As children we could not wait to be adults, now that we are adults we realize how much we took for granted as children, like nap time. Many of us working the nine to five would give a right arm to have a mandatory nap time, right? But we don’t get that, so we opt for our more mature alternative… caffeine. By Friday I am 3 caffeinated drinks deep. My morning coffee, afternoon tea, and if there are Friday night plans, there is a Starbucks stop on the way home from work. I know people who drink coffee literally all day long. I don’t understand how they don’t have the jitters, crashes, ulcers, and kidney pain. Caffeine has some great perks as well, but it’s good to balance your intake with a variety of caffeinated products. The Mayo Clinic suggests that a healthy amount of caffeine for an adult is no more than 400mg daily, which averages to about 4 cups of coffee. Besides the antioxidant and anti-aging benefits in coffee, research shows that caffeine can help prevent Alzheimers, Parkinson’s disease, and some cancers such an mouth, throat, and skin just to name a few. It also decreases the risk of two types of diabetes, can reduce risk of stroke by 22%, and improves heart health. So what’s not to love about caffeine? Very few things in comparison, I think. Below you can read about and shop some of my favorite caffeinated products I rely on to get me through the day! Remember the one rule of thumb is to never have caffeine after 5 pm, or 6 hours before you plan to hit the hay.
It’s so easy to get caught up in our daily routine. For us working folks, we wake, we go to work, we come home from work, dinner, shower, bed. In between it’s easy to make a habit of grabbing something like a cereal bar to eat because that’s what is easy and filling for the moment when we don’t have much time to think about it. After some time our bodies start seriously lacking essential nutrients that it needs to function properly and be healthy. I’ve spent weeks researching (and testing) ways that I can improve my overall health via my favorite way- food and beverage consumption, and I have decided to share my favorites with you. Below you will will read about DELICIOUS daily treats that are beneficial to your health. Some requiring little to no effort.
There are a couple of ways to drink lemon water. All are super beneficial and I promise, after doing this daily for a couple of weeks, you will begin to tell a difference in multiple things. Starting your day with drinking warm lemon water to flush your digestive system and hydrate your body. After that eight hours of sleep (hopefully), our bodies start off dehydrated, so it’s so important to consume lemon water in first thing, and especially before your coffee. As we all know, caffeine dehydrates us even more. After that, keep it going throughout the day. A way to make it super simple is to keep a stainless steel tumbler on you all day and keep you lemon water in it. Juice 1/2 a lemon per tumbler of water & drink at least two of these a day. By day’s end you should consume the juice of one lemon. It’s important to use a glass or steel tumbler because the acidity of the lemon will eat away at plastic, putting it into your water. If you are not yet convinced to make this a part of your daily routine, here is a list of benefits that may do the trick .
- Boots immune system because it’s loaded with vitamin C and many other vitamins and nutrients.
- Relieves canker sores and swollen gum pain
- Balances PH (alkalizes your body, and no disease can survive in an alkaline environment)
- Weight loss & eliminates bloating
- Clears skin by removing toxins that cause acne
- Relieves sore throat
- Improves Liver Health By Detoxing The Body
- Prevents Kidney Stones
Use this citrus juicer and tumbler to get your new daily habit going:
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We always hear that “water is good for you”, but what does it actually do for us? And can the way you consume water actually do more harm than good? There are many reasons, outlined below, showing the importance of getting in adequate water daily, and we will look at some of the symptoms of dehydration, tips on keeping water consumption simple, as well as some “don’ts” in terms of drinking water.
Especially with the hotter months approaching, it is all the more important to make sure you are getting the 8 to 10 minimum cups of water recommended daily. It is important to also note a lot of times when it seems that your body is signaling to you that it is hungry, it can actually be signs of thirst!
Did you know? Water is considered to be one of the seven essential nutrients our body needs to survive. It is recommended that we drink eight to ten glasses of pure water a day. What are some of the signs of dehydration? Many people who suffer from constant headaches, joint pain, skin issues, weight gain, constipation, hunger pains, over-eating, weakness, low energy levels, dizziness, and indigestion could actually just be dehydrated These are just some of the many potential symptoms of an inadequate water intake, and it is extremely important to remain hydrated and pay attention to the above mentioned symptoms as a guide. Water is the liquid that nutrients need in order to travel throughout the body, and the way we eliminate toxins. Many nutrients (notably the water soluble vitamins such as C and the B-vitamins) and hormones require water in order to be properly distributed throughout the body as well, and a lack of water intake could also keep blood pressure high and contribute to kidney stones as well. In addition, as a result of it being needed in proper digestion and elimination, as well as our livers needing it in order to metabolize fat, dehydration can also lead to weight gain.
See also: How to Reduce Gas and Bloating
How can you tell if you are dehydrated? It is actually quite simple to know if you are not drinking enough water. There are two quick ways to see, and the first is that if you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Another way to know is the color of your urine. It should remain a light yellow shade, rather than a darker color. The only exception to the second rule could be when you first wake up in the morning, as you have technically been fasting and not been taking in any water for hours. So if your urine is a darker shade of yellow during this time, this is not an automatic sign of dehydration. However, beginning your day with some water is still a good idea upon waking up! Another exception would be if you take B-vitamin supplements, since they can change the color of your urine to a darker yellow!
Are there other factors that cause dehydration? On top of not drinking enough water, there are also many other ways to add on the initial dehydration. There are dehydrants such as caffeiene, alcohol, nicotine, and salt. If you use or consume any or all of these often, you need to incorporate more water into your lifestyle. If you drink two cups of coffee a day, and have a beer at the end of the day, you need to make up for the additional water you are losing as a result of these dehydrants. Another factor that comes into play is if you are physically active and sweating, again, your need for water is automatically increased, as well as during the hotter months of the year. If you go for a run on a sunny day in July, you again need to make sure you are making up for the loss of water this way. Also keep in mind caffeinated teas do not count as water intake since they are actually dehydrates and not a pure form of water.
