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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Are You Eating Too Much Sodium?

GettyImages-525359720Sodium is a mineral and electrolyte that helps balance the amount of fluid and other minerals in your body. It also plays an important role in nerve and muscle function. The terms “sodium” and “salt” are typically used interchangeably; however, sodium is a mineral and one of the chemical components found in salt (also called sodium chloride). Sodium is found naturally in some foods, and added to others for flavor or preservation.

While some sodium is necessary for the body to function (~500 mg/day), over time consuming too much sodium can have undesirable health effects. One of the most notable consequences of consuming too much sodium is high blood pressure. High blood pressure can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke, the two leading causes of death in the U.S., as well as kidney disease, loss of vision, and many more health complications.

Where Is Sodium Found in Foods?

Although most people believe their sodium intake mainly comes from salt they add to food by hand, only around 10% of the average American’s sodium intake comes from salt added while cooking or eating. Instead, more than 70% of the sodium consumed by Americans is from packaged and processed foods and food from restaurants. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the largest contributors of sodium in the American diet include sandwiches (including burgers and tacos), pasta and other grain dishes, soups, pizzas, and meat and seafood dishes.

How Much Sodium Can I Consume?

The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 2,300mg (1 teaspoon) of sodium per day; however, consuming less than 1,500mg is preferred, especially in those with preexisting high blood pressure. Despite these guidelines, the average adult in the U.S. consumes close to 3,400mg of sodium each day.

How Can I Reduce My Sodium Intake?

To help reduce your sodium intake and promote overall health, try some of the following suggestions:

  • Compare Nutrition Facts labels of various packaged foods and choose the one with the lowest sodium content.
  • Select canned foods, such as vegetables and beans, with “no salt added” or “low sodium” listed on the label.
  • Use herbs, spices, and other sodium-free seasonings to add flavor to food, rather than salt and salty seasoning blends.
  • Limit foods that are pickled, cured, or smoked, as these tend to be high in sodium. Foods that are grilled, poached, or roasted may be better options.
  • Choose whole, unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods tend to be very low in sodium.
  • Minimize the amount of salt added during cooking and at the table.
  • If you currently eat a lot of salt/sodium, try gradually reducing your intake to give your taste buds time to transition.

Sodium and Exercise

The recommendation to consume less than 1,500mg per day does not apply to everyone, particularly individuals who lose excess amounts of sweat, such as competitive athletes or outdoor construction workers. Sodium and potassium are the two major electrolytes lost in sweat, although the amount lost varies from person to person. Typically, it is appropriate to replenish these electrolytes after intense exercise (typically >60 minutes) or excessive sweat loss.

When choosing electrolyte replacement drinks, select one with about 14–16g of carbohydrates and between 100 and 165mg of sodium per every 8 ounces for optimal recovery. And as always, it is important to talk with your physician or registered dietitian to determine how much sodium is appropriate for you based on your health status and other contributing factors.

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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 healthy eating sodium hypertension

Try Cluster Set Training to Get Stronger Faster

GettyImages-524703038If you are an athlete, powerlifter, or just a person who loves to see progress, you might want to try out cluster set training. This is an advanced type of training designed to get you stronger faster than traditional set training.

Traditional Set Training and Cluster Set Training Defined

Traditional set training is typically what everyone at the gym does when lifting weights: you perform a set of continuous repetitions and then rest. An example of this would be Barbell Back Squatting 3 sets for 8 reps.

Cluster set training is performing the same amount of sets and reps, but instead of continuous repetitions, you perform 1 or 2 reps and then rest, then repeat the same reps until you get to your desired rep goal. An example of this would be Barbell Back Squatting 3 sets for 8 reps, but those 8 reps are divided into clusters of 1 or 2 reps followed by a short rest period. You also typically want to rest 15 to 30 seconds between each cluster to get the desired effect.

Why Cluster Set Training Works So Well for Strength and Power

The reason cluster set is so beneficial for strength and power gain is that it allows you to continue to train at close to max or max effort longer than traditional set training would. The reason is that you get short bouts of rest in between your set, which decreases repetition fatigue. Another reason it works is that you are increasing your motor unit synchronization and decreasing your reciprocal inhibition, which allows you to get stronger. Those last two are neural mechanisms that occur during training, especially max effort training.

