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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Summer Sledding: Using Sleds for Fitness

Training with a drive sled, or what we lovingly refer to as the “Prowler,” is probably one of the most popular modes of training with the coolest toy. I can remember my first experience with a sled a long time ago during football practice. There was nothing that made me want to see my last meal more than pushing a heavy sled as fast and hard as I could.

What the Sled Can Do for You

That feeling hasn’t changed much for me after a hard sled session, and I think it remains the draw for many who love the feeling of being “maxed out.” But the sled has so many more uses than “push till you puke,” such as:

  • Power development
  • Upper-body strength development
  • Trunk stability work

Exercises You Can Do with the Sled

Screen Shot 2019-08-27 at 11.31.01 AM

Here are some of my favorite ways to train with the sled that are not just pushing it fast down a straight line. This piece of equipment can challenge the body in so many different and fun ways:

  • Double-arm rows
  • Single-arm rows
  • Rips
  • Press
  • Walking dead
  • Walking AR press
  • Lateral cross-steps
  • Power push
  • OH walk
  • Lunges

The sled is easily one of the most versatile fitness tools out there, and can be such a fun and exciting way to train so many aspects of fitness. This is just a short list of the possible movements you can complete with a sled. Add a few different movements using the sled during your next training session and reap the benefits! Remember to practice proper REST protocols and make it a part of your training schedule.

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness center equipment core exercises power strength training upper body fitness equipment sled

Keep Up with NEAT: Less Sitting and More Calorie Burning

GettyImages-513205085If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ve probably started exercising, maybe you’re trying a new diet, and maybe you’ve been super consistent for months now, but nothing’s changing. You feel like you’re doing everything right, but you haven’t seen any changes on the scale. How can this be? Weight loss is all about diet and exercise, so why aren’t the pounds just falling off? Research suggests there’s more to weight loss and weight management than diet and exercise alone.

Total Daily Energy Expenditure: The Calories You Burn

Throughout the day our bodies expend energy in the form of calories. The components of Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) include Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), Thermic Effect of Food (TEF), and Physical Activity (PA). BMR accounts for about 60% of total daily energy expenditure. This is the amount of calories a body burns at rest. People who have increased muscle mass will have a higher BMR because of the amount of calories muscles use, even at rest. This is one reason why strength training is important for weight loss.

TEF results in roughly 10% of TDEE. This includes chewing food, digestion, absorption, and all other processes that go into consuming and processing food within the body.

The remaining 30% of TDEE is physical activity, which then gets broken down into exercise activity thermogenesis (EAT) and nonexercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). EAT accounts for about 5% of TDEE, while NEAT can contribute as much as 15%.

NEAT vs. EAT

NEAT are the little movements or tasks you do throughout the day, but are not considered moderate to vigorous exercise. This can include walking, taking the stairs, vacuuming, doing the dishes, playing fetch with the dog, talking, standing, tapping your foot, cooking, yard work, and so on. These small tasks vary from 50 to 200 calories per hour. All of these small movements can add up to a significant caloric deficit. On the other hand, EAT is the exercise-type activities like running, weight lifting, and so on.

Exercise is encouraged in weight loss because it can increase muscle mass, improve mood, encourage movement, and so many other benefits. However, if your workout is one hour long and you sleep for 8 hours, there’s still 15 hours of the day in which you might be completely sedentary, which is not ideal for weight loss.

We live in a society that encourages sedentary behaviors throughout the day, for example, working in an office. Meanwhile, over half of leisure time is spent watching television. This means that Americans are spending the majority of their time completely sedentary. This is thought to be one of the causes of the obesity epidemic in the United States.

What Does This All Mean?

