Are you getting enough whole grains?

Whole grains are part of a healthy balanced diet. They provide important nutrients that may help reduce the risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes type 2 and cardiovascular disease.

The current recommendation is to have at least half of your grains as whole grains, meaning 3 to 5 servings of whole grains per day.

But do you know what they are and why they are important?

Whole grains are unrefined cereal seeds that still contain the whole kernel (bran, germ and endosperm). This means that they hold more nutrients than their refined counterparts.

During the refining process, the bran and germ are discarded in order to improve taste and texture. However, this process strips away fibre, antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals. What is left is basically starch, which is quickly broken down during digestion causing a rapid rise in blood sugar.

How Lack of Sleep Impacts your Weight

Did you know that poor sleep can impact your waistline?

That’s right. Fat tissue has it’s own biological clock that can be affected by lack of sleep.

For instance, our bodies tend to release enzymes that promote fat burn at times of high energy demand (such as early in the day) and that promote fat storage when there’s less energy demand (at night), following our natural circadian cycle.

However, when this cycle is disrupted, let’s say by staying up late watching Netflix, our ability to regulate appetite is also affected. We tend to crave high calories treats at a time in which the body is storing energy.

In addition, a poor night of sleep reduces levels of leptin (hormone that promotes satiety) and increases levels of ghrelin (hormone that stimulates hunger). That means you’ll be more likely to overeat.

Besides when you’re sleep deprived, you’ll also be moody and foggy. So there’s a good chance that you’ll look for comfort in tasty snacks and won’t have the willpower to resist cravings.

So here are a few things you can do to have a better night of sleep.

5 steps to better sleep

  • Move your body – Regular exercise may help you realign your internal body clock. Just avoid very intense exercise late in the evening because it may interfere with sleep.
  • Turn off electronic devices – Artificial light disrupt melatonin production which is responsible for deep sleep. Put away your phone and other devices at least 30 minutes before bed.
  • Clear your mind – A mind full of thoughts and worries creates stress, making harder to fall asleep. Journaling before bed is a good way to empty your mind.
  • Find relaxing activities – Activities that calm you down reduce the fight or flight response and contribute to a better night of sleep. Take a bath, meditate or read (paper book, no electronic devices!).
  • Make the room dark – A dark room induces melatonin production making it easier to fall and stay asleep. Turn off the lights, cover your windows and put your phone facing down.

BONUS TIP: Be careful with sleep ins – most people need to be awake around 16 hours before they feel sleepy. So if you wake up very late, you probably struggle falling asleep at night.

Keep in mind that a good night of sleep can make you feel good during the day. It also contribute to better food choices, more energy to work and exercise and better ability to manage stress. Seriously, sleep is a recovery rock star.

Are You Resting Enough?

Did you know that your gains happen outside of the gym, when you are resting? That’s right.

Exercise is just the initial push, a necessary stimulus that forces the body to go through physiological adaptations (getting stronger, building muscle, becoming leaner). For those adaptations to occur, the body requires time to clean up the mess created by your workout session (think of all the by-products left behind) and to repair broken down tissue that was (purposefully) damaged during exercise.

So what happens if we don’t give time for the body to recover?

Proper Form: Practice Makes Perfect

Go to any gym and you will see a festival of bad form and poor exercise technique. People lifting too much weight with no regard for proper form. No wonder there are so many injuries among “lifters.”

Maintaining good posture is a fundamental part of any exercise technique. That’s because when you use correct form, stress is evenly distributed throughout the muscles, bones and joints, making you less prone to injuries. Besides if body structures are well-aligned, muscle recruitment is more efficient, which means that the most adequate muscles for the activity will be called into play, requiring less effort and energy to perform it.

But do you know what proper form is? Here are some tips for keeping good body alignment during any exercise.

Reversing the Biological Clock

Exercise is the best anti-aging treatment.  However, most individuals seem to prefer being sedentary and risk having many chronic diseases associated with age. Maybe it is because we are completely surrounded with too many so-called “easy ways to reverse the clock.” Botox, plastic surgeries, anti-aging lotions, you get the picture. Unfortunately, these quick fixes only work on the outside. What about the inside? Our heart, lungs, muscles, and bones – they too suffer the effects of aging. As we get older, we tend to lose muscle and bone mass, our flexibility becomes limited, the production of hormones declines, our cardiorespiratory capacity diminishes, and our cognitive function becomes impaired, among others.

The good news is that living an active lifestyle can make your body stronger and more resistant to the wear and tear of time. Regular physical activity contributes to maintain/build muscle and bone mass, keeps your heart and lungs attuned, and improves metabolic function and hormonal production all of which prevent many chronic diseases related to aging.

Prevention is the Best Medicine

Prevention is the best medicine – I’m sure you heard this before. An overwhelming number of studies have shown that our lifestyle choices are responsible for causing or preventing many chronic diseases. So why is it so hard to improve our lifestyle choices? Maybe it is because we don’t feel immediately threatened by any health issues. At least not right now. However, as we get older chances are that our body won’t be able to deal with all the abuses we do when we are younger.

As the years go by, it is more common than not to put on some weight. Then, we blame our metabolism; we convince ourselves that it is slowing down as part of the aging process and it is only natural to gain a couple of pounds, until they start piling up, and you end up overweight and miserable. Also, many will develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, among others. And now, we blame our genes; it runs on the family, we say.

Preventing Common Injuries

According to Michael Boyle, author of “Advances in Functional Training,” most injuries in sports seem to be caused by very common muscle imbalances. Injuries tend to occur when stabilizing muscles are weak and fail to neutralize the stress placed on a joint and its structures. Moreover, whenever there is an imbalance between opposing muscle groups, the body tends to recruit other muscles in an attempt to stabilize the forces in the particular region. The problem is that those muscles were not designed for this function and won’t be able to do a good job, which allows some of the stress to be placed on joints, tendons and ligaments. As this abnormal muscle activation becomes frequent, it alters the relationship between the opposing muscles, affecting posture, body alignment, and movement patterns.

Excess Belly Fat Kills More

Many people think that because they are not “overweight” by the American standards (weight/height tables and Body Mass Index), they are free to be sedentary and have poor eating habits. Well, if this is your case, you better think again. A new research from the Mayo Clinic found out that people with normal body weight, but with excess fat around the waist are more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than anybody else. This proves that it’s not how much fat you have on your body that matters, but where it is deposited. It seems that abdominal fat has a toxic effect on the body and is associated with coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, among others. According to the researchers, when it comes to determining your risk for cardiovascular disease, you must pay attention to your waist-to-hip ratio, i.e., the waist circumference divided by the hip circumference. A waist-to-hip ratio greater than 0.86 for women, and greater than 0.95 for men, indicates abdominal obesity and increases one’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the future.

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Are You Happy?

I know you must be thinking “what does happiness have to do with fitness and health?” According to the World Health Organization, health is defined as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease.” Thus, our overall health depends on how we feel on a daily basis. Unfortunately, our hectic lifestyles can sometimes get in the way of our well-being.

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