Strategy #1 – Trim calories
Among the many strategies for living longer and avoiding disease, calorie restriction has perhaps the strongest scientific backing: more than 1,000 animal and human studies conducted during the past 80 years. Research shows cellular benefits from calorie restriction start to kick in with just a 10 percent cut. The hypothesis is that as calories are reduced—repeatedly exposing cells to mild stress—the body experiences what scientists call a hormesis effect: a generally positive adaptive response.
“The body believes it has an inadequate amount of food so it goes into more of a survival mode, where it strengthens its defenses at a metabolic level,” says Lisa Walford, coauthor of The Longevity Diet (Da Capo 2010), and curriculum director for YogaWorks Teacher Training.
There’s no rigid eating plan for calorie restriction. Some people graze on small meals throughout the day; others, like Walford, prefer to stave off hunger by eating a protein packed meal in the middle of the day, for example, 2 ounces of baked tofu with steamed vegetables in tomato sauce. Over 12 years, she gradually cut her calorie intake by 20 percent; she’s quite thin but has a clean bill of health, including low cholesterol and normal blood pressure and glucose levels.
CR diets may cause side effects, including bone thinning and lower libido in 10 percent to 15 percent of people. Some people go too far and get too thin, Walford cautions, and may get heart palpitations. (CR also isn’t recommended for children, people with eating disorders, or pregnant women.)
To keep bones strong, eat calcium-rich foods like dark leafy greens; supplement with calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D; and do weight-bearing exercises such as walking and weight lifting, says Walford. She also recommends 15 minutes of meditation and 30 minutes of yoga daily. “Yoga makes me more sensitive to the effect that everything has on my health,” she says.
Strategy #2 – Fight Free Radicals
The oxygen you breathe helps tiny cell components, known as mitochondria, produce the energy that keeps the body alive. But this process also creates free radicals. Internal or environmental stress also can fuel excessive free radical production. Several animal studies have shown that white blood cells produce more free radicals when you’re psychologically stressed. When you breathe or eat toxins such as ozone or pesticide residues, your liver works to neutralize them—again, creating free radicals. And ironically, even some things that are good for you, such as aerobic exercise, increase free radicals.
To help neutralize rogue free radicals, eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and other antioxidant foods. Among the best are cloves, oregano, rosemary, and cinnamon; acaí and cocoa; raspberries, blueberries, and cranberries; pecans, walnuts, and hazelnuts; artichokes; kidney and black beans; and raisins. Antioxidant supplements can help fill gaps.
To minimize toxin exposure, choose organic produce and chemical-free cleaning products when possible, and don’t use ozone-generating air purifiers, which can cause respiratory tract irritations.
As tempting as it may seem, don’t use exercise’s bad oxidative rap as an excuse not to work out. You can counterbalance aerobic exercise’s free radical effect by cranking up your antioxidant intake before or after workouts, Meletis says. And new research shows that weight training twice a week for an hour actually rejuvenates muscle mitochondria in men and women age 65 and older. “Over the course of time, your body becomes better at dealing with the oxidative stress, which means once you start working out, keep it going, because your body is literally becoming a better exerciser even at the mitochondrial level,” he explains.[box]THE PROBLEM WITH FREE RADICALS
Free radicals aren’t all bad—they fight infection and activate enzymes—but when they’re not busy with those jobs, they can go rogue, attacking and damaging cells throughout the body. This contributes to common aging indicators like poor eyesight and sagging skin, as well as diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.[/box]
Strategy #3 – Tame inflammation
It’s easy to tell when your skin is inflamed: It turns red. “But we don’t really have good measures of inflammation at the cellular level,” says Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, author of The Most Effective Ways to Live Longer (Fair Winds, 2010). “That’s a critical problem because inflammation is associated with every degenerative disease we know.”
Like free radicals, inflammation can be a good thing in small doses. Step on a nail and you want white blood cells and the body’s inflammatory chemicals to rush in. But these injury-fighting compounds also go into 911 mode in response to gradual cell damage by free radicals. The result of this damage, says Bowden, is chronic inflammation: in essence, inflammation that doesn’t know when to stop.
