The importance of eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise have been promoted to the general public for some time now. Consumers seem to be getting the message and are hitting the gym in record numbers. But the health benefits of daily exercise may be hampered by the fact that most consumers’ balanced diets don’t actually include very much real food.
As crazy as that sounds, it’s true. Mechanized farming and genetic modification have actually reduced the overall quality and antioxidant value in many of the fresh fruits and vegetables we consumer. But what’s even worse is that many time-strapped consumers turn to prepackaged, processed foods and drive-thru restaurants for a majority of their meals. This is not real food.
What’s the difference?
Conventionally grown fruits, vegetables and grains are typically genetically modified and use dangerous toxins such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and traditionally produced meats and seafood often contain added growth hormones and antibiotics. Consuming such toxins is something everyone should avoid, not just athletes and gym goers.
In addition, processed foods tend to be high in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats, which have been linked to increases in obesity, various diseases and chronic ailments.
However, real foods, such as organic fruits, vegetables and grains, grass-fed meats and wild-caught seafood do not contain any of these toxins, and in some instances may have higher nutritional or antioxidant values.
Why we need real food
Food fuels our bodies, and while the quality of foods we choose is important for everyone, it’s especially important for athletes and exercise enthusiasts who need to replace vital nutrients and energy expended during a workout.
In addition, consuming high levels of antioxidants has been shown to decrease the risk of certain diseases.
What you can do
Increasing your daily intake of real foods isn’t all that difficult. A good place to start is by choosing organic fruits and vegetables. While organic produce can be a little more expensive, it’s easy to mitigate the higher costs by buying what’s in season in your area instead of paying extra for out-of-season produce that had to be transported.
Another good idea is to avoid processed foods whenever possible. While this may mean a bit more meal planning and cooking at home, you’ll likely see an increase in your energy level, which will make it well worth it.
Lastly, try to stay away from foods that are high in unhealthy fats, salt and sugar. This is a tough one for most people, as it usually means avoiding fast food altogether, but you’ll see big improvements on the scale if you’ve been working out in an attempt to lose weight.
If you’re like most people, now that summer is finally here you’re probably thinking you should have spent more time at the gym this winter. This may be especially true for anyone who heads to the beach on weekends or lounges poolside during the summer months and wishes they had a firmer butt to show off their new swim suit.
Although wishing won’t get you the shapelier butt you’re longing for, there are a few great butt-firming exercises that are almost that simple.
Squats are one of the simplest exercises to perform, but there’s no denying they will work your glutes from all sides.
Start out in a standing position with your toes facing forward and your feet about shoulders’ width apart.
To perform the squat, hold your upper body as vertical as possible and press your heels into the ground as you gradually bend at the knees. It should look as though you’re cautiously sitting down. As you lower yourself into the squat, aim for getting your legs to a 90-degree bend, but don’t let your knees extend past the tips of your toes.
Return to the starting position by pushing your heels into the ground again and using the same slow and controlled movement to straighten your knees.
Do two sets of 10 – 20, depending on your ability.
The stationary lunge is an easy but effective way to lift sagging butt muscles.
Start out in a standing position with your arms at your sides and your feet together.
To perform the lunge, hold your upper body as vertical as possible and step forward with your left foot. As your left heel hits the ground, slowly bend your knee to a 90-degree angle as you lower your torso. But be sure your knee doesn’t extend beyond your ankle. Your right leg should now be extended out behind you with your right heel slightly off the ground.
Return to the starting position by pushing your left heel into the ground and straightening your knee as you bring your feet back together.
Do 10 – 15 reps, either by alternating sides or completing an entire set with one leg at a time.
Hydrant lift and side extension
The hydrant lift and side extension will give your butt that firmness you’re looking for.
Start out on all fours with your arms bent so that your knees and elbows are on the ground.
To perform the hydrant lift and side extension, keep your torso parallel to the ground and knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Keeping your leg at a 90-degree angle, slowly pivot your hip, raising your left knee toward the ceiling until it is parallel with the ground.
