Static vs Dynamic: What’s the best way to stretch?

Perhaps one of the most hotly contested ideas in the fitness industry is the idea of static stretching versus dynamic stretching and which is better. Some fitness professionals swear by static stretching and won’t do anything else. Others wouldn’t perform a static stretch if they got paid to do it. So which is better, static or dynamic? The answer is probably some combination of both.

When discussing static stretching, it refers to the act of lengthening a muscle and holding it for an extended amount of time. Think sit and reach from gym class, but holding the reach for 30-40 seconds. Static stretching is incredibly effective at lengthening muscle fibers and improving flexibility. However, it can have a negative effect on performance if done prior to an exercise. Think of it like this: there are many stretch sensors in your muscle. Upon initial stretch, these sensors send a signal to contract and limit the stretch to prevent injury. To get an effective static stretch, your body must overcome that reaction, and essentially “shut off” the muscle. In essence you are putting your muscles to sleep in order to get an effective stretch. So static stretching good at improving flexibility, maybe not so good at improving performance.

In contrast, when looking at dynamic stretching, it is the act of moving your body to create a stretch. Ever watched a sprinter warm up and they are swinging their legs back and forth? That’s dynamic stretching. Or even simple arm circles count as dynamic stretching. This type of stretching is very effective at “warming up” a muscle group and preparing it to perform. However it is not quite as effective at lengthening muscle fibers as a static stretch. If done incorrectly, it can also result in injury due to using momentum to push past your body’s ability level.

So which is better? The simplest answer is both! Prior to exercise, perform some basic dynamic stretches to prepare your body to work and wake your muscles up. After your workout session, perform some static stretching to help cool down and lengthen your muscle fibers.

For a full body dynamic warmup, check this one out from Men’s Fitness.

http://www.mensfitness.com/training/cardio/best-dynamic-warmup-any-workout

For post workout, here’s a great static stretching routine from Active.com

http://www.active.com/fitness/articles/12-post-workout-static-stretches

Healthy Holiday Alternatives to keep your waistline in check

With more holidays fast approaching, the stress on our waistlines is greater than ever. But with a few simple food swaps, the holidays can be a time to indulge without adding extra calories.

  1. Veggie Dips:
    • To avoid loading up on calories before a meal, many people will stick close to the veggie tray thinking they are doing something right. However, that full fat sour cream dip can pack 60 calories or more per ounce. Healthy alternative? Substitute full fat sour cream for non fat or non-fat Greek yogurt. No one will be able to tell the difference, and you can cut calories down from 60 per ounce to 15-25 per ounce.
  2.  Holiday Potatoes:
    • Everyone loves candied yams this time of year. They are the perfect side dish to any great holiday meal. However, they are loaded with sugar. A healthy swap would be to skip the yams and go for baked sweet potatoes. They can be topped with some fat free butter and cinnamon to give you that “candied” taste. Sweet potatoes are also loaded with antioxidants and fiber.
  3. Swap white for wheat:
    • If you are in the healthy eating mindset, the dinner rolls may be easy to skip all together. However, if you must have bread with your meal, try and go for whole wheat over white. It has more fiber and less sugar than it’s white alternative, and will save a few calories as well.
  4. Skip the eggnog:
    • Winter and eggnog go together like peanut butter and jelly, but with upwards of 250 calories per glass, it is not a drink that will help the scale any. Go for hot apple cider instead and save 100 calories and all the fat. If you must have eggnog, make your own with low fat milk and egg substitute instead of whole milk and eggs.
  5. Portion Control
    • If nothing in this list sounds appealing, and you just have to have the candied yams and eggnog, practice portion control. Limit your self to one serving of the less healthy options, and alternate every other drink with water or calorie free seltzer. This will help to keep that calories down and ensure you can still have a guilt free holiday.

As hard as the holidays are to stay on track with a diet and exercise program, there are small changes you can make to help keep your program on track. These suggestions were taken from Everyday Health magazine. For more healthy holiday alternatives, visit http://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-and-nutrition-pictures/healthy-holiday-food-swaps.aspx#11. Happy Holidays!

Quick and Easy Egg Muffin Cups for a Healthy Breakfast all Week Long

By now, most everyone has heard the breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But the hardest part for a lot of people is having the time in the morning to actually make and eat breakfast. Well here is a great recipe that can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge for a quick and easy health packed breakfast.

