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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

King of the Gym, Part 1: Squat Alternatives

I enjoy all forms of exercise, but like many, I want the most bang for my buck when I’m exercising. Sure, I am always on the lookout for the new and best exercises that would not only kick my behind, but also have benefits all around. However, I always trend back to the “king of the gym”: an exercise that I do without fail—SQUAT

The Squat Reigns Supreme

Squats are often referred to as the “king of the gym” exercise, and for a good reason. When done correctly, squats utilize essentially every muscle in the body. If you want to get stronger, get bigger, or lose weight, squats will help. Although they aren’t a must in order to build your lower body, they are probably the most efficient exercise. Whether it’s building a stronger core, back, and legs; increasing bone density; or burning fat, squats are the best bang for your buck due to the engagement of many muscle groups activated at once.

Barbell Back Squat-1

 

But this post isn’t about just about squatting. In fact, in this four-part series, I want to show you that there are plenty of different alternatives to the “king of the gym.” We don’t always have the luxury of a barbell and rack or endless equipment resources from the gym. Perhaps you train from home or are on the road at a hotel. Either way, No worries!

Squat Alternatives Using Other Gym Equipment

First up are five effective squat alternatives you can do with access to gym equipment other than the traditional barbell back squat. Are there more than five? Yes, but these are my favorites. When I have an injury, or I’m bored, or all the racks in the gym are being used, I like to substitute these five exercises in place of squats. These five moves show alternatives to squatting that you can do efficiently in the gym when a barbell and rack aren’t available and still achieve similar or better gains.

Squat Alternatives

As you can see, an effective squatting workout doesn’t have to be limited to the “king of the gym.” If you don’t have a squat rack available, there are a variety of different squatting alternatives you can use instead.

More in the Series

In part 2 of this series, learn how to use bodyweight and light equipment like resistance bands to functionally train your lower body. In part 3 of the series, I focus on body weight only, and in part 4 I set up some different routines you can do in a hotel when you’re on the road. Regardless of your fitness goals, some form or fashion of squats can and should be added to your fitness routines.

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This blog was written by Michael Blume, MS, SCCC; Athletic Performance Coach. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness center equipment weight loss strength core videos squat

Tips for Healthy Eating at Summer Barbecues

Summer is perfect for being active outdoors and grilling some healthy items for cookouts. Getting together with family and friends is a wonderful way to spend a weekend afternoon and evening. Unfortunately, some barbecues can turn into really unhealthy meals quickly. Here are some simple tips to ensure you keep up healthy eating while enjoying a cookout. Healthy Eating at BBQ

  • Better your burger. Consider topping your burger with fresh and flavorful veggies such as onions and tomatoes versus higher-fat options like mayonnaise and cheese. Also, grab a whole-wheat bun to increase the fiber, or a sandwich thin to keep calories lower. Seek out lower-fat ground beef to make your burgers, such as Laura’s Lean Beef, or grab a turkey burger or a plant-based burger to grill. 
  • Select sides wisely. Coleslaw, potato salad, and macaroni salad are typical staples of most cookouts. However, these mayonnaise-based options are loaded with fat and calories that aren’t necessarily the best for a balanced plate. Choose a serving the size of a tennis ball to keep portions in check, or choose oil-and-vinegar or yogurt-based dishes if available. 
  • Fill up on fruit. This time of year is full of almost every fruit in its peak season. Load up on filling berries, cherries, and melons. Make a giant fruit salad or kabobs, or toss some peaches or pineapple on the grill and top with nonfat vanilla yogurt. If fruit pies are on the menu for dessert, choose the option with a bottom crust only and stick to one slice!
  • Don’t forget the veggies. A lot of times veggies are completely forgotten at a barbecue, but these can be super tasty and easy to fix when done on the grill. Zucchini, squash, eggplant, mushrooms, and peppers are great on the grill and can easily be made into fun kabobs. Corn on the cob is technically a starchy vegetable, but it’s still a vegetable! Just be cautious with the amount of butter and salt that you load on top of it. Instead, try grilling it in foil with a touch of olive oil and squeeze a lime on it before eating. You won’t even miss the butter and salt!
  • Be careful not to burn your meat. Two compounds found in charred and overcooked meats are known carcinogens. Always make sure to clean your grill to get rid of preexisting charred food bits before you start grilling, or grill on top of foil or a grill mat. Another great idea is to marinate your meats before throwing them on the grill. Not only will it increase the flavor, but it can reduce the presence of the carcinogens. Grab a meat thermometer and make sure beef, pork, fish, veal, and lamb reach 145 degrees and poultry reaches 165 degrees.
  • When you are finished, go play. Challenge the kids to a game of cornhole or horseshoes. Start tossing the ball around or choose another outdoor game. The point is to not just to jump around and “burn off” dinner, but to get up and moving and away from the tempting chips and other snacks!