From this position, straighten your knee and extend your left leg out to the side.
Return to the starting position by bending your knee and lowering your leg back to the ground.
Do two sets of 15 – 20 on each side.
The glute kickback is another way to give your butt an extra lift.
Start out on all fours, with your arms bent so that your knees and elbows are on the ground.
To perform the glute kickback, keep your torso parallel to the ground and slowly extend your left leg out behind you. Flex your foot and keep your leg straight as you raise your leg toward the ceiling. Be sure to squeeze your glutes and pause when your leg is parallel with your torso.
Return to the starting position by steadily lowering your straight leg to the ground and then bending your knee to pull your leg forward.
The classic bench press is a great exercise for building chest muscles, but always repeating the same exercises only targets the same area again and again. To get better results you need to mix it up.
While there are many great chest workouts that involve free weights or high-end machines, you really don’t need fancy or expensive equipment to get great results. Believe it or not, classic pushups are not only one the best exercises for building solid chest muscles they’re also one of the most versatile.
Pushups are easily adaptable for both beginners and advanced bodybuilding enthusiasts, and with only a few modifications you can work your entire chest. But best of all, you can do them just about anywhere.
Start with the classic
Classic pushups are a great way to build muscle, but maintaining proper form can have a big impact on your results. Before you incorporate any modified versions into your workout, be sure you’ve mastered the basic technique.
Start with your hands on the ground just slightly further than shoulders’ width apart. Straighten your arms and stretch your legs out with your toes pointing downward. Your feet can be as far apart or close together as you like, but your weight should be balanced on the palms of your hands and your toes.
Keep your entire body in a straight line, with your chin toward the ground and your eyes forward. Beginners can slightly modify this technique by keeping their knees on the ground.
One rep at a time
From the starting position, brace your abs to keep your body in a straight line and steadily lower yourself by bending your elbows. Your elbows should remain close to your body and your legs should remain straight.
While there’s no exact measure for how low you should go, keep your distance the same for every rep so you can accurately assess your progress. For example, stop when your arm bends to a 90-degree angle or when your chest touches the ground.
Hold that position for a second or two then raise yourself back up to the starting position.
To get the best results, make sure you’re in control of your movements and not flopping to the ground on every rep. Even if you can only do one or two complete pushups at first, maintaining good form will help you get stronger faster.
Take it to the next level
After you’ve mastered the classic pushup technique, you can incorporate various modifications to work different areas of the chest.
For both the classic version as well as any of these variations, keeping your hands further apart than your shoulders will work the outer chest muscles, while keeping them at shoulders’ width will work the inner chest muscles. If your hands are closer than shoulders’ width, you’ll be working more on your triceps.
Staggered pushup – more challenging, as they target one side of the chest at a time
From the classic starting position, place one hand a few inches more forward than the other. Perform pushups using the classic form, but be sure to alternate hands between sets.
Single leg pushup – works your chest muscles and engages your core
From the classic starting position, lift one foot just a few inches off of the ground. Perform pushups using the classic form, but alternate legs between sets.
Plyometric pushup – activates the fast-twitch muscles in your chest
From the classic starting position, begin pushup by lowering yourself using the classic form. But instead of rising slowly, push up from the ground in one explosive movement, using enough force to lift your hands off of the ground.
Dividing up the household chores is one of the most difficult aspects of living with another person. Most people think only newlyweds have this dilemma, but it’s something even older couples, life-long friends and college roommates struggle with when they live together.
Most people don’t enter into a living arrangement thinking they will simply get the other person to do all the work around the house so they can just relax and enjoy the weekend. Quite often, when two people decide to live together, they get right to work making joint decisions on what color to paint the walls, what type of furniture they want to have or where to place the TV.
But when it comes to maintaining the home and the yard, paying the bills, doing the laundry, grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning many individuals simply start doing whatever it is they’re most comfortable with, without much discussion at all. And that’s exactly where the problem lies.