“Chronic inflammation is part of diseases as diverse as cancer, congestive heart failure, and digestive problems,” he says.
If you’re overweight, or have diabetes or dementia, “you definitely have chronic inflammation,” Bowden says. For everyone else, the best way to measure inflammation is to do a high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP) test. Studies show that CRP, which the liver produces as an immune response, can increase by 100 percent or more in response to inflammatory conditions. “The test isn’t perfect because it doesn’t tell you where the inflammation is in your body, but it’s the best we have,” Bowden says. Most doctors like to see a CRP score of 1 or less, he adds.
Balancing your ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids also helps. Bowden recommends eating two servings of fish a week, taking 1,000 mg daily of fish oil with EPA and DHA, and choosing olive oil or flaxseed oil over refined oils such as canola, corn, or generic “vegetable” oils. In addition, he says, “sugar turbocharges your inflammation-production pathways,” as do fried foods. Simmer or use a slow cooker rather than frying or grilling foods at high temperatures, which creates proinflammatory advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that can damage nerve and brain cells as well as DNA.
[box]ANTI INFLAMATORY FOODS
To fight inflammation, Bowden recommends eating foods rich in phytonutrients, such as flavonoids, and other natural anti-inflammatory agents, including onions, leeks, garlic, leafy greens, tomatoes, bell peppers, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, green tea, red wine, flaxseeds, and chocolate. The herbs parsley, rosemary, thyme, oregano, mint, tarragon, and dill are anti-inflammatory, as are the spices ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon.[/box] [hr]
You know that feeling. You just had a very large, very filling dinner and you feel you couldn't possibly eat one more bite of anything. But slowly, you get the feeling that something's missing – something sweet. Even though you're stuffed, you practically need a piece of chocolate, or – even better – a slice of chocolate cake. This happens to many people, perhaps even most. But why? Here's some information on post-dinner sugar cravings and how you can beat them:
Why do I crave sweets?
We want sweet treats after meals for several biological, psychological and lifestyle-related reasons.
- Low serotonin levels cause us to want to eat sugar. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that elevates mood. Sugar can help the body absorb tryptophan, which helps produce serotonin. If you're feeling down, eating something sweet can boost your mood.
- Eating an unbalanced diet high in carbohydrates will cause your blood sugar levels to rise and then drop suddenly after dinner. Our bodies want this "high" again, so we look to sugar. We also experience low blood sugar when we're tired, which causes us to need more carbs for a pick-me-up.
- If your diet is low in fat, you could put too much strain on the body and cause insulin resistance, during which sugars are not being carried effectively throughout the body. This stress on our bodies leads to a need for sugar.
Even if you eat a healthy, balanced diet and have normal serotonin levels, you might still be feeling that you "need" sweets after dinner due to psychological conditioning: Dessert was always what rounded out and finished a meal, so you feel like something is missing if you don't have it.
Why should I avoid them?
Like you've heard hundreds of times, you really should do your best to eat sugar in moderation. The more sugar someone eats, the more their body becomes used to it and wants it – this sugar craving is a vicious cycle. Here are some foods with "hidden" sugars to watch out for:
- Protein bars
- Coffee drinks
- Teriyaki sauce
- Salad dressing
- Flavored waters
How can I resist?
There are many ways to resist sugar cravings and potentially avoid them altogether! Here are some tips:
- Eat a balanced diet – don't overload on carbs, but make sure to eat plenty of complex carbs that help us to stay full between meals.
- Get enough sleep each night because being tired makes us crave the quick – but not nutritious – pick-me-up that sugar provides.
- Check labels! You never know where sugar is hiding these days. It's even in foods we perceive to be savory and health foods.
- If you just can't resist, try a tactic like brushing your teeth immediately after dinner so you won't be tempted to eat sugar.
- Or, even better, substitute chocolate cake and candy for fresh fruit like berries that also pack an antioxidant punch.
- Take a walk after dinner. Exercise can boost serotonin levels too, making it less likely that you'll need to have sugar!
