Here’s Why Compound Exercises Burn So Many Calories

male fitness

Hey Angels and Alphas, 

Very few of us really have the time for hour-long weightlifting sessions every day. 

So if you’re someone who is short on time and you’re trying to develop a strength training routine, you need to use your time as wisely as possible, as effectively as you can. 

This is one of the big reasons why compound exercises are gaining popularity as one of the types of exercises that will help you get stronger, faster, leaner, and pretty much in better overall physical condition. 

Unfortunately, countless people around the world still train their bodies like they’re just a collection of loosely connected parts. Some athletes promote these isolation exercises, or exercises in which you only target one muscle group of the body, as an effective way to develop strength in certain movements and body parts. 

They choose exercises that hit specific muscle groups, such as knocking out a set of bicep curls, seated leg extensions, lateral raises, or another similar exercise, in hopes of reaping the maximum benefit for each body part. But while this approach may indeed help you get stronger, it’s definitely not a fast track to your goals, nor is it as sustainable as doing compound training.

WHAT ARE COMPOUND EXERCISES, REALLY?

Compound exercises can be defined as multi-joint movements that basically stimulate several muscle groups at the same time. These can include squats, bench presses, deadlifts, pushups, any exercises that engage your body beyond one singular muscle group can be considered a compound exercise.

If you’re doing a squat, for example, your knees, ankle joints, and hips are all going to move simultaneously, making this a thorough multi-joint movement. That being said, rows and pullups also involve your shoulders, biceps, forearms, and most importantly, your back. Exercises such as the pushup or chest press will work your triceps, shoulders, and chest. 

Compound exercises differ from isolation exercises, which by definition, involve only a single joint or stimulate one muscle group. Some examples of these types of exercises could be triceps extensions, lateral raises, front raises, hamstring curls, bicep curls, and so on.

Don’t get me wrong – isolation exercises can be an amazing way to add volume and focus on singular muscle groups that you feel may need some extra attention. For example, if you’re interested in adding size to your biceps and improving your pullups, tacking on a few extra sets of biceps curls will be one of your keys to victory.

However, compound exercises should fundamentally form the base of your strength training routine. Compound exercises will essentially treat your body as a complex system of interconnected joints, muscles, and nerves – as exercises should. 

Let’s take a deeper dive into the benefits of compound exercises and explore some of the perks you can take advantage of.

BENEFITS OF COMPOUND EXERCISES

First of all, greater overall strength gains.

The more muscles and joints you can utilize to help you complete a certain movement, the more weight you can move. The more you practice each exercise, the more you’ll be able to start lifting over time. 

This process of gradually and increasingly boosting up the weight helps your body to adapt and get stronger much more quickly when you’re focusing on movements that include more than one muscle group.

Second, they’re more efficient.

Bottom line is, if you want to get more bang for your buck, go for compound exercises. They will work several muscle groups at one time, perfect for people who have a busy schedule or simply want to fit more into their training sessions.

Third, they burn more calories.

The more muscle tissue a certain exercise uses, the more oxygen gets used up, the more calories you burn overall. If you just knock out a set of walking lunges, you’ll instantly see how quickly you get short of breath. This is because you’re moving through space and using multiple joints and muscles, and compound exercises will burn more calories than isolation exercises like lying down for hamstring curls.

Fourth, more functionality.

Multi-muscle, multi-joint exercises will typically mimic everyday movements better than single-muscle, single-joint exercises. For example, let’s take the deadlift. It mimics the motion of picking up heavy objects such as furniture, boxes, grocery bags, etc. off the floor. Squats replicate the motion of sitting down and getting up from a specific position. And finally, doing a pushup would be similar to pushing yourself up from the floor.

Fifth, more improvements in performance.

Compound exercises, especially exercises that reproduce typical everyday movements, will help you improve your balance, reaction time, coordination, stability, and so much more! All of these are vital to improving your athletic performance in the long run, or simply lifting heavier.

Flavored Water, Sparkling Water, and Your Weight Loss Efforts

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Nowadays, a stroll through the section for bottled water at your local grocery store will have you overwhelmed by all the available options.

Sparkling, electrolyte, flavored, mineral water, you name it. And it should come as no surprise that 0-calorie, flavored water is an extremely popular choice whether you want to lose weight or simply maintain a healthy hydration habit.

But are these beverages actually healthy, considering you’re trying to lose weight? Aren’t they akin to diet soda that’s full of artificial sweeteners? Don’t these sweeteners make you crave more sweet flavors later in the day? 

That’s exactly the topic we’ll be covering today.

NATURAL FLAVORS AND ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS

Many beverages that are typically calorie-free utilize “natural flavors” to add taste. While these aren’t artificial sweeteners per se, it’s not really immediately clear what natural flavoring means. Sure, they might be zero calories, but this isn’t necessarily synonymous with the word healthy.

Some companies utilize essential oils and fruit extracts, but with the vague label “natural flavoring,” it’s pretty difficult to tell what’s actually inside them and how they affect us.

That being said, beverages that utilize this type of flavoring are still better than conventional soda (or sometimes even diet soda.) A lot of dieters are drinking these beverages in hopes of replacing soft drinks. By making this simple swap, regular soda drinkers are able to get the usual satisfaction they would get from a refreshing, bubbly drink without all the unnecessary calories.

Some editions of calorie-free sparkling water might also use artificial sweeteners which are somewhat controversial. 

With artificially sweetened beverages, there are no additional calories, which can indeed make them a great option in terms of flavor, if you are someone who is OK with artificial sweeteners.

The FDA has conducted research that actually supports the idea that they are safe to consume. But a lot of nutrition pros are skeptical about this. 

While moderate consumption might indeed be OK, the natural sweeteners and no additional added sugars could possibly trigger extra cravings. For some people, consuming something sweet, even if it’s free of sugar, can make them crave even more sweet flavors later in the day.

Still, this will ultimately come down to the individual and what they can handle. As of right now, there’s no real hard evidence that natural flavorings or artificial sweeteners will sabotage your weight-loss efforts.

Let’s talk about carbonation and weight gain.

One big reason why sparkling water is becoming so popular among dieters is that consuming carbonated beverages on an empty stomach is very filling. Carbonation takes up a lot of space in the stomach and it is shown to increase both gastric activity as well as your heart rate. Both of these factors can contribute to feelings of fullness. Though this is unlikely to have major effects on your satiety over the course of a whole day, sparkling water may be a great tool for preventing unplanned snacking.

People who are against flavored sparkling water and its alternatives point to this research published in the journal Obesity Research and Clinical Practice. It found that carbonation might have some link to weight gain and should be avoided by dieters at all costs. Still, some experts remain unconvinced.

In the study above, people who drank carbonated water had ghrelin (the hunger hormone) levels that were six times higher than people who drank regular water. They also had three times higher ghrelin levels than people drinking non-carbonated sodas. That doesn’t speak well for sparkling water. However, the research did not *directly* tie sparkling water to excess weight gain.

Some experts agree and note that there’s no solid evidence that carbonation causes weight gain. It’s important to note that countless things can stimulate hunger throughout the day and many people tend to sleep too little. Many people also experience stress and yo-yo diets and fall prey to increased hunger. In other words, countless things can increase your appetite, and flavored sparkling water might just be one of them. That being said, it’s still probably less impactful than lifestyle practices that are shown to have more significant impact.

6 Ways to Lose More Weight by Walking

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

If you want to be successful when losing weight (and keep it off long term), you have to create the healthy habits that will make up an overall healthy lifestyle. One of those habits, undoubtedly, is walking. 

Fad diets usually love to promise quick fixes only to end up backfiring on you and causing more weight gain. This is because they require drastic changes that are simply not sustainable. Often, it’s just the little things (such as sipping on more water) that end up making the greatest difference.

Walking is essentially one of the easiest and most effective ways you can go about improving your health and supporting your weight loss efforts. If you want to amp up your calorie burn, simply try these expert tips:

#1 ONCE A WEEK, HIT THE TRAILS

A moderately-paced walk at about 5 kilometers an hour, for 45 minutes, will burn about 180 calories. But if you start hitting the trails instead, a similar pace over time will burn almost double the calories (clocking in at around 320.) Replace one of your weekly walks with hiking, and you’ll be able to burn an additional 600 calories a month. Might not seem like much, but it adds up.

#2 ADD 1-MINUTE INTERVALS INSIDE YOUR WALKS

A leisurely walking pace of about 5 kilometers an hour for 5 minutes will burn about 20 calories. If you increase the pace and walk at a 8 km/h pace, you’ll burn about 50 calories in that same time. While you may not be able to hold this pace for a long time, just adding five 1-minute intervals inside your walk will help you burn 150 calories over a half-hour walk. Do this a few times a week, and you’ll be able to burn about 700 calories a month on top of what you’re already burning.

#3 THROW IN A SET OF LUNGES 

If you simply include a 5-minute set of step-ups on a park bench or just a couple of walking lunges to your routine, you’ll be able to boost up that calorie burn by about 50 calories. If you do this four times a week, you’ll be up an additional 200 calories. And by the end of that month, you will burn about 800-900 calories extra.

#4 ADD AN EXTRA 15 MINUTES TO YOUR WALK 

If you do this a couple of times a week, you’ll see your results change completely. Taking a few shorter walks throughout your entire day is going to be a great way to increase your overall calorie burn and step count, all while combating the negative consequences you will usually experience if you follow a sedentary lifestyle. 

But if you take a 15-minute walk before dinner at a 5 km/h pace, you’ll burn an extra 50 calories. You can also break these down into three shorter walks before each of your meals. And by adding these 15 minutes of extra walking to your day, you’ll be able to add an additional 400-500 calories each week, or just about 2000 for the entire month.

#5 STAY ACTIVE WITH YOUR KIDS

Nothing beats spending some quality time and playing around with your children. The good news is you can spend your time with your loved ones and lose weight at the same time. By playing a few games of hide and go seek for about 30 minutes a day, you’ll be able to burn about 150 calories extra. And if you do this three times a week, you’ll be up an additional 450 calories that week. Over a month, that’s just about 2000 calories on top of what you’re already burning.

#6 WALKING TO WORK

If you’re someone who lives in an urban area, and you don’t live that far away from work, walking to work can be a great way to get early-morning exercise, a boost of creativity, and improved productivity. If you’re working from home, take the time you’d usually commute and go for a short walk. 30 minutes will burn about 130 calories. If you do this at the end of the day, you’ll burn an additional 300 calories every day. And if you make this a habit and do it three times a week, that will clock in at about 4000 calories extra. Score!