Silence isn’t the answer
For example, if you love to cook, you might be excited to prepare the first few meals in your new home. After only a short time, you find you’re doing all the cooking, and it’s just become part of the routine. The other person may not offer to cook a meal because they don’t want to offend you or because they know how much you love to cook. But in the meantime, you’re getting annoyed because they haven’t even asked.
All of this could have been avoided with a simple conversation about who’d be doing the cooking once you moved in. Just stating that you’re excited to try out the new kitchen may be enough to get the conversation started. But be sure to speak up and suggest a plan to share the responsibility if it doesn’t come up automatically. You can apply this same tactic to just about any ongoing chore that’s likely to become a source of frustration if only one person is responsible.
Communication is easier once the lines are open
While it’s always a good idea to have these types of discussions ahead of time, it’s important to keep in mind that once you’re all settled in you may need to make some adjustments to your preplanned routine. Maybe one person’s commute is longer than originally thought, or maybe you decided to get a dog. However, having already had discussions about sharing responsibilities, it will be much easier to discuss what may need to change.
Some people may be resistant to the idea of discussing responsibilities in the home, because they think it seems too ridged. But the truth is, having clear-cut roles makes it even easier to be flexible, especially in the short term. For example, you see that the other person is struggling with something (e.g., a big project that’s keeping them at the office late or a cold that’s keeping them on the couch). If it’s their turn to make dinner or take out the trash, be sure to offer to step in. Just make sure you’re genuine in asking if you can help out, as you don’t want them to feel like they’re not keeping up their end. Also, by asking if they need help, you’re setting a precedent of pitching in when needed, and the favor will likely be returned when you’re in need.
You’ve missed out on going to the gym for the second time this week, and you’re starting to feel a little panicked about what will happen to your fitness levels. Even though panicking won’t really help you out here, you may be right to have a little concern.
Maybe you were stuck at work or you caught a head cold from the kids. Whatever your reason, you can’t undo the fact that you just couldn’t make it to the gym for a few days. The good news is that if you’ve only missed a day or two, you won’t likely noticed much difference in your fitness ability. But, missing much more than that could be a bigger issue.
There are a lot of variables in figuring out how quickly you might get out of shape if you slacked off in your regular workout routine. You would need to consider your age, height and weight as well as how long you’ve been exercising regularly, the type of workout you do and your overall fitness levels. In fact, you’d have to factor in so much data that it’s pretty near impossible to come up with an exact formula.
Instead of trying to figure out how quickly you’ll get out of shape, it might be more important to figure out what’s keeping you out of the gym in the first place. If it really was due to work or a short-term illness, then there’s probably no cause for concern. But if you seem to be having a mini crisis that keeps you out of the gym at least a few times a week, there may be something else going on.
It’s impossible to be in two places at once, and if you have family at home, maybe you’re feeling guilty over spending an hour at the gym every evening instead of being at home. If so, try talking to your spouse or even your kids if they’re old enough. Ask them if anyone has concerns about the time you spend working out, and make sure they understand how important it is for your physical and mental health. There’s no better way to teach your kids about the importance of staying fit and healthy than by being a good example, and you may be surprised to find out they’re actually supportive of your fitness goals.
Crunched for time?
Maybe you really are just having trouble fitting everything in. Instead of skipping the gym altogether, try a different workout on days you feel crunched for time. Instead of an hour-long yoga class, you could go for a 20-minute swim or get in a few miles on the treadmill. While you may not burn as many calories, you will burn off your stress from the day. Another alternative would be to add a short high-intensity workout to your weekly schedule. At least you’ll know that’s one day you’ll be in and out of the gym in less time, and you’ll still have the benefit of a great workout.
No matter what your reason was for skipping a workout or two, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just accept that it happens to even the most dedicated people now and then, and make sure you have a plan for getting back to the gym as soon as possible.
Long vacations can be great, but if you lead an active lifestyle, a week’s worth of lounging at some exotic location may not be your idea of the perfect getaway. A better idea might be to plan a bunch of day trips or weekend getaways that let you explore the great outdoors closer to home.