What drinking habits should be avoided? As is the case with almost everything, there are correct and incorrect ways to consume water. For many people who are not accustomed to drinking water at all, but want to correct this mistake, they may decide on chugging the eight to ten glasses at a time, or still drinking a large portion in one sitting at the end of the day to get the recommended amount in. Chugging large amounts in one sitting is a shock to your body and is never a good idea. You want to incorporate water throughout your day and here is the simplest way to make it a habit. Aim to keep a canister or bottle filled to its amount near you and measure how many cups of water it can hold. For example, if it can hold four cups, you know that you have to drink at least two of those throughout the day. Try to consistently sip throughout the day and soon it will become second-nature and you will not have to remind yourself! Drinking a lot of water with meals is also not a good idea as it actually dilutes the body’s secretion of stomach acid and can cause indigestion. It is better to drink it before and after eating, but allowing some time to pass after you eat so it does not disrupt your digestive process. Drinking it first thing in the morning before eating helps your body ease into the day.
Infused water for the summer: While aiming to get used to drinking water on its own is ideal, there are also some easy and delicious ways to make water consumption even more convenient. You can fill up your large bottle with a few of your favourite berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, or a mix) and add fresh cool water on top. You can drink this berry-infused water througout the day which is a great option in the summer! You can also simply twist some mint and cucumbers into your water for another refreshing alternative, or find your own preference. Just remember, if it contains caffeine it no longer counts!
Now that you know the importance, signs of deficiency and ways to consume it, make sure to get your 8-10 glasses of water a day and see the benefits of being truly hydrated!
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Model Liza Golden Bhojwani decided to share her body conscious story with the world, and the ripples of positivity and insight that will result from her story are likely to help a lot of people. In the posts on Instagram, Liza elaborated on more than just her modelling career and her weight maintenance, but how being healthy feels for her now.
It was a revealing and sensitive set of posts that informed people of her personal experiences without throwing a single person under the bus. She did, however, express love and gratitude for her husband who helped her to love the healthier version of herself. Her timeline was clean and clear, covering the break from her incredibly restrictive diet and the results over the following fashion week runway shows.
The whole recounting of the experience did not once lose its personal accounting or lose focus and Liza Golden Bhojwani was very clear on how her body consciousness has changed and how she feels that her life has improved. We learned how the peak of her career had her so meticulously maintaining her weight with such unrealistic goals that she was only ingesting 500 calories a day – rigidly.
Unable to maintain a diet that barely kept her body fuelled she lost consciousness while making herself a meal, recounting the experience to us and telling us all exactly how that felt. The decision to “call it quits with the diet and workout regimen I was put on and… do it on my own” Liza recounts similarly to an awakening.
The intimate view of how the weight gain was perceived gradually began to affect her mentally. She bravely explained how the restrictions she had to place on herself in order to maintain a successful high fashion career made her feel more disconnected from the fashion and modelling world she’d loved so much previously.
She went from feeling incredible and experiencing the ‘serious adrenaline rush’ that high fashion modelling gave her to saying: “I had seriously just given up on my short lived high fashion career, because I just simply could not hack it.” This was back in 2012.
By 2014, modelling began to glitter and call to her again and Liza began watching what she ate again – but in a much more responsible way. Liza said: “I wanted in again, but in a much healthier way,” she recalled. “And I did just that, I worked my a** off day in and day out in the gym. I was strict about my diet, but I wasn’t fully starving myself like I had two years ago, I was eating more but I still kept a diary of exactly what I ate everyday and I would tally up the calories at the end of the day.”
This method worked out much better for her; she was fit and healthy but not where many of the brands wanted her to be. By 2016 she (and her dogs) had relocated to India, giving up New York and traditional modelling standards deciding to model what she wants, how she wants, with support and love in her corner.
Liza Golden Bhojwani’s final decision is one that is not only respectable, but also inspiring. She said: “I do it solely for myself, not for my job anymore. I eat what I want and I feel no guilt. And for me that’s a good feeling. Maybe I wasn’t made to be on the covers of magazines and shooting the biggest and best brands, but I was made for a reason. I do deserve to be happy and feel fulfilled. We all do.” She’s right!
Photos courtesy of @lizagoldenreal
Coffee is really a phenomenom around the world. There are so many different ways to prepare it, and there can be so many different ingredients that different cultures or areas incorporate into it. In this way it really does seem like coffee can be for everyone.
Coffee is the drink prepared from roasted coffee beans, and has a high caffeine content. Some people may drink it out of habit, some because they enjoy the taste, and others for the stimulating effects the caffeine gives them. It can be made with a jazzve, in a percolator, in a coffee maker or espresso machine. Coffee can be drunk hot or cold, and also incorporated into other beverages, whether they be alcohol based or not. It can also be included in many desserts such as tiramisu, and even in some foods.
Some prefer it black and plain, while others fill it up with both sugar and milk (or cream), and you can of course incorporate different flavours such as hazelnut, vanilla, almond, caramel or different spices like cardamom. There are coffee shops around the world that specialize in coffee, making sure to offer a wide variety of both beans and flavours, in order to suit everyone’s preferences. You can also buy it for the home, and you can buy the beans themselves to grind and keep as fresh as possible, or the grinded powder in coarse or fine forms.
Some people go for a cup first thing in the morning as a “wake up” strategy, while others drink it consistently throughout the day or after meals. Many people talk about how after a certain time it is “off limits” due to its stimulating effects that can keep you awake at night. Many people talk about coffee withdrawal symptoms, or joke about how they cannot function until they have had their first morning cup. Regular coffee drinking reports headaches, fatigue, grumpiness, drowsiness, irritability and more when they cannot (or choose not to) have their regular amount of coffee.
What effect does coffee actually have on the body? As it is a central nervous system stimulant, while it can, in the short term, keep you awake, alert, and feeling more energetic, it increases and sustains high cortisol levels – a stress hormone, it can lead to under active adrenals, a depletion of the B vitamins and vitamin C.
Caffeine, along with alcohol and nicotine, also causes the stomach to empty prematurely, which is why many people opt for a cup of coffee, a cigarette, or even some alcohol after a meal – in a way to “lighten their load”. However, that premature emptying means the food being emptied did not have enough time to be properly digested.
