Is Plant-based Dairy Healthier than Regular Dairy?

Hey Angels and Alphas,

If you head over to your local grocery store and look at the dairy aisle, you’ll see that there are just as many nutritional plant-based cheeses, milks, creamers, butters, yogurts, and other plant-based varieties to traditional cow’s milk. And they’re certainly growing in popularity across the globe – growth in the plant-based dairy industry has jumped by 55 percent in the last two years. But is it really healthier for you if you ditch the moo? 

First off, let’s dig into what these plant-based milks are made of. The ingredients subbed inside non-dairy alternatives will depend on which product you choose. For instance, non-dairy yogurt might use coconut, oat milk, or almond as a base, as well as various gums to get the perfect texture. 

On top of this are added puree and probiotics. A non-dairy milk might use various oils such as safflower, canola, or coconut. Plant-based butters might also be made up of a blend of vegetable oils, as well as other ingredients that add the right texture and color.

There are several reasons why you might feel like you need to turn to plant-based dairy. One could be a lactose intolerance, allergy to milk, following a vegan lifestyle, or other ethical concerns. There could be a variety of health reasons, too.

While the number one reason to consume cow’s milk dairy or go for plant-based options is an entirely personal one, know that they’re not really a nutritionally identical swap. 

For example, let’s compare cow’s milk with some non-dairy alternatives. You’ll find about 8 grams of protein in every cup of cow’s milk, but you’ll find just 1 gram of protein in the majority of almond or rice milk brands (and no protein in coconut milk.) Soy milk and its protein content are the most comparable to cow’s milk with 7 grams of protein. And let’s not forget that not all milk alternatives are going to be fortified with calcium and vitamin D, which is the duo that’s important for bone health. 

Overall, you should always check which brand you’re buying and compare the different labels to see how yours will stack up. Not only that but read the ingredients to know what you’re really getting. Some of them will include added oils, sugar, and salt. Many of them will be packed with added sugars which are going to increase their taste. Many dairy versions will be rich in sugar. That’s why it’s very important to compare the labels and buy one that aligns with your goals.

SHOULD YOU CONSUME DAIRY THEN?

What if you still enjoy traditional dairy and your body is able to tolerate lactose just fine. Is there really any point to giving it up in favor of plant-based dairy? Not necessarily. In reality, there may be no actual reason to fear dairy (or eat its alternatives if you usually prefer cow’s milk). 

One meta-analysis of three independent studies which total more than 217,000 participants concluded that consuming up to 2 servings of dairy per day was associated with extremely low mortality rates from cardiovascular disease. However, the authors found replacing dairy with nuts or whole grains could lower the risk of mortality even further. 

An even more recent meta review of 41 meta-analyses in 2021 in Nutrition & Metabolism concluded that consuming about 1 cup of milk per day was linked to a minimized risk of heart disease, hypertension, colorectal cancer, obesity, and even osteoporosis. 

But there’s a downside. This same study also found an enlarged risk of prostate cancer, acne, and Parkinson’s disease. Whether or not you make the decision to switch in the name of your health will depend largely on your personal health history.

THE BOTTOM LINE IS…

Whether or not you’re someone who chooses plant-based dairy over cow’s milk dairy is an entirely personal decision driven by a variety of factors which including taste preferences, health problems, ethical concerns, or lactose intolerance. 

For those of you who make that switch, carefully scan all the nutrition and ingredients label and compare the protein, calcium, vitamin D, fat, and sugar content between the different brands of choice, then choose one that makes the most sense for your dietary goals.

Who’s the Perfect Workout Partner for You?

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Whether you’ve just recently been introduced to the concept of male and female fitness or you’re a gym veteran with ten years of experience under the bar, anyone can benefit from training with a workout partner. 

And it doesn’t matter whether you’re on the track, in the pool, or trying to deadlift hundreds of pounds off the ground. Working out is often perceived to be a solo grind, and for some people, it can even be a therapeutic way to get some alone time.

But getting that intense sweat session in doesn’t mean you have to discipline yourself to be that one gym loner. There’s always that sense of “yes, it’s tough, but we’re all in this together” between experienced gym veterans and gym newbies alike. 

So do yourself a favor, and try calling in a workout buddy once in a while.

But you can’t just call anybody, right?

Let’s talk about the most common options you might have…

FIRST, YOUR TRAINER.

Every once in a while, it’s extremely helpful to talk to a coach and do some workouts with them. That’s why this is the best way to start this list. 

Whether you’re trying to learn some proper technique for a new type of training you’re doing or you just need someone to be there to motivate you and help you push yourself to the fullest, the right trainer will do all of that, and allow you to realize that occasionally splurging on a session with a personal trainer is very well worth it.  

The only disadvantage you have here is that there will usually be a cost associated with it, but overall, it will help you in countless ways including motivating you and giving you new useful info you can use to adjust your workout. 

SECOND… A ROOMMATE.

If you’re trying to become a morning workout person (or you already are one), this option is one that’s definitely worth exploring. If you have somebody who is most likely within shouting distance when you wake up, this is going to make it harder for you to slack off and sleep in. Same goes with sharing a fridge with someone. 

If you’re trying to clean up your diet and eat healthy, having a roomie is going to make it harder for you to sneak in that extra bucket of Ben and Jerry’s. 

If you’re someone who can actually commit to a routine, you’ll be two people motivating each other to get up in the morning and hit the gym.  

THIRD, YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER.

This only pertains to those couples who haven’t moved in together yet. Otherwise, see the section above!

And it also pertains to couples who have been seeing each other for a while. You’re not really going to take someone out on a spin class on your first date. Getting a glimpse into the routine of your partner is fun, and the playful competition that stems from it is very healthy. 

Furthermore, working out with your SO can be a great dispute-resolution technique, as well as allow you to effectively settle arguments passive-aggressively. Watching each other grow and improve yourselves is something that truly strengthens relationships.

You can either use this as a change-up for your routine or something that becomes pretty regular. 

FOURTH, YOUR GYM NEMESIS.

Nothing will get your juices flowing like training with your old (or current) gym nemesis. Ideally, this would be someone who you have formally or informally competed against in a sport or just throughout regular training. 

If you’re a gym-goer, this might be the person whose physique is at a similar level to yours, someone who has just about as much experience as you do. 

Don’t hesitate to reach out to your gym nemesis and ask them if they want to work out with you. Doing so will spark your competitive instincts and bring out the best in you, and I assure you, it can be done in a completely friendly and healthy way. Who knows? You might even become friends! 

Thinking About Walking with Weights? Read This Short Guide

male fitness

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Learning how to walk is going to be the biggest “fitness milestone” you’ll achieve in the first few years of your life. When this activity becomes habitual, it’s easy to forget that it is, in fact, exercise. The AHA, or the American Heart Association, calls it the easiest and simplest way to get and stay active. 

Some research done back in 2009 published in the Harvard Health School newsletter points out that even though walking is an essential human function, modern man has determined to walk as little as possible.

As walking is one of the most accessible forms of exercise, if you start walking so you can improve your fitness, you might be tempted to start using weights to make the activity more challenging. 

And many athletes use walking with weights as a way to add strength and balance to their core. However, carrying weights might potentially be doing more harm than good. Let’s talk about what you should do instead.

THE PROS AND CONS OF WALKING WITH WEIGHTS

Even though you might think walking is something we do every day, walking routines are a legitimate form of exercise. When out and about, you may have actually seen some people in your neighborhood or park walking while carrying a set of weights. 

And you might have even though it’s a practical way to add strength training while getting in cardio. But because these are completely separate types of exercise, it might be in your best interest to treat them as such.

When you do it right, walking is an effective, low-impact exercise. It’s not, however, really efficient for burning calories. And while adding weights will definitely increase the number of calories you burn, walking with weights will tend to increase your risk of injury and cause unexpected side effects such as back pain or an increase in blood pressure.

Carrying weights while you’re walking might cause postural imbalances and put a lot of added stress on your neck and shoulders. During any single walk, this may not be much of an issue, but over time, this can add a lot of extra stress to your joints. If you choose something like ankle weights, you can be putting a lot of unnecessary stress on your knees and ankles.

THERE ARE GREAT ALTERNATIVES TO WEIGHTS

You can still incorporate strength training in your workout – and it will have nothing to do with carrying weights. Changing up the terrain or surface where you’re walking can help you work different muscles and make your workout more challenging. 

If you want to boost your workload, simply add some incline to your treadmill or find another hill where you can hike. If you want to include some weight training after your workout, that’s fine, just make sure to do it separately and not mix the two together. 

Doing a separate strength-training routine will be one of the best ways to ensure you’re walking your muscles correctly and minimizing your chances of injury. To make the most out of any routine, you can seek the help of a coach or trainer so you can make modifications and ensure you’re performing exercises with correct form and posture.

The bottom line is, weight training is a much better alternative to walking with weights. 

To wrap it up…

When it comes down to it, the majority of trainers out there will agree that you don’t need to walk with weights. It will always be best to focus on strength training and cardio training separately so you can be as efficient as you can be with your training.

It’s really not necessary to use ankle, wrist, or hand weights while you’re walking. You will benefit from adding more supplemental weight training and keeping it separate from your walking routine. And if you’re just starting out with your exercise program and haven’t been active for a while, using weights will add unnecessary stress to your joints.

Before you start out your program, make sure you have clear fitness goals and that what you’re putting in aligns with the goal you’re trying to achieve. You’ll probably find that walking with weights ends up hindering your progress.

Expert Dietitian Tips for Navigating the Holiday Dinner Table

nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

We all know holidays can be a challenging time in terms of nutrition for many reasons – the family dynamics, the stress, the travel, the holiday meals, and so much more. 

And hear me out – holiday food is very special and delicious. But once the holidays are over, everyone is rushing into the gym to try to lose the holiday weight. And that’s because, along with all the delicious cookie recipes, family dinners, and cocktail parties, there’s an entire diet culture messaging that’s declaring you “bad” for enjoying a few holiday treats. 

We’re here to say: enough of that. Here are our tips for how you can enjoy holiday meals with as little of the nonsensical diet culture influences as humanly possible.

#1 ALWAYS EAT CONSISTENTLY

One of the biggest gifts you can give your body during the holidays is to eat consistently. No more of the “starving yourself to save up calories” nonsense. This is a recipe for disaster – you will end up overeating and racking up countless more calories on top because you’ll feel hungry, then guilty and shameful for eating, and then hungry again. 

Providing your body with a sustained source of energy is pretty crucial for keeping your energy levels up and avoiding blood sugar crashes that can end up resulting in the worst holiday “hanger.” 

Make it a point to just have breakfast every day, bring some snacks if you’re out, and keep your blood sugar levels steady via consistent meals. 

#2 HYDRATE WELL

This one sounds simple enough but drinking enough fluids (and by that we don’t mean cocktails) is often overlooked among all of our busy and irregular schedules. Not drinking enough fluids can lead to bloating, fatigue, constipation, headaches, and more. All of these can pretty much factor into food choices and make holiday meals even more complicated. That’s why you should try to aim for at least 2 liters of water a day. You can carry around a reusable water bottle if you’re going to be on the go all day.

#3 FOOD NEUTRALITY

Diet culture will run rampant during the holidays, with mixed messages like indulging in all the holiday foods, trying to work them off with exercise, or making unsatisfying swaps for favorite treats. And, along with that, all the “good” and “bad” thinking. It’s exhausting. 

Quieting all the diet culture noise this time of the year is hard work, and one thing that can help you is the concept of food neutrality. Putting all holiday meals on a neutral playing field – with cake and kale getting the same score – is the best way to go. Doing this can help take all the power away from certain holiday foods that you may have previously restricted and later binged on. The concept of food neutrality will make it easy to enjoy the holiday dinner table without any stress.

#4 FIBER, FAT, and PROTEIN

Like we established, eating regular meals is very important. And what’s in those meals also matters. There are certain nutrients that can help make these meals much more satisfying and satiating and provide you with more sustained energy. Fiber, protein, and fat all work to slow down digestion. 

Getting hungry shortly after a meal will sort of defeat the purpose and usually means one or more of these vital nutrients is missing. With every meal, make sure there’s always enough fat, fiber, and protein. A great example of a breakfast is Greek yogurt (some protein) with added walnuts (fat) and berries (for extra fiber.) 

THE BOTTOM LINE IS…

Nourishing your body in regular intervals should always be your priority, including during the holidays. When you try to look at holiday meals as you would any other meal and keep the holiday meals on the same neutral playing field, you’ll have no problem walking out the holidays leaner and healthier. 

If this is difficult, it can be sort of helpful to protect yourself from the stressful diet culture messaging around the holidays. And, of course, seeking some guidance from dietitians or coaches is also a great way to ensure you’re cultivating a healthy relationship with food that won’t have you restricting yourself over the holidays and beyond. 

The Ultimate Plant-based Grocery Store List

nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Plant-based eating is gaining speed as one of the world’s largest diet and nutrition megatrends. While there’s not really an official definition for the term plant-based eating, the concept has grown to basically mean something different for everyone. 

For the majority of people, it tends to mean plant foods play a massive role in their diet, but they wouldn’t go as far as to exclude non-plant foods such as eggs, fish, cheese, and so on. Plant-based eating is all about basing your diet on plants and filling your plates with greens, veggies, nuts, and seeds – because that’s what our bodies prefer. 

If you’re considering moving toward plant-based eating or just looking to explore new plant-based meal and food options so you can stack your grocery store list, this is for you. We always suggest people approach plant-based eating as a personal eating style and not a restrictive diet.

BUT WHY SHOULD WE EAT MORE PLANTS?

Plants in their nature are going to be full of health-boosting nutrients. They are jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, fibers, and antioxidants. 

The nutrients found inside these plant-based foods can help reduce your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, depression, metabolic syndrome, and so much more. And in older adults, eating more plants has been shown to improve both mental and physical function.

WHICH PLANTS SHOULD WE FOCUS ON?

To maximize the benefits of a plant-based diet, you should be building your meals using the famous plate method. This means aiming to fill about half your plate up at your lunch and dinner with veggies, including plenty of dark green leafy veggies such as arugula, collard greens, kale, spinach, etc. 

Plant-based fats will include nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive oil. Great whole grain options can include quinoa, oatmeal and brown rice. Beans and legumes are also going to play a big role in your plant-forward diet, as they are rich sources of protein, fiber, and many vital phytonutrients.

We all know having a well-stocked kitchen will make eating more plants so much easier. Use the grocery guide we’ve compiled below to create delicious plant-based meals while you’re at home for the holidays (and after that.) 

ULTIMATE GROCERY GUIDE

VEGETABLES

Artichoke, asparagus, arugula, eggplant, cucumber, celery, collard greens, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, beets, bell peppers, fresh herbs such as basil & oregano, garlic, scallions, radishes, onions, olives, mustard greens, mushrooms, lemon, leeks, kale, spinach, tomatoes, and zucchini. 

FRUITS

Apples, bananas, watermelon, strawberries, raspberries, pineapple, pears, melon, mango, dates, cherries, blueberries, blackberries.

FATS AND OILS

Olive oil, olives, seeds, avocado oil, avocado, grapeseed oil, nut butter, and nuts.

WHOLE GRAINS

Quinoa, oatmeal, brown rice, rye, whole-grain tortillas, whole-wheat bread, and wild rice.

BEANS AND LEGUMES

Black beans, cannellini beans, kidney beans, lentils, navy beans, green peas, edamame, chickpeas, tofu, tempeh, pinto beans.

BEVERAGES

Oat milk, rice milk, herbal tea, kombucha, nut and seed milk (such as soy, coconut, almond, and other nut milk.) 

SOME HELPFUL PLANT-BASED EATING STRATEGIES

Smoothies! They’re a quick and easy way to get all the plants and greens you want into your diet at breakfast, post-workout, or at lunch.

Oatmeal! It’s a heart-healthy plant-forward breakfast. Serve it along with some chopped nuts and Greek yogurt for added protein.

Substitute cooked lentils with some ground meat in your favorite recipes, such as tacos or sloppy joes. 