No matter how long you’ve lived somewhere, there’s a pretty good chance you could get in your car, drive for an hour or two and end up somewhere you’ve never been before. It’s also likely that you’ll find plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy.
While it would be fun to just get in the car and go, if you want to go exploring, it would be good to decide on a general area first. That way you’ll know if you need to grab your hiking shoes or load up the kayaks or maybe both.
Take a hike
You can almost always find a large park or two within a short drive, so pick one you’ve never been to before and plan a day hike. Be sure to check the weather for the area before you go, and pack plenty of food and water. You might even find a place to kayak or rent a canoe. This is a great way to get in a serious workout while taking in some new sites.
Eat, shop and ride
Another idea is to drive to a quaint town with lots of shops and restaurants. Many small towns have unique establishments that you won’t find anywhere else, so you could sample the local cuisine and maybe buy yourself a small souvenir. You could even take your bikes and ride around to see what the town has to offer. If you don’t have bikes, before you pick your destination, look for a place that has a rental place nearby. What could be better than fitness, food and shopping?
Run for fun
If running is your favorite fitness activity, look for a 5k or 10k run in a town you’ve never been to before. You can check out the sites before or after the run, or even get there a day ahead if you want to make a weekend out of it. While you’re at it, why not look for a run that’s benefitting a charity or cause you want to support. You’ll see some new sites, get a great workout, meet a bunch of new people and support an important cause all in one weekend!
You like to stay fit and you love being outdoors, so this summer, take a quick look at the map and head out to explore what’s practically in your backyard.
Many men are caught off guard by the physical and mental changes they start to experience somewhere around the age of 30. They are often even more surprised to find out that declining testosterone levels are most likely behind these changes.
Some men are more likely to notice physical changes first, such as hair loss or weight gain. Other symptoms, such as a general lack of energy or a noticeable increase in irritability and mood swings, may occur more gradually.
Although declining testosterone is a normal part of the aging process, most men are eager to find ways to feel more like their youthful selves. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to naturally increase testosterone production.
Why your weight matters
While low testosterone can be a contributing factor to weight gain, the weight gain itself can actually add to the body’s inability to produce testosterone, making the situation worse. But losing weight can actually help increase testosterone, reversing the entire process.
Getting regular exercise is a great way to lose weight and will also help improve the loss of energy many men with low testosterone experience. A workout that includes high-intensity exercise, which is short bursts of intense activity, can help with weight loss and is especially beneficial in improving testosterone levels. Strength training with higher weights and lower reps should also be a key part of your fitness routine.
How food can make a difference
While exercise is a key component to losing weight and boosting testosterone levels, you should also be mindful of the foods you eat. Certain foods are known to contribute to excessive weight gain and should be avoided by anyone with low testosterone levels. However, there are also foods that have been shown to improve testosterone production.
Examples of what to avoid
Too much sugar is one of the leading causes of weight gain and other health problems, so eliminating as much you can is a good place to start. You may be surprised by just how much sugar you actually consume. While candy, baked goods and sodas are obvious sources of sugar that can be easily eliminated, some seemingly healthy foods like certain fruits, juices and carbohydrates contain sugars that can significantly raise insulin levels and should always be consumed in moderation.
Examples of what to eat
Tuna is a heart-healthy protein that contains a significant amount of vitamin D, which is known to help increase testosterone. Beef liver is another great source of vitamin D, but choose grass-fed beef whenever possible, as it is higher in nutrients and isn’t contaminated with steroids or antibiotics.
For vegetarians, plant-based proteins such as white beans, black beans and kidney beans are a good choice for increasing testosterone. Healthy fats, found in olive oil and coconut oil, are another important testosterone-boosting food source.
Vitamin A is also needed for producing testosterone and can be found in most citrus fruits. As an added benefit, citrus fruits can also lower cortisol, which is a stress hormone known to impact testosterone production. Bananas and pineapples should also be added to your list of fruits, as both contain bromelain, an enzyme known for its ability to increase testosterone.
