Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!!

Something we have all suffered from at one point or another is dehydration. You may not have even known you were dehydrated, but studies show that the vast majority of us don't consume enough water daily, so chances are you've experienced dehydration of some level, at some point.

Water is our main facilitator of digestion. It is composed of two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule (H20), its composition makes it a universal solvent, which means it can dissolve practically anything! This action as a solvent is why it is so useful in our digestion, water helps to dissolve the food we eat so every nutrient we eat can be available to our body. Water is also a taxi of sorts, delivering nutrients to our tissues, removing waste and toxins from our bodies. Our cells are contained in material called extracelluar fluid, and filled with intracelluar fluid, both composed largely of water. These fluids lubricate our joints, cushion our organs, bathe our tissues, and give our brain a nice bath to float around in. Water is also important for maintaining body temperature, think of sweating when you get too hot. This our body's way of releasing heat and keeping your from overheating. You can paint the picture for yourself of how our body shuts down without water, and why extreme dehydration can lead to death.

Now, this blog is titled 'hydrate!', but really the bigger issue is dehydration. Chances are you might be dehydrated right now as you're reading this! Are you thirsty? Are your lips dry? Headache? Fatigue? ALL symptoms of dehydration. We've all experience that mid-afternoon crash when you feel like you can't possibly do anything except take a nice long nap. This always happened to me around 7th period in high school. Geometry? Forget it. I'm focusing on staying awake and that's not even a for sure at this point. (Sorry Ms. Sheffield!) People often try to remedy this with a candy bar, a pop, a coffee, or a 5 hour energy (according to the commercials!) But what you're probably experiencing is thirst! Before you try anything else, get some water. You might be surprised at how much it helps.

Think about this: Decreasing your total body water by 1% can decrease your ability to work effectively by 10%!! A 3% decrease in body water means you're only functioning at 70%! When you actually FEEL thirsty, you're already down 2%! More motivation to stay hydrated and productive during the day.

So how much water is enough?
This is a question where the answer is dependent on who you ask. Answers could range from 1 liter to 7 liters a day. I try to drink 2-3 liters a day, depending on what I'm doing. So I have a liter waterbottle & make sure to fill it up. Just listen to your body, if you're feeling thirsty or groggy, drink up! The thrist reflex can be weak at times and many people confuse it with feeling hungry. Try to really listen to your body and figure out what it needs before heading straight to the fridge. A good way to avoid this is to stay hydrated throughout the day, and drink water with your meals!

Here's a couple tips I've heard:
Take your weight in lbs and divide it in half. This is how many ounces of water you should drink per day at the minimum. So if you weigh 150, you need at least 75 ounces of water a day.

I've also heard you need one liter per 50 lbs of weight. So a 150 lbs person needs 3 liters of water per day.

If you eat a balanced diet that includes whole grains, fruits, veggies, & lean protein, you will get about 20% of your daily water intake from food. The remaining 80% needs to be attained from fluids. Make sure it's the right kind of fluids!

Water is obviously the best choice for hydration, but we drink other stuff too, so lets not rule that out.
Coffee and tea can be good, but usually contain a lot of caffeine, which is a diuretic (makes you have to pee) and counterproductive for hydration. If you can't skip your coffee, balance it out by drinking water after, or try a cup of caffeine-free herbal tea!

Pop, diet or regular, is overconsumed and loaded with sugar, caffeine, empty calories, and harmful chemicals. Steer clear.

Gatorade and other sports drinks can also be high in sugar, while the packaging is trying to convince you they're healthy & you're fueling up! GR! They're talked up for their hydrating effects, but really usually unncessary unless you're working out hard for an extended period of time. You don't want to add the calories back on that you just burned off!

Alcohol also has a diuretic effect, so if you're going to enjoy a cocktail, balance it out with a glass of water!

So go buy a stainless steel liter water bottle (people that know me know I always have my purple or green bottle nearby somewhere!) fill it up, and take it with you everywhere! If plain water bores you to tears, add lemon or limes slices, or some frozen berries for a boost of flavor! Proper hydration will give you glowing skin, a clear head, and boosts your metabolism by as much as 3%..What a simple way to lose weight & feel great! Drink up & enjoy!! :)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Master your Metabolism!

