Strength Training for the Endurance Athlete

Runners run, cyclists cycle and swimmers swim. For the most part that’s just how it is: endurance athletes sticking close to their sport of choice, with very few venturing into the forbidden realm of strength training. In fact, if you talk to many athletes and avid exercisers, the two forms of training appear to be totally mutually exclusive.

New scientific findings, however, paint a very different picture. Many experts even point to strength training as a reliable way for endurance athletes, especially runners, to greatly reduce their risk of injury.

The Arguments For

Of course, your musculoskeletal system is deeply involved in everything you do, even when you hardly notice it.

A quick look at the human knee, for example, shows a complicated system of muscles used, not only to move your leg, but also to support the movement. If any of those muscles are weak, it places more stress of the others to compensate.

This effect grows when you widen your lens and look at the body as whole. There are muscles that act as shock-absorbers, muscles that keep you steady and, obviously, those that move you forward. All of these need to be strong enough to meet the demands of your sport and keep you injury-free.

While you could make the argument that running builds the muscles needed for running, that’s only true to a point. Any endurance activity builds endurance. In order to build a more solid support system, strength needs to be developed.

Designing Your Program

To be most effective, your strength training program needs to be tailored to your sport. Although balance training would be vitally important to a runner, it doesn’t mean as much to a swimmer or even a cyclist. Swimmers would likely also want to put more emphasis on their upper-body than runners or cyclists would.

Consider the unique challenges of your sport, then, when deciding on which exercises to include in your program.

Since the goal here is to reduce the risk of injury rather than to cause injury, it’s best to start light on the resistance and work your way up. Body weight training is a perfect modality for endurance athletes since it isolates certain muscle groups, requiring them to bear nothing but the weight you use doing your endurance training. Eventually, additional weight could be added to increase the difficulty of a given exercise.

To keep your progress steady, without interfering with your endurance training, dedicate one day to your strength training each week. If you really have to scratch the cardio itch, you can still do a light cardio cool-down for 10 minutes at the end of your workout.

An example workout, aimed toward a runner, might look something like this:

  1. One-legged Squats – 3 sets of 15 on each leg
  2. Back Lunges – 3 sets of 15 on each leg
  3. Push Up on an uneven surface – 3 sets of 10
    • Place your hands on a pillow or balance plate
    • Modify the movement to make it easier, if you need to, by kneeling
  4. Plank – 30 seconds

Rest for 90 seconds after each set before moving on to the next.


The Many Factors That Affect Caloric Expenditure

It’s practically impossible to talk about exercise without the topic of “calories” somehow coming up. Whether you’re trying to lose weight by burning off excess calories or just trying to fuel your activity by making sure you eat enough, being able to accurately track your caloric expenditure can be a powerful tool. Frustratingly, though, there are many highly personal factors that can have a large impact on the actual amount of calories your body uses during exercise. Understanding these factors, and using that knowledge, can help you design the most effective workout for your unique situation.

Fitness Level

If you’ve ever worked hard to lose a large amount of weight, you know the excitement that comes with that first rapid decrease at the scale and the frustration that follows with the slowing of progress as you get closer to your goal. One of the reasons that this happens has to do with how your body adapts to exercise.

Consider a car: The better maintained it is, the more efficiently the engine runs and the less fuel it needs to travel the same distance as a car that is less cared for. Your body is very similar. As you become more fit, you will use significantly less calories to get through your workouts than you did when you first got started.

Type of Exercise and Workout Design

It may seem obvious to say that some exercises burn more calories than others but the real impact of this statement is much deeper than it appears at first. Generally speaking, the more muscle fibers you have working at once, the more calories you will burn.

To capitalize on this when strength training, focus on compound movements that emphasize big muscle groups like the chest, back and legs. When it comes to cardio, elliptical machines tend to activate more muscles at once than other modes and interval training increases the burn even more.

Surprisingly, your rest periods can also strongly affect how many calories you burn through during your workout. Try to keep your rests to about 60 seconds between each set. This applies to strength training and cardio interval training as well.

A Product of Your Environment

Running presents a special set of challenges that can all change how much fuel your body uses. Uneven and shifting terrain, like sand, incorporates more muscles than a solid surface by forcing your body to compensate and balance you out.

