Tag: hydration

Healthy New Year! Top Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

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Holiday weight gain is a widely accepted fact of life, causing many to hopelessly give up and give in to the temptation of high-calorie treats that seem to lurk around every festive corner. But accepting rather than fighting poor habits throughout the holidays can set anyone on the path to dietary disruption and bad health.

As we get older, every ounce of weight gain matters, and can seem impossible to lose, making it especially important to keep a close eye on calories. Luckily, there are many easy ways to prevent the sabotage of all your fitness plan progress.

Below are some top tips to help anyone avoid the trap of holiday weight gain.

 

1. Retain the Routine—

Yes, you’re on vacation. No, this doesn’t have to mean you should take a break from the gym, yoga classes or whatever form of exercise you generally work into every week.

Sticking with your workout regimen can keep your metabolism moving and help you burn extra calories; something you might really appreciate later when faced with a plate of holiday cookies.

And don’t be afraid to go heavier on exercises that burn more calories during the holidays to offset the extra intake.

 

2. Step Away from the Buffet—

When hanging out at social events, it’s easy to get caught in a conversation while standing near the buffet table if you’re grazing randomly, so purposefully grab a plate, make your selections, and move away from the food area.

This will help you be aware of exactly how much you eat, while removing the temptation to have “just one more” cookie or chip with dip as you stand mindlessly chatting and nibbling.

 

3. Make Friends with the Vegetables—

At every holiday party, there is a generally a plethora of sugary baked goods and salty snacks, with a sad, neglected vegetable tray sitting alone and ignored somewhere on the table.

Find that lonely tray of vegetables and load up your plate with these fiber and nutrition-packed beauties, because they’re going to fill you up without a lot of calories while fueling your body with vitamins and minerals.

Remember to go easy on the dip, and eat all of the veggies before moving on to the more calorie-dense foods.

 

4. Protein is Your Pal—

In addition to vegetables, lean protein in its various forms is a great way to fill up and stay full without fattening carbohydrates.

Look for shrimp, chicken or any other versions of protein that aren’t covered in heavy sauce, and add these to your vegetable bounty for a healthy holiday meal.

 

5. More Sleep, Less Stress—

Lack of sleep has been shown to increase the body’s levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that increases weight gain, especially around the middle. It can be difficult when you feel like you have one million things to do, but making sleep a priority is definitely worth it.

Cortisol is also known for breaking down muscle, and muscle loss lowers metabolism, making it especially important to get the sleep you need during the food-filled holidays.

 

6. Wonderful Water—

Feelings of dehydration can mimic hunger, making it important to remain hydrated at all times to prevent pointless snacking.

Dehydration can also lower the metabolism and increase inflammation levels in the body, both of which lead to weight gain. Some experts recommend alternating a glass of water between every adult beverage to prevent the dehydrating diuretic effects of alcohol.

Drinking water before meals has also been shown to create a feeling of fullness that can help promote weight loss, so before you head out to that holiday party: drink up!

 

7. Do the Shopping Shuffle—

Buying gifts online can be more convenient, but if you want to sneak in a little extra exercise while you take care of holiday-related errands, go to the actual stores and walk around.

Worried about missing an online deal? Many stores will match online competitor prices, so be sure to take a device with you that allows Internet access, or print out the best price you can find to show store employees.

 

8. Saving Calories is Sabotage—

Don’t make the mistake of trying to starve yourself all day to “save calories” for the holiday party later. This will only drop your metabolism down into starvation mode, and set you up to overeat late in the day, which is the worst time to overindulge if you’re trying to stay trim.

Instead of starving, eat healthy, well-balanced meals, and if the party you’ll be attending isn’t a dinner party, consider eating your final meal of the day before you go to keep the snacking to a minimum.

 

Focusing on the humanity, kindness and goodwill of the season (rather than trying to figure out how much food you can stuff into your face in a few weeks) is also a helpful way to avoid holiday weight gain. The holidays may involve a lot of food, but they really aren’t ultimately about food at all, are they? If you can keep this philosophy in mind, and use the smart tips above, you can keep your diet and fitness program on track to have a healthy New Year!