11 Health Acronyms You Should Know

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Whether you’re someone who has been on a weight loss journey for a while, someone stepping inside the gym for the first time, or a seasoned veteran who has been competing for years, there are always new things you can learn about the world of health and fitness.

But when you’re a newbie to living healthy, it can often feel as though people who have been doing it for a while are speaking a completely different language than you. 

With that in mind, we decided to create a list of the most common fitness, health, and nutrition acronyms that will help you decode the things you’re hearing at the gym or reading online.

Let’s get started.

HEALTH

#1 BMI. Your body mass index is a measurement that indicates the rate of obesity by calculating the relative percentages of muscle and fat in your body based on your weight, height, and sometimes, other factors.

#2 BMR. Your basal metabolic rate is the number of calories your body is going to burn simply by performing daily bodily activities such as breathing, digesting, etc. This can help you determine how many calories you need to consume on a daily basis.

NUTRITION

#3 RDA. RDA refers to your recommended daily allowance, or in other words, the amount of a nutrient that is going to meet your requirement if you’re the average healthy individual.

#4 GI. Glycemic index. Your glycemic index is a measure of how quickly blood sugar rises after eating a specific type of food. Foods that rank higher on the GI scale will exhibit more rapid and steep spikes in your blood sugar and will usually contain a large amount of added sugar or refined carbs.

#5 IIFYM. If It Fits Your Macros is a nutrition and fitness philosophy originally coined by the bodybuilding community. It’s a flexible approach to selecting foods based on your calorie and macronutrient composition. It will allow you to meet your nutrition goals while accommodating the occasional sweet treat.

FITNESS

#6 BPM. Beats Per Minute. This is how your heart rate is measured. Knowing this number allows you to monitor how hard your body is going to be working and how many calories you’re going to burn during a specific sweat session. You can figure this number out through a heart rate monitor or by taking your pulse. (To take your pulse, simply press your fingers to your wrist and count the number of beats you feel in ten seconds. Then multiply that number by six and you have your BPM.

#7 HRM. Heart rate monitors are devices that measure how fast your heart is beating. They can come in many forms – strapped around your chest, on your hand, or even on the sides of the treadmill or elliptical machine at your gym.

#8 RPE: Your perceived rate of exertion. This is a scale of 1 to 10 in which 1 is easy and 10 is beyond difficult. This allows you to measure how hard you’re pushing yourself during a workout. For example, a walk could be anywhere between 2-3, while an intense weightlifting workout might deserve a solid 8 or 9.

#9 AMRAP: As Many Reps As Possible. You might have seen this in workout write-ups. AMRAP is exactly what it sounds like – doing as many reps on a particular exercise as you can. The focus is usually on the form of the exercise, so it’s better to complete 10 perfect pushups than 50 sloppy ones.

#10 HIIT: High-Intensity Interval Training. This is a short, but intense workout, such as a circuit training or Tabata drill, that brings together cardio and strength training so it can maximize time and efficiency and give you an intense workout in a short period of time.

#11 DOMS: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. DOMS is the stiffness and pain that will set in about 24 to 48 hours after a difficult workout. It’s perfectly normal and it’s a sign that your body is responding well to your efforts to train by recovering the tissue that has been broken down during your training process.

Does Training Increase or Decrease your Appetite

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

From increasing muscle to burning off fat to keeping your heart healthy and strong, exercise will affect your body in many ways. Exercise – especially if it’s long and intense – will even change the ways your body responds to different hunger cues. At least for a certain time.

Here are all the details you need to know about how your workouts affect your hunger (and vice versa.) 

EXERCISE HAS AN IMPACT ON CRAVINGS AND HUNGER AS A WHOLE

Changes are, you’re not going to feel hungry immediately after a workout, specifically because blood gets diverted away from your stomach so it can power your working muscles. That’s why it’s difficult to digest food when you’re training.

Incidentally, the fact that digestion slows down is one of the main culprits for nausea during exercise. This also makes it hard to perceive hunger when your gut feels nauseated or churny. 

And let’s not forget, exercise also has an effect on the hormones that regulate hunger. 

For example, research in the American Journal of Physiology has revealed that a 1-hour run can cause ghrelin, a hormone related to appetite, to drop, and increase the levels of peptide YY, a gut hormone that suppresses appetite. In just one 90-minute strength session, you can lower ghrelin levels, suggesting that mode of exercise could make a difference. 

Another factor to consider here is the intensity of your training. A couple of small studies published in various publications have found that running for short durations at high intensities will affect ghrelin levels more than running for longer periods at a lesser intensity. 

Your appetite will usually stay suppressed for a certain amount of time once your workout is over, but how long this period lasts will be determined by the duration and intensity of the exercises you do. Sometimes, people don’t feel hungry again until their body has had a chance to cool down and relax.

Short, low-intensity exercise could also play a role in suppressing hunger, but the higher the intensity and duration, the bigger the effect. This happens because you need to exert a certain amount of effort to achieve the same hormonal and blood shifts. 

IF YOUR GOAL IS TO PERFORM BETTER AND LOSE WEIGHT…

Whether your exercise regime involves losing weight or increasing performance, it’s vital that you refuel after your workout. If you don’t have an appetite, this might be a tad harder to do, or you might usually assume that you don’t need to eat since you’re not hungry. 

That being said, if you’re trying to build strength and improve your performance, you have to make an effort to get nutrients after a tough session. You’re going to need protein for repair and muscle recovery, as well as carbs to replenish your glycogen stores. 

Glycogen is basically the form of carbohydrates your body uses for fuel in intense exercise. If you tend to skimp on your post-workout meal, you’ll either feel sluggish during your workout or feel cravings for carbs later on.

POST-WORKOUT NUTRITION IS VITAL

The longer and harder you train, the more important it becomes to eat a well-balanced snack or meal within an hour of finishing. Regardless if you’re hungry or not. If you’re not hungry, liquids may be an easier choice for easy digestion, such as a protein shake blended with fruit.

If you are someone who is hoping to use the appetite-suppressing powers of exercise to eat fewer calories throughout the day, and try to speed up your weight loss that way, you may have to rethink your approach. 

You’re still going to need energy, and your body is still going to crave calories later on. And when your hunger returns, you may find it to be ravenous, making you less likely to make healthy food choices.

Also, you shouldn’t choose your exercises based solely on how well they’re going to suppress your appetite. It’s always healthy to include both cardio and strength training variations since they bring you different benefits, and along with that, it’s important to choose activities you truly enjoy so you find something you’re truly going to stick with in the long-term.

Feeling Stiff and Sore When You Wake Up?

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

If you get sore after a tough workout, that’s completely normal. Pulling and pushing heavy weights, going out for a long endurance run, or performing some high-intensity intervals will test your muscles, stress your joints, and allow you to experience the glory of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS.)

But feeling sore right after you wake up can happen because of a variety of other reasons, and they’re all worth exploring. That’s exactly what we’ll be doing today.

According to experts, when you move, the tissues that surround your joints start secreting a fluid that lubricates your joints and allows your bones to easily move past one another. If you stop moving for long stretches of time, say between 7 and 9 hours (during sleep,) you might expect all that immobility to lead to pain, stiffness, and inflammation.

This can be further exacerbated by your body’s natural affinity to stifle inflammation during sleep. A 5-year study from the University of Manchester discovered that a protein called cryptochrome is directly tied to your biological clock. It serves to repress the inflammatory pathways while you’re sleeping at night, making the symptoms of inflammation such as stiffness and pain feel way worse when you wake up.

This general temporary soreness is pretty common, even more so as we age, and it will usually go away after 10–15 minutes of moving around once you wake up. 

Even so, here are five tips you can apply instantly if you want to alleviate some of that morning stiffness and start your day up with vigor and energy.

Let’s get started.

#1 FINDING THE RIGHT PILLOW

An unspoken rule of sleep is that your pillow should match your sleeping style. If you sleep on your back, you need a different pillow than the one a stomach sleeper would use. Everyone should have a pillow that supports the natural curvature of their neck and allows the head, neck, and spine to align as you’re lying down. This helps you sleep with more comfort, prevents muscle strain, and reduces undue soreness the next day. 

#2 INSTANTLY GET MOVING

Yes, even though exercise can make you sore, regular exercise will go a long way to keeping your joints lubricated and your muscles enduring and strong. If you can’t really make it to the gym every day for some reason, you can still schedule movement into your day. People who have sedentary jobs should aim to get up from their desk every hour so they can walk around for a few minutes before they actually sit back down to work.

#3 TRY MEDITATION AND STRETCHING BEFORE BED

Meditation has always been an amazing way to relieve stress. And stretching feels good pretty much any time of the day. But going to bed as relaxed as possible will help your mind and body stay relaxed as you’re sleeping. Try a simple stretching routine if you want to relax your muscles or just engage in a short meditation so you can prepare your mind for sleep. If you’re still stiff in the morning, you can wake your body up with a series of stretches such as cat-cows, hip-openers, and child’s pose.

#4 EAT MORE ANTI-INFLAMMATORY FOODS

Anti-inflammatory diets have always been customizable and flexible, so while you may need to reduce your intake of a few foods, you’ll still have no shortage of delicious food to consume. Load up on berries, avocados, fatty fish, nuts, veggies, and you’ll be able to enjoy treats like dark chocolate while still keeping an overall healthy and balanced diet. Not only do these foods taste good, but they’re also packed with nutrients that fight inflammation and keep you healthy.

#5 GET MORE VITAMIN D

A lack of vitamin D can be associated with anything from reduced brain function to poor immunity. That being said, vitamin D’s impact on your muscle and bone health can have a major impact on your mornings. Increase your levels by taking a supplement or going the natural way and spending 15-20 minutes more in the sunlight every day.

Everything You Need to Know About Food Sensitivities

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Throughout dealing with cravings, hormonal imbalances, stress eating, and all the potential roadblocks standing between you and your dream weight, weight loss can sometimes feel like a detrimental uphill battle. 

But on top of that, you could be eating that simply don’t agree with your body, and this could be another contributing factor that is slowing down all your weight loss efforts.

Today, we’re here to talk about food sensitivities, what experts have to say about them, and how to deal with them if you suspect that you’re dealing with a food sensitivity.

WHAT IS A FOOD SENSITIVITY?

Usually, food sensitivities, food allergies, and food intolerances are all used interchangeably, but they are far from the same.

Food allergies will usually result in an immune system reaction. If you are someone who his allergic to foods, your immune system will start creating immunoglobulin E antibodies. Symptoms can vary from itching, swelling, and burning all the way to anaphylaxis (the reaction you see in movies that requires immediate medical attention.)