How to Add Cluster Set Training to Your Workout

The best way to implement this in your training is to use cluster set training with your main lifts: Power Clean, BB Back Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift. One thing to note is that this type of training is designed to improve strength and power gains and not necessarily hypertrophic gains (an increase in muscle mass). If your main goal is to increase muscle mass, I would recommend sticking to a traditional set training method because this has been proven to increase those effects more so than the cluster set training method.

Get Help from NIFS

Give this type of training a shot and see whether your numbers increase! If you have any questions about cluster set training, you can reach out to me at pmendez@nifs.org and I will gladly answer any questions or concerns. Last thing here is that this is an advanced type of training and should be done by advanced lifters. If you are a novice lifter, I would recommend sticking to traditional set training until you are ready for this.

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This blog was written by Pedro Mendez, CSCS, FMS, Health Fitness Instructor and Strength Coach at NIFS. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: workouts weightlifting power strength training weight training cluster sets

Five Nutrition-Focused New Year's Resolutions That Aren’t About Weight

GettyImages-1358382035While having a New Year’s Resolution to “lose more weight” isn’t a bad thing, it’s not easy. And depending on how much you want to lose and in what time frame, it’s not always realistic. To benefit your overall health without focusing on your weight, try setting (and sticking to) some of the following nutrition-related resolutions going into 2022.

Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

About 80 percent of the US population doesn’t meet their fruit intake recommendations, while close to 90 percent do not meet their suggested vegetable intake (source: CDC). The Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage adults to consume around 2–2.5 cups of fruit per day and 2.5–3 cups of vegetables per day. Although this may be a lot for some, simply aiming to eat one additional fruit or vegetable each day is still beneficial.

Drink More Water

Water is essential for the body. It aids in digestion, regulates body temperature, cushions joints, and helps remove wastes from the body. Not drinking enough water increases the risk for dehydration, which can cause dizziness, confusion, fatigue, headaches and dry skin and mouth (source: CDC). A general rule of thumb is to consume at least 1 milliliter of water for every 1 calorie consumed. For example, if you consumed 2,200 calories per day, you would want to aim to consume 2,200ml, or 2.2 liters of water per day.

Consume Less Alcohol

Excess alcohol intake has both short- and long-term health consequences. In the short term, drinking too much can result in risky behaviors, injury, or violence. Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of high blood pressure and heart disease, certain cancers, weakened immune system, learning and memory issues, and social problems. Most professional health organizations such as the CDC and WHO agree that men should limit alcohol intake to less than two drinks/day, while women should aim for less than one drink per day (source: CDC).

Decrease Sodium Intake

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest consuming less than 2,300mg of sodium per day to promote optimal health and reduce the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death for adults in the US. However, in the US, the average sodium intake for individuals older than 1 year of age is ~3,400mg/day. Strategies for reducing sodium intake include cooking at home more often, using herbs and spices to season foods rather than salt, and consuming fewer packaged/prepared foods.

Limit Saturated Fat Consumption

Like sodium, excess saturated fat consumption is linked to an increased risk for heart disease. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest limiting saturated fat intake to less than 10% of daily calories, while the American Heart Association recommends even less, at less than 5–6% of daily calories from saturated fat per day. Saturated fat is found in most animal-based foods such as beef, poultry, pork, full-fat dairy products, and coconut and palm oils. To cut back on saturated fat, reduce your intake or eat smaller portions of the foods listed above and replace them with healthier options, such as fat-free or low-fat dairy and lean cuts of meat.

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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 resolutions weight loss healthy eating hydration goals new year's sodium alcohol dietitian fruits and vegetables fats healthy living

12 Days of Christmas: A HIIT Workout You Can Do Anywhere

GettyImages-1267513535We’re in the midst of the holidays. You probably have family commitments or events pulling you away from the gym or time with your favorite trainers at NIFS. You never want to feel as if you are missing out on something during this festive period when you have to work out from home or on the road away from the gym. But with this super-setted HIIT workout, fittingly named for the holidays, you can be sure to improve both your muscle strength and overall fitness while torching some holiday cookie calories over this break.

