Monday, September 28, 2015

Be Smart about Gluten-Free Foods

Are you going gluten-free?  If so, you are in good company.  Many Americans are reducing the gluten in their diets.  Some are doing this because they have a confirmed diagnosis of Celiac disease, some are gluten sensitive, and others are finding that reducing gluten aids them in weight loss.

What is gluten? Gluten is a protein found in certain grains such as wheat, barley, rye, spelt and semolina.  It not only gives baked goods their characteristic texture and chewiness, but it is also used in the processing of many other foods to add thickness, flavor and added protein. 

If someone has Celiac disease, they have a condition in which the body experiences an immune reaction when gluten is eaten.  The result is damage to the inside of the small intestine, which impairs absorption of nutrients.  Gluten sensitivity is different in that the reaction to gluten is less severe and less damaging to the small intestine, but physical symptoms are still present, such as nutritional deficiencies, gastro intestinal difficulties and headaches. In spite of their differences, both conditions are treated by removing gluten from the diet.

It is not just those who have a diagnosed sensitivity to gluten who are removing it from their diets, though.  Many healthy people are reducing gluten, usually because they are interested in reducing carbohydrates in their diets.  Most breads, pastas and baked goods contain carbohydrates, because they contain wheat.  If you are interested in lowering your carb intake, going-gluten free is one way to do that because traditionally, many baked goods are made with wheat, which is high in gluten.  When you remove wheat from your diet, you have fewer choices when it comes to carbs.

But “fewer choices” does not mean “no choices.”  With the explosion of interest in gluten-free products, food manufacturers have stepped-up the production of baked goods that look, taste and feel like traditional, gluten-containing foods, but are in fact, gluten-free.  From breads to cinnamon rolls to pastas, there is a gluten-free food to satisfy nearly any craving you might have.

This is good news for those who need alternatives, but it is also bad news, because it is easy to mistake gluten-free for carb-free.  The two are not the same.  Carbs are found in many other grains and foods, and are often present in significant amounts in gluten-free products.  It is tempting to think that because a cracker or brownie is gluten free that you can eat as many as you want.  You can’t.  Those crackers and brownies are likely to be very high in carbs and calories, as well as other unhealthy ingredients, such as sugar.  When you eat these foods, you are simply trading one carb source for another.  If weight loss through carb restriction is your goal, this will slow down your progress.

Your best defense is to be informed.  Know what you are eating.  Before you eat a gluten-free product, read the label.  Check the ingredients, the carb and sugar count and the number of calories it contains. And stay on the lookout for foods that are both low in carbs and low in gluten.  And of course, practice moderation.  Too much of anything is seldom healthy.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Relax and Lose Weight

Want to get healthy and lose weight?  Then relax.  It’s true.  Relaxing is good for you, so relax and read on for tips!

The role of cortisol

One of the most important reasons that relaxation is good for you is because it prevents the release of excess cortisol.  Cortisol is a hormone that your body releases when it is stressed.  If you only have small amounts of cortisol, there is no problem.  But when stress is persistent, as it is in many of our lives, the amount of cortisol in your bloodstream rises and stays elevated.  The result?  Weight gain.

When cortisol is released, you begin craving foods that deliver quick energy, such as potato chips, candy bars, pastries, etc.  If this were not bad enough, cortisol goes on to store those extra calories as fat, mainly around your abdominal area.

Cortisol also interferes with the hormones that control your appetite; you will find that you are hungry more often and have a hard time staying satiated.

And if that were not enough, cortisol can also cause decreased muscle mass because it lowers testosterone levels.  The less muscle you have, the less fat you will burn.

The science of relaxation

The good news is that intentional relaxation can combat stress and combat cortisol.  Scientists have discovered what they call “the relaxation effect.”  Specifically, Harvard researchers have learned that deep relaxation causes bodily changes all the way down to our genetic level.  For those people who practiced yoga long term, their disease fighting genes were active, as opposed to people who did not make relaxation a part of their lives.1

The participants in the study who practiced yoga had ‘switched on’ genes that protect them from high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, pain and even infertility.

But wait!  There’s more…

When the researchers in the study asked the non-relaxation practicing participants to start using relaxation methods, it only took two months for their bodies to begin changing.  Genes that fight inflammation and help prevent cancer began turning on! And the more they practiced relaxation, the more improved were the benefits.

The take away message?  You can’t afford not to relax. Too much is riding on this. Start now and in just a couple short months, you can be enjoying the genetic benefits of robust health.


Monday, September 14, 2015

Protect Your Brain from Alzheimer’s Disease

Surveys have shown that there is something that Americans fear more than death. 
It is Alzheimer’s disease. 

For most of us, losing our personhood--those characteristics which makes us who we are--is a fate worse than death.

What is Alzheimer’s?
Named after Alois Alzheimer, who discovered the condition in 1906, Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects the function of the brain by causing the brain cells to degenerate and then die.  There is no cure, and the progression of the disease leads to eventual death.  The first symptoms of the disease usually show up as forgetfulness, but as it worsens, more long-term memory loss occurs, along with other symptoms such as mood swings, irritability and inability to recognize languages.

