Too Good To Be True

Common myths/old wives tales/scams that I commonly see in the health and fitness industry.

Today I wanted to talk about common myths/old wives tales/scams that I commonly see in the health and fitness industry. But first, a story. When I was a child I remember seeing an advertisement for Sea Monkeys. It was awesome. A promise of getting these little buggers in the mail and doing nothing more than adding water then BOOM! I would have these little guys to play with and train to do tricks. Of course when I hatched the Sea Monkeys I got stinky swimming shrimp that did nothing but poop. I learned a valuable lesson from this. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
 
As a disclaimer, this is not the end all be all on these products. In fact, I have used/followed some of the things I’ll be going over. Information is constantly changing, so it is important to view things from a critical point of view. And if you disagree with me on anything, I welcome your feedback and any information to go along with it from a credible source. Disagreeing is not a bad thing. It’s how we all learn!
 
A * denotes a source that includes foul language
 
Supplements
Supplements are a valuable tool for many reasons. However, not all of them hold water when we take a close look at what the supposedly do. In my opinion, the worst of the supplement industry scams are spread by celebrities, “natural” practitioners, “ancient remedies“, and of course word of mouth. All of these methods often push detox cleanses. In short, cleanses* DO NOT WORK. Your body is well equipped to rid itself of toxins, so don’t waste your hard earned moola. And with flu season ramping up, I would also like to mention that vitamin C and zinc won’t do squat to get rid of those sniffles. Get your flu shot*wash your hands, and stay away from sick people.
So what does work? Well lots of supplements do! However, it’s important to ask a few questions before diving in. A good example is vitamin D. It’s very widely used, but asking “why” will determine if it, or any other supplement, is right for you. Check out this link for more info. Another question to ask is “is it worth it?” Lots of supplements claim to have a benefit. However, they can also come with risksSt. Johns Wart, for instance, may help with depression symptoms, but it also produces adverse reactions when taken with almost any drug. Talk to your doctor before starting any new supplements. Finally, supplements don’t have to label exactly whats in them. So make sure you buy high quality, do some research on the company, and verify the ingredients in the products you purchase. 
 
Diet Scare Tactics & Fads
The internet is full of useful and science-backed information. It is also full of quacks and fear mongers. Here are a few example of what to look out for. Appealing to nature is by far the most common method of health advertising. But claiming something is “organic” or “natural” doesn’t really mean anything. Death cap mushroom, snake venom, even formaldehyde found in fruit is organic/natural. Conversely, chemicals are found in everything as well! And when it comes to GMO’s and antibiotics in meats… well there’s nothing to fear. In fact, in some cases GMO foods can prove to be superior or even save lives. And then there’s gluten. I can write for days on the wheat protein. For the most part, gluten’s deleterious effects are way over-hyped. It may in fact be the carbohydrates (fructans and galactans) associated with gluten causing the problem! But for those who it truly affects, there are some strategies that may be worth a try.
 
The Bottom Line
All sorts of fake stories and nonsense pop up on the internet every day, and it can sometimes be hard to spot the rubbish. In all, I’ve only touched on a few areas. Other oddities not included are the unreal health benefits of alkaline waterkrill oilessential oils, and the nonsense that is homeopathy. It comes down to dollars and cents. It’s the marketing* department’s job to sell a product, and that’s where a grain of truth will be stretched beaches long. So make sure you take a good long look at the credible evidence behind bigger and better health products you hear and see advertised. Because when it seems just too good to be true, it probably is.

The Happy Healthy Traveler

Traveling will always throw you in a funk when it comes to your health and fitness habits. So today I wanted to go over some tips to help you stay on track with your goals.

It’s inevitable. During the summer we will all likely be doing some traveling for vacation, sports, or a friend who selfishly demanded to do a destination wedding. Of course these events are special, but they will always throw you in a funk when it comes to your health and fitness habits. So today I wanted to go over some tips to help you stay on track with your goals, but more importantly, I want to hear about your favorite tips and tricks for staying on target.

Health Before Fun, Food, or Fitness

Before we dive into the fitness and nutrition side of things, I think it’s important to address the health needs of the traveler. Depending on where you’re going, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. First, if you’re going outside of the country (or to Michigan), make sure you are aware of the water situation. If the tap water isn’t good for drinking, then you will need to game plan for buying bottled water, brushing your teeth, and to keep your mouth shut when you take a shower or hop in a swimming in a pool. Nothing’s worse than running a trip short due to the runs. Speaking of which, consider taking bismuth subsalicylate (sold as Pepto-Bismol and various store brands) before every meal to decrease your chances of developing diarrhea (1). Never eat undercooked foods — eggs, meat, fish or poultry — or any food sold by street vendors, and wash your hands before and after meals to ensure you have a pleasant trip. Finally, make sure you are all up-to-date on routine vaccines (measles-mumps-rubella, varicella (chickenpox), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, hepatitis A, typhoid, polio, an annual flu shot, and, if needed, a prescription for generic Malarone (atovaquone proguanil) to prevent malaria. Check out this link to know exactly what vaccinations you need depending on your destination. Be sure to pack an ample supply of sunscreen, insect repellent with 20 percent or more of DEET, and a first-aid kit of hydrocortisone cream, antibiotic ointment and a variety of bandages. When flying, be sure to get up and walk around to avoid blood clots especially if you’re over 40, obese or pregnant, or have limited mobility (for example, because of a leg cast) or have a personal or family history of clots. Although rare, blood clots can be a very serious problem that everyone should be aware of.

