Without stress we wouldn't know relaxation. In fact, sometimes just a little bit of stress can be a good thing – it keeps us aware of what's going on. However, too much stress can lead to health problems, including throwing the immune system out of whack. And frankly, being stressed out isn't a feeling many chase after. Thankfully, there are plenty of healthy ways to naturally bring down your stress levels to feel more relaxed and at ease.
When you break a sweat, your body releases feel-good endorphins, also known as the body's natural pain killers, which help to boost your mood and calm you down. Exercise also reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol.
The best part about meditation is that it can be done virtually anywhere – at work, the gym, at the store or at home. It only takes about 15 to 30 minutes per day, making it easy to ward off stress even on a busy schedule. Find a quiet place and let your thoughts run free, just focusing on breathing in and out.
Filling up on junk food can actually tend to make people depressed. Calorie-packed foods momentarily relieve the stress, but too much can contribute to an unhealthy weight and only leave us coming back for more shortly after. Eating healthy, however, can help you to manage stress. Fruits, veggies, antioxidants and vitamins fuel the body to keep it strong for the entire day, helping you to maintain both physical and mental health.
Much of the stress we experience during the day comes from our phones and computers. Set aside some time each day to disconnect from all of your electronics. By doing so, you can block some of the causes of stress and allow you to really take in the moment.
Listen to music
Pop in some headphones and let the music do the rest. This is an effective way to reduce stress by lowering heart rate and blood pressure. According to Greatist.com, music may also help to calm down those who are visiting the dentist or the doctor.
Laugh it off
You know that euphoric feeling when you laugh really, really hard at something? Well, not only is that feeling unbeatable, it may help lower your stress levels. Laughter increases blood flow and even boosts the immune system by increasing levels of interferon gamma-1b, a key compound in the fight against infection. According to a study in the American Journal of the Medical Sciences, mirthful laughter has been linked to lower blood levels of cortisol – the stress hormone. So if you're stressed, take a moment and watch that funny YouTube video or talk to a friend who can always get a laugh out of you.
Get lost in a book
Next time you find yourself a little worse for wear, crack open a book. Even just six minutes of reading is enough to bring down those stress levels. Have a book with you if you have some down time at work or on your commute home for a bit of relaxation.
Sleeping the recommended eight hours per night is essential for your health and well-being. Getting the proper amount of sleep can do a number of positive things for your health, including helping to improve memory, boost the immune system, lower stress, spur creativity, sharpen attention and even contribute to a healthier weight.
However, a good night's sleep is often hard to come by. Even if you get into bed at a decent hour, you still may find yourself counting sheep, unable to catch some Zzzs. Approximately 70 million Americans suffer from poor sleep every night. As a quick fix, about one in four Americans take some kind of sleep medication. However, what really helps you to fall asleep quickly is your brain. That means you have to feed it with the right fuel. You need to calm it down rather than stimulate it. About 90 minutes before you doze off, head to the kitchen for a snack that will help relax you and prepare you for a good night's sleep.
Look for foods with natural sedatives like tryptophan, an amino acid that makes up the raw material that the brain uses to build sleep-inducing substances like serotonin and melatonin. It's also important to add some carbs, which stimulate the release of insulin, to this amino acid. What this does is takes the competing amino acids and incorporates them into the muscle, leaving the tryptophan to make its way to the brain and cause you to get sleepy.
Snacks that promote shut eye:
- Whole-grain cereal with milk
- Banana and peanut butter
- A glass of warm milk with honey – warm milk isn't a myth after all! Milk contains tryptophan.
- Nonfat, flavored yogurt topped with 2 tablespoons of low-fat granola
- 3 cups low-fat popcorn, sprinkled only with 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese
- One slice of whole wheat toast with a small slice of low-fat cheese
- A small bowl of oatmeal
- A rice cake topped with turkey
While all of these will help you to fall asleep and stay asleep, there are also foods that you should avoid. The following snacks will only keep you up at night.