Fight the Flu! 6 Top Ways to Boost the Immune System

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It’s that time of year again; when the office is full of coughing employees, and the work environment sounds more like a doctor’s waiting room than a place of business. We can thank the various strains of influenza, common colds, multiple stomach bugs, and all of the many other viruses that rapidly spread during the winter months for this unpleasant phenomenon.

Every year during this season, we know illness is coming, and while many of us get our vaccinations hoping to avoid catching the flu, sometimes shots just aren’t enough. Fortunately, there are many things every person can do to bolster the immune system and decrease the chances of catching a virus.

Below are 6 recommended ways to boost the immune system:

 

1. Wondrous Water—

In order for all of the systems in the body to perform at top strength, they need to be adequately hydrated. Think of water as the oil for every engine in your body, because without it, nothing can run smoothly.

Dehydration weakens the immune system by forcing the body to spend too much energy on inadequately hydrated and inefficiently running internal systems, stealing valuable virus-fighting resources.

Most experts recommend at least 8 glasses a day, but if you want to drink more, go right ahead. Your body will thank you by removing toxins faster to fight off disease.

 

2. Splendid Sleep—

Everyone is different: some people can function on 6 hours of sleep, and others are worthless without a solid 8 or 9 hours. You can tell how much rest you need by how you feel, so be sure to make sufficient sleep a top priority during flu season.

If you’re having trouble getting to sleep, experts recommend cutting out all caffeine by 2 p.m. every day, turning off screens and bright lights 1-2 hours before bedtime, and if needed, a melatonin supplement can help the body realize it’s time for bed.

 

3. Stress Less—

Stress drastically reduces the immune system’s ability to ward off illnesses, making it crucial to find ways to relax.

For some, stress relievers like a walk, warm bath or meditation can help, but if home remedies aren’t cutting it, be sure to get professional help from a therapist or psychiatrist. There’s no point in going through life feeling anxious, and if untreated, chronic stress can adversely affect overall health.

Stress hormones like cortisol can also trigger negative reactions like weight gain, so the less of these negative substances produced by the body, the better – especially when contagious viruses are spreading amongst the general population.

 

4. Excellent Exercise—

Great for reducing stress and promoting good sleep, exercise also helps keep us strong by improving cardiovascular health, releasing positive mood endorphins and controlling weight.

Exercise strengthens the immune system by increasing circulation, which allows immune system cells to move through the entire body to perform more efficiently.

 

5. Protective Probiotics—

Our intestines contain bad and good bacteria that can hinder or promote certain biological processes. If you’ve ever taken antibiotics, you’ve eliminated all of the bacteria—both good and bad—making it extremely important to replace the good bacteria (called probiotics).

Probiotics are the helpful intestinal flora generally delivered in yogurt, kefir, fermented food or supplement form that assist in bodily functions like digestion, calcium absorption and brain function.

Probiotics have also been shown to reduce allergies and enhance the immune system, so replenishing the good bacteria in your digestive tract can be a powerful way to keep the illnesses away.

 

6. Fighting Foods—

It’s important to eat a nutritious diet all year long, as this has been proven to help us stay healthy, but some foods are believed to be immune system-boosters as well.

Garlic, for example, is known for having natural antimicrobial properties that fight infection, with studies showing those who frequently include garlic in their diets catch fewer contagious illnesses.

Omega-3 fatty acids are known for reducing inflammation, fighting infection and boosting immune function. Fish, walnuts and flaxseed are a few common foods high in Omega-3s, but supplements are also available.

Antioxidant-rich foods and beverages like berries, dark chocolate and green tea are well known for creating a powerful immune system, so be sure to ingest extra antioxidants daily during peak flu season.

 

A weakened immune system can lead to more illnesses, allergies and sicknesses, making it important to keep it in tip-top shape no matter what the season. Use the helpful tips above to boost your immune system so you can stay healthy all year long and avoid catching viruses like the flu.

Why Water is Wonderful: The Beautiful Benefits of Hydration

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Fitness experts often talk about recovery drinks and the best beverages to help our bodies perform to the max. We discuss the potential healing properties our sugary sports drinks have to offer, and ponder which one is best. To electrolyte or not to electrolyte? That is the question.

