Monthly Archives: April 2012

Joint Health: Why it’s important to YOU

 

It’s easy to forget the importance of joint health. The “hinges” in your body that allow you to move. Without joints, we would be too stiff to move! Think about it. Stand up, while keeping your ankles, knees, hips, elbows and shoulders from moving. Try to move around the room.

Go ahead, try it out. I’ll wait…

See what happens? You can’t move! That is exactly why it is so important to be mindful of joint health. You can’t do very much at all, without your joints. Every single one of us needs our joints to be healthy, to allow us to do the things that we want to do. Heck, even getting up off the couch requires your joints to work properly.

You’re convinced that joints are important. Good. But before we get into how to keep strong and injury free, let’s take a look at joint structure, to better understand what we are dealing with.

 

Joints:

Though there are different kinds of joints, they more or less do the same thing. They connect one bone to another, to allow us to move. It’s our joints that allow our bodies to bend and twist. Inside our joints there exists tendons, ligaments and cartilage. Ligaments attach bone to bone. Tendons attach muscle to bone. Cartilage is important because it acts as the cushion within the joints. It is what keeps our bones from grinding together (ouch!). This is a situation where grrrrrrinDING isn’t a good thing :p.

Osteoarthritis is when your cartilage begins to wear away. The less cartilage you have or the more damage you sustain to what you do have, the more ouchies you feel (“Ouchies” is a new medical term, look it up). This happens because of many factors. Previous injuries, getting older, losing muscle mass, being overweight, all contribute to wear and tear on joint cartilage.

How can you take care of your joints? Good question. I like where your head’s at, reader.

Strength Train: Yup, there it is again. Strength training has so many health benefits, it should be no surprise that it pops up time and time again in the topic of fitness and wellness. If you don’t work to maintain muscle mass, as you get older, you will lose it. Thus, contributing to more wear and tear on your joints. On the flip side, if you work to maintain (or better yet, gain muscle mass/strength), you work to take more stress off of your joints.The stronger your muscles are, the more they can take the wear and tear of every day life, instead of passing that onto your joints. Athletes, dancers, enthusiasts of being active, pay special attention to this point. Even if you haven’t been able to get yourself to be active, this still applies to you.

Weight Management: The more weight you are carrying around, the more weight your joints have to deal with. Think about the knees. The more you weigh, the more strain is put on your knees. Now, slow down, pat’na. I’m not here to claim that everyone should have the goal of having a six pack, or that we should all be ashamed of our bodies. I truly believe it is important to be happy with who we are and not compare ourselves too much with others. Now, I AM saying that it’s a good idea to self reflect on our own fitness level. Would it benefit our body to eat a bit better and get a big more active? Would it benefit our joints if we did get a bit more lean? Those are questions we will need to answer ourselves, on an individual basis.

Ice: You’ve seen it before. After a game or performance or intense bout of exercise, some people wrap ice around their shoulder, knee, shoulder etc. Icing joints used in intense activity can help prevent swelling, as well as manage pain. When you exercise, a joint lubricant called Synovial fluid is released into the joint. Lubricant is good for joints right? Yes. The problem is, when exercise is over, this lubricant can cause damage to cartilage. Icing gets this fluid out of your joints, when it is no longer necessary.

Food: Omega 3 fatty acids and Vitamin D can benefit joint health because they have an anti inflammatory effect, as well as can work to reduce joint pain.

Muscle Knots = Bad: The tighter your muscles are, the more stress they put on your joints. If you allow muscle knots to remain, think about the strain they put on your joints. Strain on joints = more likelihood for injury or pain. This is why massages or using a foam roller are so beneficial for joint health. Massaging or foam rolling your muscles is a great way to release the muscle knots that many of us have come to (unfortunately) become familiar with.

 

Joint health is important to everyone, unless you don’t have any joints. In which case, this is one thing you get to not worry about. But for the rest of us, with joints, we need to make sure we keep in mind how important this topic is. If you have no joint pain now, great! Keep it that way, by taking care of yourself. If you are active, pay special attention to joint health. In order to continue to perform at the best level possible, you need to have healthy joints.

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What’s the Difference Between Cage-Free and Free Range Eggs? Organic?

 

 

With so much marketing and so many options at the store, sometimes we don’t know what to buy. We might sit there looking at the multiple options of the same product with the same look of confusion as when we first tried to learn geometry. Or maybe you were all geniuses at geometry. I, was not. I was like, ummm whaaaat?!