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

Topics: nutrition healthy eating calories summer disease prevention paleo

Keeping Your Fruits and Vegetables Fresh

GettyImages-1253261400Did you know the American Heart Association recognizes June as Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month? Purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables can be a challenge for some, as they are typically more expensive and don’t last as long than produce that is canned or frozen. Try some of the storage tips in the chart below to prolong the shelf life of your favorite fresh fruits and vegetables!

Storage Tips for Fruit

Screen Shot 2021-06-15 at 11.11.48 AMScreen Shot 2021-06-15 at 11.11.57 AM

Storage Tips for Vegetables

Screen Shot 2021-06-15 at 11.16.15 AMScreen Shot 2021-06-15 at 11.14.06 AM

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This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Bring on the HIIT Training!

GettyImages-1222657413Bring in the summer with some fun ideas to get your fitness goals accomplished. Completing both circuits will help you get a jump-start on your fitness goals going into this summer. This workout can be done outside or in the gym.

  • Reps: 10-8-6-4-2. Complete 10 reps of every exercise, and then start over with the 8 rep countdown to 2 reps
  • Equipment needed: A moderate kettle bell
  • Time: 15 minutes

Complex #1

  • Goblet squat
  • KB swing
  • Deadlift
  • Goblet walk 50ft

Start the circuit with 10 reps. Once you’re done with the goblet walk, start the circuit over at 8 down to 2 reps.

Complex #2

  • Goblet backward lunge
  • One-arm KB row, 10 each
  • Low KB hang squat
  • Squat jumps

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This blog was written by Jason Quarles, IUPUI Athletic Performance Coach. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: workouts circuit workout outdoors kettlebell high intensity HIIT

Stay Properly Hydrated: Your Kidneys Will Thank You

Greetings NIFS friends and fitness aficionados! As warmer days come, we will be subject to higher instances of dehydration. This might seem fairly obvious and straightforward, but what really happens to your body, namely your kidneys, as you reach these states of dehydration? We are told to drink “x” amount of water every day, but is that right for everyone? How does taking supplements effect our kidneys, especially when we do not have enough water? What can we do to help alleviate the effects of dehydration and protect our kidneys from chronic kidney disease? Taking time now to address these concerns will help keep you healthier as you get older.

GettyImages-1202329799What Do Your Kidneys Do?

You might be asking yourself, “What’s so special about kidneys?” The answer to this can be found at the National Kidney Foundation website. Basically, your kidneys allow your body to remove excess waste and fluid from the body via the bloodstream, help in regulating blood pressure, create red blood cells through erythropoietin, keep your bones healthy through processing vitamin D with calcium and phosphorus, and keep your body’s pH levels balanced so that you don’t become too acidic. So, nothing major right? The importance of your kidneys cannot be overstated, and keeping them safe should be a priority.

How Does Dehydration Affect Your Kidneys?