All you need is yourself and a bench, chair, or step to complete this intense superset HIIT session. This workout includes 12 supersets in total, each designed to get your heart rate up as well as challenge your various different muscle groups.

The Workout

Get ready to tackle 20 to 40 minutes of different HIIT cardio exercises in today's sweat fest! No equipment is needed, so you can work out at home or the gym. Focus on challenging yourself and doing YOUR best!

  • 1x Jump Rope x 30 seconds
  • 2x Spider Push-Up (alt. R/L)
  • 3x Switch Lunge Kicks (alt. R/L)
  • 4x Dip + Knee Pull (alt. R/L)
  • 5x Squat Toe Taps (alt. R/L)
  • 6x Dead Bugs (alt. R/L)
  • 7x Reverse Lunge to Half Burpee (alt. R/L)
  • 8x Elevated Reverse Plank Alternating Knee Pull (alt. R/L)
  • 9x Bird Dogs (alt. R/L)
  • 10x Rear Foot Elv. Split Squats (alt. R/L)
  • 11x 4x Mountain Climbers + Launcher
  • 12x 2x Reverse Lunge to 2x Jump Squats = x1 Rep
  • BONUS Rd13x Push Up + Hyperextension + Knee Tucks
  • BONUS Rd14x 3x Plank Jack + Pike-up Hop
  • BONUS Rd15x Elevated Plank Hip Drop + Knee Pull

Sub/swap exercises as needed. Follow order, accumulating rounds/reps

  • Rd 1 - x1 rep (in this case, Time: 30 seconds)
  • Rd 2 - x1 + x2 reps
  • Rd 3 - x1 + x2 + x3 reps
  • Rd 4 - x1 + x2 + x3 + x4 reps

... And so on until you're finished with round 12

  • Rd 12 - x1 + x2 + x3 + x4... x10 + x11 + x12 reps

(You will do round 1 x12 times, whereas round 12 only once)

  • **Bonus**… Rd 13, 14, 15 (x3 more additional rounds)
  •   - x1 + x2 + x3 + x4... x10 + x11 + x12 + x13 + x14 + x15 reps

Increase the Intensity

If you want to increase the intensity of this particular workout, I suggest two options. First, add another round with the bonuses. Second, repeat this routine for another series depending on your fitness level.

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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: cardio exercise at home workouts calories holidays high intensity HIIT strength workout superset

King of the Gym, Part 4: Bodyweight Squat Exercises on the Go

In part 4 of this series on squats, I focus on body weight again, setting up lower-body conditioning routines you can do at home, outside in the park, or in the hotel when you’re on the road. These are some of my favorite go-to workouts when I’m on the road or don’t have time to get in a quick leg workout. As I have reiterated throughout this blog series (part 1, part 2, and part 3), regardless of your fitness goals, you can and should add some form or fashion of squats to your fitness routines.

A Quick Workout: AMRAP Challenge

This video is a 6-minute lower-body AMRAP challenge. Your goal is to follow the routine and complete the series for as many rounds as possible (AMRAP) in the 6 minutes. Keep in mind, if you’re a beginner, start with less time (start with 4 minutes) or fewer reps of the combination. I love doing this quick workout when time is limited and I need to get in a quick lower-body workout.

 

6 Minute Challenge AMRAP

 

Follow order:

  • Reverse Lunge
  • BW Squat
  • Reverse Lunge
  • BW Squat
  • Box Jump
  • BW Squat (on Box)
  • Step-down
  • BW Squat

A Tougher Lower-body Workout

When I’m on the road but do have time to get a tough lower-body workout completed, I like completing the following six series combined for a workout. Start with the first video and work your way through all six challenges. This has a variety of work to be completed, from EMOMs (Every Minute on the Minute) to Ladders (x1–10 Reps). Again, keep in mind, if you’re a beginner, start with less time, fewer reps, or a combination of the six challenges. As you advance, add more time or complete more than one challenge together if time allows. Also, if time is short, just like the 6-minute lower body challenge, complete one of the challenges instead of all six.