So we all have that friend that can eat everything in sight and never gain a pound, or the friend that swears everything she eats goes straight to her hips. Some people have a fast metabolism, making it easier for them to lose weight and difficult to gain, while some people's metabolism is slower, making losing difficult. The good thing is, we can change our metabolism, no matter if it's high or low. 

Let's start with basics: 

What is Metabolism?

Metabolism is a balancing act of sorts that starts at birth and ends at death. The balancing act is between the act of building up and breaking down of energy stores and body tissues. In other words, your metabolism is what breaks down the energy you get from food and turns it into fuel for regular body functions (breathing, moving our arms & legs, staying warm, working out). Your metabolic rate (speed of your metabolism) sets the bar for how much food you need to eat to maintain a stable weight. If you seem to be gaining weight, you're consuming more energy than your metabolism can process and the excess is being stored as unused energy in fat. The body does this so that in times of famine it can hold onto your fat as a protective reserve of energy to guarantee survival. 

Your basal metabolic rate, or BMR, is the rate at which your body uses energy at rest. If you wake up, look out the window, see its rainy & decide to spend all day on the couch doing nothing, this is the amount of calories your body will burn to stay functioning. At last check mine was about 1,500. BMR depends on factors such as height & weight as well as normal activity level. A body builder will have a much higher BMR than a couch potato. 

Your metabolism depends on how you treat your body now and how you have treated it in the past. If you've followed a consistent weight-training program for any period of time, it's likely you will have an efficient fat-burning metabolism. Metabolism can be thought of as a bank account earning interest. It works for you all the time, when you aren't working out, and even when you're sleeping. On the flip side, if you've dieted for years, gaining and losing weight over and over again, it's more likely you've interfered with your metabolism, meaning you burn fuel from food more slowly, making it difficult to lose weight. 

Here is the reason yo-yo dieting is so bad for the body. Our bodies are designed to withstand a lot, including feast & famine. They are trained to take it easy or work overtime, depending on available food sources. When you skip meals or starve yourself, your metabolism slows down in response to your reduced caloric intake, the bodies way of protecting itself from starvation - making it hard to shed fat in case you need it for future fuel. This is why when you try to "diet" and cut calories way back or skip meals, it often doesn't work for long. 
The same holds true for eliminating whole food groups from your diet, such as carbs or fats. When you remove certain foods from your diet, your body will react in a negative way. Removing entire food groups makes you miss out on essential nutrients, and while you may lose weight in the short term, as you reintroduce those foods into your diet, the body clings on to those lost nutrients, often resulting in rapid weight gain. 

Speed up your Metabolism!

Weight training 
 One pound of muscle burns approximately 25 times more calories than one pound of fat. If you're not overweight, there is more muscle tissue in your body than any other type. Muscle tissue demands the most energy, therefore it is your muscle tissue that determines the rate at which your body burns energy. Building a layer of muscle by weight training will increase your metabolic rate. 
* I have seen this in action. I took a weight lifting class in school during winter and incorporated a consistent weight training routine into my usual workouts. By the end of the class, I had lowered my body fat % from 24 to 19% and it has been key in helping me to lose weight this past year and keep it off. Before I took the class I did mostly cardio with a little weights here and there. Now it's much more balanced and the results are there! 

When you increase your physical activity, a couple things happen in your body immediately. When you start moving your muscles, your fat cells become smaller in a process called lipolysis. Exercise and weight training encourages & quickens muscle growth. Weight training stimulates your muscles while you're working out definitely, but also for hours afterwards. Exercise triggers the release of testosterone in the body, this reaction works to destroy fat. 

To get the most out of your weight training sessions, work large muscle groups such as the quads, glutes, chest and back. When you perform exercises that work major body parts (squats, lunges, & leg presses) hundreds of muscles contact at once, increasing your metabolic rate by as much as 2,000 percent!! 