Food sensitivities are pretty much the most under-studied of the bunch. They’re very similar to allergies in the sense that they’re reactions typically controlled by the immune system that happen in response to specific nutrients. Symptoms of sensitivities can change and vary, meaning reactions aren’t guaranteed to happen in the same way.

Food intolerances are usually related to symptoms of the GI tract. They can occur when your body doesn’t have the ability to digest specific types of food. One of the most famous examples of this is lactose intolerance. When you lack the digestive enzyme required to digest lactose, this can cause digestive symptoms that aren’t related to immune responses.

If you’ve ever heard of FODMAPS, they’re the most common substances involved in most food sensitivities. They can include amines, sulfites, caffeine, gluten, dairy, and more. Generally, they will contribute to even more chronic inflammatory symptoms such as reflux, joint paint, eczema, psoriasis, migraines, and more. It could be extremely common for people with sensitivities to change up their symptoms day by day and week by week. 

Food sensitivities can also prevent you from losing weight, science says.

For starters, if you’re someone who has a difficult time losing weight but you’re not really experiencing any other symptoms, you should likely look into food sensitivities as your first course of action. Experts have suggested that there aren’t any specific scientific pieces of research that conclude food sensitivities cause weight gain.

But even so, if you experience psoriasis, eczema, or other issues of the GI tract, as well as inflammatory symptoms, this could cause some resistance in your weight loss efforts. And one of the leading factors here include food sensitivities. That’s because there is a wide variety of ways through which food sensitivities contribute to difficulties in losing weight.

First, and probably most important, research on inflammation and weight loss has looked at how increases in weight typically lead to inflammation… and not the other way around! Experts have observed that once the underlying inflammation from various food sensitivities becomes manageable and you address it, this will likely speed up your weight loss efforts and make them much easier. Once you’re in that better, healthier state, you will find it much easier to settle into a healthy weight without having to resort to weight-loss strategies.

There’s also another factor that could contribute to sensitivities halting your weight loss efforts. When you don’t feel well, generally, you don’t feel as if it is necessary to spend energy on activities such as cooking healthy food and exercising, all of which are essential to speeding up your weight loss efforts.

And lastly, food sensitivities have been known to cause discomfort and bloating, and this, in its own right, could mimic weight gain. If you’re someone who starts restricting the foods you eat because you’re not really certain about which foods are causing you trouble, you might end up eating more and more processed food. And we all know how detrimental this could be for your weight loss journey.

7 Ways to Get More Deep Sleep

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Health and weight loss experts all agree – not getting enough sleep is bad for you.

It messes up your immune system, your heart health, and your efforts to lose weight. And while getting enough sleep is vital in its own right, it’s also necessary to spend enough time in each phase of your natural sleep cycle – especially deep sleep. 

WHAT IS DEEP SLEEP?

Everyone sleeps in cycles, and most people usually go through 4-6 sleep cycles every night. Before you reach REM sleep, the phase in which you dream, there are two main stages:

Light sleep (non-REM): This phase is made up of two distinct phases, N1 and N2. In this phase, you have fallen asleep, but you’re easier to wake up.

Deep sleep (non-REM): This type of sleep is also called N3, and your body requires it to feel rested in the morning. If you wake up during the stage of deep sleep, you will feel groggy and tired. 

People spend about a quarter of their night in deep sleep. The majority of it comes in the cycles during the first half of the night. Deep sleep is sometimes called slow-wave sleep. This is because if we look at the brain waves on an EEG, deep sleep will create large, slow, wave-type patterns that indicate that the brains activity is minimal.

All your sleep phases are important for your health, but deep sleep is one of the most crucial ones. During deep sleep, your body goes into self-repair mode, releasing growth hormone, repairing damaged tissues, and consolidating your memories.

7 WAYS TO GET MORE DEEP SLEEP

#1 SKIP THE DEPRESSANTS AND STIMULANTS

Experts have long known that stimulants and depressants such as alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and cannabis have an overall negative impact on sleep and reaching adequate levels of deep sleep. You might think anything with this sedative effect will help with deep sleep, but experts point out that quality sleep and sedation are far from the same.

#2 STAY BUSY THROUGHOUT THE DAY

Keep your body (and your mind) active with exercise and complex, engaging work, social interactions and purpose-driven activities. This has all been shown to result in better, deeper sleep at night.

#3 USE YOUR BED FOR SLEEP AND SLEEP ONLY

With so many people working from home, it’s difficult to snuggle up in bed during the day. This, however, can create some sleep difficulties. You should leave your bed if you’re awake for more than 10-15 minutes. Find low-key activities to do until you feel the signs of sleepiness, then return to bed.

#4 SKIP NAPS… OR TAKE THEM EARLY

The term “sleep pressure” refers to how much your body needs to sleep. Low sleep pressure can decrease deep sleep and make it even more difficult to fall asleep at a regular bedtime. Taking naps close to bedtime will lower your sleep pressure and make it more difficult to fall asleep. Consider having an accurate timing and schedule for naps, if you’re someone who wants or needs to take them.

#5 GO TO BED EARLIER

You might get even more deep sleep if you increase your sleep hours before midnight. If you’re the average sleeper that doesn’t have trouble staying asleep or falling asleep, and if you tend to go to bed later (11 p.m. or later), try experimenting with going to bed earlier and see what difference this makes for your recovery.

#6 TRACK YOUR MEDIA CONSUMPTION

Listening to discouraging reports or all the negativity in the news right before bed is a bad idea. It will keep your mind racing throughout the night. Opt for shows that are more entertaining and lighter later in the day and do your best to reduce screen exposure at least an hour before you go to bed.

#7 DON’T WORRY ABOUT A FEW BAD NIGHTS

Just like we can all have bad days… we can all have bad nights. They happen now and then. Of course, we may start feeling more tired during the day after a bad night, but shorter periods of bad sleep are pretty much recoverable after one or more nights of high-quality, deep sleep.

5 Calorie-friendly and Budget-friendly Breakfast Meals

nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

While you’re on a budget, be it a calorie budget or a financial one, breakfast is one of the best meals that has nutritious, affordable alternatives. This is because a lot of the ingredients for traditional healthy breakfasts can be bought frozen or in bulk. If you want to achieve weight loss or maintain your current weight, you probably want your first meal of the day to be one that’s calorie-conscious. 

That’s why we’re here today to explore some of our best picks for go-to breakfasts that won’t break the bank and will set your entire day up for optimal energy and healthy eating.

Let’s get started.

#1 OVERNIGHT OATS

In the breakfast game, oats are a power player. They’re very affordable, can be purchased in large quantities, and last a long time in your pantry. It’s more budget-friendly to even buy the canister of oats instead of packs. Another good reason to get oats in the canister is that they contain much less added sugar than their packet counterparts.

Overnight oats can then be made in massive batches for the entire week ahead. And let’s not forget, you can get very creative with what you add to them. You can add milk, cinnamon and fruit, berries, honey, everything! Oats have a plethora of health benefits such as being rich in fiber, helping you stay fuller for longer and lowering bad cholesterol.

#2 GREEK YOGURT PARFAIT

Greek yogurt is one of the most budget-friendly, low-calorie, healthy foods you can recommend to anyone. Their 0 percent variety clocks in at 90 calories, no fat, and a whopping 17 grams of protein per cup. It’s absolutely perfect for feeling and staying satiated while you’re cutting back on calories, and not to mention, they’re super affordable.

Want a great go-to breakfast option? Make-ahead yogurt parfaits. Just add ¾ cup of 0% yogurt to a small jar or bowl. Then add a layer of fruit such as berries, chopped melons, or even seedless grapes. Avoid using apples or bananas since they tend to brown. Next, add half a cup of granola. Then crush a tablespoon on top of your favorite unsalted nuts and sprinkle them on top. And boom – you have a make-ahead breakfast that will last you the entire week.

#3 EGG MUFFINS

Eggs are one of the most powerful yet easily digestible sources of protein. Not to mention, they’re very budget friendly. Egg muffins are incredibly versatile. You can add pretty much any herb, veggie, or protein to them for a well-rounded breakfast.

Be creative about what you add to your muffins – you’ve got spinach, red peppers, onions, seasoning, proteins, and so much more. The best thing about eggs is that they can be enjoyed several ways, from eating a whole egg to boiling egg whites. And they’ve got the nutritional value to back it up. 

#4 BLUEBERRY BANANA SMOOTHIES WITH KALE

If you’re a smoothie person, you’re going to love this. Clocking in at about 300 calories per serving, this budget-friendly meal is super affordable since its ingredients can be bought in bulk. The fruit and kale are both loaded with vitamins and minerals that lower inflammation. And lastly, the protein and carbs inside it will satisfy your hunger and keep you energized the whole day. 

Here’s an ingredient list:

  • 1/2 cup of low-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen bananas
  • 1–2 cups frozen kale, washed and dried

Just be sure to place the kale at the bottom of your blender so it gets blended correctly. And feel free to make this smoothie even more budget-friendly by swapping out ingredients for ingredients that are in season.

#5 PROTEIN OATS

Every good breakfast list starts and ends with oats. Oats are so versatile that we included them here twice, and protein-packed oats are even easier to make. Just start with ½ cup of oats, cook like you normally would in a microwave, and then simply stir a beaten egg into your oats just before the cooking ends. 

You’ll get both fiber and protein in a filling mix, and this breakfast will keep you going and energized for hours to come. You can add defrosted frozen fruits for even more antioxidants and fiber and bring added benefits to your meal such as brain health, heart health, and better insulin resistance.

5 Winter Activities You Can Enjoy with your Friends and Family

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Depending on where you are in the world, you could either be facing cold, short, dark days, or sunny and bright days that are more welcoming to the idea of a fitness journey. But if you make an effort to involve some preparation in your cold-weather workouts, you can turn even the most moody winter day into a fun, exciting series of outdoor activities that will make you forget it’s cold outside. 

You shouldn’t be spending the sweater season in front of the TV or on the couch. Instead, schedule these 5 activities with all your loved ones and you’ll all collectively be able to get some fresh air, ward off the winter calories, and improve your mood. 

Let’s get started.

FIRST, GO SLEDDING

If there are kids around, you should know nothing beats the thrill of sledding down the largest hill you can find in the neighborhood… and then running for another round. 

And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a child or a grown adult. Sledding is a great workout, and pretty much anything you can do in the snow that involves carrying or climbing involve resistance training. 

This means sledding essentially becomes a built-in workout that gets your heart going, burns calories, and makes the perfect situations for candid photos with your friends or loved ones. It’s a win-win!