How Prevalent is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s affects 5.3 million Americans, and it is predicted that by 2050, 1 in 8 Americans will be stricken with it.  The Medicare system spends three times as much money on Alzheimer’s treatment as it does on any other disease. 

Is Alzheimer’s Inevitable?
The good news is there is much you can do to reduce the chances that you will develop this disease.  Because of the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in our country, many people view it as a normal and inevitable part of the aging process.  But this is not so.  Alzheimer’s is a disease, and you do not have to get sick with this disease. 

In fact, in spite of it being so common in America, there are societies in which dementia and Alzheimer’s is rare, even for people in their 90’s and beyond.  The elders in these cultures maintain clear thinking without the burden of dementia that we have come to associate with aging.

Preventing Alzheimer’s
Following are some steps you can take right now to protect yourself from getting Alzheimer’s.

1.   Get plenty of physical exercise

In his book, Healthy at 100: The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World's Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples, John Robbins cites study after study that demonstrate the stunning effect of exercise on the brain’s ability to function well, even at advanced ages. 

In one such study, documented in the Archives of Neurology (March 2001), it was found that the people with the highest activity levels were only half as likely as inactive people to develop Alzheimer’s.  Further, these active people were also substantially less likely to develop any form of dementia or impairment in mental functioning.

In another study1, some mice were bred to develop the type of plaque that is associated with Alzheimer’s in their brains.  Some of the mice were allowed to exercise and some were not.

Two important findings emerged. 
1.     The mice who exercised developed 50-80 percent less plaque in their brains that the non-exercising mice developed.
2.     The exercising mice produced more of the enzyme that prevents the buildup of plaque in the brain.

The takeaway conclusion? Those people who exercise more are much less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or any other kind of dementia.

2.  Eat a healthy diet

Exercise is not the only thing that can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  Diet also plays a crucial role.  The best diet for preventing dementia is one low in animal-derived foods but high in plant foods such as
  • ·       fresh vegetables
  • ·       fresh fruit
  • ·       whole grains
  • ·       nuts
  • ·       seeds
  • ·       legumes

Scientists think that the protection these foods offer against dementia stems from their high concentration of anti-oxidants.  Anti-oxidants neutralize free radicals which are responsible for the damage that causes dementia.

A healthy diet also helps you avoid other health problems such as obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and arteriosclerosis.

In another study cited by Robbins, researchers found that persons who are obese in middle age are twice as likely to develop dementia in their later years as those people who had normal weights.  Further, if these people also have high cholesterol and high blood pressure, their risk for dementia in old age escalates to six times higher than normal weight people!

What are you waiting for?

Remember, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease.  Once symptoms start showing up it is too late.  Start now to defend yourself against this fate-worse-than-death disease:  get moving and eat a clean, healthy diet.  You will reap the benefits literally for years to come!


Monday, September 7, 2015

Minimum Effective Dosage: Train Smarter Not Harder

There are few things as exciting as new boot campers eager to make serious lifestyle changes and make up for lost time in their quest to get fit and healthy.  Their motivation and passion are contagious, and watching transformations is one of the most fulfilling aspects of being a trainer.

But in their excitement, many boot campers make a common mistake – overtraining.  The thinking goes like this:  “If 20 push-ups are good, then 30 must be better,” or “If 35 pounds challenges my muscles, then I’ll really get ripped if I do 50!”  In other words, more is better and leads to faster results.

Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case, and taken to the extreme can lead to getting hurt and MISSING workouts.  As with most things in life, moderation and consistency in fitness are the keys to success.  Too much of anything can be a bad thing, and there is no need to do more than the minimum needed for maximum results. 

For example, consider medication.  If 200 milligrams of Advil takes away your headache, you do not need to take 1000 milligrams.  It will not make your headache go away any more effectively, because 200 milligrams will make it disappear completely!  Taking 1000 milligrams is not only wasted effort, but it could have dangerous effect on your health.

It is important to realize that over training in fitness not only doesn’t deliver faster and better results, but it can lead to injury and burnout.  Pushing your body beyond what it can effectively handle will usually result in a strain or muscle tear. 

Likewise, for those just starting, if you blast out of the gate at top speed with an intensity that you can’t possibly sustain, you will burn out and likely give up.  The wisest choice is to practice moderation and consistency.

Remember, what you do every day is more important than what you do every once in a while.  Those everyday activities may not be terribly exciting while you are doing them.  And you may not feel like you are making progress.  But give the compound effect time to work.  Your effort will pay off.  You will become stronger, more fit, and others will begin to notice. 

Take care of your body and your mind by practicing the “Minimum Effective Dosage” strategy.  Do what is necessary to get you to your goal, one step at a time.  Better yet, work with a certified fitness professional to determine your programming needs.