Nutrition No Brainers

When I think about traveling and nutrition, I think about how speed is the key. You want to get in and out fast so you can just get to where you’re going. Of course, this means stopping at a fast food place. To avoid the junk at fast food places, I have a few tips that may seem like no-brainers, but actually going through with them is key.

#1 Pre Travel Game Plan – My wife spends hours planning her outfits for any trip. She writes down what she will need for each day of the trip, lays out the clothes, and then makes sure they will all fit in her bag. This same technique should be applied to your nutritional needs for any trip! Make a game plan by writing down how many times you/your family will need to eat, make a note of whether it will be on the road, hotel, or at the destination, and pack a cooler accordingly. The food you make yourself will almost surely be healthier than a number 8 with a soda at a fast food joint. This is especially true if you or your kids will be on the road for sports competitions.

#2 On The Road Game Plan – If you know your travels will take you on the road/air for multiple meals, there Here are a few things you can do to help keep yourself fueled with the good stuff: ask the airline ahead of time for a special meal, request a room with a small fridge for healthy food storage, and pack foods that don’t need to be immediately refrigerated.

#3 The Destination – Wherever you go, there is no excuse for not eating well. There are grocery stores, local markets, and healthy restaurant options everywhere. With a few taps of the smart phone, you can find these locations with ease. Because most of us will opt for the restaurant option, you will want to look for healthy choices online ahead of time;

* Protein (grilled chicken breast, lean beef, shrimp tuna, beans, etc)

* Veggies

* Side dishes because you can make pretty good meal from a few side orders, such as a single egg or a cup of fruit

* Appetizers because ordering a small item or two instead of a table-crushing platter of ribs is always better option

* The classic soup and salad options are filling and familiar

* Eat slowly, put your fork down and take long sips of water between bites so that you aren’t rushing through your meal and filling up before you even notice you’re satisfied

#4 Snacks – I love to snack on long drives because it helps keep me focused. Naturally, there are better options out there than chips and soda to snack on. So here are a few thoughts on what to pack, or what to look for at the gas station, when on the move.

* Focus on portion control when packing your own food. You will eat more if you put everything in one big container rather than many small ones

* Fresh produce such as apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, clementines, celery sticks, edamame and carrot sticks

* Hard-boiled eggs are perfect for any time of the day, but are particularly better for you than a hotel waffle or muffin at breakfast

* Dried fruit/jerky because fruits are packed with potassium and fiber and jerky is an excellent snack that’s low in calories and high in protein.(just make sure they both are unsweetened)

* DIY trail mix with unsweetened dried fruit, nuts, whole-grain cereal and seeds packed them in little snack baggies with cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice or smoked paprika to kick it up a notch

* And my personal favorite, snack sized pickles. No calories (that’s right… 0) and the salt in them will help you retain a little water so you don’t have to make quite so many potty breaks

Exercise & Sleep

When it comes to your health, exercise and sleep are crucial. And traveling will always throw a wrench in the works for both of these. Click this link to learn everything you need to know about sleep and how to keep a regular healthy pattern while traveling. And when it comes to exercise, you should always be able to make time for a quick workout. Those 30 to 45 minutes in the gym during the week doesn’t make up for all the time on your rear. Crunched for time? Well then do a cool 15 minute core workout like this one. Outdoor workouts like a scenic walk or run from the hotel work wonders. In-room workouts offer challenges, but doing dips on a chair, push ups, resistance bands, tennis ball for self-myofascial release, a bag filled with water for resistance exercise, and even a towel can easily be used for a yoga mat. Heck, if you have a wall, you can have a workout! Bottom line, don’t make excuses, just get it done!

References

  1. DuPont, H. L., Ericsson, C. D., Johnson, P. C., Bitsura, J. A. M., DuPont, M. W., & de la Cabada, Francisco Javier. (1987). Prevention of travelers’ diarrhea by the tablet formulation of bismuth subsalicylate. Jama, 257(10), 1347-1350. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03390100085031

Back to Basics

Occasionally I forget that not everyone is comfortable with the gym environment. So lets rewind a little bit and focus on the basics of the gym.

Today I wanted to rewind a little bit and focus on the basics of the gym. Occasionally I forget that not everyone is comfortable with the gym environment. I’ll say “go ahead and pick up those dumbbells” to which a client will look at me with a blank stair. With so much equipment around they are left wondering what the heck is a dumbbell?!?! This is only one example of how confusing the gym can often be. So here are some guidelines on what is in thy gym, what its for, and some common courtesy practices that everyone should be utilizing. 
 
