Blog Archives

Wellness Wednesday: Is Coffee Bad For You?

Today I wanted to write about one of the great loves of my life.  No, it’s not a significant other, or a pet, or some electronic, soul-slurping gadget….nope, I’m talking about that steaming cup of black coffee that kick starts my day, every day.   I love everything about coffee: the smell, the taste, the color, the warm excited feeling I get after I drink it.  Without it, I feel sluggish and unfit for human interaction.

But, I can’t write about coffee, because I’m supposed to be writing about healthy things and coffee’s not healthy, right?  As it turns out, more and more research is showing that the health BENEFITS of coffee consumption may outweigh the risks.

So, what are the benefits?

  1. Coffee has antioxidants (the good stuff found in many fruits and vegetables, not to mention tea, dark chocolate, and red wine).   Actually, Americans get more antioxidants from drinking coffee than from anywhere else.[1]  Antioxidants lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.
  2. Coffee contains minerals like magnesium and chromium that help your body control blood sugar, thereby lowering your risk for type 2 diabetes.
  3. Studies have linked coffee consumption to lower risk for Parkinson’s, dementia (including Alzheimer’s), and liver diseases like liver cancer and cirrhosis[2]

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So, you don’t drink coffee (Gasp! That’s cool; we can still be friends).   But maybe you’re a fan of the caffeine.  GOOD NEWS!  There are some benefits to moderate caffeine consumption, whether or not you get it from coffee:

  • Improves brain function and alertness (duh, right?)
  • Improves athletic performance (be sure to stay extra-hydrated to counteract caffeine’s diuretic effect)
  • Increases levels of dopamine in the brain, which helps make you feel good
  • Speeds metabolism and assists with fat breakdown in the body
  • Reduces the risk of gallstones and gallbladder disease

Now, I’m not sayin you should start chuggin Redbulls and Rockstars in the name of good health.   It may not stunt your growth, but too much caffeine can cause restlessness, insomnia, anxiety, irritability, and digestive troubles.   Keep it healthy by

1)      Avoiding caffeine 4-6 hours before bed

2)      Limiting your consumption to 1-4 cups a day, and

3)      NEVER mixing caffeine and alcohol

More info on coffee-drinking and your health:

http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/04/28/coffee.studies/index.html

http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/coffee-new-health-food

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lutMjeIIm-w

http://health.howstuffworks.com/mental-health/human-nature/health-myths/coffee-stunt-growth.htm

More on caffeine and athletic performance:

http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-242-301–13105-0,00.html

The Powerful Potato!

Mashed, baked, fried, hash-browned, or boiled—potatoes are one fantastic food. Not only do I think that potatoes are one of the most delicious things to grow from this amazing earth, but they’re also impressively good for you! Here are some of the incredible benefits that potatoes have to offer:

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Basic Nutritional Facts:

  • One very large, plain baked potato with the skin has approximately 200-280 calories, 0g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 30mg sodium, 63g carbohydrates, 7g fiber, 4g sugar, and 7g protein.
  • So we see that potatoes are not at all calorically dense considering how filling an entire potato can be! A single potato also contains a great amount of fiber and protein, which means that not only will they keep you feeling fuller longer than most foods, they’re good for the digestive system as well!

Vitamins and Minerals

  • Potatoes have much more to offer than just carbohydrates and protein; they’re also loaded with vitamins and minerals!
  • A single large potato contains significant amounts of Vitamins C, K, and B6, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, and Pantothenic Acid.
  • Fun Fact: One white potato has more vitamin C than a sweet potato!
  • Potatoes also contain noteworthy amounts of essential minerals that we require each day from our diets: calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese.
  • Another Fun Fact: A potato has more potassium than a banana!
  • Each of these vitamins and minerals plays a major role in regulation and function of bodily processes. Trying to explain the necessity of each of them could be the topic of an entire book, but just be aware that there is a recommended daily amount of vitamins and minerals and that potatoes can be a valuable contribution to your daily recommended intake!
  • For more detailed nutritional information for a plain baked potato, click here!

