Stretching feels good when you have tight muscles because it increases blood flow, but it's also important for flexibility, range of motion and reduced risk of a muscle strain.
When should you stretch?
Starting when we joined our first soccer team at the age of six, most of us have been told to stretch before exercising, whether that be jogging, sprinting, playing basketball or dancing. But the research on static stretching before exercise is mixed on whether it is beneficial, detrimental or has no effect on one's athletic performance. The vague conclusion is that stretches held for 30 seconds or less are fine for anyone to do before exercising, and the only people who definitely must stretch are those that will be holding a position for long periods of time in order to avoid pulling a muscle, such as gymnasts, hockey goalies and dancers.
But, you can stretch at any time, since its main purpose is to improve your flexibility and range of motion to do movements you couldn't perform otherwise. For example, if you feel stiff when you bend down to tie your shoelaces, you might want to stretch your legs every morning to get rid of this stiffness that makes shoe-tying uncomfortable.
Stretch every morning or night as part of your daily routine. Stretching after a workout is also good because your muscles are warmed up and this will have a greater effect on your flexibility.
How to stretch?
You can find several easy stretches online. You probably have a nice repertoire from your team-sport playing days, but online videos are abundant that show you how to do stretches to target particularly tight muscles.
Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds, and do up to four repetitions. Hold your position steadily – don't bounce, which can cause small tears and leave scar tissue, making your muscles even more tight! To avoid bouncing, stretch only to the point of tension and hold it there – don't let yourself feel pain. A good stretching routine will probably last between 15 and 20 minutes.
When can you stop stretching?
Make stretching a daily habit to improve your flexibility. As time goes on, you can spend fewer minutes stretching because you'll start to see the flexibility and range of motion results you want. Stopping altogether could make your muscles tight again, and stretching is good for the body, so keep it up every day if you can!
If you’re on a diet or at least conscious about what you’re eating, dining out can be a Catch-22. On one hand, not having to cook and eating delicious food prepared especially for you is downright awesome. On the other hand, you don’t always know what you’re eating, even when you think you do, and there’s no way to count calories, fat and other nutritional value if you didn’t prepare the food yourself. But dining out, whether it’s for a friend’s birthday, a date or just because you’re tired of cooking, is way too fun to avoid completely. Here are some tips about which foods you shouldn’t eat when dining out, and why:
Don’t eat these foods
Iceberg lettuce – Ordering a wedge salad made with iceberg lettuce is a bad idea on several levels. For one, iceberg lettuce is very inexpensive, so your meal is marked up nearly 20 times. Also, it has little nutritional value – it’s made of 98 percent water – and, in fact, could harbor bacteria in the cracks and corners of the wedge.
Bread baskets – These are usually filled with bread made from bleached flour, which isn’t very healthy. Also, the breads might be reused at some restaurants.
Bar snacks – Just don’t eat these. They’re free and tasty, but think of how many unwashed hands may have been in them!
Tepid water – Unless the water served to you is ice cold, ask for a new glass. Warm water is ripe for bacteria.
Buffets – Buffets cause you to over eat! Also, they aren’t always very sanitary. There’s no telling who just sneezed on that chicken breast you put on your plate.
Overly sauced items – Sauces are usually filled with sodium and fat, and they often are used to hide sub-par ingredients or those that are a bit old, such as low-quality, fatty meats.
Seafood at a non-seafood restaurant – You’ll get the freshest fish, clams and shrimp at places that specialize in seafood because they place more frequent orders than do non-seafood restaurants. Additionally, they’re less likely to have frozen seafood.
Bone-in meats – These are often difficult to cook because they don’t sit flat in the pan. Pork chops and chicken are the most worrisome foods if they aren’t cooked thoroughly.
Anything with these words: deep-fried, pan-fried, sautéed, battered, crispy, breaded, au gratin, béarnaise, hollandaise, Alfredo, creamy and cheesy. Items with these designations are often full of fat. Instead, opt for items that are broiled, steamed, poached, roasted, baked, grilled or blackened.
