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Category Archive: Nutrition

Hills, Hills, Hills

 

Now that we are entering the holiday season, some of us will be looking forward to some well deserved respite. For others, you will be looking for something different, maybe some cross training or different workouts to get you through the season. One favorite workout to keep you in running shape and shake things up a bit are: Hills!

I know what you’re thinking, unlike the lush green lands of Munnar in South India, there isn’t much hill action in Chicago but there are some locations around the city (see below) that will get you the elevation that you need! But if all else fails, we’ve included a remixed version of our workout that can be easily completed on a treadmill. Sorry, not sorry – no excuses. Hill workouts are beneficial to runners as an opportunity to strengthen and flex your muscles as well as building endurance and practicing your form. Other benefits to hill workouts include:

  • Increasing Speed
  • Improving Cadence
  • Activating Lower Body Muscles
  • Decreasing Risk of Injury
  • Building Power & Strength in Legs
  • Improving Stamina

Let’s get to it! Below you will find a good intermediate level hill work out with its treadmill alternative as well. You can also check out this video for basic form tips for both uphill and downhill running!

 

Hill Work Out

  • 1 mile warm up
  • 4 hill repeats (up and down the hill with a 80-90% effort)
  • 1/4  mile easy jog/recovery
  • 4 backwards up hill (run down as usual)
  • 1/4 mile easy jog/recovery
  • 4 hill repeats
  • 1/4 mile easy jog/recovery
  • 2 walking lunges up hill (run down as usual)
  • 1/2 mile cool down

 

Hill Work Out (Treadmill)

The treadmill should be set at a 1.0 incline to simulate flat running.

  • 10 min warm up (1.0 incline)
  • 2 min  small incline (3.0)
  • 2 min easy recovery (1.0 incline)
  • 1 min incline 5.0
  • 2 min easy jog (1.0 incline)
  • 1 min incline 6.0
  • 2 min easy jog (1.0 incline)
  • 1 min incline 7.0
  • 3 min recovery (1 min at 0.5 incline, 2 min at 1.0 incline)
  • Repeat x1
  • 5-10 minute cool down

Tip: Too easy? Use the first minute of the “easy recovery” to add 0.5 mph to your speed.

 

Chicago: Hill Finds

Want to find some hills to use on your own during the week? In the Chicago area, we can vouch a few locations:

  • Cricket Hill at Montrose Beach
  • Soldier Field sledding hill (behind Soldier Field but before McCormick Place; right on the running path)
  • Small knoll leading up to Oglesby Monument by Diversey Harbor
  • 18th Street Pedestrian Bridge to Soldier Field
  • Waterfall Glen in Darrien
  • Morton Arboretum
  • Palos Park (off Rte. 83 and South LaGrange Rd)
  • “Mt. Trashmore” at James Park in Evanston
  • Sledding hill at Warren Park
  • Sledding hill at Marvin S. Weiss Community Center/Woodland Trails in Propsect Heights
  • Parking Garages

As always, these hill work outs should be a part of general training program; even if it is in-between regular weekly runs. Optimum performance will come from these as opposed to one offs!

The Right Fuel for You

One important facet of training, nutrition, is just as tedious to add to your routine as all the other elements. In the same manner in which we diligently select our training shoes, gear and schedule; we should be applying to our nutrition.

Today we will focus on nutritional supplements. In this day and age, there isn’t an hour that passes that you are not reminded of the awesomeness of X product or the earth-shattering results of Y product.

Let’s face it, sometimes we need that extra kick to get us through the day. Not all supplements are created equal. There are powders, drinks, gels, energy chews and bars. Whether you feel like you need a boost during a long run or are curious to train with a product that will appear on course, here you will fund a guide to what’s best for you and your training plan:

Sports Drinks

Examples: Gatorade, Powerade, Vitamin Water

Ideal intake: 110 mg of sodium / 6-8% carbohydrates per 8 ounce serving

Sports drinks are primarily a mix of carbohydrates and water which quickly and easily fuel your body with an energy boost while keeping you hydrated. The sodium in these drinks help to retain fluids and nutrients which leave the body through sweat. Adding protein to the mix could elevate your endurance and has been found to help an individual perform better than a non-protein drink. The proper balance of these elements is essential. Read your labels before buying. These energy drinks should only be consumed when training as they are heavy in sugar and have little nutritional value.