During the spring and summer, many people's motivation for hitting the gym or trails is to look healthy and toned on the beach. But when fall hits and it's time to put the shorts and swimsuits away, what's your motivation? Here are some tips for keeping the focus on exercise even after the cozy sweaters and skinny jeans are keeping you covered up:
- Set goals. If your summer goal was to look good in your bathing suit, pick something else to focus on. Did you plan a winter trip to Mexico? Do you want to tone up your arms? Do you just feel better when you get your sweaty boxing routine in every morning before work? It's important to have a central motivation, and then set several small and attainable goals along the way.
- Change it up. Fall weather calls for different activities than summer. Now that the weather is cool, maybe you can hop off the treadmill in the air conditioned gym and hit the local trails. Or instead of swimming you can switch to biking and the classes at your local gym. Workouts should be enjoyable while still challenging, so if you start to get bored, don't be afraid to venture out. If you're hesitant, invite a friend to try something new with you so you feel more comfortable.
- Keep a photo journal. Take a picture of yourself each month or every two weeks in the same workout gear. Note the differences between each picture – maybe you look a little slimmer and a lot happier! Take notes in your journal each week about what you did, if you've met your goals and what your plans for the following week are.
- Accessorize. It sounds strange when referring to exercise, but if you want to get serious, purchase gear that makes you feel seriously good. Also, if you're trying to build lean muscle, consider treating yourself to some high-quality, healthy supplements, such as VeganSmart All-In-One Nutritional Shake, which has a complete plant-based protein blend, probiotics, omega-3s and various vitamins and minerals for an excellent meal replacement.
Don't let exercise be something you dread. Try to build it into your daily routine – just as you would brush your teeth and get dressed every day, plan time to exercise every day.
If it's 3 p.m. on and you're trying to power through the last few hours of work, it can be tempting to grab another coffee. While caffeine is definitely an energy booster, it isn't always the best choice. You should also avoid candy and other simple sugars – they can give you a quick spurt of energy because they're converted more quickly, but they aren't the healthiest options and can leave you feeling tired later. The best option is to eat foods that give you a sustained energy reserve and are healthy to boot. When you need a boost, skip the coffee, cake and candy and go for one of these healthy snacks instead:
- Edamame: One cup of edamame has 8 grams of fiber, 15 grams of carbohydrates and 17 grams of protein, making it an excellent energy-boosting snack.
- Trail mix: Make your own trail mix with various dried fruits, seeds and nuts. That way, you can avoid the oils and sugars that are sometimes added to store-bought mixes. Some good options to include are almonds, walnuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, goji berries, raisins and dried cherries. The fats and oils in nuts provide a lot of energy, not to mention protein, and the fiber in all of the ingredients slows down the release of glucose to give you longer-lasting energy.
- Whole grain cereal: The high amount of fiber in whole grains means you'll have more energy during the day as it slows the release of glucose. For a tasty, healthy snack, layer your cereal with plain Greek yogurt and berries for a parfait that's probably easier to eat at work than a bowl of cereal and milk.
- Lentils: If you have very low iron in your body, you might frequently feel exhausted. For people with low iron levels – or anyone, really – lentils are an excellent option because 1 cup provides nearly 80 percent of your necessary daily iron intake. Iron carries oxygen through the body, which is vital in staying energized. Vitamin C maximizes your body's iron absorption, so try eating your lentils with red or green bell peppers, which are rich in vitamin C.
- Eggs: Egg yolks have been given a bad reputation, but they're rich in B-vitamins, which help convert food into energy, and also vitamin D, another important nutrient. Egg yolks do have saturated fat and cholesterol, but eating just one per day is fine. Bring a hard-boiled egg to work for a boost of energy and vitamin-fueled protein.
- Water: Staying hydrated is very important and has much to do with your energy levels. Because water transports all the nutrients in our blood and gets rid of waste, it's important for metabolizing our food and keeping us energized and refreshed. Keep a refillable water bottle on your desk at work so it's always in your line of sight. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water – typically 8 to 10 cups per day – is the basis for keeping energy levels high.
This is by far the most important and hardest skill to have when you are training the human body. Why is it so important? The body is a very complex system but it can do so much more than any of us can imagine. It does not happen overnight and it requires patience, time, consistency, proper intensity, nutrition, timing, and a great work ethic. Some people listen to their bodies and succeed and then some people listen to their inner voice and fall short of their fitness goals.