To be clear, increasing NEAT activities is not a replacement for exercising. Structured exercise of moderate to vigorous intensity for 150 to 300 minutes a week has countless benefits that have been researched over and over again. However, in overweight and obese patients, adherence to workout programs shows low long-term success. And those who do show success initially seem to gradually gain the weight back. Instead, replacing sedentary behaviors with NEAT-type activities can boost energy expenditure throughout the day while maintaining long-term adherence. Not only is NEAT easier to maintain, but the amount of NEAT activities seems to increase over time.

Overall, weight-loss programs should focus on a healthy diet, a structured workout program, and strategies to decrease sedentary behaviors to increase NEAT. Although the full mechanisms of NEAT still need to be explored in research, there’s plenty of evidence to prove that decreasing sedentary behavior may aid in weight loss when combined with diet and exercise.

For some ideas of increasing NEAT at work and at home, check out this blog.

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This blog was written by Hannah Peters, BS, CPT, Health Fitness Instructor. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: staying active healthy habits weight loss calories weight management exercise at work sitting

Get an A+ in Back-to-School Nutrition

GettyImages-1026132188Whether you are starting your first year in college, sending your kids off to school, or are teaching classes this school year, make sure that your nutrition stays at the top of your priority list. It can be easy to get bogged down in your day-to-day routine and quickly lose sight of your goals. Follow these steps to help you stay on track this year.

1. Eat Breakfast

It’s okay to be a creature of habit and eat the exact same meal every morning, as long as it is nutrient dense and keeps you satisfied throughout the morning. Pair a little protein (about 15–20 grams) with a carbohydrate. This gives your brain the boost it needs, but also helps keep you full so that you don’t arrive at lunch with a growling belly.

A few ideas to try:

  • Oatmeal with berries and a spoonful of peanut butter (try making overnight oats for easy grab and go).
  • Scrambled egg with sautéed veggies and whole-grain toast.
  • Banana or apple slices with a thin layer of almond butter on whole-grain toast.

2. Take Snacks

Your body needs a little fuel throughout the day to keep energy levels high and keep you focused. Just like breakfast keeps you full throughout the morning, you want to make sure you aren’t arriving to your next meal famished—otherwise, people have a tendency to eat too much, too quickly. Keep the pantry and fridge stocked with healthy and easy snacks so you can grab one and go in the morning.

A few ideas to try:

  • The original fast-foods: bananas, apples, oranges.
  • A variety of nuts such as pistachios, almonds, and pecans.
  • Granola bars such as Larabar or KIND snacks.
  • Hummus and veggies.
  • Whole-grain crackers and guacamole.

3. Practice Smart Hydration

Skip high-calorie beverages and aim to increase your intake of water. Opt for alternatives like flavored sparkling water, unsweet tea, or fruit-infused water to mix up your choices. (Here are some more tips for proper hydration.)

4. Make a Meal Plan

Just like you plan a time to do homework, work out, or go to sports practice, don’t put your nutrition on the back burner to everything else. Sit down as a family or roommates and write out your plan for the week. Start with breakfast—this is often the easiest. Next, plan dinners—dinner often will help you fill in your lunch plans with leftovers. From here, make your grocery list. This not only helps keeping you out of the closest fast-food joint, but it also helps with budgets—a win for everyone!

Meals do not need to be complicated. Keep the Plate Method in mind. Simply try to make half of your plate fruits and veggies, keep protein portions to one quarter of your plate, and make the other quarter of your plate whole grains.

5. Allow for Splurges

After a long day of exams, helping with book reports, or grading papers, everyone deserves a little treat, right? Try to avoid rewarding yourself with food at the end of every day, but also know that if you plan for some of your favorites you will be less likely to over-eat these items when you “cave” at 3 AM on a Tuesday! Take the kids for Friday night ice cream every week, hang with your friends and enjoy a slice or two of your favorite pizza, and then plan to get right back on track with healthy eating after that. One meal or snack will not throw you off track.

Sweet alternatives:

  • Chocolate hummus with fruit
  • Dried and pitted dates filled with almonds or dark chocolate
  • “Nice cream” (frozen banana blended with peanut butter)

***

We at NIFS hope your school year gets off to a great start. Best of luck in the 2019–2020 school year!

