You Snooze, You Lose

If I told you I never hit the snooze button when my alarm decides to not so gently wake me, I would be telling a massive lie.  Truth is, I’m obsessed with the snooze button.  It feels so good to be able to cheat my responsibilities and catch just a few more minutes of shuteye, especially if I can get back to a good dream! (No one ever wants to be interrupted in the middle of Ryan Reynolds and Ryan Gosling fighting over you).  Yes, that snooze button is my best friend…or is it?

Our bodies have a natural clock built in.  Have you ever woken up five minutes before your alarm is supposed to go off?  It may be one of the most annoying feelings knowing you’ve just missed out on a whole five minutes of sleep, but if you think about it, it’s actually quite impressive how it happens.  Once your body enters a consistent circadian rhythm of waking up at the same time, it can begin preparing itself to wake up naturally at that time.  It does this by raising your body temperature and entering a lighter stage of sleep.  These are the steps necessary for ensuring a calm wake up and completing your full and restful sleep cycle.  What’s a good way to ensure you’re not getting a calm wake up or completing your sleep cycle…keep hitting the snooze button!

This is because in the early morning we are in our most restful stage of sleep, the REM stage.  When that dreaded alarm goes off, it jolts us out of that restful sleep stage, meaning we haven’t completed our full sleep cycle.  If we hit the snooze button and fall back into the REM stage, ten minutes later, we are jolting ourselves out of it again.  What is actually happening is you are getting fragmented sleep instead of a solid sleep and this can leave you feeling a lot more drowsy the next morning.

So, how do we avoid hitting the snooze button and getting a better nights rest?

  •  Go to Bed Earlier: If you need 8 hours of sleep, go to bed earlier instead of continuously hitting the snooze button until you’ve reached your 8 hours.  The constant sleep and complete REM stage will leave you feeling much more energized.
  •  Put Your Alarm on the Other Side of the Room: When the alarm goes off and you can’t just reach over and smack it quiet, you may have an easier time waking up.  By placing the alarm on the other side of the room it forces you to get out of bed and turn it off. Now, you are up and moving so you can start your day.
  • Set Your Alarm When You Actually Need to Get Up: A lot of people choose to set the alarm 30 minutes before they actually need to wake up just so they can have the luxury of hitting snooze and sleeping a bit longer (guilty).  If you set your alarm when you actually need to wake up, hitting the snooze button would make you late.  End result?  You have to wake up the first time the alarm tells you to.
  • Get An Alarm Without A Snooze Button: No button means no snooze.
  • Set A Second Alarm: Having to get out of bed to turn off multiple alarms will ensure you’re awake when it’s time to get moving.
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A Killer Kettlebell Workout

Let’s face it, for the fitness lovers; kettlebells are the new must have toys.  Everybody is talking about them.  So, I finally bought into the craze and let me tell you: while my energy and physical fitness level are thanking me, my muscles are flipping me the bird.

I. Am. Sore!  And, I am sore because of Lorna Kleidman’s “Body Sculpting with Kettlebells for Women.”  Before I get into talking about my experience thus far, let’s dive into the book itself.

I spent a solid week researching and reading reviews on several kettlebell books before settling on Lorna Kleidman’s “Body Sculpting with Kettlebells for Women.”  It had raving reviews and I understand why.  It begins as any good fitness book should: explaining why the specific workout is beneficial, offering helpful tips on maintaining good nutrition, and explaining the essentials of kettlebell safety while including key terms and the proper form necessary for completing the three programs: silver, gold, and platinum.  It also individually breaks down the over 50 total body workouts for a step by step guide to ensure proper form and prevent injury.

The programs themselves are quick, fun, and effective.  They each begin with a warm up (which the book explains in detail), contain 3 sets of about 4 to 5 individual exercises, and end with a cool down, (which the book also explains in detail).  Each program is 6 weeks in length and contains 4 workouts to be had on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.  The Saturday workouts are shorter and more intense workouts called super-sets…not that they aren’t all intense.  However, the gold and platinum programs feature more super-sets throughout the week.

