NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Thinking of Going Vegetarian?

Have you been considering a vegetarian diet? Approximately 3.2% of the American population currently follows a meat-free diet, with 0.5% of those following a vegan diet, which includes no animal products at all. This is very small when compared to India, where an estimated 42% of the population follows vegetarianism.

Veggie

So why would you consider going vegetarian? There are many reasons, but the most popular are for health reasons, to help preserve the Earth’s natural resources, and for animal rights.

Essential Nutrients for Meat-Free Meals

When some individuals decide to eliminate meat and other animal products from their diets, they might not be getting all of the essential nutrients that are important. So here are some nutrients to make sure you are getting in to guarantee your diet is balanced.

  • Protein: Essential for growth and maintenance. Food sources include beans, nuts, nut butters, peas, and soy products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers). Milk products and eggs are options for lacto-ovo vegetarians.
  • Iron: A primary carrier of oxygen in the blood. Food sources include iron-fortified cereals, spinach, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, turnip greens, molasses, whole-wheat breads, peas, and some dried fruit (apricots, prunes, and raisins).
  • Calcium: Important for building bones and teeth and maintenance of bone strength. Food sources include fortified breakfast cereals, soy (tofu, soy-based beverages), calcium-fortified orange juice, and some dark green, leafy vegetables (collard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, and mustard greens).
  • Zinc: Necessary for many biochemical reactions and helps the immune system function properly. Food sources include a variety of beans (white beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas), zinc-fortified breakfast cereals, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, and milk products for lacto vegetarians.
  • Vitamin B12: Necessary for cell division and growth, and strengthens the immune system. Food sources include milk products, eggs, B12 fortified foods (breakfast cereals, soy-based burgers, veggie burgers, and nutritional yeast).

Additional Recommendations for Vegans

476027891Vegans who do not have fortified foods and ovo-vegetarians who do not have fortified milk substitutes should consume the following daily:

  • 3 to 5 teaspoons vegetable oil (for calories and essential fatty acid)
  • 1 Tablespoon blackstrap molasses (for iron and calcium)
  • 1 Tablespoon brewer’s nutritional yeast for B vitamins, especially riboflavin and B12

Build Meals Around Low-Fat Proteins

Some final advice is to build meals around protein sources that are naturally low in fat, such as beans, lentils, and quinoa. Don’t overload meals with high-fat cheese to replace the meat.

Many foods that typically contain meat or poultry can be made vegetarian. This can increase vegetable intake and cut saturated fat and cholesterol intake. A variety of meat-free products look (and may taste) like their non-vegetarian counterparts, but are usually lower in saturated fat and contain no cholesterol.

Most restaurants can accommodate modifications to menu items by substituting meatless sauces, omitting meat frm stir-fry dishes, and adding vegetables or pasta in place of meat. These substitutions are more likely to be available at restaurants that make food to order.

To find out more about personal nutrition coaching at NIFS, follow this link. If you would like to schedule a personal nutrition consultation to help you decide whether switching to a vegetarian diet is the right choice for you, contact me at ascheetz@nifs.org.

Find out more about nutritional coaching

This blog was written by Angie Scheetz, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: nutrition weight management vegetarian protein vegan

Muscle Soreness Recovery Tips

sorenessWhen we are new to exercise or trying an exercise that is new to our body, it’s pretty common to feel SOME sort of muscular pain.

I think most of us can agree that a little muscle soreness after a fantastic workout is a fun way to remember that things are changing and that we are getting stronger. I think we can also agree (and most have experienced it) that there is a certain degree of soreness that kind of feels like “everything hurts so badly you can’t stand up or lift your arms,” which isn’t quite as motivating. Along with this you may feel irritable, fatigued, and really hungry. Sounds fun, right?

Not to worry! For each type of muscular soreness there is an amazing  recovery solution.

Why Do My Muscles Get Sore in the First Place?

The muscle soreness that you feel 24 to 48 hours after the workout is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), and it is actually caused by tiny micro-tears in the muscle and surrounding tissue. Say WHAT? Tears in the muscle? Sounds pretty terrible, right? But actually those little tears in the muscle are necessary to make things stronger.

So What Should I Do About Muscle Soreness?

To alleviate mild muscle soreness, a little movement is actually best! Try walking or some yoga. While it’s good to move after a workout to take away some of that pain, this is a pretty fine line and it’s most important to truly listen to and trust your body and give it rest when needed.