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition snacks lunch breakfast hydration school meals meal planning

How Getting Outdoors Helps Your Well-Being

GettyImages-857107456nGrowing up and continuing to live in the Midwest, I’ve grown to appreciate the summer months more and more. In fact, in Michigan we joke that there are really only two seasons:

  1. Sweltering summer with a side of construction.
  2. The endless frozen tundra that is 8 months of winter.

Long story short? When it’s nice enough to not have to wear a parka to brave the outdoors, you best believe I’m outside on a bike ride, relaxing by a lake, or unplugging on a hike in the woods during my down time.

Recharging Your Batteries with Nature

I’ve always felt like this has helped me recharge my batteries, anecdotally at least. But now, more and more research is mounting to support the idea that simply being in nature has numerous benefits to health and well-being. For example, a meta-analysis completed by Jones & Twohig-Bennett (2018) found statistically significant decreases in diastolic blood pressure, incidence of diabetes, and salivary cortisol (hello decreases in stress), while also reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and improving life expectancy and mental health. Not too shabby, right?

Spend Two Hours or More Outside Each Week

But how much time do you need to spend in nature to reap the rewards for health and well-being? It looks like current research is supporting the 120-minute threshold per week.

White et al. (2019) examined results from the Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment Survey in England, which included 20,000 people over a three-year span. They found that those who reported being in nature for two hours or more during the week were overall healthier and had a greater sense of well-being compared to those who did not get outside at all. Spending 60 to 90 minutes came with some improvements, but it was not as significant an effect as two hours. And over 5 hours per week had no additional benefits. What’s more, these results rang true across all demographics examined in the study: age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, proximity to nature—all exhibited improvements to health and well-being at the two-hour mark.

So, the moral of the story? While the exact mechanism remains unknown, making time in your schedule to get outside in some way, shape, or form for two hours a week (in ANY increments of time) can not only help you mentally recharge, but also significantly improve your health and well-being going forward.

For some tips on exercising outdoors safely in the summer, check out this blog.

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer, and Internship Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: outdoors cardiovascular outdoor exercise stress relief longevity nature mental health well-being

The Carb Conundrum: Avoid Them for Weight Loss and Healthy Eating?

GettyImages-902999388In recent years, carbohydrates have seemingly been blamed for our health problems. Many of us now shun potatoes, rice, and even fruit in fear of the dreaded pounds that could come with eating carbohydrates. While many diets demonize carbohydrates, others preach the benefits of higher-carbohydrate diets. Through all of this confusion, I will try to set the record straight.

No single food or food group should be blamed for weight gain or credited with weight loss. Carbohydrates span a broad range of foods, from beans, fruits, and veggies to pizza, pasta, cookies, and French fries. While we hate to oversimplify the equation, weight gain does come down to calories in versus calories out. If we eat too much of anything—even fruits and veggies—we will gain weight. The caveat is that fruits and veggies are nearly impossible to eat too much of because they are rich in fiber and low in calories, while other foods can pack a calorie-dense punch in a very small serving.

How easy is it to eat an entire bag of Chex Mix while you might struggle to eat half a cup of carrots?

Carbohydrates and a Healthy Diet

Carbohydrate-rich foods form the foundation of a healthy diet. The National Academy of Sciences recommends people consume 45–65% of their daily calories from carbohydrates. In a 2,000-calorie diet, this is equivalent to 225–335 grams daily. Carbohydrates are crucial for energy production in the body for working muscles, fuel for proper mental function, supplying vitamins and minerals, as well as providing large amounts of fiber for decreasing risk of chronic disease like heart disease and cancer. Many foods contain carbohydrates: whole grains, fruits, starchy veggies, milk and dairy, pasta, beans, and refined/processed foods.

Should I Avoid Carbohydrates?