CHALLENGE 1: 10 minutes EMOM (Every Minute on the Minute) x15 Bodyweight Squats

CHALLENGE 2: 3 rounds x15 R/L—Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats

CHALLENGE 3: 5 rounds x5 Reps—Squat Jumps w/Floor Taps

CHALLENGE 4: x10min EMOM (Every Minute on the Minute) x10 Single-leg Bridges (R/L)

CHALLENGE 5: Burpee Ladder x1–10 x1 Rep x2 Reps x3 Reps... x8 Reps x9 Reps x10 Reps—Finished

 

Lower Body Circuit Burpee Ladder

 

CHALLENGE 6: Alternating Split Squat Lunge Jumps—Ladder x1–10 x1 Rep x2 Reps x3 Reps... x8 Reps x9 Reps x10 Reps—Finished

Vertical Jump Training Body Weight-1

 

Get “King of the Gym” Results Outside the Gym

Whether you’re taking a break from heavy back squats or just need variety, or possibly you’re on the road traveling, you have ways to focus on your lower-body strength without a barbell and rack. Throughout the four posts in this series, Instead of adding more weight to your back squats, you’re changing up the exercises to make it more difficult and challenging. Your squats can progress in a similar way if you’re not barbell back squatting: You can start by doing air squats with both legs, then progress to split squats, and eventually one-legged pistol squats, which are a lot more challenging. On the road, focus on body weight again and set-up lower-body conditioning routines.

As I have reiterated in each of the preceding posts, regardless of your fitness goals, some form or fashion of squats can and should be added to your fitness routines. The end result for your lower body is similar to what you can get from working out with “king of the gym” back squats.

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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 workouts videos body weight bodyweight lower body outdoor exercise squat

The “Triple-A” Way to Dominate Your Athletic Off-Season

GettyImages-1277242858For many athletes and recreational athletes, the arrival of winter and cold weather usually signifies the end of their athletic season. Once the bulk of your outdoor sport competition has concluded or slowed down, reflections of the past year take place. You may have run a personal record in your first 5K, mini, or full-marathon; had your best record in your tennis league; or had the lowest scoring average over a spring and summer for golf. Whatever your sport is or whatever you worked on that previous off-season, the wheels start churning in your mind about how you might be able to continue that improvement for the next season.

As with most things in the athletic world, improvements we make start to get more challenging each year. When you were new to a sport or competition, you might have seen rapid increases in your skills and abilities. But as you progress further, these improvements can become more minuscule and harder to obtain. Below is my “Triple-A” approach to help structure your off-season and make the next year better than the last.

1. Analyze

When you look back at your season, the easiest thing to do will be to remember and reflect on some of your best performances. This is great. Keep those memories and the feelings you had when you performed at your highest level in the back of your mind and use them as motivation for consistency.

But also reflect on some of your competitions where you just didn’t “have it.” These seem to be the ones that most people, myself included, remember most clearly. The goal isn’t to dwell on them, but to think to yourself about what you could have done better. Are there any common “problems” when you compare any of your subpar performances? If so, head to step 2 and see if there might be a way you can address it.

2. Assess

You’ve taken some time to look back on your less-than-optimal performances from last year, so now what? The next step is to try and see whether there is a way to quantify that issue in an assessment or testing window. Obviously, every individual will have their own unique situation, but here are some examples of things I have encountered in years past within certain sports and how you might be able to assess them:

  1. Lack of sprint speed or lateral quickness (tennis, soccer): Can be tested using 40/20-yard dash or 5-10-5 (see this blog).
  2. Knee pain (running, golf): Could be an issue with ankle/hip mobility or strength related. Schedule a Functional Movement Screen (FMS) or fitness assessment.
  3. Low energy at the end of training sessions or competition (all sports): Many factors could play into this, but nutrition is always a big culprit. Meet with our dietitian, Lindsey Recker (lrecker@nifs.org).

This will take a little work on your part, but help is always available from the NIFS Fitness Center staff. If you don’t assess, training is a guess.

3. Apply

Now the fun begins. Once you have pinpointed where some of your performance faults have occurred, it’s time to get to work. Your training program should consist of exercises or nutritional practices that are aimed at improving your subpar areas. If you lack speed or agility, add multidirectional running drills. If you want to improve your club head or racquet speed, add rotational power drills. If your pre-practice or competition meals don’t give you the energy you need, start formulating a plan that meets those needs.

