Protein is essential to your body's proper functioning and survival, which is the short reason for why you need it.
What is protein?
Protein is actually a very broad term for the chains of amino acids found in the foods that we eat and throughout our bodies. There are between 20 and 22 protein-building amino acids – our bodies make more than half of them through the breakdown of proteins or from other amino acids, but nine amino acids are called "essential," meaning we must ingest them because the body cannot produce them on its own.
Our bodies need proteins that vary in their breakdown of essential amino acids, and we need protein every day because, unlike things like glucose, fat and certain vitamins, our bodies have no way to store amino acids. Thus, if we fail to eat enough complete protein every day, our bodies "go catabolic," meaning they break down existing tissues – starting with the muscles – to get the necessary amino acids.
There's a reason that our bodies need protein everyday and will go to great lengths to get it. In fact, there are between 30,000 and 50,000 different proteins in the body. Protein is essential to a majority of the body's functioning, including:
- Immune response: Antibodies are proteins that attack a bacterium or virus that has entered the body. Antibodies work to neutralize the impact and prevent the foreign substance from causing infection or disease.
- Supporting the tissues: Collagen is the most widespread protein in the body, as it is a part of the tendons, ligaments and bones. Myosin and actin – both proteins – help the muscles function.
- Fluid balance: Proteins found in the blood help maintain the proper fluid levels in the body. They act as a buffer, remove excess hydrogen or add more when necessary to maintain the blood's pH levels. Blood proteins also protect against the accumulation of fluid in the tissues by pulling water into the capillaries.
- Growth and development: Proteins are especially important for fetuses, infants and children whose bodies are growing rapidly.
- Transporting oxygen around the body: The protein hemoglobin pairs with iron to move oxygen through the blood.
- Breaking down food: Enzyme proteins break down other proteins into amino acids and work to remove waste.
What to know about eating protein
Protein requirements vary with age, sex, health and level of physical activity, but people rarely need protein supplements unless they're working to build a lot of muscle quickly.
Its been said that toning your arms gives your body a whole new look, making you appear fitter than you are. Toned arms can build confidence about your body, and if you're looking to get fit, the arms are a great place to start because the muscles shape up pretty quickly! Even just a month of a quick, 10-minute routine three or four days a week can show fabulous results.
Here are some exercises to try in whatever combination you choose:
Standing arm circles are a great way to warm-up and they also give your biceps, triceps and shoulders a workout. With your feet flat on the ground and your arms stretched out to your sides, start, moving them in fast circles forward. Do this until you get tired before reversing the direction. Make sure to pull your bellybutton in, strengthening and elongating your core. When you get tired, take a break before doing the arm circles two more times, both forward and backward.
This is a great workout that just requires a yoga mat and hand weights between 3 to 5 pounds, depending on your current strength. To start, lie on the mat with your knees bent and feet flat in a sit-up position. Extend your arms straight up with one dumbbell in each hand. Do a sit-up, contracting your abs and slowly curling up. At the same time, bring your arms forward toward your knees, holding them for a second just above the knees, before slowly reversing to your starting position. To make the move more difficult, add in a chest press. When you're in the curl position with your arms stretched out and the weights above your knees, pull them dumbbells in toward your chest and then straighten your arms again before moving back to the starting position.
You'll only need a mat and a pillow for this move, which works several muscles: the triceps, shoulders, abs, back, butt, thighs, chest and calves!
Place your pillow at one end of the mat on the floor and your hands on the pillow. Walk your feet into a plank position, making sure to keep your back straight. Extend one arm out to the side, then lift it, holding for three to five seconds before returning to the starting position. Stay in the plank position and extend the same arm straight in front of you, holding for a few seconds before returning to start again. After 10 reps, switch arms.