Feel the burn - Intense activity is another factor in maintaining a fast burning metabolism. When you're working out (lifting weights, going on a run, hiking) really focus on what you're doing. Don't think about the days stresses or next weeks schedule. Clear your mind and really focus on what you're doing, this maximizes your results. Aerobic workouts (cardio) don't need to be hours long to get results. High intensity interval training (HIIT) is the best way to speed up your metabolism in the shortest amount of time. HIIT involves doing any cardio exercise at high intensity for a short period then dropping the level to recover for the same amount of time. Ex. Run as hard as you can for 2 minutes, then back it down to a jog for 2 minutes. These quick changing sessions fire up your metabolism by surprising your muscles. Studies show that people who incorporate interval training into their workouts lose twice as much weight as those who don't! 

Food is FUEL
To maintain a healthy weight you must eat regularly and eat high quality foods. Waiting too long between meals or skipping triggers the starvation response and causes your metabolism to slow. Eating a small healthy meal every 3 hours will ensure your metabolism stays burning all day long. 

The next question is what should you eat?  Try to combine lean protein and complex carbohydrates at each meal. This combo will prolong digestion and encourages your blood sugar to remain stable between meals.  Protein is great for metabolism because it speeds it up as a result of the chemical reactions required to digest protein. The amino acids in protein stimulate cellular activity, thereby increasing BMR. Eating carbs alone increases BMR slightly for a short period of time, leaving you feeling tired. Eating lean protein along with carbs causes your BMR to begin to rise within an hour and remain at the elevated level from three to twelve hours! 
Try to stay away from simple carbs. Foods that are refined and processed cause a spike in insulin levels which makes your metabolism slow down. 

What to eat:
Buy yourself a water bottle, keep it filled and in sight at all times. Drinking water helps keep your body lean by helping nutrients flow through it, and washing away waste and free radicals. 

Eating protein raises your metabolism. Lean protein found in poultry, fish, bison, and eggs keeps you satisfied while helping your body burn through energy faster, resulting in high calorie burn. There is also less of a chance that protein will be stored in your body as excess fat, so make sure to eat a portion with every meal. 

Fiber provides steady, long-lasting energy without the crashes that can accompany simple carbs. Fiber keeps you feeling satiated between meals. 

Research suggests that drinking a cup of black coffee raises your metabolism, increases your concentration and improves heart health. Drinking green tea packs even more of a punch (between these two, I choose green tea!). It's packed with antioxidants and raises your metabolism better than coffee. 

Spices that contain the chemical capsaicin, such as jalapeno, habanero and cayenne, have thermogenic properties that speed up your heart and heat up your body. Your body has to burn calories to cool itself down. 

Believe it or not, there actually are fats that help you burn fat. Monosaturated fats such as those found in cashews, chicken fat, hazelnuts, peanuts, olive oil, and canola oil help reduce cholesterol , triglycerides and blood pressure, and work to control diabetes. Polyunsaturated fats (omega-3 fats) found in canola oil, walnuts, flaxseeds, hempseeds, salmon, mackeral, trout, tuna, sardines and herring reduce triglycerides, inflammations and tumor growth. They also improve immune function and protect against sudden death from heart disease. 

Tomatoes contain Vitamin C, citric, malic and oxalic acids that accelerate your metabolism. These natural acids flush more water through your kidneys and prompt them to filter out large amounts of fatty deposits, which can then be eliminated from your body. Tomatoes are also rich in lycopene, a cancer fighting antioxidant that stimulates your body's metabolic rate by up to one third!

Yogurt contains health fats, protein, and probiotic cultures that are important for a healthy digestive tract. Probiotics are dietary supplements that contain beneficial bacteria or yeasts that play a role in your metabolism. 

May not be the best for your breath, but great for your metabolism! Garlic is a natural diuretic because contains mustard oil which acts like a cleanser in your body. It encourages muscular contractions that loosen fat and help to wash it out. It also breaks down clumps of fat in your body. Onions, like garlic, also contain minerals and oils that break down fatty deposits in your body and speed up your metabolism!

Asparagus contains the chemical asparagines, an alkaloid that stimulates the kidneys, improves the circulatory process & breaks down fat. Asparagus also contains a chemical that breaks up oxalic acid which tends to glue fat to cells, so when this acid is broken up it helps reduce fat levels. 

Cabbage is especially helpful if you have that spare tire around your waist. Cabbage, a natural diuretic, contains sulfur and iodine, which helps cleanse the mucous membrane of your stomach and intestines, breaking up fat in and around that area!