There are many products at the food store that offer so many options that we may stand there thinking the same thing I did when stepping into that summer school geometry class. I will write more about the differences between some of these food options, to better help us make informed decisions.

 

First up. Eggs.

 

Cage-free is good right? Wait, is free range better?! Hold on, what about organic? Or should I just go with conventional? I wondered these things myself. Here is the difference.

 

Cage-free means the chickens aren’t stuffed into small cages that we have seen examples of in the video clips of some egg farms. Cage-free chickens are often in an open barn type setup and they are usually allowed nest boxes and perches to lay their eggs. Now, the space can still be tight, but they aren’t packed liked sardines in cages. The actual setup depends on the farm.

Free Range makes it sound like the chickens all take group exercise classes in the sunshine. Like they all put on their addidas, matching track suits, with color coordinated sweat bands and shoes, and all go on routine jogs. Welllll, not quite. Wellll, maybe. Butttt, probably not.

Free range, according to the FDA, simply means the chickens have access to the outside. It doesn’t mean they were raised outdoors. Yes, they have access to the outdoors, but how often they actually make it out there, is anybody’s guess. Theoretically, it sounds very nice. What actually happens, is not quite as clear. Smaller farms may make it easier for the chickens to roam around in the fresh air, but unless you check with them individually, you don’t really know.

Organic eggs are what they sound like. They are produced from chickens who were fed organic feed and didn’t receive any type of antibiotic or vaccine. Also, organic eggs come from chickens never fed genetically engineered products.

Conventionally grown eggs came from chickens more than likely in tight cages, with little room to move. They may have been fed feed made with genetically modified crops, and may have received antibiotics or other types of vaccines.

 

Which ones should you buy? It really depends on how you look at the situation. Did a chicken that was raised free range, necessarily get more time outdoors than a cage free chicken? Maybe. You really don’t know unless you talk to the farmer who is a part of the process.

Me? I would like to think that if the chickens at least had access to the outdoors, that maybe a few of them ventured out from time to time. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but if there isn’t much of a difference in price between cage-free and free range, then I’ll go for the free range, to at least support the idea. I’m a big supporter of organic eating, if at all possible. Therefore, that is my usual choice as well.

 

As always, the best way to figure out how your food is actually grown, is to go to the source. Visiting farmers markets and buying directly from the farms themselves is great because you can have conversations with the people who are literally raising your food. They can explain to you how their animals or produce are raised, and you won’t have to worry about labels or marketing terms that can be misleading

 

To find a local farmer’s market near you, check out http://www.localharvest.org/.

Can Food Affect My Mood?

I do not own this image. If you do, and would like me to take it down, please let me know.

Can food effect your mood?

First, that phrase rhymes, and that is kind of funny.

Second, yes, it can. Studies have shown that eating certain foods can effect the chemical and physiological functions in our brains. We don’t know exactly how this happens, but we know enough to try a few things that seem to work.

Before I get into the examples, I want to make a point. You’ll notice how the examples of the foods to eat for this topic, are already what we have heard we should be eating. It’s important to note that eating clean, nutrition foods (as opposed to over processed, fast foods) improve our health in general. Health, in a general sense, already encompasses all of the specific health examples that we would like to improve, individually. Food affecting your mood in a positive way, is just another reason to add to the million other reasons to choose good, whole foods. Eating right, allows your body to do it’s job.

Ok, enough philosophical stuff (which I believe is important to highlight), let’s get to the actual food examples!

Don’t be too scared of all carbohydrates:  Tryptophan is a non essential amino acid, found in most protein rich foods. When it enters the brain, more serotonin is produced. As we know (or are about to learn), serotonin elevates our mood. Fish and Vitamin D have been shown to increase serotonin in the brain. So where do the carbohydrates come into the equation? I’ll tell you, my friend. Even though tryptophan is found in many protein rich foods, other amino acids are more easily transported to the brain. When you eat carbohydrates, they seem to help tryptophan get to your brain. Therefore, improving mood. If you were to go TOO low on carbohydrates, this would negatively effect the amount of tryptophan that would get to your brain, which may make you feel like this 😦 .

If you have a friend or family member who cut out almost all carbs from their diet and seemed to not be in the greatest mood. Mayyyybe this is why. Make sure you make smart choices of where your carbs do come from. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains will give you the carbs your body needs, and will also contribute other nutrients and fiber as well.