In recent years, many have found lower-carbohydrate, higher-protein diets to be beneficial in weight loss. However, the long-term effects of such a diet are not well studied. Many “low-carb” diets can lead to an increase in foods like red meats, processed meats, and saturated fat–containing foods like cheese, butter, and cream. Carbohydrate-rich foods provide numerous health benefits and you should not avoid them. Certain areas of the world called Blue Zones offer an interesting look into the benefits of a higher-carbohydrate diet. They have not only the highest rates of longevity but also very low rates of chronic disease. Blue Zone populations consume 95% of their calories from vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes and eat meat sparingly.

“Good” Versus “Bad” Carbohydrates

But it is important to think about the types of carbohydrates you are consuming. Unrefined carbohydrates are unprocessed, whole foods that are high in fiber (and many other nutrients) and digest more slowly. Unprocessed, whole-food carbohydrates help you feel fuller and get you through the day feeling less hungry. Processed carbohydrates lack fiber and may have added oils and sugar—they can leave you feeling low on energy as they are quickly digested and burned for fuel. Unprocessed carbs are key to long-term health and can help with weight control. They also guard against type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular problems. Try to limit most processed carbohydrates because they are low in nutrients and high in calories.

Unprocessed Carbohydrates

  • Oats
  • Brown rice
  • Fruit
  • Beans
  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables

Processed Carbohydrates

  • Soda
  • Baked treats
  • Packaged sweets/snack foods
  • Fruit juice
  • Breakfast cereal
Did you now that in 1915 the average American consumed 17.5 pounds of added sugar in a year? As of 2011, the average American consumed over 150 pounds of sugar annually!

In summary, carbohydrates should be welcomed to not only help with weight management but also prevent disease. Make most of your carbohydrates whole, unprocessed foods for a balanced, healthy diet while enjoying the processed/refined carbohydrate foods in moderation. And if you’d like some help with figuring out what to eat, look into Nutrition Coaching at NIFS.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: weight loss healthy eating calories endurance disease prevention fiber energy whole foods carbs fruits and vegetables carbohydrates longevity

Ankle Mobility: Lower-Leg Stretches to Improve ROM and Decrease Injury

GettyImages-867056016-1Whether you are a seasoned workout veteran or the new face in the gym, there’s no denying that lower-leg pain can be a huge deterrent for exercise (and day-to-day life, for that matter). Some pains are dictated by the range of motion in the ankle. Due to several factors including previous injuries and wear and tear, physiological problems from the various shoes people wear, and the types of exercises people punish their bodies with, we see individuals every day who have a hard time performing some of the more basic exercises such as squats and deadlifting.

To hopefully achieve a better, safer exercise with less pain, it’s helpful to incorporate ankle mobility warmups into your routine and to be conscious of testing and retesting range of motion to monitor your progress. Here I cover some tests that are useful for checking your ankle mobility and some warmup stretches to get you heading in the right direction.

Testing Ankle Mobility

For testing and retesting your ankle mobility, NIFS uses a test that is included in the Fundamental Capacity Screen simply referred to as the Ankle Clearing Screen. What we want to see is whether your ankle mobility is capable and safe to perform a specific movement pattern. If not, we need to strategize ways to improve ROM and decrease chances for injury.

Dr. John Rusin describes a test you can do at home in which you stand, facing a wall, with your foot four inches away from the edge of the wall. While keeping your heel on the ground, try to touch your knee to the wall. It’s not as easy as it might seem, but being able to touch your knee to the wall is a sign of a healthy, mobile ankle. If you can’t do it and you want to improve, we have some work to do!

Stretches for Ankle Mobility

There are many stretches for ankle mobility that can help boost your ability. Starting with a simple ankle stretch at the wall, begin by pressing against the wall, keeping your heels flat on the floor. The more your body gets used to this movement, the farther you will be able to move your feet back (as long as your feet are flat on the ground). Holding for several seconds on each side, try to do this stretch daily or as often as you like to help get the ball rolling.