Free weights/dumbbells: For all you Cary O2 members, these are the weights in front of the mirrors that range from 5lbs to 130lbs. These weights can be used for a wide variety of exercises and are extremely dynamic. Make sure you start with a low weight when trying a new exercise. Generally you should be able to do 8-12 repetitions with a given weight to keep it safe.
 
Olympic bar/barbell: This tool is commonly thought of when describing the bench press. All of the large barbells in the gym are 45lbs, with the smaller ones ranging in weight. These tools can be use in a wide variety of exercises including squats, lunges, shoulder presses, rows, curls and a whole lot more.
 
Plates and clips: These tools are commonly used with the barbell to increase resistance. The weight plates range from 2.5lbs to 45lbs and are placed in equal amounts on either side of the barbell. For safety reasons you should always secure the plates with clips (they look like springs).
 
Kettlebells: These are the strange looking weights that are scattered around the gym. They look like an iron blob with a handle on the top ranging from 10lbs to 60lbs. Some common exercises done include the kettlebell swing, squat press, or high pull. Just make sure that you are in a safe place where no passers by will get hit when you are performing these exercises.
 
Now lets talk gym etiquette. Etiquette can be a problem wherever you go in life, but at the gym there are few basic rules that we all should abide by.
 
1. Have an idea of what your workout will be so that you don’t end up “hogging” equipment. Spending in hour on the squat rack (or doing exercises like bicep curls on the squat rack) is not cool. There are a lot of people looking to use that equipment so try and keep it short and sweet. This goes for all the equipment. 
 
2. Carry a towel and wipe equipment down before and after use. If Seinfeld taught us anything its that no one likes to use sweaty equipment. At least give it a once over for the next user.
 
3. Put weights (or any equipment used for that matter) back when you’re done. It’s really not that hard to put things back where you found them. I’m sure we have all been in the situation where we couldn’t find what we wanted to use because some Bozo left it across the room. It’s a group effort to make this happen, so feel free to call out perpetrators when you spot them 😉
 
4. It’s OK to share. Going back to the squat rack scenario, if you see someone waiting to use the rack, offer to let them use it while you’re resting between sets. If someone is using the squat rack and you’re waiting on them to finish up, simply ask if it’s cool to work in with them. Not only are most gym goers happy to share, they are often likely to help spot you as well. Not to mention it creates a great way to meet new people and make new friends. This concept, again, goes for any equipment or machine you are using.
 
5. It’s OK to ask. Have you every seen a machine, piece of equipment, exercise, or group class and realize “I have no idea what that is”. Well you’re not alone. There is lot’s to discover at the gym, and it’s always okay to ask a professional. Between the trainers, group instructors, and gym staff, we’ve got you covered. Not to mention we are all friendly and can give you the right advice the first time.

Losing Weight = Loose Wallet?

A few simple tips for dropping pounds and beefing up your budget!

Today I wanted to talk about losing weight on a budget. Because cutting a few Lb’s shouldn’t mean you need to cut a few goodies off of your wish list. So here are a few simple tips for dropping pounds and beefing up your budget!
Harness Your Inner Boy Scout
Be Prepared is a Boy Scout motto that I will never forget. It just so happens to be the first tip! Planning and prepping your meals ahead of time means you wont have to spend extra money by stopping for fast food (costly on the wallet and calorie budget), stopping for groceries while hungry (worst idea ever), or saying “screw it!” and just eating whatever junk you have laying around the house (unless you’re in college, a bowl of cereal for diner is not acceptable). There are dozens of ways to meal prep. To get started check out herehere, and here.
Frugality Does Not = Cheapskate
Buying groceries on a budget does not mean you need to buy the cheapest foods. In fact, paying a little more to buy potatoes instead of potato chips will save you money in the long run! When we spend a little bit more in the produce section, we receive the gift of nutrients(vitamins and minerals) in return. And what happens when we feed ourselves nutrient dense foods? We reduce our cravings for junk, we feel fuller longer, and we consume fewer overall calories! Check out some of these recipes for holiday foods that taste as great as their nutritional value.
Don’t Become a Potato Because You Can’t Be a Ninja
We spend our entire lives getting to the fitness level we are at right now. So don’t become a couch potato because you don’t look the way you want to right now! Gymtimidation is a real thing… for everyone. At some point we have all seen someone at the gym and said to ourselves “I wish I looked/performed like them.” The key is to use this potential barrier as motivation, and NOT letting it weigh you down to potato town. This means you can’t set unrealistic goals and lack patience, lack social support, lose your motivation/desire, or focus too much on the end goal.
Losing weight on a budget is like anything else. To look and feel a little bit better you need to plan/budget/exercise a little bit better. Take the cost of getting lean in stride, and you will do just fine.