SECOND, CREATE A SNOWY WONDERLAND

Kids (and adults) enjoy making the most out of the snow. Join youngsters in building snowmen, snow forts, and other contraptions. If you’ve got enough willing participants, you could even surprise everyone with a friendly snowball fight. But keep in mind activities performed in the snow get your heart rate going much faster. 

They can easily make for an efficient workout, but since they’re a fun way to get a workout, they actually feel like play.

THIRD, DON’T BE AFRAID TO HIT THE SLOPES

If you’re a fan of skiing and snowboarding, you know the type of full-body workout only they can give you. Not to mention, you can torch upwards of 300 calories an hour while skiing, and most ski resorts offer lessons to pretty much anyone. They’re something you can involve all your friends and family in. 

Research has even shown that these types of winter sports work as incredible mood enhancers. Naturally, they’re the perfect option for when you’re up against the winter blues. 

FOURTH, TRY OUT ICE SKATING

Ice skating is one of those winter activities that engages every major muscle group in your body. Your arms, legs, and core work together to keep you upright and gliding at all times, and this stress adds up. 

Skating could make for a date, an active get-together with all your friends, or even a new and exciting skill you can teach your kids (with a cup of hot cocoa at the end.) You might struggle and even fall down a few times, but the cardio workout and all the shared memories you’ll get out of it are definitely worth it.

FIFTH, WINTER HIKES/WALKS

Even 30 minutes of walking can help you burn upwards of 150 calories. This can easily add up when you’re trying to shed pounds and maintain weight. And if you have to push through chilly weather to get those minutes in, you’re making your walk all the more special. 

Schedule in your hiking trails and capture the gorgeous winter views, and before you know it, you will have racked up a serious step count. And all of this while enjoying the company of your friends and family and taking in the entire winter atmosphere. 

THE BOTTOM LINE IS…

Winter is an amazing time of year to spend with those close to you, and it’s especially important during this season that we get out of our sedentary habits and put our fitness and health first. When winter rolls around, most people put their health goals on the backburner. 

However, when we get to the plethora of activities and winter sport options out there, we can see how this season can be a great opportunity to actually progress with our goals and challenge our bodies in new ways… all while staying with our loved ones and having fun no matter the weather.

5 Ways to Track Your Food (and Weight Loss Success)

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

If you’ve been trying to lose weight for a while, you know logging your macros and calories is one of the best ways to stay on top of your diet. It’s also one of the best ways to lose weight in a manager manner.

But there’s actually much more to what you can do about your eating habits if you decide to track certain parts of your lifestyle.

Especially if you are able to switch up the metrics that you’re tracking.

Today, we’re going to explore some of the best food tracking strategies that will help you manage your intake and stay equipped with key observations that improve the way you eat.

#1 TRACKING YOUR FIBER INTAKE

Fiber is found in a ton of nutrient-rich foods such as nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans, lentils, fruits, and veggies. Experts recommend we get at least 25 grams of fiber (for women) and up to 40 grams of fiber (for men) per day. 

Proper diet management through fiber tracking can be a great way to encourage yourself to choose more fiber-rich foods at every meal and snack.

#2 STAY ON TOP OF HUNGER AND FULLNESS

Keeping tabs on your hunger and fullness both before and after you eat can be very revealing. You can simply keep track of this inside the notes section of your food diary. You might be tempted to eat less naturally by learning when you actually get hungry instead of overextending your hunger period and then overeating.

Here’s a heads up: some signs of hunger can be much more subtle than a growling stomach. Some signs might include fatigue, loss of concentration, headaches, and more. We always encourage people to track these trends and learn about their own bodies and their signals of hunger.  

#3 COUNTING YOUR COLORS

One of the most unique takes on tracking is to simply pay attention to how many colors you’re eating throughout the day. Especially when it comes to fruits and veggies.

Colors are commonly broken up into five categories. White, purple/blue, green, yellow/orange, and red.

Track how many of these colors you’re eating in a day and set a goal that you’re going to eat as many of these colors every day as possible. 

Each of these different colors will likely represent different health-promoting nutrients and antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, fiber, potassium, and so much more.

When you initially begin this form of tracking, you will quickly realize how many colors are completely missing from your diet. And if that’s the case, you should make the effort to pump up your fruit and veggie intake. You can also top your yogurt with various berries, put bell peppers inside pasta, or even make rainbow quinoa for a healthy side dish. 

#4 TRACK YOUR MEAL FREQUENCY

Skipping a meal could be a massive problem. It could cause people to fall short of their nutritional goal. It can make it difficult for you to get vital nutrients such as essential minerals, fiber, and protein. Skipping meals especially early in the day can lead to binge eating and food cravings in the evenings. 

That’s why you should always track how often you’re eating and when you’re eating your first meal of the day. Make sure you’re making time for at least three meals a day so you can improve your energy levels, boost the quality of your workouts, and maintain balanced blood sugar levels.

#5 WRITE ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS

This practice will equip you with a very powerful tool on your way to weight loss success. Just keep notes in your diary about how you’re feeling before and after you eat a certain food. Keep track of what you’re eating and what emotions are involved in each meal. 

Sometimes, you might find that you’re eating out of boredom or cravings instead of actual natural hunger. Understanding how and why you eat something can be detrimental to cleaning up your diet.

5 Walking Routine Mistakes to Avoid If You Want to Lose Weight

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

We all know a consistent walking routine can be one of the best ways to go about getting rid of excess belly fat and toning your body. But if you’ve recently hit your first weight loss plateau, don’t worry. From simply doing a leisurely stroll to omitting any efforts for strength training, we’ve compiled a list of the 7 most common walking mistakes you must avoid if you’re someone who wants to lose weight and burn fat through exercise.

#1 NOT UPPING THE PACE

Walking at a leisurely pace is surely better than no exercise at all. But that being said, research shows that brisk walking is your best choice for torching calories and losing weight. If you find it difficult to keep up the pace, try doing it for shorter intervals of about 2 minutes. This will serve as a steppingstone into HIIT and can help you rev up your metabolism and break through any weight-loss plateau.

#2 NOT CHANGING YOUR ROUTE

If you always still to the same old route, you should consider trying a new environment that can challenge you more. To boost your actual weight-loss efforts, a change of scenery a couple of days a month is definitely something you should go for. 

This could be the beach, a hilly trail, an urban hike, or even a new park you’ve never went to before. Not only will this give you a mental refresh, but you’ll also be able to engage with a new terrain and work muscle groups that you don’t usually engage.

#3 NOT DOING STRENGTH TRAINING

Strength training will play a massive role in your weight loss journey since it helps build muscle, which burns more calories as it is more metabolically active than fat, resulting in more weight loss at rest. Whether you do simple bodyweight exercises or go directly for the bars and dumbbells, strength training can help you build a strong core, develop glute and hip strength, and help you ultimately prevent injury… meaning you’ll be able to reach your goals sooner. 

#4 POOR WALKING FORM

Poor walking technique will not only slow your pace, but also cause you to tire more quickly. Since this can have a massive effect on how far (and how long) you’re able to walk, you have to work on improving your form every time you step out the door. 

On your next walk, pay attention to the big three: 

Your stride lengths… some walkers simply tend to overstride. And if your steps are too long, your speed suffers. It also means more stress is put on your joints. To check your stride length, simply lift a foot and lean forward. The place where your foot naturally falls is where you should generally be striking the ground. Shorter steps will allow you to walk faster. 

Your arm swings… swinging your arms will be a great way to propel yourself forward and get more power during your runs.

Standing tall… never slouch while you’re walking, even when you get tired. While you might need to strengthen your core to make this happen, you should always work on keeping your back straight and your head straight up. 

#5 YOU’RE SEDENTARY FOR A LONG TIME

Studies have shown a direct correlation between obesity and sedentary behavior. Even if you are going out for your daily walk, it will be much harder for you to lose weight if you spend the majority of your day sitting down. 

Setting an alarm reminder to get up and walk for about 5 minutes every hour has been shown to counteract the negative effects of sitting too much. Moving more throughout your day will also increase your step count, helping you lose even more weight and contributing to your overall health.

5 Pantry Staples to Stock Up on for Weight Loss

nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Despite your best intentions, it can be a struggle to make healthy food choices. Between all the meal planning, grocery shopping, and food prepping, it’s very easy to just give up or fall off track. But through simple practices such as stocking your pantry with healthy food options, you’ll be able to ensure you always have something on hand when hunger strikes.

Below, we’re going to explore five foods that are absolute must-have staples in your pantry. Stock up on each of these, and you’ll see how they lead to promoting better decision-making and healthier eating at home.

#1 FRUIT BARS

The healthiest snacks you can find out there have simple, whole-food ingredients. They also contain low or no added sugar. And finally, they actually bring you some nutritional value. A pantry staple like this will help you meet your fruit goals, whether it’s when you need a snack on the go or when you’ve run out of other meal options.

#2 CANNED TUNA

Very few people eat the generally recommended two servings of seafood per week. That’s why canned tuna is one of the best pantry staple picks out there. They’re rich in vitamin D which is absolutely essential for immune function. 

They’re also abundant in omega-3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory fats that are vital to brain and heart health. Not to mention, it’s a great source of protein. Tune is much more versatile than you might think. It’s not just for tuna salad sandwiches. Try tossing it inside some pasta with olives and veggies for a more well-rounded dinner or mix some tuna together with sesame oil and tamari and serve it over a batch of greens. 

#3 PULSE-BASED PASTA

A typical box of pasta is made from water and flour. But pulse-based pastas are made from more nutritious ingredients such as lentils and chickpeas which provide added protein and fiber. Cooking with some pulse-based pasta is a much quicker and easier way to add balance to your meals because you don’t necessarily have to cook a separate protein component. It’s all in one product and you can just add veggies and sauce and enjoy a delicious, nutritious meal. 

#4 OATS

Unsweetened dry oats have a ton of benefits going for them. They contain a wide spectrum of nutrients such as magnesium, selenium, zinc, iron, fiber, and more. Oatmeal is a pretty natural choice when you have dry oats lying around, and here’s a fun fact: if you eat them raw, they’ll provide you with more prebiotic fiber known as resistant starch. 

Studies have shown that resistant starch assists with the body’s blood sugar regulation and weight management. It can also help reduce the bloating caused by gas. To make the most out of them, sprinkle some raw oats over a salad, on top of some avocado toast, or use them to coat your homemade energy bites. They’re delicious, healthy, and versatile – a true staple.

#5 WALNUTS

Walnuts contain more ALA (which is an anti-inflammatory fatty acid) than any other nut. Each serving of walnuts contains 2 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, and a ton of polyphenol antioxidants which are all healthy for the gut. 