As I said before, each individual has their own needs. A cookie-cutter “Triple A” approach may yield some improvements, but those serious about making improvements to their athletic skill set will invest a little more time and energy in finding out where the problems are and take a systematic approach to improving them.

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

Topics: off-season athletes student athletes athletic performance assessment performance

Five Benefits to Olympic Weightlifting for the General Population

GettyImages-1281363470The first thought that comes into most people’s heads when they hear the word weightlifting is, more times than not, “bulky.” The perception is that heavy weightlifting will cause an undesired large gain of muscle mass. This is true; weightlifting will cause you to put on muscle mass, but it will take a lot more than just lifting weights to be “bulky.” Please do not let your goals steer you away from certain exercises.

What Is Olympic Weightlifting?

The sport of Olympic weightlifting is comprised of the snatch, and clean and jerk. The snatch is a lift in which you take the bar from the floor to overhead in one swift movement. The clean and jerk is a lift in which you take the bar from the bar to the shoulder in one swift movement, and then take it from the shoulder to overhead in a second movement. The Olympic lifts are full-body, explosive movements that require the use of every muscle group in the body.

Take a look at any high-level athlete who competes in events such as track or wrestling. They have to get as strong as they can without putting on extra weight. They achieve this by lifting heavy loads for lower rep schemes as fast as they can. This is one reason why you will see athletes in these sports utilizing the Olympic lifts in the weight room. In the off season if they need to put on size, they will move to the higher rep ranges.

Benefits of Olympic Weightlifting

There are many benefits to learning and performing the Olympic lifts within your exercise routine. The lifts can be programmed in many different ways depending on your specific goals. These are my top five benefits of learning the lifts from a certified coach:

  1. Body composition: The snatch and clean and jerk are full-body lifts that use the legs, glutes, back, abs, shoulders, and arms. Performing the lifts burns more calories in a shorter period of time compared to performing isolation/single-joint movements. The lifts and accessory lifts can be used to put on lean tissue, increase strength, and ultimately decrease body fat.
  2. Muscular power and strength: Muscular power is how fast you can move a load. Decrease in muscular power over time is the main cause of falls in older adults. In Olympic weightlifting, nothing is done slowly. All loads are moved at max velocity, therefore increasing power. If your goal is to run faster and jump higher, power is the key ingredient.
  3. Coordination: The Olympic lifts require precise coordination, rhythm, and timing. Improving body awareness and coordination is great for the activities of daily living. Learning new things also increases cognitive abilities in old age.
  4. Range of motion: Most people associate heavy lifting with being stiff and bulky. The Olympic lifts, however, require the lifter to control a load through a full range of motion in the knees, ankles, hips, and shoulders. If the range of motion is not there now, or at the start of your lifting journey, over time training through a full range of motion will increase flexibility more effectively than static stretching one time per week.
  5. Work capacity: Depending on how the lifts are programmed, they can be used to cause a range of positive changes to your body. One way to increase work capacity is by limiting the amount of rest time in between sets. Over time you will be able to recover faster from higher-intensity training.

The Olympic lifts should be performed under the eyes of a certified, experienced coach. Learning the lifts on your own can be done, but will take much longer and will not produce the results you are seeking. If you are interested in learning the Olympic lifts, visit our Master Class here at NIFS, which is free to members. If you are looking for one-on-one or more personal coaching, you can visit us at the track desk and one of our staff will get you going in the right direction.

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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: muscles range of motion weight lifting weightlifting strength muscle building body composition building muscle strength and conditioning coordination work capacity

How to Make Favorite Thanksgiving Foods Healthier

GettyImages-621721636Although the holidays are meant to be a time of joy, they can be stressful for some, especially when you’re trying to lose or maintain weight, or just be more conscious of your eating habits. The best way to avoid these health-related stressors during the holidays is to prepare for them.

Following are seven of the most commonly consumed Thanksgiving foods and some suggestions for how to make them a bit healthier. Just by incorporating two or three of these simple swaps, you can reduce your intake of some not-so-health-friendly nutrients (like saturated fat and sodium), while still enjoying the seasonal foods you love and look forward to year after year.