There is a certain skill that one needs to obtain to differentiate between “my body really is physically exhausted and it needs to stop working out so it can be repaired”VS. “I really just want to quit because I’m mentally tired and mentally ready to give up, but truthfully my body is not tired, it’s just in my head”. We can be our biggest hero, or biggest enemy, but self honesty and self awareness will help us accurately listen to our bodies and become mentally and physically tough. It may seem like a simple thing but you would be very surprised at how many athletes have absolutely no idea what is going on with their own bodies.
We listen to our bodies to:
- Identify injuries before they become serious.
- Figure out if we are working TOO HARD or NOT ENOUGH.
- Measure progress or decline in our fitness.
- Identify if our nutrition is adequate.
- Identify if our sleep / rest is adequate.
- Hey, you only get one body… So listen to it!
Here are some tools that can help you become more self aware of what is happening with your body.
Heart Rate Monitor (or HRM) – Helps to measure heart rate during exercise or to measure your resting heart rate. An HRM will help you maintain the proper intensity needed to obtain your specific fitness goals.
Weight Scale - Your weight is not the main factor of determining your health. BUT, a scale can provide raw data that can help you become more aware of how your body is reacting to the training you are putting your body through.
Calorie counter on your smart phone or computer - Try this! Don’t change anything and for one week and track every single calorie that you consume. Most people will be utterly shocked at the large number of calories they are consuming. Others will be shocked at the lack of calories they are consuming. Either way you can track the amount of food you are taking in and figure out if you need more or less food to increase your overall performance with your fitness goals.
I’ll leave you with this, more data equals a greater chance of success, period. Flying blind and constantly guessing will eventually lead to failure, decline, or inconsistency in your fitness performance. Inform yourself by learning to listen to your body.
Cheers and Happy Training!
I’m Dustin, and this is my son Boston… First, I’m a dad before anything else, after that I’m a 31 year old vegan expatriate Hoosier living right outside of New Orleans, LA.
On June 12th, 2011 I had a bit of a wake up call and began my road to the ironman 140.6 mile endurance event and after that I’ve got some big plans, so it won’t end there… This is my outlet to vent, rant, promote, and let everyone know what’s up.
Busy people don't often have time to eat three balanced meals daily. If you need to have lunch on the go, you might find yourself in a situation where your only option is a bag of potato chips, a handful of cereal and a candy bar. If you're a vegan, your quick lunch options are even more limited due to a restricted diet. However, there are still choices that are fast, healthy and even tasty.
One great option is the VeganSmart All-In-One Nutritional Shake, which comes in chocolate, vanilla or chai flavors. These shakes have everything you need for a great addition to your well-balanced meal, including 20 grams of non-GMO, plant-based proteins; 6 grams of dietary fiber; 200 mg of Omega-3s; 22 vitamins and minerals, including more than a full serving of vitamin B12, which can be difficult to find in a vegan diet; whole foods with natural antioxidants and flavonoids (from nine different vegetables and fruits); probiotics and digestive enzymes.
The VeganSmart nutritional shakes are also healthy because they include no trans fats, cholesterol, or artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors or preservatives. Additionally, they are gluten, dairy and soy free.
Whether you choose to use VeganSmart for a quick addition to your meal on a busy day or you hope to cut junk out of your diet by filling up on a healthy shake instead, it's a great vegan option. Mix 2 full scoops of VeganSmart into 11 ounces of cold juice, water or another beverage, then shake it up and you're done. The best thing about this nutritional shake is that it is a well-balanced option. Keep a container of it at home, at work or even in your car if you roll like that.
Doctors often warn vegans and vegetarians about the importance of getting enough protein, but having a good protein intake isn't as simple as eating a steak every now and then. The truth is that even the most avid meat eater can have too little protein in their diet, while some vegetable lovers may have too much! There are pros and cons to a diet that's high in vegetable protein as well as one that's high in animal protein, so here's what you need to know about both of these lifestyles.