Several studies have found associations between walnuts and improved appetite control. This may be why data from the Nurses’ Health Study has shown that people who have boosted their walnut intake have gained less weight and had a lower risk of developing obesity over a 20-year follow-up period.  

Walnuts are versatile. You can eat them by themselves, add them to yogurt, oatmeal, salads, pilafs, you name it. And you can also use crushed walnuts in place of breadcrumbs when cooking seafood or chicken. But remember, while unopened walnuts are an amazing pantry staple, they should be usually kept in the freezer once opened.

5 Habits that Supercharge Your Weight Loss Efforts

Hey Angels and Alphas,

As you’re reading this, advertisements for fad diets are influencing people into a promise for quick results if they overhaul their diet and take drastic action for a few weeks.

Real talk: we know it’s a trap. Shed pounds quickly, they come back. This affects your metabolism, making losing weight even more difficult. In a similar way, cutting out your favorite foods from your diet (or entire food groups) is difficult to maintain in the long-term, leading to an ever larger risk of yo-yo dieting. 

A better alternative is to create weight loss changes by gradually adopting small, sustainable habits into your life. And when you’re starting a new weight-loss program, and you want to make it as easy as possible at the outset and remove all the limiting factors, you’re guaranteed to make progress. 

To keep your motivation going strong and keep you losing weight in a healthy way, try implementing these weight-loss promoting habits into your day and see what happens:

#1 SET A FIBER GOAL

It’s pretty well-known that tracking what you eat is a great tool to achieve faster success and better management. But you can dial-in even further and starting with one single goal: getting 20-30 grams of fiber every day. 

High-fiber foods include oatmeal, whole grains, leafy greens, legumes, and fruit, all of which can help you fill up for fewer calories. 

Research has shown that people who aimed at a 30-gram per day goal for their fiber intake (and successfully reached an intake of about 10 grams per day on average) ended up losing nearly 5 pounds over the course of a year. 

#2 TAKE YOUR TIME DURING YOUR LUNCH BREAK

Taking the time to slow down and be mindful about why and what you’re eating will actually go a long way toward helping you feel more satisfied by the meal and reducing your overall levels of stress. 

In fact, during one study, people who listened to a form of guided meditation during lunch and brought their conscious attention to the look, smell, and flavor of the meal, ate about 440 fewer calories than people who just zoned out in an audiobook. That’s a massive difference.

#3 DRINK BEFORE YOU EAT A MEAL

The next time you’re experiencing a hunger craving, what you should try is simply drinking a glass of water. Drinking two cups of water before each meal can actually make you feel more satisfied and lower your calorie intake by about 10-12 percent. 

Drinking a cup of water before breakfast, lunch, and dinner, could help you save about 50-70 calories every meal, amounting to over 20 pounds a year. Might seem like a small number but adds up in the long run. Not only that, you’ll find it much easier to hit your hydration goals.

#4 ADD BURSTS OF MOVEMENT TO YOUR DAY

If you’re someone working from home or at a desk, you should stand up and stretch for about 1-2 minutes every 30 minutes to an hour. 

You can literally set it as an alarm in your phone or calendar, and you’ll be able to get in 15 minutes of stretching which is about 45 calories every day. 

That’s about 5 pounds when spread out throughout the whole year, and not to mention, you get the added relief from tightness and knots in your shoulders and back.

#5 DO MORE STRENGTH TRAINING

When it comes to training, few types of exercise are as effective for losing weight as strength training. Strength training is one of the most effective exercises for increasing your metabolic function. 

This means that, when lifting heavy weights and challenging your muscles, you’ll be able to burn more calories and rev up your metabolism as your body will recover and rebuild, and further maintain lean muscle mass as you lose weight. 

If you were to simply add one hour of rigorous resistance training to your week, you’ll be able to burn about 440 calories every single week and achieve the lean, muscular, athletic build you might be looking for when trying to lose weight.

5 Easy Nighttime Weight Loss Hacks

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

You can ask an expert or anyone, and they will agree that there is no secret fast track to achieving long-term weight loss. 

You have to be consistent, dedicated, and have faith in the idea that each decision and habit you create is ultimately good for you, and they’re all investments in a healthy lifestyle. All of this is possible through a smart approach, starting with your nighttime routine. 

If you’re someone who wants to lose weight, preparation is absolutely crucial. It takes a ton of commitment and consistency, and if you don’t have absolutely clear guidelines on what you need to do to prepare, weight loss can become an exhausting and confusing process.

A balanced nighttime routine can be an absolute game-changer for anyone looking to lose weight since it will help you de-stress and smoothen out your entire daily routine. When stress becomes chronic or prolonged, like something you have to deal with every day, this can directly impact your health. 

For example, if your immune response is essentially hampered, you might be craving comfort foods that lead to weight gain. Digestion, cardiovascular measures, and mood are all negatively affected.

So try ending your day nicely by setting a nighttime routine with these simple, nighttime hacks that will take you less than 10 minutes:

#1 DO SOME SIMPLE BREAKFAST PREP

Instead of skipping your breakfast and overeating at lunch, there are tons of healthy options you can go for that you can make ahead of time… even while you’re sleeping! For example, overnight oats are an amazing way to prepare large batches of breakfast. You can also try steel-cut oats to get their least-processed form. 

Oats are an amazing way to get in the necessary soluble fiber, which helps you feel more satiated after eating and less hungry by the time you get to lunch. Greater satiety will equate to overall fewer calories consumed, helping you maintain and lose weight.

#2 HAVE A SNACK AND LUNCH PLAN

If you’re someone who does meal prep on the weekend, this shouldn’t take long. But you can also take advantage of leftovers and pack them the night before! This could include your pre-cut veggies for a salad, or this can mean making a grain bowl with whatever protein, whole grains, and veggies you can get your hands on. 

Snacks can also be a part of a healthy eating plan. The night before, you can pre-cut fruits and veggies and put them in containers or single-serve bags. This will help you separate individualized portions of food that can be easy to over-do on such as nuts, peanut butter, or trial mix.

#3 DO SOMETHING THAT RELAXES YOU

At the end of the day, both your mind and your body are exhausted from the day’s events and stressors. And since the next day is likely going to be full of those exact stressors, it’s vital that we take some time to wind down. 

When you’re stressed out, your bodies respond in a physical way and you have to purposefully do something so you can relax your whole system. 

This might include deep breathing, gentle walks, or yoga. All of these activities trigger the natural relaxation responses inside your body, and they’ll help you get up and start the next day fresher and ready to take on the world.

#4 KEEP A JOURNAL

Journaling can be therapeutic in the literal sense, and it can help get the thoughts from your head onto paper, so you don’t keep them with you at night. This is a great way to help you visualize all your goals, and even doing something such as writing a short to-do list for your next day will help you fall asleep faster. 

#5 MEDITATION

Meditation, or just the act of slowing down your thought and being mindful, is an amazing way to reduce stress and it is directly linked to a variety of benefits. Meditation isn’t all about turning off your thoughts, instead it’s more about learning to observe them without judgment. Start off with 5 to 10 minutes at a time and see if this allows you to feel calmer, setting you up for a good night’s sleep. In turn, you will feel much more refreshed the next day. 

Strength Exercises that Runners MUST Do to Progress

sports nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

You already know running is one of the best forms of exercise for people who want to improve their cardiovascular health, lose weight, and gain endurance. So much so that certain athletes in running-related sports spend the majority of their exercise hours running, be it for a marathon or another sport-specific activity.

We’ve talked about the importance of strength training in cardio-based sports in many posts, and today, we want to share our quick checklist of exercises runners can do to make sure they’re solving the most common challenges that runners experience. 

That being said, these challenges are related to bone health, muscle health, and joint health, and as runners spend so much time and energy training their skills and endurance, sometimes they leave out one important aspect of training – developing strength. With this quick checklist of exercises that any runner can easily implement into their day, you’ll be able to strengthen the foundation of muscle your body uses every time you go out for a run.

Let’s get started. 

First, the weighted calf raises. 

It’s one of the simplest exercises out there, yet it’s profoundly effective at developing calf strength and strengthening joints throughout your legs. All you have to do is get a step/platform and a weight, then stand on the platform with your heels hanging off the edge and use your other hand to hold on for balance. Then rep away. 

This exercise will help you build stability, strength, and extra endurance in one of the most important areas of your lower body, the calves. You might have built a lot of endurance in your calves but be lacking in strength – this will lead you to joint or mobility issues later on. To make sure you have a strong foundation of muscle, try calf raises. 

Second, the half-kneel hip flexor stretch.

When it comes to running, developing strength in your hips is crucial. And if you’re someone who runs all the time or trains consistently for marathons, chances are your hip flexors can quickly become strained and stressed. This can happen over time if you’re not recovering properly or not addressing small ailments that come and go. By doing this exercise, you’ll start strengthening your hip flexors and providing yourself with more power and stability while running. This will also translate into more endurance as you will be learning how to utilize your muscles more efficiently while running.

Third, Hip Bridges. 

Your glutes are the core of your running and inertia power, and this is an amazing exercise to make them both stronger. You start off lying on the ground with your feet flat on the ground and your knees bent. Then squeeze your glutes and lift your hips, engaging the glutes, and hold at the top before you lower back down. It’s a wholly focused, controlled movement that must be done in a way in which your hips, knees, and shoulders are in a straight line to maximize intensity and hip development.

Fourth, Bulgarian Split squats. 

This exercise is similar to the lunge, but it will really ramp up the resistance you experience in your quads. It’s one of the best general exercises out there for runners. It’s essentially just like a lunge, done with one of your legs placed on a bench behind you. You keep your body as straight as possible and drop until one knee is at a 90-degree angle, and then your other knee (placed on the bench) is close to touching the ground. Add a dumbbell to this exercise, and you’re going to see why this exercise is notorious for its intensity.

3 of The Most Underrated Exercises You Should Already Be Doing

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

We all know there’s no shortage of exercises you can do to target any and every muscle group you want to work in the male and female fitness world. Just turn to Google, and you will instantly find a plethora of the best moves for abs, a bazillion lunge variations, and thousands of new planks you never knew existed… all of them attached to a fun new Instagram challenge for you to try.

And while it’s never a bad thing to have options, all of these exercises can make it seem like the only way to really work your muscles the right way is to do it through countless bizarre ways and complex moves.

But fitness doesn’t have to be – and actually shouldn’t be – that complicated.

The more complicated an exercise is, often the less muscle engagement you’re actually going to have. When you favor such moves, you tend to forget about all the “old-school” exercises such as squats and pushups that have been the golden standard for years because they work really well.

Simple stuff works better than anything if you’re doing it correctly. 