Other aspects of your environment when running outside, even those that seem relatively benign, should be considered. The density of the air, generally associated with elevation can both increase and decrease your caloric expenditure. Running at high altitudes, where the air is thinner, will require significantly fewer calories than at a lower elevation.

Even the wind can make things more difficult. It doesn’t have to be a gale-force gust to make a difference, either. If the wind is steadily blowing against you, it can add a challenge whereas a cycling behind another ride can save up to 26 to 38 percent of energy. Unfortunately, running in the same direction doesn’t necessarily make things any easier for you.

Keeping Your Numbers Accurate

Many devices are available to help you estimate your caloric expenditure during your exercise but, as we’ve discussed a very personalized approach is needed to keep things as accurate as possible. To that end, make sure to enter your correct age and weight into any equipment your on. Using included heart rate meters will also given the machine a good idea of how hard you’re working and, subsequently, your fitness level.

Do you have any tricks to estimating your caloric expenditure? Please share them in comments.


Why Taking a Vacation is Good For you

It sounds obvious…taking a day or a week off of work is good for you. Everyone needs to renew, refresh, recharge. But according to a 2009 International Vacation Deprivation Study (really!), commissioned by Expedia, more than 30 percent of Americans did not use all of their vacation days.

Of course, some of those people are afraid they’ll lose their jobs or they’re just too busy to get away; but isn’t that the point?! Taking time away from your busy work routine, piles of papers, an inbox exploding with emails and a constantly ringing phone is what the body needs to replenish and repair itself.

By not taking time off, you’re not doing yourself, your family, or even your company any favors. So now that summer vacation time is upon us, let’s see why it’s good for us to get away….and that doesn’t mean bringing a case full of work with you.

It’s good for your physical and mental health.

Taking vacations contributes to higher positive emotional levels, less depression, lower blood pressure and even smaller waistlines according to Karen Matthews of the University of Pittsburgh’s Mind-Body Center. In general, those who have more leisure activities report more life satisfaction and healthier habits.

You’ll live longer.

The Mind-Body Center did a nine year study of 12,000 men at risk for heart disease and found the men who didn’t take yearly vacations had a 22 percent higher risk of death from all causes and a 32 percent higher risk of death by heart attack.

It’s a stress reliever.

We all know stress isn’t good for us and one of the cures is to take time off to stave off burnout and promote overall well-being. A relaxing vacation should last long after the days off are over and translate into better sleep, mood and fewer physical complaints. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. But beware: if you don’t delegate any of the work you have to others while you are gone, you may return to even more stress as you struggle to make up time lost.

You’ll improve job performance.

Want to do better on your job? Take some time off! By relaxing your mind, leisure time gives you a chance to look at the bigger picture, improve your ability to juggle challenges and tackle problems. When you return to work, you’ll be able to make better decisions and more likely to consider new approaches to things.

You’ll get some much needed exercise and vitamin D.

If you have free time, you’re more likely to get out and move, even if it’s taking a long walk in your neighborhood or an occasional swim. You’ll not only stay in shape this way, but you’ll get a good dose of vitamin D by being in the outdoors. Vitamin D is essential for maintaining healthy bones and can help prevent various forms of cancer, including breast, prostate and colon. Of course, you can pop this essential nutrient as a supplement, but spending some time outdoors each day (as little as five to 15 minutes) is a much better way to provide the needed benefits. And the best part is that the sun is free. So get outdoors and enjoy it!

Bottom line: You need to get away, even if it’s a couple of day stay-cation in your own backyard. And that doesn’t mean pretending to relax while you are constantly checking your phone and answering emails. To truly be on vacation, you need to remove yourself from your normal routines and that includes giving up the electronics, even if it’s just for a couple of hours. Your body and mind will thank you.

How do vacations help you? Let us know.



Are You At The Mercy of Your Genes?

We are, in many ways, subject to the genes we were born with. In the fitness world especially we tend to think of our genetics as limiting factors, either for the good or bad. When we struggle with specific trouble spots, we blame genetics. Conversely, when someone has little-to-no difficulty gaining muscle or excels at a given sport, we give their genes the credit. An emerging field of study, called epigenetics, though, is actively changing our concept of how genes affect us and, more importantly, how we can affect them.