You eat healthy and work out, but you may be sabotaging all of your good intentions. Recent research suggests that sitting can put you at risk for certain diseases and other health problems, and it can lead to an increase in mortality rates. Yes, sitting-what you might even be doing right now-has been shown to increase a person’s chances of dying.
It’s hard to conclude just how much sitting is too much, but the message is clear. To live longer, we need to sit less.
It seems to go against everything we’ve been striving for – high-end office chairs that allow people to work comfortably for extended periods of time, technology-enhanced lounge chairs for relaxing at home and various methods to get children to stay seated in the classroom.
But this somewhat new revelation isn’t likely to become a passing fad. In fact, the office equipment industry has added a completely new segment to help combat the ill effects of sitting. The office fitness category now offers products such as treadmill desks, standing desks, and sit-to-stand desks and tables.
Many companies already give employees
incentives to adopt healthier lifestyles, and now they will likely need to incorporate ways for employees to stay productive while spending less time sitting at their desks. But these types of changes do take time.
So what do you do when your daily commute and desk job not only have you sitting for hours on end but also leave you so exhausted that you can’t wait to get home to sit down and relax?
Well, according to research, you get back up again.
How to break your sitting habit
Of course, there are certain activities that require sitting, such as driving a car. However, unless sitting is absolutely essential, we need to find creative ways to remember to stand up and move around.
Sit for 1 and move for 2
The ability to stay focused is a highly praised attribute in both students and employees. But if it’s keeping you in your seat, it could be impacting your overall health.
One way to break your sitting habit is to get up and move for at least two minutes every hour. If you work in an office, set an alarm to remind yourself. A quick walk around the office or down the hall and back should do the trick.
In a classroom setting, younger students often change activities throughout the day, but teachers could take this a step further. Have the class engage in some form of physical movement, such as marching in place or doing a few jumping jacks, toe touches or arm circles, before settling in for the next activity.
Turn off the TV
If you’re a TV watcher, make a list of all your regular shows and add up the amount of hours you spend watching per week. If you’re shocked by the number, which many are, try replacing your TV time with some sort of physical activity for a week or two. You’ll likely notice a significant increase in your energy level. If cutting out TV seems like too much of a sacrifice, cut down on the time it keeps you sitting. For example, you could stand and fold laundry, iron your clothes or pack lunches for the next day.
While it isn’t very likely you can avoid sitting altogether, just be aware of how quickly your sitting time adds up. Whether you’re working on a project, catching up on social media or watching your favorite shows, make it a point to get up and get moving. Your life depends on it.
Today’s consumers are taking a closer look at how their food choices might be impacting their health. Nutritionists and food manufacturers have taken note of this trend, responding with an overload of information about which food ingredients consumers should avoid and a wealth of new products claiming to be free from certain ingredients.
While avoiding certain ingredients may have benefits and can be critical for anyone with food allergies, just eliminating specific ingredients or entire food groups may not be the entire solution. Whether your choice is based on a food allergy or sensitivity, an effort to lose weight or a plan to eat healthier, it may be just as important to consider what you’re eating in place of the foods you’ve eliminated.
What can I eat?
Consumers faced with an immediate to need to eliminate a particular ingredient or food group, such as someone diagnosed with a serious food allergy, often head to the nearest grocery store in a panicked state, wondering what they will be able to eat. They scour the aisles in search of “safe” food options and are often relieved to find products labeled as being free from certain known allergens.
Unfortunately, many of these products are processed, ready-made meals and snacks with little nutritional value. While there are plenty of good choices out there, food manufacturers have latched on to consumers’ fears of no longer being able to eat some of their favorite foods and are increasingly introducing lines of products, such as breads, cakes, cookies, pizza and pasta, that are free from certain ingredients consumers are most likely to avoid.
While it may be comforting to know that food manufacturers are becoming more aware of the increase in food allergies and sensitivities, many of these products are loaded with sugar and unhealthy fats. Consumers that choose to replace the majority of the foods they eat with these over-processed alternatives may unknowingly be doing more harm than good.