Potato Recipe Goodness

  • For some awesome potato recipes, check out potatogoodness.com to see how versatile potatoes can be in your diet! Also, here are some of my personal favorite ways to eat potatoes!
  • Baked with ranch sour cream (or other toppings): I’m actually not the biggest fan of the plain butter and sour cream topping that people typically eat on baked potatoes. Baked potatoes are incredibly easy to make (even in the microwave), and I like to change up the flavors by putting different toppings on my potatoes. Some of my favorite toppings are shredded cheese, chopped up steamed broccoli, Italian dressing, and sour cream with a packet of dry ranch dressing mix stirred into it to give it a tangy, ranchy flavor.
  • Southern fried potatoes: I’m not talking about French fries or any other shape of deep fried potato. Instead, my mom cuts thick semi-circle shaped slices of potato and fries them in a big frying pan with just a little bit of olive oil, chopped up onions, salt, pepper, and a seasoning my family likes called “Canadian steak seasoning.” I honestly don’t even know what all is in it because it comes mixed together and the helpful ingredients list just says “spices.” The soft, slightly browned seasoned potatoes make the perfect side to burgers and other typical summer cookout foods.
  • Potato Pizza: That’s right—potatoes and pizza make an awesome pair! While I was studying abroad last summer, one of my favorite types of pizza that I tried was called the “PPP: Pesto-potato pizza!” As you might assume, instead of red sauce there was a pesto base, delicious mozzarella cheese, and a layer of thinly sliced potato circles completely covering the top! Mellow Mushroom also has a delicious potato pizza; try it out if you’re feeling adventurous sometime!
  • Pink mashed potatoes: I know, you already think I’m crazy and I’m not helping my case. But no matter how many times we’ve been told to not play with our food, it’s still kind of fun to experiment every now and then. All credit for this one goes to my boyfriend, who taught me that if you boil a beet with your potatoes and then mash the beet completely smooth and mix it into your fluffy white mashed potatoes you end up with the coolest looking magenta mashed potatoes ever! (And the flavor doesn’t change at all!) Of course we had to make them together after he mentioned it to me, and they were delicious! I like to add milk, sour cream, salt, pepper, and a little butter to the plain mashed potatoes to make them especially creamy and delicious!

Sadly, “carbs” and “starches” have gotten a bad reputation among dieters and people in general as we are all exposed to commercials and claims about “carb-less diets” working miracles. The truth is that starches and carbohydrates make up the base of the food pyramid and are great sources of energy and fiber in our diets! The potato is an especially awesome exception because it acts as both a starch and a vegetable and provides high energy, high fiber, high protein, and a plethora of vitamins and minerals per serving! Potatoes have been a dietary staple throughout history and are still an excellent addition to a varied and balanced diet today! Adding some potato goodness to your diet is as easy as trying out a new potato recipe next time you decide to cook, choosing a baked potato as your side at a restaurant (including Wendy’s on campus), or popping a potato in the microwave for 5 minutes for a quick baked potato at home! (Just don’t forget to stab fork holes into the potato before microwaving to prevent explosion due to pressure build-up inside of the potato).

You know you want to try those pink mashed potatoes. Do it! A healthy addition to your meal is just a potato away!

Images courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Mythbuster: How Many Meals Per Day?

Over the past several years, I’ve encountered many people who swear by different eating habits as well as many claims about the number of meals that should be eaten per day in order to maximize the metabolism or lose weight.  In particular, the most common debate that I have encountered is the debate between eating fewer, larger meals each day (typically 3 meals) or eating a greater number of smaller meals throughout the day (typically 6 meals is the suggested number for this theory).  Is one of these patterns of eating really proven to be better than the other?

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The claims:

·      Eating three larger meals per day is sufficient for your body’s nutritional and energetic needs, but might not be ideal if you’re trying to lose weight.

·      Eating six smaller meals per day boosts your metabolism, regulates blood sugar levels, and reduces cravings by not allowing yourself to get so hungry in between each meal, making it a good tactic for weight loss.