Golfing is a great social sport to do with friends, family and colleagues. The sport is relaxing for a lot of people because of the concentration and focus needed to play. And now, the best – and perhaps most underrated – season for golf is upon us! Say goodbye to waking up at unbearably early hours to get a tee time before it's sticky hot outside. Aside from being generally fun, playing golf has many health benefits as well. Though it's not a high-energy sport and no one typically thinks of golf as requiring abundant endurance or strength, research has shown that the physical activity required is associated with a decreased risk of injury and even less risk of death in middle-age adults.
According to a small-scale study by Finnish researchers, which was published in The American Journal of Medicine in August 2000, mostly sedentary middle-aged men who golfed had lower cholesterol and less risk of injury than mostly sedentary men who did not golf. In another study by Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, which was published in the June 2009 edition of the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, they analyzed data from more than 300,000 male and female golfers in Sweden. The researchers found that, compared to standard mortality rates, those who golfed had a 40 percent reduction in risk of death, which means their life expectancy was about 5 years longer than the average in Sweden. So golf definitely has some important health benefits.
If you're ready to hit the links this autumn, here are the top five courses for basking in resplendent fall foliage:
- Boyne Highlands Resort, Harbor Springs, Mich.
- Stowe Mountain Golf Club, Stowe, Vt.
- Lake of Isles, North Stonington, Conn.
- Blackwolf Run, Kohler, Wis.
- Sunday River Golf Club, Newry, Maine
If you've got a major sweet tooth, keeping candy bars, cake, cookies and ice cream out of your diet can be extra difficult. While everything in moderation is key, simply replacing some of your favorite sweets with a food that's a bit more healthy for you can make all the difference. So, instead of enjoying an after-dinner milkshake this Friday night, why not treat yourself to a Naturade Pea Protein shake?
What's Good Inside
The main ingredient in Naturade Pea Protein is – you guessed it – peas! The protein is made from yellow peas, more commonly known as split peas. Even if you've never been a fan of split pea soup, it's likely that you'll love this protein shake mix. Flavored with all-natural vanilla, this drink is as tasty as you'd expect to find a vanilla shake at a local soda fountain. In addition to its sweet, all-natural taste, Pea Protein is also chock-full of essential amino acids – those amino acids that our bodies don't naturally produce, and must be part of our diet.
What's Left Out
Sometimes, what's left out of the ingredients is just as important as what is included in them. Naturade's Pea Protein contains no aspartame. Often sold under the names NutraSweet or Equal, aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is 200 times more sweet than natural sugar. However, several studies have linked the substance to several diseases, including cancer, diabetes and even birth defects.
If you're lactose intolerant or allergic to gluten or soy, you're also in luck with these shakes – this protein mix is completely void of soy, dairy and gluten, and is free of cholesterol, so feel free to drink up! It's considered hypoallergenic – and honestly, how many foods can claim that?
Here are a few other things that you won't find in Pea Protein:
• No animal products. Pea Protein is completely plant-based, so whether you're vegan, vegetarian, or just like to limit your meat intake, this drink will help boost your daily protein.
• No GMOs. Although the word is still out as to whether GMOs are safe for human consumption, Naturade has made its own verdict and uses only non-GMO peas in its recipe.
• No colors or preservatives. The rich taste of Pea Protein is completely natural, right down to its color.
We often picture professional athletes as muscular and meat-eating. For many people, it's often impossible to imagine a vegan athlete – how can someone who avoids all animal proteins and products be able to perform at the rigorous levels required of a professional athlete in any field? However, there are many high-profile vegan and vegetarian – past and present – that are gaining more recognition and proving that physical ability doesn't hinge on animal protein intake. One way to get ample protein and nutrients as a vegan is to frequently enjoy VeganSmart All-In-One Nutritional Shake from Naturade. Here are some vegan athletes who have made veganism work for them:
This NFL running back announced he was going vegan in July 2012. Foster, who plays for the Houston Texans, eased himself into a vegan diet, working with a doctor to figure out which foods and products worked best for him. After announcing his newfound veganism on Twitter, Foster received a lot of criticism from fans and the media, and he replied via the social network:
"People feel so strong about meat and milk. I wish they felt this strong about peace."
Though Foster recently has said he still occasionally eats meat even while sticking to a mostly plant-based diet, he also expressed his choice of veganism as an act of independence and critical thinking, advising others to always ask questions:
"Don't take anything at face value. Find your own path and come to your own conclusions," Foster said in an interview.