It's time to answer that perennial question: Which is better: yoga or Pilates? But of course, as in most things in life, the answer isn't so clear cut. Instead, it depends on your end goals. Additionally, it also depends on exactly what type of routine you're considering, whether it be Hatha yoga, Bikram (hot) yoga or even piloxing – a Pilates and boxing fusion. Here's a bit more information about each so that you can decide whether yoga, Pilates or the delightfully named Yogalates is right for you:
Yoga is a centuries-old meditative practice that has foundations in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism in India. Yoga is focused on the connection between the mind, body and spirit. It's meant to be therapeutic but to also improve physical wellbeing through strengthening of the muscles and flexibility of the body. There are so many different types of yoga traditions, practices and positions that it's hard to say definitively which parts of the body they are best for. But in general, because the positions are so varied and can be combined in various ways, they strengthen muscles throughout the body. If you want stress relief and a slow, stretching workout for your entire body, yoga is your best bet.
Pilates is a much more recent practice. It was developed in the 1920s by a man of the same name. It was originally meant as a low-impact rehabilitative routine, but today, this series of resistance exercises is used to build muscle flexibility and strength without the bulk. Similar to yoga, Pilates hinges on proper breathing and includes improved coordination and balance as some of its benefits. However, Pilates mostly centers around the core – strengthening and building up stable abdominal muscles for proper posture, stabilization of the spine, balance and overall strength. Pilates is ideal for people who want to strengthen their abdominal muscles, which might potentially reduce chronic back pain. Most Pilates positions can be adapted depending on individuals' differing physical abilities, as is the case for yoga as well.
In summary, you will gain strength and flexibility through both yoga and Pilates, though Pilates is more targeted at the core muscles. Also, Pilates is typically a more structured class so you will know what to expect when you walk in, while yoga positions can be arranged in hundreds of ways. You can definitely benefit from both routines and might enjoy doing a fusion workout of the two.
Maybe it's Monday afternoon and you're already exhausted but still have work to do. You think to yourself, "How am I going to make it through the rest of this week without falling asleep at my desk?"
Instead of overdoing it on coffee and fueling up on simple carbs like bagels, which give you a bit of energy before leaving you more tired than you started, fill up on healthy foods that give you long-lasting fuel to make it through the day energized and with your eyes open.
Here are the best energy-boosting foods and snacks to keep your energy levels high:
It seems overly simple, but it's important to stay hydrated. H2O is valuable for every part of the body – from brain function to digestion. Things like coffee and alcohol can dehydrate you, and dehydration often leads to fatigue and a feeling of sluggishness. Add some lemon and mint to your water for an extra kick.
Almonds, walnuts and others are a great on-the-go snack. They pack in protein, healthy omega-3 fats, fiber, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins E and B. Omega-3s provide energy to organs and muscles, and the protein in nuts is great for a boost. Almonds are an especially good choice because they contain iron, which can help maintain your energy levels. Just make sure to eat nuts in moderation – one handful should do the trick! You can keep a bag of trail mix or mixed nuts in your desk or purse for when you're feeling tired.
Rather than eating bagels, white bread or crackers made from refined white flour, opt instead for whole grains, which are full of complex carbs. Carbohydrates give our bodies 60 percent of the energy we need, making them essential; however, it's important to choose the right carbs. Whole grains take more time to digest, making you feel more full longer. Plus, they contain a whole host of minerals and vitamins that don't cause us to crash like refined carbs do.
It's a good bet that you won't be too comfortable snacking on just kimchi or cabbage during lunch time. But if you happen to have lunch at a Korean joint, get something with a side of kimchi. Or if you're in a deli, order something that comes with sauerkraut. These healthy fermented foods help your body maintain energy because they're packed with probiotics, which help the gut work more efficiently and need less energy to do the work of digestion.
Treat yourself to a moderate portion of dark chocolate in the afternoon. Besides being delicious and packed with antioxidants, dark chocolate also has theobromine – a natural stimulant that boosts both your mood and energy levels.
Fresh fruits like apples, pears, bananas, berries – you name it! – have vitamins, minerals and fiber. They give you a boost of energy from the natural sugars and good carbs.
Quick tips to keep energy high
Maintain your energy levels throughout the day with these easy tips:
- Smaller meals are better when it comes to having lunch. Research has shown that people who eat larger lunches have less energy just a few hours later. This is likely because eating increases blood sugar and can interrupt your circadian rhythm.