What is Epigenetics?

The most basic way to explain epigenomes is to think of them as a series of switches. Although you can’t change the genes that you were born with, epigenomes can control the expression of those genes. Through the manipulation of these switches, it is possible to turn off certain genes and turn on others. This allows the body to adapt to any number of factors including stress, diet and nutrition on a very deep level.

Of course, it is no surprise that exercise changes your body. Anyone who has exercised for any period of time has experienced these changes, so what makes the findings associated with epigenomes significant?

The Power of Epigenomes

Scientific understanding of epigenetics is still relatively limited but several high-quality studies help to shed light on what this new discipline may mean for the fitness world.

A 2012 study published in the journal Cell Metabolism, for example,observed the effects of strenuous exercise on gene expression. After 20 minutes, the researchers saw the DNA expression of cells change in a way that encouraged muscle growth. Specifically, the DNA now told the cells to produce specialized proteins that build and repair muscle fibers.

In the same year, another study explored the scope of these genetic adaptations. By having cyclists pedal with just one leg and taking muscle biopsies from both legs before and after, the researchers hoped to understand the extent to which exercise impacts inactive muscles. Surprisingly, it was discovered that both legs displayed changes to DNA expression.

Although this study only tested the changes in the subjects’ legs, these findings suggest that the benefits of exercise go far beyond just the exercised muscle group. This emphasizes the fact that exercising one muscle group, for example the legs, can benefit your entire body.

But it is true that some people just seem to struggle with weight loss, or muscle gain, regardless of their workout routine. While there are many factors that can contribute to these challenges, including health conditions, genetics usually play a major role.

A new study suggests that epigenetics may be able to help in this frustrating situation as well. This report was published in the June 2013 issue of The FASEB Journal and invested the efficacy of an exercise program on 107 adolescent males. To do this, the researchers measured the epigenetic responses of each of the subjects. Ultimately, five epigenetic biomarkers were identified that could be used to predict what exercise routine will be most effective for the individual.

These findings are still preliminary and more research is needed but this report offers hope of one day predicting what sort of fitness routine you need to follow to maximize your results.

Epigenetics is still a new field of study and more experimentation is needed to fully understand its impact and usefulness. In the meantime, however, epigenetics offers hope that you can overcome the perceived limits of your genes to reach your fitness goals.

Are you fascinated by the implications of these studies? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


The Fat-Free Fallacy

Imagine yourself in this familiar situation: You’re at the store considering two similar foods options. They’re roughly the same product, except one boasts “no fat” and maybe even “high fiber.” You’re trying to eat healthy so you opt for the second choice,  avoiding the fat. Sometimes these products are even labeled as the “smart” or “healthy” choice.

But are these low- or no-fat products really the better options?

Where Does the Fat Go?

Fat is a vital nutrient and is contained naturally in many foods. But apart from fueling your body, fat plays two important culinary roles: as a flavoring and a thickener. Unfortunately, fat has gained a bad rap in the nutritional world and people in general have acquired an aversion to it. So, to make up for the negative changes that occur in food when the fat is taken out, manufacturers have come up with some creative, sometimes concerning, solutions.

First, to augment the lackluster flavor inherent in fat-free or low-fat foods, companies generally add enormous amounts of sugar or salt. In fact, the fat-free versions of some foods even have more total calories than the traditional varieties, albeit less from fat.

Peanut butter is a prime example. The low-fat and standard peanut butters both have roughly the same amounts of total calories and only a few less grams of fat.

Several mysterious “fat replacers” have also found their way into our foods. These substances are generally a mixture of proteins, carbs and chemically altered fats. While they haven’t been conclusively linked with any major long-term side effects, they can have strange short-term effects on your body.

For example, olestra, one of the most widely used altered fats passes through your digestive tract completely untouched. Understandably, this causes digestive upset and also limits your ability to absorb fat-soluable vitamins and minerals. People who have a lot of olestra in their diet can even develop a deficiency in these nutrients.

