Month: February 2016

Back for the Future: Tips to Prevent a Life of Lumbar Pain

Male Back (2)

 

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons has reported that nearly 80% of all people will experience some form of severe back pain in their lives, and is the most common place people get hurt at work.

Back injury is commonly caused by improper lifting technique, repetitive straining, or sudden force, but even poor posture or ergonomically incorrect seating can lead to pain.

Because the lower part of the body bears the weight of the torso and must manage more motion, the lower back—or lumbar spine region—is the most commonly injured. Herniated discs, pulled muscles and strained tendons can all cause lower back pain for many people, whether they work physically demanding jobs or sit at a desk all day.

Fortunately, there are many things everyone can do to prevent a life of lumbar pain. Below are some of the top recommended tips to prevent back injury.

 

1. Let the Legs Lift—

Lifting heavy items the wrong way is a common way to hurt the back because we often don’t think about picking something up; we impulsively lean over to grab it and… ouch! There goes the back.

To prevent this painful scenario, train yourself to squat rather than lean over when you grab anything beyond lower reach. If you’ve learned to do a squat exercise the proper way, you know exactly how to lift correctly—with the legs.

Proper lifting form involves pushing the rear end out and bending at the knees like you’re sitting in a chair. Your goal is to engage the thigh muscles, and not the back. Grab the item you’re lifting as closely to yourself on the way back up, and use your leg power to rise without twisting in the middle. Also, remember to reverse this process to put anything down.

If you can master proper lift technique to the point that you automatically assume this position, you will drastically reduce your chances for future back pain.

 

2. Building the Back—

Prevention is the best plan to avoid back injury, and one great way to avoid hurting muscles is to strengthen them.

The abdominal core muscles support back muscles, and by making sure you have abs of steel, you’ll be bracing your back as well. Pay special attention to reinforcing the oblique muscles that run along the sides of the body, as these help to steady the back during lifting.

Sitting on an exercise ball, leg lifts, crunches, back leg swings, lunges and squats are all great examples of core-strengthening moves that boost the back. If you can use workouts to lose excess belly fat, this will also help your spine stay aligned and strong.

 

3. Posture Perfect—

The role of maintaining good posture can’t be stressed enough when it comes to avoiding or alleviating back pain. Because bad posture can become a habit, it has the power to put the spine completely out of alignment, wreaking havoc on back muscles.

When standing, the head should be lined up with the backbone, shoulders back, with abdominal muscles engaged and straight.

Sitting posture should be exactly the same, with both feet flat on the floor. Avoid slumping or crossing the legs to keep muscles and ligaments properly lined up.

Don’t forget that the car counts, too. Especially if you have a long daily commute, your car may be the cause of your back pain, so adjust your seat and posture accordingly.

 

4. Sleep Tight… and Right—

If you’re experiencing chronic back pain without obvious reasons like those mentioned above, you might consider your sleeping situation. Many people don’t even realize their bed is causing the problem.

An extremely soft bed is recommended against because it doesn’t offer enough support, stretching muscles, ligaments and bones beyond comfort zones.

But a very hard bed can force the body into overly rigid, uncomfortable positions that make muscles ache as well, so what you’re seeking is firm support with enough give to provide comfort.

Special beds with adjustable settings are also available that can help you find the perfect foundation for your body’s needs.

 

5. Stress Less—

Everybody holds tension in different areas, but for many, the back is a common place to experience stress-related muscle tightness.

This is especially prevalent in the upper back, so if you notice your shoulders rising as anxiety builds, get into the habit of consciously lowering the shoulders every hour, along with deep breaths to promote relaxation.

 

It is estimated that treatment for lower back pain costs around $50 billion every year, and is the number one cause for job-related disability. (Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.)

Back pain can drastically lessen the quality of life for those who suffer from it, so if you manage a business, be sure to educate employees about how to avoid back injuries. If you are experiencing lumbar pain or want to avoid injury in the future, be sure to use the tips above to keep your back muscles strong and protected for life.