This world-famous Olympic Runner attributes his 1991 World Championship performance – where he reclaimed the world record for the 100-meter sprint – to his vegan diet. Lewis has won 10 Olympic medals, nine of which were gold, as well as 10 world championships, between 1979 and 1996. He became a vegan in 1990 at the age of 30 and has never looked back. Lewis is an advocate not only for the health benefits of veganism but also the environmental and ethical importance, which he wrote about in an introduction to "Very Vegetarian" by Jannequin Bennett:
"Keep in mind that eating vegan does require a commitment to being good to your body and to acting responsibly toward the world around you," he wrote. "Most of us are not aware of how much damage we do to our bodies and to our world by the way we eat. Your body is your temple. If you nourish it properly, it will be good to you and you will increase its longevity."
This world-class cyclist and marathon runner has been a vegan since the age of 6, and a vegetarian since she was 4. Oakes was a champion cyclist, competing in the 1992 Olympics, before turning her sights to marathons. When she's training for a marathon, she runs between 90 and 100 miles daily. Still, she's able to compete with and actually beat the best athletes, even going on to win a North Pole marathon where temperatures were an icy -18 degrees Fahrenheit much of the time.
Oakes' vegetarianism is motivated by her love of and respect for animals, and she now operates an animal sanctuary. Oakes has never doubted her choice to be vegan, as an athlete and outside of races:
"Obviously, the health benefits of being vegan are written in stone but I honestly believe the most benefit to me being vegan is that I do not carry the burden of guilt that I would have to endure knowing that I abused others for my own 'benefit,'" she told Viva La Vegan! in a May 2012 article.
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.
Working out in the winter can be a real drag, especially when there are heaps of snow on the ground and it's -10 degrees outside. If you don't live close to the mountains, where you can get your exercise and drown your wintry blues by racing down the mountainside on skis or a snowboard and warming up in the lodge with hot cocoa and a fire, you'll have to find other ways to stay motivated to get fit. It's a lot easier said than done, especially when swimsuit season is far in the distance. Here are some tips for staying motivated to workout so that even under that knee-length parka, you're as fit and healthy as ever:
- Stay warm! There's nothing less motivating than knowing you're going to be cold, so get the right cold-weather gear. If you're going for a run outside, or even if you're just walking to the gym, make sure to have some warm gear like insulated running tights and tops, thin wool socks, running gloves and a hat to keep the heat in.
- Having a cold or the flu is pretty common in the winter, but staying in shape and exercising has been shown to be a good way to stay healthy. Use avoiding sickness as your motivation!
- Plan a sunny winter getaway – even a weekend in Florida or Mexico! You'll be more motivated to stay in swimsuit shape.
- "Check-in" on Facebook, Foursquare or another app before you go to the gym. Then, there's no way to avoid it because you won't want to look like you're pretending to be at the gym!
- Treat yourself to a new workout class. Many gyms will let you take one trial class to see if it's for you. It's a great idea to try new things when your outdoor exercise is limited in the winter.
Many people decide to combine diet and exercise to drop a few pounds. But it's important to talk with your doctor to determine the right routine for you. For example, the caloric intake of a 25 year-old female marathoner will be vastly different than that of a 60 year-old male trying to lose some weight. Still, there are some diets that are so "out there" that most everyone agrees that they are ineffective or – even worse – unsafe. From the bizarre, gross and downright unhealthy, here are the worst dieting fads that no one should ever try:
- The soup diet: This usually involves eating a normal breakfast and then chicken or cabbage soup for the rest of the day. But this diet is actually harmful – not only is soup often high in sodium, which is very unhealthy for the heart, it's also empty of necessary vitamins and nutrients.
- The vinegar diet: Supposedly, poet Lord Byron drank vinegar and water daily to "cleanse" his body, which caused vomiting and diarrhea. He also added raw egg to his tea every morning, and encouraged others to try his diet. It's safe to say this master of words should have stuck to what he knew best.
- Grapefruit juice diet: The plan for the grapefruit diet is to eat whatever you want as far as fats and proteins go, but to avoid carbohydrates and only eat around 800 calories per day. You're also supposed to drink 64 ounces of grapefruit juice, which supposedly combines with protein to increase your body's fat-burning capabilities. This diet emerged in the 1930s and was made popular again in the 1970s when it was referred to as the Hollywood Diet. Needless to say, science has proved that it doesn't work and, in fact, isn't healthy.