Omega 3 fatty acids: Studies have shown that Omega 3s may help protect against depression because of the affect they have on neurotransmission in the brain. This hasn’t been a directly proven link, but foods such as fish, flaxseed and walnuts have other health benefits as well. Might as well give it a shot!

Eat breakfast: Studies have shown that eating breakfast not only helps more energy and better memory throughout the day, it can also positively affect our mood. Here is another one. We all know we should be eating breakfast. If you don’t; start. If you already do, good job, champ.

Folate and B12: A spanish study found a correlation in low intake of folate for men, and women with a low intake of vitamin B12, with depression. Whether these low levels of vitamins lead to depression, or are depressed people eating less of these nutrients, remains to be seen. However, it still is a good idea to get enough of these nutrients.  Folate can be found in nuts, fruits and especially dark green vegetables. You can find B12 in lean animal products.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps the brain produce serotonin. How much you need, depends on man factors, including where you live. One recommendation is to shoot for 600 IU (international units) a day, from food. Vitamins from food are always better than from a supplement. However, I still believe multi vitamins are a good idea.

Check your caffeine intake: Caffeine can make depression worse for some that have it, depending on how sensitive they are to it. Also, if you consume too much, or too late in the day, this can affect your sleep. Not good sleep = not good mood. I’m not good at math, but I know that equation is true. If you’re at risk for depression, chill out on the caffeine for a few weeks and see how you feel.

“But if I don’t have caffeine in the morning, don’t talk to me cause’ I”ll be in a bad mood.” If you were thinking that as you read the previous paragraph, then maybe this is just the right advice for you 😉 .

Chocolate: I know some readers were thinking “Yeah yeah, get to the CHOCOLATE, that’s good for mood right?! That’s an excuse to eat chocolate, right?! Give me a reason to eat more chocolate!!!”

Don’t lie, I know some people were close to thinking that.

Actually, yes, chocolate seems to be linked to better mood other than simply for the reason that it makes you happy because you like the taste. However, don’t go finding any chocolate you can, and shoving it in your mouth just yet.

Make sure to choose dark chocolate, to get the most health benefits. The higher the cocoa content in the dark chocolate you choose, the better for you. Polyphenols have been shown to be linked to improved cognitive function, and they are found in high amounts in dark chocolate. Chocolate also contains neurotransmitters called, phenylethylamines. Phenylethylamines promote feelings of attraction and giddiness (teehee). And, for what it’s worth, chocolate and sex have been shown to activate the same parts of the brain (another appropriate place for the phrase “teehee”).

There you go. Another example of how eating a balanced diet of real foods, positively effects your body’s ability to function how it should.

Here’s to taking control of our lives and making sure we are in a good mood as often as possible!

I do not own this image. If you do, and would like me to take it down, please let me know.

Reference:

Elaine Magee. “How Food Affects Your Moods.” Web MD, 15 December 2009. Web. 22 April 2012.

Other random places I have read information but can’t remember exactly where, woops.

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Laugh. It’s Good for You.

 

What you eat and how active you are, are big contributing factors to your overall health. However, there are many other factors as well.

 

Humor, is a big one. Laughing has a great positive physiological affect on the body. For a change of pace, I wanted to share this hilarious commercial that I saw over the weekend. It makes me laugh every time I watch it. The randomness is so great.

 

Enjoy

 

I Am In a Relationship with Fitness

 

 

Fitness is a relationship.

 

 

Relationships take work. There are good times, and there are not so good times. Fitness won’t be a honeymoon period forever. There will be times when it takes effort to continue this relationship. There will be times when the sedentary lifestyle looks more attractive. There will be times when you get distracted and get caught checking out the life habit of eating fast and pre packaged meals. Remember why this relationship is so good for you, and why these distractions are only temporary.  Stay focused.

 

There will be times when conflict arrises in the relationship. There will be times when you and fitness don’t see eye to eye on certain issues. Maybe because of something you have experienced in the past. Maybe you two have different ways of looking at certain things. Know that conflict is healthy, and even necessary in a relationship.

 

There might be times when things seem like they are getting boring. The same workouts aren’t as exciting as they once were. You don’t feel the same energy you did when you first met. Find ways to keep the relationship exciting. Try a new workout. Try a new routine. Remember why you started this relationship in the first place. How good it made you feel. Take it upon yourself to get re-inspired, and rekindle that flame.