Energy Gels

Example: GU, CLIF Shot, Gatorade Energy Chews

Ideal Intake: 25 -30 grams of carbohydrates / 50 mg of sodium

Energy gels have the same function as energy drinks – quick energy – in a super concentrated form. Generally supplied as on course supplements during long runs, gels are easy to consume and fast acting. Be wary of caffeinated items as they will help you last longer but bring with it an equally egregious crash. We recommend that you train with gels as they highly body specific and what may work on most may not work on you. All gel intake should be accompanied, at minimum, by 16 ounces of water.

Energy Bars

Example: CLIF Bar, Powerbar

Ideal Intake: 200-250 calories / 5 grams of fat & fiber / 10 grams of protein

These are great nutritional supplements as they are filled with carbohydrates and protein but are more filling and able to satisfy hunger best during long runs. Energy bars are the most diverse and nutritious of the list as bars are often filled with good grains and fiber. When shopping for the ideal bar, it is best to picture when you would be eating the bar – prior, during, post – a run. The rule of thumb weighs in on lighter fiber, heavier carbs with plenty of water for during and heavier, protein based bards for pre or post runs.

 

So, How Bad is Soda for You REALLY?

It’s no secret that anything consumed in excess is not healthy for your body, and soda is NO exception to this category. An intake of an excessive amount of soda, whether it be regular or diet, is unhealthy for your body. There have been numerous studies that show an evident link between high levels of soda intake and health problems. Some of these health problems include:

1) Weight Gain

2) Poor Dental Health

3) Diabetes

4) Cardiovascular Disease


The main issue that stems from high rates of soda intake is an excess amount of sugar. The calories from the sugar contained in soda are shown to turn into fat more easily as compared to calories from fat found in food. While you may get a temporary “sugar rush,” it is exactly that: temporary. Overall, there really is just no nutritional value from drinking soda.
Along with the issues of sugar comes the sodium and caffeine that is found in soda. These two components of soft drinks have been shown to increase a person’s risk at developing heart problems. According to Dr. Mary Ann McLaughlin, “caffeine can increase heart rate and blood pressure, and too much sodium over the course of the day can increase food retention.  This combination of caffeine and sodium has a dehydrating effect.”


So, while there is substantial evidence supporting the idea that soda is not recommended in a balanced and healthy diet, it is not necessary to cut soda out of your diet completely. By simply limiting your soda intake to 2-3 sodas per week, you can still enjoy your quick sugar fix without all of the added health problems that are associated with it. When it comes to consuming anything, whether it be food or drink moderation and balance are key. Anything eaten or consumed in small doses will not have a substantial impact on your health and well-being.

CK

Change Up Your Diet

“First, we eat, then we do everything else.” –MFK Fischer

 

When it comes to our diet, we can tend to fall into the habit of routinely eating the same types of food every day. However, research has shown that incorporating diversity into your diet is an essential component when it comes to your overall health and well-being! Makes sense– since no single food actually contains all of the essential nutrients that our bodies need. We frequently hear about the dangers and health risks associated with an unhealthy and subpar diet, but, have you ever thought that a lack of variety when it comes to the food you are eating could actually be posing the same problem?!

 

“We all eat, and it would be a sad waste of opportunity to eat badly.” –Anna Thomas

 

A lack of variety in our diet can cause similar problems to our health as a poor diet. After speaking with Mark Heiman, chief scientific officer at MicroBiome Therapeutics, Craig Cox wrote that, “speaking at the recent Institute of Food Technologists conference in Chicago, Heiman argued that our tendency to stick to the same basic meals (rice, maize, and wheat, for example, account for about 60 percent of all the calories derived from plant sources) can compromise our gut’s ecosystem and lead to chronic diseases.” Heiman and his team studied the differing outcomes in a study conducted using subjects with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes along with healthy subjects. With the first group, Heiman incorporated inulin, beta glucan, and other antioxidants into their diet. The result? The gut ecosystems of the subjects in the first group were shifted, supporting the idea that adding more variety and diversity into our diets can physically alter our body’s ecosystem and actually improve our overall health.

 

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well” –Virginia Woolf

 

By disregarding diversity in food, we are actually doing our body’s a disservice. Our gut is microbiome is essential in ensuring our health and well-being, and the types of food we consume have a large influence on it. By sticking to the same diet day in and day out, you increase your risk of developing food intolerance and allergies. Diversity=stability. According to Dr. Deanna Minich, “if for some reason your supply of a particular nutrient is interrupted from one source, you have plenty of other sources from which to get that particular nutrient, making it easier to retain homeostasis, or stability.” This is important because it increases our chances at consuming all the essential vitamins and nutrients that our bodies need!