Beans and/or veggie burgers make for an easy, quick lunch when served with a side of salad, soup, or sweet potato fries.

THE BOTTOM LINE IS…

You don’t have to give up on meat entirely so you can reap all the benefits of a plant-based diet. 

If you simply follow the approach of filling half your plate (or even more) with some veggies and greens, and limit your meat consumption to just small amounts a few times a week. 

This simple tweak can make a massive difference in your overall health and reduce your risk of dangerous diseases.

And now, you’re equipped with the perfect grocery list to fuel your plant-based ambitions and help you move toward a healthier diet. 

The Different Alternatives to Nut Butter

nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Remember when the term “nut butter” was not in the nutritional lexicon because there was pretty much just peanut butter? Good times. 

But now, with the increasing prevalence of tree nut and peanut allergies, combined with the decreasing popularity of the Paleo diet (in which legumes and peanuts were forbidden,) there are countless alternatives to traditional peanut butter. 

Choosing the “right” kind of butter can be a little overwhelming. But is there really a “right” one? Nutrition details can differ a bit amongst this group… so let’s talk about the details!

A QUICK NOTE ON FAT

When we’re talking about nut butter, we often talk about how they’re naturally high in fat and calories. But if you’re worried about this, this would be diet culture programming talking! The fat found in seed butter and nut butter is mainly monounsaturated fat, which actually promotes heart health and works as an anti-inflammatory. 

It regulates your blood sugar, allows you to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, and helps you feel fuller after your meals. Feeling satiated after meals will aid appetite regulation and decrease the likelihood of snack cravings and hunger pangs that you would usually get after an unsatisfying meal without enough fat. 

Naturally, anything that is high in fat is also high in calories. 1 gram of fat contains about 9 calories, compared to carbs and protein which all contain about 4 calories each. But take these calories with a grain of salt, and don’t be afraid to eat a fat-rich meal as it will keep you energized and satisfied for a long time.

#1 ALMOND BUTTER

Almond butter is made by bringing together ground almonds and salt and it has a milder flavor than traditional peanut butter. Since it comes from a tree nut, it is a great alternative for someone who would be allergic to peanuts. 

Almond butter is definitely a nutritional powerhouse and an excellent source of healthy monounsaturated fats. Not only that, but it contains 4 more grams of monounsaturated fat per 2 tablespoons compared to your usual peanut butter, as well as higher contents of vitamin E, iron, and calcium. 

#2 CASHEW BUTTER

Cashew butter is rich and creamy, but it’s also versatile enough to use in baking sweet treats or cooking savory dishes. 

It’s high in monounsaturated fats, with about 13 grams every 2 tablespoon serving, and it’s slightly higher in carbs than other kinds of nut butter with about 10 grams per serving. Cashew butter is also a high-quality source of magnesium, and let’s not forget, a plant-based source of iron. Cashew butter is usually more expensive – but it’s worth it.

#3 TAHINI 

Tahini is made from sesame seeds, and it’s one of the highest-quality alternatives to nut butter you can find. It’s nutty and mild, and it works very well in savory or sweet dishes. 

The most popular forms of tahini are inside of hummus, but it can also be found in salad dressing, condiments, and sauces for Mediterranean dishes. It’s very high in monounsaturated fats with 16 grams per 2 tablespoons, 8 grams of protein, and it’s an amazing source of plant-based iron. Nutrition-wise, it’s a powerhouse.

#4 SUNFLOWER SEED BUTTER

Sunflower seed butter is one of the best alternatives for the people who are allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. It’s made from ground sunflower seeds mixed with salt. Sunflower seed butter has an earthy, nutty flavor. 

It’s a healthy source of monounsaturated fats, and one of the richest sources of vitamin E you can find. Sunflower seed butter is pretty high in magnesium, thiamin, and zinc. It’s delicious when it’s used in combination with jelly in sandwiches such as PB&J, or just spread on a banana as a healthy snack. 

THE BOTTOM LINE…

When it comes to healthy alternatives to seed butter and nut butter, you really can’t go wrong. They’re all (mostly) healthy and delicious. The examples we shared above serve to be some of the nutrition-rich options that are high in macronutrients, minerals, and vitamins. Nut and seed butter all make a satiating and blood-sugar stabilizing addition to meals, crackers, fruits, oatmeal, toast, and so much more. They all can (and absolutely should be) a part of a healthy, plant-based diet.

The 5 Fundamentals that Make a Difference for Weight Loss

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

When you’re trying to achieve weight loss, it’s sometimes easy to get caught up in all the specifics: specifically which foods you should eat, your precise meal timing, and silly details such as whether white rice is better than brown. But the thing is, it’s usually the fundamentals that will make the biggest difference for your weight loss efforts.

Here’s one way to think about it. Imagine your time as a jar.

If you have rocks, pebbles and sand in your hand, and you have to fill up the jar as quickly as possible, you’re going to use the big rocks, right? Those are the key habits that are going to make the most significant difference in moving you forward toward your goals. 

Many people tend to focus on the minute-to-minute of their weight loss efforts and latch onto restrictive diets as a legitimate means for quick weight loss. The problem with this “sand and pebbles” approach is that spending time and energy focusing on the details will not be sustainable in the long term.

Many people find that by focusing on the “big rocks”, they will get better long-term results. Their efforts will feel more doable. 

That’s why we’re here to explore some of the “big rocks” you can focus on to train your long-term thinking and keep your eyes on the long game.

#1 STAYING ACTIVE

People can get so caught up in how they should be working out (and for how long,) and this will often get in the way of their training itself. What (and how much) exercise you do will completely depend on what your goals are. 

But if your goals are leading a healthy lifestyle and achieving weight loss, then just developing the routine of moving daily is a great place to start. This could mean walking, bodyweight training, running, or following a strength-training program. 

But to start, the specifics won’t be important. Once exercise is one of the main parts of your routine, you can always make it more challenging. But don’t let this “finding the perfect workout” stop you from moving every day.

#2 GET IN ALL YOUR VEGGIES AND FRUITS

There’s a lot of talk about superfoods in the weight loss community nowadays. There’s always debate on which fruits and veggies are best, but simply ensuring that you get some of the produce at every meal can be a total game-changer. 

Weight loss will require you to eat fewer calories, but people will still want to see a full plate and feel that their stomach is full. Eating more veggies and more fruits will help you feel fuller without feeling deprived because of all the added fiber. If you make eating healthy food a habit, you’re winning the game.

#3 MANAGE SLEEP QUALITY AND STRESS

Most people tend to underestimate how important managing stress and getting enough sleep are in terms of weight loss. When you’re chronically stressed – be it from not getting enough sleep or piling on physical/mental stress – your stress hormone (cortisol) will be elevated. 

This will cause a cascade effect on other hormones that are related to weight loss. This can also promote chronic inflammation, negatively impacting many of the tissues inside your body and making weight loss an even bigger challenge.

#4 EAT MINDFULLY

One of the biggest factors to successful weight loss is being a mindful eater. A lot of the time, we’re going to be preoccupied when we eat and hardly be paying any attention to what we’re eating. 

This can easily lead to overeating and not feeling satisfied after your meals. Being mindful is having that added awareness of what you’re eating and how much you’re going to eat, giving you the feeling of being present in the moment. When you’re more aware of what you’re eating, you’re going to be more likely to use moderation.

#5 REDUCE ADDED SUGAR AND PROCESSED FOODS 

Another small change that can have a massive impact on your diet is reducing added sugar and the amount of processed foods you consume. This doesn’t mean eliminating them entirely, but simply reducing them will help you focus on foods that fill you up more, satisfy you, and thus help you lose weight on a calorie budget. Added sugars will increase the caloric content of food, all while providing little to no nutrients. Plus, added sugars won’t impact your hunger levels.

YOU GOT THIS: How Sydney woman transformed her body

A Sydney woman who went on to drastically transform her body has revealed the biggest mistake she made prior to her impressive shred.

Hannah Saad spent eight years “fumbling” around with diets, “not having a clue” about what she was doing until she finally figured out the reason behind her staggering shred.

The 31-year-old from Sydney said the biggest mistake she made was having the mindset of wanting to “look good”.

“Honestly, I think that’s why I didn’t succeed at first. I didn’t have a strong enough goal,” Hannah said about her lifestyle change.

“But then in 2016 I began deeply working on my mindset and personal development, and I connected strongly with my deeper motivation.”

Hannah, who is now a fitness trainer, said she wanted to be strong and healthy, as well as to look good.

“I wanted to be an example for my sister, niece and my future children. I wanted to show them that they can achieve anything they set their mind to, and in order to do that I first had to achieve my own goals,” she told news.com.au.

Hannah said that while she ate healthily, her portions were out of whack.

“A lot of the things I was eating are marketed as ‘healthy’ — but I was eating too much of them and I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong.”

Read the full article on news.com.au

 

Let’s Talk About Walking in Place for Weight loss

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Walking is one of the easiest and most accessible ways to add more movement to your life and help you shed some extra pounds. In general, walking at a brisk pace is going to burn around 260 calories (for a person who weighs about 70 kilograms.)

However, we all know some days can be harder than others to go outdoors and hit all the treadmills for an hour-long workout. Just because you have a difficult time setting aside an hour for your walking routine, doesn’t mean you still can’t a workout indoors. 

When you’re strapped for a space and time, you can get a little creative and consider walking in place (or walking on one of the new modern walking stations people use at their office.)

Today, we’re going to answer the question – is walking in place a viable alternative for you in terms of helping you aid weight loss and allowing you to stay active? Let’s talk about it.

IS WALKING IN PLACE AN EFFECTIVE STRATEGY FOR WEIGHT LOSS?

The key to losing weight and improving your entire fitness is raising your heart rate. Whether you’re going to be walking outside or indoors and in place, if you can raise your heart rate up to a good zone, you will be able to effortlessly burn calories.

In a study originally published in the Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise journal, study participants who walked in one place for about an hour burned an average of 260 calories compared to roughly 300 calories for the people who walked on a treadmill. The study found that walking in place even during the commercial breaks of your favorite show burned about 148 calories in about 25 minutes while racking up a whopping 2,100 steps.

HERE’S HOW YOU CAN GET STARTED:

Even though walking in place might not seem like the most exciting form of exercise, remember that you don’t really need to do it for long periods of time just so you can see results. 

You can start off by walking in place for about 5 minutes several times a day. This could be a simple break in which you take a short stroll around the office or your living room so you can offset the harmful effects of too much sitting around. 

Or, if you’re someone who loves to watch TV at night, you can simply stand up and walk in place during the commercials. Even though you might think these efforts seem small, they will end up adding up over time and make an incredible contribution to achieving your health goals.

HERE’S HOW YOU CAN MAKE THE MOST OUT OF WALKING IN PLACE

Let’s talk about seven tips for maximizing the benefits of walking in place:

  • First, use the marching technique. This means you’ll be lifting your heels toward your glutes and placing them back on the floor at a quick pace.
  • Second, swing your arms. You should try to move your arms just as you normally would when you’re walking outdoors.
  • Third, use a heart rate monitor if you can. This will give you the right awareness if you’re raising your heart rate enough to get into zone 2 or zone 3 of your maximum heart rate. 
  • Fourth, dress for it. If you’re going to be marching for a long period of time, treat it as usual exercise. Make sure you’re wearing walking shoes, and always warm up before you increase your pace and stretch afterwards.
  • Fifth, increase your calorie burn by adding in strength training exercises. Holding light hand weights while you perform your bicep curls and arm circles is going to be a great way to tone your upper body.
  • Sixth, add burpees. After a couple of minutes of walking in the same place, do a burpee or two. It’s a great total-body move that will help them build upper-body strength.
  • Seventh, try high-intensity intervals. As you’re walking in place at a moderate speed, try to skyrocket the intensity for about 20 seconds or so. This will help you mix things up and keep your heart rate up in the fat-burning zones.

Why Morning Walks are Better than Coffee for Energy Boosts

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas, 

We know that whether or not you’re trying to lose weight, it can easily become a habit for you to grab a cup of coffee when you wake up in the morning. Or later in the day, when you’re looking for a boost for your afternoon slump. 

But did you know lacing up your sneakers can be a more effective strategy (and make you feel better) than drinking a cup of coffee when you need an energy boost?

THE SCIENCE

Recent studies performed at the University of Georgia in Athens discovered that when people walked in a stairwell at about a moderate intensity for about 10 minutes, they felt more energized than they would when they drank 50mg of caffeine. And some other research has suggested walking for more than 20 minutes can help you feel much more energized.

Some of the best available evidence points to the fact that exercises induce changes in the neurotransmitters in your brain. Likely dopamine, serotonin, histamine, and norepinephrine are involved. Walking also promotes better blood circulating through the body, helping get more oxygen and nutrients inside your brain and muscles. This helps you feel more alert. 

HERE’S WHY WALKING BEATS CAFFEINE

#1 BETTER OVERALL HEALTH

Going for a walk is much more than a quick fix to get you alert and present. It’s an effective way to manage your weight, maintain and improve your health, and burn off excess fat. Regular exercise, including an activity like walking, will help improve your mood, cardiovascular health, memory function, and alertness. 

2. IT CHANGES THE SCENERY

When you get up and go out for a walk, you’re changing your environment. This is a great mental reset that can help you throughout your day. Often, when you’re tired of slumped, you might feel that you’re lacking focus or feeling tired due to the extra stress. But spending just 10 minutes walking in nature can help you de-stress better than your daily cup of coffee. 

3. IT WON’T INTERFERE WITH YOUR SLEEP PATTERNS

Caffeine, especially when it’s late evening or afternoon, can actually lead to sleep disturbances. This means you’ll be exhausted and less productive the next day. Going for a walk is likely going to help you get more energy and focus, all while helping you sleep better at night. Walking also gives you the ability to get some fresh air, vitamin D from the sun, as well as regulate your circadian rhythm – another important factor in sleep quality. 

4. IT HAS NO SIDE EFFECTS

A short walk won’t introduce any new substances to your body that cause any changes. Although caffeine does help you stay more alert and focused when you’re drinking it in moderation, too much of it can lead to jitters, nausea, irritability, and other negative side effects that you’ll never find after a brisk walk.

5. IT’S CALORIE-FREE

If you’re drinking coffee that isn’t black (or worse, soda) you’re starting your day off with a calorie bomb. But physical activity beats drinking beverages for a myriad of reasons and health benefits, especially if the drink you’re consuming has a lot of milk, cream, or sugar in it. Regularly drinking sweetened caffeinated beverages will cause you to gain weight. And on the other hand, walking every day can actually help you support healthy weight levels.

10-minute, Full-body Holiday Workout with No Equipment

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

When life starts getting busy, especially at this time of the year, this can put a strain on our fitness and weight loss efforts.  But instead of skipping your training altogether and getting absolutely no benefit whatsoever, remember it just takes about 10 minutes of your day to do an effective workout that will help you look and feel a whole lot better.

The truth is, you actually can get in a great workout in just a short amount of time. But this has to be done correctly – you just need the right exercises, done in the right format, and you’ll be able to easily skyrocket your metabolism, boost your fat loss, and build lean muscle through bodyweight workouts.

Today, we’re here to talk about a super versatile, 10-minute workout that requires absolutely no equipment – one that you can do at home this holiday season and progress your fitness with just 10 minutes a day.

HERE’S HOW TO DO THE 10-MINUTE, NO-EQUIPMENT WORKOUT

First, you have to set a timer for 10 minutes and repeat this circuit as many times as possible without resting.

1. REVERSE LUNGES – 5 REPETITIONS PER SIDE

By starting off with reverse lunges, you’ll be able to use a simple exercise to target each leg individually and will immediately engage all the balance and stability muscles you’ll need throughout the routine.

The move – simply stand with your feet hip-width apart. Then take a long step back so your knees are making two 90-degree angles at the very bottom. Then pull yourself back up with your leading leg. You can initially start doing this exercise without dumbbells, but as you advance, adding dumbbells or a barbell to this in either a back squat or a front squat will do wonders for your progress.