The science:

·      Eating more frequent, smaller meals has not been shown to boost metabolism.  Some claims say that because digesting food slightly raises the metabolism while the process of digestion is actually occurring (this is true and proven and is called the thermic effect of food), it makes sense that the more often we eat, the more time our bodies spend digesting the food with an elevated metabolism. In reality, it’s all about the amount of food and the calories consumed.  For example, if you eat 2,000 calories for the whole day, whether you consume those calories in three meals or in six meals, the thermic effect of food will be the same for that day.

·      Concerning the issue of blood sugar regulation, this study seemed to conclude that the individuals who consumed six smaller meals per day did have consistently higher blood glucose levels throughout the day, but that the individuals who were eating three meals per day had lower normal blood glucose levels overall, which can be beneficial for people with diabetes. The people eating three large meals per day may have had bigger “spikes” in blood sugar with each meal, but their blood sugar levels evened out to be lower overall.

·      Does eating more frequent meals reduce cravings? Perhaps, but this study showed that the individuals eating three meals per day reported higher satisfaction levels and lower levels of hunger through better appetite control compared to those eating meals at the higher frequency.

The conclusion of the debate:

·      These two studies (1, 2) appear to have busted the myth about more frequent meal consumption leading to increased weight loss.  In studies of participants who were trying to lose weight and consumed the same amount of calories each day, when one group consumed those calories in three meals and the other group consumed those calories in more frequent meals throughout the day, there was not any scientifically significant difference in the weight lost by the two groups.

So the conclusion to which I personally came after looking into this topic was that the very best tactic you can adopt is to listen to your body and figure out what works best for you! I find that when I’m truly hungry, I can’t be satisfied by just eating a small meal or a snack—I usually need a full meal to get rid of the nagging hunger or I’ll just keep snacking. For some people, eating six meals in a day would mean nearly doubling their caloric intake, because it’s honestly just hard to stop eating if you don’t feel truly full.  For others, eating three meals is just never enough to stop their stomachs from growling in between meals. The simplest equation possible is to eat when you are truly hungry (not just in a nibbling mood), stop eating when you feel full and satisfied, and to repeat the pattern when you’re truly hungry again! This will result in the best energy balance and the most comfortable eating pattern for your body and will definitely lead to a better day overall—no one likes feeling hungry!

Images courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Health Beyond College

A handful of you aren’t leaving campus this summer, but for those that are, your health kick doesn’t have to be on pause until August.  Even if you’re counties, states or countries away from the SRC or Rams Head Rec Center, you can still stay in shape.  Here are some tips to have your healthiest summer yet!

  1. Training Time: Have you ever been to Campus Rec’s YouTube page and seen the Training Time videos?  A few personal trainers have filmed 5-10 minute videos so that you have a well put together routine, no matter what your fitness abilities are.  Posted are lower body, upper body and total body workouts.  Additionally, there are videos completely devoted to foam rolling, abs, glutes and other fitness topics.
  2. Take Cardio Outside: Just because you don’t have an elliptical doesn’t mean you can’t get in some cardio.  Take your dog on a walk, go on a hike with a friend or listen to that new playlist while you run.  Sure, it’s hot, but as the saying goes, “Nobody ever drowned in sweat!”
  3. Strength Train Without Weights: Wait, what?  If you don’t have a set of dumbbells or any weight machines, how are you supposed to strength train?  It’s possible.  Just Google a few routines without weights and you’ll find so many moves.  Some classics – pushup, walking lunge, plank, mountain climber, squat jump, crunch – I could go on!  Trust me, it’s easy to get an entire body workout without any equipment.
  4. DVDs: I am one who has done it all!  P90X, TurboFire, Insanity, basic Pilates DVDs.  You can find some workout DVDs online (like from Amazon) for extremely cheap and, for others, you can pay a pretty penny.  But those 90-day workouts are really equivalent to the cost of a gym membership and are a lot more convenient (sorry to get all infomercial-ly on you).  Look at some descriptions and reviews and find a DVD that is right for you!
  5. Watch What You Eat: At school, you’re probably used to the cheap basic food staples.  Bananas, peanut butter, oatmeal, etc.  At home, your mom may be making you fried chicken a couple times a week and maybe you’ll meet high school friends out for dinner pretty frequently.  Just be careful of your eating habits at home and remember to keep it as healthy as you can.  Click here for some summer recipes you can make at home and here for Campus Rec’s Pinterest page (with lots more delicious recipes).