A similar way to stretch the ankle would be a self-stretch from a half-kneeling position. This is a simple yet effective movement that improves your flexibility over time. While keeping your foot flat, rock forward until you feel a stretch, then return to the starting position. Move your foot farther away from your body or closer to your body for a couple nice change-ups to the routine.

Lastly, if you were interested only in the exercise aspect and can’t find time to stretch, you can still do a squat pattern. The TRX Deep Squat is a good beginner squat that will help reestablish ankle mobility and train your body to work through the entire squat range of motion. Even sitting in the squat position feels good and helps the body get used to the pattern. Without weight to affect the body positioning, you will find this to be lower impact and a great jump off into doing traditional squats with great form.

Get Help from NIFS

Ankle mobility is where everything in the whole kinetic chain starts. If you have poor ankle mobility, chances are you aren’t going to be able to do the squats or hip hinge patterns effectively, which our bodies need to get stronger. This ripple effect passes all the way to the upper half of the body.

If you want more information or would like help improving your ankle mobility, please reach out to NIFS and one of our Health Fitness Specialists will help guide you in the right direction. Fundamental Capacity Screens are complimentary. Check with a NIFS staff member to see whether this type of testing is right for you.

As always, muscleheads evolve and rejoice!

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

Topics: Thomas' Corner injury prevention range of motion pain mobility assessments stretches ankle mobility lower leg

Macronutrients: The What, Why, and How of Tracking for Healthy Eating

GettyImages-1133846218 newA diet that is balanced in its macronutrient distribution can help reduce the risk of disease and help with lasting weight loss. You might have heard of others tracking their “macros” and wondered if this is something that you need to do. So, why and how do you do this tracking?

What Are Macronutrients?

The major macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. All are essential to health and well-being. Since 1941, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has reviewed the latest science and pulled together a group of experts to make recommendations to the public. The latest recommendations were published in 2005. Some foods provide a mix of macronutrients (beans provide protein, carbohydrates, and sometimes a very small amount of fat), while others provide only one type of macronutrient (olive oil provides just fat). Whether they are a mix of macros or one type, they all serve a purpose.

Protein

Protein provides four calories per gram. Protein is vital for immune function, building and repairing tissue, cell signaling, hormones, and enzymes. Protein-rich foods include eggs, poultry, fish, tofu, lentils, and beans.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide four calories per gram as well. In your body, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, a type of sugar that your body uses for immediate energy or stores in your liver and muscle for later use. Carbohydrates are found in almost all foods with the exception of oils/fats and meat—items like grains, starchy veggies, beans, dairy, and fruit contain carbohydrates.

Fat

Fat has the most calories at 9 calories per gram. Your body needs fat for energy, hormone production, and nutrient absorption. Fat is found in oils, butter, nuts, meat, and fatty fish.

What Is an Acceptable Distribution of Macronutrients?

The Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) is the range associated with reduced risk for chronic diseases while providing essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals. NAS has classified the following AMDR for adults as a percentage of calories as follows:

Protein: 10–35%

Fat: 20–35%

Carbohydrates: 45–65%

For example, an individual consuming 2,000 total calories per day will aim for approximately:

2,000 calories x 10 to 35% = 200–700 calories from protein OR  200–700 calories / 4 calories per gram = 50–175 grams of protein

2,000 calories x 20–35% = 400–700 calories from fat OR 400–700 calories / 9 calories per gram = 44–78 grams of fat

2,000 calories x 45–65% = 900–1300 calories from carbohydrates OR 900–1300 calories / 4 calories per gram = 225–325 grams of carbohydrates

How to Track Macros

  1. Determine your calorie needs (many formulas online, RMR testing at NIFS, and various apps will create calorie recommendations as well).
  2. Determine your macronutrient breakdown ( for example, if you’re very active, you may need more carbohydrates and protein).
  3. Log food intake into a journal like My Fitness Pal, Lose It, or My Macros+ app.