Sometimes, the issue of satiation even drives manufacturers to even more out-of-the-box ideas. This includes the addition of cellulose to make food more filling and to act as a thickener. Put plainly, cellulose is saw dust. This by-product of lumber mills is finely ground and mixed with water until it is white and tasteless so that it has no effect on the final product. As an added bonus, the company can not only label food “low fat” but also “high fiber.”

Other Aspects to Consider

As with most health and fitness related discussions, there’s much more to think about than just how many calories you eat. As mentioned, your salad is full of vitamins and minerals that are fat-soluble, meaning that they have to be eaten paired with a fat to be properly absorbed. Fat-free dressing, then, doesn’t allow you to fully benefit from your meal.

Also, not all fats as necessarily bad for you. Returning to the example of peanut butter, think about the fact that it contains many healthy fats that your body needs. Remember that, ultimately, you gain weight by eating too many calories regardless of whether they come from protein, fat or carbs. Instead of trying to eliminate fats from your diet completely, replace unhealthy fats with the beneficial options found in nuts, fish and olive oil.

Have you found a way to balance healthy fats in your diet? Please share your tips in the comments.


Finding Silver Linings in Life & Appreciating What We Have

Recently, Linda, a woman in my water exercise class for cancer patients, told me that she was scheduled  for a major surgery. To stave off her fear and in anticipation of the unknown, she made a list of everything she is grateful for and all that is good in her life.

That is something, I thought, we should all do occasionally. Sure everyone gets down about stuff; everything from the major, life-changing things like a cancer diagnosis to tiny myriad daily annoyances like a rude salesperson or the robo-calls that interrupt our dinner time with family.

But it pays to remember all the good things that happen in our days. The young man who gives us a seat on the subway when our feet are killing us; the glimpse we get of a group of tiny ballerinas at the gym, twirling and swirling in abandon; the nice thank you note from someone you helped.

Keeping a positive attitude not only elevates your spirits, but may even extend your life. According to a study at the University of Pittsburgh, optimistic women were 14% more likely than pessimistic ones to be alive after eight years. Researchers speculate that optimists have more friends and deal better with stress. After all, no one wants to hang out with a Debbie Downer.

It makes practical sense that there can only be health benefits in finding the positive in situations instead of focusing on the negative. Hollye Jacobs is one woman who has a mission of finding silver linings in all aspects of life. After a breast cancer diagnosis she found the silver lining in her mastectomy by noting that “my chest will be as perky as my personality.”

Now she finds silver linings all around her. Beets are one of her favorite foods. She even liked them before she had breast cancer. But the silver lining, she writes in her blog is “that there are gobs of anti-cancer benefits of eating beets.” Plus, she notes, they are available all year-round so you can find them readily available anytime.

Now, that’s making lemonade out of lemons!

Look for silver linings whenever you can, she suggests. They “will provide the balance and perspective to get you through anything and everything!”

Another woman who surely has the right to complain, but doesn’t, is Jen Smith, 35. She discovered her breast cancer when her son was nine months old. He’s now six and her cancer has spread to her ribs, her scapula and her spine. At Stage IV it is incurable. But instead of bemoaning her fate, she is “Living Legendary,” she says, pulling all the fullness and fun she can from life and celebrating each day she is alive.

Her silver linings: living to take her son to his first day of kindergarten, to Disney World and Hawaii. “I’m making choices of how I’m going to spend my time,” she explains. Instead of a one-day celebration for her recent birthday, she celebrated for a whole month with the theme: “I’m 35 and still alive.” The silver lining: “I had dessert every single day of the month!”

When my friend Liz recently lost all her hair due to chemo, she found a silver lining: Hermes scarves!

Some people call cancer a blessing because it’s taught them compassion, patience, acceptance and strength. For many, at least, it’s made them appreciate the little things and be grateful for good health, friends and even modern medicine. Instead of the bad, they think of the good it’s brought into their lives – friendships, closeness with family and an inner strength they never knew they had to tackle life’s battles. The best thing that can come from the experience is that it makes us recognize and appreciate the good that can come from a rotten situation….in other words, finding the silver linings. They’re all around us, notes Hollye, “All one has to do…is look for them.”