 

Fitness will take care of you. It will challenge you. It will inspire you. It will help you reach goals you never knew you could. When you feel scared, fitness will help you feel strong. When you feel depressed, fitness will cheer you up. When you feel that life is too much to handle, fitness will help you regain control.

 

As blissful as the good times can feel, as frustrating as the difficult times can be, remember how lucky you are to be in such a relationship. Notice how great life is, with fitness.

 

Don’t forget how lucky you are to be in this relationship.

 

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What to eat at night: Guidelines for eating before bed/sleep

 

It happens to all of us. We already had dinner and it’s getting later in the night. We notice we are still hungry!

 

“But I already ate dinner!” You may tell yourself. Hopefully not out loud if others are around you, because that might make you sound like a weirdo. Or maybe you think to yourself “Aw man, I’m hungry but I don’t know what to eat, I wish FitMentality would share some ideas about what foods to eat at night so that I can see what works best for me.”

 

You probably thought the latter option many times before, word for word. For that, I thank you.

 

Ok, guidelines for eating at night.

 

A few things to avoid

 

Eating too big of a meal too close to bedtime: Think about it. Your body has to put in some serious work to digest all that food from a big meal. Yes, a big meal can leave you feeling tired (as referenced in a previous post about Food Comas, check it out). HOWEVER, this does not mean what you would think it means. Trying to go to sleep for the night right after a big meal is one sure way to lay there and feel uncomfortable enough to keep you from falling asleep, or getting good sleep. Try to have that type of meal at least 3 hours before bed. Struggling to digest food during the night is no fun.

Caffeine: This one is obvious, yes. But we all need a reminder of even obvious things, from time to time. Caffeine gets your central nervous system hyped up, which can get your nerves and thoughts excited. If you’re really sensitive to caffeine, stop drinking anything with it by early afternoon. How long before bed to stop drinking caffeine is really going to be an individual type situation. Trial and error on this one.

Alcohol: But alcohol relaxes us, right? You might think alcohol before bed is no problem because it can make you feel sleep, but you’re missing the big picture, my friend. Alcohol can disrupt your quality of sleep during the entire night. It can cause you to wake up at random times during the night, therefore causing an overall less effective rest. This is why on nights when you threw back too many drinks and you fell asleep fast, you don’t exactly wake up feeling refreshed (even if you aren’t hung over).

Too much liquid too close to bedtime: Captain obvious strikes again. If you catch yourself waking up in the middle of the night to go pee pee or wee wee or tinkle tinkle, then you drank too much liquid too close to bedtime, sport.

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Options for nighttime eating

 

Yogurt with a bit of granola. Get plain or greek yogurt, you don’t need the extra sugar in flavored varieties. Fruit is also a great way to add flavor.

Popcorn: Satisfies your craving for a snack, but not too heavy.

Fruit: The fiber will help keep you full and satisfied.

Cottage Cheese: This one is especially good if you are doing strength training workouts. The protein in cottage cheese is broken down slowly and therefore provides the muscles with protein for a longer period of time, perfect for when you are about to not eat for hours. Even if you aren’t working out, this is still an option. A bit of honey and/or fruit may help if you have trouble with the flavor.

Oatmeal: Sprinkle some cinnamon and add a bit of fruit if you would like. BAM, not just for breakfast, SON! Sorry, I got excited. I like oatmeal.

Warm Milk: It actually does work. Those old wives got it right with this tale.

 

It really depends on what food seems to work best for you. Stay away from eating too greasy/fatty, too many calories and you should be just fine. Keep an eye on the amount you eat and how close it is to bed and how it affected how rested you feel in the morning. Change accordingly.

 

Now, for dancers or people who are active at night, this is a tough situation. For many of us, we have late night practices/sessions/workouts. We come home STARVING. In this case, a small snack before bed may not cut it, depending on how you feel and how long before you go to bed. It happens to me often. I come home ready to eat a whole building and eat everything in my path. Then, I can’t go to sleep for a while because I just ate so much. And therein lies the problem. Oh, life, how tricky you are. What you can try is a protein shake after practice and before bed. It will be easily digestible and the protein will help satisfy your hunger as well as promote recovery for your body.

 

I want to re-iterate that I am not a nutritionist and do not pretend to be. I love nutrition and fitness just as much as I like to share and exchange inspiration with those of similar passions. This is simply me sharing the things I have learned and have applied to my own life, that seem to work well. In the end, we all make our own choices of how we treat our bodies.

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