Now that you understand the basic breakdown of the book, I’ll describe my experience so far.  I’m just starting week four of the silver program.  After explaining that I hadn’t ordered inappropriate things from Amazon to a shocked and nosy family member who saw a book featuring a half naked lady, (that will teach you to open other people’s boxes!) I got to test out the over 50 total body exercises the book promised.

Starting with week one I was a little over confident.  I thought my cardio level was a bit advanced for the book so I ran ½ a mile to a mile before each day’s workout.  This was working great.  I felt my heart rate kick up and my body was fatigued like it should be after a good workout.  Then week three hit and my confidence was almost the death of me.  I ran my ½ mile and dove into Monday’s workout.  Somewhere between my “Double Arm Swings” and “Rack Squat, Presses” I couldn’t even lift the kettlebell off the ground anymore.  Apparently, week three kicked it up a notch or two and I unfortunately learned the hard way: no more running before my kettlebell workouts.  As Lorna Kleidman promised, her kettlebell workouts used both strength training and some great cardio to get you in shape.  It’s been four weeks and I’m noticing an impressive difference.  I’ve lost six pounds and my trouble spots of inner thighs and love handles are slimming down.  Another bonus?  My arms are becoming noticeably more toned.  Not to mention I sleep so much better at night.  I also hurt walking up and down stairs, but hey, you take the good with the bad right?  As Mellencamp says, “It hurts so good!”

Okay, every story has a moral and this one is no different.  Moral is: if you are a beginner or even experienced kettlebell user, I would highly recommend getting this book for a solid program that produces results and makes working out much more enjoyable.  Now, I know the book says it’s for women only, but I think men could also get some great full body workout ideas from the book, just using a different weight.  Give it a try and I hope everyone enjoys the program as much as I am.

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All the “Juicy” Details

Okay so another fad has hit the market promising weight loss and a step in the right direction for your health.  Could it be that this one can actually deliver on its promises.  Better yet, could it be that this fad is actually….healthy?  I’m not talking a carbless diet or a water cleanse that leaves you tired and hungry 24/7.  Nope, this fad will leave you feeling full, jump start your metabolism, ensure your daily allotment of nutrients, all while helping you lose weight.  The best part is, it can actually taste good! So what is this fad I’m talking about?  Juicing!

So what exactly are the numerous benefits of juicing that everyone is talking about?

Ensuring your daily nutrients:  When you consume a whole fruit or vegetable your body has to work to break it down into its essential parts, absorbing what it can and excreting what it can’t, and often times excreting some valuable nutrients as well.  Juicing, on the other hand, makes it much easier for the body to absorb nutrients because juicing breaks the food down for the body.  This means the body doesn’t have to waste time breaking foods down.   Instead, the body can immediately start absorbing all the vitamins, nutrients, phytonutrients, carbohydrates, amino acids, and more from the already broken down foods.

Ensuring your daily vegetable and fruit intake:  According to the USDA’s MyPyramid, those who should consume about 2,000 calories daily should consume 2 cups of fruit, 3 cups a week of starchy vegetables, and 6 ½ cups a week of other vegetables.  That’s a daunting number of fruit and vegetables if you were to picture cutting it all up and serving it on a plate.  However, by juicing these same fresh fruits and vegetables it is MUCH easier to obtain your daily servings.  In fact, just ¾ a cup of fresh juice equals one daily serving of fruits or vegetables.

Ensuring your daily fiber: As mentioned in the previous weeks posting, fiber provides several essential benefits for the diet and can be found in several food forms, especially fruits and vegetables.  Juicing allows the body to easily absorb soluble fiber.  It’s important to remember though that just because you are juicing, doesn’t mean you don’t need ANY fresh whole and raw fruits or veggies.  Juice doesn’t provide the insoluble fiber that the whole forms of fruits and veggies do so it’s important to keep your diet well balanced.

Ensuring your antioxidants: Eating your daily servings of fruits and vegetables also means you are getting your daily serving of antioxidants, which can help boost your immune system and fight against diseases as well as cleanse the body of nasty toxins.

Saving you time: Think about cutting 3 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit up and storing it away to eat throughout the day.  That would take quite some time don’t you think?  With a juicer, you can simply put an entire stalk of celery in the machine and before you know it, BOOM, it’s done!