Snacks that interfere with a good night's sleep:
Caffeine: The obvious choices like coffee and soda should be avoided several hours before bedtime. This natural chemical activates your central nervous system and stimulates the brain, causing that jittery feeling. Just to be safe, you should avoid ingesting caffeine about eight hours before bed. Keep in mind that even healthy dark chocolate contains significant amounts of caffeine!
Alcohol: While it may seem that this substance puts you to sleep, the effects wear off fast, causing you to wake up in the middle of the night, unable to fall back asleep.
A big meal: If you're especially hungry right before bed, just stick to a small snack. If you're consuming too many calories, your digestive system may slow down, causing you to be uncomfortable and awake. Bedtime snacks should be no more than 200 calories. Generally, you should avoid high-fat meals.
Spicy foods: While these are delicious, they won't make catching Zzzs any easier. When you ingest this before bed, you may have reflux.
Yoga has been an important part of life across Eastern cultures for centuries, but in recent years, this holistic exercise has gained popularity here in the U.S. There are lots of reasons to do yoga: Whether you're looking for a new way to work out, trying to find time to relax or have been prescribed yoga as a physical therapy treatment, there are countless benefits to this popular activity.
Most of the health benefits of yoga – improved circulation, weight loss, reduced blood pressure, improved muscle tone and better mental focus – can be attributed to yoga's tendency to reduce stress. If you're looking for a little escape from the worries of everyday life, try these yoga poses in the comfort of your own home:
Balsana (Child's pose)
Child's Post is almost certainly everyone's favorite yoga pose. This resting pose is generally done in between asanas (sun salutations) in order to allow for a moment to refocus breathing and promote relaxation. Even if you aren't going all-out with an entire workout, a few deep breaths in balsana will help you recharge. As a bonus, Yoga Journal has recommended this comfortable pose for boosting immune system health!
To get into balsana, begin in a kneeling position. Sit back until your hips are resting comfortably on top of your ankles. Keeping your back straight, lower your upper body until your forehead is gently resting on the floor. You can either rest your hands at your side or stretch them out over your head.
Ananda Balsana (Happy baby pose)
Are you noticing the child theme? Many of yoga's most relaxing positions are inspired by happy children. Happy baby pose is a great option for those who want to improve their flexibility while relaxing at the same time.
Start by lying on your back with your eyes fixed above you. Keeping your knees bent, bring your legs up so that the bottoms of your feet are parallel to the ceiling. Grab the insides of your feet with your hands, keeping your arms on the inside of your legs. Use your hands to pull your feet towards you, breathing deeply.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-facing dog pose)
You know that cute little stretch your dog does after he wakes up from a nap? Our canine companions sure can teach us a thing or two about happiness! Take a breather and improve your immune system health with downward-facing dog.
It's easiest to get into downward-facing dog directly from balsana. Stretch your hands out in front of your head and plant your feet firmly on the ground. Push back, lifting your body off of the floor until your legs and arms are as straight as possible. If you're working to improve your flexibility, create a constant tension with your arms and legs as you push your head toward your knees.
With these and all other yoga poses, the most important tool for relaxation is your own breath. Focus on your breathing pattern, and dismiss all thoughts that come into your brain without judgment.
With beach season dangerously close, everyone is looking to tone and tighten. But it's going to take more than cutting back on the sweets and going for a run every once in awhile to achieve the results you're looking for.
Men and women tone their muscles differently because, typically, women tend to have more fat cells than men do in their thighs, hips and bottoms. Conversely, men's stomachs are more likely than women's to accumulate fat cells.
Body fat comes from the total number of fat cells in your body and the size of these cells. The human body has about 30 billion fat cells, but they are often not evenly distributed. When people lose weight, those fat cells simply become skinnier.
One of the best ways to start depleting those fat cells is by adding some strength training into your exercise routine and getting more protein into your diet, whether it's through protein powders or meal replacement shakes. By building muscle, you'll be burning more calories and be getting closer to that dream body of yours. As a general rule for both men and women, it's important to start off with an intensity you're comfortable with.
