Should I wait to check my weight?

For many people, they have a dream weight they would like to get to; prewedding weight, pre-baby weight, high school weight, or even their current weight. Whatever that number may be, pretty much everyone has one. And for many fitness programs these days, how much you weigh and how much weight lost has become the “gold standard” for progress. As important as a number on a scale can be, it is certainly not the only measure for success. And with so many factors influencing your scale weight, it can often be misleading.

Pretty much everything you do and put into your body will affect your body weight on a day to day basis. How much water you drink, how much you slept, how many times you go to the bathroom all play a role in day to day weight change. Even something as simple as having more salt in your diet one day compared to another can change the scale. Salty and carbohydrate filled foods can cause the body to hold a little extra water, causing the scale to go up. For all of these reasons, it is best to weigh yourself on a week to week basis instead of a day to day basis. For more accurate results, weigh first thing in the morning before you have had a chance to eat and drink. The comparison of week to week weigh-ins will be a far better measure of progress compared to day to day weigh-ins.

Another thing to keep in mind; for people just starting a workout routine, the scale will tend to increase not decrease at the end of their first or even second week. This happens because your body starts to hold onto extra water to help your muscles heal. The muscles become inflamed and swollen due to the breakdown of tissue during exercise, which leads to weight gain. Have no fear, this will go away after a few weeks.

Don’t forget about all of the other, sometimes even better, measures of success. Numbers such as inches, body fat percentage, weight increases on your strength exercises, even number of push-ups you can do are all valuable pieces of information and great measures of progress and success.  These numbers are less susceptible to fluctuations and can be a more consistent measure of success of body weight.

Fitness the Family can Enjoy

With the hectic schedule for kids in today’s world, physical activity and exercise is slowly disappearing. Physical Education classes in schools are cutting cut, video games and computers are becoming more and more popular, and the increasing school work load is causing kids to sit more and move less. And with more and more research surfacing about the benefits of physical activity and brain function, this trend to the couch is troubling. Luckily, there are a few easy steps you can take to get kids moving.

  1. Enroll in a class or activity: This can be anything from soccer and basketball teams, to dance, karate, or gymnastics. Anything to get kids moving. By enrolling in activities like these, it forces your kids to be active at least once or twice a week. Sometimes a schedule can be your best friend.
  2. Limit the screen time and schedule outdoor time: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children under 2 years old have no screen time, and children 2 and older limit screen time to 2 hours a day of quality programming. With the advancement of parental controls on nearly all devices, controlling your child’s screen time has become easier than ever. In addition, try to schedule one hour a day to be active as a family. Going to the park, playing catch, or taking bike rides are all great family activities.
  3. Reward active behavior, but not with food: Positive reinforcement for children can help to build a lifelong passion for fitness. However, be cautious when rewarding activity with sweets and junk food. Instead, try rewarding with an extra 30 minutes of play time, an extra trip to the basketball courts, or even an extra 20 minutes of screen time.
  4. Set a good example: Your kids want to be like you, walk like you, and talk like you. Why not get them to exercise like you too? As the role model for your kids, show them that fitness and exercise can be fun and enjoyable, rather than painful and miserable. And who knows, you may even find yourself enjoying exercise a little more when the family is involved.

Remember,   the cognitive benefits of exercise are not just limited to kids and young adults. Adults and seniors can benefit just as much! Whatever your motivation or method is, just remember to keep moving and have fun doing it as a family.

 

Wearable Fitness Trackers: Wave of the Future or Fad about to Fizzle Out?

One of the hottest trends in the fitness industry today is the introduction of wearable fitness trackers. Sure the information is cool, but is it really necessary? Companies like FitBit, Garmin, and Apple are flooding the market with different models, features, functions and looks. And with the wealth of information they can provide, personalized fitness and health care are right around the corner.

Depending on the brand, fitness trackers can record steps, calories, distance traveled, sleep, heart rate, and total activity level. Some more expensive trackers even have a GPS connection to more accurately track distance, steps, and pace. These numbers may not seem like a lot, but they can be very motivating and beneficial to much of the population. Here are other benefits of fitness trackers, giving them the boost they need to be around for the long haul.

  1. Accountability: One thing trackers can offer is a sense of accountability. Most fitness trackers will give you a daily step goal or calorie goal to meet. And with blue tooth capability in most, you can get real time updates on your phone or other device. This gives you the knowledge and accountability you need to ensure you move enough every day. You can even track day to day progress, ensuring you move more today than you did yesterday. It can be a great psychological boost to see your numbers on paper and push yourself to go further and further.
  2. Motivation: Sometimes the best motivation is a reality check right in your face. With real time tracking, fitness trackers can do just that. They give you a very real picture of your movement, or lack there of, during the day. Set a goal using the fitness trackers features and aim to meet or exceed it every day. As those goals get easier and easier, set a more challenging goal for yourself. Data can be very motivating, and there is nothing like seeing your activity level written down in front of you.
  3. Sleep Tracking: As is often the case with diet and exercise routines, people tend to think they are moving more and eating less than they actually are. Same goes for sleep patterns. People think they sleep a lot better and a lot longer than they actually do. Some fitness trackers will give you a picture of what your sleep actually looks like. Using motion sensors in the device, it can sense when you have fallen asleep and when you wake up and begin moving again. It can even give you a breakdown of how restful your sleep was. Consistent and restful sleep is one of the more important aspects of a well balanced exercise routine. So don’t forget the Z’s.
  4. Group Motivation: Some fitness tracker companies even have online groups and forums you can join to share success stories, what’s working for you, and what’s not. If seeing others’ success motivates you to go further and push harder, don’t wait to join these groups. There’s no better feeling than getting compliments from others on your progress!
  5. Personalized approach: Ever see those calorie counters on the treadmill and wonder how accurate they are for you? Chances are they aren’t because they don’t take into consideration heart rate, weight, height, and age. Fitness trackers do just that. They take your body and your fitness levels and turn it into a personalized program just for you. It’s like having a personal trainer on your wrist! In the coming years you may even see doctors and insurance companies using these to track patient’s progress, activity levels, heart rate, and calorie consumption. The years of a more personalized health care approach are coming.

With the growing choices of wearable fitness trackers, take time to do your research and find one with the right range of features and price to fit your needs. These truly are the wave of the future, and with so many potential benefits, it is hard to see this fad fizzling out anytime soon.

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/