 

Turkey

Opt for light turkey meat over dark meat because light turkey meat tends to have fewer calories, less saturated fat, and more protein per ounce. Removing all or some of the skin prior to eating can also help reduce total caloric and fat intake.

3 ounces of light turkey meat contains:

  • Without skin: 125 calories, 1.8g fat, 0.5g saturated fat, and 25.6g protein
  • With skin: 150 calories, 3.8g fat, 1.1g saturated fat, and 26.3g protein

3 ounces of dark turkey meat contains:

  • Without skin: 150 calories, 5.1g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, and 23.6g protein
  • With skin: 175 calories, 8.5g fat, 2.5g saturated fat, and 23.2g protein

Stuffing

Replace the bagged or boxed stuffing with homemade, which is typically lower in sodium and other processed ingredients. Use whole-grain bread in place of white bread to increase fiber content.

Incorporate more vegetables (celery, onion, carrots, broccoli, corn, mushrooms) and herbs (thyme, sage) to increase the nutrient content and overall flavor of your stuffing without adding too many extra calories and salt.

Use a reduced-sodium broth in place of regular broth, which can have several hundred additional milligrams of sodium per serving.

Green Bean Casserole

Use fresh steamed green beans, rather than canned, to decrease sodium content. Or you can choose canned green beans with “no salt added.” Use reduced-sodium cream of mushroom soup and add real sautéed mushrooms for additional flavor and fiber. Try air-frying onions rather than buying packaged fried onions.

Cranberries

Use fresh cranberries in place of canned cranberries or cranberry sauce to help reduce added sugar and total caloric intake. If you must use canned cranberries, select those that are naturally sweetened without added sugars.

Potatoes

Use low-fat milk, plain Greek yogurt, or low-sodium chicken broth in place of cream, butter, or margarine. Use real potatoes with the skin intact to boost fiber content. Limit the amount of butter, salt and gravy added to mashed potatoes.

Instead of sweet-potato casserole, try roasted sweet potatoes with brown sugar, chopped nuts, and a little bit of butter available for topping.

Beverages

Limit alcohol and other calorie-containing beverages, such as soda and juice. If you do choose to consume alcohol, opt for lower-calorie drinks (seltzers, light beer, dry wines) and calorie-free mixers such as seltzer water or diet sodas. As always, be sure to consume in moderation; alcohol may make you more inclined to overeat.

Dessert

Opt for 100% pure pumpkin and reduce the amount used (or consumed) as filling to help cut back on calories. Skip the whipped cream, ice cream, and other toppings that may add additional calories.

If you’re given a choice, pumpkin pie tends to be lower in calories than pecan pie.

For many people, Thanksgiving may be the only time a year they get to enjoy pumpkin pie. If that’s the case for you, it’s perfectly acceptable to indulge; just be sure to practice portion control.

***

Don’t have any say over what you and your family are having for Thanksgiving this year? Check out these tips for a practical, healthy holiday. Additionally, be sure to stay active, practice moderation and portion control, and remember: Thanksgiving happens only once a year and is much more than the food we pile onto our plates.

For more great recipes from NIFS dietitian, Lindsey Recker, go to https://www.nifs.org/healthy-recipes-nifs.

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

Topics: healthy eating holidays Thanksgiving alcohol fruits and vegetables turkey

The Freshman 15: Is College Weight Gain Fact or Fake?

GettyImages-1276822901With the phrase “freshman 15” commonly tossed around, many students enter college with a fear or perception that they will gain weight. However, a meta-analysis of the available research showed that, while close to two thirds (60.9%) of first-year college students did gain weight, the average amount gained was only around 7.5 pounds. Of those who reported weight gain, only 10% gained 15 or more poundBased on these findings, not everyone experiences the “freshman 15”; however, it is evident that the majority of first-year college students do gain some weight. Increased stress levels, fewer hours of sleep, excess alcohol intake, and reduced physical activity are just some of the factors that may contribute to weight gain in college.

To prevent weight gain and maximize your overall health this semester, try some of the following suggestions:

Stick to a schedule.

College can wreak havoc on your preferred living, sleeping, and eating routines. It is important to establish a schedule and stick to it. Healthy habits to adopt include the following:

  • Eating at least three well-rounded meals each day (and minimize late-night snacking).
  • Going to bed and waking up around the same time each day.
  • Drinking plenty of water (a general recommendation is at least 2–3 liters [64–96oz] each day).
  • Getting between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.