For your arms…
Tricep dips: Using your own body weight, use a chair or a bench to hold yourself up with your elbows locked. Lower yourself slowly down until your elbows are bent and reach a 90-degree angle. Keep your head straight as you press up to the starting position.
Chin ups: This exercise really works your biceps. Find a sturdy bar and hang onto it with your palms facing toward you and let yourself hang. Pull yourself up and reach your chin over the bar.
For your core…
Bicycles: Laying on your back, make sure your lower back is pressed to the ground. Place your hands behind your ears, lift your feet off of the floor and elevate your knees above your hips. Complete the exercise by touching your right elbow to your left knee, followed by your left elbow to your right knee. The exercise should be a continuous movement.
Vertical leg crunch: Lay on your back with your lower back pressed to the ground. Place your hands behind your ears, making sure your elbows are straight out to the side and not in view. Extend and lift your legs straight up over the hips with a slight bend in the knees. Keeping your eyes focused on the ceiling, lift your torso toward your knees and slowly release down.
For your legs…
Squats: This exercise tones your thighs. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bending your knees, lower your rear end toward the ground. As your knees near a 90-degree angle, exhale and push yourself back up to the starting position. Make sure your knees never go over your feet as you complete the exercise.
Leg lifts: You can easily compete this exercise right in your own home. Lay on your right side on a mat and rest your elbow on the ground. Kick your right leg up toward the sky and slowly lower it down to the starting position. Once you've completed the appropriate amount of reps, switch sides.
Looking at nutrition labels, you may always see protein, but you may not have a good idea of the role that it actually plays in food as well as in your body. There are plenty of reasons out there that may convince you to start paying attention to how much protein you're consuming. According to the Institute of Medicine, adults should get a minimum of .8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day – that adds up to about 58 grams for a 160-pound adults. The amount your body needs truly depends on factors like sex, age, height and weight. Here are just some amazing things that protein can do for your body:
Maintain a healthier weight
Exercise and staying away from fatty foods can only do so much when it comes to maintaining a desirable body weight. Protein is really what helps to keep your weight down. In fact, starting off the day with a protein-packed breakfast like eggs, lean beef or a smoothie can help you keep the weight off. Many are under the assumption that consuming foods high in protein will only lead to too many calories consumed, causing the body fat to increase. But when eating the best sources of protein, like lean fish, meat, dairy and beans, you'll feel fuller longer and be less likely to overeat later. Protein takes longer to leave your stomach, which causes the fullness. The moment you consume protein, your body gets to work on digesting, metabolizing and using the protein, which means you burn more calories processing them.
Start your morning off with a protein-packed smoothie. Add in your favorite fresh fruits and a few scoops of Naturade Total Soy for plenty of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals that your body needs to keep going throughout the day. You could also add this protein powder to virtually any food, such as burgers, potatoes or muffins.
Promote heart health
Meatless sources of protein like nuts, legumes and soy foods have all been shown to lower cholesterol levels because of their combination of fiber and heart-healthy phytochemicals. Naturade Total Soy is a great source of protein that has been shown to reduce cholesterol in over 40 clinical studies. With a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, you may reduce your risk for poor heart health. When choosing protein, opt for low-fat options like lean meats, skim milk or other foods with high levels of protein.
Whether you're an athlete looking to bulk up or simply wish to look a bit more toned, protein is what's going to help you reach your goals. Protein is made up of amino acids, which are used by the body to build new muscle. If you don't consume enough protein in your diet, your muscles can repair and continue to build and your body will begin to break down the muscle. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn and the less fat you'll see on your body. After an intense workout, grab a meal replacement shake to help your muscles to grow.