A Complete Kitchen: Top 10 Tools No Cook Should Be Without

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Fortunately for foodies and cooking enthusiasts everywhere, the recent “Paleo diet” trend only requires that participants eat like cavemen, and not prepare food like them. Because let’s face it: tools are good. Tools help humans prepare food and cook faster, making it easier to create delicious meals.

But those who don’t have a lot of money for kitchen gadgets and cookware often wonder which kitchen essentials top chefs would choose if on a limited budget. In short: What are the basic, must-have items every cook should own?

Below is a list of the top 10 tools recommended by professionals to make every kitchen complete:  

 

1. A Good Knife Set—

Invest a decent amount of money here if you’re prioritizing, because knives are the most often used kitchen tool for food prep, and those vegetables aren’t going to cut themselves.

By purchasing a high-quality set of knives, you’ll save yourself time and money, because knives that stay sharper longer work better and don’t need to be replaced as soon.

Try to buy a set that includes a knife sharpener if possible, and treat them right—no running knives through the dishwasher, unless you want them to dull, rust and fall apart.

 

2. A Solid Cutting Board—

Plastic cleans well, but most chefs prefer a big wooden cutting board that will stay in place during cutting.

If you have the counter space, a larger board will conveniently allow for prep of all the meal’s ingredients, rather than one at a time.

If you can find a non-slip pad to keep underneath your cutting board, this is a great addition that will prevent knife slippage and accidents.

 

3. A Slow Cooker or Crock Pot—

Whether you’re using it to make the meal, or simply to cook one of the components, a slow cooker can be a wonderful way to save yourself time in the kitchen.

By reducing the work to prep-only, a slow cooker essentially makes the meal for you, and the option to use low heat ensures food will be tender and delicious without being burned.

 

4. A Cool Colander—

Whatever material you prefer is fine—ceramic, plastic or metal—just be sure to get a colander with small enough holes (or mesh) so that liquids can drain while foods like angel hair pasta and diced vegetables stay in.

There are also nesting colander sets for those with minimal storage space that give different sizes from which to choose, depending on the task at hand.

 

5. A Sharp Peeler—

Cutting the skin off fruits and vegetables with a knife can not only be time-consuming and inaccurate, it can be dangerous, depending on the blade skills of the cook.

Vegetable peelers are generally affordable, so replace old, rusty, dull ones with sharp, shiny, new ones. You’ll save yourself major time preparing the next mashed potato side dish, and avoid the frustration of trying to peel thin veggie skins with knives.

 

6. Measuring Devices—

Especially if you do a lot of baking, a measuring cup set for dry goods is a necessity, as we all know that baking is the math of the cooking world. One faulty measurement and the whole recipe is ruined.

A good glass measuring cup for liquids is required in every kitchen and will be used constantly, not only for gauging amounts, but for heating up liquids in the microwave and whisking eggs.

Also be sure to have a real measuring spoon set on hand at all times, because silverware is not accurate.

 

7. Magnificent Mixing Bowls—

At least two bowls are needed for a properly stocked kitchen, with one medium and one large mixing bowl generally recommended.

You’ll find yourself pulling these out often, so if you have the room, consider getting a nesting set of them for mixing bowls in every size.

 

8. A Wonderful Whisk—

While many believe that liquids can be mixed with forks and spoons, real pros know that a whisk is the right tool for the job and can’t be replicated with mere silverware.

Whisks properly fluff food by blending in air, and can mix substances that don’t generally blend well, such as oil and vinegar, making a huge difference in texture and flavor.

 

9. Cast Iron Skillets—

Do you want to be taken seriously as a culinary competitor? Show them you mean business by going old school with cast iron skillets and pans.

Chefs love cast iron cookware because foods cook more evenly in them, and cast iron lasts forever.

Health advocates appreciate that they aren’t coated with chemicals that can come off in foods. (Ceramic non-stick pans are another great no-chemical option, however, if you’re not quite ready to take the plunge into cast iron.)

 

10. Rubber Spatulas—

An assortment of these in different sizes is a handy thing to have, as they work for anything you’re cooking and don’t stick to food or surfaces.