Most muscles and organs are made up of proteins, as protein is responsible for nearly all of the processes that occur in the body. The body doesn't store protein, which is why it's so important to ensure that you're getting enough in your diet each day.
According to Mother Nature Network, protein is made up of amino acids, which our bodies break down to form new proteins. From there, protein allows us to build cell and muscle tissue in our bodies. It also helps with tissue repair in the event of an injury, keeps you feeling energized and contributes to healthy hair, skin and nails. The key difference between animal and vegetable protein is in their amino acid profiles and the rate at which our bodies can absorb amino acids and put them to use.
Because animal protein is more similar to protein found in the human body, it is used up more rapidly than those found in plants. Protein that comes from animals is considered to be more complete, because it contains all of the essential amino acids that the body needs to function effectively.
But despite these proteins' completeness and compatibility with the human body, there are risks associated with animal proteins. They can be high in cholesterol and fat – especially saturated fat – and a healthy diet shouldn't contain too much of either. Many animal proteins are also high in sodium.
Veggies are great because they're low in calories and fat, and packed with vitamins and minerals - but most don't contain nearly as much protein per serving as meats do. In addition, the proteins that they do contain are less complete than those found in animal meat, meaning that they don't contain all of the various amino acids that the body requires.
However, there are vegetable products that are high in protein and can act as a great substitute for meat in most vegan and vegetarian diets. FitDay reported that tofu and other soy-based products actually do contain all the essential amino acids, and can therefore be a protein-packed alternative to red meats. Additionally, lentils and other legumes are a well-rounded snack that's high in protein, iron and fiber. Beans and peas are both versatile vegetables that are full of protein and vitamins like folate and zinc that aid in cell growth. Artichokes are another veggie that's full of protein and fiber and low in calories, making them a great choice for those who don't get a lot of animal protein on a daily basis.
Finding a balance
Vegetarians and vegans need to ensure that they're getting a variety of different vegetable proteins in their diet, including nuts, legumes and grains but also fruits and vegetables. This ensures that your body is getting all of the various amino acids it needs to perform at its peak.
For meat eaters, it's important to strike a balance between animal and vegetable protein. It's a good idea to limit your intake of red meat, as it's higher in cholesterol and fat, and instead opt for fish or poultry. Vegetarians and meat eaters alike should also consider a protein meal replacement like VeganSmart All-in-One Nutritional Shake or a healthy protein-rich snack like pea protein powder to ensure that they're getting enough.
Going vegan can be an excellent choice because it makes you more conscious about the things you're eating. Here are some of the biggest health benefits of choosing to eat a vegan diet:
- A healthy vegan diet is typically rich in whole grains and legumes. These foods have a low glycemic index and are high in fiber, meaning they are digested slowly and thus keep blood sugar steady. This can help reduce cholesterol and, in turn, improve one's heart health.
- Vegans do not eat red meat (or any meat, of course), which the World Cancer Research Fund announced in a 2007 report is good for colon health.
- Vegans often have – but not always – less processed foods in their diets. Several studies have affirmed the unhealthy attributes of processed foods.
- Adherents to a vegan diet avoid all animal products, including meat, eggs, dairy and gelatin-based products. Thus, they are likely to eat less saturated fats and are more likely to have a lower cholesterol, meaning a vegan diet can boost your heart health and potentially help with weight issues.
- Vegan diets are often very high in fiber – beans, lentils, whole grains and various vegetables all pack in plenty of fiber, which is good for the body's digestive system.
Aside from the various health benefits that vegans acquire from their diets, veganism also has several more benefits for individuals and society as a whole:
- You'll save money, as grains, beans, soy and similar foods are fairly inexpensive compared to animal proteins.
- You'll do your part to reduce pollution and environmental deterioration because factory farms take more energy and resources to produce animal meats and runoff can pollute local water sources.
- You'll be contributing to animal wellbeing.
While there are clearly several individual and societal benefits to eating a vegan diet, making this change can require a lot of work at first. It takes time to plan meals that meet all of our bodies' important nutritional requirements, and restricting your food sources means you'll have to get creative. Many vegans choose to supplement their diets with a nutritional shake to make sure they are getting adequate amounts of calcium, iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D and Omega-3s, nutrients that are available in a vegan diet but not always in large enough amounts to meet the bodies' needs.