Today, we’re here to talk about three of the simplest exercises that are more effective than you would initially think. You’ll be surprised at how difficult they are to complete when you perform them properly. But that’s where their beauty lies.

#1 THE PERFECT SQUAT

Squatting is an essential functional movement. You do it all day without even thinking about it. Whenever you pick up your kid, lift a heavy bag of groceries, or sit in a chair, you’re doing squats. Since we squat so often in our day-to-day life, squatting in the gym could yield some benefits. And contrary to what most people will tell you, squats strengthen the muscles around your lower back and your knees.

If you want to do a perfect squat, start off with just your bodyweight until you reach perfect form. In both cases, here’s how the movement is performed:

Start by engaging your abs – this will stabilize your low back.

Push your glutes back, hinging at the hips initially, then go ahead and bend your knees to lower toward your feet. Allow your knees to freely travel forward. It’s completely OK if they move a bit past your toes, but make sure you don’t overextend too far — your torso and lower leg should stay parallel.

Then simply lower as far as you can without compromising this alignment in any way.

2. PUSHUPS

Pushups simply have all the criteria necessary to be an incredible exercise. You can do them anywhere, anytime, and you can even modify them in countless ways. 

They work for any gym-goer from beginner to advanced, they are a compound movement meaning they work multiple muscle groups in the same exercise, and they’re effective for building strength.

And if that wasn’t enough, experts point to the fact that many people tend to focus on how much they can lift off the rack or floor, but during the negative part of an exercise (in which you lower the weight) people tend to let gravity do the work for them instead of controlling the movement. 

Pushups will force you to move more slowly throughout an exercise, helping you build more strength.

To do a perfect pushup, go slowly and maximize your muscle engagement. 

Perform pushups in which you don’t bang out tons of reps but instead lower yourself to the count of 3 or 4, then go back up to the count of 1 or 2. Focus on getting great range of motion. Begin the exercise at the top with your elbows almost locked and lowered. Then push back up. 

3. GLUTE BRIDGES

If you suddenly decided to stop doing your glute bridges because you weren’t feeling them in your glutes enough, you’re just not doing them correctly. That’s no reason to abandon the exercise altogether. 

Glute bridges are to lower body exercises what your usual pushup is to upper body exercises. They’re an essential strengthening movement. They teach the body to move with the glutes as the “boss” of all the lower-body movements.

To do the perfect glute bridge, peel yourself off the mat slowly rather than lifting yourself up. Here are the four steps to a perfect glute bridge:

  1. Start by tilting your hips to eliminate the space between the mat and your lower back.
  2. Lift your glutes slowly off the floor without lifting your back.
  3. Now lift your lower back off the mat, putting yourself at the top of the glute bridge.
  4. Return to your starting position by simply reversing through all four steps.

Stability vs. Balance – Basics of Functional Training

male fitness

Hey Angels and Alphas,

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the entire fitness community has been cheering on functional training for the last couple of years. This has reached the point where functional training is all the rage, and as with anything (and any similar trend) in the fitness world, there are always a ton of people running around trying to tell you what it is, what it’s not, and what you should do about it.

That being said, there are a ton of misconceptions about functional training that are still floating around in the air after the initial rush of people spreading misinformed opinions. 

One of these misconceptions, one that we’d like to clear up today, is that functional training is the same as balance training.

When you ask someone if they’re doing any functional training (and they actually are), they will usually proceed to tell you all about the exercises they do for balance such as stability exercises and proprioceptive training. That’s why today, we’re here to talk about balance, stability, functional training, and clear up a lot of these misconceptions so you can get a better understanding of what’s best for you.

With that said…

Functional training is essentially all about training movements instead of muscles. It’s focused on the transference of energy from one point to another. Example – when you’re picking up a box, you’re transferring energy from the ground up. This is usually where the question arises of balance vs stability.

The two have been widely mistaken and usually defined as the same thing, but they’re completely different (and each individually important) aspects of a well-rounded strength and conditioning routine.

Stability has to do with being stable – that’s not coming as a shock to anyone. It’s about firmness, strength, and resistance to disturbances of balance. 

Balance has to do with the even distribution of weight that allows an object to remain firm, upright, and you guessed it, stable. 

Within the training world and training nomenclature, balance has its place in health, wellness, and even rehabilitation. But when you’re trying to talk about stability, you’ll most likely be referring to training that creates an environment of stability so it can enhance strength and “practice” this transfer of energy. This is most likely done when your feet are both planted on the ground.

When you’re training for balance, you’re aiming to create an environment of instability. This means energy transference will basically be adversely affected from joint to joint to core to the exit point. Both of these are technically considered functional training. But they’re so, so different. 

As athletes, we all know we should be following a balanced workout program, but as humans, we sort of tend to do what we like and totally avoid what we don’t. Along those lines, two aspects of training, balance and stability training, probably take a back seat to cardio and strength training for most of you. However, you could ultimately benefit by regularly practicing both these training protocols and integrating them into your daily life.

That’s why the first thing to know is that stability and balance are two vastly different things. 

Another way to look at it is that stability is your ability to control your body position from head to toe through a specific movement, while balance will be the ability to maintain your center of gravity over a central base of support. For example, static leg-split squats challenge your balance, but doing something like walking lunges challenges your stability. 

Once you know the difference between these two training protocols, you can make a more educated choice on which one to integrate into your program, but ultimately both can find a place in it.

5 Must-Do Stretches to Prevent Soreness & Injury

male fitness

Hey Angels and Alphas,

There’s a lot of controversy in the fitness world because of the research as to whether stretching prevents injuries. 

But one thing is clear: stretching will help you improve both your range of motion and your flexibility. These two factors play a vital role in terms of warding off injuries in the long-term, and they can also improve your fitness performance altogether.

Having improved flexibility will allow you to increase your range of motion. In turn, this helps the athlete become more efficient at moving, and the body is less likely to get injured. Healthy mechanics of the body and healthy training usually go hand in hand and stretching has crucial implications for athletes that want to rehabilitate, or better yet, prevent injuries.

One small study actually found that some inflexibility in specific areas of the body can be an asset for some runners. Even so, every good runner will have a pretty healthy amount of muscular pliability, so in no way does this translate to stiffness to the point of impairing movements.

The key is this: knowing when to do which type of stretching. 

There are two basic types of stretching: static and dynamic. 

Static stretching is all about holding certain postures. This elongates your muscles. Stretching has been proven to have a detrimental effect on performance when done before a certain activity. The main theory as to why this happens is that when a muscle is too elongated before an activity, it loses its ability to generate explosive power during movements. Therefore, static stretching should be done after your training, or as a means of rehabilitation.

Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, has been shown to have the opposite effect. Dynamic stretching uses active movements to allow you to stretch and train the muscles to fire in a specific way, preparing them for explosive moments such as lifting weights, running, jumping, etc.

Consider integrating the following series of stretches into your pre-workout and post-workout routine. Before training, do dynamic stretches to prepare and engage. After training, do static stretches to release and restore.

PRE-WORKOUT STRETCHES (DYNAMIC)

#1 WALKING LUNGES (do about 15-20 meters of walking lunges)

Start off by standing with your feet at hip-width apart. Perform a lunge, basically stepping your left leg forward, and as you plant your left foot, lower your body down as low as you can. Your left knee should be at a 90-degree angle, and it should also be perfectly aligned with your left ankle. Slowly come back to the center, stand up, and repeat this with your right leg.

#2 LEG SWINGS (do a couple of sets, at least one for each direction)

Start off with some forward leg swings by standing next to a wall so you can keep balance. While you’re keeping both your legs straight, simply swing your left leg in front of your body, and then behind your body. This counts as one leg swing. 

Don’t swing past the point of discomfort. After you repeat with your right leg, switch to sideways leg swings to add variety. Similar to the first variation, swing the left leg toward the right, sweep your foot across your body and then go back to the left. Repeat with your right leg.

#3 THE FRANKENSTEIN (do about 15 meters forward then 15 meters back)

While your feet are hip width apart, stretch out your arms in front of your body and keep your palms facing downward. Then simply march forward, all while swinging your left leg up in front of your body. Be sure that you can maintain perfect posture and keep your knees straight so you’re creating a 90-degree angle with your body. Once you plant your left leg back on the ground, proceed to swing your right leg up.

POST-WORKOUT STRETCHES (STATIC)

#1 THE PIGEON (do the pigeon pose for 1-2 minutes)

Start off in the initial pushup position. Then bring your right leg forward, placing your bent knee and your thigh in front of your body. Your right foot should be sitting near your left hip. Then, your left leg should remain extended right behind your body, and the top of it should be resting on the ground. While supporting your body with your hands on either side, simply feel the stretch and hold for about a minute on each side.

#2 THE SCISSOR STRETCH (do about a minute of scissor stretches on each side)

Start with your feet together and step your right foot forward a couple of feet. Then carefully bend forward at your hip, reaching down toward the ground and placing your hands on the sides of your right foot. Hold for about a minute and switch sides.

3 Signs You Have to Develop Strength in your Upper Back

male fitness

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Your lats, or in other words, your latissimus dorsi muscles, are probably not something you really focus on when you’re working out. Abs, biceps, glutes, sure. But lats often get overlooked in favor of muscles that are more visible, muscles that are easier to activate. 

What countless people don’t realize is that these muscles, which span a massive portion of your back muscles, actually do a lot of work for you, and focusing on making them stronger is one of the best things you can do for your overall strength. 

Your lats basically attach to the middle and lower back, your lower ribs, your pelvis, and your upper arm, and they’re crucially involved in the pulling movements with the arms such as rows, pullups, pulldowns, as well as the extensions and rotations of your arms.

They even play a massive role in exercises where you wouldn’t usually expect them to play a role. With proper form, your lats can actually help pull your spine into a proper, more extended position for a certain deadlift, resisting the usual tendency of the back to basically round up from the weight of the bar.

In simple terms, yes, you want your lats to be as strong as possible.

But what are some signs that your lats need work? Here are 3 signs to watch out for.

#1 IF YOU CAN’T FULLY EXTEND YOUR ARMS OVER YOUR HEAD…

If your lats are tight, they’re weak. No two ways to go about it. If your lats and scapular regions don’t allow you to fully extend overhead, this is a clear sign that they need some work.

Here’s one way you can test your range of motion: simply lie down on your back, bend your knees while keeping your feet on the floor, and naturally, this should flatten out your lower back. Then try to extend your arms overhead and then to the floor behind you, all without bending your elbows. If your elbows bend or you notice your arms touch, you should start working on both strength and range of motion for your lats.