Whether you’re making eggs, a stir-fry, keeping a pan of gravy from burning, or mixing food in a bowl, these incredibly versatile tools will become your go-to grab items for all stirring needs.

 

With the basic tools above, your kitchen should be stocked up with everything you need for culinary success. You’ve got the right gear… now all you need is ingredients and inspiration. Happy cooking!

Major Motivation: 10 Top Tips to Stick to an Exercise Routine

Fitness Center (2)

 

If you talk to many gym owners, they’ll tell you all about the surge of new members who join in January—and how the majority of them are gone by March. Many people start out a new year determined to get in shape, don’t get instant results, and give up. But if you want to see results from any exercise regimen, you have to stick with it.

Fortunately for anyone who’s having trouble staying on schedule, there are many things everyone can do to avoid the hopeless “What’s the point?” feeling that can come from not experiencing immediate physical progress.

Below are 10 top tips fitness experts recommend to help workout newbies stay focused on an exercise routine until they start to see results:

 

1. Dress the Part—

If you don’t have to go to work, or work somewhere that allows sporty attire, put on your workout clothes when you get dressed in the morning.

By being ready whenever the motivation hits you, you’ll be more likely to hop in the car and head for the gym, hit the streets for your daily run, or pop in that exercise DVD and get going.

If you work in an office setting and have to exercise after work, keep your gym bag and athletic clothes packed and ready to go by the door where you’ll be sure to grab them on the way out.

 

2. Become a Morning Person—

As the day wears on, we naturally lose energy, and this can lead to a loss of motivation as well. By working out first thing in the morning, you can make sure exercise happens no matter how exhausting your day may become later.

Many people also find that starting the day with exercise energizes their body and wakes up their brain, allowing them to function more efficiently at work.

 

3. Make Exercise a Priority—

Without our health, nothing else in life goes as well as it should, making it the number one priority. Many people categorize daily workouts as an expendable luxury, when really, daily exercise should be at the top of the list.

Make it clear to family, friends and employers that exercise is an important part of your life schedule, and then make it so.

 

4. Find Something Fun—

Many people, upon hearing that a certain type of workout is best will force themselves to participate in a completely unenjoyable activity. If this scenario sounds familiar, it might be the source of your exercise routine sabotage.

But moving your body regularly should make you feel better, rather than miserable because you loathe what you’re doing. So find an exercise you enjoy, because you’ll be much more likely to stay the course if you don’t dread it.

 

5. Let Go of All Expectations—

Expectations only set us up for disappointment, and disappointment leads to demotivation, so try not to set extreme fitness goals. Most experts recommend short, easily attainable goals instead allow those trying to get in shape little victories that keep them going.

Make sure your physical goals are attainable. For example, trying to recreate the same physique one had pre-baby is a common fitness goal, yet not realistic, as pregnancy is extremely hard on women’s bodies and can permanently change them.

If you can create a new reality for yourself, you’ll be less likely to become discouraged when the impossible doesn’t happen.

 

6. Focus on your Health—

It’s important to remember why you’re ultimately exercising: because you want to be healthy and feel better. We can sometimes get caught up in the vanity-related aspects of exercise, which can make it very disappointing when we see little progress in these areas.

Instead of getting bummed out because you haven’t yet gone down a size, focus on how much stronger your muscles feel, how you’re building bone density, and lessening your chances for type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure every time you exercise.

You may not be able to gauge the results of your hard work visually, but every time you work out, you’re becoming healthier.

 

7. Write It Down—

Schedule your exercise in a daily planner and hold yourself to these sessions as you would any other appointment. Not only will this remind you to find the time to work out every day, it will help hold you accountable to your regimen.

 

8. Reward Yourself—

Positive reinforcement works, and by rewarding yourself for your accomplishment, you’ll be more inclined to keep doing it.

For some, this reward may be in the form of a new shirt or pair of shoes after so many workouts, for others, something as simple as a sticker on the calendar may motivate. Just remember to pat yourself on the back in some form or another to stay motivated.