You will survive a few months without the gyms on campus, I promise!  And, of course, you could join a gym at home (warning – it won’t be as amazing as it is here!).  Have a healthy and safe summer and continue to check back here for the latest fitness info!

Fitness & Nutrition Roundup: A Nutritionist’s Favorite Foods, New Cardio Routines & More!

13 Myths That May Be Messing with Your Workout – One day you read that you need to fuel your body before a workout and the next day you read that you burn the most fat on an empty stomach.  Well, which is it?  FitSugar breaks down fitness truths and lies so that you’ll be exercising efficiently and in a healthy way.

6 Foods This Nutritionist Eats Every Day – Want to know what registered dieticians are regularly eating?  Read this article from Health and you’ll learn what foods will give you the wide spectrum of nutrients your body needs.  Here’s a preview – dark chocolate!

5 Muscle-Building Exercises You’ve Never Tried – If you’ve been doing the same number of the same weight squats, bench presses and lunges for the past year, it’s probably time to switch up your routine.  Check out these great strength training moves from Men’s Health.  You’ll work every muscle in a new way.

5 New Ways to Do Cardio – Are you bored of the same old cardio routine?  If you’re one who counts down the minutes til you can hop off the treadmill, check out this article from Self.  Five new 30 minute cardio workouts are provided that’ll keep things exciting and keep you from getting bored.

Eat Healthy While Eating Out!

Staying fit and eating healthy doesn’t have to mean cooking in your room every night.  This is college –  you’re supposed to go out, celebrate birthdays, hang out with friends after a long week of exams, support benefit nights and any other reason you find to eat at a restaurant on Franklin Street!

Eating out is not always the healthiest option though, but it’s inevitable.  Living a healthy lifestyle does not mean you have to trap yourself in your dorm room every night.  Below I’ve listed some restaurants on Franklin Street with smart options.  Many of their websites provide nutritional information so you can decide what to eat before you get there, read the menu, get overwhelmed and decide to order the unhealthy cheese fries.

  • Pita Pit – This place is like Subway, but in pita form!  You have all the veggies and lean meats to choose from.  Have yours in salad form or on a whole wheat pita!
  • Sweet Frog/Yogurt Pump – Okay, so frozen yogurt can be filled with tons of added sugar.  These places almost always have one or two “No Sugar Added” options to choose from.  Add some fresh fruit or nuts as a topping and you’ve got a low-calorie treat.
  • Qdoba/Chipotle – I always avoid chips and tortillas (i.e. burritos, quesadillas, etc.).  But if you get a burrito bowl – that is, all the meat, veggies and salsa of a burrito without the tortilla – you’ve got yourself a great, filling meal.
  • Caribou/Starbucks – Coffee places can be tricky, but if you show up prepared, you can easily get an under 100-calorie drink.  If you don’t have time to look at the menu, you can always go for a plain ol’ cup of joe.
  • Bandido’s Mexican Cafe – Again, don’t even look at those chips.  Once you eat one, you won’t stop.  But at Mexican restaurants, you can always enjoy a taco salad (I just don’t eat the shell) or split fajitas with a friend.  Plus, at this place, they have a salsa bar – that means all-you-can-eat tomatoes!
  • Med Deli – Hummus made out of chickpeas?  Olive oil covered tomatoes?  Lean meats?  What more could a health conscious person ask for?  You’re bound to find a fresh choice at this infamous restaurant.
  • Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe – I try to avoid the M&M pancakes (although it doesn’t always work out).  Getting an omelet with lots of veggies or some whole wheat toast and fresh fruit is a great option if you’re ever craving a breakfast out!
  • McAlister’s/Panera – These places are known for being healthy, but always be sure to check the nutrition information before ordering.  While there are a handful of healthy salads, sandwiches on whole wheat bread and low-calorie soups, some are loaded with fatty, high-calorie dressing or mayonnaise-based spread.  Like some other Franklin Street places, if you come prepared, there are many great options to choose from.