Here are five ways to take care of your muscles and reduce muscle soreness:

  1. Take it slow. Gradually progress the intensity, frequency, and duration of your workouts.
  2. Foam roll. Not sure what this is? It’s a way of stretching and basically giving your muscles and fascia a great massage. Check out our handy guide on how to foam roll!
  3. Get a massage. You’re going to love this one! Foam rolling is great, but if you have the time and funding for a therapeutic massage, it’s well worth the investment. It helps your body heal itself.
  4. Practice yoga or do some light stretching. Avoid a fast-paced or intense practice and choose something slower such as Yin or Hatha yoga.
  5. Ice the muscles. Placing an icepack on a specific area may help reduce muscle soreness in a very localized area. Make sure not to leave the icepack on for very long, though, as it may cause tissue death.

It all comes down to listening to your body and not being afraid to take a day or two to let your body heal. Soreness, injury, and illness are a time to nurture yourself and give your body the rest it needs. Take the rest, and pay attention to how much stronger you feel in your next workout!

This blog was written by Tara Deal Rochford, contributing writer, group fitness instructor, and author of healthy living blog Treble in the Kitchen. Meet our other NIFS bloggers.

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Topics: yoga injury prevention muscles stretching pain recovery

How to Add Sprinting to Your Training in the New Year

465261305The use of sprints in the world of fitness and sport performance is nothing exceptionally new, but can be really new to you. Actually, sprinting (fast, short bouts of running) was used to stay alive long before we used it as a mode of training.

Author Mark Sisson has spent a great deal of time spreading the message of the importance of sprinting to overall health, and that it was a huge part of the daily life for our very early ancestors. He believes, and I like his theory, that primal humans (represented by a caveman known as Grok) owed their fitness to three important concepts.

  • They walked great distances during their hunting and gathering trips.
  • They lifted heavy things such as building materials and large animals.
  • They sprinted for their lives from time to time from wild animals, and chased down game for their paleo dinner.

So Mark says, walk a bunch, lift heavy things (and set them back down, of course) and sprint once in a while and fitness will find you. I think he nailed it. There isn’t much difference between a sound fitness program and what I just described. But for now, we will focus on the sprinting part.

The Benefits of Sprinting

There are easily a hundred benefits of sprinting. This acute stressor can have many positive effects on your body. Here are just a few benefits of adding sprint work into your training.

  • Sprinting can be used across all fitness levels.
  • Sprinting doesn’t take a lot of time to do.
  • Sprinting burns fat.
  • Sprinting improves endurance.
  • Sprinting improves insulin sensitivity.
  • Sprinting is a fun and easy way to get and stay lean.

When implementing sprinting into your training, there are some pretty important steps to follow. To help you get started, here are a few tips that will get you on your way to sprinting more in 2015.


Step #1: Prepare Your Feet and Mobilize Major Joints

 

Step #2: Perform a Proper Warm-up

 

Step #3: Ease into Sprinting

When starting your sprinter program, follow a progressive level of intensity and volume. You do not want to start out with all-out sprints for 100 meters for sets of 5 to 10. That is a surefire recipe for an injury at worst, and failure to perform the movement properly at best.

A great tip I picked up from Eric Cressey is to start by sprinting uphill first before moving to the track or any flat surface. This will help with proper mechanics and decrease the chances of injury because you are less likely to overextend. Your timed intervals should start at a 1:2 work-to-rest ratio and gradually ramp up to a 1:1, and even a 2:1 ratio. For example, do :20 of max work followed by :40 of rest, then repeat for the desired number of sets.

I am also a huge fan of using your heart rate as both a measure of intensity and for determining your rest. You would rest until your heart rate recovered to 110–120bpm before starting your next set. The bottom line is that there will be no first-place ribbon waiting for you at the end of your sprint, so know your limits and use a progressive program when implementing sprinting.

Step #4: Mix It Up with Different Types of Sprinting

One of the best things about sprinting is that there are several ways to sprint, and they don’t always have to be fast. Fast is a relative term, and is specific to you and what you are trying to accomplish. Your sprints don’t have to be rep after rep of 100m dashes, unless that works for you and you are well prepared to take on such intensity. If you intersperse a couple periods of higher effort levels with periods of lower effort levels, you will be in good shape (pun intended).

Here are some other sprinting options:

  • Treadmill Sprints (video)
  • Airdyne Bike Sprints
  • Rowing Sprints
  • Cross-Trainer Sprints
  • Ski Erg Sprints

Sprinting can be a fun and very effective training tool in both fat burning and performance. I can’t stress enough the importance of a proper warm-up and easing into higher-intensity sprints. Stay healthy so you can stay moving! (And if you get injured, see this blog for tips on working through it.)