 

9. Cardio Diversions Can Help—

If your gym offers mini-televisions with cardio equipment, take advantage of this by bringing headphones to plug in. Watching an entertaining show can take your mind off the exercise and make it seem to go by faster.

Headphones with your favorite music blasting or reading a book on your electronic device are other great ways to make cardio time more bearable.

 

10. Start Slow—

No matter what form of exercise you decide to do in your workout routine, start slow and gently increase the intensity over weeks.

Many people make the mistake of starting off too fast, only to injure themselves or become burned out, both of which can derail the best-laid fitness plan.

 

If your New Year’s resolution was to get fit and you’re starting to slack off or feel demotivated, use the 10 tips above to get your workout program back on track so you can achieve your goals, be a success story, and feel great.

Dinosaur Dinners: What to Know Before You Go Paleo

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The Paleo diet is a growing trend in the world of fitness, with many athletes promoting its propensity for building muscle and increasing energy, thanks to high protein and clean eating.

“Paleo” is short for “Paleolithic” because the premise is that cavemen didn’t have to worry about modern health issues like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure — and we’re hoping that by eating as our ancestors did, we might also avoid these problems.

Back before industrialized farming, people had to hunt and gather for meals, which means there were no legumes, grains or dairy products, eliminating these choices from the Paleo diet (along with sugar, alcohol, starchy vegetables, salty, or processed foods). Whole, natural foods such as vegetables, nuts, fruits, fish, lean meats, seafood, healthy fats and eggs are allowed.

If you are considering going Paleo to see if you feel better, stronger and more energetic, you should know the pros and cons of adopting this diet. Below, the positives and negatives are listed to help you decide if eating like a caveman is right for you.

 

The Pros of Paleo:

1. Real Food is Best—

Eliminating processed foods full of chemicals, dyes, additives and preservatives from our diet is always a good thing, no matter what.

Many people have food allergies and negative reactions to the extras added to processed foods without even realizing the cause — and it can be hard to pinpoint which chemical is causing the problem when you’re eating entire lists of them.

By choosing foods in their natural, simple state, you will eliminate the risk of ingesting carcinogens, allergens, gluten, or otherwise inflammatory response-inducing substances.

2. Less Carbs, Lower Blood Sugar—

Without grains and starchy vegetables, which can elevate glucose levels, the Paleo diet is great for people with pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes who are trying to control their blood sugar to avoid medication/insulin therapy.

Protein is a large part of this caveman style of eating, with meat, eggs and nuts being a primary source of calories. Protein is a highly recommended food option for diabetics because it has a lower glycemic index and takes longer to burn, providing steady energy without blood sugar spikes.

One study found that participants following the Paleo diet showed improved glucose tolerance, increased insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity compared to the group eating carbohydrates. (Source: The Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology.)

3. Vegetables are Healthy—

Unlike the Atkins/high-protein diet craze, the Paleo diet recommends that followers eat plenty of vegetables.

If leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach are included, the calcium in these will help make up for the calcium sources formerly provided by dairy.

Eating plenty of non-starchy vegetables will also provide the body with plenty of vitamins, minerals, and the fiber needed to keep the digestive system moving smoothly, avoiding the constipation sometimes caused by eating too much meat.

 

The Cons of Paleo:  

1. Modern Meat is Fatty—

The animals our ancestors hunted ran free and were naturally lean, unlike the animals of today’s industrialized farming system with no room to exercise, crowded into pens, and overfed on purpose.

This means today’s meat is not as healthy as Paleolithic era meat would have been, making it important to buy free-range, grass-fed and antibiotic-free meat whenever possible.

Saturated fats can lead to high cholesterol, kidney problems and inflammation, so most nutritionists recommend Paleo participants choose fish, nuts, seeds and lean protein sources while eating plenty of vegetables on this diet, rather than using the plan as an excuse to overindulge in steaks and burgers.

2. Not Vegetarian/Vegan Friendly—

If you eschew meat or all animal products, this may not be the diet for you, as eliminating starchy vegetables, legumes and all grains will leave you with less food options than you already have.

