too difficult may discourage you from completing them. You might also lose track because you don't feel like you're making any progress.

Here are some tips to keep you motivated through your goals:

Stay positive: Express your goals positively to encourage yourself to stay on track. "Execute this technique well" is a much better goal than "Don't make this stupid mistake."

Be precise: When setting goals, fill out the details so you can measure your achievements. It's important to know exactly when you have achieved your goal because you want to enjoy that satisfying feeling.

Write your goals down: Writing down your goals solidifies them and gives them more weight when you review them.

Invest in the process, not the outcome: You should take care to set goals over which you have as much control as possible. It can be quite dispiriting to fail to achieve a personal goal for reasons beyond your control. In business, these reasons could be bad business environments or unexpected effects of government policy. In sport, they could include poor judging, bad weather, injury, or just plain bad luck. Even if you end up missing your goal, feel good about the process instead of the outcome. If you think about your growth and how far you've come, or the fact that you summed up the courage to tackle a goal, you'll be much happier because of your experiences.

Start Working on your Goals

Once you have your plan, make a date to start your goals. Be sure to choose a definite start date for your goals, and don't put that date off. Be sure to account for life circumstances that might hamper your efforts, such as work or school demands, vacations or relationship problems. You may need to resolve some issues before starting. Timing is crucial, often making the difference between success and failure.

Stay Motivated to Complete More Goals

When you achieve a goal, be sure to reward yourself. This helps to build the confidence you deserve to accomplish more.

If your goal was too easy, make your next goal more challenging. If your goal was too difficult, make the next goal a little easier to achieve.

Take the experiences you're learning from these goals to feed into completing other goals.

You always want to set yourself up for success. You also want to feel good about accomplishing your goals. Remember that failing to meet goals does not matter much, just as long as you learn from the experience.

Naturally, your goals will change over time. Adjust your goals regularly to reflect your growth and experiences. And if a goal doesn't interest you anymore, you can let them go. Remember, they're your goals.

January 07, 2013

Work Towards Your Resolution

Lose a few pounds. Exercise more often. Eat healthier foods.

The above are much easier said than done. Setting a goal is one thing, but initiating and maintaining the actions to complete that goal can be something completely different.

definition of determination as illustrated by a duck

It's that time again for New Year's resolutions. New Year's resolutions allow you to set new goals for the upcoming year and to do so with a sense of a fresh start. Often times one of the biggest challenges when it comes to approaching a resolution is taking action. When you set your New Year's resolution be sure to prepare yourself for it. Here are some of our tips on preparation:

  • Have a plan. Set sub-goals or specific dates if it helps! Developing sub-goals will act as stepping stones towards reaching your main goal. Having set dates will help prevent delaying your course of action.
  • Make time. With work, family, friends, and everything in between it can be a challenge to make time for your resolutions. Whether it is a portion of every day or a few days of every week, be sure to set some time aside to get a few steps closer to your resolution. Don't forget that this New Year's resolution is for YOU. Working towards your resolution is a great way to just have some "me time" and to do something beneficial and nice for yourself.
  • Be motivated. Your goal should be something that you want to do, not something that you feel obligated or burdened by. Stay motivated by means of self reward and positive anticipation.
  • Be determined.  Stay committed to accomplishing and sticking with your goal. Having the right positive mindset will help guide you to accomplishing your resolution.

Once you have determined what your resolution will be, push yourself to take the steps towards accomplishing your goal. At the beginning of January, a resolution "I will exercise more this year" can have the potential to become "Maybe I won't start this week… but definitely next week" and so on. It is important to make time, not excuses, for your resolution to prevent your motivation from slipping away from you. So rather than delaying the start of your resolution, mark a specific day in which your resolution will spring into action. Whether it's circling a day on your calendar, setting an alarm in your cell phone, or posting a bunch of brightly colored sticky notes on your desk… don't let that specific day pass without having taken a big action step closer to accomplishing this year's goal.

Depending on your resolution, it may even help to get your friends or family involved. Is your goal to exercise more? Then go on a family walk, hike or bike ride together. Is your goal to eat healthier? Invite a friend over to try and cook a new healthy recipe with you. Get creative! If necessary, bring your resolution down a notch. Don't burn yourself out. Instead, recreate or break it down into sub-goals to adjust it to be something more realistic for your lifestyle and schedule. What's important is to not give up. Learn to manage your expectations along with your goals and you will find what works best for you to stay committed.