For starters, one of the main kidney functions involves removing waste from the body (this is a filtration process through urination). When there is a lack of water, a buildup of this “waste” happens. This could lead to kidney infections, kidney stones, and even kidney failure. To prevent all of this, adequate water intake is a necessity. Many sites, such as The Mayo Clinic, suggest roughly 8 glasses of water (closer to 3.7 liters for men and 2.7 liters for women) while other reputable sources, such Dr. Roxanne Sukol at The Cleveland Clinic suggest, “Your size, activity, metabolism, location, diet, physical activity and health all factor into how much water you need.” Basically, your needs will vary depending on the situation (if you sweat a lot, you may need to drink more than someone who doesn’t sweat as much).

How Can Supplements Affect Hydration?

Dietary and workout supplements vary in nature and are rarely regulated by any government agency. This being said, the components in our supplements, such as a pre-workout drink, may contain an immense amount of caffeine. Caffeine has been proven to cause dehydration in the body. With this dehydration, any other substances that need to filter through the kidneys have a harder time processing and the filtration process becomes more and more taxed. At some point, the initial dehydration becomes a huge problem. The safest bet, if you are using any supplements, is to make sure you are always drinking ample amounts of water and staying within the recommended serving sizes noted on the container.

Are You Dehydrated?

If you are unsure that you are drinking enough water, there are several tests to see whether you are dehydrated. Over-the-counter urine sample tests are designed to tell whether you are dehydrated. If you do not have access to these tools, you can use thirst as an indicator (although thirst is the afterthought of dehydration and you should drink up before this occurs). Drinking the recommended daily amounts of water per day might seem like a daunting task, but you can use strategies to create an interval so that you don’t drink all your drinks at once.

Where Can You Get More Information?

There is so much to gain from taking care of your kidneys. Your health, happiness, and life depend on it. For more information about taking care of your kidneys and advice about incorporating water into your daily regimen, contact a NIFS Fitness Specialist at 317-274-3432 ext. 262, or reach out via email at tlivegnood@nifs.org.

Thank you for reading… muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.
Topics: Thomas' Corner hydration disease prevention water supplements dietary supplements kidneys kidney health

Build a Workout Program with Full-Body Training Splits

Screen Shot 2021-06-01 at 2.24.57 PMAs a young trainer, I struggled to find my training style. I spent the first few months trying to make my clients happy, trying to make every session as hard as I could with no real connection between workouts. Our training had no direction; they were individual workouts according to what my clients wanted to work on that day. More times than not, this turned into working out one muscle group for the entire 30 minutes. I did a good job at working one muscle group, but that did not benefit them in the long term. As I grew in my education and as a trainer, I learned that there was a better approach to training: the full-body training split

The Full-Body Split

The full-body training schedule reduces the amount of time you need to spend inside the gym while still working the different muscle groups more than once per week. A typical bro split is push, pull, leg. On that schedule, if you miss one day, you more than likely will not train that muscle group for another week. Now you have gone at least 14 days without training a specific muscle group. By training full-body in each training session, you will never miss hitting your lower or upper body within a week.

Putting It All Together

Using the movement patterns discussed in my previous blog, along with your weekly schedule, you can put together your weekly training schedule. There are a few different ways to schedule your week to make the full-body routine.

Three Days per Week

On a three-day-per-week schedule, your training days should be at least 48 hours apart. An example of an ideal schedule would be Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. With this schedule you will hit each movement pattern with at least one exercise per category. There is room, depending on how much time you have, to add more isolation movements at the end. A very basic week would look like this:

Day 1–3: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

  • Bench press
  • Pull-up
  • Back squat
  • Kettlebell deadlift

Four Days per Week

For the four-day-per-week program, you will do a full-body push day and a full-body pull day. The full-body push day will consist of an upper-body press and a lower-body squat pattern. The full-body pull day will consist of an upper-body pull and a lower-body hinge pattern. The workouts can be done back to back at least 24 hours apart. An example of an ideal schedule would be Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. A basic four-day-per-week schedule would look like this:

Days 1 and 3: Monday and Thursday

Days 2 and 4: Tuesday and Friday

  • Deadlift
  • Pull-up
  • RDL
  • Rows

Five and Six Days per Week

This is a more advanced version of the four-day-per-week schedule. You use the same full-body push/ pull split, but with not as many rest days. A five-day-per-week schedule cycles through each week, alternating between push and pull days. Week 1 has three push days and two pull days. Week 2 then starts with a pull day, giving you three pull days and two push days. After a four-week cycle, you will come out with the same amount of push and pull days. A six-day-per-week cycle is much easier to make, with alternating three push days and three pull days. A basic five- or six-day-per-week schedule looks like this:

Days 1, 3, and 5: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

Days 2, 4, and optional 6: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday

Get Help Structuring Your Program at NIFS

For more information on how to properly progress and structure a training program, visit us at the track desk to set up a session. We are more than happy to help at any time, and as a part of your membership here at NIFS, you can receive as many free workout programs as you would like. All programs are tailored to your fitness goals by our health fitness professionals.

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This blog was written by Evan James, NIFS Exercise Physiologist EP-C, Health Fitness Instructor, and Personal Trainer. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: muscle building leg day workout programs full-body programming pull push arms training schedule

Thomas's Corner - Stability Ball Warm Up Series

Greeting NIFS Friends!  Warm ups are a vital part of your workout as we have found that a good warm up can lead to a better workout performance, decreased chances for injury, and relief from soreness post-exercise (ultimately getting you back the gym sooner than later).  Your warm ups can become quite ritualistic and routine, which is fine, but sometimes spicing things up a little can benefit more than just your workout regiment.  Adding new movements and patterns, new equipment and tools, and having your body adjust to these challenges could help you overcome stagnation and rejuvenate your program.  

The stability ball adds a plethora of movements that directly impact target areas such as the torso, hips, and shoulder. For beginners to exercise, these patterns begin to train the body for more complex movements as well as injury prevention caused by a potential deconditioned starting point.

Give these stability ball warm up exercises a try!


Stability Ball Warm Up Series


This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.
Topics: injury prevention warmup stability stability ball

Testing Progress Toward Your Athletic Performance Goals

GettyImages-1067160268In a world where people want results in an instant and take drastic measures to achieve those results as fast as possible, developing strength, power and athleticism in a long-term aspect is often overlooked. For any fitness-related result or outcome, improvements take time. Fat loss, overall strength and/or power in any particular lift, speed, and agility are all seeds that needed to be watered for a while before noticeable and permanent changes are evident.

In an athletic realm, this leads to the importance of the “testing” process and the use of that process over the course of months, semesters, and years. As a young athlete or athlete fresh out of high school entering the college world of sports and strength and conditioning, this is how you monitor your success and validate that the training and improvements you are making are the things that are actually working. Numbers do not lie. If your times in specific agility drills or weights have increased in certain lifts, obviously you have made improvements. If those numbers have not changed or have decreased, you need to address methods of training or overall compliance/intensity with the program.

Below are five performance tests that measure multiple aspects of your overall athletic profile.

40-Yard Dash

The 40-yard dash, or “40,” is one of the most common drills we use to measure straight-line speed. Sure, many sports are played in a multidirectional way, but overall top speed is an important puzzle piece. Setting up and performing this drill is relatively simple; however, you may need two people to help with the timing.

First, set up two cones exactly 40 yards apart. From here, go to the starting line and sprint from start to finish. The clock or stopwatch should start on your very first movement from the starting line and stop when your body crosses the finish line.

5-10-5 Shuttle

The shuttle run is one of my personal favorites. It allows you to see an athlete’s explosiveness and change-of-direction skills. With lateral movements being so important in many sports, this gives you a good idea of where an athlete stands. To set up the 5-10-5 Shuttle, you need three cones spaced out evenly at 5 yards apart. The athlete starts at the middle cone with their hand on the ground. They run to the right or left cone and touch the ground (5 yards), across the whole setup and touch the ground (10 yards), and sprint through the middle cone (5 yards). Timing of this test starts when the athlete’s hand raises up from the ground and finishes when they cross the middle cone.

