10 Minutes to a Better Morning

Starting the morning with a stretch is something most of us do unconsciously, and it really does your body good. Think about it: you’ve been lying mostly still for hours, and your muscles are all tight from not being used. Stretching allows them to wake up slowly, just like you do with your brain (you wouldn’t jump right into doing calculous without coffee first, right?). That’s why we think you should do more for your muscles in the morning and do yoga when you first wake up!

Don’t worry, we’re not saying you need to do a full hour-long class every morning; just 10 minutes is all your body needs to stretch out and wake up fully. You can start buy just warming up: sit cross-legged on the ground or a pillow and focus on your breathing for a minute. Close your eyes if it helps, but don’t fall back asleep! Move into rotating all your joints, from your wrists and neck to your hips and ankles. Don’t forget your neck, and do sit up straight – this should help a little with any back or neck cricks you got during the night.

Now for the actual stretches: mix it up! We think you should start with downward dog because it really is a full body stretch that benefits everything, but after that you can do any yoga pose you’d like! The point is to wake up your whole body, so make sure you pick stretches that target each region, like side planks and pigeon. However, if you have favorites, by all means incorporate those! We love finishing with child’s pose (who doesn’t?!). Come back to your sitting pose, give yourself another ten breaths or so to calm down, and then get on with your day! Easy peasy!

Is Exercising Making You Fat?

It’s basically our worst nightmare: you can work out so much that you actually gain weight! Now before you start adding this to the list of scary things you have to vaguely worry about all the time (like the fact that avocados are declining or that house cats eat people if given the chance), you should note that you’d have to work out a lot for this to be the case. Usually it’s everyday, twice a day. Who even has time for that?

Apparently, this is a trend that’s becoming more and more prevalent, as people struggling to get in shape (or stay in shape) figure that more exercise is always better. This isn’t actually the case, and can trigger something called adrenal fatigue, where you exhaust your body’s ability to “fight or flight” over a period of days, but you continue to push it after that. Your hormone levels go crazy because of this, and start producing more cortisol, which is a stress hormone that makes you retain belly fat.

Personal trainer Liz Letchford has seen it all before. “Your entire central nervous system is regulated by a complicated system of hormones. Throw them out of whack, and you’ve got some serious issues.” She recommends that people stay away from high intensity, long duration exercises, and instead pick only one of those. And she also says that recovery time after intense exercise is a key component that keeps you looking your best. Your body needs… to recover from all of the breaking down that has been happening during workouts.” See? A personal trainer is telling you to kick up your feet for once!

30 Days to a New You!

There are a lot of diets out there, but a lot of them start out with a strict period right at the very beginning to jump start the diet and help you curb your cravings immediately. The thinking seems to be that if you can make it through these weeks of “diet bootcamp,” you’ll be able to start reintroducing foods back into your diet without going overboard. Emily Cappiello, a food writer and self-proclaimed “social media maven” decided to test this theory out recently when she went on the Whole30 diet, which requires participants to give up sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, and soy and dairy from their diets for 30 days.

As a food critic (and a normal human being who loves to eat), you might think that Emily agonized about the decision to try this out before she did it, but she actually just ripped off the bandaid without much hesitation, and she recommends you do too. If you’re even a little interested in trying a diet, you should just go for it, Emily recommends; otherwise, you just come up with reasons for why it will be hard. And if you’re fully on board, you’re friends and family will be, too. When you show them that you’re firm about sticking to your diet, they’ll be more inclined to accommodate you.

Emily has some further tips for a diet like this, not the least of which is to plan for nights out. Make sure there’s something on the menu before you show up to a restaurant so you aren’t left out or forced to cheat. Also, always have some go-to staples on hand (hers were eggs for protein, frozen blueberries for sweetness). Be sure to meal prep so you’re prepared for the days ahead, and remind yourself that it’s only 30 days. You got this, and afterwards, what was hard is now a habit already in place! Check out Emily’s before and after photos below!

 

Are Protein Shakes Really Healthy?

Protein shakes are all the rage among athletes and us normal people alike. Suddenly the urge to get more protein in our diet is overwhelming – Starbucks will even mix protein powder in your oatmeal if you ask them to! But do we really need this? Professional athletes might, but what does it really benefit a normal person who works out to stay healthy?

Protein is essential for nearly all bodily functions, in small amounts of course. Athletes need more protein because they need more calories in general compared to the average person, but they also put their bodies through a lot more and are recommended to consume between 1.2-2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. The recommendation for us normals is just .8g/kg of body weight. So if you were a 150lb athlete, you should eat between 81-136 grams of protein a day, while you or I (at 150lbs) should stick to about 54 grams.

That being said, you should be on the lower end of that athlete scale if you’re serious about getting in shape. Not only does protein help with how your body performs on an atomic level, but it also should replace sugary foods or carbs in your diet and thus help you lose weight. If you’re looking to really bulk up and gain muscle mass, creep more towards that 2g/kg of body weight. When you eat is also a factor. You should consume protein before and after a workout to boost muscle mass (about 20g each time, no need to get all your protein in at once). So in reality, those smoothie joints at your gym that are offering protein shakes are actually being helpful! Consider stopping by there while you’re waiting for a cycling class to start or after you get off the treadmill to boost your workout impact!

These Foods Cause Break Outs

Those of us without naturally clear skin know that it can be a struggle to get our face to behave. We were told we would grow out of it as teenagers, and now that we’re on the wrong side of 25 (or, ahem… 35), we’ll try anything to prevent breakouts. Having a clean face is important, of course, and hydration is paramount, but beyond soap and water, what can you really do for your skin? Well, a Dr. Frank Lipman of Los Angeles, California believes that the clarity and brightness of your skin depends heavily on your diet.

Dairy is a real kicker. Dr. Lipman says that because cows produce hormones when they’re lactating (just like humans, by the way), those hormones can effect our skin when we eat milk or cheese, causing us to break out. He recommends a switch to nut cheese or nutritional yeast, which have none of those hormones. Another big deal is sugar, which anyone who’s ever dieted knows is a no-no. This includes juices, however, which most people forget to cut out. Fruit juices have all the natural sugars of their original form, but none of the fiber that helps us break that sugar down appropriately. The spike in insulin reeks havoc on our skin. Smoothies made with nut butters and coconut milk are a much better option.

Dr. Lipman also recommends that you cut back on your carbohydrates, especially those that are processed (like white breads and baked goods, sweetened cereals and crackers). These can also spike your insulin because your body treats them like sugar, and usually they have salts or processed oils in them that cause inflammation. Inflammation, it seems, is a direct cause of acne. Basically, the more seeds and nuts you see in a bread product, the better it will be for you and for your skin!