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Fitness & Nutrition Tips

The Microbes Within: Probiotics & Prebiotics

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We have become a germophobic culture. We use antibacterial soap at most sinks, ultra-pasteurize our food, and even disinfect our shopping carts before we touch them. Most of us appreciate good hygiene and sanitation as much as the next person, but are all bacteria bad? When it comes to food, our digestive tracts and our immunity, the presence of bacteria is essential to overall good health.

Bacteria generally have a bad rep, so the idea of throwing a few billion down the hatch per day for your health might seem hard to swallow. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that you can treat and even prevent some illnesses with foods and supplements containing certain kinds of live bacteria called probiotics!

What in the world are probiotics?

Probiotics (pro + biota, combined to mean “for life”) are living bacteria that line our intestinal walls. These “friendly bacteria” not only aid digestion and strengthen immunity, they also help ward off pathogens, balance out the aftermath of antibiotic therapy, improve tolerance to lactose, clear up skin disorders, regulate emotions and mitigate depression.

The human GI tract contains more than 500 species of bacteria. This community of trillions of microbes together weighs up to 2.2 pounds and its cells outnumber human cells by a whopping 10:1- no wonder they’re so important!

If probiotics are alive, how do they thrive?

Probiotics feed on a special form of naturally occurring dietary fiber called prebiotics. Prebiotics foster an inviting, lush environment in our bodies and nourish the thousands of good bacterial species already living in our gut. Fortunately, they are found in thousands of edible plants so if you are a vegetable monger, you’re set! Green vegetables, Jerusalem artichokes, oatmeal, and legumes are particularly rich sources.

Making friends with “good” bacteria

Probiotics can be found in dairy, fruit or vegetable foods that are allowed to sour or ferment deliberately out of refrigeration. This ancient practice is called lacto-fermentation, and it not only makes food easier to digest, it also boosts nutritional value and provides many of the  health benefits described above. Yogurt and kefir, cultured vegetables, and fermented beverages like kombucha are some of the probiotic foods eaten throughout the world today.

In addition to buying the many probiotic rich products on the market, you can easily make your own tasty and nutritious probiotic foods at home to boost your health with surprisingly little effort or expense. The time and energy spent to prepare these tasty, curious delights is truly worth it. You’ll see exponential returns in your health and you may even have fun experimenting in your kitchen lab too!

Get Cultured!

Traditionally preparing foods can sometimes be a bit intimidating. Fermenting at home is not nearly as complicated or time consuming as you may think. Sauerkraut, for example, requires very little equipment, and will save you loads of money. By using a few simple ingredients (cabbage and pink Himalayan salt) plus minimal tools (a cutting board, large bowl, knife and Mason jar) a boatload of homemade sauerkraut is at your fingertips. Once you understand the process you’ll be delighted by the end product. There’s just something extra special about creating healthy foods from scratch!

 

To keep you inspired and exploring the edible microbial world, you can find tons of fantastic recipes online. Master Fermentor, Sandor Katz’s book, Wild Fermentation is a great resource that explores the fun and delicious world of cultured foods. Here are just a few ideas to start exploring: yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, dark chocolate, miso, microalgae, pickles, tempeh, kimchi, kombucha.

See you Saturday!

 


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Fitness & Nutrition Tips

An Open Mind to Conquer your Mountain

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We know there are many approaches to health and wellness, and what works for some might not be optimal for others. Whether your goal is to create a positive change or to limit unwanted behaviors, hypnosis may be a tool to help you get there.

According to the ASCH, hypnosis is defined as “a state of inner absorption, concentration and focused attention. It is like using a magnifying glass to focus the rays of the sun and make them more powerful. Similarly, when our minds are concentrated and focused, we are able to use our minds more powerfully. Because hypnosis allows people to use more of their potential, learning self-hypnosis is the ultimate act of self-control.”

The Change Equation, a short post from William Song’s website, The Habit Project will provide an introduction to the purpose behind hypnosis.

He states that during hypnosis, with some skills and practice, you can adjust your desire to change so that it outweighs your desire to stay the same. When you’re in this relaxed state of focus, you can discover the beliefs that help you succeed and those that are holding you back.