Offering more options:  Everyone has tried reading and sticking to strict diet recipes and guidelines.  It’s a lot harder than you might think.  Losing motivation can be a diet killer and nothing quashes motivation more than lack of variety.  With juicing, you can choose which fruits and vegetables to add to each mixture depending on personal tastes.  While this may still seem rather limiting since you can only add fruits, vegetables, and legumes, think of it this way: there are so many different fruits and vegetables to choose from at farmers markets and grocery stores that you can literally try thousands of different concoctions and never get bored!!  If you don’t like a particular vegetable by itself but know it has insane health benefits, try mixing it with a veggie you love.  Mixing and matching can result in new and potentially delicious tastes.

There are so many more benefits to juicing beyond what I mentioned above.  However, all the benefits aside, it is important to note that vegetables and fruits don’t supply your body with all the necessities to provide a complete and healthy diet.  You still need protein and essential fats along with other things found in meats and other food forms that can’t be juiced to maintain a healthy diet.  In other words, I’m saying juicing should be used in addition to a healthy diet, not in replacement of one!  It is simply to aid in the absorption of nutrients, and to ensure you’re daily allotment of fruits and vegetables is being met.

I highly recommend finding a book on juicing that suits your particular needs and exploring the matter further.  Juicing is an intriguing world and can be rather tasty once you get into it.  Good luck!

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Why Fiber?

What do we know about fiber?  There has to be more of a benefit than the fact that it helps you go number 2, right?  While this is a well-known health benefit of fiber, there are indeed several other benefits to eating a fiber rich diet, such as helping to maintain a healthy appetite and aiding in the avoidance of some cancers, heart disease, and diabetes. Not to mention the fact that fiber comes from plants such as beans, grains, fruits, and vegetables and therefore contains little to no calories.  There are two different types of fiber, soluble and insoluble fiber. Shall we break it down?

Soluble Fiber: Soluble fiber is made of polysaccharides and dissolves in water. Therefore, soluble fiber forms a gel when mixed with liquids.
      It can be found in:

  • Oats/bran
  • Nuts
  • Flaxseed
  • Fruits such as oranges and apples
  • Vegetables such as carrots
  • Psyllium husk

Insoluble Fiber: Insoluble fiber is largely made up of plant cell walls and is not dissolvable in water.  Therefore, it remains relatively intact when passing through the intestines.
      It can be found in:

  • Dark leafy green vegetables
  • Whole-wheat products
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Fruit skin
  • Root vegetable skins

Most fiber rich foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber so there is no need to fret about which fiber you are getting in your diet.  When choosing foods, just make sure they have dietary fiber in general since both types can provide many fantastic benefits such as:

Maintaining a Healthy Appetite: Fiber can actually help to curb your appetite for several different reasons:

1. Because fibrous foods take a bit longer to chew to comfortable swallow size (think celery), it tends to slow the eater down.  Slowing down gives your mind and body time to synch up and realize, “Okay, I’ve had enough…I’m full now.”  When we eat fast, we tend to overeat before our mind can tell our stomach to lay off the food.

2. High fiber foods tend to absorb a lot of water.  Just like a scrunched up paper straw wrapper, when water fills it, it expands.  (Oh come one, like you’ve never done the straw wrapper snake trick before)! Because of this absorption and expansion, it fills room in your tummy causing you to feel full for longer periods of time.  This means you won’t eat more meals than your body actually required calorie wise.

Helping Diabetics: Fiber itself is a form of carbohydrate that does not actually get broken down in the body.  For this reason, it has no caloric intake.  In fact, fiber (especially soluble fiber) acts in a similar manner as foods with a low glycemic index, causing it to have little effect on blood glucose level.  In fact, fiber actually helps to control blood sugar levels. So how does this help? Fiber rich foods are great for satiating the appetite without spiking the blood sugar.

Note: Remember, fiber is different from simple carbs.  When picking out foods such as bread, be sure to make sure it is high in dietary fiber.  Otherwise, you will be consuming simple carbs that will be sure to spike your blood sugar!

Preventing Heart Disease:  Soluble fiber has been shown to lower blood cholesterol in the body.  The processes is rather scientific but in short, (very short), fiber slows the absorption of bile in the intestines.  In response, the liver uses cholesterol to produce more bile salts to make up for this slowing down of absorption.  The end result, LDL cholesterol is pulled from the blood.