Caffeine also acts as both a diuretic and also has a laxative effect, which means that even if you are drinking eight to ten glasses of water daily, you could still, depending on your coffee intake, be in a state of dehydration. Bowel movements may also be seen regular, but as coffee can have a laxative effect, it may be a false truth and can be masking an inadequate intake of fibre.
For many people who consume coffee regularly, it can also cause a rapid heart beat, high blood pressure, restlessness, nausea, as well as insomnia. As it causes high levels of cortisol, it keeps our adrenal glands active, which deal with our responses to stress, and can in turn cause underactive adrenals, which would actually result from overactive adrenals as they have become exhausted. If you are prone to anxiety, nervousness, and any sort of sleep disorders, caffeine can exacerbate the already existing issues. It is a similar case for people who experience high blood pressure.
For many people who experience the above mentioned side effects and want to either stop drinking coffee all together or at the very least reduce the amount they do consume, there are usually two ways suggested.
The first is often stopping the habit “cold turkey”. This means waking up the next morning with the decision made to stop drinking coffee and understanding that even when you crave it, or want the short-term appealing benefits, you do your best to refrain.
The second option is much more realistic and a little more sympathetic! This option is gradually decreasing your intake of coffee, and replacing it with better stimulants and healthier options, to the point where you gradually “need” coffee itself less and less.
What this means is that you have still made the decision to consume no coffee (eventually) and can even give yourself a timeline to achieve this goal. For the first week, if you are prone to drinking multiple cups of coffee a day, you reduce the actual times you drink it, and always replace it with another beverage. This can be tea, berry or lemon-infused water, or any other option that has no or little (compared to coffee) caffeine. After the first week of successfully reducing the times you drink coffee throughout the day, you can then focus on reducing the amount you drink for the following week, again replacing it with different beverages.
During this time, it is also important to understand what “type” of coffee drinker you are. Do you drink it out of habit? Do you like it because of the stimulating effects? Do you like it after your meals? Or is it a mostly social drink you meet friends for?
Understanding why you drink coffee is key to eliminating it from your diet. If you prefer to drink it after meals, consider making your meals lighter to avoid the feeling of being too full and therefore “craving” to quicken up your digestion process. If it is out of habit, aim to replace it with a healthier alternative to drink throughout the day. If you drink it mostly in social settings – with colleagues or friends, try to suggest different places to meet rather than cafes, where you would be more tempted. If it is for the stimulating effect, incorporate herbal alternatives that can offer similar effects, but which are better in the long-term as well as for your health.
By understanding why you drink coffee, and making the goal to reduce it in order to lessen the side-effects that can come with drinking it or drinking too much, you can still feel awake, alert, energized, and stimulated, coffee-free!
Photos couretsy of @songofstyle, Pinterest
There are many reasons why having gas or being bloated can be a big inconvenience. Gas of course can interfere with many professional and social atmospheres, and also put us in potentially very embarrassing situations. Bloating can additionally make us feel heavy, weighed down, and can make our clothes feel very tight and snug, sometimes even painfully so. Being bloated can of course even alter your mood, making you feel sluggish and inactive, as well as unattractive.
However, while we may look upon both bloating and gas as minor inconveniences, and usually treat them as jokes, for many people who experience both consistently, it is of course part of a larger health problem and both are common symptoms of indigestion itself. In that sense, they need to be looked at more critically and the root causes should be properly examined in order to avoid both from occurring, as well as to fix the underlying issue itself.
As mentioned above, having the occasional gas or bloating can be short term ‘inconveniences’ for many people, and both are usually over within a day or so. There are some remedies when they do occur sporadically mentioned below. However, when experiencing both in the long term, it is important to understand what could be causing the symptoms, and to how to prevent them from occurring by understanding and examining the root cause(s).
What are some of the main causes of both gas and bloating?
Carbonated beverages: This one is probably the most obvious cause of gas or bloating and is of course a much more immediate effect of consumption rather than a consistent and underlying indigestion issue. However it can still cause both bloating and gas, so it should be considered and ruled out before going forward. Carbonated drinks, whether it is coke, sprite, fanta, etc., can cause immediate bloating that can last hours. Try to avoid carbonated beverages as most contain far too much sugar and caffeine anyways, and instead opt to flavour your water with natural ingredients like berries, or lemon and mint and skip the gas and bloating!
Too much sodium: While sodium belongs to a group of minerals classified as electrolytes, diets that are too high in table salt can have very serious consequences, such as high blood pressure. Gas or bloating can often be another side effect of diets too high in sodium, and it is best to use high quality salts (such as sea salts) whenever possible, and to limit the intake in general. Instead, try using less salt and a wider variety of spices instead to flavour your meals and keep them interesting. Also it is important to keep our sodium levels in check by consuming enough potassium, which regulates sodium in our bodies, so limiting salt and increasing potassium is also very helpful.
Drinking too much water or liquids with meals: While the consumption of water is vital to our well being and overall health, there are actually times when it can have a less than desirable effect on us. Drinking water while we eat is one of the times it can lead to indigestion, or more specifically, gas and bloating. When we eat meals, our stomachs secrete hydrochloric acid to digest and break down the foods. When we drink too much water or any liquids while we eat, it can dilute this stomach acid, interfering with its ‘job’ and causing indigestion. For that reason, it is best to consume water or liquids before and after eating, rather than during. A few sips with a meal can be fine, of course, but avoiding a large intake is ideal in order to avoid any potential digestive difficulties.
Eating too quickly or not chewing thoroughly enough: People tend to eat food far too quickly, and one unfortunate consequence of that is indigestion as the food particles leave the mouth too large. The undigested food can usually even be seen in the stool itself! Digestion begins in the mouth, and for that reason it is important to actually take your time when eating, and to chew your food thoroughly to make sure it is in a state to go on to the next phase of digestion, as well as be ready for the nutrients to be properly absorbed. When eating food, avoid watching TV or being on your computer (whether for work or for social), as you can be more tempted to eat without paying attention to how you are doing it or how fast you are going, and it is difficult to break old habits when distracted. Instead, try to focus solely on the food, and eat it thoughtfully. A good way to test this strategy is by eating sesame seeds. They are so small that for many people who eat too quickly or do not chew food thoroughly enough, they can actually be swallowed whole! It is a shame as they are very nutritious and contain a high amount of calcium, but you can use them as a test. Simply sprinkle some on your meal, and next time you use the bathroom, you can see if they are present in their entirety in your stool. If so, hopefully it will serve as a good reminder to chew slowly and thoroughly!