Fitness & Nutrition Roundup: Protein Powder Recipes, Jumpstart Your Interval Training & More!

10 Things Trainers Wish You Knew About Your Workout: Real Simple interviewed some trainers and found out the most common exercise mistakes, but the article doesn’t leave you hanging there.  Find out what mistakes you might unknowingly be making and how to easily correct them in order to see better results in the gym!

How to Become a Morning Workout Person: I’ve gone to the gym at all sort of hours and I think it’s safe to say that it’s an extremely small minority that are morning workout folks.  If you skip hitting the snooze button and exercise in the morning, that leaves the rest of the day entirely free.  If you want to learn how to painlessly make it to the gym before your day gets busy, read this article from Women’s Health.

15 New Ways to Use Protein Powder: Tired of the ol’ fruit and protein powder smoothie?  Get your protein fix in from one of these Daily Spark recipes, including cake, cheesecake pancakes and more!  You can even whip up a recipe or two for your friends and they’ll have no idea they’re building muscles while they chew.

6 Ways to Jumpstart Your Interval Training Today: We’ve all been told that interval training is the most effective way to workout.  Still not doing it though?  Body Building will teach you how it works, how to incorporate it into your usual routine and how to put a plan into action.

Prep for your Workout

Do you ever get to the gym and feel somewhat clueless?  Working out isn’t as simple as just showing up and getting into your routine.  Whether you are new to the gym or a veteran, follow this plan to prepare for a workout.  It’ll help you avoid injury, perform your best and see results.

  1. Plan – What will you do at the gym?  Weights, cardio or a combination of both?  Come to your workout with a specific plan.  If you do, you’ll be less tempted to skip out the hard stuff.  If I wait to do my abs after my workout, sometimes I’ll just skip and go back to my dorm a tad early.  Know exactly what you will do and for how long at the gym.  If you’re like me, do your abs before your cardio.  Know which arm exercises and which leg exercises you’ll perform.  Know how many miles you will run on the treadmill or how long your set of sprints will be.  Be prepared!
  2. Fuel – As I’ve stated before, it is incredibly important to have a pre-workout meal.  Maybe “meal” isn’t the right word, but a snack with some carbohydrates is a great way to get your body ready for intense exercise.  Try some fruit, a granola bar or even some toast with peanut butter.  Carbs will fuel your body with the energy it needs to get through any sweat session.
  3. Warm Up – If you’re short on time, it can be tempting to skip the warm up.  Do not, I repeat, DO NOT skip this 5-10 minutes.  If you casually walk into the SRC and go straight into doing heavy squats or extreme sprinting, you can easily hurt yourself.  Skipping these few minutes could force you to skip the gym for months to recover from a major injury like a pulled hamstring or a torn ACL.  Seriously, it happens.  So just save yourself from injury and warm up your muscles prior to an intense workout.
  4. Stretch – You can either do dynamic stretches (like these from Runner’s World – which help warm up your muscles while stretching them) or stretch after warming up your muscles with an easy walk on the treadmill or any light cardio.  Skipping your stretch session could lead to injury.  And, believe it or not, simply holding a stretch for 30 seconds prior to warming up could also damage a muscle.  It is important to warm up while stretching, like through dynamic stretches, or warm up slowly and then stretch after.
  5. Get Rest – Sometimes the best way to prepare for a workout is to skip one.  If you’ve been doing intense workouts everyday for a week, you should take a day of rest.  Your body needs to recover and rebuild.  You’ll come back to your workout the next day feeling better than ever.