Shoulder mobility might not really seem like a big deal, but it’s vital. The shoulders are utilized in pretty much every upper body movement you do. When you’re lifting, reaching, holding objects in your day-to-day life or workouts, you usually rely on the optimal function of your shoulders at all times. The biggest supporters of the shoulders are, you guessed it, the lats.

#2 IF YOU CAN’T DO A PULLUP

Countless people are working on achieving their first pullup (or even chinup) with no success. They’re strong, at a healthy weight, and they’ve been working out with negative pullups or band-assisted pullups for awhile. But if you’re in this situation and you still can’t do a pullup despite putting in the work, this could likely be because of neglected lats. The lats are where your strength should come from when you’re doing a pullup, and other shoulder and back muscles usually operate as secondary movers that aid in stability.  

Though people will often try to pull up with their biceps or traps during the movement, the most efficient muscles to utilize here are your lats. Don’t expect to go much further in reps if you don’t focus on building up that lat strength. 

#3 IF YOU’VE GOT BAD POSTURE

To be completely fair, this could largely be due to a variety of factors. The fact is, making your lats stronger will help you massively with further postural issues. There are countless factors that contribute to this – for example, if someone is training a lot of pressing and pushing movements without really doing any pulling movements, strengthening the lats will go a long way to improving posture.

For some people, weak lats could be at the root of their bad posture. Sitting all the time with poor posture will lead to a weak mid and upper back. This, in turn, damages your abdominal strength. A strong core is an absolute must for good posture, so the exercises where you have to resist rotation (such as landmine presses or the Pallof press) can help train both those regions at the same time.

Best Supplements for Women who Love Working Out

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Here’s a quick question – do you think there are more supplements in the world of female fitness or male fitness? Anyway, we all know there are countless companies selling fat burners, proteins, creatines, stimulants, and countless other forms of supplements. 

And even though these companies spend a ton of time and money targeting the right people through their advertising, many of them do not categorize their supplements by gender.

Naturally, this leaves a lot of women wondering – should we be taking the same supplements as men? Should we be taking as much as they do? Should we be taking them at all? 

The fitness community has, of course, overcomplicated the issue with countless posts about how healthy supplements are and how women can use them to the best effect, creating even more confusion. 

That’s why we’re here to day to make it all much simpler and more straightforward.

We’ll spare you dozens of hours of research and we’ll give you one simple solution – if you feel like you want to take a supplement because you’re not getting enough of a given nutrient from your diet, do it. But when it comes to creatine or pre-workout stimulants, all you have to do is make sure you’re taking a smaller dose.

Essentially, there is little difference in the supplements men and women take. However, since women tend to weigh less than males on average, it’s much safer to adjust dosage for weight and make sure you’re taking a smaller size dose of creatine, pre-workout stimulants, and other such supplements. 

When it comes to answering the question “what supplements women should take”, this is entirely up to you and will depend on the goals and aspirations you have. With that said, here are some of the more favorable options. These are my top three picks for underrated, lady-friendly supplements that will help you fill the gaps in your diet and gain a performance advantage in the gym.

Creatine – when it comes to creatine, most men stick to the 5g a day rule. If you’re a seasoned gym lady and you want to get the benefits of creatine, simply take half that dose (which is still plenty for you). Take 2.5 grams of creatine, a few times a week, and your creatine stores will be saturated and abundant.

Lutein – lutein is a part of a fat-soluble class of nutrients called carotenoids. It’s usually found in dark-green veggies, as well as various fruits. It’s an antioxidant that concentrates into your eyes to help protect them against free radical destruction and resulting age-related degeneration, the leading cause for blindness in women. Lutein is also found to support general health in reproductive tissues. It’s also found in the skin and may protect against the sun’s damaging rays.

Pro-biotics – an essential part of your gut health. The excitement around them seems to have no end – scientists are currently investigating the connections between your gut bacteria and countless aspects of your health such as your immune function, mental health, skin health, and physical performance. However, there’s no FDA-approved amount that you should be taking every day. 

BCAAs – Whether you’re sweating it out with cardio or lifting heavy, BCAAs are going to help you properly recover your muscles after your workout. They’ll also help you prevent soreness and even retain more of your toned muscle mass while you’re losing weight! If your diet is lacking in protein, BCAAs are the best (and one of the most delicious) way to increase your protein intake and reap all the health benefits.

3 Reasons Why Women Should Do Heavy Strength Training

female fitness

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Ever since the dawn of bodybuilding and female fitness, women have broken down into two groups: those who strength train and those who don’t. It’s hard to believe how so many women, to this day, avoid weightlifting and strength training because of their fear that they will become too muscular. If you’re in that way of thinking, there’s one simple realization you have to make – if you’re not incorporating strength training into your routine, your training routine is essentially incomplete.

If your overall goal is to tone your body, become more athletic, lose weight, look good, feel good, and be more energetic, you can’t go on spending countless hours on the treadmill expecting this to happen. You’re missing out on one very important aspect of training – resistance. It offers massive physical and mental health benefits that will not only help you achieve your desired goals faster but will also allow you to push yourself past your potential and into new, undiscovered territory for your body.

In case you’re still skeptical, here are my top three reasons why more women should be incorporating strength training into their routine… as soon as possible!

You’ll actually achieve better weight loss results. 

If you’re training to slim down and lean out, and everything you’re doing is some slow, steady, low-intensity cardio, you’re not going at this in the most productive way possible. 

If you simply add some weight training into your routine, you will immediately see a vast difference in the number of calories (and fat) you burn on a daily basis. 

This is because strength training leaves an “afterburn” effect that will have you burning calories for the rest of the day after you’ve finished training. This effect can also be produced with high-intensity cardio (or HIIT), though if you want to maximize it, you can simply incorporate a few resistance training exercises into your post-run routine. Ultimately, strength training will lead you to burn more fat, not less.

When you’re strength training, your body remains in a fat-burning state long after you’ve finished your workout. This translates to burning up to twice as fast as you would if you only did low-intensity cardio sessions. And on top of that, building some lean muscle will actually help you burn more calories in the long-run (and look better) since muscle is more metabolically active than fat – meaning the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest. 

More strength and more curves! 

Muscle strength and muscle power are incredibly underrated. If you’re using resistance bands, barbells, dumbbells, even your own body weight, you’ll not only be building up muscle strength and endurance… you’ll also be adding more lean muscle mass to your body’s natural build, allowing you to get the curves you want exactly where you want them.

Less stress and more energy. 

Countless studies have linked the positive impacts of weightlifting to mental health. When you’re in the gym, you’ll be passionately focused on your reps, sets, and exercises, and your mind falls into a near-meditative state. 

Not to mention, if you start your day off with a workout, you’ll be energized throughout the whole day because of the inertia of movement you’ve created. People have this misconception that exercise will make you tired, whereas the exact opposite is true – a workout will fuel you with energy and have you fired up and ready to go for the rest of the day. Training has also been shown to alleviate depression and lower anxiety due to its strong anti-stress effects.

Ultimately, once you get the snowball rolling down the hill, and you see yourself struggle, push past plateaus, and grow into a new you… you will find yourself reaching a point where you let go of all your worries and you just focus on improving yourself. That’s exactly what I want for you, and I think strength training is one amazing way to achieve it.

The 10 Best Weight Loss Workouts – Ranked

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Whether you’re looking to lose a lot or a little weight, exercise is an important component of any weight-loss plan. But not all workouts are created equal when the goal is shedding pounds. Ahead, trainers rank their favorite research-backed workouts for weight loss.

#1 BODYWEIGHT WORKOUTS (A-TIER)

Bodyweight exercises can be used to do both cardiovascular/endurance training and, when pushed to the extent, and strength training. When your body allows it, you can do bodyweight cardio training such as high knees, jumping jacks, burpees, etc. and alternate them with boxing punches in plank jacks, squat jacks, squat jumps, or a low squat. 

While you might think you need some equipment to do strength training, in reality, you can focus on making bodyweight exercises more challenging and pushing your body further. This creates a similar way of getting stronger such as using heavier weights throughout an extended period of time.

#2 BOXING (S-TIER)

If you’ve ever done a shadow boxing or heavy bag class, you know that boxing is one of the heaviest, sweatiest forms of cardio. 

One study even looked at adults with high levels of body fat and discovered that a high-intensity boxing regimen up to four days a week was the most effective method for reducing body fat when compared to walking and running workouts.

#3 CIRCUIT TRAINING (A-TIER)

The workout of choice for countless personal trainers when they’re introducing beginners to the gym. A high-intensity, steady-state circuit workout can hit different than HIIT since there’s minimal rest involved. 

For example, performing 6 exercises for 1 minute each without rest truly pushes the boundaries of what your body is capable of. When you can do a circuit like that three times, then rest a few minutes between sets, you’ll be providing the maximum benefit with a tiny time commitment workout. Speaking of HIIT…

#4 HIIT (S-TIER)

High-intensity interval training is pretty much the most well-known form of weight loss training next to straight up running. 

This is because it’s a great way to lose body fat. HIIT exercise has been shown to be much more effective than steady-state exercise when it comes to weight loss. Why it’s not really clear why that is, HIIT does seem to work better than other forms of cardio for the majority of people out there.

#5 ROWING (A-TIER)

Rowing is another full-body workout that’s low-impact – meaning it’s highly effective at helping you rack up calorie burn and lose weight. Furthermore, it’s accessible for people at any level of physical ability.

Research published in the Annals of Rehabilitation Medicine discovered that people who had impaired vision (who often have low levels of physical fitness) were able to lower their fat mass by adding the practice of rowing to their routine five days a week.

#6 RUNNING/CYCLING (A-TIER)

Running and cycling can be extremely effective for weight loss, providing you’re not compensating for the calories you burn through a massive post-run snack refuel. There are many ways to boost your calorie burn while running, such as adding sprints or turning it into an all-out HIIT session. 

#7 STRENGTH TRAINING (S-TIER)

Lifting weights not only helps you lose weight through calorie burn, but also improves your metabolic rate and helps you burn calories post-workout. While pretty much any type of weightlifting or strength training will be genuinely beneficial to your body, experts recommend heavy weightlifting in particular. 

Engaging in heavy lifting is one of the best ways to increase bone density and muscle size, as well as maximize the number of calories you burn during and after your session. 

#8 SWIMMING (B-TIER)

Swimming is one of the best low-impact workouts out there. Because it’s really easy on the joints, it’s an amazing pick for people who find other forms of cardio too harsh. And there are other pros, too! Low risk of injury in a full-body workout. 

Improving body composition throughout the entire body. And so much more! Research has continuously shown that swimming is an amazing method people of all ages can use to improve body composition.