For example: Beans and rice combined create a complete protein to replace meat, but neither food is allowed on this diet.

Vegetarians will still be able to use eggs as a source for protein, but vegans will be left with mainly nuts, avocados and seeds. Vegetables do contain a surprising amount of protein, however, so if careful food choices are made, a vegan can go Paleo.

3. Time and Money Consuming—

Because of the limited nature of the Paleo diet, those who follow it must plan weekly menus extremely well to include a variety of foods, or nutritional deficits may form quickly.

If plenty of different vegetables are consumed, this will greatly increase the chances of meeting vitamin and mineral needs, especially if plenty of calcium-rich greens are included in the diet.

Another caveat: Grass-fed, lean, free-range meat and organic, fresh vegetables can be expensive, so this diet may also be expensive to maintain.

 

The Paleo diet has plenty of positives to offer, such as whole, natural foods and fresh vegetables. With more people than ever before becoming gluten intolerant, this grain-free way of eating may be very appealing. But vegetarians, those with kidney problems, cardiovascular issues, or trouble digesting meat will find the caveman life intolerable.

Read the pros and cons above before you go Paleo to decide if it’s the right dietary plan for you.

 

 

Up, Up and 5K! 6 Superhero Tips to Train for a First Race

Marathon Runners (2)

 

If you’ve recently resolved to start a running program and seem to be moving forward… congratulations! You obviously have the willpower of a superhero, and you should be proud of yourself for setting a fitness goal and sticking with it. Consistency is one of the hardest aspects of maintaining a workout regimen of any kind, so if you’re one of those determined people who doesn’t stop until they achieve a goal, you may be a perfect candidate for marathon running.

Official races like 5K runs give beginners a great way to set goals and hold themselves accountable, which can provide amazing amounts of motivation. Knowing that you will be put to the test physically – in front of other people – can get you up off the couch and exercising even on days you might have otherwise slacked off.

If you’re a new runner who’s considering signing up for a 5K (3.1 mile) run, there are many ways to train for the big event to help you feel fearless and ready to go when race day arrives.

Below are 6 top tips to help anyone prepare and train for a 5K run:

 

1. Make It Real—

To allow yourself adequate training time, running experts recommend signing up for a 5K that’s at least 8-12 weeks away, depending on your fitness level. For example, if you’re still in the mixing-walking-with-running phase of endurance building, give yourself the full 12 weeks.

The first step in committing to your 5K training is to make it official by signing up and paying the entrance fee. Post it on social media, tell family, and let friends support your new athletic goal.

 

2. Make It Mild—

As a beginner, you’ll want to make your first public race a positive experience, so be sure to choose a 5K held during temperate weather conditions, rather than during an extreme season.

Mild weather will make training easier and give you pleasant associations for your first foray into a 5K, rather than potentially dissuading you from ever trying it again after a sweltering hot or freezing cold misery-endurance test.

 

3. Make Training Productive—

It’s well known in the world of exercise that there’s a fine line between pain and gain, so be careful not to cross it, or you’ll be frustrated by injury, setbacks and slowdowns. The only person you’re competing against is yourself, so make sure you’re the winner in your personal race and not the loser limping home because you pushed too hard.

Many runners get good results from a schedule that mixes days they run a little further than usual with days they take it easy. Just as weightlifters will work one muscle group hard, then work a different group the next day, it’s important to let the muscles involved with running heal as well.

 

4. Make Muscles Stretch—

To avoid injuries, it’s important to stretch both before and after you do your daily walking or running. Touch your toes, pull the foot to the back and lean forward to stretch quadriceps, or do lunges and squats. Whatever you normally use to warm up before exercise should always happen, and make sure to pay special attention to the legs.

Yoga is another great exercise to help the body stay limber, add stability, and prevent back pain caused by spinal imbalances and lack of core strength.

 

5. Make Nutrition Count—

You are now a 5K training machine, and your engine needs the right fuel to keep you progressing toward your final goal. If ever there was a time to pay close attention to your diet and eat healthfully, it’s definitely now.