Healthy and Happy Spring Break!

Who’s excited for Spring Break?!  No, I don’t really need a response.  By the signs of the zombie-like students in the library, I know we are all ready for some relaxation.

Whether you’ll be home with the ‘rents or traveling somewhere, you can still stay fit.  Here are some tips for an enjoyable, fun and healthy Spring Break.

1. Relax – Stay mentally healthy and rest your mind.  You have a full week of no tasks, no homework, no tests and no papers.  A time will come to focus on those assignments, but for the time being, just relax.

2. Get Active – Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you have to lay out on the beach all day.  Throw a Frisbee around with some friends, go on a hike somewhere or take a swim in the ocean/pool.  Get moving!

3. Slather on the Sunscreen – You don’t want to come back to Chapel Hill looking like a lobster.  For the sake of taking a shower without feeling like your skin is burning, oh – and for the sake of healthy skin – put on that sunscreen!  And make sure you reapply every hour or after you swim.

4. Eat Wisely – Break isn’t a time to indulge in every food item in sight.  Sure, enjoy eating with friends but don’t make food the focus of your vacation.  Focus on the good times.

5. Get Your Sleep – Whether you’re at school or on Spring Break, getting seven to eight hours of sleep every night is incredibly important.  Try to get a full night’s sleep so you’ll be rested and ready for the coming day.

6. Don’t Skip Meals – It can be tempting to skip meals so you can’t keep sleeping on your lounge chair on the beach for another few hours.  Eating three meals a day is important, though.  So get up, and go grab something to eat.  Your chair will wait for you.

7. Be Healthy Post-Spring Break – If you’ve overindulged and were a bit lazier than you had hoped, don’t fret.  Create a healthy plan after Spring Break to get back on track.  Forgive yourself because your body deserves to be treated right.

Have a wonderful, safe and healthy Spring Break!  The blog will continue to be posted on Mondays and Thursdays, but if you’re without internet, we’ll see you the week after!

Two Special Events: GlowGa and Eating for Exercise

Two very exciting events are coming up this week and next!  On Wednesday, Feb. 20, it will be a Neon Night featuring GlowGa at the SRC.  This will take place from 5:30-9:30 p.m.  Everyone – yes, you, you and you – should be rocking some sort of neon.  Steal one of your mom’s 80s outfits, your boyfriend’s neon frat tank – whatever you have to do!

If you’re wearing neon during Neon Night, you’ll be entered into a raffle.  Prizes will be given away every 15 minutes.  Then at 8 p.m., Campus Rec will get started with GlowGa.  Never heard of it?  It’s quite simple – glow sticks + yoga = GlowGa.  Get it?  Guys and gals are free to join; yoga gurus and those that have never been to a class before are welcome.  No matter what your experience with yoga is, this is sure to be a fun class.

So leave the usual white v-neck shirt behind and come to the SRC wearing your loudest colored outfit.  Win prizes, wear glow sticks and do some yoga!

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A week from today, Monday, Feb. 25, from 5:30 p.m. until 7 p.m., the SRC will be hosting Eating for Exercise: The Recipe for Fitness.  Campus Rec has teamed up with Carolina Dining Services for this educational event.  If you’ve been wondering about what to eat before and after your workout (and if you love free food), this event is for you.

A nutritionist will provide those who come out with advice on what to eat pre- and post- sweat sessions.  Then, a 30 minute High Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T) class will be held followed by a Q&A session.  Food samples will be provided as well as healthy recipes and pre-made workout routines to take on-the-go so you can make yourself a meal plan or fitness routine if desired!  In addition to the nutritionist, a personal trainer will also attend and can answer any questions you may have.

So come out to either (or both!) programs!  Neon Night and GlowGa will be full of fun – oh, and prizes.  And Eating for Exercise: The Recipe for Fitness will provide you with all the information you need to have a personal trainer-approved fitness routine and nutritionist-approved recipes.  We want you to enjoy living a healthy lifestyle but also want to help you see results doing it!  See you then!

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