Keep in mind you might not always hit your goals precisely and the tools we have to calculate calories are not perfect. Food tracking is great for helping you get closer to your goals; but our bodies are not calculators, so give yourself a little “wiggle room” in your tracking.

Benefits of Tracking Macros

  • Improves diet quality: Instead of focusing on calories, where a bowl of oatmeal with nuts and fruit may be equal to a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal, you will focus on nutrients.
  • Helps with weight loss: Those who track food tend to lose more weight than those who do not track food intake.
  • Helps with specific goals: Those who are endurance athletes may need more carbohydrates than athletes who are lifting weights multiple times per week.

When Is Tracking Useful?

Those who thrive on structure may find tracking macronutrients to be something they enjoy, and very beneficial. It can help to increase your awareness of the quality of foods you are eating and the amount of healthy foods you are eating. (Those with a history of disordered eating should not track food intake.)

When first starting, you may find it overwhelming, but over time you find the foods and healthy eating patterns that help you hit your macronutrient goals. When tracking macronutrients, it is important to focus on a mainly whole-foods diet that emphasizes fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and protein. The benefits come from making adjustments as needed—not finding the perfect ratio from the very beginning. Many can eat a well-balanced diet without tracking intake—there is no one-size-fits-all plan—but rest assured: if most of your food was grown in the ground and everything else is included in moderation, you are giving your body just what it needs.

Contact Lindsey Hehman, RD, at lhehman@nifs.org for questions or to come up with more specific macronutrient goals.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition weight loss healthy eating protein technology carbs fat

The Do-Something Motivation Principle: Nike Was Right!

GettyImages-1086377774We’ve all been there, right? You’ve chosen a new habit that you want to form: go to the gym four times a week, choose one day a week to grocery shop and meal prep, maybe start work on that side hustle you’ve been meaning to do for years. You’re all in, gung-ho for about five days, and before you know it, you’ve fallen back into the same routine as before. That bright flame that once was your motivation has faded into the background. Now what?

Just Do Something

Relying too much on willpower or waiting for motivation to strike is one of the biggest pitfalls when it comes to habit formation, or just keeping up with the craziness of each day’s to-do list. Motivation is fleeting. It comes and goes just like the wind. But there is one trick you can use to help breathe some life into your willpower: The Do-Something Principle.

Like the name implies, by taking one small, actionable step, you can help elicit some feelings of accomplishment and inspiration to push you ahead. I loved the way Mark Manson described it: “Action isn’t just the effect of motivation; it’s also the cause of it.” (Read more about Mark here—but be advised that his writing includes expletives.) And it’s him I credit for the Do-Something Principle.

Action Leads to Inspiration, and More

The principle looks a little something like this:

Action -> Inspiration -> Motivation -> New Action

Too many times we think that the order of the operations is inspiration, followed by motivation, which then leads to action. But this rarely happens. And if it does, it’s usually short-lived at best. Sometimes just accomplishing a small task, like saying “I will put my gym shoes on,” can lead to the next step of “Well, I might as well go outside if my shoes are on,” and before you know it you’re out taking a walk and being physically active.

This logic can be applied to other facets of life as well. Say it’s a project at work, like a report you have to write. You know it’s been on your to-do list for a few days, but instead of tackling it you’ve been spending time looking at email or getting sidetracked by other menial tasks. Maybe you’ve even felt a mental roadblock when it comes to that report. This is exactly where you can use the Do-Something Principle. Even just sitting down, opening Microsoft Word on your computer, and throwing a few thoughts down on the page can help spur you on to complete that report.

Anecdotally, when I personally feel like the mountain of tasks in front of me seems a tad overwhelming, saying “Just do something” as a mantra works to keep me grounded. I choose the most important of what’s in front of me and literally just do something to work toward completing that task. I think Brad Stulberg, author and performance coach, described it concisely in saying “Show up. Mood follows action. Just get started. Because it’s really as simple and hard as that.”