2. LATERAL SPLIT SQUATS, 5 REPETITIONS

By essentially doing your squats side-to-side, you will end up building more strength and balance in each leg than you would with regular squats (while also targeting different muscles.)

The move is to start with a very wide stance and make sure your feet are straight. Then sit back into one of your hips and push that knee out. Then repeat on each side.

3. MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS, UP TO 45 seconds

In order to get your heart rate going and squeeze in some extra calories and fire up your metabolism, mountain climbers are the perfect exercise choice. It’s one you’ll definitely feel. 

Simply start off in the pushup position. Engage your core and keep it as tight as possible. Run as fast as you can while driving your knees into your chest. And don’t let your hips rise – keep them at the same height as when you initially started. 

4. HIP BRIDGES, 10 REPS

To finish off your backside and build strong legs, you should look no further than hip bridges. There is a very simple way you can strengthen your glutes and you can even help release a lot of the tension you have built up in your upper or lower back. We all have it! 

Here’s how to do it right: start off by lying on the ground with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Then drive through your heels and squeeze your glutes to then push your hips up. Make sure that you’re not using your lower back to pull yourself up. 

5. PUSHUPS, UNTIL FAILURE

Finish off your workout with one of the best bodyweight exercises for your upper body – it keeps your arms, shoulders, and chest strong while helping you engage your core. 

To do it right, all you have to do is get up in the original pushup position where your hands are about shoulder-width apart. The key here is to keep your lower back flat and don’t let your hips sag. Just slowly lower yourself and keep your elbows close to your body as you descend so you’re actually feeling your chest and your triceps push you up.

And with just 5 simple exercises and a routine you can do inside 10 minutes, you’ve hit your lower body, your upper body, you’ve stretched, released stress, and done a quick calorie-burning session that will keep your metabolism going for the rest of the day. 

How to Create Your Own Home Yoga Studio

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

You’ve probably seen and read countless articles and stories about the benefits of using yoga to achieve weight loss and improve your health, fitness, and lifestyle. And for a lot of people, this means finding a nearby yoga studio so they can attend regular classes and perhaps even connect with a local teacher that someone recommends.

While this sort of communal practice and this personal hands-on instruction might be ideal for some, for others, it won’t always be possible. But don’t worry. Streaming your online yoga classes or trying out a Zoom class could become our new normal. 

And if this is something that appeals to you, it can be easy for you to set up your own home yoga studio – you won’t really need much space, just a corner in your living room where you can place a mat on the floor. You’ll just need a space that is both inspiring and calming. 

Setting up your own home yoga space is all about being unique to yourself and your practice – here are a few suggestions that will get you started:

First of all, choose your point of inspiration. Maybe this could be a view from your window toward a special statue or near a painting in your living room that transports you to a memory or feeling. Just give yourself some inspiration and emotionally connect with the place you’re occupying. 

Second of all, you’re going to need yoga mats. It’s better to go for the plural of mats, in case you and your fellow yoga enthusiasts want to go for an all-out yoga soiree. You can choose mats in color and texture that you love – this will serve as the foundation of your practice. 

Third, you’re going to need props. In yoga, your props are the perfect tool for restoration and added relaxation, and they can also be used to help you fall even deeper into more challenging poses. 

SETTING THE MOOD FOR MEDITATION

After you have all the essentials ready to go, create a calm energy with some mindful meditation. You can even use the extra cushions you have lying around the house, or you may choose to further invest in some meditation cushions. 

A good meditation cushion will make it easy for you to sit up straight and optimize your flow of breath. Remember that breathing exercises themselves are usually a part of yoga and a healthy aspect of the entire practice. Through this practice, and in changing your breath, you will learn how to change your mood.

1. Nothing sets the mood like music does. Set up a few speakers in the corner of your meditation space – whether you subscribe to some yoga playlists or crack open a YouTube video, find your favorite tunes and bask in them. 

2. Keep the air clean. You don’t need to be into air purifiers, you can simply recycle a mini-spray bottle and just mix distilled water with some of your favorite essential oils. You can get pretty creative with your mix of essential oils and transport yourself into a happier place. 

3. Awaken your senses through the power of candles. Whether it’s day or night, candles will warm up any place – arrange them in the various corners of the room or surrounding your body as you’re doing yoga. The flame alone can help challenge you during a balancing pose. 

A FEW KEY TIPS

Make your space your own – paint the walls in a soothing yet meaningful color. Make your space inviting with gray, soft blues, warm yellows, and light green colors. 

Try a meditation timer or app. You’ll be able to keep accurate track of the time without all the distractions of glancing at your clock or watch. 

Rejuvenate your practice often so you can stay inspired by yoga. And with a regular at-home yoga practice, you can go a long way toward achieving your fitness and health goals.

Strategies for Skipping on Alcohol During the Holidays

nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

With the holiday season bringing us so many good things, from family gatherings to festivities, it’s only natural that it comes with poorly managed nutritional choices. One of those choices is alcohol. 

If you’re wondering how to reduce your alcohol intake, you may be wondering exactly how you’re going to manage that considering so many get-togethers with your friends and family will end up revolving around alcohol. For the people committed to a low, or even no-alcohol winter or holiday season, there’s some good news. 

There are actually tons of creative ways you can deal with alcohol-centric parties and events and curious people who want to know why you’re not drinking. Below, we explore the best tactics and strategies. 

#1 IT ALL STARTS WITH SETTING YOUR INTENTION

Sometimes, all you have to do is be really clear with yourself about what your alcohol plans are. Particularly if you do it right before you set out on one of your family gatherings. Set the firm intention that you’re not going to drink and list out all the benefits of not consuming alcohol. 

They’ll be entirely individual to you, but they might include things like not feeling sluggish in the morning, staying true to your fitness goals, not racking up extra calories, and more. Keep the list where you can see it – on the top of your mind.

#2 SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

Remember – you can still have fun without drinking. Before your party or family gathering, do as many things as possible to ground yourself and feel comfortable and relaxed so you’re not going to feel like you need alcohol to relax. 

This might mean wearing an outfit that makes you feel amazing, connecting with people and focusing on them rather than alcohol, or remembering how much you were looking forward to meeting your friends/family again.

#3 CARRY A NON-ALCOHOL DRINK

This is a big one. One thing that a lot of abstainers start struggling with early is that they get offered a drink and can’t turn it down. But a simple way of avoiding that is to carry around a non-alcohol drink of your choice. People won’t be asking you to drink more if you have a drink in your hand.

#4 BE THE DESIGNATED DRIVER

If you don’t feel like answering all the questions from curious partygoers about why you’re not drinking, this is your simplest solution. If you say you’re going to be the DD for the night, no one will be able to argue with that.

#5 SHARE YOUR REASONS

Some of you will actually like to talk about their choices and why they’re not drinking alcohol, and that’s okay. People will usually understand if you just explain your motivations. If you tell your friends and your family that you’re doing it to prioritize your physical and mental health, nobody is going to be pushing drinks in your hand.

Maybe you’ve even already noticed the positive benefits such as improved digestion, more energy, clearer thinking, and you can freely express all the benefits with other people.

#6 USE TOMORROW’S WORKOUT AS YOUR EXCUSE

Another way to simply deflect any attempts at giving you a drink is to politely explain you’re planning a trip to the gym in the morning. Alcohol will just slow you down, and naturally, it might be a bad idea for you to be drinking. It can also impact your workout results and have you feeling so sluggish that you end up skipping the gym. It’s simply a no-no.

THE BOTTOM LINE IS…

Remember, at the end of the day, you don’t owe anyone an explanation about what you choose to eat or drink. Turning down alcohol at holiday events can end up being pretty tricky, but it’s doable – what’s truly important here is that you’re sticking to your health and fitness goals by drinking less alcohol, and if that’s your plan, you’re definitely on the right track.

How to Sneak in More Healthy Veggies into Your Holiday Meals

nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Have you ever had trouble getting your family to focus on nutrition and eat more veggies? If trying to get your family to eat more veggies is on your winter to-do list, today, you’re going to learn how to do exactly that.

While sneaking in veggies may seem rather, well, sneaky, this strategy has nothing to do with “tricking” anyone into eating more veggies. 

But if you slowly and consistently increase your family’s exposure to more plant foods and then set an example through modeling behavior (or in other words, practicing what you preach,) you can definitely succeed.

That being said, sometimes, it can be pretty tough to add new (or more) veggies to your menu – especially if you’re going to go up against kids!

That’s why below, we’ve explored a few proven strategies for adding more veggies into some of your favorite family recipes.

#1 DOUBLING UP ON YOUR VEGGIES

Doubling up is one of the best ways you can go about sneaking in more veggies into your meals – simply double the veggies already in the dish. This works surprisingly well in pasta, soups, stews, and even casseroles. If you’re making a dish that will call for 1 cup of greens, add 2. 

And here’s another thing you can do – if your favorite grilled chicken with zucchini-asparagus has about 4 cups of zucchini to 2 cups of asparagus, you could bump up the amount of the veggies so they equal 1 cup of cooked veggies for every serving. Play around with the ratios of your meals and you’ll find very creative ways in which you can increase the veggie ratio.

#2 JUST SHRED IT AND THROW IT IN

It’s very easy to add finely diced or shredded veggies to your family favorites. Carrots and celery can be easy to hide in a lot of meat dishes, and so can a lot of root veggies. 

When you’re roasting potatoes, add turnips or parsnips to your sheet pan and mix in some diced butternut squash. If your dish is going to need an extra sauce, try a plant-based gravy. Steamed carrots and sweet potatoes go pretty well in muffins, breads, waffles, and pancakes. Diced butternut squash can go well in chili. The possibilities are endless! 

#3 TRY VEGGIE ALTERNATIVES OF PASTA AND RICE

You can sometimes find that veggies are basically masquerading as rice or pasta in the frozen food aisle at your local grocery store. Broccoli, sweet potato, and cauliflower rice are all tasty, easy substitutions for rice that is stir-fry or in buddha bowls. Try it in burritos, tacos, pasta dishes, it goes well everywhere.

And here’s another tip: you can try spaghetti squash if you’re looking for an alternative to pasta. It can taste just as well but have a richer nutrient profile than traditional pasta.

THE BOTTOM LINE IS…

From your pastas and soups to pizzas, there is always a way to add more vegetables to just about every meal you cook. And while you’re getting your family to eat more plants is a great win for everyone’s health, it can definitely feel like a challenge you need a plan and strategy for – especially if you’re dealing with picky eaters. 

But with a little creative thinking, you can start reworking some of your favorite old meals into veggie-rich alternatives that will be absolutely delicious, nutritious, and beneficial to your family’s health. 

Try doubling up, cutting down your veggies and throwing them in your meals, or simply going for veggie alternatives of the more popular carbohydrate options, and you’ll go a long way toward encouraging a more plant-based lifestyle in your household.

4 Reasons to Start Weightlifting in the Winter

male fitness

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Around this time of the year, countless people throughout the male and female fitness world are looking for hacks to stick with winter workouts and do their best to avoid holiday weight gain. However, if you’ve found yourself particularly dreading your outdoor sweat sessions or even struggling to make it to the gym, you might be due to trying a new approach. Here’s a great fix – start lifting to slim down.

Many fitness experts are proponents of the idea that everyone should be doing at least some kind of weightlifting for weight loss, stronger bones, body recomposition, muscle gain, and overall strength and health. 

When the weather starts getting colder and your body clock starts slowing down, you’ll be less enthusiastic about slugging along your gym’s treadmills throughout the winter. That’s when the suggestion of weight training starts to become a little more appealing. 

Weightlifting ultimately offers countless health and fitness benefits that can help you support your overall weight-loss efforts all season long. Here are four reasons you might want to get started right now:

#1 YOU’LL REV UP YOUR METABOLISM

With plenty of holiday meals at the table, countless people are turning to cardio in hopes of achieving some extra holiday fat burn. Even though cardio will burn calories pretty quickly, weightlifting supports greater calorie burn even way after your workout is finished. 

The more muscle you have, the more calories your body will naturally be burning at rest. This is because having more muscle means you’ll have a higher basal metabolic rate (BMR), meaning you’ll be burning more calories even while you’re sitting on the couch. Resistance training helps develop muscle mass, and in turn, helps you burn more calories in the long run. 

#2 LIVEN UP THE MOOD

For many people, the winter season marks the arrival of seasonal upticks in stress, anxiety, and depression due to the massive demands both at work and at home. In turn, this can lead one to a lot of comfort eating in hopes of coping, and with that, the potential for weight gain. Although it’s no cure-all, resistance training may help you keep your mood and weight in check at the same time. In fact, strength training seems to be one of the things that dial down symptoms of depression, according to a metanalysis of over 33 clinical trials published in the JAMA Psychiatry. 

#3 CURB WEIGHT GAIN

Adding weightlifting to your routine will help you keep your weight in check during the holidays, and also help tip the calorie balance in your favor to keep your weight under control (even when those pesky winter cravings start striking.)

Considering holiday weight gain will be responsible for about 1 pound throughout the whole year, which the average person does not lose, you can see why it’s a smart move to dial up your efforts throughout the new year.

#4 GET AHEAD OF YOUR NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

Sometimes, you can have a New Year’s resolution turn into an excuse to procrastinate on healthy lifestyle changes just because it happens to be cold outside during this part of the year. But why delay something and say you’ll get started in January when you know you’re in it for the long run? 

And why not just start early instead – and get a head start on all the newcomers that flood the gyms in January. With other people essentially viewing winter as the season in which they can slack off on their fitness, you can be progressing. 

By adopting this practice now and starting as soon as possible, you’ll be able to set goals, perfect your technique, and solidify your routine so you’re going into the new year an already improved version of yourself. 

THE BOTTOM LINE IS…

Strength training will not only help you shed the excess pounds, but it will also help you build lean muscle mass, improve body composition, and allow you to health and fitness results you’re truly looking for. Along with a calorie deficit, strength training can help you lose weight and, even during a season like winter, stay on track with your fitness goals. And the earlier the start… the better.

The Big Problem Behind Cheat Days

sport nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Every registered dietitian or nutritionist should shudder when they hear a term like “cheat day”. Not because we’re thinking of people just stuffing themselves with cheeseburgers and donuts all day, but because the term is deeply rooted in a diet culture that firmly places foods in either a “good” or “bad” category. 

Let’s talk about why associating morality with your own food choices can trigger some unhealthy eating behaviors and how you can forget about the entire cheat day mentality so you can focus on helpful, positive dietary strategies.

THE PROBLEM WITH GOOD-and-BAD THINKING

Categorizing foods as healthy or unhealthy, good or bad, will ultimately set you up for moral highs and lows that shouldn’t normally be associated with dietary behavior. Whenever someone says they are “cheating” on their diet, they often associate it with a feeling of guilt, one of the first things you should focus on when you’re getting started with food neutrality. Placing all dietary options on a neutral playing field – and yes, that means cookies and kale are in the same category – can free up a lot of your mental space that you use about worrying about eating or not eating specific foods.

“CHEAT DAYS” and BINGEING

Binging or overeating on a cheat day or cheat meal not only results in a massive amount of excess calories, but it’s often followed by those same feelings of guilt that shame the person into another cycle of rigid nutritional restrictions. 

A plethora of recent studies have examined the common factors in the people who engage in cheat meals and people with eating disorders (such as binge eating) and found precipitating factors of both these behaviors to be consistent – psychological and physical meal cravings. Even though dietary restricting and cheat days are socially acceptable and even praised behaviors in today’s society, these studies have associated their symptomology to that you would find in patients of eating disorders. 

IMPROVING YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD

Instead of cheat days, cheat meals, and other forms of “cheating”, you can use the following strategies to foster a better relationship with food: 

1. When it makes sense, eat your favorite treat. 

You should always make it a point to enjoy the food you would usually have on a “cheat day” on just any random day. Many people tend to plan cheat days on a weekend, but this could also mean having a cupcake or a burger and fries on a Friday, just to give an example. 

When you’re easing into the mindset these foods are available to you at all times, and you know that it’s more than OK to eat them when you choose, that tempting power they have over you disappears. This will result in less overeating, less guilt, and a diet that’s naturally balanced.