 

 

 


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Fitness & Nutrition Tips

The Scientific Process of Fueling your Fire

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Making a change doesn’t happen in an instant. Successful change, like starting a new routine or quitting a bad habit, takes time and cannot be rushed. A full commitment and understanding of what it will take to make the change is the best predictor of long-term success. In fact, behavioral research has broken down the journey of self change into five distinct stages. Sometimes recognizing where we are on our journey toward big change can help propel us to the next milestone.

Stage 1 Pre-contemplation

People in pre-contemplation aren’t aware that they have a problem or don’t want to make a change. This stage can last indefinitely, and the best way to move forward is simply to become aware of how we can make our lives better.

Are you in this stage? Is there a part of your life you’re not satisfied with? Your health, your body, your energy level or simply how you feel when you get out of bed? What are some habits or routines you could change or develop that might help?

Stage 2 Contemplation

People in contemplation know what they want to change, but either don’t know how or can’t commit to make that change. Someone in a contemplation stage might know she’s not getting enough sleep, but might not recognize that spending time answering work emails right before bed is causing her stress and not letting her fall asleep easily and restfully.

Are you in this stage? What’s not working? If you’re not getting enough sleep, think about what you’re doing right before bed and right after you wake up. How can your morning and evening routines support a more restful and peaceful night’s sleep?

Stage 3 Preparation

People in preparation have made the conscious decision to change and are now focused on finding the right routines or habits to help them get there.  Someone in the preparation stage may want to start quitting smoking and has committed to making the change, but isn’t sure which quitting strategy she wants to try.

Are you in this stage? It’s time to develop a full routine to help you stick to your commitment. The best plans of action are mental, physical and emotional. For a change like quitting smoking, you’ll need to create a mental strategy to get through your favorite smoking times like a morning commute or after meals. You’ll need a physical strategy to deal with nicotine withdrawal, like a nicotine gum or patch. Plus, you’ll need an emotional strategy for when the going gets tough, like a supportive friend who is always on call. The sooner you can get your plans in place, the sooner you can start to make a change.

Stage 4 Action

People in action are in the thick of changing their habits or routines. The action stage takes the greatest amount of time and energy, and is best sustained when they’re fully prepared with well-thought out mental, physical and emotional strategies. Someone in the action stage may be making time in his schedule to work out with a personal trainer and to keep exercising outside of their regular sessions.

Are you in this stage? Keep the change going! Stay committed even in the face of challenges. Don’t be afraid to dip back into the preparation stage and adapt your action plan when something isn’t working.

Stage 5 Maintenance

People in the maintenance have their new habits or routines down and are comfortable keeping to them day-to-day. Someone in maintenance may have cut refined sugars or over-processed foods out of his diet and doesn’t reach for potato chips or sugary sodas at home anymore– but might have a road trip with friends coming up that will be full of car snacks.

Are you in this stage? Awesome! Way to stick with the change through action until it becomes routine. Focus on sticking with your new habits and to recognize the positive outcomes in your life.

Change is often more successful when we go through each stage with the appropriate amount of time, energy or attention. Skipping stages or rushing through stages doesn’t work long-term.

Recognizing the progression from one stage to the next is important, because it’s no small feat. If you’ve recognized what you want to change, congratulations! You’re already on stage 2. If you’re making a plan to start changing your habits, awesome! You’re on stage 3. Don’t wait until you’ve accomplished your goal to start celebrating – recognize your journey!

 

 


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Fitness & Nutrition Tips

The Magic of Fiber

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There’s a specific key component that should be part of every meal. Lucky for us, nature has already skillfully pre-packaged it in a cornucopia of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. The magic ingredient? Fiber.

What is fiber & why is it good for us?
Dietary fiber is the part of plant foods that can’t be digested. (For a quick list of fiber-rich foods see “Fiber foods” below.) If we don’t eat enough fiber, toxins such as preservatives, pesticides, artificial flavors/colors, etc. become more concentrated in our bodies, which in turn can lead to all sorts of inflammatory diseases including an increase in fat storage.

Your digestive system handles all carbs in the same way- by breaking them down into single sugar molecules so they are small enough to absorb into the bloodstream. Fiber is an exception because it can’t be broken down into sugar molecules and as a result passes through the body undigested. You do need adequate fiber in your diet, and its non-digestible quality doesn’t pose a problem for your body. It’s actually beneficial due to the fact that fiber forms a tight bond with bile in our intestines, soaking up harmful toxins, cholesterol and fat on its way out. Think of it as a cleansing workout for your digestive tract since fiber cannot be absorbed by the intestinal wall.