Find Motivation Through a First Step

So whatever tasks might lie ahead for you, if you’re having any difficulty getting started or feel a bit of resistance, give the Do-Something Principle a try. Sometimes it’s literally just a matter of taking that first step, even if you aren’t 100% sure of what that step even is. Regardless, Nike wasn’t too far off when they said, “Just Do It.”

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer, and Internship Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy habits motivation goals inspiration just do it behavior modification

The Keto Diet: A Registered Dietitian’s Review

GettyImages-1134020458The “keto diet,” which is short for ketogenic diet, is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that is similar to the Atkins Diet, and is one of today’s most popular diets. The goal of a low-carb diet is to reduce carbohydrates and replace them with fat. This puts your body into a state of ketosis. When this occurs, your body breaks down fat into ketones for energy. The main idea here is that by starving the body of carbohydrates, you will force it to break down fats, which proponents of the diet suggest results in the best weight-loss results.

There are different versions of the keto diet. Some allow for added carbs around workouts, or some keto days followed by high-carb days, high-protein keto diets, and a standard keto diet of 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs. It usually includes meat, eggs, cheese, milk, nuts and seeds, oils and fats (like avocado, coconut oil, ghee, butter, and olive oil), vegetables (limited to dark leafy greens and mushrooms, and fruit (berries in moderation). Generally the diet does not include starchy veggies (potato/sweet potato, pumpkin, legumes, etc.), grains (oats, rice, quinoa, corn), or fruits (banana, mango, pineapple, apples, oranges).

Why Is This Diet So Popular?

Keto diets have become increasingly popular in the health-conscious community for a few reasons:

  • Weight loss: How many fad diets have you tried over the past few years that promise hitting your weight-loss goals in just a few weeks or even less than 6 months? Often weight loss is “water weight”: as stored carbohydrates are utilized, water is lost.
  • Reinforcement of getting to eat what we thought to be “bad” foods.
  • No calorie counting—however, many of us create a calorie deficit that results in weight loss without thinking about it when we are no longer eating favorites like pizza, donuts, cookies, chips, etc.

How Healthy Is the Keto Diet?

As a registered dietitian, my goal in nutrition counseling is to help people establish lifelong sustainable habits, and the research points us in a different direction than keto. But first, kudos to anyone who is trying to modify their lifestyle with any diet. Low-carb diets may be useful in the short term for weight loss, but in the long term (longer than a year), there are no documented benefits.

Take a look at the following research on some other healthier eating patterns.

Plant-Based Diets

A study of the eating patterns of more than 15,400 adults in the U.S. and another 432,000 people around the world found that restricted-carbohydrate levels replaced or supplemented by animal-based protein and fat sources could lead to a higher risk of premature death. The study suggests that plant-derived protein and fat such as vegetables, nuts, peanut butter, and whole-grain breads were associated with lower mortality.

Low-Carb Diets

A second study examined the relationship among low-carb diets, heart disease, cancer, and all-cause death in 24,825 people. Compared to those in the high-carbohydrate group, those who ate the lowest carbohydrates had a 32% higher risk of all-cause death over 6 years. Risk of death from heart disease and cancer increased by 51% and 35%, respectively.

The Secrets of the Blue Zones: Living to 100

What do Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Ogliastra Region, Sardinia; Loma Linda, California; and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica all have in common? These places are called Blue Zones. Blue Zones are isolated areas of the world where researchers have found populations that contain a surprisingly high percentage of centenarians—people who live to age 100+. Not only are these individuals living longer, but they are doing so in phenomenal health without problems like heart disease, obesity, cancer, or diabetes. Here’s what researchers have found when it comes to their diet:

  • Stop eating when your stomach is 80% full to avoid weight gain.
  • Eat the smallest meal of the day in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Eat mostly plants, especially beans. Eat meat rarely, in small portions of 3 to 4 ounces. Blue Zoners eat portions this size just five times a month, on average.
  • Alcohol in moderation (no more than 1-2 glasses of wine per night).