Improper food combining: For many people, gas and bloating can be symptoms of improper food combining. Proteins take much longer to digest compared to carbohydrates. So, for example, when eating a steak, feeling very full, and then eating a peach as something sweet right after, the peach is ‘waiting for its turn’ in terms of digestion, and can actually begin fermenting, causing both gas and bloating, as well as heartburn or acid reflux. This is the general idea and reasoning behind eating salads before a main course. When you eat the salad first or as an appetizer, you are eating the food that is easier to digest and that moves much quicker, as well as contains enzymes (assuming the salad is one packed with raw vegetables and fruits) that aid in the digestion, before the heavier, and usually protein-heavy, meal. Or if you would like to eat something easier to digest, such as a fruit, after a large meal, aim to space it out so the digestion process of the meal is already on its way and it will not interfere.
Low stomach acid levels: Another reason why gas, bloating, and general indigestion could occur, could be related to low hydrochloric acid levels. Every time we eat something, our body releases this stomach acid in order to break down the food and continue in its digestion. Too much alcohol, overeating consistently, as well as a diet very high in protein are just some of the possible causes of low stomach acid levels. When this is the case, every time a person eats food, the low stomach acid levels secreted are not enough to properly break down the food, and can of course cause indigestion.
Eating too late at night: Eating late at night can be the cause of feeling tired in the mornings, having interrupted sleep, headaches, as well as gas and bloating. When you eat large meals late into the night, it is much more difficult for you body to properly digest it, and you are essentially keeping your liver on ‘overtime’ and the food may not be digested optimally, causing feelings of gas and waking up bloated first thing when you wake up.
Uncooked beans: This is a more specific cause, but still one that is a common reason when people experience gas or bloating. Many people cook beans without actually allowing them to be fully cooked, and this can often give beans (or legumes) a reputation of causing gas notably, as well as being hard to digest. However, it can be the cooking itself that is the problem, rather than the beans. This is why it is best to rinse and then soak your beans over night, which softens them significantly and also reduces the cooking time, and then cook them on medium heat with a lid on until they are soft enough to break apart in your mouth without much effort. Lentils do not require such a long soaking process, but it is still important to make sure they are thoroughly cooked as well. If you are also not accustomed to eating beans, it is best to introduce them well-cooked and slowly into your diet, in order to allow your body time to adjust to the food!
Constipation: Constipation can affect people in many different ways. For some it’s a once in a while problem, and for others it can be a chronic issue that must be resolved by examining the root causes. Either way, constipation causes both gas and bloating, and only once it is resolved will both begin to disappear. While there are many potential causes for constipation, making sure you are getting enough fibre in your diet is key in terms of a preventative approach.
For times gas and bloating do unfortunately occur, there are as well some other ways to deal with the problem immediately, while still aiming to incorporate the long term preventative solutions mentioned above.
Steeped ginger tea: On top of its various health benefits, ginger is often known as one of the best ways to reduce nausea or motion sickness. Ginger root is also very effective in eliminating or relieving various forms of gastro-intestinal issues. Ginger is often used as a way to actually eliminate intestinal gas as well as inflammation. While you can incorporate it into many meals, a steeped ginger tea is quick way to alleviate some of the symptoms related to indigestion. Simply remove the peel of a piece of ginger root with a spoon, slice the root into thin pieces or grate it, add it to a pot with hot water with the lid on over low or medium heat, and steep it for 10 to 15 minutes and drink as warm as possible. During the summer you can also make this in a larger pot with more ginger and water, and once it cools down, keep it in glass bottles in the fridge to have on hand.
Diluted apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is a type of vinegar that is made from apples and tends to have a slightly pale or somewhat amber color to it. The unpasteurized version also includes a type of foggy strand-like substance at the bottom (usually can be seen through a bottle) that are strands of the mother bacteria used to make it in the first place. Apple cider vinegar is most often used as an ingredient in salad dressings, but is also known and used to reduce bloating as well as gas. Apple cider vinegar, like lemon juice, also mimics hydrochloric acid, so can help in the digestion of different foods as well. It is important to make sure to always dilute apple cider vinegar when using it directly, as it is strong and can irritate the esophagus and damage tooth enamel. Simply dilute a teaspoon in about one or two cups of water and sip on it throughout the day to reduce bloating and gas. While apple cider vinegar does have a strong taste that may not seem pleasant for many, diluting makes it much lighter, and you can simply add more water to keep the taste neutral and pleasant. You can also drink a smaller amount before meals to promote digestion, which of course can then reduce any potential bloating or gas that would have been caused by indigestion.
Now that we have looked at just some of the reasons that gas and bloating can occur, by taking the preventative measures mentioned above and limiting carbonated beverages and liquids during meals, sodium intake, avoiding eating too quickly as well as too late, aiming to incorporate proper food combining within all of our meals, cooking beans properly and incorporating high amounts of fibre in our diets, we can aim to eliminate these unpleasant side-effects of improper digestion, and incorporate some natural remedies when they do occur, and keep both side-effects limited!
Photo courtesy of Pop Sugar
Protein. Most associate it with large slabs of red meat, or at the very least, dishes that can only come from animals. While many people do not know much about protein itself, we generally know the general truth that it is important to our well-being. However, bring up protein and you are almost guaranteed to get into a debate. There exists a plethora of examples of heated online arguments on the “protein debate”, whether they are between vegetarians and meat-eaters, or vegans and vegetarians, and so on. The arguments can vary on the actual importance of protein, the different types, as well as on the amounts we actually need. In order to better understand the reason behind the debates, let us first understand the different types of protein, the amounts needed, as well as why it is so important.
First, let us understand what protein is. Loosely defined, it is one of the seven essential nutrients our body needs. These nutrients are categorized into two categories: macronutrients and micronutrients. The latter category is reserved for vitamins, with protein falling into the former category, along with carbohydrates and lipids. Sounds simple enough – seemingly no cause for debate just yet! Let us elaborate on to why protein is considered to be an essential macronutrient, and look at some of the many roles protein has in our bodies.