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, Health Fitness Specialist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness running sprinting paleo

Should You Work Out When You’re Sick?

482395581This is the time of year when everyone seems to be getting sick. A head cold, the flu, a constant cough, a sore throat, chest cold, sinus infection…you name it, it’s around. I know when I am under the weather, one question that comes to my mind is, “Should I work out, or should I just let my body rest for a few days?”

For the avid exerciser, a few days may seem like months taken off your performance. There are lots of ways to look at this topic, and truly I think it depends on what type of illness you have. But let’s take a look at a few things to help you determine whether working out while you are ill is a good idea or a bad one.

Definite No:

  • If you have a fever, you should definitely skip the workout. When you have a fever, raising your internal body temperature through working out can make you even sicker, so stay home and lay low. Typically, you are contagious for 5 to 7 days when you have a fever, so steer clear of the gym.
  • If you are vomiting or have diarrhea, do not work out. This is the time that it’s most important to stay in bed and rest.
  • According to an article in Men’s Fitness, if you are starting to feel sick and end up feeling worse after you complete your workout, cut back and take a break.

Possibly Yes:

  • If you have a runny nose or just a sniffle, it’s most likely okay to work out. The Mayo Clinic says exercise may even make you feel better by opening up your nasal passages and help relieve nasal congestion.
  • Dr. Neil Schachter, a physician from Mt. Sinai Medical Center, has a good method to help determine whether you can work out. It’s called the Neck Check. If your symptoms are above the neck, including a sore throat, nasal congestion, sneezing, and watery eyes, you are okay to exercise. Exercise does raise the body’s immune system, helping to defend it and fight off illness.

The most important thing to do is listen to your body. If you cannot do something, then it is important to stop and don’t try to force yourself to keep going. Know that it is okay to not work out for a few days if you are sick; sometimes resting the body is the answer. Oftentimes the human body gets run down, lowering the immune system, and causing you to get sick in the first place.

If you do choose to work out, just play it smart. Maybe consider a walk instead of a hard run, or a light bike instead of heavy weightlifting. The most important thing is to get healthy again so you can get back to your routine, so do what your body is asking you to do!

This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Health Fitness Specialist. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

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Topics: healthy habits workouts illness immunity

Taking a Step Forward: A Fitness Lesson

stairs-2What has become of our society and fitness? We hear reports all the time that state that the obesity epidemic is only getting worse. In the not so distant past, say around the time our grandparents or great-grandparents were our age, obesity was pretty rare. The average woman would eat seemingly 4,000 calories per day and stay relatively thin. By today’s standards, that same person could be eating 1,800 calories per day and be 20 pounds overweight. What gives?

People Are Moving Less

The short and easy answer is that we are becoming lazier. I do not disagree with that statement, but we should also look at how our environment promotes a sedentary lifestyle. Modern conveniences have abetted the downfall of fitness levels around the world. The invention of the elevator caused people to take the stairs less and less (or not at all); the invention of the microwave oven allows us to barely lift a finger to prepare a meal, and the invention of the TV remote control, although great, makes it so we do not have to get up and walk six feet to push a button on the TV set. I don’t feel it necessary to throw these inventions under the bus, but fitness-conscious individuals do have options—good options that can improve health and burn more calories.

Thinking back on what it was like for our grandparents or great-grandparents, fitness and working out wasn’t really even necessary because there were many chores around the house or farm that required manual labor. Need water? Carry two buckets of water across the field every day. Need food? Hoe, sow, and reap the field. Need new clothes? Take a 2.5-mile walk into town and back. They did not need a gym membership to stay fit.

Today’s modern conveniences and sedentary work environments have made it so we barely move any more than we need. Calorie burning slows when the body’s lean body weight (fat-free weight) decreases, affecting the Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). This decrease, in turn, causes us to pack on extra, stored body-fat weight.

Find Ways to Burn More Calories

My suggestion to anyone wanting to make a difference in their life is to start by being conscious of their environment. Taking the stairs can burn around 10 calories per minute (and here are some other easy ways to burn calories). Surprisingly, you can burn calories cooking, at a rate of 100 calories per hour (and this site will show you how many calories you burn doing other activities). Let’s face it, remotes will not go away, but we can do various exercises during commercial breaks, like squats, crunches, or pushups. You could even squeeze in a few exercises of yoga while watching your favorite game show.

When options arise, make the effort to challenge your body. Do this every day for the best results and encourage others (in a nice way) to take a step forward.