Protein is generally used for long-term fuel and carbohydrates are more readily-available, so a blend of both is recommended during training, with plenty of hydrating water and healthy vegetables.

The week before the race, many runners recommend a diet higher in carbohydrates than usual, with the final meal being eaten around 7 p.m. the night before the 5K to prevent the need for bathroom breaks mid-race.

 

6. Make Practice Runs—

It’s highly recommended that as you get closer to the big day, you walk or run the course of your upcoming race to learn the ups and downs.

This will eliminate the surprise of an unexpectedly steep hill, so you can adjust your training, and give you the confidence to know you’ll be able to finish your first 5K.

 

Running in the USA has 45,900 races listed on their informative website, with that number constantly continuing to grow. If you’re interested in entering a 5K, check your state here to see if there’s an event happening nearby soon, use the tips above to start training, and have a great race. You can do it!

The Good, the Bad and the Healthy: 5 Ways to Cut Calories with Creative Cooking

Wok Cooking (2)

 

In order to maintain or lose weight, we can’t eat too many calories every day. Adding exercise can help us reach fitness goals faster, but if excessive amounts of fattening foods are being consumed, we will still gain unwanted pounds.

The good news is that there are many ways to cut calories and fat from our favorite dishes without losing the flavor. By making smart food choices and using cooking techniques that promote lean, healthy meals, it’s easy to create a nutritious, low-calorie menu the whole family can enjoy.

Below are 5 easy ways anyone can reduce the fat or calorie content of favorite foods without losing the taste:

 

1. Use Reduced Fat Dairy Products—

Many low-fat products replace the missing fat with sugar, which is naturally fat-free, but quickly processed into fat by the body, nullifying the point. But dairy products like light sour cream, skim milk and reduced fat cheese are usually processed without extras.

There will be a change in richness and texture, such as the difference between skim versus whole milk, but at least you’re not drinking additives. Pay special attention to what is added to coffee as well, because rich, high-calorie creamer every morning can add up.

One exception: Many yogurt makers add artificial sweeteners to reduced fat yogurt products. These unnatural chemicals aren’t good for anyone, and most nutritionists will tell you it’s better to eat the full-fat yogurt with wholesome ingredients than to swallow dyes, additives or fake sweeteners in the name of fewer calories.

 

2. Add Vegetables Whenever Possible—

In addition to being full of vitamins, vegetables are a great way to add fiber and satiety to any meal without high calories.

If you’re making an omelet, add diced vegetables like grilled onions, tomatoes or peppers. If you’re making meatloaf, load it up with mushrooms, finely diced zucchini or beans. Turn the chicken breasts and rice you were planning into a delicious, veggie-filled stir-fry.

By replacing fattening foods with filling, low-calorie vegetables whenever you can, you will automatically lessen your daily caloric intake.

 

3. Use Lean Cooking Methods—

Obviously fried foods are not on the daily menu for anyone who’s trying to maintain a healthy weight, but there are other ways to prepare food that will make it taste great while still being healthful.

By taking the skin off lean meats and marinating them before cooking to maintain tenderness, you can drastically reduce fat content. Broiling, grilling and baking meat dishes rather than cooking with oil and rich sauces can save calories as well.

Stir-frying or sautéing in a pan or wok works great if minimal oil is used, and steaming vegetables is an extremely low-calorie way to prepare vegetables. This can be done via microwave or saucepan, but a vegetable steamer is a wonderful investment for any kitchen that takes all of the work out of this cooking technique.

 

4. The Spice of Life—

Adding extra herbs, spices and flavorful vegetables used to season meals such as pepper, paprika, dill, shallots and garlic can really boost low-calorie foods, making up for the missing fat with intense flavor.

Savory seasoning can also help convince family members who are reluctant to make the switch to healthier versions of their favorites (such as exchanging ground beef for leaner ground turkey).

Cooking with basil, garlic and oregano can give a meal a delightful Italian edge. Spices like cumin, coriander and turmeric can add an exotic Middle-Eastern flair to a meal, along with beneficial antioxidants. And don’t forget that while they aren’t officially spices, vinegar and lemon juice can really brighten up a dish.