Generally, protein has a role in the regulation as well as maintenance of the many functions of our body, including blood clotting, cell repair, vision, fluid balance, and the production of hemoglobin, hormones, antibodies, tissues, and enzymes. Protein is the primary component of our hair, muscles, nails, eyes and internal organs and acts as a carrier molecule for vitamins such as vitamin A and minerals such as iron in order for them to be utilized by our bodies. These are just some of the many functions protein has in our bodies, and after understanding these, we can move on to see what the many deficiency signs of this macronutrient look like.
When a diet is deficient in protein for a prolonged period of time, some of the symptoms can include swelling in the hands and feet, feelings of nausea and dizziness, anemic-type conditions, low immunity in the sense of constantly catching colds or flus, premature aging (wrinkling, dull and loose hair that falls out), low hormone levels, low vitamin A levels, muscular incoordination, a prolonged sense of weakness as well as fatigue, cataracts, slow recovery from external wounds, as well as mind, mood, and memory problems. A protein deficiency, as pointed out above, can be potentially very serious and dangerous, and the multitude of symptoms show just how important it is to be getting enough protein in our daily diets.
However, protein can still be further categorized based on what it is made up of. Protein itself is made up of amino acids, which are linked together by peptide bonds and contain carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and sometimes sulfur. When we understand what types of amino acids there are, we can better understand why there are different types of protein available and why they differ from each other in a nutritional sense. Amino acids fall into three basic categories. The first one is called essential amino acids. The second is conditionally essential amino acids, and the third is non-essential amino acids.
Essential amino acids have the “essential” aspect to them because our bodies cannot produce them on their own, and they are therefore needed through our diet. The second category, conditionally essential, means that our bodies are not able to produce these amino acids until a certain age in our lives, and after that age, they are no longer required from our diet, and are therefore not essential anymore. The last category is non-essential, and these include all of the amino acids that our bodies are capable of producing on their own, and are therefore not necessary through diet.
Now that we know the three categories of the building blocks of protein better, we can begin to understand more about why this macronutrient can be a cause for so much controversy and misunderstanding. Based on what amino acids there are available in a given source of protein, that source is then either considered a “complete” protein, or an “incomplete” protein. A complete protein is when a given food has all the essential amino acids within it, which again, are the ones our body cannot produce on its own. An incomplete protein, on the other hand, is a type of protein source that does not include all of the essential amino acids our body needs in it.
Generally speaking, animal-based sources of protein, such as animal flesh, eggs, and milk, are complete proteins. This does not hold true for every single option, but generally. Plant-based sources, on the other hand, such as legumes, vegetables, grains are considered to be incomplete proteins. Again, this is not the case for every single option, but generally-speaking it does hold true.
This means animal-based sources tend to have all of the required amino acids within them, whereas vegetarian or vegan sources do not. This is where the popular notion that “vegetarians/vegans cannot get enough protein in their diet” arises from, and at surface value, it does seem like an accurate statement if this is everything we know and understand about protein. Generally speaking, 0.75g/1kg of an average body weight is ideal, but this can differ for children, athletes, pregnant women, those experiencing injuries, and so on.
However, what we must understand is that while animal-based sources generally are available as “complete”, we can still mix and match plant-based proteins with each other in order to turn two or more “incomplete” sources into a final and desirable “complete” source. Let us use an example to better understand this idea. The essential amino acids are as follows: isoleucine, leucine, methionine, phenylalanine, theonine, tryptophan, and valine. Legumes, for example, a plant-based “incomplete” option for protein, are high in the essential amino acid lysine (among others), but are low in tryptophan (again, among others). Grains, on the other hand, are low in lysine, but high in tryptophan. So while separately these two options are incomplete proteins, together they become a different story. All this means in the end that when you eat a type of legume with a type of grain, they are balancing each other out in this sense and together becoming a “complete” protein. The more you combine vegetarian or vegan sources of protein with each other, the more likely you are consuming protein in its ideal form – complete. This is called protein complementarity, and it is how vegans, vegetarians, as well as those who simply do not consume a lot of animal-based protein, still are able to get the recommended amounts.
Let’s look at an example of what the mixing and matching would look like for a lunch or dinner meal:
Incomplete Protein #1 (Kidney beans) + Incomplete Protein #2 (Buckwheat) = Complete Protein (Kidney beans and buckwheat)!
Of course in order to make sure you are getting the complete proteins in the necessary amounts, you should always aim to mix and match at every meal to ensure no deficiencies, and once you get the hang of it, it will come naturally and you won’t even think twice about it. Eating a salad? Add some nuts or seeds to it. Eating a lentil stir-fry? Mix in some vegetables or grains into it! It will keep your meals not only more protein-packed but also more layered and interesting.
So for people who claim vegetarians, vegans or those who consume small amounts of meat cannot get adequate sources of protein, that in itself is not true. However, if you are thinking about lessening your meat intake, or becoming a vegetarian or vegan, it is important to pay special attention to your complete protein intake to ensure you are going about it in a way that will not result in any deficiencies.
However, just as it is extremely important to ensure you are getting adequate amounts of protein on a daily basis, like most vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients, there are not only signs of deficiency, but also signs if excess – as in toxicity. When people often proclaim the importance of protein, unfortunately some overdo it, whether it be by food, or by relying on commercial protein powders or bars. Just as the deficiency is an important issue, so is toxicity. If a person has an excess of protein, it can cause an increased risk of kidney problems, as well as an increased risk of liver problems. It can also elevate our blood cholesterol levels and bacterial growth in our intestines. The acidity of protein excess can lead to bone calcium loss, which, in severe cases, can lead to osteoporosis and/or dental diseases.
So whether you are a vegetarian, vegan, omnivore, raw foodist, or so on, the actual importance of protein in our bodies should never be underestimated. Second, the type of protein should always be considered, and if it is coming from plant-based sources, always make sure to mix and match different types in order to successfully complement your proteins to create complete proteins. Third, even though it is important in our bodies, it does not mean we have to overdo it, as this can actually have detrimental affects in the long run. By being more informed on the truth of protein, we can aim to not only consume it in appropriate amounts, but also in the forms most beneficial to our bodies!