2. Honor your cravings.

Instead of always feeling like you’re “giving in” to the temptation of food cravings and ruining an arbitrary diet, honor them. Our bodies have a unique and personal way of telling us what we need at all times, and we just have to be better listeners. 

For example, if you’re out at a fast food place and you are really craving a burger, but you decide to order a salad instead, chances are it’s not going to be all that satisfying for you. Then cut the persistent thoughts about food, low-level hunger, and that extra crankiness until you eat something else. 

When you honor the burger craving and take the time to eat mindfully and really savor every moment instead of being distracted with the latest show, this can lead to much greater satisfaction after the meal, and this will free up a good amount of mental space you can use for more important things.

3. Focus on nourishment.

Nourishment is pretty much one of the best words you can use to encompass how you take care of yourself physically and emotionally. When it actually comes to food, this means that sometimes, the most nourishing choice you can really make is to add another serving of veggies to every plate in your day. 

At other times, you just really need a sweet snack. Both are OK when it comes to nourishing yourself physically and emotionally. What’s going to be nourishing for you today might differ from what will nourish you tomorrow, so you have to continue being mindful and prioritizing taking care of yourself.

The Best Cooking Oil Choices and their Benefits

nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Strolling down the oil aisle at the grocery store can sometimes be overwhelming to anyone who has been working to lose weight or is just interested in nutrition. Not just in the sheer amount of different choices you will find, but also in the act of discerning which ones are actually healthy and most useful for the meal you’re making. We know vegetable oils like corn oil are typically considered “refined,” which means they have to go through chemical processing during their production, causing them to be high in omega-6 fatty acids. If they are consumed in higher proportions to omega-3 fatty acids (like they are in the average American diet), omega-6 fats can be inflammatory.

Nutritionists typically encourage their clients to use healthy alternative oils, and use them liberally, when cooking, roasting, or making salad dressing, because of all the healthy plant-based fats inside them.

And not only do they have anti-inflammatory properties, but these fats will also help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins and minerals. This is absolutely essential for hormone production and proper cognitive function (among other things.)

Let’s talk about the most common healthy oils you’ll find at your local grocery store.

#1 OLIVE OIL

Olive oil is a nutritional powerhouse. It’s a great source of vitamin K and vitamin E, which support bone health and heart health (respectively.) The extra virgin olive oil you’ll find is the least processed form of olive oil, and the most nutritious because of its added antioxidant content. Not to mention, it has the richest flavor.

Olive oil is an amazing source of monounsaturated fats, one of which is oleic acid, which is vital to heart health, lowering LDL and total cholesterol, and reducing inflammation.

Olive oil has a high smoke point of around 175-200°C, and can be used to sauté and fry at medium-high heat, as well as roast veggies, or as a base for salad dressings because of its delicious flavor. Olive oil is also great for baking as a 1:1 replacement for vegetable oil or butter oil — its amazing flavor pairs quite nicely with baked muffins and cakes.

#2 AVOCADO OIL

Avocado oil is another healthy, nutrient-dense alternative to traditional vegetable oil. It is pressed from avocados, and, just like olive oil, is rich in the heart-healthy monounsaturated fat known as oleic acid. Avocado oil is also chock-full of vitamin E, another powerful antioxidant. For the highest amount of health benefits, choose unrefined avocado oil. Avocado oil has a higher smoke point than olive oil and would be better suited for high-heat cooking. It also has a pleasant flavor, and because of it, avocado oil is also an excellent choice for a salad dressing base and can be used in baking as a 1:1 substitution for other oils.

#3 WALNUT OIL

Walnut oil is essentially pressed from walnuts, and has a tasty, nutty flavor. Walnut oil is high in ALA, also known as alpha-linolenic acid, which is converted to omega-3 fatty acids in the body. It has very powerful anti-inflammatory properties. 

Walnut oil can generally be used for cooking, but with high heat, its flavor may turn slightly bitter. That’s why walnut oil is best used in salads from leafy greens to chicken salad, as well as in grain bowls and pasta.

#4 COCONUT OIL

Coconut oil has a very different nutritional profile than the other oils here because it consists primarily of saturated fat. Some of the saturated fat you will find in coconut oil is basically a medium-chain fatty acid also known as lauric acid, and it’s thought that lauric acid can be absorbed more quickly by the body and then used for energy, as opposed to being stored as extra fat tissue. 

Regardless, countless studies have discovered that coconut oil may contribute to higher LDL cholesterol levels, so it’s not really considered a heart-healthy oil. It should be used only occasionally. 

Coconut oil does not contain any significant amounts of other vitamins, minerals, or any health-promoting micronutrients. It has a high smoke point of around 190–204°C. You can use it to add a nice flavor to sautéed vegetables, curry dishes, and as a substitute for butter in a lot of baking recipes.

The Surprising Health Benefits of Decadent Holiday Snacks

nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

When it comes to indulgent holiday nutritional choices, you’ve probably heard it all – “oh, it’s a guilty pleasure!” … “it’s really bad for you, though” … “so high in calories!” … and the list goes on. 

But, what if we turned the tables just a bit and spoke about the health benefits of some of the most popular seasonal foods? Because yes, they do exist. Diet culture is just quick to get in the way a lot of the time. 

Let’s talk about some of our favorite holiday meals and all the healthy nutritional content they support your health with. 

#1 MASHED POTATOES

Who doesn’t enjoy mashed potatoes? They’re quite literally the world’s most perfect and versatile side. Before potatoes got their reputation ruined thanks to diet culture, they were often thought of as a healthy, nutrient-dense food. 

And they still are! Potatoes are a great source of potassium, a vital mineral and electrolyte that helps your muscles and nerves function properly. 

Potatoes are also rich in fiber and vitamin C. And to reap all of their benefits, make sure you cook and mask them with their skin – this will add to their satiety and ease digestion.

#2 GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE

Green bean casseroles might not be everyone’s favorite but they’re on almost everyone’s table. Aside from all of their creamy goodness, green bean casseroles do have some health benefits, all thanks to their key ingredient – green beans. 

They’re an amazing source of vitamin C, A, fiber, and a mineral known as manganese. Green beans also contain much-needed soluble fiber which helps your body keep cholesterol levels in a healthy range. 

#3 PECAN PIE

Pecan pie is a decadent sweet holiday dessert and it tends to be on the much higher end when it comes to sugar. However, part of the reason why pecan pie is also much higher in calories is that pecans are a very rich source of healthy, monounsaturated fats. And this is another reason not to think so much about calories and instead focus on nutrients, understanding what these nutrients to do your body. Aside from heart-healthy fats, pecans also pack a ton of minerals and vitamins such as copper, magnesium, zinc, and thiamine. 

#4 CANDIED YAMS

Now, you might be thinking: the word candy is in the actual name of this meal. Is there any possible way it can be good for you? Well, while it’s true that candied yams might be high in sugar, let’s focus on the yams themselves for a minute here. Just like white potatoes, yams are an excellent source of potassium. They’re also high in vitamin A, C, B6, and they’re an abundant source of fiber. 

When they’re eaten with their skin, they’re very nutrient-dense, so that’s a tweak that you can make to your candied yam recipes so you can make them way more nutritious. If you’re making your yams yourself, halving the sugar you put in them won’t really affect the taste too much, and it will allow more of their natural sweetness to shine through. 

#5 RIB ROAST

We all know how important it is to limit the consumption of red meat in our diet to prevent the risk of life-threatening diseases. However, once in a while, a burger or holiday rib roast is totally okay, especially if it’s coming from organic, grass-fed, finished beef. Rib roast is certainly not lacking in the nutrient department, as it is an amazing source of complete protein which your body easily absorbs and utilizes. 

It’s also a great source of vitamin B12, and it’s abundant in iron, which is especially important for young men and women as iron is a nutrient countless people are deficient in. Rib roast, of course, is higher in saturated fat as red meats usually tend to be, so make sure to pair it with colorful vegetables and whole grains so you can make for an even healthier meal.

5 Holiday Diet Busters (and how to handle them)

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Some new research published in the New England Journal of Medicine discovered participants (people who weren’t training for weight loss) started gaining weight in October and continued seeing small but incremental gains in their weight through the New Year. The realistic weight gain was minimal – about 1.3 pounds – but it took them, on average, about five months to lose. In other words, if you’re not actively training, eating some extra pumpkin pie now might affect whether your spring wardrobe fits!

Today, we’re here to talk about five surprising reasons why it’s difficult to avoid extra calories during the holidays… and a few strategies for staying on track:

#1 DINNERS ARE BIG, SOCIAL EVENTS

The holiday season is all about gathering around the table and sharing a meal with your close ones. And some recent research presented at the American Heart Association actually found that the chance of a diet lapse was much, much higher when meals were consumed in social settings, in which meal sizes increased up to 40 percent.

Here’s the fix: before you help yourself to seconds (or even thirds,) take some time to chat with your neighbors. This will help you slow down and recognize you might be fuller than you think. You can also employ a few mindful eating strategies.

#2 DECLINING DESSERT

You might be led to believe passing on the cookies and cakes will help you keep the number on the scale from going up, but some dietitians believe that it might be a mistake to turn down sweets. 

Choosing healthier desserts when you really want a slice of your family’s old-fashioned pecan pie could leave you feeling unsatisfied and craving even more dessert later on. Instead, go ahead and grab a slice of that pie and cake – just make sure it’s not both.

#3 NAVIGATE ALL THE TOASTS

Although a glass of red wine is just about 120 calories, and has been associated with a variety of health benefits, including increasing good cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease, one wine glass could have an unintended ripple effect. 

Being in a celebratory mood (and the added alcohol consumption that usually occurs during the holiday season) might lead to more reduced inhibitions and a stronger desire to eat more of your favorite foods as you tend to limit yourself the rest of the year. 

Make sure you imbibe in moderation and sip on a glass of water regularly so you’re always staying hydrated.

#4 WATCH YOUR PLATES

Did you know the size of the average dinner plate has increased 23 percent in the last 100 years? And the bigger the plate, the more likely you are to fill it up. You’ll eat, on average, 30 percent fewer calories if you scoop some holiday favorites onto a smaller plate. 

If you look at a plate that’s half empty, you might feel less satisfied. But by filling a small plate completely, you can trick yourself into thinking you’re eating more and therefore feel more satisfied. This was discovered by a study published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research.

#5 YOU PLAN ON STICKING TO A DIET

Studies have shown that it’s common to consume more than 3,000 calories during your typical holiday meal, but even so, making the decision to stick to a strict diet from Thanksgiving all the way to New Year is definitely a mistake. Any time you focus on food by identifying it as something to avoid, you are making it more desirable. 

You give more thought to all the off-limit foods that you could have otherwise, all of which could lead to feelings of deprivation… and you know where that cycle ends up. 

But there’s a fix here. You might actually benefit by a short break from all the calorie counting. Some studies have even linked a diet break to helping dieters lose more weight. 

So go ahead and celebrate the season but don’t forget to exercise moderation. Having a choice to eat whatever you want without cheating or restriction will help you foster a healthier relationship with food that includes less guilt and more genuine nourishment.

The Guide to Fasting When You’re with Friends and Family

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

If intermittent fasting has been going well for you, you’re probably looking to maximize the results it brings you, be it in terms of weight loss or other health benefits fasting has become famous for. 

If you’ve nailed down your fasting window and feel pretty good about the food that you’re fueling your body with, you’re soon faced with a curveball: it’s the holiday season!

One of the trickiest things about this season is navigating exactly what and when you’re going to eat, all while still staying with all your friends and family. You don’t exactly have all the control over what’s on the menu or when the dinner is being served as long as the actual kitchen isn’t yours. You also might not want to be feeling left out of the family breakfast or even skip a later dinner if you tend to fall outside your fasting window. And nobody wants to ditch the family to eat by themselves, right? 

It’s okay to let loose this time of year, and it actually can be helpful for you. You can find that being too rigid with your intermittent fasting schedule during the holidays can end up backfiring and working against your weight loss or wellness goals by just not being sustainable. And if intermittent fasting becomes unenjoyable this time of year or just ends up holding you back from having fun on the festive season, then you’re likely to give up and say you’ll just keep doing it in the New Year.

But as long as you’re willing to embrace flexibility, there are a few tweaks you can use to make sure you’re still holding onto your goals and following IF. Here’s how:

#1 TRY “WINDOW SHIFTING”

Typically, you might run into meals being pushed later than you would normally eat. But ‘window shifting’ strategy is a great tool you can use to still follow an intermittent fasting schedule while you’re enjoying meals with loved ones. 

To put it into action, you might start and end your eating window later to allow for that extra holiday dinner. 

For example, if you normally eat from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., then change that to 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. (or later, if necessary). 

With that said, holiday brunch is also a thing, and your aunt may be talking up her famous French toast bake. But you can just use the same technique here. Instead of a noon to 8 p.m. schedule, you’d bump it up to 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. to accommodate the brunch.

#2 PRIORITIZE PROTEIN

Holiday meals are known for their high-carb content, whether they would be pancakes at brunch or potatoes and stuffing at dinner. There’s one smart strategy you can use here – eat the protein first. If you grab yourself a plate of ham, some green bean casserole, and some mashed potatoes, start by digging into the protein before everything else. 

By eating the protein first, you will help raise the satiety hormone peptide YY in your body. This is vital for preventing cravings after your adjusted eating window has ended. 

What’s more, consuming more protein (and veggies) before carbs might also help lower the blood sugar response your body has to that meal. And with more regulated appetite hormones and blood glucose levels, you may just find it easier to stick to the quantity of dessert that aligns with your weight loss goals.

#3 BE COOL IF YOU “MESS UP”

Even if you totally blow your eating window, you’re going to be okay. You might have had all intentions to shift your window up to accommodate brunch, but something came up and led to you eating a late-night dinner. It’s OK. 

Your progress is not ruined. It’s tempting to try an even stricter fast the next day — some people even report aiming for that massive 24-hour fast after overeating the previous day. You should just listen to your hunger the next day, and you should never fast longer the day after a treat. Doing this will only amplify your cravings. Just stick to your usual fasting window the next day, and then break your fast with a meal full of protein, fat and fiber.

Why Counting Calories is More Complex Than You Think

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Consuming food that supplies your body with calories is absolutely essential to giving your body the energy it needs to perform everything from the basic functions of life, such as keeping your heart rate going to intense weight loss exercise. Calories are, after all, a unit of energy. Tracking your daily intake of calories is a tool many people use to become more aware of their dietary habits, stay accountable, record changes, and make progress. 

That being said, the calories in versus calories out is a complex equation and should generally be used as a major guideline along with other important metrics to assess the overall quality of eating habits, as well as a tool for weight change. 

Here are the three most important things you need to know about calorie counting before you get into it:

#1 THERE’S NO WAY TO TRACK EVERY SINGLE CALORIE 

It doesn’t matter how accurately you think you can weight your food, use averages, and measure calorie burn during your exercise sessions; you’re never going to get a perfect picture. Consider the bites you always leave behind, or how different temperatures, clothing choices, and altitude can affect your entire exercise output. The overall process of turning food into energy is a very intricate one, as well. 

And you can’t forget about the thermic effect of food, one major factor of bioavailability. This refers to the number of calories that are accessible to be absorbed by your body and the amount of energy it actually requires for you to digest and further process those calories. The more processed the food is, the easier it is for you to absorb those calories. 

Homemade and whole meals will, at the flip side of that coin, take more time to consume. Therefore, the less processed food you see on your plate, the more energy you will need to digest it, and this means that fewer calories will actually be absorbed from the food you’re eating.

#2 THERE’S MORE TO FOOD AND EXERCISE THAN CALORIC VALUE

Just like your health is not indicated by the number you see on the scale, caloric value should also be thought of as a very small part of the overall health equation. 100 calories from kale and 100 calories from donuts are different things, as much as some people would like you to think otherwise. 

They affect mood, digestion, satiety, habits, hormones, and metabolism very differently. Consistently choosing calories from energy-dense and less-nutritive sources ends up promoting weight gain more than the consistent consumption of the same calories from foods that of perceivably “higher” nutritive quality. 