So maybe it’s time to let some of the bad things go and focus on all that is good in our lives and count our blessings every day. As a quote I read says: “Survivors isn’t just a term – it’s an attitude.”

Have you found any silver linings lately?






What to Eat for Healthy Teeth

Mom used to say that eating sugary foods would rot your teeth. It turns out she was right.

Eating certain foods and avoiding others can greatly affect our oral health. This is especially true for children, but is also important for adults:

·         Toddlers: Good nutrition helps healthy teeth and gums develop.

·         Older children and teens: Eating well keeps cavities at bay.

·         Adults: Healthy foods help prevent gum disease.

The nutrition and dental health relationship works the other way, too. Without a healthy mouth, you couldn’t chew or swallow foods and absorb vital nutrients your body needs. Plus, research has shown a link between gum disease and heart disease risk.Tooth and dental instrument

Foods for your teeth

A good diet for dental health is no different than a diet that is nutritious for the rest of the body. Both the American Dietetic Association and the American Dental Association stress the importance of good nutrition for oral health. This means a diet that’s rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat and nonfat dairy products and lean sources of protein. Foods high in saturated and trans fats, salt and sugar should be limited.

These nutrients can help keep your mouth in tip top shape:

·         Protein helps teeth form. Kids who don’t get enough protein and are malnourished have a higher risk for cavities. Choose lean sources of protein like fish, chicken and beans. These foods are also high in iron, magnesium and zinc, which help to build teeth and bones.

·         Calcium and vitamin D strengthen teeth and bones. Low-fat and nonfat dairy products are high in both nutrients. Calcium can also be found in dark leafy greens and beans.

·         Vitamin A helps tooth enamel form. Orange fruits and vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A.

·         Vitamin B helps keep gum tissue healthy. Whole-grain breads and cereals and green, leafy vegetables contain vitamin B.

·         Vitamin C helps maintain gums and keeps soft tissue healthy. Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C.

·         Vitamin K keeps gums healthy and controls bleeding. Dark leafy greens are good sources of vitamin K.

·         Fluoride protects tooth enamel, which makes it harder to break down. This lowers the risk of cavities. Tap water and toothpaste often contain fluoride. If you drink only bottled water, ask your dentist if you need a fluoride supplement.

Watch your sweet tooth

Sugary and starchy foods release damaging acids that harm your teeth and lead to cavities and gum disease. Foods that are chewy, gooey, sticky or dissolve slowly do even more damage because they stay in your mouth longer. Caffeinated, carbonated and acidic drinks also hurt teeth. Always brush your teeth right after eating foods high in sugar.

These items should be only eaten in moderation:

·         Sugary foods like candy, cake and cookies. Try to avoid chewy and sticky items like hard candies, caramels, taffy, granola bars and dried fruit. Watch for hidden sources of sugar in things like condiments, peanut butter and pasta sauce.

·         Starchy, processed foods such as chips, pretzels and crackers.

·         Drinks high in sugar, including soda, sports drinks and juices.

Healthy snacking

If you can’t avoid a sugar craving, eat sweets right after a meal instead of as snacks. The damaging acids released by sugary foods stay in your mouth for 20 minutes before they break down. The more often you eat sugar-filled snacks, the more frequently acids develop that can harm your teeth.  Instead, choose nutritious snacks – such as fruits, vegetables and nuts – over sweet ones.


Could Intermittent Fasting Work For You?

How often do you eat? If you’re like most fitness enthusiasts, you probably go beyond the three traditional meals and have five or even six small meals every day. And for years, this has been the prevailing wisdom. The driving force behind this approach is the idea that doing so will boost your metabolism and ward off the dreaded “starvation mode,” which all athletes struggle against. Many people who practice this sort of grazing also do so with the hope that they will be able to balance their blood sugar and avoid the midday crash that afflicts us all. A new approach to eating, however, promises to achieve all of that, plus more, while requiring you to do the exact oppose: Fast.

What is it?

Specifically, as the name Intermittent Fasting (or IF) suggests, the dieting method asks that you regularly go without eating. But there are several different approaches to IF that adjust both the frequency and duration of the fasts. Generally, intermittent fasting can be divided into two main categories: periodic fasts and daily fasts.