Photo courtesy of Viva Luxury
You wake up to the sudden sound of your alarm. You feel groggy, sleepy and lazy as you make sure there hasn’t been any horrible mistake and confirm that it is actually, in fact, morning. After making sure, you hit ‘snooze’ and hope that the extra 10-15 minutes will actually be just enough sleep for you to be able to feel ready enough to wake up. In what seems like mere seconds, you are alarmingly brought to the realization you must get up now or you never will. That thought alone is what makes you rise out of the comfort and warmth of your bed.
You go straight to the kitchen to turn your coffee maker on. “Coffee will help. It always does”, you think. You complete all of your morning tasks like getting dressed, preparing your breakfast, washing your face, applying makeup, doing your hair, and brushing your teeth with such minimum commitment and in such a way that would make zombies proud.
While this can be the case for so many people in the world, have we ever wondered what we are doing to be so unprepared for the mornings? Even for those who are actually sleeping the recommended eight hours, they can still wake up feeling tired and sluggish.
There will always be things in life that we can not avoid – late nights, work assignments, Skype calls from different time-zones, etc. But since these tend to be only once in a while, there must be ways to improve our mornings by reflecting on habits we have the day before that are adversely affecting them. These can be related to anything from the food we consume, the times in which we eat, stubborn habits, electronics, workout schedules, and of course much more.
The goal is to always look at situations like this with long-term solutions, by identifying and addressing the root causes, rather than simply focusing on short-term solutions, such as drinking even more coffee throughout the day.
Replacing lifelong habits can be tough and will of course take some time. However, when you begin to see the improvements in the sense of feeling refreshed, energized and genuinely prepared in the mornings, you will then already have your motivation to keep your changes up, especially after seeing how productive mornings can, and actually should, be.
So what are some of the habits in terms of food and lifestyle that could affect how we feel the next day, and how can we begin to replace them?
1. What You Eat: What we eat is extremely important. This may seem like common sense, but when you actually take into account all of the food you eat throughout the day, you can be surprised at how much processed food you actually may be consuming.
For people who work in office environments, this can be a difficult one as you may have company lunches, co-workers may offer you delicious snacks, you may have had a particularly stressful day where you weren’t able to pack your own lunch and have to order out, or there may be a birthday almost every other day depending on how large your office is, and lunch may therefore consist of pizza and cake.
When consuming so much sugar and processed foods, our blood sugar levels are basically on a roller-coaster ride and fluctuate constantly, contributing to headaches, cravings, and feelings of fatigue. The better you eat throughout the day, the better you will feel not only in the present, but also the next day.
A tip you can try is to literally document a few days of your diet – writing every food or liquid you consume and seeing what your ratio is in terms of processed foods to whole foods. You may be surprised at the results, but this is key in combating morning-fatigue.
Based on the results, you can make sure to bring home-made lunches to work, with many snack options that are healthy as well as filling so you are not as easily tempted by office-treats!
2. When You Eat: The times that you eat are also extremely important. The activity peak for our livers is generally during the time of lunch, and yet most people have light lunches and eat heavy dinners. The goal should be to eat the heaviest, or protein-rich foods throughout the day, and during the late evenings or dinner hours, focusing on lighter meals like salads, soups, steamed vegetables, and so on.
The later you eat, the more work you are putting on your digestive system throughout the night – essentially keeping it working on overtime! This is a big factor in terms of waking up tired and sluggish.
The earlier you eat, the more refreshed you will feel when you wake up and your body will be thanking you. This can also reduce or eliminate bloating, gas, acid reflux, indigestion, and many other digestive difficulties.
3. What You Drink: Just as what we eat is important, so is what we drink. You may drink a juice, soda, or a caffeinated beverage without thinking much of it, but both can be packed with processed ingredients, most notably sugar. It is important to make sure that the liquid you consume most often is pure water, and that other beverages consist mostly of herbal teas.
Caffeinated beverages should also be avoided, especially in the later hours, as they will keep you awake and not rested enough to enjoy a deep sleep. A better alternative – especially during the evenings, is to opt for relaxing herbal teas, one example being chamomile tea, but you can enjoy your tea with any other calming herb, or herb mix that you prefer.
4. Using Gadgets: One of the most obvious lifestyle habits we should avoid doing is using laptops, smartphones, or any electronic device late into the night. They keep our brains stimulated and will interfere with our quest for a deep sleep as well as a rested feeling in the morning.
Keeping these devices away from your bed is also key in the sense you are less likely to be tempted to constantly check for updates. Even in the case that you use your smartphone as an alarm, set it and keep it away from your bed so you actually have to rise out of bed to turn it off, which makes you less likely to hit ‘snooze’ and try to fall back asleep.
Reading books before bed is one of the best ways to stay entertained, especially if you are not feeling particularly tired or sleepy, while not stimulating yourself enough to actually prevent yourself from falling asleep.
5. Feeling Stressed: We all have worries and fears, and they tend to creep on us when we are alone and/or when everything else is seemingly quiet. While we, of course, must learn to cope with, or face these problems in the long-term, stressing about them at 11pm is not only an unproductive short-sighted way of dealing with these issues, but will actually cause a more stressed out sleep, which means we will then wake up stressed.
You can instead try writing your worries down in a journal before sleeping as a way of reflection, and/or creating to-do lists. Both will provide you with a sense of ease and comfort that can actually promote a good night’s calm sleep.
Meditation and deep-breathing techniques are also other fantastic methods to calm worries down and ensure a sound sleep. There are many different ways to mediate and do breathing exercises, so just choose the ones that work best for you!
6. When You Work Out: While everyone has different schedules and will ideally choose to incorporate workouts to fit best with that, high-intensity exercise in the evenings can again stimulate us, making it more difficult to fall asleep at night. Instead, aim to have the more active workouts predominately in the mornings or afternoons, with calming exercises, such as long walks or yoga, in the evenings.
7. How Active You Are: Just as the times that you workout are important, so is the actual general everyday movement and exercise you do. The more you are stuck at a desk, or sitting in a subway or bus, the less likely you will feel tired enough to actually want or have the desire to fall asleep.