And the same goes for exercise – different workouts can indeed result in the same calorie burn, but the effects they achieve in the long term can be vastly different.

This matters for both long-term weight loss (as workouts that stimulate a higher number of internal adaptations, regardless of their overall calorie burn, usually generate a stronger and more metabolically active body throughout time. When you’re choosing foods to eat and training variations to do, you should aim to think about the long-term implications that these choices will have on your health and your body… not necessarily their immediate caloric value.

#3 LABELS WILL MISLEAD YOU

The U.S. The Food and Drug Administration allows some wiggle room for nutrition fact labels. This means that a serving of mac & cheese, that would be labeled as having 300 calories, would actually have anywhere from 240-360 calories. 

And it’s true, research shows the majority of labels on snack food packages is 90 percent accurate, but still, some items fall surprisingly outside that initial range. 

For example, one 2012 report called the Rossen Report discovered that a popular dietary form of ice cream included up to 45 percent more calories than the label reported. 

You can imagine how this would lead to the frustration of stalled weight loss progress by contributing more and more calories that you just can’t count even if you wanted to.

The Ultimate Low-carb Grocery Store List

nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Whether you’re someone who enjoys keto, low-carb Paleo, Atkins, or another form of low-carb diet, you know carb-restricted diets are pretty much here to stay in the nutrition world.

Regardless of the diet, going “low-carb” usually means different things to different people. For some, this means no sugar, bread, or grains. For others, it means counting the grams of carbs they have per day or per meal. And for others – it means no carbs at all.

As you can see, there’s a ton of confusion out there about what a low-carb diet really is. Let’s try to clear some of that confusion up.

WHAT CONSTITUTES A LOW-CARB DIET?

Low-carb diets first became popular back in the early 2000s. You can thank the Atkins diet for that. Atkins is essentially a phase diet – you start off eating very few carbs and then gradually and slowly increase your intake until you reach something called a “maintenance” level. At this point, you will have probably lost the weight you wanted to lose and figured out the perfect amount of carbs your body needs to maintain adequate weight loss results.

But the problem with phase diets is that not everyone really follows the guidelines as they were originally written. Countless people who are on Atkins have never even read the book about it. They just jump in at the very restrictive beginning phase, they stay there a little too long, and then they give up because it becomes too much to handle.

Fast-forward two decades, and we’ve largely replaced these traditional phase diets with more standardized approaches to low-carb diets.

A low-carb diet today might look something like this:

Very low-carb diet: up to 50 grams of carbs in a day

Low-carb diet: 50, up to 100 grams of carbs in a day

Moderate-carb diet: 100, up to 200 grams of carbs in a day

If you’re wondering which one you should try out, the answer really depends. All three of these options can bring you positive health benefits, however, not everyone’s body chemistry is going to be the same. 

While it’s always tempting to go very low carb in hopes of achieving the fastest result possible, it’s not really necessary. Modest reductions in your total carb intake could have the same effects on your body composition, your glucose metabolism, your fat distribution, and ultimately, your weight.

If you’re someone considering a low-carb diet, you should always customize your approach to your calorie needs, food preferences, and activity levels. The one-size-fits-all approach is not something you want to be taking when it comes to low-carb diets. 

When it comes to eating “low-carb”, everything is very relative. 

THE BEST LOW-CARB GROCERY STORE LIST

When you’re going low-carb, you will want to focus more on high-carb veggies, low-sugar fruits, and non-starchy veggies. Combine those with a variety of seeds and nuts, healthy fats, oils, eggs, lean protein, and low-carb dairy such as plain yogurt.

But having a well-stocked kitchen does make this low-carb lifestyle pretty easy to follow. Use this extensive grocery guide below to help you create the perfect low-carb grocery store list so you can make a week’s worth of delicious meals at home. 

VEGETABLES – zucchini, tomatoes, olives, mushrooms, cucumber, cabbage, asparagus, bell pepper, and fresh herbs such as rosemary, mint, dill, thyme, oregano, and basil. Leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and arugula. 

FRUITS – strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, avocado, and lemon.

MEAT & POULTRY – sirloin or tenderloin, lean ground turkey, and chicken breast.

SEAFOOD – flounder, wild-caught salmon, cod, and canned fish such as salmon, sardines, anchovies, and more.

DAIRY & EGGS – eggs, semi-soft cheeses such as Havarti and mozzarella, feta cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, plain Greek yogurt, and hard cheese such as cheddar, provolone, and Parmesan. 

COOKING OILS – coconut, avocado, and olive oil.

NUTS & SEEDS – pecans, brazil nuts, almonds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, macadamia. 

CONDIMENTS – soy sauce, pesto, mayo, hot sauce, mustard, vinegar, cocoa powder, and vinaigrette salad dressing.

Are Breakfasts Actually the Most Important Meal of the Day?

nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Any typical and nutritious diet recognizes three main meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – but only breakfast tends to be backed by a massive PR push dating back to the late-19th century.

The idea that breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day can pretty much be traced back to marketing campaigns created to promote breakfast cereal. Newly invented cereals in the late 1800s were promoted as the most light, healthy alternative to the traditional farmer’s breakfast that consisted of eggs and meat, and they were positioned as the perfect way to start the day. 

The slogan tends to stick with it, expanding to include more foods than just plain old cereal, and it has impacted the way entire generations of people have approached eating ever since. That being said, there might be something more to that idea.

As the name would imply, breakfast is the way you “break” your “fast” that happens when you’re fasting overnight. Our bodies are still using energy while we sleep for our repair and growth. After going anywhere between six and ten hours without food, our brain and muscles start needing energy, most commonly in the form of glucose, to start the day off. 

That being said, everyone is different. Some people might wake up and rush to eat, feeling hungry first thing in the morning as they’re craving the energy they need to begin their day. Others, on the other hand, might skip the meal entirely. That being said, there’s little evidence to show that eating or skipping breakfast is more effective than the alternative, so long as you’re meeting all your health and nutrition goals for the rest of the day.

IS THERE A MEAL THAT SHOULD BE LABELED “MOST IMPORTANT?”

Claiming that breakfast is the most important meal of the day implies that lunch and dinner are less important. But eating a healthy, rich breakfast doesn’t give you carte blanche to go wild for the rest of the day, and it will not minimize your nutritional needs for the rest of the day.

You should never over-emphasize one meal over another. Instead, you should prioritize what and how you eat throughout the day. It’s important that you tune your body and pretty much connect with hunger and fullness while you’re choosing foods that are both filling and satisfying. For example, hunger might be striking at different times of the day, and that’s OK – you should respond as your body needs it, whether that means eating breakfast at 6 a.m. or at 10 a.m.

Being able to appropriately and consistently respond to your hunger cues is much more beneficial to your health and relationship with food than sticking to specific food rules about meal timing. Experts have noted that our energy needs will change based on our activity, hormones, and our sleep. Sometimes, we may start feeling that we need food later on in the day, and there’s no need to feel tied to specific sets of mealtimes.

Your mealtimes may also be disrupted by the many responsibilities and commitments you have, including work, family, school, you name it. This may dictate you to a more practical approach to eating. Some days, you may be able to enjoy a nice breakfast that will sustain you for the rest of your busy day. At other times, you might need to skip it altogether and grab a quick bite as you’re leaving out the door. 

ALWAYS BALANCE YOUR EATING THROUGHOUT YOUR DAY

Regardless of how you feel about breakfast, it’s always best to balance your meals throughout the day.

When you eat balanced meals that properly fuel your body and help you feel at your best, you don’t need strict schedules. Irregular meals will tend to restrict energy and nutrients, causing strain on your body and this might even impact your immune system negatively.

You will feel more alert and energized if you’re eating enough throughout the day, and this will happen if you’re honoring your hunger cues. For some people, this might mean eating every couple of hours, and for some, it might mean they’re eating more or less often.

Ideally, every meal you have will be a balanced combination of lean protein, complex carbs, and fiber-rich grains, fruits, veggies, along with some healthy fats. When you can snag a diet like this and keep it sustainable, skipping breakfast a couple of times a week won’t result in any negative effects – as long as you’re getting in the nutrients your body needs.

Here’s What You Should Know About the Viral 12-3-30 Workout

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Hey Angels and Alphas,

Ever since famous TikTokers first posted about the 12-3-30 workout in the late part of last year, it’s been making the listings as one of the most popular ways to slim down.

TikTokers say it’s a game-changer that help people lose 10, 20, even 30 pounds in a usually short amount of time. Claims have also been made that people on this type of training regime don’t really need to watch what they eat… and accredit all their weight-loss success to this workout.

The formula is simple: jump on a treadmill, turn the incline up to the max, and walk at 3 miles per hour for 30 minutes. Repeat this about 3-5 times a week, or just as often as you can.

But does this workout actually have any merit to it? Is there any research backing the effectiveness of this type of training when it comes to weight loss? And could the 12-3-30 workout actually help you lose weight?

Let’s find out.

FIRST OF ALL, IS IT SAFE?

First thing’s first… are you actually going to injure yourself if you jump directly into this type of training? Walking uphill might not sound that difficult, but a 12 percent incline is pretty steep. To put this in perspective, think of the Barr Trail, which ascends Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs. It has an average incline of 11%, which is pretty steep for a mountainside. 

If you’re someone who is new to exercise, you’ve never had a walking routine, or you’re living with a chronic condition such as heart disease, the 12-3-30 might not be the most optimal choice for you right away. Even if you’re in shape, starting any form of vigorous exercise and doing it many times per week can set you up for injuries such as shin splits, sore knees, plantar fasciitis, and more.

That’s why it’s important to gradually build up to this level of intensity, regardless of what exercise regime you’re starting.

CAN THE 12-3-30 WORKOUT HELP WITH WEIGHT LOSS?

When you’re walking on a high incline, you’ll be engaging more of your hamstring and glute muscles as you’re pushing yourself against gravity. That will make for more of a cardio challenge. It will also come with more calorie burn than just walking on flat ground. In this sense, this workout can indeed be a great way to slim down.

But if you’re trying to lose weight, your diet would actually be the most important factor instead of exercise. Walking is notorious for making people hungrier, causing them to eat more. In fact, the belief that exercise on its own can lead to weight loss is one of the most common weight-loss myths that could actually lead you to overestimate the amount of calories you’re burning at the gym.

SO HOW SHOULD WE DO THE 12-3-30 WORKOUT?

The key to this workout is warming up, so aim to be able to walk for 60 minutes at least 4 times a week or 30 minutes a day for 2-3 weeks without trouble… before you actually attempt this type of training. 

Then slowly and gradually build up your incline. You can think of 1 minute at 2%, then 3%, then 5%, and so on. If that’s too difficult, you can cycle between intervals such as 30-60 seconds at 2-3% and 0% until you feel comfortable enough to level up again.

Ideally, you want to be using and developing various muscle groups so you can get fit and avoid injury. Instead of doing the 12-3-30 workout over and over, you should try to mix up your routine with other forms of cardio, strength training, bodyweight training, and more.

THE BOTTOM LINE IS…

To lose weight, you need a multipronged approach, so don’t ditch the essential elements of the weight-loss equation in favor of a fad workout. 

The 12-3-30 treadmill workout is a pretty great way to get in a vigorous cardio workout without adding the impact of running, and it makes training on treadmills a little more interesting. That being said, it’s not a magic pill that will get you fitting in your favorite pair of jeans or sculpt your dream body. 

Can Standing Desks Help You Lose Weight?

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Standing desks have risen in popularity over the last couple of years, with their fans claiming they can help you get out of your chair more all throughout your day so you can counteract the negative health effects of too much sitting. That being said, when it comes to weight loss, standing desks aren’t really a magic bullet.

Although standing up periodically does have some advantages over just sitting for a prolonged period of time, this isn’t really a form of exercise, and by itself, simply standing up won’t really help you lose weight. 

You can think of it as a continuum, with sitting on one end and all-out exercise on the other side. The closer you can actually move toward real exercise, the better. But standing does tend to move that needle a little bit. Same with walking and cycling.

STANDING IS HELPFUL… BUT NOT REALLY FOR WEIGHT LOSS

There’s some research out there that has shown that obese adults sit for up to 2-3 hours more every day than lean adults, and in turn, this increases their risk of heart disease, diabetes, and all-cause mortality.

Spending large stretches of time throughout the day standing will help break up the long periods of time you spend sitting into smaller bits. And whether or not you’re overweight, standing is generally good for your health since it increases blood flow throughout your body and improves your posture.

That being said, standing does not add any physical activity to your day. It does not promote aerobic exercise or help you burn enough calories to make any significant weight loss results. 

Research has shown that participants expand up to 12 percent more energy while they’re standing compared to when they’re sitting, but this was only equivalent to about 9-10 calories per hour. Most people simply cannot stand up for long enough for this to make an actual difference.

If that was a 12 percent higher total for the day, that might actually be useful. But people don’t stand all day. They tend to only do that for up to an hour or two of their day, and if you’re only counting an hour or two with 12 percent more calorie expenditure, this is an insignificant difference at least in terms of weight loss. The calories do not stack up to any meaningful amount. 

A LITTLE BIT OF WALKING BEATS STANDING ALL DAY

There are countless more health advantages to using a treadmill desk than just a regular standing desk. According to some studies, treadmill walking actually incorporates physical activity which tends to increase the calorie expenditure you’ll receive. Standing is, ultimately, a sedentary behavior. Some experts have argued that periods of sitting may encourage people to actually walk more when compared to just being seated all day. 

Standing essentially breaks up sitting time and may also predispose people to more and more bouts of short walking. That is, if they’re already standing, it’s very easy to take a few steps. Even if it’s just a lap around the office or your house, some walking is better than none.

THE BOTTOM LINE IS…

Whether or not you have a standing desk, it will always be a good idea to alternate between periods of sitting, periods of standing, and periods of physical activity throughout your day. We know that prolonged standing isn’t really the solution you want because you won’t get any particular health benefits out of it. Furthermore, when you’re standing all day, this could even lead to trauma such as plantar fasciitis. 

Instead of spending countless hours a day trying to stay standing, you can set an alarm reminder to stand up 1-2 times every hour. This could help you alternate between sitting and standing, or better yet, help you get up and go for a short walk. Even if it’s as little as two minutes (for refilling your water glass, for example,) this will positively affect your blood glucose and your triglyceride levels.

That being said, if your ultimate goal is to lose weight, add walking or another form of exercise such as cycling into your regular daily routine. If you can aim for 200-300 minutes of walking every week, you will achieve tremendous weight loss results doing it. But simply standing up will not add up to any significant weight loss results.

5 Tips for Smarter Holiday Alcohol Consumption

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Whether you’re on a weight loss journey or not, we all know mixing, mingling, and making merry this holiday wouldn’t be the same without parties and get-togethers usually associated with alcohol. 

But for those of us who have a goal to neutralize weight gain as much as possible, adding more alcohol to the equation will make this journey a tough one to balance. 

Let’s talk about why. 

ALCOHOL IS A MASSIVE SOURCE OF CALORIES

Partying with alcohol is fun because human beings tend to like the feeling of being intoxicated, but this intoxication comes with a massive calorie price tag. One gram of alcohol will be about 7 calories, which is generally more than one gram of carbohydrates and one gram of protein. It’s still less than one gram of fat, though. 

YOUR BODY DOES NOT BURN EXTRA CALORIES TO METABOLIZE ALCOHOL

Unlike what we do when we digest carbs, fat, and protein. This phenomenon, called the thermic effect of food, will refer to the energy our body uses to digest food into smaller, more absorbable components. But because alcohol is so easy to absorb, it enters out bloodstream without burning any extra calories. 

YOUR LIVER DOES ALL THE HEAVY DUTY

Because alcohol is essentially seen as a toxin, the liver will prioritize metabolizing alcohol first. This means you won’t be burning calories from other sources while this is happening. The liver will only be able to clear the alcohol at a rate of around one ounce per hour, which is why consuming more than this will leave you feeling tipsy and intoxicated. 