Making the transition to a vegetarian diet takes the right attitude and the know-how to live healthy without consuming any animal protein. Research has shown that plant-based and vegetarian diets are associated with better health, but in order to receive these health benefits, you have to know how to go about becoming a vegetarian and following a meal plan that is both delicious and right for your body. Here are some of the most common pitfalls to which first-time vegetarians often fall prey:
Not eating enough calories
Just because a vegetarian diet requires that you avoid animal protein doesn't mean that you have to cut out a large amount of calories. The right amount of calories are appropriate for giving your body the fuel it needs to get through the day. If you don't have enough energy from calories, your metabolism could slow and you could experience low blood sugar.
You're going to have to find the adequate amount of calories from foods besides meat, like nuts, seeds, dried fruit and cheese – all of which are filled with calories that won't weigh you down later. Top off your salad with nuts of your choice or bring some dried fruit to work to snack on in between meetings.
Skipping out on protein
Much of the protein in a diet can come from animal meat. However, there are plenty of other ways to get the amount of protein that your body needs. Protein is vital to the body and helps you to maintain a healthy weight. The recommended protein intake per day is about 50 to 175 grams, depending on your sex, height and and body weight. Without this protein, you could experience low energy, loss of muscle, a weakened immune system and poor vision. Meet your protein needs by whipping up a shake or a smoothie using Naturade Pea Protein. This protein powder is free of soy, dairy, gluten and cholesterol and is derived from yellow peas that are easy to digest and hypoallergenic.
Other sources of protein could include beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, tofu, hemp, eggs, Greek yogurt and avocados.
Minerals like zinc, calcium and iron are essential to keeping high blood pressure levels at bay, maintaining healthy joints and keeping up your energy levels. Look for breakfast cereals that are rich in iron and snack on veggies containing the mineral, like soybeans, potatoes, beets and artichokes. A glass of orange juice in the morning will help to absorb the iron from plant foods.
Whether you're trying to gain muscle or lose weight, along the way you may have discovered that there are various types of protein out there. Whey protein and pea protein are two that are quite common. However, the difference between the two is crucial. Let's take a look at each type of protein and what it does for the body:
Whey protein is one of the two major groups of proteins found in milk. Only 20 percent of milk's protein is whey. The rest is casein, which is the protein that triggers most milk allergies. This is why whey protein would be a way for people with allergies to get dairy protein into their diets. It's typically sold in powder form, as either whey protein isolate or whey protein concentrate and is a popular supplement for athletes and fitness fanatics.
Whey protein essentially helps your cells to grow, replace and repair themselves. The body naturally produces proteins on its own, however, other amino acids must come from dairy protein. Whey protein provides all nine amino acids and is easy to digest. Most whey protein is low-fat or fat-free, and the amount of protein you need varies based on body type and nutritional needs.
What is it best used for?
The uses for whey protein can vary greatly. Whey protein is commonly used among athletes for improving muscle strength and body composition. One of the reasons that whey protein stands above all others when it comes to bulking up is due to one ingredient: Leucine. Leucine is an amino acid that must be obtained through foods and plays a significant role in the maintenance and repair of muscles. According to the Journal of Nutrition, leucine can stimulate muscle protein synthesis – which is the process by which individual cells build specific proteins.
How do I get it in my diet?
Protein powders are an easy and delicious way of getting more whey protein into your diet. Naturade 100% Whey comes in both chocolate and vanilla flavors and is a great way to finish off your workout to build muscle. This protein powder is an excellent source of bodybuilding branch chain amino acids and active peptides, or protein fractions.
Pea protein is a natural plant-based protein that is derived from yellow peas, also known as split peas. This protein is highly soluble and easy to digest. This is a perfect protein for vegetarians and vegans who can't get their protein from animal products. It has the ability to supply the nine essential amino acids that cannot be naturally produced by the human body.
What is it best used for?
Pea protein can be used for a variety of reasons including muscle growth, weight loss, and for those who are vegetarians or vegans and are looking for a way to get more protein into their diets. Scoop some pea protein powder into a post-workout smoothie to build muscle, use it as a meal replacement if you're looking for some extra protein or are wanting to shed those pounds.