I love that these healthy egg muffin cups can be made in advance. These muffin cups have less than 50 calories per muffin and are packed with vegetables, so eat up and serve with some toast, your morning coffee, yogurt, etc! showmetheyummy.com #breakfast #healthy #togo #easyrecipes #vegetarian

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp Olive Oil or Coconut Oil                                  1 cup Red Pepper

1 cup Green Pepper                                                        2 cups Spinach

1 cup Mushrooms                                                           1 cup Red Onion

4 whole eggs                                                                    4 Egg Whites

Salt, Pepper, and Garlic to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Grease a standard 12 cup muffin tin and set aside
  3. Heat oil over medium heat in non-stick skillet
  4. Add peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Saute until peppers are soft, about 5-7 minutes
  5. Add spinach and cook for another 2 minutes
  6. Add garlic, salt, and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
  7. In bowl, whisk together eggs and egg whites
  8. Add in veggie mixture, and stir together
  9. Pour mixture evenly into muffin tin, and bake for about 15 minutes, or until tops are firm to the touch.
  10. Enjoy!

These muffins come to around 50 calories each, and can be stored in the fridge for about 4 days, or frozen. This recipe can also be adapted to whatever you have on hand in the fridge. If you want to add in tomatoes, leave out the onions, anything is fine! Just make sure it is loaded with veggies! Feel free to top with fresh salsa, hot sauce, or any other of your favorite healthy toppings. Happy Eating!

 

 

Best Time of Day to Exercise

Many people often wonder when the best time of day is to workout. This answer can change based on who you talk to.  Some people swear by morning workouts, while other swear by evening workouts. The short answer? Well, it depends.

A recent news story pointed out the morning as the best time to exercise. This is because exercising at night can interrupt sleep cycles. There is some truth to this statement. Exercising within 2 to 3 hours of bed time can affect a person’s sleep, because of the increased release of hormones from the workout. However, this all depends on the type of workout. An evening session of yoga or pilates can help to reduce stress and ease the mind. Further still, the National Sleep Foundation performed a “Sleep in America” poll in 2013 which found that an overwhelming majority of people slept better if they exercise period. The time of day did not matter.

Depending on your goal, morning exercise can also be advantageous. For people looking to decrease body fat, low intensity morning exercise on an empty stomach may help. Because the body is low on carbohydrate stores, it must mobilize fat stores to provide the body with energy. This may help to reduce body fat. Cortisol levels are also highest in the morning. A morning exercise routine can help to reduce these levels over time, resulting in decreased weight gain and even weight loss.

However, for people looking to increase muscle mass, afternoon or evening exercise may be best. Between 3-7pm, cortisol levels are at their lowest and testosterone levels are at their highest. Cortisol has a catabolic effect on muscle, resulting in it’s breakdown, where as testosterone has the opposite effect. So it would make sense to strength train when muscle building potential is the highest. Core body temperature is also at an optimal level, resulting in increased nerve conductivity, more flexible joints, and improved cardiovascular performance.

All of this information is great, but what does this mean for the average individual? Well, unless you are a marathon runner or body builder, the best time of the day to workout is whenever you have the chance. The body will adapt itself to optimize whatever training schedule you can stick to. The key to making progress is consistency, so if that means you are a 5:30am trainer, or a 5:30pm trainer, stick to it and you will see success.

For more information, see some great articles below:

All About Cortisol

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/drobson.htm

http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/22/health/upwave-night-exercise/

http://bayesianbodybuilding.com/best-time-to-work-out/

Take the Suspense out of Suspension Training

Have you seen these funny looking yellow straps hanging in the spin room, but never knew what they were? Now’s your chance to find out.

Those yellow straps are TRX suspension training straps. They are a revolutionary new training tool developed by a US Navy Seal to train your total body, using only your body weight. These straps can be used for everything from chest press to squats and anything in between.  Because you are using only yourbody weight, the intensity level can be adjusted for all fitness levels. An added benefit to using these straps to train is an increased calorie burn.

Because of the design of the straps, your stabilizer muscles are working overtime to help perform the exercises. More muscles activated means more calories burned.   Also because there are no weights to adjust, machines to change, or places to move to, your workout will be streamlined and efficient. Less rest equals higher consistent heart rate equals more calories burned.

Holiday Eating for Healthy Waistlines

Keep your holiday cravings in check with these simple tips and tricks. Your waistline will thank you!

With the holidays and cold weather approaching, many people take this time as an excuse to overindulge and consume higher calorie foods than normal. Just because you can wear oversized sweaters and stretchy jeans is no excuse to give up on your fitness goals. Here are some easy ways to avoid the holiday weight gain.