It is key to remain as active as possible throughout the day, and while it can be more difficult to do this during a working day, you could try walking some or all of the way to or from work, go for walks during a lunch break, or attend fitness classes. The more physically active we are, the more likely our bodies will feel they “deserve” rest.
8. Where You Spend Your Day: Your actual bed (not necessarily your entire bedroom) should be what your brain associates with sleep. However, many people work from their beds, eat in their beds, and log on to countless social media websites, again, while tucked into their beds. Training your brain to view being in your bed as the time you should be going to sleep is another key change we all need to make. Not only important for proper rest, this is also essential to maintaining good posture.
9. Nutrients: While there are many nutrients associated with lowering anxiety levels and keeping us calm, magnesium is known as the “anti-stress” mineral, and for good reason. Magnesium relaxes, can reduce or eliminate pain and tension, and aids in helping you have a good night’s sleep.
Deficiencies in this important mineral can arise as absorption can decrease when a diet is too high in fat, alcohol, caffeine and sugar. One of key deficiency symptoms of magnesium? Insomnia. It is used as a natural sleep-aid, and does not make you drowsy the way that most other sleeping aids tend to do.
It is also found in many sources—such as dark green vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes… and even cacao! However, the cacao should be dark or raw chocolate as alternatives will usually be processed – stripped of the magnesium, or filled with milk and sugar, which decrease the mineral’s actual absorption. Magnesium is also one of the few nutrients that essentially hold no toxicity symptoms.
You can make it a goal to consume it from fresh sources as listed above on a daily basis, or on the days you are feeling particularly stressed or anxious, you can take it as a supplement that can be packaged as a pill or a powder, which you can take an or hour or two before bed. Just make sure there are no added sugar-based ingredients!
10. How You Spend Your Mornings: Although we have focused predominately on what to do the day before in order to feel energized in the mornings, there are still ways to feel more awake when you actually wake up, again without the use of coffee! As soon as you need to wake up, make sure to wash your face. This can be seen as your commitment to yourself that you are actually going to start your day.
Next, do some light stretches to ease your body into the day, especially if you plan on having a morning workout. Another way to feel more awake in the morning is skin brushing, which is one of the important beauty tips for having great skin.
The basic idea is to awaken your entire body by massaging it with a dry brush, which can take anywhere between seven to 15 minutes, and in the process remove dead skin cells, promote circulation and stimulate your lymph nodes, with the added bonus that your skin will be softer and healthier! You can also enjoy some more stimulating herbal teas in the morning, such as ginseng or ginger tea, while keeping the calming ones reserved for the evening.
So instead of simply trying to block feelings of exhaustion in the mornings with cup after cup of coffee, why not opt for long-term solutions, from eating healthier to making necessary lifestyle changes, that not only have a plethora of health benefits in of themselves, but will also be key in providing you with deeper sleep and energetic mornings?
Photo courtesy of Kayture
Working out and getting your body moving is always a good idea for many reasons. It promotes circulation, removes toxins via sweat, builds muscle, strengthens endurance, and can of course aid in burning fat. There are different workouts and strategies depending on preferences as well as goals, but if the goal is to burn excess fat, what is the best strategy?
Working out in the mornings or on an empty stomach is one of the best ways to burn excess fat. The reason behind this is better explained when we understand how our body uses glucose as fuel and how we can then get to our fat stores. Glucose is our body’s preferred source of fuel for energy. Ideally the sources of glucose would come from complex carbohydrates such as legumes, vegetables, fruits, grains, and so on, rather than simple sugars like white flour or sodas. The main reason the former are more desirable is because they contain nutrients, as they have not been processed, as well as fibre, which helps keep our blood sugar levels in check and does not result in “sugar crashes” the way the latter would. We then use this energy source throughout the day and we even use it up when we are asleep!
However, when we take in more glucose than we actually need in terms of energy throughout the day, our body stores this excess amount into our livers, which is called glycogen. We keep it stored for “emergency” cases, so it is essentially our body’s way of being prepared and having a “back-up” option readily available to us. What this means is that when we are not getting enough glucose, the next thing our bodies will choose to burn for fuel is the glycogen stores from our livers we have saved up. Only after our glycogen stores have been used up does our body then begin to burn fat for fuel. This is when exercise becomes most effective if fat loss is the ultimate goal.
As mentioned, even when we are asleep, we are still in need of energy – even just as a result of having dreams throughout the night. When we then wake up in the morning, our glycogen stores are actually at their lowest amount compared to any other time throughout the day, and we are therefore closest to burning fat during this time, before eating anything new. This is why when we choose to focus on doing some physical activity in the mornings on an empty stomach, our bodies will burn more fat than any other time since it is the only viable energy source our bodies have readily available to them. Of course, when you work out intensively, you will eventually get to the fat stores as well, but mornings on an empty stomach is the optimal time for burning fat in the sense that there is no “interference”. Whether your preferred choice of exercise is going for a long walk, going for a run, biking, or doing yoga or pilates, if your goal is to burn fat rather than focus only on endurance, this is the best strategy. Once you wake up, it is best to always drink a few glasses of water, do some stretches in order to ease into the physical activity of your choice, and then get ready to shed some fat!
It is important to note that in terms of endurance, eating before working out is a good idea as it will provide you with more energy. It is also a better idea to eat something if you do feel too tired or light-headed working out on an empty stomach or in the case of having low blood pressure or hypoglycemia. If any of these are the cases, you can still eat a small healthy snack or light breakfast in order to have a productive workout session and avoid any possible issues. Some good options for quick snack ideas pre-workout could be a handful of nuts and/or seeds, some cut up carrots or apples, or some yogurt. These options will provide enough fuel for you to still have a successful workout, even in the morning!
Working out in the morning also gives you the benefit of getting it out of the way, speeding up your metabolism, providing consistent energy throughout the day, as well as promoting a better and deeper sleep at night. It is also often easier to find excuses to avoid working out in the late afternoons or in the evenings as plans can change or develop, and/or the work day can be particularly draining or stressful, making it much more tempting to opt for a relaxing evening in rather than trying to muster up energy to commit to a workout.