 

5. Remove the Visible Fat—

In addition to removing skin from poultry, be sure to trim the fat off the edges of every cut of meat you prepare, and drain the grease or extra oil from anything cooked in a pan before using.

Always select the leanest cuts of meat, and choose ground meats like turkey and beef with the lowest fat ratio available.

If something is grilled or broiled, yet still greasy, use paper towels to gently blot excess oil from the surface before serving. This may seem like a small thing to do, but small things add up to big calorie savings over time.

 

In addition to helping with weight maintenance, eating less fat can add up to major health benefits like reducing risk for: type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and cancer. Use the low-calorie cooking tips above to help your family stay healthy and happy, while still enjoying all the foods you love to eat.

The Washboard Diet: Foods to Eat for Flat, Fab Abs

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In addition to making our pants feel uncomfortably tight around the waistline, excess belly fat can be a sign we’re living an unhealthy lifestyle. The stress hormone cortisol causes fat to build up around the midsection, surrounding the organs and making it harder for the body to function properly. For this reason, controlling stress levels is the most important step we can take to flatten our stomachs.

Exercise also helps to tone the abs, so we train our muscles and try to build core strength with consistent workouts. But every fitness trainer in the world will tell you that exercise is only half of the picture: the other part is diet. This means you can do all of the sit-ups you want, but if you’re eating too much or consuming the wrong foods, you’re still going to have belly fat.

In addition to avoiding sugar, which is stored as fat when eaten in excess, there are foods everyone can choose to promote abdominal weight loss.

Below are some favorite foods recommended by fitness and nutrition experts for reducing belly fat:

 

1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids—

It seems counterintuitive for weight loss to eat many of the foods that are high in omega-3s, as they are often high in fat. But these fatty acids reduce inflammation in the body, which helps with the cardiovascular system, metabolism and the processing of food.

Avocados, olive oil, walnuts, flaxseed meal/oil, and salmon are all excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and the good fat in them increases feelings of fullness, which can control hunger, leading to less overall calories.

 

2. Lean Protein—

Protein is well known among athletes for building muscles, and the more muscle mass we have, the higher the resting metabolic rate— so it makes sense to include low-fat protein every day. Most trainers recommend multiple small meals with protein included for the best results.

Skinless chicken breasts, tuna in water, lean ground turkey and grilled fish are all great sources for this—or a light protein shake if you don’t have time to cook. Eggs are also beneficial, and vegetarians/vegans can enjoy tofu for animal-free protein.

 

3. Oatmeal—

Loaded with quick energy-giving carbohydrates, oatmeal is a very satisfying way to keep the stomach feeling full until lunch without a lot of calories.

The high fiber content of oatmeal provides satiety and promotes good digestion, which can eliminate constipation and bloating, both enemies of flat abs.

Chromium and magnesium have both been shown to reduce levels of certain hormones that encourage weight gain around the waistline, and oatmeal is also loaded with these nutrients.

 

4. Beans—

A favorite of those who don’t eat meat, beans provide filling fiber and satisfying, muscle-building protein without a lot of fat or calories.

Beans can be mixed into salads or just about anything to up the protein content, and are full of iron as well. Be sure to rinse canned beans and soak dried beans overnight to lessen the bloating effect they can have when improperly prepared.

 

5. Leafy Greens—

Spinach and kale are highly recommended for weight loss because of their exceptionally high nutrient and fiber content with minimal calories.

The fiber aids in digestion to allow abs to remain flatter, and the large amounts of calcium and vitamins K, A, D and E will boost metabolism by improving overall health.

 

6. Whole Foods—

Less is more when it comes to food choices, so skip the processed, packaged foods with long lists of ingredients and stick with simple, real fare.

When you fill yourself with chemicals, dyes, preservatives and additives, it taxes the entire system and increases inflammation, as the organs try to cleanse themselves of these toxins.