Although there are programs out there that offer specific fasting schedules, periodic fasts tend to be open to interpretation. These are usually 24-hour fasts that occur either once per year or even as often as once every week. It is recommended, however, that you don’t fast any more than one day each week.

The daily fast, despite its more intimidating name, is generally less severe since the actual duration of the fast is reduced. By limiting, your “feeding window” or amount of time that you allow yourself to eat during the day, you can prolong the natural fast that we all experience while sleeping. For example, the most popular programs require you to devote 16 hours to fasting, giving yourself an 8 hour eating window. This means that if your first meal is at 9am, your last meal of the day would by at 5pm. During that time you’re allowed to eat whenever you’d like, as long as you don’t exceed your normal caloric needs.

Why Fast?

But what are the benefits of fasting? And, if forcing your body into a severe caloric deficit can actually slow down your metabolism and cause muscle loss, why do it?

As with all health and fitness regimes, the proponents of IF tout a wide range of benefits, which include the ability to prevent type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity, as well as contribute to a longer lifespan. Counter-intuitively, Intermittent Fasting is also said to be able to contribute to muscle growth and a lean appearance.

But do these claims stand up to the test of clinical studies? In most cases, yes. But with a few expected caveats that will be discussed later.

Intermittent fasting does in fact help to improve insulin sensitivity, meaning that the hormone has a bigger impact on your body and elicits more of a response. A strong insulin response is key in maintaining balanced blood sugar levels and ensuring that the needed nutrients get to your muscles quickly. This improved use of insulin is responsible for the decreased risk of types 2 diabetes associated with intermittent fasting.

Studies have also confirmed that intermittent fasting causes the human body to target fat for fuel more aggressively than otherwise, which reduces both cholesterol and body fat. Of course, the trimmed look that comes from burning all that body fat is the most famous effect of intermittent fasting but there are many more important unseen, internal benefits.

Fasting also stimulates autophagy, your body’s way of clearing out potentially dangerous waste products, some of which have been linked with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other severe neurological diseases.

It is true that previous studies have suggested that a calorie-restricted diet can increase lifespan but these findings have since been called into question by newer research.

Cautions and Things to Know

Sure, intermittent fasting sounds like the solution to all sort of health problems and could even be just the thing to give you a boost towards your fitness goals. But, IF isn’t for everyone. People who have specific caloric and nutritional needs, especially pregnant women, should not picking up fasting. As a matter of fact, everyone should discuss the idea with their doctor before getting starting.

There’s a particular concern for people with heart conditions, as well. The effect isn’t full understood but some studies have shown that long-term fasting can cause a hardening of the heart’s tissue.

One of the largest concerns with IF is that the extreme hunger pangs make you gorge when you finally get to eat. Supporters say that while this is a difficult aspect of fasting, it will ultimately help you gain control over these cravings so that they don’t control you.

If you do decide to fast, you should start out with a daily fast, using the 16/8 model for men and 14/10 for women. This will help you start out slowly and build the self-control necessary for a full 24 hour fast.

Have you tried intermittent fasting? Please share your experience in the comments.


What Was Once Bad for You is Now Good

Red wine and chocolateWhat was once bad for you is now good. Let’s celebrate with a glass of wine and some chocolate! Remember the old days when your mom cut back on the number of eggs she served you because it could cause your cholesterol to skyrocket? Or when chocolate was a no no?

Well, no more. New studies have proven that many of the foods we once avoided for their villainous reputations may actually be good for us and it’s OK to keep them in our diet. In fact, there are health benefits to indulging, so let’s celebrate with a glass of wine and some dark chocolate. Now no one is suggesting over-indulging, but in moderation such things as red wine, dark chocolate, eggs and even popcorn can help our heart health, lower breast cancer risk and even reduce body mass.

Of course, doctors and researchers are also quick to point out that no one should make broad-based dietary changes based on just one study. New and varied data comes out every day, so it’s possible that tomorrow we’ll be removing these treats from our diet once again.