This blog was written by Thomas Livengood. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

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Topics: fitness Thomas' Corner weight loss calories weight management

“Sir! Yes Sir! May I Have Another?” The Militarization of Fitness

200069247-001There is a fitness trend that has been bothering me for a long time, and in recent years it has gotten exponentially worse. There are exercise programs that have actually declared war on the human body, and by doing so, have widened the gap further between health and fitness.

I know that they are commonly linked, but please understand that health and fitness are not the same thing. You can have very healthy biomarkers and still be unfit. Likewise, you can have tremendous strength or outrageous endurance and be very unhealthy.

The Trend of Intense, Dangerous Workouts

This current version of “beating the body into submission” by the evil triumvirate of ego, willpower, and ignorance started with the media marketing experiment of P90X and its search for the limits of stupidity that people would pay for. At about the same time, there was the appearance of neighborhood boot camps that were conducted on strip mall parking lots and/or any available piece of grass that no one would be chased off of, led by unqualified trainers out to make a quick buck by riding the trend of selling pain to the fitness gullible. And then came the growth of CrossFit and its many copies selling to the male ego: SWAT Team, MMA, and Special Ops–inspired training so that “You can be the man!”

The common theme of this period is finding the limits of discomfort that the public can be convinced to invest their time, energy, and money into by marketing to the ego’s desire for quick and nearly impossible change by violating the basic laws of human biology and twisting logic to arrive at “the-end-justifies-the-means” training: No Pain, No Gain! Train to Failure. Train Hard or Go Home!

Currently, we have a cultural fitness myth that is doomed to fail because it is not sustainable. The human body cannot live on the “edge” for long without breaking down. The changes we desire actually occur during recovery as a result of proper exercise stimulus. More stimulus is not better; it is just more, and too much can retard recovery and greatly increase the risk of injury.

Jonathan Angelili wrote a very thoughtful blog published on Greatist titled, “The Massive Fitness Trend That’s Not Actually Healthy at All,” where he states that the fitness industry has come to “glorify exercise as an all-out war on the body.” Instead of living within our bodies and having fitness and health evolve naturally, the ego/mind plays the role of sadistic coach intent on whipping the lazy body to reach some arbitrary goal as quickly as possible, at which time another arbitrary goal is launched, so the beatings continue.

P90X, boot camps, and CrossFit didn’t create this antagonistic attitude toward the human body, but rather they simply took advantage of it. We, as a culture, have had a very long history of the mind being separated from the body and the belief that success, however you define it, must be chased down and wrestled to the ground at all cost, including the loss of health. The belief is “the more you want it, the more you must sacrifice to get it.” Sadly, way too many people are quite willing to sacrifice their health for what they have been convinced is The Standard for Fitness, not realizing that health and fitness can be diametrically opposed.

Pain Is a Great Teacher!

Punch a shark long enough in the nose and it will eventually bite you. Living on the extreme edge of training because it makes the ego feel special and supported by the mistaken beliefs that more is better and more often is better yet, a breakdown is inevitable. If you want to put a smiley face on this situation, pain is a great teacher.

Pain gets your attention in a way that nothing else can. Movement can no longer continue without a constant reminder that something is very wrong, and more than likely, you are responsible.

The mindset that led to the pain happening in the first place will begin by muscling on: icing, taking OTC pain relievers, and even metaphorically just “rubbing dirt on it.” You know, just suck it up and move on. Next will come a quick trip to a doctor for the next level up pain relief so that the same training can continue without missing a beat. If none of that works, then comes the specialist with X-rays, MRIs, PT, and possible surgery. That same training that got you here has stopped and the search begins for “what can I do now?”

Like a shop teacher accidentally cutting off his fingers with a band saw: Oops! At least, you’re helping the medical economy.

There is inherent risk in exercising. Most waiver forms state that exercise can even cause death, extremely rare but still possible, but the injuries I’m referring to come under the heading of “Can Be and Should Be Avoided” with an eye toward injury prevention.

Reasonable goals, properly designed workout programs, and just some plain common sense can go a long way to safely reaching your goals with few injury setbacks. If you are involved in fitness for the long haul, these three elements can lead to an enjoyable life of fitness and health.

Just ask yourself two questions:

  1. Is what I’m doing striving toward health and fitness?
  2. Am I learning to live within my body and experiencing greater joy while on this journey?

If your answers are yes, cool, you’re on your way.

If your answers are no, then “Sir! Yes Sir! May I Have Another!”

This blog was written by Rick Huse, NIFS Health Fitness Specialist. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

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Topics: fitness injury prevention challenge boot camp overtraining health injuries pain fitness trends CrossFit

Staying Motivated in Your Winter Workouts

Being someone who loves to run, especially outside, I understand the challenge of trying to keep up my motivation during those “indoor months” that have suddenly crept upon us. As is typical for the winter season, Americans report exercising less frequently. And according to a recent study, just from October to November, adults who reported exercising 30 minutes, three or more days a week, fell 3 percent.