Foods that are naturally high in fiber are precisely the foods that are high in phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. But there’s a bonus! Fiber-rich diets also support weight loss and decrease the accumulation of undesirable visceral fat (that spare tire around your midsection). They tend to be lower-glycemic foods too- the kind that naturally support steady energy and good weight management. Great news for your push-ups & pull-ups! When we weigh less, it’s much easier to get moving, lifting, bounding, leaping, inverting and playing when working out. Your strength will seem multiplied when you have less body weight, making the classes you attend at Studiomix even more fun.

Keeping immunity strong this winter
Dietary fiber also plays a vital role in improving the effectiveness of our digestive system, which contains more than half the body’s immune system. Fiber from your leafy greens travel through the upper digestive tract and enter the large intestine, or colon, to serve as fuel for the friendly bacteria living there. These “prebiotic” fibers help friendly bacteria, known as “probiotics” grow and triumph over bad bugs in the colon. Fiber feeds good bacteria, so a lack of fiber actually kills the good bacteria in your gut.

Given fiber’s multiple benefits, it’s clear that many of us practice misguided nutritional math- counting quantity (calories) of our food rather than quality (the nutrient density). Instead of trying to adjust calorie intake for improved health, fat loss and/or muscle gain, concentrate on adding vitamin, mineral and fiber rich foods to each meal.

The best part? You can see and feel the results from eating more fiber almost immediately, possibly even the same day! You’ll notice more sustained energy, less moodiness and feel satisfied from a balanced meal longer.

Eat your veggies
Your mom has always told you what science has known for decades: “You gotta eat your vegetables.” Fiber-rich foods like vegetables are good for us, and many experts have observed that as people in other cultures have given up their traditional diets and adopted Western eating habits (dominated by processed foods much lower in fiber and higher in sugar), they’ve become susceptible to weight gain and a host of illnesses.

In addition, a whirlwind of recent studies have shown that fiber-rich foods enhance health in our bodies by regulating blood-sugar levels, reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, a multitude of cancers and gastrointestinal disorders such as reflux, duodenal ulcer, irritable bowel and diverticulitis (inflammation of abnormal pouches in the wall of the large intestine or colon), and more. The evidence to eat your veggies is pretty compelling.

Detoxing- juice or blend?
Now that you’re convinced to include more fresh, whole plants into your diet, what’s the best way to go about it? Turning them into something drinkable is a popular option with the current juicing and blending craze. Let’s break it down!

Juicing is a process of grinding or pressing fruits and vegetables to extract water and nutrients, then discarding the fiber. Without all the fiber, your digestive system doesn’t have to work as hard to break down food and absorb nutrients. In fact, it makes the nutrients more readily available to the body in much larger quantities than if you were to eat fruits and vegetables whole. When you remove fiber from produce, the liquid juice is absorbed into your bloodstream quickly. This is why juicing is often referred to as a nutrient express.

Juicing may be helpful if you have a sensitive digestive system or illness that inhibits your body from processing fiber. Freshly squeezed vegetable juices are the cornerstone of most cleansing and detoxification programs because they are nutrient rich and nourish and restore our bodies at a cellular level. However, if you are only juicing fruits, a rapid spike in blood sugar occurs. These unstable blood sugar levels can lead to mood swings, energy loss, memory problems and more. So be sure to include your veggies in the mix for a optimal nourishment.

Unlike juices, blending the entire fruit or vegetable- skin and all- retains all of the fiber from the foods you use. The blending process breaks the fiber apart which makes it easier to digest and also helps create a slow, even release of nutrients into the bloodstream avoiding blood sugar spikes and crashes. By keeping the fiber in blended drinks, the volume will increase, leaving us satisfied after a meal. Alternatively, when the fiber is removed from food, it’s common to quickly experience hunger again.

Simple carbs (think sugar = fruit juice) are digested very quickly which cause a surge in the hormone insulin, creating an intense but brief sugar high followed by a crash. Complex carbs (fiber = blended fruit and veggie juices) on the other hand take longer to digest and are usually packed with vitamins and minerals. Remember, when the food we eat takes longer to digest, we experience more sustained mood, energy and hormones levels.