Aids in Digestion: Yes, we all know fiber aids in digestion.  Fiber helps to keep stool soft so it requires less effort to use the restroom.  This means no hemorrhoids.

Moral of the story?  Maintaining a fiber rich diet means maintaining a healthy weight, healthy heart, healthy digestive system, and several other benefits!  Now I’m not saying make sure you eat a fiber only diet, just make sure you get plenty of fiber in your overall diet.

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Easy and Natural Ways to Detox Your Body

I was recently given a suggestion/request to do my next post on detoxification.  While I always love requests, I especially love when they are as good an idea as this one.  Think about it, almost every hit diet has at least a few days of detoxifying in the beginning.  Typically, this means stripping the diet down to the bare essentials to cleanse the body of simple carbohydrates, salts, refined sugars, etc.  The body does this by purifying the blood in the liver and releasing toxins through the kidneys, lungs, intestines, and skin. So, if every hit diet is doing it, there must be something to it, right?

So how do I detox?
Everybody will be different in his or her detox program, which is why you should always consult a doctor before you ever begin one.  With that being said, here are some typical ways in which people can begin a detox program.

  • Rid your diet of harmful toxins:  This includes caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, refined sugars, saturated fats.

Quick Fix: Try to avoid eating processed or refined foods as they often contain sugars and saturated fats.  Also, avoid using salt or anything containing high amounts of sodium for a bit.  Drink lots of water!

  • Limit the stress: Okay, I know this one is easier said than done, but stress produces adrenaline in the body, which in time can become rather harmful and reduce your ability to detox.

Quick Fix: Don’t sweat the small stuff! Engage in regular exercise or meditation sessions such as yoga to calm your nerves and sweat out the stresses.

  • Drink at least two quarts of water daily: Water can flush out your system by releasing most toxins through urination. Not to mention the benefits water has on our skin and mind!

Quick Fix: Buy a BPA free, reusable water bottle of a certain size.  This makes it easier to keep track of how much water you’ve had by how many times you’ve had to refill your water bottle! If you’re not much of a water drinker, add sugar free flavoring!

  • Exercise: As mentioned earlier, exercise helps to reduce stress, but it also provides countless other benefits.  It helps individuals to sweat out toxins and see positive results in body shape and weight.  These positive results can boost an individual’s self esteem which does wonder for the body and mind.

Quick Fix: Find an exercise that you love and will stick to.  Burning calories is burning calories and as long as you’re moving, you’re ridding your body of the toxins.

  • Eat plenty of whole and natural foods:  This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains.
Quick Fix: When buying foods, turn them over and read the label.  If you can’t pronounce an ingredient, don’t buy it!  Whole and natural foods have no artificial or fortified ingredients (or they wouldn’t be natural). 

The benefits of a clean diet are endless.  You can ultimately cut down on your risk for several diseases such as heart diseases, cancer, diabetes, stroke, and more by ridding your diet of saturated fats, free radicals, sugars, and high blood pressure causing foods.  Remember, a strict cleanse isn’t meant to be followed for the rest of your life, but rather a few days to a week. (Or for however long your doctor recommends).  However, eating clean, whole, and natural foods is a diet you should follow for the rest of your life.  Every once and a while though, it is good to have a piece of chocolate or indulge in the things you enjoy. Just don’t over indulge!!

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Hangovers And Weight Gain – The Calories In Alcohol

Ahh yes, labor day weekend is finally here.  That means we get one more day to take advantage of having no work or school.  Typically, labor day weekend entails BBQs and mini vacations to visit family and friends.  And typically BBQs and mini vacations to visit family and friends entails quite a few cocktails.  So what, it’s liquid, and therefore contains no calories to ruin our diets…especially if it’s clear (yay vodka)! WRONG! Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t indulge in anything (unless you’re under 21 of course), however, I am saying you can be smart about your cocktail choices.  When determining the night’s drink of choice, consider this:

ALCOHOL                                           CALORIES             
Beer (regular)                                   144  –  per 12 ounces