Plan ahead and stock up on healthy staples.

A little preparation ahead of time will keep you from grabbing unhealthy snacks.

  • Keep healthy snacks and staples in your dorm room or apartment. Some examples include the following: Microwavable brown rice, oatmeal, and popcorn; yogurt, apples, bananas, peanut butter, hummus, cheese sticks, granola, bagels, nuts, whole-grain crackers, cereal, and protein bars.
  • Limit foods commonly consumed in college that are high in sodium and calories, such as ramen noodles, heavily buttered popcorn, and pizza.
  • Keep a knife and cutting board on hand to slice fresh fruits and vegetables.

Limit high-sugar, high-calorie beverages.

Reduce intake of soda, energy drinks, sweetened coffees and teas, and alcohol. If you do choose to consume these beverages, be sure to drink in moderation and to factor them into your total caloric intake.

Don’t overdo it at the dining hall.

With limitless options, including plenty of not-so-healthy ones, making smart and healthy decisions at the dining hall can be complicated. To start, aim to pair a high-quality, lean protein source (chicken, fish, turkey, beans, yogurt, eggs, etc.) with a fruit or vegetable at each meal. Other tips include the following:

  • Make use of the salad bar, if available, but be sure to limit high-caloric toppings such as nuts, seeds, cheeses, and dressings.
  • Allow yourself some “treat foods,” but don’t make this a daily habit.
  • Eliminate distractions while eating. Focus on the food you are eating, rather than your phone, laptop, or schoolwork.

Stay active.

Adults over 18 years of age should aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days each week. In order to meet these recommendations, make use of your school’s recreation center or gym, walk to class when possible, or participate in intramural sports. (Here are some more tips for staying fit in college.)

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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: healthy habits healthy eating snacks weight management college

Exploring the Versatile Landmine Attachment for Powerlifting

“How can I better utilize the landmine attachment?” This is a question we hear regularly, but are sometimes limited by our own fitness exercise library. The landmine is actually quite versatile and functional in nature. Here I explore the Landmine and some of the many exercises that link several facets of fitness into one unique experience. From functional movements to powerlifting accompaniment, the Landmine is sure to boost your workout with new approaches to old exercises.

What Is a Landmine Attachment? 

According to opexfit.com, “The landmine attachment is a piece of gym equipment invented by Bert Sorin of Sorinex. It’s an adapter that attaches to a weightlifting rack that holds a barbell in one end, leaving the other end free for loading and moving.”

Upper-body Exercises with the Landmine Attachment

For these exercises, you will need a 45lb Olympic bar, a Landmine attachment, and any additional weights to add (for increased difficulty). I suggest beginning with just a bar (remember, it does weigh 45lb!).

  1. Two-handed Shoulder Press: With two hands, press the bar overhead.
  2. One handed Bent-Over Row: With one hand, hinging at the waist, grab the bar and row upward.

Lower-body Exercises with the Landmine Attachment

  1. Sumo Squat: With a wider than normal foot placement, hold the bar in two hands with arms extended. Do a squat pattern.
  2. Single-leg RDL: While standing on one foot, bar in one hand, hinge at the waist, and then return to standing

Core Exercises with the Landmine Attachment

  1. Trunk Twist: Standing in athletic position, make a “windshield wiper” while holding the bar overhead.
  2. Half-kneeling Trunk Twist: This is the same as the trunk twist, except now you are in a half-kneeling position.
  3. Half-kneeling Press: From the half-kneeling position, press upward (not unlike a shoulder press), press the weight up and slightly past the top position, achieving anti-rotational stability.
Landmine Exercises

As you can see, the Landmine is a great, multifaceted tool for us to enjoy not only functional fitness, but also massive muscle “gainz”. All kidding aside, please explore the Landmine and its numerous features. Be creative and try new exercises. If you are getting stumped and need a fresh routine, look no further than a NIFS Health Fitness Instructor. We can help with all of your fitness needs including setting goals, benchmark fitness testing, exercise programming, and more! See you at NIFS!

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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 equipment weightlifting exercises powerlifting fitness equipment