Vertical/Broad Jump

Jumping ability is another “power” aspect that translates very well into success on the field or court. The vertical jump test is generally performed with a Vertec, or a piece of equipment where you stand underneath and jump to touch as many of the rings overhead as you can. Other than obtaining the Vertec, the test is fairly simple. First, you want to measure your standing reach, or simply the height that you can reach with your arm outstretched overhead. As I mentioned before, you jump and hit as many of the rings on the Vertec as you can. When the maximal height has been reached, you subtract the standing reach number to get the vertical jump height.

Another great way to measure power would be with the standing broad jump. For this, all you need is a tape measure that is on the floor with a starting line for the athlete. To perform, the athlete starts behind the starting line and jumps out as far as possible and lands under control. The length of the broad jump is measured wherever the back of the athlete’s shoe lands.

Bench/Squat/Trap Bar Deadlift

In the preceding sections we looked at sprint and jump measurements, but we can’t leave out our strength numbers. Like the great Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell said, “Weak things break.” Truer words have never been spoken. Because of this, we want to measure those strength gains with every opportunity that we have. For me, my main three strength lifts that I measure are the bench press, the squat (front squat or back squat, depending on the athlete), and trap bar deadlift. These are three main staples in my programming and I always want to see if the way that I’m implementing them in workouts is yielding the best results.

These may look a little different for you. You may choose DB Bench Press, Pull-Ups, Farmer’s Carries, or something similar. My recommendation is to be sure that whatever you are testing are things that you are continually working on. It’s tough to test a back squat if you haven’t back squatted in 8–10 weeks.

Overall, the moral of the story is testing to see whether what you are doing is helping you achieve your goals is vital. Without testing you are just guessing. Remember, numbers do not lie!

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his blog was written by Alex Soller, Athletic Performance Coach and NIFS trainer. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: strength goals speed athletic performance fitness goals fitness assessment agility testing fat loss

Gambling with Sports Injury: Warning Signs and Recovery

GettyImages-512753571Sports careers, whether you are junior varsity or a hall of fame professional, all come to an end at some point. Often, these endeavors are marred with setbacks due to injuries ranging far and wide and sometimes spanning years. During competition and in the spirit of the moment, athletes sometimes push their bodies and minds beyond what was thought possible, resulting in amazing feats—but also potential injuries.

Don’t Play Through Your Injuries

Injuries that occur when we push our bodies to the limit can become more pronounced when an athlete decides to continue activities instead of receiving timely treatment. Once commonplace, playing through injuries was more accepted in the past. However, with modern sports medicine and advanced technology, sports enthusiasts can enjoy longer, more productive careers than ever before due to increased injury awareness and preventative maintenance.

The adage “listen to your body” still rings true. Although you might not know what you are listening for, you can assess your situation and make smart decisions to help prevent more serious injury.

How Do You Know When You’ve Overdone It?

Symptoms of sports injuries and illness can vary, and anytime you have a serious concern about your health, refer to your primary care physician. Because every person experiences pain differently, resulting in a wide threshold, you may need to seek advice and consult a professional to help assess your situation. Here are some of the most common symptoms of injuries, according to Harvard Health.

  • Chest pain: Although this goes without saying, your heart is the most vital muscle in the body. Although coronary artery disease is not curable, treatments make it possible to decrease the chances for heart attacks (which may occur when a deconditioned individual is subjected to extreme strenuous exertion).
  • Difficulty breathing: Similar to chest pain, difficulty breathing can be a sign of more serious underlying issues with not only the lungs but also the heart and blood pressure. With high blood pressure, exercises such as sprinting and powerlifting typically put a lot of strain on the heart.
  • Joint swelling and pain: The swelling of a joint can range from tendon, ligament, or muscle injury to arthritis in the joint. It is good to know whether you are experiencing injury or arthritis because this will determine your level of treatment.

How to Recover and Get Back in the Game

These symptoms are common and can happen to almost anyone who exercises. Many other factors such as genetics, age, and medical history all play a role—not only in your injury, but also your healing process. “Getting back on the horse” is something we eventually want to do (once we are healed).