- It's better to eat small meals, but frequently. Rather than three meals per day, opt for up to seven or eight micro-meals. Our brains need a steady supply of nutrients, as they produce very few energy reserves on their own.
- Try not to drink caffeine after 2 p.m., which can interrupt your sleep, creating a vicious cycle.
- Limit your alcohol consumption. It's especially advised to avoid alcohol at lunch so you have energy later.
For most people who are trying to lose weight, you can lose 1 pound per week initially by cutting 500 calories per day. The math behind this is that 3,500 calories equals about one pound, so cutting 500 during each of the seven days a week will drop you 1 pound. This moderate calorie restriction is a healthy way to lose weight – more extreme measures can backfire, as cutting more calories per day will not provide your body with enough sustained energy.
There are a lot of simple ways to cut calories from your diet. In fact, you don't necessarily have to eat less volume-wise – you just have to recognize what you're eating and how many calories it contains, and be open to substituting it for something similar. Here are some tips to help you in your journey to get healthy:
- Eliminate high-calorie drinks. Sugary juices, soda and alcohol are the first things to toss out, because just a 12-ounce serving of soda or orange juice has about 170 calories. Replace these drinks with water, which is calorie-free, sugar-free and essential to your body's functioning.
- Ditch the creamer. Your coffee will taste just as delicious with skim milk, or even low-fat milk, and it's much healthier than rich cream or – even worse – flavored coffee creamers that have all kinds of artificial chemicals and oils that are bad for your health.
- Eat a filling breakfast. Start your morning off with high-fiber cereal or oatmeal mixed with fruit. Complex carbs take longer to break down, helping us stave off the hunger pangs until later in the day.
- Forget about the cheese. At lunchtime, order your sandwich without cheese. Most delis, burger joints and other eateries provide you with more than one serving per sandwich. Instead, opt for a flavorful hummus or BBQ sauce, both of which contain less calories than most cheeses.
- Choose dessert wisely. If you're a dessert-junkie, it can be difficult to eliminate sweets from your daily routine. So try a slice of low-calorie angel food cake with fresh strawberries, rather than cookies or other hearty, butter-filled desserts.
- Eat more slowly. Make sure to take your time when eating. Not only will you – hopefully – enjoy your food more, but you'll also likely eat less. Research shows that it takes our bodies about 20 minutes to register that we are full.
Runners, especially beginners, often wonder what surface is the best for distance running. While some surfaces are obviously superior to others, the answer to this question can differ depending on your physical abilities, goals, and other needs. Here are the pros and cons of various popular running surfaces:
Tracks today are typically made of synthetic materials like recycled tires. The pros of running on track are that the surface is squishy and forgiving, meaning the softer surface somewhat lessens the impact on your knees and other joints when running. Tracks are excellent for speedwork because they have essentially no barriers, as opposed to running on earthy trails. Also, you can accurately measure your run and time yourself as most tracks are exactly 400 meters per loop.
However, tracks aren't the best for everyone or every type of running. If you're running distance – two miles or more – being on a track can be tedious. A lot of people like a change of scenery for their long runs. Additionally, the long curves on each lap are rough on the ankles, hips and knees, putting undue stress on those joints.
A lot of people enjoy running on the treadmill. One pro is that it doesn't require any special gear to stay warm or cool, outside what you'd normally wear, since you're indoors. Also, treadmills allow you to measure precise distance, calories burned, heart rate and other things that runners often like to know to gage their progress and performance. You have a lot of control when you're running on a treadmill, and the smooth surface is pretty easy on the knees, legs and back, which can prevent injuries.
However, there are some cons to treadmill running that are especially potent for distance and performance runners. For starters, because of the support you get from the moving belt during treadmill running, your hamstrings don't have to work as hard as they would otherwise. Also, treadmills are consistent. This can be a good thing, but if you're gearing up for a 10k or a half marathon, the terrain will surely not be as predictable as the treadmill surface. It might instead be good to train on less smooth terrain, at least occasionally. Another con is that treadmills do not provide a breeze. This means that there is no wind resistance to push against – which can give you an even better workout – and you'll also probably sweat profusely because air isn't rushing past to cool you.