A better choice
Eating a balanced diet that is rich in fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables and healthy fats is important for good overall health.
Instead of heading to the processed food aisles and loading up on empty calorie foods, opt for more cooking at home with healthy ingredients. This is the easiest way to ensure the foods you eat do not contain any ingredients you need to avoid. It’s also the easiest and least expensive way to ensure you’re consuming natural, healthy ingredients that aren’t processed with chemicals and preservatives.
What to avoid
Many conventionally produced foods contain ingredients derived from genetically modified organisms (GMO) and can increase your exposure to toxins such as pesticides, added hormones and antibiotics, the full effects of which are uncertain. To reduce unnecessary exposure, avoid processed foods whenever possible and reduce consumption of sugar, trans fats, processed vegetable oils and any GMO foods.
What to eat
A healthy diet should include as much fresh produce as possible. But be sure to choose organically produced foods whenever you can. Foods grown using certified organic methods can have less toxins and higher antioxidant, vitamin and mineral levels.
Foods that contain monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil, tree nuts, flaxseed, salmon and peanut butter, are also an important part of a healthy diet, as they can protect your heart, improve cholesterol and support your overall mental wellbeing.
There are plenty of healthy and safe options available to those on a restricted diet. But anyone that has concerns over what fresh foods best suit their dietary restrictions should consult with their physician or a trusted nutrition expert.
We hear it all the time. Everyone should eat more fruits and vegetables. In fact, the Center for Disease Control suggests that eating a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables could lower the risk of certain diseases. So why is it that we often reach for a sugary snack or other high-calorie foods when we’re in a hurry and hunger strikes?
More often than not, it comes down to convenience. You try to eat healthy, but when you’re crunched for time it just seems easier to grab a granola bar (which are often high in fat and sugar) or rip open a bag of chips.
Busy shouldn’t mean unhealthy
It doesn’t help that today’s food manufacturers are well-aware of our busy lifestyles. They cash in on our need for eating on the go by selling bite-sized snack foods in individual-serving sized packages. While this sounds great, it makes us far more likely to keep a few packs of high-sodium cheese crackers or miniature sandwich cookies in our gym bags, instead of a banana or an apple.
While there are some companies that offer pre-cut fruits or veggies, they are often much more expensive than buying the whole fruit and may even contain preservatives to keep them fresher longer.
Fortunately, with a little preparation, eating more fruits and vegetables isn’t that difficult, and it can even be less costly than some of those pre-packaged snacks.
A better plan
The key is to plan ahead. Yes, you will need to spend a little time in the kitchen, but it is well worth the effort and will quickly become part of your regular routine.
Start by heading to the produce section of your favorite grocery store or a nearby farmers’ market. Take a look around to see what types of fruits and vegetables they offer, and be sure to look for any special sales they may be having. Buying featured sale items or produce that’s in season is a great way to keep your costs down and will also help you add variety to your diet, as the sale items are likely to change each week.
Another way to keep costs down is to only buy as much as you think you will eat within a few days to a week. Because fresh produce doesn’t contain any preservatives, it doesn’t have as long of a shelf life as most pre-packaged snacks.
Take stock to avoid waste
Once you get your items home, take a quick inventory of your purchase and make a plan for how/when you’ll be eating each item. If you just throw everything in the fridge, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll be throwing it all in the garbage next week. But don’t worry, putting a plan together is simple.
For breakfast, fresh blueberries can be used for your morning cereal without much prep work at all. Just wash and store them in the fridge and grab a handful each morning.
For lunch, instead of having those single-serve bags of chips with your sandwich, cut green peppers into wedges or slice carrots into sticks and pack them in sandwich bags. They’ll stay fresh in the fridge for the work week, so you can just grab a bag or two when you pack your lunch.
For dinner or an evening snack, slice a pineapple into cubes and store it in a container in the fridge. They’ll go great with your favorite rice dish, or put some on a skewer if you’ll be firing up the grill. They also make a great evening snack when you feel like something sweet but want to keep it healthy.