122397958So how can we stay motivated for winter workouts? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Try something new that you have been putting off. Have you ever walked by the Zumba® class and thought, “Hmm, that looks like fun. Maybe I should go in and give it a try? Nah, I’ll go outside and run instead.” Or what about that spin class that you’ve been eyeing since you started coming to the gym? Find a class or an indoor fitness challenge that you have been interested in trying and have just continued to put it off.
  2. Build a personal workout calendar. With the hundreds of apps out there these days, this should be one of the easiest things to do. There are several that you can look up online, but check out the Workout Plan app if you need a good place to start. If you are a NIFS member, you can utilize our fitness assessment and exercise prescription at no additional cost. If you work out at another gym, see what services they have to offer to help you come up with a plan that’s right for you. No matter what you choose to do, have a plan in place and follow it to keep yourself on track.
  3. Find activities that you enjoy. One of the keys to staying motivated throughout the winter is to find things that you enjoy doing. You have to pick things that interest you and keep you wanting to come back to the gym. Maybe there is a program that you watch on TV every Tuesday night. Try coming during that time and watching it on one of the cardio machines. Or consider a weight training program or yoga that you have been putting off all summer long.
  4. Get a workout buddy. Finding someone to work out with you will really help those long winter months go by faster. If you have an accountability partner to meet you at the gym, that will help to get you there consistently.
  5. Sign up for a race. There are plenty of indoor events that you can sign up for, or register for a race during the spring to keep you in check. I know there are indoor triathlons within the Midwest that are a fun challenge to try if you have never done one before. You can always sign up for a race in a warmer state as well and make a little trip out of it.
  6. Try other outdoor activities. With all this being said, we don’t need to become hermits and lock ourselves indoors until May. Give some things a try that you haven’t done before, like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, and running. These things can all be just as fun if you are dressed properly!

I hope this list has given you some new ideas for exercising during these winter months! Find something to keep you motivated and continue to train hard. Don’t let yourself become one of those statistics in the study by letting exercise fall by the wayside during the cold months.


Mini-logo-option-2Need a running buddy? The 25th Annual Mini Marathon & 5K Training Program starts January 21–May 6, 2015. Cross the finish line with us this Spring! 

Training is at 6pm at NIFS downtown. Register today online!

This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Health Fitness Specialist. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS exercise winter fitness motivation workouts winter skiing snowshoeing

Healthy Living: Just Be Yourself

126868686For people new to fitness, creating a healthy body image can be as challenging as creating a workout or diet plan. What do we consider healthy and why?

Unfortunately, for the majority of our lives, Americans have been shown and told through various media what it means to be healthy. This heavy load of misguided information can lead individuals down the road to anorexia, depression, low self-esteem and unhealthy choices. The obsession with body image can be overwhelming, but with good advice, a smart goal set in mind, and a positive attitude, you may have a clearer path to fitness prosperity and healthy living.

Change Your Attitude

As cheesy as it may sound, the first thing you will want to do to reprogram your outlook is to list a minimum of 10 good things about yourself that have nothing to do with appearance. Then set some realistic goals, keeping in mind that you should not compare yourself to others in that we are all given a completely unique set of DNA and are different. Fad diets only work in the short term, provide little to no answer and can compromise your health by creating a “yo-yo” effect.

Tools for Getting Started on Your Fitness Journey

In moving forward with your program, there are some tools that can be very effective and healthy to get you on your way. For individuals wanting to know how many calories they should consume in a day, there is the Resting Metabolic Rate test (RMR for short). The RMR test can tell you if your calorie intake is too much or too little for what your body and goals require.

For the scale obsessed, I suggest a much healthier option, the BodPod, which measures body fat percentage and composition. Your body composition is linked to health; risky high body fat percentage is linked to various health issues such as heart disease and diabetes.

Yet another option could be meeting with a registered dietician (RD). An RD is educated and trained to help you excel in your goals using wiser diet and nutrition choices, along with exercise. Find out more about NIFS nutritional coaching options.

With all the pros of having a positive body image, including improved self confidence, lower stress and a healthier body, the only question is, “Why didn’t I start sooner?” Your first step to fitness prosperity lies right in front of you. Take a chance with a new outlook and just be you.

Start your new journey right with a free fitness assessment at NIFS.

Free Fitness Assessment

This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Specialist. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy habits motivation weight loss attitude