Beer (light)                                        108 –  per 12 ounces

White Wine                                       100 –  per 5 ounces

Red Wine                                           105 –  per 5 ounces

Dessert Wine                                     141 –  per 3 ounces

80 Proof Distilled Spirits               96   –  per 1.5 ounces (1 shot)
(gin, rum, vodka, whisky)

Chart obtained by the USDA National Nutrient Database at:                   
Okay well that settles it, we should go for some distilled spirits since they are lowest in calories, right?  Well, unless you’re a rocks drinker, you have to take into account the calories that come from mixers, such as: 

MIXER                                      CALORIES PER 12 OUNCES
Soda (regular)                                                124-189

Soda (diet)                                                         0-7

Orange Juice                                                  157-168

Cranberry Juice                                                205

Red Bull                                                            160

Source: Chart obtained from the USDA National Nutrient Database

Now I’m not trying to start another prohibition, but personally, knowing that a simple captain and soda pop can cost me anywhere from 220-285 calories opens my eyes a bit.  This calls for some caution to be had on the mixer choice.  Just trading the regular soda pop for some diet can save well over 100 calories.  Captain and diet is sounding much better right about now huh? Simply being aware of the caloric intake of your cocktails (something most people don’t consider) can help you stay on track with your diet. Remember, I’m not telling you to swear off alcohol, but simply to monitor your cocktail calories just as you would your food calories and you’ll be on the way to a healthier you!

Remember, whatever your caloric intake, drink responsibly! Fewer calories doesn’t mean fewer accidents!
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Busting The Carbohydrate Myth: Why We Need Carbs

One diet after another is hitting the market telling us to limit our carbohydrate intake because it’s making us fat…and we listen. After all, who are we to question what the “experts” say, right? Carbohydrates have been getting a bad rap from diets such as “The Atkins Diet” and “South Beach,” for years now. However, these low carb diets aren’t exactly what the doctor would order. In fact, they should rename these low carb diets “low processed carb” diets instead. Here’s why: Good, non-processed carbohydrates are necessary in the body, especially if regular activity is a part of your lifestyle.

Carbohydrates are necessary in the body for one main reason: they give us energy. Once in the body, carbohydrates break down into sugars and are absorbed and utilized as an immediate energy source once physical activity begins. Whatever sugars (glucose), aren’t used are stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. It’s important to have a good supply of carbohydrates on layaway for workouts so your body doesn’t need to tap into its protein storage for energy.

“But protein is a source of energy as well, so why not use it?” Yes, it’s true that the amino acids in protein can be broken down to glucose in the body and utilized as energy through a long scientific process, which I won’t bore you with. However, this method is your body’s backup plan when carbohydrates are in limited supply. This is because using protein as your main energy source means it’s not being used for its main protein specific job: maintaining healthy muscle, tissue, skin, and hair.

“Great, now I can Carbo-load on whatever I can get my hands on!” Whoa, slow down now Kobayashi. Remember earlier in this blog I mentioned they should rename these diets as “low processed carb” diets, not “eat your body weight in carbs” diet. There is a difference in carbohydrates in which I’m sure you’ve all heard about, but I’ll break it down anyway.

Simple Carbohydrates: These are absorbed into the body quickly because they consists of single or double sugar molecules as opposed to the three or more in complex carbohydrates. However, while these simple carbohydrates can provide a quick and short energy burst, they don’t provide any vitamins or minerals the body needs. Instead, they are stored as empty calories and thus promote weight gain.

  • Simple Carbohydrates can be found in processed or refined grains, white flour, white rice, and anything containing non-natural sugars such as candy bars.

Complex Carbohydrates: These carbohydrates are more complex in molecular structure and for that reason are absorbed into the body more slowly and utilized as energy for a more extended period of time. Not only that, but complex carbohydrates are loaded with vitamins and minerals so when they are stored in your body, it’s not just as fat!

  • Complex Carbohydrates can be found in naturally occurring forms in green vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils, and starchy vegetables.

Moral of the story? Don’t limit all carbohydrates in your diet, just the refined and processed ones. The complex carbohydrates are necessary, especially if you are engaging in regular physical activity. Without them, you could be damaging your muscle growth and repair as well as your kidneys!

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