Whatever your New Year's resolution may be, be sure to make time to work towards it; for the sake of both maintaining your work progress as well as making time for yourself. Working regularly and actively towards your goal will maintain your determination and motivation and guide you to pushing yourself one step further each time. Each push will lead you to feel more energized and satisfied with yourself and your goal.

June 19, 2012

7 Tips to Speed Athletic Recovery and Boost Performance

In order to improve, athletes must push themselves beyond their normal endurance and performance levels. The human body is capable of recovering and rebuilding following this kind of intense exercise, but it must have recovery time to do so. If you don’t give your body enough rest following an extreme workout, it cannot adapt, and you won’t be able to continue improving as a competitor.

In addition to getting plenty of sleep and downtime, there are certain tricks athletes swear by for speeding recovery and minimizing delayed onset muscle soreness. For instance, you’ve probably noticed plenty of athletes are now wearing CEP compression socks and Sigvaris Performance compression socks. We explain how this and other post-workout tricks work below. By following these tips, you can boost your performance and accelerate revitalization.

1. Listen to your body

The number-one rule for post-workout recovery is simply to be aware of how your body feels. Avoid judging yourself or writing off your experience to “wimpiness.” Don’t second-guess the wisdom of your body. If you’re sore, tired or noticing decreased performance, give yourself time to recover. On the other hand, if you feel as strong as an ox the day after a strong workout, there’s no need to decrease your next session’s intensity.

2. Drink plenty of water

The Mayo Clinic recommends that men drink at least 3 liters (13 cups) of liquids every day and that women drink at least 2.2 liters (9 cups) of beverages per day. Every single system in the body requires water to function. Overall, water accounts for 60 percent of your total body weight.

For this reason, even slight dehydration can lead to feelings of fatigue. No wonder, then, that athletes swear by increased intake of liquids for improved performance. The more you exercise, the more sweat you will need to replace with fresh water.

3. Warm up and cool down

Torn muscles, ligaments and other injuries are more likely to occur if you don’t properly warm up and cool down the body. To go from inactivity to strenuous exercise is extremely taxing on the body. Just as an automobile often performs better after a few minutes of warm-up, your muscles will feel stronger and more limber if you spend five to ten minutes walking briskly before your workout.

Cooling down after a workout is just as important. Indeed, a cool-down period (again of five to ten minutes in duration) helps remove excess lactic acid from your muscles and may reduce soreness later on.

4. Wear sports compression socks during and after your workout

Sports compression socks: They represent an easy, efficient way to boost performance and speed up recovery. Circulation is the key. Only premium brands of sports compression socks such as CEP or Sigvaris Performance compression socks offer graduated compression, meaning they are tighter around the bottom, nearest the ankle, and looser around the top, by the knee. This compression increases circulation throughout the legs, reducing swelling and soreness.

Runners and cyclists alike often find that they can delay soreness during performance by wearing sports compression socks. And many avid athletes put on a fresh pair of athletic compression socks following a workout to boost circulation.

5. Eat right

To replace fuel used during exercise, aim to eat within one hour of your workout. The body loves complex carbohydrates because they are easily broken down into fuel. Indeed, endurance athletes such as marathon runners are known to load up on carbs before a big race for this very reason. High quality proteins are also a good idea, as they help your body build strong muscles. In general, to reach your peak athletic performance, your diet should be varied and consistent throughout the day.

6. Stretch after warming up and cooling down

Stretching serves many functions for the athlete. It increases flexibility balance and coordination, which helps prevent injury. A good stretch can also cut your recovery time by increasing circulation to newly strengthened muscles.

7. Care for injuries, such as blisters

It isn't unusual for athletes to suffer seemingly minor injuries during long runs or games, due to repeated muscular athletic compression. Socks, for instance, can wrinkle during a run and cause blisters. Don’t consider yourself a wimp for noticing attending to, and preventing, such injuries. If you notice a post-workout blister or cut, care for it right away. This will free up energy for your body to work on healing the less superficial results from your exercise.

Since blisters are often formed in the same place over and over again, take the time to prepare for a big workout by applying protective bandages in areas that tend to get blisters. Lastly, pay attention to your socks. For most athletic activities, including running and cycling, thin sports compression socks are the best way to go.

« Previous 1 3 4 5