For now, here are some things that were once thought to be bad that we can now happily consume:

Red Wine and Heart Health: Red wine in moderation is now thought of as heart healthy. The antioxidants like flavonoids and resveratrol found in red wine more than other types of alcohol may actually help prevent heart disease by increasing levels of “good” cholesterol and protecting against artery damage. Good news for anyone who likes to imbibe a glass with their evening meal. Though doctors are wary of encouraging anyone to take up drinking since too much can be harmful, they have given the go-ahead to enjoy a nightly glass without feeling guilty.

Chocolate and brain health:  Recent studies have found powerful health benefits to dark chocolate, linking it to many things including helping protect against intestinal diseases like colon cancer, to reducing risk of developing heart disease and boosting brain health in seniors.

A study published in the journal Hypertension looked at data from 90 seniors who already had mild cognitive impairment and found that their attention and other mental skills improved when they drank cocoa with high amounts of flavanols.

Chocolate is not only full of antioxidants that protect against many types of cancer, it also has a positive effect on mood and cognitive health. It contains phenylethylamine (PEA), the same chemical your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. PEA encourages your brain to release endorphins, so eating dark chocolate will make you feel happier — as if we didn’t already know that!

Eggs and Good Cholesterol: Once we thought an omelet that included the yolks was practically a heart attack on a plate, but no more. There’s been a shift due to new research that indicates that eggs – yolks included – aren’t so bad for your heart. But don’t get us started on bacon!

Studies have found that yolks contain some important nutrients that aren’t found in the whites, including the all-important vitamin D and that their high cholesterol content actually boosts the heart protective “good” cholesterol and not the blood level of cholesterol, which is associated with increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Popcorn and Antioxidants: Instead of being off-limits because of its fat content (if you drench it in butter), popcorn is now being heralded as a low-calorie snack that may contain more healthy antioxidants – called polyphenols — than fruits and vegetables. Polyphenols have been shown to boost cardiovascular health and protect against chronic diseases and popcorn has a very high concentration of them, especially in the hulls.

It’s also a whole grain food, which makes it a high-quality carbohydrate source that is low in calories and a good source of fiber. So air-pop some fresh kernels (stay away from the pre-packaged microwavable varieties that can be laden with fat, salt, chemicals and calories) and head to the movies.

The bottom line is that so called “bad” foods can actually have some good properties. So don’t go overboard but know that having a little can be good for you. Have you put any foods back in your diet due to current research?  Let us know.





The Full Effects of Appetite Suppression Pills

Weight control, in its simplest form,seems pretty straightforward: We gain weight because we eat and we eat because we’re hungry. It’s completely logical, then, to assume that appetite suppressants hold the key to weight loss. But do these supplements really offer a useful solution? Are there any potential side effects associated with common,  over-the-counter products?

How They Work

Appetite suppressants, as the name suggests, limit your cravings for food. The hope is that this will stop you from taking in the excess calories that get stored as fat. Different products try to . Generally, a stimulant such as caffeine, is also included to increase the effects. In fact, caffeine itself has appetite suppressing effects.

Because of all this variety, it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact mechanism by which these products actually suppress your appetite.

The question of whether or not appetite suppressants actually work is as difficult to answer as how they work, and for the same reasons. With all this uncertainty, you may not be comfortable investing money in some of these pills. Is there anything else you should know if you’re considering using appetite suppressants?

Potential Concerns

A major source of concern when it comes to the efficacy of appetite suppressants is this very lack uniformity.

When combined with a lack of evidence regarding the usefulness of some compounds, the situation becomes even more difficult. Substances such as hoodia and green coffee extract are commonly promoted and featured in appetite suppressants. Both of these substances, despite their popularity, have little backing from the science.

There’s also the issue of your nutritional needs that comes into play. While you do need to achieve a caloric deficit to lose weight, you need to do so in a way that will still provide the necessary nutrients. This is especially critical when you’re following an exercise program and need proper amounts of carbs, protein and fat to perform and recover.

Of course, safety should be the deciding factor when it comes to any supplement. Many of the substances used in over-the-counter products have not been fully tested and may have severe side effects. You should always consult your doctor when considering a supplement.

Do have experience with appetite suppressants? Please share your thoughts in the comments.