When talking about what a vegan can eat (answer: a lot of things), it's probably better to first talk about what they can't – or choose not to – eat. Without getting into the various moral or health reasons that people choose to eat vegan, here's some basic information on what vegans do and do not eat to help you if you're debating whether to meatless or not:
What vegans avoid
Basically, vegans do not eat any animal products, including products derived from animals. Most obviously, this means that vegans avoid eating beef, chicken, pork, fish and everything in between, as well as dairy products and eggs. However, many other foods contain animal products, though we often don't realize it. Here are some other items that people who are vegan often attempt to avoid and why:
- Honey: Bees are living things and they make it.
- White sugar: PETA asserts that it is made with bone char.
- Marshmallows and gummy bears: These sweets are made with gelatin that is derived from animals.
- Breads and baked goods made with butter, eggs, white sugar or whey – a dairy product.
- Beer: Believe it or not, some beers are filtered using egg whites, seashells or gelatin from fish bladders.
- Salad dressing: Many dressings use lecithin, a product from animals, to keep vinegar and oil from separating in the dressing.
- Additionally, many vegans avoid other animal products, including leather, wool, cosmetics and certain types of soap.
Though vegan diets are often low in cholesterol and fat and high in nutrients, it's good to keep in mind that not all certified vegan products, like certain junk foods, are healthy for you. Here is an idea of what vegans often eat to get important nutrients:
- Protein: lentils, peas, chickpeas, soy milk, almond milk, nuts and nut butter, whole grains, tofu
- Calcium: dark green vegetables, soy milk and orange juice fortified with calcium, tofu made with calcium sulfate
- Iron: dark green leafy vegetables, black and kidney beans, bulghur wheat, lentils, beet greens, black-eyed peas
- Vitamin B12: nutritional yeast
- Zinc: legumes, nuts and grains
- Vitamin D: fortified rice milk and soy milk
Though vegans are able to find some good sources for important nutrients, it takes a lot of time and effort to plan a well-rounded meal. Many vegans make sure they get enough B12 and calcium – two important ingredients that are often lacking in their diet – by finding a supplementary method like the VeganSmart All-In-One Nutritional Shake, which is gluten, dairy and soy-free and provides 20 grams of non-GMO protein per serving.
Protein is the building block of all the tissue in the body and may help to promote the growth of muscle. The right amount of protein may help curb hunger and can help you reach your fitness goals and get to the body weight you desire. However, there are more ways to consume protein than just through lean meats. Here are a few other ways to up your protein intake and get you on your way to better overall health:
Incorporating a protein powder into your diet is one of the best ways to increase the amount of protein your body is getting each day. One way of doing this is by making yourself a protein meal replacement. Naturade Total Soy is a meal replacement powder, available in chocolate, vanilla and strawberry flavors, that boasts an amazing taste and contains dietary fiber and protein. According to the Food & Drug Administration, 25 grams of soy protein daily added to a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. This powder is available in a tasty shake and provides an excellent source of protein.
Another easy way to amp up your protein intake is through Naturade Pea Protein Powder. This plant-based protein is derived from yellow peas and provides you with nine essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins and help to support our bones, muscles and connective tissues.
One way to start your morning off with a boost of protein is by eating eggs. This is a food that is so versatile and so easy to fit into your diet. You could use eggs as a main dish, make egg-based casseroles, egg salad sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, etc. You could even make desserts made with eggs like custard, rice pudding, cream puffs and some cakes.
Nonfat cottage cheese
Nonfat cottage cheese not only has protein, it has bone-building calcium as well. This protein-packed food pairs great with fruit for added antioxidants and can be cooked into scrambled eggs, casseroles or pasta for a creamier texture.
Milk and soy milk
We all know that milk helps to build strong bones and its protein helps to rebuild muscles. Fit Day suggested drinking a glass of milk after exercise to replenish your muscles and help them to recover after a tough workout. You could also opt to pair your milk with dinner. If you find this hard to fit into your diet, try making soups and oatmeal with milk instead of water for a sneaky way to fit in some protein.