The positives to running on concrete are few, but the surface is flat and if that means you're running on a sidewalk, you're likely to be pretty safe from traffic. Many city-dwellers spend much of their time outside running on concrete. The cons of concrete is that it's an incredibly hard surface – it's made of crushed cement, after all, and is said to be 10 times harder than asphalt. Concrete gives your knees, ankles and legs the most shock and should be avoided if at all possible.
If you have to run on the street or sidewalk, hit the pavement or asphalt instead. It's easier on the joints and is typically flat (save for a few potholes) so it will put less strain on the Achilles' heel than some even softer surface that are uneven.
Trails, grass and earth
The ground and woodland trails are your best bet for distance running outdoors. A golf course-type surface is ideal, in fact, though it's unlikely most people have access to that. Still, running trails in the woods are good because they have enough give for your knees. However, if you're working on speed, stay away from these surfaces because it can be difficult to measure your distance and you could get tripped up (literally) by roots and other debris on the messy trails.
It seems so funny that one simple cannon ball-shaped instrument could have such awesome effects on the body. Cross-fitters everywhere are doing intense, quick workouts to tone up and build muscle, and people everywhere are catching on to kettlebell's total-body benefits. Here's a short, intense workout for men that targets all of the body's major muscle groups using only an amazing kettlebell and of course your own strength and body weight:
The 20-minute kettlebell workout
- Warm up with a swing – a basic move for beginners and a good starting point. For the swing, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and the weight in both hands straight in front of you. Then, bend your knees and squat down, swinging the kettlebell with both hands between your legs. As you rise to a stand, swing the kettlebell back up to eye level, but control its movement. Do 10 to 15 reps. Do a rep of squats with the kettlebell as well.
- After you feel sufficiently warmed up, jump right into the windmill – a more difficult move. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, the kettlebell in your right hand held straight above your head and your feet pointed 45-degrees toward the left. Then, keeping your right arm straight in the air, push your hips to the right and slide your left hand down your left leg, bending at the hip. This gives you a great core and shoulder workout. Do 10 reps and then switch sides.
- Then, work your arms with curls. Hold one weight in each hand and curl them up as if you were holding regular hand weights or a barbell. The benefits of doing curls with kettlebells is that the weight hangs lower than your grip and the uneven balance causes you to work extra hard. Do 12 to 15 reps.
- Repeat the above circuit two times, adding in a few other movements that you like.
Type 2 diabetes is a serious disease that affects people worldwide. However, if you are at risk of developing it, there are many steps you can take to prevent diabetes
What is diabetes?
In Type 2 diabetics, the body either cannot produce enough insulin or the cells do not recognize the insulin produced. The problem with this is that insulin is necessary to transport glucose – formed from the foods we eat – to the cells throughout the body. When there isn't enough insulin or the body ignores it, glucose can build up in the blood, leaving your cells energy-starved, you tired and lead to serious health problems like kidney failure or heart disease.
What are the risk factors?
Type 2 diabetes has some hereditary factors, but there are lifestyle and other issues that can make your risk higher. Here they are:
- Having high blood pressure
- Being overweight or obese
- Having low HDL (good cholesterol) and/or high triglycerides
- Not getting enough exercise
- Being 45 or older
What you can do to prevent it
Many of the risk factors leading to the development of diabetes involve lifestyle choices. Here are some things you can do to lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes:
- Get enough exercise. This is especially vital for people in sedentary jobs. Most adults need at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day. This can help you lose weight, cut your blood sugar levels by boosting the body's sensitivity to insulin. Do a workout regimen that includes both cardio and strength-training.
- Eat healthier. Start including more fiber and complex grains in your diet. Fiber is found in whole grains, nuts, fruits, vegetables and seeds. Add more of these foods to your diet. One place to start is by eating an apple, rather than drinking the juice, because the fruit itself has soluble fiber. Another easy thing to do is substitute whole grain bread for whole wheat or white bread. Fiber and whole grains help control blood sugar, leaving you fuller longer. They also can boost your good cholesterol and lower the bad cholesterol, also known as LDL.