ALCOHOL MAKES YOUR BLOOD SUGAR DROP

And this drop will always make you reach for more carbs. The liver helps keep your blood sugar steady, but if your liver is busy metabolizing alcohol and cannot do this effectively, your blood sugar will drop and stay low for as long as the alcohol is metabolized. This explains why we always tend to crave carbs when we wake up the next day with a heavy headache.

ALCOHOL CALORIES TEND TO BE STORED AS FAT

This is true for pretty much all the extra calories eaten regardless of the source. But what actually makes alcohol calories worse is that they’re stored in your liver first. It takes time for the liver to ship out all of the alcohol-induced fat so it can be properly stored in your fat cells. if your liver doesn’t do this quickly enough, or if you start drinking too much, too often, the fat is going to stay stuck between your liver and around your abdomen, giving you what people tend to call a “beer belly.”

But all of this, of course, doesn’t mean you have to completely avoid alcohol in the social settings around the holiday time. We’ve compiled a list of great tips you can use to prevent yourself from gaining too much unnecessary weight from your holiday cheer.

#1 POUR YOURSELF HALF AS MUCH AS YOU’RE USED TO

If you can limit your drinks to one or two per party, you’ll be golden. “Pouring half” is a great way to limit yourself as you would when you’re exercising portion control. 

#2 AVOID MIXED DRINKS HIGH IN CALORIES

Margaritas, mudslides, eggnog, and other sugary mixed drinks should be avoided… or if you’re going to be drinking them, consider them to be your dessert for the night. 

#3 ALWAYS DRINK WATER IN-BETWEEN DRINKS

You’ll stay well hydrated and you’ll be equipping your body with the water it needs to handle alcohol-induced dehydration.

#4 TAKE YOUR SIPS SLOWLY

Actually take the time to enjoy your alcoholic beverage. This way, you won’t feel the need to drink more and more throughout the night.

#5 SET AN ALCOHOL CALORIE BUDGET

And try to keep it below 200 calories. You can also try to opt-in for lower-calorie alcohol choices, some of which include…

Red or white wine: 150ml | Calories; 125, Carbohydrates: 5g

Light beer: 350ml | Calories: 100; Carbohydrates: 4g

Champagne: 150ml | Calories: 100; Carbohydrates: 2g

Vodka, rum, or gin: 50ml | Calories: 96; Carbohydrates: 0g

How to Find the Best Shoes for Running and Walking

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

If you’re someone who is new to running or walking for fitness, you might find yourself feeling a little too overwhelmed when you’re looking online for the right shoe. 

To provide you with the guidance you need along your shopping journey, we’re here to break down the differences between running sneakers and walking shoes, as well as what you should be looking when you want to find the right shoe for you at the right price.

Let’s get started.

There’s a difference between walking and running shoes.

The first thing you should know is that there’s a difference between shoes designed for running and shoes designed for walking. They look similar, but they’re not. 

Running shoes aren’t designed to do the same thing as a pair of walking sneakers. Cushioning and fit are the two big differences. Since running is a high-impact activity, while you may think you want more cushion underfoot, this can actually throw off your strides and lead to more harm than good. 

With every step, your foot is going to be looking for contact with the actual ground, this means it’s forcing its way through the foam. When you’re walking, you’re using less force in each footfall, so you can pretty much add more cushion for comfort. And walking shoes are meant to be worn all day while running shoes aren’t.

If you’re on the go all day, get a walking shoe.

For the all-day wearer, experts recommend walking shoes. They tend to have a much more “stretchy” upper – something with a four-way stretch – which will allow your foot to stretch comfortably throughout your day. Your feet are going to be changing their size slightly throughout the course of your day, so an all-day walking shoe is perfect.

However, you should make sure to switch into a running shoe for your runs. You can walk in running shoes, but you shouldn’t run in walking shoes.

When you’re running, you need support, not comfort.

When you’re running, you don’t need something cushy. You need something that supports you. This doesn’t mean going for barefoot shoes, it just means the foam needs to be less cushy. This will also apply to the upper, which should be a recycled polyester or polyester that won’t stretch as much when you run. 

Always check your arches.

In reality, about 80 percent of walkers and runners will be fine with a neutral-support shoe. But if you have collapsed arches, you might want something with more motion control and added support. 

How do you know if you need motion control? Just look in a mirror while you’re barefoot and march in place. See what your arches do – are they coming close to touching the ground? If the answer is yes, you might need more support.

Think about your goals.

Running and walking are generally done on different terrains, and this requires different shoes. 

For example, light hiking is a pretty great trend we’re seeing. And you don’t need all-out hiking boots for that – you are going to need something with more rubber and more lugs for traction on your tread, as well as a more durable upper. Think about the environment and terrain in which you’ll be walking/running and adjust your choice for it.

Go for mid-range prices.

Running shoes are skyrocketing in price across the board as they’re getting more and more popular. And with companies using better technologies and foams, it’s difficult to find a good running shoe at a good price. Cheaper shoes, on the other hand, will use less durable foam. 

That being said, much pricier models will likely have high-tech additions that newer runners won’t really need. For walking, you can pretty much opt for more budget-friendly models, all that matters is that they’re comfortable for you.

Finally, learn when it’s time to replace your shoes.

Sadly, shoes do have a shelf life. Must walking and running shoes are good for about 300-500 miles. There’s no perfect formula that says when it’s time to replace your shoes, but we hear people say that shoes just “feel tired” or they start noticing easy runs feel just a little bit harder. 

You can see wear and tear signs yourself, like for example, the midsole being compressed, or the lugs on the bottom start getting worn off. As soon as you see some of these signs, it’s time to replace your shoes.

5 Sports Nutrition Tips by The World’s Top Pros

sport nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Many recreational athletes who are constantly trying to boost their fitness and performance are looking to the nutrition professionals in their sport of inspiration. Watching a professional athlete perform in competitions, reading their bios, and following them on social media goes way beyond entertainment and into gaining knowledge and following fundamental principles that help them succeed.

It can be extremely motivating for you, and provide you with vital insights into how to live, eat, sleep, and exercise so you can improve your own performance in the gym and outside of it. 

Today, we’re here to explore some of those fundamental principles. Going by the following tips will help you achieve more results in less time, as well as make your journey toward weight loss, muscle gain, or sport-specific performance… much easier and more straightforward.

Let’s jump right in.

#1 KEEPING YOUR DIET AS SIMPLE AS POSSIBLE

The best athletes out there aren’t eating a complex diet. Their diet is fairly simple, consisting of whole foods with easy preparations. Think in terms of sweet potatoes and veggies, oatmeal and banana, roast chicken with veggies, and other simple meals. Put this into practice in your own life by adhering to a nutritious and well-designed meal plan using minimally processed ingredients.

Due to savvy product marketing, it’s very easy to assume that the best athletes are utilizing the trendiest, most pricy supplements and supermarket picks so they can have a better chance of improving their performance. But that’s far from reality. Top-level athletes usually undergo frequent drug testing and many supplements are not even tested for quality control which could result in false positives. 

Professional athletes are also always on the go, and they need a diet they can rely on when traveling – meals they can prepare easily and consume anywhere. They also want consistency and sustainability, and this is often related to habitual eating: trying some new foods could even lead to gastric disturbances that could interfere with solid training so they’re usually well-thought-out. 

#2 DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU

Recreational athletes will always be guilty of switching from one diet to another based on what the latest trends are or what they see their favorite professional doing. 

Each and every individual responds differently to various nutrition and diets and you will ultimately need to tailor your diet to your specific needs. Professional athletes carefully implement a diet that works for their training, their metabolism, their schedule, and more. If you try to imitate anything, imitate that mindset – implement a diet that works for your body because that’s the only thing that matters. 

#3 GET A ROUTINE AND STICK TO IT

Professional athletes don’t like surprises. They will always prefer to have a set routine for pretty much every aspect of their day. Leaving anything to chance could be a missed opportunity for improved performance. And this is no different when it comes to eating – most follow a pretty strict diet plan consisting of what to eat and when to eat it (so they can get the most out of their days.) 

This allows the constant focus to stay on performance, eliminating the chances of stomach issues and reducing the amount of decision fatigue they need to handle. They will also want consistency in their results and that comes from habitual, routine eating. If you want to follow that principle, grab a daily planner and simply jot down your schedule, adding in meals and preferred eating times. 

#4 MAKE YOUR NUTRITION A REAL PRIORITY

While an everyday athlete will be able to fit training into their busy schedule and leave nutrition to chance, professionals don’t. You will rarely catch a top performer making silly excuses that they don’t feel like eating, passed on their recovery nutrition, don’t have time to eat, or something along those lines. 

They know that having properly implemented sports nutrition guidance can make or break their daily performance. You can follow suit by adopting this mindset – the mindset that healthy eating and good nutrient timing is a vital part of your performance.

Superfoods You Can Use in Your Holiday Dishes

nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Not only does the holiday season shed a lot of light on the cold, dark days of winter, but it also happens to be the season for peak for some of the planet’s healthiest and most powerful produce. Some people like to call them superfoods.

There’s no real technical definition for a “superfood”, but you can think of a superfood as a food that’s nutrient-dense and has been linked to a variety of health benefits. Thankfully, a lot of our favorite holiday dishes are perfect templates you can use to add superfoods and a mighty dose of nutrients for each serving. Furthermore, they also boast a rich nutrient profile that extends way beyond their satiating benefits. They will bring joy and light to your holiday table, as well!

Let’s get started with our signature list of winter superfoods you can use for your holiday meals:

#1 – DARK, LEAFY GREENS

Dark leafy greens are packed with phytochemicals and folate, both of which have been directly linked to a lower risk of mental decline. Consuming them may be one of the most optimal ways to boost normal brain function and slow the development of key diseases as you get older. 

Greens such as kale and spinach tend to lead the popularity pack in the festive category, but don’t forget about other options such as peppery arugula, tender Swiss chard, radish greens, beet greens, and more. Dark leafy greens always boast a rich amount of vitamin K, vitamin A, folate, vitamin C, and iron. They’re all low in calories and loaded with fiber — awesome reasons to call these greens “super.”

Here’s how you can work them in:

  • Toss a few handfuls of chopped spinach, Swiss chard, or kale in your favorite holiday soups. You can also toss them in during the last few minutes of cooking.
  • Saute your leafy greens with onions and garlic and stir them into your favorite breakfast casseroles. 
  • Pack your greens into some of your favorite hot appetizer dips.

#2 – POMEGRANATES

Pomegranates are filled with hundreds of tiny red seeds known as arils, and the pomegranate is one of the winter’s most delicious wonder fruits. It’s an excellent source of fiber, providing you with 7 grams per 1-cup serving. 

Bonus points: Consuming more pomegranates may even help lower your cholesterol by preventing the plaque buildup in your arteries. A pomegranate’s vibrant seeds are filled with cancer-destroying polyphenols and have a greater antioxidant potential than both red wine and something like green tea. They’ll add a bright pop of flavor to yogurt, salads, holiday turkey, and more.

Here’s how to work them in:

  • Pomegranate juice can be a great tart-sweet addition to most holiday sauces. 
  • You can sprinkle pomegranate arils over hummus or guacamole for a delicious holiday dip.
  • Sprinkle your arils over some dark green leafy salads for a meal rich in bright, tart-sweet goodness.

#3 – BEETS

Much like the delicious pomegranate seeds, beets are the color of the holiday season! They also have a robust nutrient profile, boasting a heavy dose of antioxidants and about 4 grams of fiber for only 60 calories per cup. 

They contain more iron than spinach and they’re a great source of potassium and folate. Heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory properties are also included in beets, which can all be attributed to a pigment called betalain that gives them their red hue.

Here’s how to work them in:

  • You can roast your beets for a sweet, buttery addition to any holiday salad.
  • You can serve your beets in a relish that’s the perfect complement to your holiday proteins such as turkey.
  • You can easily shred and bake them into your recipe for holiday muffins — the naturally sweet beet is a perfect addition for any baked sweets.

BLUEBERRIES

Blueberries are incredible little parcels of power. Just one cup of fresh blueberries comes with 6 grams of fiber, about half of your daily vitamin C intake, and they’re ranked as one of the top sources of antioxidants overall. 

Anthocyanins (from which their purple color comes from) offer brain-boosting benefits, while healthy polyphenols help protect your from heart disease. A blueberry-loaded breakfast is pretty much one of the best ways to start off your day before a big holiday meal.

Here’s how to work them in:

  • Blend them a smoothie.
  • Bake them into muffins.
  • Use them to make a compote and then drizzle them over French toast.

Using NEAT to Stay Active During the Holidays

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

The holidays can be a busy time for all of us, especially as the world is reopening up, the calendar becomes packed once again, and everyone is trying to hit their weight loss milestones. 

It’s also an amazing time to give yourself a little bit of grace and relaxation. If your schedule doesn’t allow for a 1-hour gym session, you can simply take advantage of “NEAT” moments throughout your day and rack up some serious unscheduled calorie burn.

WHAT IS NEAT?

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis calories (NEAT) are basically the calories we burn from physical movements outside of our planned exercise sessions, sleeping, and digesting food. 

The total calories burned throughout the day is known as Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), and this is a total of your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), Thermic Effect of Food (TEF), and TEPA – Thermic Effect of Physical Activity.

TEPA — which includes your workout routine and NEAT are the two things we have the most control over that contribute to daily caloric burn. 

NEAT can add up to an additional 1,500-2,000 calories every day for people who have active professions, but most of us can more realistically get an extra 100–300 bonus calories burned every day just through extra movement. 

While this may not sound like a lot, even an additional 100 calories burned every day can lead to 10 pounds of fat lost in just a year. Let’s examine a few easy and fun holiday ways you can move your body and burn calories even if you don’t have time to jump on a treadmill.

WHEN YOU’RE AT WORK

The number of people working from home is growing every day. We’re moving into move sedentary jobs and not as much energy is being expended at work like the past years. Below are some of the ways we can change this trend and increase our activity levels throughout the entire day. 

  • If you work in an office outside your home, consider riding a bike or walking to work and you can effortlessly add another few thousands steps to your day. 
  • Stand up more. Just switching to a standing desk from sitting all day can lead to an additional 400 calories burned every day.
  • If possible, skip the elevator and take the stairs.
  • Walk to another person’s desk to chat instead of texting or e-mailing.

WHEN YOU’RE AT HOME

Hanging out at home doesn’t mean lounging around on the couch all day. There are many opportunities you can utilize for activities right in your own home space.

  • While watching TV, you can go double duty and tackle home chores such as that laundry pile, get in some sweeping and dusting, or even wrap gifts!
  • If you live in the right climate, you can easily save a ton off washing and wash your car by hand.
  • Get outside your home or building and do your own shoveling and gardening.

WHEN YOU’RE WITH FAMILY

Kids are a great (and sometimes essential) reason to add movement into your life. But instead of spending your free time watching cartoons, you can teach them early about the importance of moving throughout the day with daily activities.

  • Walk with your child to school or the bus stop. If you have to drive, you can park far away from the school and walk with them to the building.
  • Do an impromptu dance party in the living room.
  • Instead of sitting in the stands during their athletic games, pace the sidelines and cheer on.
  • Don’t scold your children for fidgeting. Research points to the fact that it may help people of all ages move more and burn more calories. 

THE TRACK TO ATTACK…

If you don’t own one already, you can add a step tracker to your holiday wish list. These trackers are an awesome way to measure the amount of NEAT you get in through your daily walking. You can begin with easy goals and continue to challenge yourself with greater numbers of daily steps. You can also take the stairs, move around the house, walk to work, and do other activities that will be much more tempting with a step goal attached to them.

How Bike Riders Can Stay Safe During Night Riding

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

As the daylight hours start slowly dwindling this time of year, a lot of us will be stuck doing our workouts or bike commutes at early dawn, dusk, or even straight up in the dark. It can even be tempting to hang up your bike and start the countdown until the warm days of the spring are finally here. 

But riding in the dark doesn’t have to be unsafe or scary! It just requires a bit more planning.