 

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” –Luciano Pavarotti

 

Changing up our diets and adding more diversity to them can make our lives happier and healthier. “On top of simply mitigating deficiencies, a diverse diet also ensures you benefit from the complementary actions of phytochemicals and mitigate some of the contributing factors to chronic diseases, such as dysbiosis, inflammation, and oxidative stress” (Minich, D). Variety offers many physical and mental benefits that can work to improve our overall health and well-being. Mix it up and have fun doing it! Who knows—you might even like your new diet plan!

CK

Works Cited:
Cox, Craig. Experience Life. “Diversify Your Diet to Improve Your Health.” https://experiencelife.com/article/diversify-your-diet-to-improve-your-health/.
Minich, Deanna. Deanna Minich. “6 Reasons Your Diet Needs to Include a Range of Foods.” http://deannaminich.com/food-diversity/.

Late-Night Snacking

We’ve all been there. You’re sitting there watching TV and all of a sudden BAM — the late-night snacking cravings hit you. Regardless of the fact that your body is still digesting the dinner you just ate hours ago, you have to go grab that pizza or a bag of chips. Most of the time you’re not even hungry either! So, why the irresistible urge to snack late at night? Where does it come from, and how is this seemingly unbreakable habit unhealthy for our bodies?


Some of the most common reasons for late-night snacking include:

Suggestibility

Boredom

Loneliness

Self-Denial

Nutritional Imbalance

Grief

Self-sabotage

 


According to Experience Life, “The reasons behind late-night snacking are complex and various, so the first step toward overcoming a late-night snacking habit is figuring out your own late-night snacking profile.” Once you take the time to realize when, where, and what you are eating at night, you can better understand and break your snacking habits. Distractions, substitutions, and even new-age rituals are key components that will help you with this.

When it comes to your health, snacking late at night can lead to problems with your metabolism. When you eat may be almost as important as what you eat. Because we tend to be more active throughout the day, our metabolisms are more intact, and we are therefore able to process energy more efficiently. In a study on mice, researchers created two groups. One had access to food all hours of the day, while the other group could only eat during an 8-hour period.

THE RESULTS?

Both of the high-fat groups ate the same amount of calories. But the mice who had eaten high-fat diets round the clock had a number of health problems, including weight gain, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, liver damage, and even motor problems when put to an exercise challenge. The mice who had had restricted access to food weighed 28 percent less than their free-feeding counterparts, and they didn’t have the other health problems observed in that group” (The Atlantic).

This study supports the idea that the later in the day that we are consuming food, the more health problems we may be facing due to our bodies slowed metabolism rates and inability to efficiently process food at that time.

While weight gain and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes have been linked to late-night snacking, a recent study suggests that your brain may also be at risk as well. According to Dr. Dawn Loh, “late-night snacking may affect our learning capabilities by affecting the parts of the brain responsible for learning and memory, specifically, the hippocampus.”

Breaking your late-night snacking habits is highly recommended for both your physical and mental health. If you have to have something, however, always opt for some healthier options.

 

CK

 

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/06/why-late-night-snacking-is-bad-for-you/259085/
https://experiencelife.com/article/the-hidden-causes-of-late-night-snacking/

Energy Drinks

Sometimes, we need a little pick-me-up to get us through the day. To do this, some people turn to coffee, 5-hour energies, or some type of energy drink. While we may feel a boost of energy after consuming one of these options, they can have some troubling side effects that are unhealthy for our bodies. Because of the loaded amounts of sugar found in energy drinks along with the sweetened flavor, these beverages can go down easily and even become addicting to some. But, what exactly happens to our bodies when we consume an energy drink?

An article created by Mayo Clinic suggests that weight gain is a common side effect of energy drinks due to the large quantity of sugar found in the beverages. To go along with that, large amounts of caffeine, or caffeine-like substances, can also lead to:

  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Increased blood pressure

The boost that you may get from energy drinks is short-lived due to the excessive caffeine and sugar found in them. Your body will soon come down from your “sugar high,” and you will experience a crash in your energy level. A recent publication by the National Institute of Health also suggest that the day following your energy drink consumption, you will experience “excessive daytime sleepiness” as well.