Here are a few tips that can get you back on the road to recovery without jeopardizing your health.

  • Before beginning a new workout program, meet with a fitness professional who can assess your physical fitness levels. Many tests are available, the Functional Movement Screen (or FMS) is designed to not only pinpoint potential red flags, but also to prescribe routines intended to better your movement patterns and decrease your chances for injury.
  • Beginning a proactive fitness program that targets your weaknesses and strengths can also help decrease your chances for injury. A program that identifies your strengths and uses them is good, but you also need to make sure your weaknesses are addressed. As these weaknesses become stronger, as a whole, you will become stronger.
  • Moving your workout to a more low-impact setting might also help. The pool adds a great opportunity to create exercise but not put stress on the joints. We know that swimming takes some skill, but just treading water can be a great way to burn calories. Depending on availability, zero-gravity treadmills and water treadmills are often used in the professional athlete world to get athletes moving (technology never ceases to amaze me).

Not sure about swimming? Check out these blogs by NIFS staff regarding the impact of swimming and some great ideas to help you get started.

Muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: Thomas' Corner swimming injury prevention injuries sports recovery illness athletes student athletes joints low-impact

Staying Hydrated When Exercising This Summer

GettyImages-868150638Did you know the human body is composed of about 50 to 60 percent water? Throughout the day, your body uses and loses fluid by way of natural body processes such as sweating, breathing, creating saliva, making and excreting urine, and having bowel movements. Losing more water than you consume can quickly lead to dehydration, which typically presents as excess thirst, headache, dizziness, weakness, digestion problems, and/or nausea. These symptoms typically resolve once you rehydrate your body.

How Much Water Do I Need Each Day?

The amount of water needed each day is different for everyone and varies depending on your age, gender, weight and height, activity level, and health status. For example, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding or those with chronic diarrhea often have increased fluid needs, while some individuals, such as those with kidney disease or congestive heart failure, may need less. Consuming alcohol and caffeine may also increase fluid excretion, thus requiring an increase in fluid intake.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to hydration because you can achieve normal hydration status with a wide range of total water intake. Total water intake includes plain drinking water, water in beverages, and water that is found in food sources, such as in watermelon or cucumbers. On average, close to 20 percent of total fluid intake comes from food sources.

Instead of an established recommended intake level for water consumption, an Adequate Intake level for total water was set to prevent dehydration and its side effects. The Adequate Intake for total water for adult men and women is 3.7 liters and 2.7 liters each day, respectively. However, water consumption below the adequate intake doesn’t automatically put you at risk for dehydration. A good rule of thumb is to consume HALF of your body weight in OUNCES of water. For example, an individual who weighs 150 pounds should aim to consume 75 ounces of water each day (150 pounds / 2 = 75 ounces).

For more individualized fluid recommendations, please speak to your physician or a registered dietitian (RD/RDN).

How Do I Know If I’m Drinking Enough?

The simplest way to determine your hydration status is by looking at the color of your urine. Pale urine is typically indicative of proper hydration and gets darker the less hydrated you become. It is possible to consume too much water, so if you’re urinating frequently or your urine is clear, you may be drinking too much.

Suggestions for Staying Hydrated

Here are some tips for increasing your fluid intake.

  • Purchase a reusable water bottle.
  • Opt for water rather than soda and/or sugary drinks.
  • Wear clothing that is made of moisture-wicking material and fits loosely, to help you keep cool.
  • Bored of water? Add fruit to still or sparkling water. Try out some of these suggestions: Mint, lemon, and strawberry slices; cucumber and melon slices; orange and lime slices; apple slices and cinnamon sticks; cranberry and orange slices; orange slices and cloves; pineapple slices and raspberries.
  • Consume foods with a high water content such as watermelon and cantaloupe; strawberries; grapes; lettuce, cabbage and spinach; celery and carrots.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition summer hydration water outdoor exercise