We’re here to talk about a few easy ways you can make your night (or early morning ride) safer and even more fun.

#1 ADD MORE REFLECTIVE GEAR

One of the simplest ways you can add more visibility for the people who are riding in low-light conditions is by adding reflective accents to your bike, clothing, and bag. While most of the cycling-specific clothes claim to have reflective elements, you still might want to add extra strips of reflective tape unless the entire jacket is meant to illuminate in the dark. 

Fortunately, this is a very cheap fix. You can buy fabric and plastic reflective tape online and even add stripes to the back of your jacket, saddlebag, wherever – while this won’t illuminate the road for you, it will make you very visible to traffic. 

#2 ADD LIGHTS TO YOUR BIKE

If you are riding for extended periods of time even after the sun has set, you will want your front and rear bike lights to work perfectly. A rear light should be red, and you should have a simple way to snap it onto the rear triangle of your bike frame or your seat post. 

A lot of lights come as kits with a white front light – you will need this. Look for a front bike light that has at least 1,000 lumens and the ability to recharge via a USB. 1,000 lumens is enough to illuminate the road ahead without wasting a lot of battery power. 

#3 SKIP THE HEADPHONES

While wearing headphones during a ride is usually never a good idea, wearing them at night is a definite no-no. 

You want to stay as aware as possible of your surroundings when you’re in the dark, since traffic is generally less predictable and you’re less obvious to drivers. Beyond this, there are also plenty of people who don’t wear reflective gear and can step out in front of you at any moment. Your playlists and podcasts can wait – involve all your senses to stay alert during your ride. 

#4 FIND LOWER TRAFFIC ROADS AND BIKE LANES

Unfortunately, drivers tend to be less aware of cyclists when it’s dark outside. Because they don’t expect to be sharing the road with anyone else. 

While lights and reflective gear are a great way to alert them of your presence, your best option would be to find routes that avoid major roadways or preferably stay in a bike lane. 

Look for roads that have a wide, fully protected bike lane and a path to safety at all times. If your area doesn’t have a lot of good options, you can find a few roads that have the least amount of traffic and the highest number of streetlights for your rides home.

#5 RIDE WITH A FRIEND

There’s always safety in numbers, so whenever possible, you should try to enlist a friend for your night rides. Maybe you can do part of your commute home from work together before you go your separate ways, or you can meet up for a morning ride instead of both of you doing your own thing. 

Bonus: knowing your friend is going to meet you for your 6 a.m. ride will make you much more likely to get out of the door, start pedaling, and feel safer throughout your entire journey.

Can Imagination and Visualization Help You Achieve Your Fitness Goals?

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

In the age-all question of whether or not imagination and visualization can help you achieve your goals (be it fitness, weight loss, career, or another goal…) science says yes. And mental performance experts agree.

Studies published in the Journal of Imagery Research in Sport and Physical Activity, the results researchers got were almost unbelievable: using a motivational invention also known as functional imagery training (or FIT,) seven non-runners were able to complete an ultra-marathon. 

In today’s article, we’ll be taking a look at the recent research that mental performance experts have agreed on and learn how we can use imagery and visualization to achieve our own goals. 

WHEN YOU IMAGINE SUCCESS…

Completing an ultra-marathon requires a ton of mental and physical strength. Even if you’re a regular runner. But study researchers who worked on the study cited above concluded that multi-sensory imagery is one of the key differences between the people who reach the starting line (and then go on to the finish) and the people who don’t. This shows us it’s critical to maintain changes and push the boundaries of our physical and mental performance through visualization. 

By imagining the short-term future, an athlete can retain their motivation during critical points during a race of a training session. And during a hard workout, an athlete may even imagine how they’re telling their significant other later on in the day how they can cruise up that hill with little to no effort. 

And the more in-depth that imagery becomes, the better – picture sitting on your desk at home, sipping a steaming cup of coffee, telling your spouse about the great hike you had that day (or feeling proud about how you finished your fifth long walk of the week.) That feels good, doesn’t it? And that image, right as your training session or hike becomes boring, can really give you that final stream of motivation you need to hit the finish line.

And the key is in involving as many senses as possible. 

Imagining a workout, for example, might mean you have to use a few of your senses. You can hear yourself breathing heavily, you can taste that saltiness of your sweat dripping down, you can feel the wind on your skin as you’re running. The more you can incorporate different senses into one image, the more effective that imagery becomes at motivating you.  

HOW CAN YOU USE IMAGERY TO ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS?

Instead of picturing yourself winning an actual marathon, you should use motivational general mastery function in imagery. This sounds intimidating but it just means imagining yourself with an outcome like being more athletic, more focused, more confident, or more mentally tough during the important moments. That’s how you can get out the door on the mornings when you don’t feel like running or walking.

Imagery is a fantastic way to motivate yourself, and it’s something we’re all capable of doing. Not to mention, you can get better at it with practice. Children are especially great at it because they still have extremely vivid and active imaginations. As adults, we don’t capitalize enough on this ability so we might need a little training to get it right. 

For instance, imagine that you’re eating an apple. Close your eyes – feel the watermelon in your hands. What’s the weight of it? How does it feel? Focus on the color, the flavor, the smell, the taste. Imagine the sweetness of that first bite, and the feeling of apple juice on your taste buds.

Once you’ve mastered the apple imagery technique, you can shift into a sport focus. You can use imagery to go through a “getting ready and out the door” scenario to start your next workout. 

This will help you develop a sort of functional equivalence. Basically, you’re getting a blueprint in your mind that you can follow when it’s time to actually get up and go out for your workout. The same neurons that fire in your brain when you physically do something are the same that fire up when you imagine it (just to a lesser degree.) Basically, you’ll be training your brain so it’s ready when you need to take action.

Unfortunately, many people will end up using imagery in a way that hurts their goals rather than help them. Because we’re quick to start focusing on the negatives, picturing how we did something poorly, and this can really hurt our confidence. 

If a workout didn’t go your way or you actually haven’t gotten out for a walk all week, don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, use imagery to think about how you could do things differently and get back on track.

6 Ways to Achieve Weight Loss While Still Enjoying the Holidays

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Food is one of the most natural parts of our life, and with that, so many of our holiday festivities. As we exchange tins filled with fudge and cookies, load up the dinner table with countless comfort foods and toast the New Year with bubbles, our weight loss goals might come to a halt. In fact, many people gain weight over the holidays, tacking up about half a kilogram. 

That said, it’s still possible to stick to your weight loss goals and even shed pounds during the holidays, all while enjoying this special season. 

Here are 6 ways to do exactly that:

#1 SHARE YOUR GOALS

For many of us, making sure someone has had enough to eat is a love language. But stockings full of candy, food deliveries, and the constant push to finish your plate by your relatives can take a toll on you if you’re trying to lose weight. 

A simple fix here is to tell your family about your health goals and even ask for their support. They might agree to stick to non-food gift exchanges, or at the very least, stop pressuring you to get your seconds.

#2 RELEASE ALL THE FOOD GUILT

Here’s a friendly reminder: just because someone made you food or gave you food as a gift doesn’t mean you have to eat it. If you aren’t enjoying something, don’t feel guilty about giving it away out putting it in the trash. And don’t forget to stop judging yourself about some of the delicious holiday options put in front of you on the dinner table. Remember this is a time to enjoy food without going overboard. 

#3 FRESHEN UP YOUR SERVINGS

Instead of passing on the creamy sides or your favorite pies, you can get creative with how you decide to serve your favorite foods. 

Prepare the richest picks in a personalized portion and help prevent doling out too much while you’re making everyone feel as special as possible. For example, put the breakfast casseroles in ramekins or make stuffing in a muffin cup. 

Research even shows that if you just decide to go for smaller holiday plates this year, you might eat up to 30 percent fewer calories.

#4 ADD SOME SPICE TO YOUR HOLIDAY SWEETS

If you know you’re going to eat a piece of cake because, well, that’s what you do every single holiday, there are likely a few ways you can make that cake taste better with fewer calories… by using less sugar and mixing in more flavor via vanilla extract or spices such as cinnamon, you can drop the calorie load of your favorite holiday desserts.  

#5 TRY ADDING IN NEW HOLIDAY TRADITIONS

Instead of thinking about how you’re going to lose weight, ask yourself… what can I do that makes me feel good? Adding new traditions is a very easy way to get away from the temptation of food and enjoy quality time with your loved ones. 

For example, if you walk around the neighborhood and see holiday lights, play a family game of kickball, or take a hike to see the stunning snowy mountains, you’re going to be spending more time being active and less time relaxing on the couch with a bag of chips. 

#6 ALWAYS REMEMBER THE BIGGER PICTURE

The holiday season is a very special time of the year, and one meal, one week, or one entire holiday will not derail your progress if you’re in it for the long term. Be kind to yourself. 

Case in point: one study has shown that people who gained weight over the holidays (but were motivated to lose it with regular weigh-ins after that) were able to get back on track and shed the pounds easily. New Year’s resolutions that are actually sustainable and fun are a great way to find those post-holiday exercise activities.

5 Tips for Making the Most out of Your Leftovers

nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

In the world of nutrition, leftovers are an unsung hero. Truly. Maybe you don’t really have a healthy relationship with them because you’ve had to eat dried-out lean chicken and mashed, mushy veggies. But with a few proven strategies and tricks, you can make leftovers feel and taste amazing – and get all the nutrition out of them. 

If you want to save yourself from an unhealthy takeout choice, it’s good to have a meal ready to go at the end of the busy day in case you don’t want to cook that night.

And with the holidays right around the corner and delicious and nutritious leftovers being thrown out with no second thought, here’s how you can make leftovers exciting and delicious again. 

Let’s get into it.

#1 LOOK WAY PAST THE MICROWAVE

The microwave may very well be a leftover’s best friend, but it’s not really the best when it comes to preserving the actual texture of your food. Especially roasted veggies. 

And when we’re talking about veggies, if you’re the type of person who loves meal prepping or cooking in batches, you’re probably going to be roasting your veggies by the trayful, anyway. 

Experts recommend popping veggies into your air fryer to make them crisp up. And if you don’t have one, just throw them into an oven at lower temperatures. 

#2 ADDING NEW ELEMENTS 

Let’s say, for example, you make lasagna. And you make a lot of it. With combination dishes such as lasagna, you want to find a new way to serve it. You can try sauteing some greens such as kale or spinach, and then just adding a slice of reheated lasagna on top. 

If you’ve made a big batch of your favorite enchiladas, you might decide to add a new element such as a side salad. Or maybe you even bake salmon to serve atop a leftover warm salad such as a farro salad. One fresh thing can make your dish feel entirely new again.

#3 TRY TO MAKE YOURSELF A BOWL

If you’ve got some leftovers of your favorite roasted chicken and broccoli, you can very simply turn this into a power bowl and add various different layers, textures, and food groups inside it. You can even use some of the same foods but re-create a meal that isn’t the same one again and again. You can reheat some quinoa you have stashed deep in the freezer and you can layer it with your favorite lean protein, veggies, and a delicious sauce on top. 

#4 ADD SOME SAUCE

Speaking of sauces, you can instantly transform any ho-hum leftovers into something fun by adding a sauce as a topping. Sauces can change the entire palate of your dish, and you can travel through many different tastes, flavors, and combinations using different condiments and sauces. You can either buy pre-made sauces (just watch out for the sugar and salt contents) or make your own sauces such as hummus, tzatziki, and tahini at home. They’re very easy to whip up in a bowl or with a food processor at your home.

#5 KEEP YOUR PANTRY STOCKED

Canned fish and canned beans are some of the best pantry superstars you can get out there. They can go a long way toward adding extra protein to a leftover meal when there’s no protein leftover. Think about tossing canned chickpeas with some leftover broccolini and whole-grain pasta and you have a delicious vegetarian-friendly dish. 

THE BOTTOM LINE IS…

Leftovers are, a lot of the time, some of the healthiest pieces of food on the plate. Instead of discarding them, by learning to save them and reuse them with our next meals, we can make leftovers feel exciting again. 

Those healthy leftovers you get every meal can be made fresh – it just takes a bit of creativity and a few extra steps. 

By combining them alongside different ingredients, using them as ingredients for quick meals, and upgrading these meals with various textures and flavors, you can make the most out of your leftovers and savor their highly nutritious content.

A Guide to Navigating the Holiday Dessert Table

nutrition

Holiday desserts are nutritiously special, delicious, and often occur during one time of the year only. This notion often results in our human tendency to overdo it at the dessert table, especially if these desserts are usually considered off-limits in our diet. 

This mindset is going to be the first thing you need to work on if you’re struggling with your relationship with food as a whole, but even more so during the holidays since holiday treats can be extremely daunting. 

#1 REMOVE THE “GOOD” AND “BAD” FOOD LABELS

The idea that some food is inherently good or bad stems from a diet culture and diet trends that are vilifying entire food groups while putting others on a very high pedestal. 

There are many inherent issues with this sort of thinking. And what you should know is that you’re not inherently a good or bad person because of what you decide to eat during the holidays. 

Focus on a concept known as food neutrality – put all foods from cookies to kale on a neutral playing field. As long as you’re getting in your macros for the day and not exceeding it, you’re golden.

#2 GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO EAT DESSERTS

It’s really vital to know that you have absolute permission to enjoy the treats of your choice during any time of the year. You might be thinking that this will lead you to just eat desserts all the time. The thing is, when you take away the deprivation of a certain food, such as the labels “bad”, you won’t want dessert for every meal, every day. 

The body will naturally crave variety so we just try to control that as much as we can. It’s much easier to have a treat or two at the holiday dessert table and simply stop when you feel satisfied just because you know  you can have another one tomorrow. 

#3 DO NOT SKIP MEALS 

Another behavior you can often see with people trying to get in shape is that they’re “saving up” for holiday meals or dessert by skipping other meals all day until the event. But this will only end up backfiring because by skipping other meals, you’ll be much more likely to overeat later, and it will be much harder for you to make rational food choices. 

It doesn’t matter what dessert we’re talking about, you should always try to eat regular meals and snacks throughout the day. You have to include good protein sources such as fish, chicken, eggs, tofu, and other, as well as colorful fruit and veggie options, nuts, seeds, and other foods that keep you full so you can feel comfortably hungry by the time you sit at the dinner table. 

#4 MANAGE STRESS

It can’t go unsaid that the holiday season tends to be a rather stressful time for all of us. And as such, this is usually a time when self-care practices should be considered a priority. If emotional eating is one of your natural ways to cope, it can be easy to leave the dessert table feeling very uncomfortable if you haven’t managed your stress throughout the day. Make sure you’re always meditating, going for walks, connecting with friends, journaling, limiting screen time, and doing whatever you need to help you relax.

THE BOTTOM LINE IS…

Eating dessert every day is absolutely OK, and it’s possible to do it on a healthy, even plant-focused diet. Some days dessert can look like a few squares of dark chocolate, other days, a cupcake or cone of ice cream, and other days nothing because you’re just not feeling it. 

That’s why the key here is to cultivate a positive relationship with food and be able to recognize just what you want or don’t want… and then permit yourself to do exactly that. This can make the holiday dessert table much easier to navigate without worry. 

And if you’re struggling, the first step is always to take the dietary restrictions away before approaching the holidays. Just work on having a better relationship with food all-year-round and don’t be scared of your food choices.

4 Steps to Maintaining Your Weight During the Holidays

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

With the holiday season right around the corner, weight loss enthusiasts and health conscious people everywhere are bracing themselves for a solid month of holidays, feasts, parties, and festivities.

It can be sort of overwhelming.

Even though one of the healthiest philosophies you can have is that you shouldn’t restrict yourself from the things you enjoy, it can be very helpful to enter the holidays with a plan that will keep your healthy lifestyle more or less on track.

These are the 4 crucial steps you have to go through to make sure you don’t begin the New Year trying to make amends for the holidays.

#1 CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES

In the pursuit of cultivating a growth mindset, you should always be realistic about what you can and cannot tackle. While saying “I’m not going to eat any dessert for the entire holidays” might be unrealistic for some, “I’m not going to eat any dessert on most days” is entirely doable. 