The Conclusion: High-Fiber, Low-Calorie Diets Are Best

There is evidence that ketogenic diets help with conditions like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and epilepsy, but for the majority of the population, I encourage you to eat a well-balanced diet that emphasizes plant foods. Think of cheese, butter, and meat as garnishes to your meal and shift your plate from a high-calorie, high-saturated-fat meal to a high-fiber, lower-calorie, and nutrient-powerhouse meal!

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition weight loss healthy eating protein fiber carbs dietitian ketogenic diet keto

Walk This Way: Why You Should Walk More

GettyImages-1088123908Unless you have been on Mars for the last four or five decades, you have heard, read, and seen the benefits of walking for health and fitness. There is no new hot take on walking; it’s always been a fantastic way to stay healthy and enjoy exercise.

Walking is often undervalued as a great way to lose weight and feel better, mainly due to the perception that walking is not as “sexy” or intense as some of the fitness programs out there. And the popular opinion on the “interwebs” is that if you are not on your back at the end of the training session gasping for air, it’s not effective (with Prancersizing not doing walking any favors in the “sexy” department). But walking can be a great way to get and stay in awesome shape no matter what the Instagram stars may be showing.

Why You Need to Walk More

Let’s start with WHY you should be walking more:

  • It’s FREE and it’s FUNDAMENTAL.
  • A walking workout is customizable and can be done anywhere.
  • Walking improves almost all aspects of fitness: cardio, endurance, balance, core strength…the list goes on and on.
  • You already have the equipment (your body).
  • It’s an easy way to get activity throughout the day.
  • It has been shown to decrease the chances for diabetes, cardio-respiratory disease, heart disease…and this list goes on and on. (Side note: It has also been shown that the best medicine for the top 10 causes of death is EXERCISE.)
  • Can be a solo or group activity.
  • No extra training needed—you already know how to walk.

Those are all pretty good reasons why we should walk more, right? Trust me, there are more reasons than listed above, but we’ll start with those.

How Can You Walk More?

So HOW can you walk more than you currently are? Hopefully you know the common ways: park far away from any building you are entering, take the stairs, walk the dog more than once a day. Here are a few other strategies you may not have thought of:

  • Walk to complete errands.
  • Take public transit and get off two or three stops before the closest stop.
  • Take a shopping cart all the way back to the store or the farthest return—and oh, grab a few on your way because leaving your cart is an epidemic.
  • Fill up your water bottle every hour during your workday, and travel as far as possible to do so.
  • Schedule a 30-minute walk as a training day.
  • Walk mow your lawn, and maybe your neighbors’, too.
  • Practice the Hawaiian wellness habit of searching for beauty.
  • Start your day with a 15–20-minute walk.

How to Ramp Up the Intensity of Your Walking Workout

For those of you who want to ratchet up the intensity on this catch-all, easy-to-use mode of exercise, here are some strategies to rock a great walk:

  • Walk with a purpose: Walk faster and with purpose whenever you are walking (unless it’s a long stroll on a beautiful beach).
  • Inclined walking: Find some hills or put some incline on the treadmill.
  • Weighted carries: Pick up something heavy and walk with it.
  • Rucking (walking with a heavy pack): Same idea as carries, just using a pack.
  • Sled pulls: Strap a sled to yourself and start walking.
  • Hiking: Undulating terrain is a built-in training mode of increasing intensity.

Exercise and fitness does not always need to be extravagant and really should never be complicated (here are some really simple workouts for students). Make walking a bigger part of your training program. No matter the intensity level you choose, just move more!

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: walking weight loss workouts disease prevention wellness mindfulness steps