Cut back on the sugar, and rather than doing a fad diet, focus on making healthy food choices every day!
Running a marathon – the famed 26.2 – is a huge deal. Not everyone can do it, and it takes a lot of perseverance, hard work and a vision. If you're a casual runner considering taking on your first marathon, here are some tips for you to get started and ready to rock it:
Believe it or not, there's actually a lot to do before you begin marathon training. Here are some of the steps that will see you on your way to marathon completion:
- Check with your doctor to get the green light for the vigorous training that running a marathon requires.
- Get fitted for good running shoes. A specialist at a fitness store can watch you walk and run, and by examining your gait, he or she will be able to help you decide which pair of shoes is right for you. Bring in your old running shoes as well – some experts like to examine the wear patterns.
- Get your other gear. Talk to fitness experts at a specialty running store, or ask around with friends who are hardcore runners. They can recommend the best socks, shorts or tights and other products and materials that eliminate chafing and will keep you cool (or warm) during your runs.
- Schedule your runs. Being consistent is important in marathon training, so before you begin, make sure you have a set time each day for running, lifting, stretching and everything that marathon prep entails.
- Learn about proper nutrition and hydration, and begin practicing it right away. You can find plenty of information online or consult with other runners to see what they do. Consider adding sports drinks, complex carbs and protein meal replacements – like Naturade Total Soy – to give your performance diet a boost.
Realize that you need to follow a training plan that is quite regimented, but that it's important to deviate from the plan if you have an injury or are not feeling 100 percent. Here are some basic training tips:
- Keep a training log and record your distance, times and how you feel each day you run. You should also monitor your heart rate each morning before running and keep it in your training log. You'll have a baseline and will know that if your heart rate spikes, it might be time to relax the workout a bit.
- Run three or four days per week. One day should be focused on distance, two should be focused on speed and one should be a recovery day where you take it easy.
- Consider adding two days of strength training per week, which can include yoga, Pilates, weight-training or something similar.
- You should increase your distance by no more than 10 percent each week. The gradual increase is important to prevent injury. On each third or fourth week, cut back on your miles for that week.
- Give yourself at least one day per week to do no running.
- Add cross-training like cycling, rowing or swimming to your routine. You should do these activities for only 45 minutes up to two times per week.
Many of us spend a lot of time thinking about physical health in general, and we mostly talk about it in terms of "staying fit" and "losing weight." But there are other reasons to exercise consistently, such as for boosting your mental health or preventing future injuries. One very important reason to stay active and exercise in certain ways is to promote bone health and ensure that our muscles can support healthy and strong joints to prevent arthritis, osteoarthritis and other types of pain.
Knees are the joints most commonly affected as we age, but other areas commonly affected are hips, shoulders and ankles. The goal of exercising for joint health is to do strength training, which strengthens the muscles surrounding the joints and promotes stability and balance. Here are some good exercises for joint health:
- Squats strengthen the muscles around your knee and hip joints. To do one properly, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend at your knees, lower your hips, keep your stomach pulled in tight and your body straight. Then come back up.
- Do yoga, tai chi or Pilates to strengthen your muscles in a low-impact way.
- Strengthen your hip muscles by doing standing side leg lifts. Stand straight, holding the back of a chair if necessary. While keeping your hips and shoulders facing straight, lift your leg to the side, do 10 to 15 reps and holding each for five seconds.
- Swimming is an excellent low-impact exercise with great cardio benefits. You can boost muscle strength without hurting your joints.
Aside from exercising, you can maintain joint health by eating well, keeping a healthy weight, stretching and avoiding too many sedentary activities. You can also try a supplement for joint health like Naturade FlexAid Advanced Joint Formula, which contains natural ingredients for flexibility, mobility and joint comfort, including vitamin D3, glucosamine and collagen. It also contains Univestin®, which has Cutch Tree and Chinese Skullcap extracts.