You should take a good look at your upcoming calendar and evaluate which of the upcoming events are a bit of a food splurge. You can use pretty much whatever criteria you want from this, from the quality of the food to its seasonal or nutritional value.

Three special occasions in a month is a reasonable target. You can even dial this up slightly depending on your goals and how important the holidays are for you, but if you’re celebrating multiple times a week, things might get problematic.

Once you have defined your truly special occasions, don’t worry about them anymore. Just look forward to enjoying them free of guilt and while being present in the moment. 

#2 NEXT, PLAN YOUR ATTACK

Now that you’ve decided on what’s worth indulging in, you may also have decided what isn’t. 

But there will be times at holiday events where you cannot gracefully opt-out of dessert, so you have to have a plan ready to go. Always remember to focus on activities and people and keep the food down to a minimum. That being said, when planning for food, there are always a few factors to keep in mind:

For shorter gatherings such as cocktail hour, your priority should be to eat beforehand or make concrete dinner plans afterward. 

For longer events and dinners where food is a must, optimize your food choices for health and make peace with the fact that you don’t have to be so strict with your diet during the holidays.

In most cases, your number one priority should be to eat more veggies. If you fill up on as many veggies as you can, your evening isn’t going to be a net loss health-wise. And if you can insert some healthy lean protein or meat, you’ll be satisfied to avoid the massive variety of desserts that will inevitably appear.

#3 ANTICIPATE THE OBSTACLES

Executing your perfect plan might be easier said than done. For example, if you’re at a place and they have a buffet-style meal, this can be particularly challenging for a lot of people as there are no clear boundaries stopping you from indulging. 

If holiday events are notoriously difficult for you, you might want to check in with yourself and make sure you’re not falling into some of the more common traps.

Do you tend to skip a bit on dinner than lose it all at the dessert table? Do you get hungry late during the night and need something sweet? Do you eat a few hors d’oeuvres before you even get to the real meal? Anticipate these obstacles – and preferably set up an alternative course of action.

In the buffer example, when it’s time to serve yourself, examine the entire table of options before making your decisions and choose the tastiest items you can find that are as healthy as possible. When you’ve made that selection, eat them mindfully and slowly. 

#4 ADAPT AND ADJUST

As you are building your holiday hacking abilities, you are bound to experience many successes and many setbacks. And even though that’s difficult, it’s called learning, and it’s the only way to create consistent long-term progress.

Every year, your circumstances will be slightly different. You will have various obligations, changes in location, occupation, marital status, responsibilities, and more. Life will keep going and your strategies will need to adapt to the changing times. 

That being said, the underlying lessons you learn will stay with you each year. Take the long-term view and mindset so you can get the most joy and the most health out of every holiday season while still learning the lessons you need to build a better relationship with food as a whole.

Macro-friendly and Healthy Holiday Meal Swaps

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

If you think you can’t stay on track with your macros and eat healthy during the holidays, you’ve got another thing coming. The entire premise behind counting macros is the added flexibility, right? You want to be able to enjoy all these festive goodies and still feel good about your daily macros count.

There’s some great news – this time of year, there are typically more than enough options flooding the dinner tables. Many of them include high-quality proteins, loads of veggies and fruits, and other good-for-you meals. 

Some strategies might involve “staying up” on your carbs the days around holiday feast days, but you can also make smart swaps that will fill your plate and won’t send you too far out of your daily macros goal.

#1 SNACK SMARTER BEFORE BIG MEALS

Skip the typical bread sticks and chip-and-dip bowls, they are two easy places you can offset those macro numbers quickly before your main meal is actually served. 

Instead, you can snack on olives, ranch, deviled eggs, salad, or even a piece or two of cheese. They’re all good options you can nibble on before the start of the big meal.

#2 CHOOSE GREENER VEGGIES

You can try bacon-wrapped green bean bundles in place of your usual green bean casserole – a traditional green bean casserole is a lot more about the cream and cheese-loaded base (as well as the crunchy fried onion topping) than it is about actual beans. 

Green bean bundles are, on the other hand, all about veggies – simply tied together in flavor-packed pieces of bacon.

#3 MAKE SWEET POTATOES SIMPLE THIS YEAR

Your typical marshmallow or brown-sugar topping on the classic scoop of sweet potato casserole has as much sugar as a piece of apple pie from the dessert table. 

And there’s an additional cup of sugar hiding in the mash, too! Instead, try roasting a variety of your winter squashes (butternut, acorn, kabocha, etc.) along with some sweet potatoes on a giant sheet pan. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil and sprinkle in a spoonful of brown sugar, add a dash of salt and you’re golden. Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet and need a lot less prep work when it comes to the holiday spread. 

#4 FOCUS ON THE “STUFF” INSIDE YOUR STUFFING

Many interesting stuffing recipes are chock full of veggies and fruits such as apples or dried cherries. You should choose recipes that have lots of greens, mushrooms, and other veggies, and put double the amount usually shown in the recipe. 

Think about your ratio of veggies and greens to other types of food, and always try to add more greens and veggies you can fill up on whenever possible.

#5 GO HEAVY ON RAW VEGGIES

You can find some of the best, brightest, and healthiest meal options during the holidays that don’t involve a stovetop or oven. Raw kale salads are hearty, colorful, and bright with extra pomegranate seeds, shredded cabbage, and sprinkled walnuts. 

Kale is loaded with vitamins and minerals, super low in carbohydrates, and it’s a great food of choice for stocking up on. You can use it as a holiday ingredient in a lot of meals, and the best part is, you don’t have to do any extra cooking to add healthy nutrients to your meal. 

#6 LEAVE ROOM FOR THE SWEET ENDING

We all know that most desserts are just sugar and refined carbohydrates, but that’s not a reason to skip on them entirely. 

And after all, it’s the holiday season. Most desserts satisfy just a few spoonfuls – make sure to eat slowly and savor each bite before diving in for more. It’s also important to remember that a lot of “savory” dishes that are usually found on the holiday buffet have just as much sugar as a piece of pumpkin pie. 

Cranberry sauce, sweet potato casseroles, corn casseroles, even that glass of sangria are all very much like dessert. Skip on the overly sweet side dishes and save that room for real dessert.

The Role of NEAT in Your Metabolism

Hey Angels and Alphas,

We’re all looking for ways to maximize our daily activities and our caloric output, especially those of us dealing with weight loss. That being said, there’s only so much exercise someone can realistically fit into a healthy day. But what most of us don’t realize is that there are ways in which we can keep our metabolism going that doesn’t include exercise – non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT.)

THE COMPONENTS OF YOUR METABOLISM

NEAT is a component of your daily metabolism that is often overlooked in the fitness world, and it refers to the energy expanded by doing regular activities unrelated to planned exercise or metabolic functions. Other well-known components of your metabolism include physical activity, the thermic effect of food, as well as basal metabolic rate, which includes the energy you use for completing basic functions of life such as sleeping and breathing.

DEFINING NEAT

Therefore, NEAT basically encompasses the energy expended doing everything other than digesting food, completing basic functions, and partaking in planned exercise. This includes a wide range of activities from maintaining your posture, walking, gardening, loading groceries, cleaning, clicking a pen, typing on your computer, everything.

There are countless activities that fall into this category, resulting in NEAT being the most controllable and variable aspect of your daily metabolism. While activities such as random fidgeting can seem small and meaningless, manipulating your total daily NEAT can have a massive impact on your calorie expenditure and weight control. In fact, low-level NEAT is usually associated with obesity.

Adults that engage in athletic training are often instructed to rest, get extra sleep, reduce time on their feet, and generally reduce their overall activity outside of purposeful exercise. This is thought to preserve their energy stores for performance goals as well as reduce the risk of fatigue and injury. 

That being said, research shows that even moderate to intense physical activity will not compensate for sedentary behaviors even if you’re an elite athlete. These people oriented around fitness can actually help improve lean muscle tissue and weight management through increasing their NEAT.

HOW TO RAISE YOUR NEAT

Let’s explore a few ways you can improve your daily NEAT and keep the metabolic activity of your body high every day:

#1 CHANGE YOUR ENVIRONMENT

Look around you and assess your daily environment. Find the places where you spend large chunks of time and map out your general movements. From here, you can begin to target big problem areas and work out a plan of attack. 

For example, if you’re someone who typically drives from store to store in a strip mall, you can park at one end and walk to the store. Another example would be to track your steps each day and try to reach a specific daily step goal by taking the stairs, walking around the office, getting short breaks to fill your water bottle, getting more fresh air, and more.

#2 PRIORITIZE YOUR CHORES

Chores aren’t really the most fun of activities, but they do add a decent amount of calorie burn throughout your day. Start your week by making a quick checklist of the household things that you need to accomplish – cleaning, laundry, dusting, taking out the trash, grocery shopping, gardening, and more. Break that down into a daily to-do list. 

This will help you get a little extra movement in your day, boosting your NEAT. These tasks can also boost the overall muscle strength and tone while preventing injury as they basically utilize small muscle movements that many exercises tend to neglect. If you are able to acknowledge the health benefits of these otherwise dull and repetitive tasks, you will be more motivated to keep up with your to-do list.

#3 EMBRACE YOUR RESTLESSNESS

Standing still and sitting are overrated. The less time you spend without moving, the less NEAT you get. Click your pen when you’re at your desk, tap your foot while you read e-mails, and get up from your seat to pace the room while on the phone. Try to incorporate your daily movements throughout your day and make them meaningful. 

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic discovered that these tiny movements often attributed to restlessness throughout an 8-hour workday can pretty much add up to the calorie burn you would get out of a normal gym session. If the next time you wait for your coffee to get ready or you’re reheating something in the microwave, you just do a few stretches, lunges, jumping jacks, or other meaningful small movements, you’ll be doing your body a service.

Why Your Walking Routine Is Better in The Morning

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

We can all agree that there are countless physical and mental benefits to walking, not limited to weight loss. Whether you want a structured walking program, or you simply want to add 10 minutes whenever you can, walking can help you improve your overall health. 

But the time of day you choose to do this will also affect what kind of benefits you get from it. And as it turns out, walking in the morning can be especially beneficial. 

In this article, we’ll be going over the advantages of getting your steps in first thing in the morning, as well as how to get started with your very own walking routine. 

5 BENEFITS OF MORNING WALKS

#1 PROMOTES WEIGHT LOSS AND FAT BURN

Some research out there suggests that morning exercises are likely to move more during the day, one of the most important factors out there for weight loss. 

For example, some studies have shown that women who walked at a moderate-to-rigorous pace for up to 45 minutes in the morning were generally more physically active throughout the rest of their day. 

And previous research has also pointed to the fact that morning exercise helps stimulate the metabolism, curb appetite, prevent overeating, and focus on calorie burn that comes from fat due to the overnight fast. The result? Weight loss and reduced fat storage.

#2 INCREASES AMOUNT OF ACTIVITY THROUGHOUT THE DAY

Oftentimes, reaching our goals is just a matter of creating and retaining momentum. If you get a walk in first thing in the morning, you’ll no doubt be creating physical momentum throughout your day. In other words, if you have already taken more than 5,000 steps before lunch, you’ll be more likely to keep that trend going and reach your step goal for the day.

#3 GIVES YOU MORE ENERGY

It has been shown that walking first thing in the morning provides a much-needed energy boost via endorphin release. It doesn’t even have to be all-out intensity training to get you going. All you need is a moderate in intensity, 20-minute brisk walk and you’ll reap the benefit of getting a boost in energy. 

#4 IMPROVES CREATIVITY AND PROBLEM-SOLVING

As you exercise, the blood flow throughout your entire body increases, and that includes your brain. This increased blood flow cuts the risk of degenerative and vascular diseases. It also leads to raises in creativity by allowing your brain to function at a higher level, with Stanford studies finding links between walking and a 60% creative output increase.

I’ve you’ve ever had a eureka moment during a walk, this might be the reason why. In psychology circles, it’s a commonly known fact that taking time away from an issue such as going for a walk can help solve it by boosting creative problem-solving. In this area, walking might even have an advantage over other types of exercise. With walking, it’s very easy to let your mind wander. 

When you’re doing HIIT or lifting weights, for example, you’re not focused on opening your mind to new possibilities and instead just getting the job done.

#5 IT BALANCES OUT YOUR CIRCADIAN RHYTHM

Your circadian rhythm is essentially your body’s internal clock. It can tell you when it’s time to be awake and alert and when it’s time to go to sleep. Because we spend so much time staring at screens around us, and a lot of people don’t wake up as soon as the sun rises, many people have circadian rhythms that are off-kilter. As natural sunlight and movement hit your body first thing in the morning, your brain will be more alert, and you’ll reset your circadian rhythm appropriately.

Research has shown that walking in the morning can even optimize your circadian rhythm and help you fall asleep earlier if you have a hard time falling asleep. The natural temperature of your body will naturally drop for preparation of sleep, so when you exercise, your body temperature will raise. It’s possible that this improvement in temperature in the morning can affect your circadian rhythm in a positive way.

The Truth about Sugar in Juices

nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

In the nutrition world, fruit juices have long been a beloved staple in refrigerators, served in restaurants in all corners of the world. For example, orange juice was pushed as a part of a balanced breakfast, depicted in an endless number of commercials alongside other morning staples. But as the nutrition priorities of people have evolved, placing greater emphasis on sugar intake and calories, people around the world now view orange juice as a high-sugar, high-calorie drink that is better consumed in moderation. 

Many of your popular fruit juice choices actually contain the same number of calories as soda – if not more. Even Harvard research has concluded that our bodies metabolize the natural sugar in juice the same way the added sugar in soda. 

Considering that added sugar is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, weight gain, and more, this is a sobering fact. It’s even worth noting that the difference between 100 percent juice and sugar-sweetened beverages is significant – the former has other health benefits such as essential vitamins while the latter doesn’t. 

SHOULD YOU DRINK JUICE?

Study researchers have concluded that fruit juices are basically very concentrated sources of sugar. They noted that three apples yield just one cup of juice. While it’s difficult to eat three apples in one sitting, it is effortlessly to drink a cup of juice at a time. This excessive intake of sugar can and will lead to potential problems.

Another potential issue is that juiced veggies and fruits are basically stripped of fiber. Fiber aids the digestion process, helps keep us full, and allows our gut health to be healthy and strong. When you replace the fruits and veggies in their whole form with simple juices, you are missing out on all of the fiber you would usually get. And without enough fiber, your blood sugar spikes quickly and then crashes, leading you to crave even more sugar.

If you are going to be drinking juice, researchers suggest you fill your glass with fresh-pressed juice rather than one you find in the store. Many of these packaged juices you will find at the local grocery store have tons of added sugars in addition to their already high sugar content. When you’re making homemade juice, go for an option that is primarily made up of veggies, cutting back on the total sugar content.

WHAT ARE THE HEALTHY ALTERNATIVES?

Sometimes, you might find yourself craving the fresh, sweet taste of fruit. In those situations, you might want to eat that fruit whole. Fruit is abundant in vital nutrients including fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. 

Smoothies are also another amazing option. Since they are made by blending whole fruits and veggies, the fiber will also stay intact so the entire process at which the body metabolizes is different. 

Fiber allows you to curb the blood sugar response of sugar, preventing spikes in insulin that would lead to more cravings and fat retention. And of course, it’s always a good idea to add more water into your diet since you won’t feel the need to replace it with juice or other sugary drinks. 

THE BOTTOM LINE IS…

Juices can be a part of a balanced diet, but should generally be consumed in moderation, and when consumed, you should opt for homemade pressed options instead of store-bought varieties. 

The Harvard study we referenced above has concluded that individuals who want to take control of their diet should definitely start moderating juice first. If you do love drink a daily cup of juice, try to focus on getting more vegetables in there instead of fruit. 

And even better, you can just drink smoothies for a treat that’s similarly delicious since smoothies retain the natural fiber of the fruit. Or just eat fruits whole! Both options will fill you up with fiber, quench your thirst for fruit, and reduce your overall sugar consumption by allowing you to skip on juice altogether. 

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