The advertising of energy drinks can oftentimes be misleading. Usually, athletes are featured in energy drink advertisements, suggesting that the drink can help improve or boost athletic performance. However, an article by Health Beat suggests otherwise. They state that “although the ads feature athletes, there’s no good evidence to support the idea that they improve performance. Some include ginseng and taurine, which could improve athletic performance, but there’s not enough of these ingredients in energy drinks to make a difference.”

Researchers have also emphasized that people with preexisting heart conditions, teenagers, and pregnant women should avoid these sugary energy drinks in order to prevent against serious medical complications. It is suggested that people should limit themselves to 16 ounces (500 ml) a day when it comes to energy drink consumption. Healthier alternatives to wake yourself up and give you more energy, however, are highly recommended.

CK

Works Cited
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/energy-drinks/faq-20058349
http://healthbeat.spectrumhealth.org/energy-drinks/

Is Alcohol Ruining Your Workout?

 

Sometimes, a nice, cold drink after a long, hard day is necessary. But, have you ever wondered how that alcohol may affect your body and your physical performance during your workout? According to some studies, alcohol has the ability to interfere with your muscle growth as well as cause your post-workout recovery process to slow down. So, how can you enjoy a stiff drink without ruining your workout and your physical performance?


Let’s hear some facts first…

According to Women’s Health, when you consume alcohol, your body prioritizes metabolizing the alcohol as opposed to other fats and carbs. Levels of cortisol, a stress hormone found in the body, also begin to rise in the presence of alcohol. In turn, this increases fat storage in different parts of your body. Along with a disruption in your muscle growth, recovery and metabolizing processes, alcohol also causes a disruption in your sleep patterns and nutritional intake. Because alcohol is not a nutrient, it cannot be stored as energy into the muscles. Therefore, it is stored into the body as a fat. According to an article posted by Laura Schwecherl on Greatist, “alcohol’s effect on the liver can also cause a shortage of oxygen, which interferes with the production of adenosine triphosphate synthesis (ATP) — a direct energy source for muscles.” Alcohol also goes hand in hand with dehydration. Alcohol dehydrates you and, as a result, slows down your muscle recovery process and can inhibit your workout performance.

While too much alcohol consumption puts you at risk for greater health problems, it is not all together bad. In fact, studies have shown that alcohol (consumed in moderation) can actually provide some health benefits for you as well! According to an article posted by Mayo Clinic, alcohol could possibly offer you benefits including reducing risk of heart disease, ischemic stroke, and diabetes. However, they also state that “the evidence about the health benefits of alcohol isn’t certain, and alcohol may not benefit everyone who drinks.”

So, while alcohol has been proven to hinder athletic performance and cause some unideal conditions for the body, it is not something you need to totally steer clear from. In moderation, alcohol can be okay for both men and women. While we do not recommend throwing a few back before your big race day, a post-race celebratory beer is something athletes (21+ of course) can enjoy without negatively affecting your body!

 

 

Works Cited:
N/A. Mayo Clinic. “Alcohol: If you drink, keep it moderate.” http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/alcohol/art-20044551
Schwecherl, Laura. Greatist. “Why Alcohol and Exercise Don’t Mix.” https://greatist.com/fitness/why-alcohol-and-exercise-dont-mix
Yeager, Selene. Women’s Health Magazine. “Drinking and Exercise: How Alcohol Affects Your Body.” http://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/drinking-and-exercise

 

 

 

Exercise and Circulation

When it comes to your body’s daily functioning, circulation plays an essential role in assisting keeping you alive. Your circulation affects all parts of your body including your heart, brain, lungs, stomach, and muscles. So, it should come as no surprise that exercise can play a role in circulation. Exercise and the circulatory system have a mutually benefitting relationship. According to Donald Dengel, PhD, director of the Laboratory of Integrative Human Physiology at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, “exercise makes the circulatory system stronger, more flexible, and more expansive — all at the same time. A healthy circulatory system then returns the favor by boosting athletic performance.” Exercise has also been proven to prevent and also help to cure the arterial damage that comes from unhealthy eating and unhealthy lifestyles in general.


When it comes to the mutual relationship, here are six ways in which exercise and circulation go hand in hand.