#9 WALKING (A-TIER)

Believe it or not, simply bringing up your step count can be an incredibly solid fat loss strategy. Walking trends to count as non-exercise activity thermogenesis, also known as NEAT, which is pretty much a way of saying “the calories your body will burn during your regular daily activities.” 

NEAT will, on average, account for about 15-20 percent of the total daily energy expenditure of your body. Increasing it can significantly improve your blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and your digestion — all while burning a ton of calories at the same time.

#10 YOGA (A-TIER)

Yoga classes (or doing yoga solo at home) can help work on flexibility and strength, burn calories, and allow you to destress. Yoga can burn about 200 calories in a 30-minute session. 

One large-scale research review concluded that yoga is an effective way to manage your body weight. But apart from the calories you’ll burn while doing it, yoga will also support other factors in your body that make weight loss easier, such as lowering stress.

6 Mental Tricks You Can Use to Get Back on Track

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Getting back on track to weight loss, healthy eating, or training hard – whatever those things mean to you – can sometimes be tricky after you’ve taken time off. But whether you’ve taken a break from developing certain habits over the holiday season or you’re simply going to be refreshing your nutritional habits as you’re moving into the New Year, you have to get your head in the game. 

After all, the “back on the wagon” mentality can actually bring its own mental challenges. Luckily, there will be countless ways you can adjust your mindset and make it much easier to wrap your head around all the positive changes you’re implementing. Here, dietitians are going to be sharing their own tips.

#1 THINK ABOUT ADDING, NOT SUBSTRACTING

Consider all the different things you want to be eating rather than what you’re going to be aiming to remove from your diet. That way, working your way toward much healthier habits is likely going to feel less overwhelming. Instead of cutting out all the chips and pizza from your diet, try adding a new serving of veggie to your meals every day. Pizza with salad will be a much more balanced meal and may help you eat less in the long run.

#2 KEEP IT IN PERSPECTIVE

It won’t really matter what you do between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, it only matters what you do between New Year’s Day and Christmas Day. The holiday season is the busiest time of the year – make sure to enjoy foods that are worth splurging on and just move on into your routine after the holidays. You aren’t going to serve yourself if you just dwell on the past. Set some realistic goals and get moving!

#3 REMEMBER SETBACKS ARE A PART OF THE PROCESS

Getting back on track can easily feel intimidating if you’re someone who is afraid of messing up their diet. So it can really help to acknowledge that you’re definitely going to slip up from time to time – and that’s totally OK. Plan for all your setbacks by just identifying which areas you’re going to be struggling with. 

Maybe it’s exercise or consistency, maybe it’s the drinks on the weekends. Do your best to plan ahead for the occasions. Realize they’re just a part of the process and aim to minimize their impact. Recognize that progress is going to get you to the goal – not perfection.

#4 REMEMBER NOTHING LASTS FOREVER

Another obstacle standing in the way between you and changing how you eat is worrying that you just won’t be able to eat your favorite foods again. But keep in mind that the changes you’re making now might involve making some sacrifices. But once in a while, you should treat yourself to all the foods you love. 

Plus, as you’re getting closer and closer to your goals, there may even be more room for the foods you actually enjoy. 

#5 FOCUS ON THE QUALITY

It might seem counterintuitive at first, but you should never start a diet by simply cutting calories out. If you’re not eating the correct balance of micronutrients to actually satisfy your body, simply trying to restrict to a smaller amount of food is a recipe for disaster. 

Instead, focus on the quality of your food – choose more nutrient-dense options and fewer processed foods. Learn more about your own hunger and satiety cues. Do your best to set yourself up for success by giving you body quality, then leave the quantity as your second priority.

#6 UNDERSTAND THAT NOTHING IS OFF LIMITS!

There are no foods that should be strictly forbidden from your diet. Everything and anything can find in a well-balanced, healthy diet. The only thing you have to do is choose how much food you’re going to eat. Maybe you’re someone who just loves ice cream. 

Why would you completely take it out of your life? It’s just a matter of controlling your portion size and making sure you’re not overindulging. 

Remember that the foods you love to eat are easily available, and they’re not going anywhere but aim to exercise self-discipline and treat yourself with those foods as you’re still making progress.

6 Ways to Refresh Your Routine for The New Year

weight loss

Hey Angels and Alphas,

We, people, are creatures of habit. We love the comfort our routines give us because they provide structure for our lives and help us find out what to expect from life. But even the best routines will benefit from the occasional revamp. 

By giving your routine a New Year makeover, you can apply new things you’ve learned, gain new perspectives, and enjoy new ways to improve your health. 

Below, we’ve explored seven healthy ways you can refresh your routine. And because we’ve just entered the New Year, there’s no better time for you to put them into action. 

#1 TRY A NEW WORKOUT REGIME

It’s easy for you to get stuck in a rut, doing your favorite workouts over and over. But your body will respond positively to unpredictability. 

Instead of trying to do the same old exercises, again and again, this year, try something new. If you’re a jogger, mix it up with the occasional HIIT workout session. If yoga is what you love to do, try picking up some weights or take a class in strength training.

#2 SPEND MORE TIME IN NATURE

Getting outdoor time has been proven to decrease stress levels, release endorphins that improve your mood, and help you rack up steps (and calories.) It’s also a great way to soak up much-needed vitamin D and all of the benefits it brings, from initial immune support to heart health. 

If you’re at a job in which you’re stuck on a desk all day, take your next lunch break and use it to take a short walk outside. See how you’re going to feel! If you’re a treadmill lover or someone who usually lifts weights, try heading outdoors for a bodyweight workout or a hike.

#3 LEARN NEW RECIPES

A lot of us are guilty of cooking the same meals again and again. Or worse, resorting to takeout. Instead, why not pick up a cookbook, go find some inspiration on Pinterest, or browse through a recipe blog. 

There are so many great meals out there that you’re going to absolutely love, from quick dinners to slow-cooked stews. Explore and find out what you love (and your routine) love most.

#4 REVAMP YOUR SLEEP SCHEDULE

Between your family, social responsibilities, career, and ten other things, it’s difficult to get in quality sleep every night. Most adults need anywhere between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night so they can feel at their best. 

To make sure you’re on the right track, revamp your sleep routine by setting a new bedtime and sticking to it. Going to bed and then waking up at nearly the same time every day is the best thing you can do for your sleep schedule and sleep quality. 

#5 GET ORGANIZED

If you’re someone who isn’t really organized or likes to use systems to manage their daily life, even the slightest tasks can feel overwhelming. In the New Year, try adding some more serenity to your life by organizing the things that stress you out. 

Maybe it’s your home gym or desk. It could be a pantry or your fridge. Just try to get in the habit of staying organized, and you’ll soon realize how prepared you are to handle anything life throws at you – from tedious daily tasks to ambitious goals.

#6 TAKE TIME TO RELAX… AND GET “ME TIME”

Wellness is not a switch you can flip on and off. It’s not something you can achieve by just dieting and exercising correctly. You’ll need to implement practices that train your mind, ease stress, and help keep you in the “now.”

Meditating, listening to music, getting a massage, taking a hot bath, writing in your journal, and similar wellness practices that take no more than 10 minutes out of your day can significantly improve your quality of life. 

Wouldn’t your life be better if you made relaxation a part of your daily routine? Even if you have to go as far as scheduling it in your day, you’re going to feel better all year long. 

How Often Should You Really Weigh Yourself?

nutrition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Imagine the following scenario. You decide it’s time to put in your focus and energy into losing weight. 

Then you decide to start exercising properly and you embark on a healthier eating plan. 

You put in the work for a good week, sweating yourself out in the gym every other day and trying to eat and cook healthier meals.

The time will come to check in on your progress, so you’re going to step on the scale and witness the moment of truth.

And then you see you haven’t lost any weight!

So what do you do now? Do you continue with all the exercises you’ve been doing and new, healthier eating plan? Or do you just throw in the towel and instantly go back to everything you were doing before? Or maybe even start restricting your eating more and more, making weight loss happen faster? 

There are all absolutely reasonable (and normal) reactions that you would have to not seeing the result you want show up on the scale.

But what you should realize in this moment is that weight loss, weight gain, or even weight maintenance, can sometimes be tricky to navigate. Putting things simply, even the scale you have can be extremely tricky to navigate as your weight is going to fluctuate up and down not only throughout the course of the day, but also the weeks and months.

Weight fluctuations are incredibly common because your weight in this current moment is determined by a variety of different factors. 

They include, but are not limited to, how well hydrated you are, how recently you ate something, what time of the day it is, what the climate is, what your exercise routine is… and the list goes on and on. A few extra pounds of weight fluctuation here and there is not going to be the result of fat gain because your body is just doing what it’s supposed to do – regulating physiological functions.

So the question here arises – how often should you weight yourself so you get the most accurate depiction of the progress and results you’re making?

Whether your goal is to maintain, lose, or gain weight, let’s start off by talking about the scale. 

The very first and most important question you need to ask yourself is: 

“If I weigh myself (daily, weekly, periodically) actually help me or harm me? Since there will never be a magic answer for how often you’re going to weigh yourself, figuring out what is motivating and helpful for you as an individual is what’s going to help you make the right decision. 

WEIGHING YOURSELF DAILY

Many people will find that weighing in daily will provide you with a sense of accountability, and it’s helpful for having a great idea of where you’re at with your progress. For many of us, it helps keep management and progress on track. If you’re able to write down your weight daily, you will be able to follow overall trends and not stress about the day-to-day fluctuations. This is the healthy way of weighing yourself daily.

Will you let a 1-pound gain ruin your mood? Or, are you absolutely ecstatic by the sight of losing 1 pound? If the daily weigh-ins affect your mood in a significant way, then you might want to reconsider. The number on the scale should not have direct power over your mood, and the events of day cannot impact your general quality of life. 

WEEKLY WEIGH-INS

Weighing weekly can have its advantages — it allows you to track progress while still having six whole days to not focus on your weight. For the best result possible, pick a day that’s consistent every week, and weigh yourself in the morning. Try to find trends if you can, but don’t get caught up in the minutiae. 

Recognize that it’s probably going to take a few good weeks before you have a good picture of where you’re headed. This can be a great tool to keep yourself accountable without making you ride the whole daily emotional roller coaster that the scale can bring.

WEIGHING YOURSELF OCCASSIONALY

Some people will always opt for the occasional weight check-in. And people may do this at home or just rely on the scale at the doctor’s office or the gym and get an idea of where they’re going. People who opt for the occasional weigh-in often have alternative ways of identifying shifts in their weight, such as the ways their clothes fit or how strong they feel as they’re exercising.

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.

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