But in a world full of protein shakes, coconut water, vitamin-infused rainbow-colored liquids and other thirst-quenching choices, we often neglect to include enough of the best form of hydration nature has to offer: good old-fashioned water.

You remember water, right? That liquid that makes up 50-60% of our bodies? Yes, we know we’re supposed to be drinking a minimum of 8 glasses per day, but many of us still substitute caffeinated beverages, forgetting they have a diuretic effect, or choose liquids loaded with sugar we don’t need.

To remember why it’s important to choose the clear, chemical-free stuff for the majority of our daily drinking, below is a list of the health benefits proper hydration with water has to offer:

 

1. Delightful Detoxification—

Consider skipping the latest juice cleanse, and instead make it a point to drink extra water every day if you’d like to detoxify your system. Call it a water cleanse, if you’d like.

Even juice and other natural foods must be run through the kidneys, and in order for the kidneys to be efficient body-cleansing machines, they need plenty of water to remove waste, toxins, excess nutrients, sodium and electrolytes. And the cleaner your system is, the fresher you’ll feel.

 

2. Better Joint and Bone Function—

Staying hydrated lessens the shock on bones and joints by lubricating and protecting them from unnecessary shock.

When you drink enough water, it can actually cushion your spinal cord, brain and eyes from damage during jarring or rough exercise, so don’t forget to put on your “water helmet” for safety before you start any activity. (Source: University of Nebraska.)

 

3. Muscle Maintenance—

According to the European Hydration Institute, approximately 70-75% of our muscles are made up of water, and if we want them to perform well, we need to give them lots of it.

Many of us remember the protein known for building muscle mass, but forget the most important part of all: the water that keeps muscles working smoothly.

Electrolyte-filled drinks are fine and do hydrate the body, but contain sugar, chemicals and food dyes that tax the kidneys. So unless you’re working out for extremely long periods of time, water is the best choice.

 

4. Improved Digestion—

Talk to any gastroenterologist and she or he will tell you that the number one cause of poor digestion and/or constipation is dehydration.

If you’re not digesting your food well by allowing water to break down the nutrients for absorption into the bloodstream, your body can’t process what it needs to stay healthy.

And if you’re constipated, you’re holding onto toxins for longer than the body would like, essentially poisoning your system.

Extra water will help move everything through the intestines as intended, making you feel better and look less bloated.

 

5. Body Temperature Regulation—

Your body has a set temperature it will try to maintain at all times, but it can’t do this without enough water.

When we get too hot during warm weather or a workout, the body maintains homeostasis (i.e. regulation) by making us sweat. The sweat then cools our skin by evaporating, lowering core temperature back to desired levels.

So what happens when we don’t have enough extra water inside to produce sweat? We overheat, of course, which can range from uncomfortable to downright dangerous. So drink up to cool down if you’re going to get hot!

 

6. Water Makes You Smarter—

As with every other organ in the body, the brain requires enough water to function well. Consistently hydrated water drinkers are more alert because their brain cells are receiving the oxygen they need, thanks to the other bodily systems running at their full potential.

Without adequate water, we can experience brain fog, memory problems and processing impairment, making it important for everyone, exercising or not, to remember to drink water all day long.

 

7. A Super Strong System—

Water is mandatory for proper cardiac function, and dehydration can lower blood pressure to dangerous levels. Because the circulatory system delivers oxygen to the entire body, it is extremely important for heart health to drink enough water to stay hydrated.

Water also lubricates the lymphatic parts of the circulatory system, allowing the body to better fight off illness and contagious viruses, making the immune system of water drinkers stronger than the dehydrated weaklings among us.

In addition to all of the above health benefits, water can help us maintain or even lose weight in a more efficient manner, by moving broken down fat out of the body faster, and keeping all of the metabolism-regulating bodily functions running at top speed.

 

If you’ve fallen into the trap of drinking sports drinks, soda or other beverages that contain unneeded extra calories or additives, try adding more water to your diet to gradually eliminate the liquids. Your body will thank you by feeling, looking and performing better than ever.