How do I get it in my diet?
Pea protein powder can be incorporated into your diet through a tasty shake. Naturade Pea Protein is a great-tasting shake that is all-natural and contains no animal by-products, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners or colors. You can use it for a meal replacement or a post-workout smoothie.
There is a lot of mystery and confusion surrounding the vegan diet. Different from a vegetarian diet, a vegan diet includes only plant-based foods. This means vegans stay away from meat, eggs, dairy or animal-based foods of any kind. At first glance, it seems that this lifestyle doesn't leave you with many options of what to eat. However, a vegan diet can be among the most healthful ways to eat. You can still choose from vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. These foods still offer plenty of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and healthy oils. Even celebrities and famous inventors like Alicia Silverstone, Ellen Degeneres, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Ford, Paul McCartney and Sinead O'Connor were and are vegans. According to a report by the Vegetarian Times, three percent of American adults, roughly 7.3 million people, follow a vegetarian diet, and one million of them are vegans. If you're considering going vegan, here are a few benefits that may push you to take the leap:
It's better for the environment
Because you're eating plant-based foods rather than animal products, there is far less pollution produced. Rather than feeding plants to the animals and then eating the animals, growing and eating plants straight from the ground makes much more efficient use of land and water.
Many decide to go vegan to save animals from being killed, or to protest currently less-than-ethical animal treatment at mainstream farms and feedlots. Eating less meat means that fewer animals are subjected to harsh treatment, and that unethically operated food production companies see a reduced profit.
Instead of getting protein from animal meat, whip up a tasty shake containing pea protein powder. Naturade Pea Protein is 100 percent soy and dairy free, gluten free and cholesterol free. Made from a natural plant-based protein derived from yellow peas, this product is perfect for any vegan diet. Add a few scoops of chocolate or vanilla protein powder for a quick snack or a meal on the go.
Many of the foods that vegans eat are low in calories, salt, sugar and harmful fats – all which can be detrimental to a person's health when consumed in large amounts. Not all fats are created equal: unsaturated – especially monounsaturated – fats help raise "good" LDL cholesterol, while saturated fats raise "bad" HDL cholesterol. Saturated fats can be found in certain plant-based foods, but the majority of saturated fats consumed by Americans come from either animal fats or highly processed corn oils. Eating animal fats and proteins has been shown to increase a person's risk of developing poor health. By eliminating the saturated fats found in dairy products and meat, a vegan diet may lower cholesterol and cardiovascular health may be improved.
Because vegans don't eat meat, many tend to maintain a healthier weight. Researchers attribute this to a lower calorie intake. Vegetables and fruits are much lower in calories than meats, and provide beneficial nutrients in an undiluted form. The high fiber in a vegan diet also helps to curb hunger.
Everyone could always use a little kick of energy in their lives, especially during the hectic days. Going vegan can contribute to higher energy level. Both NFL tight-end Tony Gonzalez and former U.S. president Bill Clinton have attributed their vegan diets to their newly found energy.
Sleep isn’t the easiest thing to come by these days. There are often nights when you toss and turn for hours upon end, nights when you’re up late doing work, and days when it seems your bedtime is pushed back later and later. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 50 to 70 million Americans experience poor sleep at night. Nearly 30 percent of U.S. adults reported an average of less than six hours of sleep per day between 2005 and 2007. The National Sleep Foundation suggested that adults need to get an average of 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
Getting the proper amount of sleep is imperative for your health. Sleep has an effect on learning and memory. It helps the mind commit new information through a process called memory and consolidation. Therefore, if you have a test to take, it’s best to get to sleep rather than pulling an all-nighter. Metabolism is also impacted by a good night’s sleep. Lack of sleep affects the way your body processes and stores carbohydrates and alters levels of hormones that affect the appetite. Sleep loss can also lead to irritability and an inability to concentrate during the day, and may even be an immunity booster, helping your body to stay healthy. Believe it or not, decreased amounts of sleep have been linked to poor heart health. How’s that for a reason to get some shut-eye? However, it’s understood that it’s simply difficult for some to fall asleep at night. Here are some bedtime behaviors that may make it a bit easier to catch some z’s and all the benefits that come with a proper amount of sleep:
Turn down the lights
Your environment has a significant impact on the quality of your sleep. If a room is too hot or too cold, too noisy or too bright, your sleep can be affected. When bedtime begins to roll around, your body releases melatonin, which helps to make you sleepy. But if you’re in a brightly lit room, your head isn’t getting the right hints to hit the hay. Therefore, start to dim the lights around nine or 10 to get your mind ready for sleep.