  1. Exercise First and Last

Create a calorie deficit before indulging on your favorite high calorie cakes, cookies, and pies. Taking a walk after eating is also a great way to prevent extra weight gain. Because your body’s metabolism will already be elevated as it tries to digest the food you just ate, adding light exercise to the mix will further boost your metabolism for a short time. Light exercise after a meal also has a significant effect on lowering triglycerides in the blood. This can help prevent weight gain and cardiovascular disease.

  1. Portion Control

It may sound easier than it is, but portion control is key to prevent overeating. Rather than filling your plate to the brim with everything you can find, start with small portions, wait 10 minutes, then see if you are still hungry. If possible, try a smaller plate as well. Smaller plate sizes have been shown to help prevent overeating and the weight gain associated with it.

3. Eat Before Going to the Party

The common thinking is “I’ll save my calories for later.” However, this can actually lead to overeating and over indulging. Studies have shown that people who eat before going to a party or holiday gathering actually eat less. Which makes sense, if you are not as hungry when you go to a holiday party, you most likely will not eat as much.

  1. Easy on the Booze

What many people don’t realize, is the liquid calories can add up. Keep in mind the average light beer has around 100 calories per can.  All these calories add up quick. Try having a glass of water or seltzer between alcoholic beverages. This will help keep you hydrated, sober, and away from the extra calories.

  1. Be aware of your surroundings

If you are trying to avoid eating high sugar, high calorie foods, sitting right next to the cookie tray or bowl of candy is probably not a great idea. Move away from the temptations, and you will be less likely to indulge. Focus on family and friends instead of the pie tray.

6. Keep your goals in mind, but be realistic.

If you know you struggle to keep weight off during the holiday season, perhaps now isn’t the best time to start a weight loss routine. Focus instead on weight management instead of loss and you will have a much happier holiday season.

 

The holiday season is not a mandatory weight gain season. Remember these few easy tips, and enjoy the season!

 

 

 

The health benefits of Oatmeal

For many people, eating breakfast is an “if I have time” thing, or an “well I’m not hungry in the morning.” What if I told you that breakfast can help lead to weight loss, and oatmeal can be a key food?

When referring to oatmeal in this post, I am referring to instant oats or whole oats. None of the Quaker maple brown sugar packages. Those pack a very different nutrient profile. A recent study published in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism revealed that oatmeal can play a major role in blood sugar and satiety (Geliebter, 2015). This study looked at 36 individuals, half of which were classified as overweight, the other half classified as normal weight. The subjects were assigned to one of three different breakfast options on a randomized sequence on different days. The three options were oatmeal, isocaloric corn flakes, or water. Blood tests were taken post meal to determine the effect on blood sugar and gastric emptying. In addition hunger and appetite ratings were taken concurrently with the blood tests.

The results of this study were very interesting. What this study showed was that appetite was lowest and satiety was highest after consuming oatmeal compared to the corn flakes and water. Blood sugar was also the lowest in the corn flakes, indicating a mid morning “crash.” The study also concluded that gastric emptying was slower with oatmeal compared to corn flakes and water.

So what does this all mean? Well essentially that eating oatmeal for breakfast will keep you fuller for longer, maintain a steadier blood sugar level, and maybe help you eat less for lunch. So in terms of weight loss, a steadier blood sugar level combined with eating less calories for lunch can help. Which makes sense, less calories consumed means more weight lost.

What’s the secret behind oatmeal? Fiber. Oatmeal contains 4 grams of fiber per one cup. Since the average American only consumes about 15 grams per day, 4 grams of fiber in one serving is pretty good. Fiber has many health benefits including lowering cholesterol, stabilizing insulin response and blood sugar levels,  reducing the risk of obesity, and digestive health. For women, aim to consume at least 21-25 grams per day, and 30 to 38 grams per day for men.

For more information on other high fiber foods, check out this great page from the Mayo clinic.

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/high-fiber-foods/art-20050948

So to wrap up, oatmeal can be a great tool when looking to build a healthy eating plan and weight loss routine. Not only can it help regulate blood sugar, but it can also lead to fewer calories consumed during the day and increased feelings of satiety. So load up on those oats!

 

Geliebter, A., Grillot, C. L., Aviram-Friedman, R., Haq, S., Yahav, E., & Hashim, S. A. (2015). Effects of oatmeal and corn flakes cereal breakfasts on satiety, gastric emptying, glucose, and appetite-related hormones. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 66(2-3), 93-103.