For a delicious, blended meal high in fiber and nutrients, check out our partner, Green Surge. The Green Surge experience allows for quick and easy detoxification while enjoying the freshest greens, fruits and vegetables of the season. Green Surge conveniently delivers to Studiomix when you place your custom order.

Fiber foods
Real, whole foods are your best source for dietary fiber. Look for these foods below to get your fiber fix, and aim for 6-10 servings a day from a variety sources:
• dried beans
• lentils
• oat bran
• oatmeal
• rice bran
• barley
• peas
• most vegetables (including leafy greens, cabbage, beets, carrots, brussels sprouts,   turnips, cauliflower)
• most fruits (including citrus fruits, strawberries, blueberries, pears, apple pulp and apple skin)
• whole grains (including wheat, rye, rice, barley and most other grains)
• wheat bran
• seeds


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Fitness & Nutrition Tips

Ask a Coach Q & A: Will Strength Training Make Me Bulky?

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Question: Will Strength Training Make Me Bulky?

Answer: By Katy Jercich, Head Health Coach

It is extremely unlikely for regular strength training to have a Hulkish effect on most people, especially women. Let’s get to the bottom of this highly misconstrued question.

Myth: Strength training makes women bulky

The ratio of muscle to fat you have is dependent on a few key factors, some you have no control over (like genetic predetermination) and some you do (like nutrition and exercise).

Women have a distinct disadvantage if the goal is to put on mass. They have about one-tenth the testosterone of men, and testosterone is key in the muscle building process. So women, even if you’re working out just as hard as your male counterpart, lifting the same amount of weight meanwhile packin’ in meals every chance you get, you still won’t see the same results with regard to muscle building. I know, I know, it’s a shame…

But, women can and should build muscles- especially since they don’t have to worry about looking bulky. Instead of seeing large, rounded muscles develop, most women will experience a sleeker, longer, flatter muscle under the skin. However this is not the case 100% of the time. As mentioned earlier, your genetics still play a significant role in how your body responds to strength training.

Myth: Strength training doesn’t burn fat

Far too many people are focused on how many calories they burn while they’re in the gym, but this is shortsighted. Instead, what if you focused on how your body expends calories outside the gym during everyday life activities? You burn calories throughout the day regardless of what you are doing- that’s the nature of metabolism. Exercise helps increase the rate at which you burn those calories. With most forms of traditional steady-state cardio, you expend calories while you’re exercising, but once you stop, you quickly go back to your normal metabolic rate.

Strength training, however, builds muscle and more muscle helps you burn more calories even when you’re kickin’ back on your couch.

Alwyn Cosgrove co-authored the book The New Rules of Lifting and is one of the most trusted authorities in fitness, strength training and athletic conditioning. Something worth taking note of, Alwyn says, “Strength training is a critical component of any program that emphasizes long-term fat loss.”

Think of it this way: Muscles are “hungry” from a metabolic perspective. The more muscle you have, the more fuel you are constantly burning. This is the advantage strength training offers if your goal is to decrease body fat.

Treadmills and ellipticals are often seen as a quick fix to rev metabolism, and they are certainly useful if your goal is to improve cardiovascular health, endurance or simply to burn some extra calories, but strength training is a powerful ally. There are many different ways to get into shape, and while steady-state cardio has its benefits, there are limitations to using it as a sole form of exercise to lose weight.

So, where do I start?

If you’re new to strength training, hiring a trainer or coach who can teach you how to squat, deadlift, overhead press, and do a chin up safely and effectively may be the first logical step. Once you have a grasp on basic proper mechanics, you’ll activate the right muscles and get much more out of your workouts. You’ll also be able to apply what you’ve learned during classes at the gym such as our awesome options like Strength + Conditioning, Build,  TRX and Cross Mix just to name a few.

If you want newer (and possibly more exciting) variations, consider Kettlebells, Bulgarian Bags, medicine ball or barbell circuits, sled pushes, or battling rope variations- the options are endless!

Strength training can help you lose body fat and is likely a quicker ticket to better fitness than just plain cardio exercises. It also won’t limit your athleticism (it will more likely improve it), and women can derive tremendous benefit from resistance training without getting bulky. However as with any program, you’ll have to put in the work. Get to the gym, lift something heavy and reap the benefits.


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