What you do after working exercising is also just as important as what you do before. No matter how much you may enjoy your workout, your cortisol levels rise when you are physically active – the amount of course depending on the intensity of the workout. When our cortisol levels rise, our bodies are in a mode of stress, which makes them hold on to fat. The best way to counter this is to make sure to eat something – ideally a complex carbohydrate, right after working out. The insulin released after eating these types of carbohydrates can actually balance cortisol levels in our bodies getting us out of the stress-mode. This means more relaxation throughout the day and our bodies not remaining in a “panic” and stubbornly holding onto fat.
After your morning fitness routine and stretches, you can opt to make a delicious green smoothie packed with nutrient-filled greens and fruits, or eat a banana with peanut butter, or have a healthy and filling home-made granola bar. All of these are delicious options that will steadily increase blood sugar levels therefore triggering the release of enough insulin in order to lower cortisol levels, leaving you stress-free, and still aiding in helping your body lose fat!
Photo courtesy of Peace Love Shea
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Working out is one of those things that we love to hate on or simple love without any additions to the emotion. We need to work out in order to keep in shape, this we know well. We also need to work out to ward off diseases apparently, to keep our organs working properly and to strengthen our body in general, ensuring we are always at our best, no matter what our weight. There are many myths connected with exercising as well though, things told by those gyms and those weight loss programs, the personal trainers and the “experts” in the field alike. They may mean well, but they just end up making us feel worse overall. There are so many elements to each and every person’s body that it is imperative that one understands him or herself best before following that well-meant advice to the tee. As such, there are those quite knowledgeable in the field, who offer some sage advice. It is rather important to understand the truth and lies about working out correctly, which we are discussing below!
1. You are a unique individual: Just because someone else with an incredible body and form tells you to do something thus, it does not mean that it is something meant for you as well. You as a 25-year-old have a very different shape, size, ability, point of no return and everything else than your 25-year-old best friend, let alone a stranger. It makes no difference. You need to work out in a way that it is right for you, that it helps your body get into the shape you want it to be. Everything about you is different than all the rest so do not give up when you realize that what works for one person does not also work for you. You will find your own step sooner or later.
2. Weight loss can also mean health loss: It may seem to be amazing that you are losing a whole lot of weight all at once, dropping 5 kilos a week, but you are actually drastically affecting your health as well, something you do not want to be doing. It is better to lose your weight slowly but steadily, allowing your body time to adjust to each pound less weighing you down. Should you go too fast, you will run into some major problems.
3. Weight loss is not necessarily fat loss: You may be losing weight as you go on one diet or another, but that may not be fat at all but merely water loss, leading to a dehydrated body more than a thinner, healthier one. The amount of muscle you have to body fat is most important here and losing on the muscle mass will only hurt your stamina, physical abilities and general functioning in life. Use measurements instead of a scale to make sure you are keeping in shape and are fit enough, while ensuring a proper body composition with a balanced scale of muscle, fat, water and overall density.
4. Stress can be causing the majority of your problems: An obsession over a healthy lifestyle can cause way too much stress and have the opposite effect as well. If you have missed an aerobics class or a training session, it matters not. Just enjoy the moment and reschedule, make up for it the next time around without allowing it to eat you up from the inside. You’re only human so you will need to take a deep breath and relax in order for your healthy lifestyle to work out properly.
You have been told many different myths throughout your life. It is time to have them seen as defunct, as outdated and incorrect, not taking any of the factors stated above into consideration. But which lies have been the worst?
• This program will transform your body! Yeah, okay. The truth is that health is a lifestyle and not a series of programs meant to transform your body. You cannot start a workout program for a few weeks or months, lose the weight and then expect it to stay off when you begin to eat those cheesecakes again. It can be a fantastic way to kick start a healthy lifestyle but it does not end there. There should be no countdown until it ends. It should become a part of who you are. But you must already know that, even if you are enrolled in a program or two or three…
• You do not need to sleep so much as you get older: In a way it is true. You no longer need 9 to 10 hours of sleep a night like a child would. However, you do need at least 7 hours of sleep, preferably 8, or at least resting the eyes and the brain so that you can function normally once again the next day. A lack of proper sleep will snowball soon enough and you will have a load of health problems to deal with. You will need that sleep in order to have a proper workout session.
• Your body will conform to whatever you decide to do with it: Once again, in a way it is true. But your body is smarter than you think and will respond to a lack of proper calories and nutrition by breaking itself down. If you want to be losing on energy or want a slower metabolism, along with increased appetite levels, you should keep to that irrational manner of controlling the body. You will certainly not be able to hold on to your health however. Working your body too hard and stressing it out will not be of any help.
• You can lose a lot of weight all at once: You can lose a lot of weight or you may not. You can feel healthy doing so or totally lose interest in everything. At the end of the day, you just need to slow down, a lot. You will not be losing too much weight at once if you are actually taking a healthy route to fitness, will plateau and even see yourself barely budging towards your goals. You do not even want to be seeing extremes as that can have an adverse effect overall. Don’t feel guilty either for any small “mistakes” made on your way. That is a sure way to ruin any bit of success gained over the last bit you have been working on something.
• The more you work out, the more fit you will be: Endurance is a very good thing and the more you work out the better you will feel but not all in the same block of time. Your body does amazing after 45 to 55 minutes of really pushing it to its limits but you do not want to stress out your body and produce excess cortisol, leading to a negative impact on your health. Make sure your body is nice and stimulated but not pushed too far that it can lead to failure at any given point.
• You need a variety of workouts every time: Now this is certainly not true as you also need to build endurance. There is nothing wrong with doing the same thing for 45 minutes straight, tough it will bore you to no end as well. Variety also helps you prevent hitting a plateau, but it helps condition strength and gives your body a chance to adapt to the moves themselves. You should have a plan of different moves, one batch a days that you repeat every other day or every week just to keep changing it up while still working your muscles productively. Plus, you should switch around the types of workout you do every 4-6 weeks just to give your body a chance to work on something different, on a different set of muscles that need your unwavering attention, at least for a certain period of time.
Photo courtesy of The Blonde Salad
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