- Baby food diet: People who try this diet – eating up to 14 jars of baby food a day, and then possibly eating a real adult dinner – are banking on the lower amounts of fat, sugar and calories in baby food compared with adult meals. However, baby food is formulated for babies – though you can lose weight on diet, you wouldn't be doing it in a healthy way because it doesn't have the nutrients that adults need.
- The cotton ball diet: This one is extremely dangerous. There have been rumors that different models have tried eating cotton balls because they're full of fiber and also filling so you don't feel hungry. However, cotton isn't meant to be consumed by people. In fact, eating cotton balls can give you serious digestive issues that require surgery.
- Sleeping Beauty diet: The idea behind this diet is that you can burn plenty of calories while sleeping – and you won't be eating. People who tried it out used to take a sedative and sleep for a few days at a time, but it's obvious that this isn't safe nor is it healthy in anyway. There are rumors that Elvis Presley did this after he gained a lot of weight in the 1970s.
- Tapeworm diet: This one is downright scary. Tapeworms are parasitic flatworms that can thrive in the intestine. Though they typically don't cause too many symptoms, they can cause diarrhea, anemia and potentially even seizures. This diet became a thing in the 1920s and horse jockeys were said to have ingested tapeworm larva to stay thin.
Needless to say, the above diet plans are unhealthy, unsafe and not worth any risks you'd take to lose the weight. It's a better idea to see a doctor and trainer to help you come up with an exercise and diet plan that is right for you.
Maybe you've been off your workout routine after an indulgent vacation of relaxation, eating and soaking up the sun; maybe you're trying to amp up your fitness routine to get in shape for an event or just to feel good about yourself; or maybe you don't want to trudge to the gym in extremely hot or cold temperatures. Whatever your reason for beginning a new workout or getting into the swing of things again, being motivated can be difficult, especially with today's busy lifestyles. It takes a lot of motivation to drag yourself out of bed and go to the gym at 5 a.m. before heading off to a long day at the office, or to come home from work ready to hop on the treadmill. If you're struggling with motivation, here are some tips to get you back on track and to help you make fitness a habit:
- Do something you enjoy. If you absolutely, positively hate running because it's boring and hurts your knees, don't do it. There's nothing less motivating than dreading your workout. Make sure your fitness routine is something that you enjoy or, at the very least, exercise that doesn't cause you unnecessary pain.
- Get a trainer. It's typically pretty pricey to get a personal trainer, but it's a great way for some people to get and stay motivated. First, you won't want to miss training sessions because you're paying good money for them. Second, you'll want to impress your trainer so he or she thinks you're the hardest working person around. Third, it's pretty fun – and even a bit flattering, even if you're paying them – to have another person invested in your fitness and designing personal workout plans for you!
- Avoid the out-of-sight, out-of-mind conundrum. Keep your workout clothes visible – place your shoes near your bedroom door and hang your workout clothes on the door handle or a railing in the bathroom – in a spot where you'll immediately notice them in the morning.
- Speaking of workout clothes, invest in some gear that makes you feel cute, attractive or comfortable. The point is to buy workout clothes that you'll actually want to wear.
- Grab a friend or two. Friends can hold you accountable. It's an especially good idea to pick a competitive friend because you won't want to look lame to the other person.
- Ease into it. If you've been off of your fitness routine for awhile or are just starting a new, more intense workout, don't go full blast right away. Besides possibly injuring yourself, it won't be any fun. There's no shame in going slowly as long as you're moving.
- Turn your commute into a workout. If you simply can't bear to go to the gym before or after you work, consider turning your commute into your exercise. You have to go to work anyway, so change the method of how you arrive there. If you're close enough, consider biking or jogging!
- Keep track of your progress. There are abundant sites to help you log your mileage or other important details about your exercise routine. Monitoring your progress is also a great way to set visual short- and long-term goals.
- Stay close. Choose a gym near your home or place of employment. That way, it isn't inconvenient to get a workout in and you can even give yourself a bit of a guilt trip if you pass the spot frequently enough.
- Incentives: treat yourself! Set goals and, when you accomplish them, treat yourself to something you've been wanting – even if that something is a hot fudge sundae or another delicious treat.