  • Exercise promotes blood-vessel health
  • Exercise helps inoculate against chronic disease
  • Exercise reduces heart-disease risk
  • Exercise bolsters athletic performance
  • Exercise improves lymphatic function
  • Exercise makes the heart bigger and stronger

When it comes to your heart, exercise plays a vital role in keeping it happy and healthy. When you exercise, your heart rate increases. As your fitness levels begin to improve, your heart in turn becomes stronger, thus decreasing your resting heart rate. According to Live Strong, “As you exercise, the hormone adrenalin causes your blood vessels to expand to allow passage of a greater-than-normal volume of blood. This is called vasodilation, which is a short-term response to exercise and is one of the reasons your surface blood vessels may become more prominent during exercise.” Another important component with exercise and circulation comes from the effect exercise has on your red blood cell count. By continuously working out and improving your fitness regime, you increase the number of red cells in your body. As a result, your body can transport more oxygen to parts of your body.

 

 

Works Cited:
Dale, Patrick. Live Strong. “The Effects of Exercises on the Circulatory System.” http://www.livestrong.com/article/413190-the-effects-of-exercises-on-the-circulatory-system/
Bergeson, Laine. Experience Life. https://experiencelife.com/article/how-exercise-affects-circulation-and-vice-versa/.

 

Get Your Head in the Game

When it comes to your health, two factors usually come to mind: your physical activity and your diet. However, there is a very important and essential factor when it comes to your overall health and well-being that it is too often overlooked: your mental health. Nourishing your brain is important in order for your body to function and operate correctly. Positivity and relaxation are both key components when it comes to improving upon your mental health, but there are some other tips and suggestions we have for you in order to ensure your body can become and stay mentally fit!


AVOID HIGH SUGARS

Our body creates and supplies glucose, which is essential for our brain’s functioning throughout the day. However, the simple sugars which are located in junk food cause peaks and drops in this circulation, and therefore upset the balance of our brain. According to the World Health Organization, it is recommended that only 5% of our caloric intake come from sugars. Today, however, people are consuming close to 5 times that much! Studies have shown that high sugar consumption can lead to low levels of insulin. As a result of this, cognitive functions such as memory and learning skills can be at risk

GET MORE PROTEIN

The amino acids found in the protein we consume are key components for a healthy brain. They provide essential materials that are needed to create the neurotransmitters that our brains depend on. Experts have stated that 20-25% of our daily diet should come from some type of high-quality protein. According to Psychology Today, “The hormones and enzymes that cause chemical changes and control all body processes are made of proteins.” Therefore, the basis for our brain’s daily function stems in part from the proteins we consume.

 REGULATE YOUR STRESS WITH VITAMINS

Everyone knows how stressful stress can be on your body. Stress hormones, however, can be regulated by vitamins such as Vitamin B, B3, and C. These vitamins can protect your body and its neurotransmitters from stress hormones that can have a negative effect on your body and your overall health.

READ A BOOK

We know that when it comes to your body, it is important to exercise and stay physically active. When it comes to your brain, however, we sometimes tend to forget that we need to do the same thing. Reading is the exercise of the mind! It can help to stimulate your brain and reduce your levels of stress. Reading has also been linked to improvements in memory as well.

REMEMBER TO SMILE

Research shows that a regular gratitude practice has the capacity to create new neural pathways that support a more positive outlook. Being around positive and uplifting people has also been shown to increase your happiness and overall sense of feeling. This is important to remember for you personally because, after all, you don’t want to bring down the people around you!

CK

Works Cited:
https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200301/brain-power-why-proteins-are-smart
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/06/sugar-brain-mental-health_n_6904778.html

 

5-Ingredient Smoothie

by Brooke Schohl, MS, RD, CSSD, METS II

A smoothie is a quick way to get some calories in when short on time! I encourage my clients to consume a maximum of one protein shake per day and focus the rest of the day on getting protein from food sources. And by no means is a daily protein shake a requirement for endurance athletes.

When building a smoothie, be sure to have all macronutrients represented – a carbohydrate, a fat and a protein. This will help to keep blood sugar stable as well as energy levels. Here is one of my favorites:

  • 1 scoop whey or vegetarian protein powder (protein)
  • 1 banana (carbohydrate)
  • ½ avocado (fat)
  • 2 T chia seeds (fat)
  • 1-cup fresh spinach

Brooke Schohl, MS, RD, CSSD, METS Level II is a registered sports dietitian and the owner of Fuel to the Finish Endurance Nutrition Coaching in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is an avid triathlete, having completed many triathlons of all distances including three IRONMAN races. She integrates that personal experience and knowledge into developing customized, sport-specific, metabolically efficient fueling plans for her clients. For more information on services and offerings, visit her website at www.fueltothefinish.com.