Take a sleep aid
Naturade SlumberAid is a natural solution to help you not only fall asleep, but to stay asleep and wake up feeling rested and energized. This sleep aid is packed with a full range of B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and melatonin, you helping you get on your way to a more peaceful night’s sleep.
Have a bedtime routine
By establishing a nightly routine, your brain will recognize that it’s time to go to bed and shift to that mindset. Whether it’s laying out your clothes for the next day, reading a book, brushing your hair or writing, these are habits that may help you sleep at night.
Skip the coffee after noon
You’d be surprised as to how long that cup of joe can stay in your system. It reaches a peak level in your blood within 30 to 60 minutes of drinking it and the effects can last from eight to 14 hours. Therefore, you should think twice before grabbing that second or third cup of coffee at lunchtime. Instead, try other ways to naturally boost your energy throughout the day, such as exercising, laughing, splashing cold water on your face or cranking up the air conditioning.
Sometimes, just working out alone is not enough to get you where you want to be in terms of muscle growth. You may be burning the calories, but you also need to make sure that your muscles are growing properly in order to see results – and this often requires the help of protein. Many fitness fanatics are turning to whey protein to take their workouts to the next level.
The benefits of whey protein
Whey protein, a high quality dairy protein, contains all of the amino acids that the body needs for muscle protein synthesis – the process by which individual cells construct proteins. Amino acids are known to stimulate protein synthesis and result in a positive net muscle protein balance. A study was done where 36 healthy and fit males were randomly placed into one of three groups: Whey protein and creatine, whey protein, and carbohydrate placebo during six weeks of resistance training. Those who received the whey protein, with or without the creatine, saw greater increases in muscle mass than those who only took the carbohydrate placebo.
Overall, evidence has suggested that whey protein, when combined with resistance exercise, can improve body composition. Your workout isn't finished until you pair it with a delicious vanilla or chocolate shake containing whey protein. Naturade 100% Whey protein powder supplies all of the essential amino acids and works to boost performance and energy. The leucine, isoleucine and valine in this protein meal are vital for tissue growth.
When trying to build muscle, it's important to combine your consumption of whey protein with healthy resistance training. Here are some strength training moves to pair with your whey protein to achieve the best results:
One-arm pull down
This exercise works both your back and biceps. Find a medium to heavy resistance tubing equipped with a handle on the end. Attach the end of the tubing to a door hinge above your head, stand in a semi-lunge position and pull the handle of the tubing straight down with one arm; pause and slowly return to a standing position. Complete about 12 to 15 repetitions on each side.
Find a comfortable surface, like a rubber mat or grass field, and stand with your feet hip-width apart. While keeping your back straight and looking straight ahead, lower yourself toward the ground until you find your heels lifting off the floor. Jump up quickly, fully extending your legs, and land softly on the ground. During this exercise that works your legs, core and butt, making sure to keep those abs contracted for the best results. Do about 10 to 15 reps.
For this power exercise, you'll need an inflatable fitness ball. Your core, chest, shoulders and abs will be getting the best workout from this movement. What you need to do is kneel in front of the ball and roll out over top of it, walking your hands out until you're in a push-up position. Be sure to keep your body flat and your abs engaged. Proceed by lifting your hips up to the ceiling, rolling your feet onto the top of the ball. Your legs must be kept straight. Do 10 to 15 reps.