If the body has to focus all of its energy on clean-up and detoxification, the metabolism and every other process will suffer, leading to weight gain and poor health.

 

7. Probiotics—

Foods with healthy bacterial flora that promote good digestion and boost the immune system can help bust belly fat by keeping things properly moving through the gastrointestinal tract, and helping to prevent workout routine-ruining illnesses.

There are many yogurts enhanced with probiotics, as well as kefir, a probiotic-laden yogurt drink, but if you’re not a fan of dairy, probiotic supplements can be taken that work just as well.

 

Alcohol, salty foods and carbonated beverages are belly-bloating enemies of washboard fans, so avoid these to keep the stomach slim. Drink plenty of water to help burn fat faster, and try to eat some of the waistline-reducing foods above every day to have the flat, fab abs you’re hoping to achieve.

Exercise Etiquette: Top 5 Mistakes Gym Newbies Might Make

Proper Form (2)

 

You finally joined a gym, signed on the line, and you’re officially a member of the fitness club. Good for you! You’ve probably been given a tour of the machines by an employee, and now you’re on your own. Excited. Nervous. Alone.

It’s normal at this point to feel a bit self-conscious about being the new kid in the gym, but if you know some basic mistakes to avoid, you won’t stand out. (Or at least you won’t annoy the grumpier gym veterans.)

Plus, there is certain workout protocol that everyone should know, and sometimes these flubs are exhibited by folks who should really know better.

Read below about 5 common gym beginner mistakes… and how you can avoid making them.

 

1. Cardio Coma—

You’ve probably seen them: the person who monopolizes the recumbent bike for an hour, leisurely reading a book and pedaling, or the person on the treadmill spending more energy on their fascinating cell phone conversation than the workout.

These cardio zombies might as well be napping on cots in the back of the gym, because they aren’t accomplishing anything that has to do with fitness. Worse, they’re monopolizing the equipment and wasting the time of people who came to exercise.

Proper Gym Etiquette Tip: If you’re not pushing yourself, move on and let someone else use the machine. And stick to a 30 minute limit if all cardio machines are full.

 

2. Form Malfunction—

It’s better to do 10 repetitions of an exercise the proper way than 25 the wrong way. Learn how to do all exercises correctly by asking an employee, a friend, reading the instructions on the machine, or doing prior research.

Improper form not only makes you look like a novice, it also makes you more prone to injury. Whipping through your reps and using the force of momentum and gravity rather than muscles is another quick way to look like a rookie.

Proper Gym Etiquette Tip: Don’t slam or drop the weights at the end of each rep or set. Controlling the weight on the way down is how professionals build muscles more efficiently, and nobody likes sudden clanking noises while they’re trying to concentrate.

 

3. Wrong Weight—

Women in particular often have a fear of bulking up by using too much weight when they strength train. This fear is completely unfounded, however, as most women lack the hormones and genetics for this.

For building lean muscle, it’s generally recommended to lift as much as you can still handle while maintaining proper form for 2 to 4 sets of 15 to 20 reps each. If you stop breaking a sweat, it’s time to move your weight up.

Men often do the opposite of this and try to lift more weight than they can handle without maintaining proper form, often leading to injury or loud dropping of the weights—officially making them That Annoying Guy Who’s Doing It Wrong in the gym.

Proper Gym Etiquette Tip: Speaking of weight, you may see a sign at your gym that says “Please rack all weights.” This means that if you put weights onto a machine, please take them off afterward. This bad gym habit is perplexing because it makes no sense that people who pay to exercise in a gym are then too lazy to do so.

 

4. Skipping Stretching—

It’s important to warm up by stretching and/or doing cardio before starting the strenuous part of a workout. This will limber up the muscles, preventing injury, cramping, and enhancing performance.

Doing 20-30 minutes of cardio after intense exercise such as strength training has also been shown to better eliminate lactic acid from the muscles, for a quicker recovery and less painful next day.

Proper Gym Etiquette Tip: Always wipe down machines when you’re finished to remove wetness for the next user. It’s really unpleasant to sit down into the sweat of a stranger.

 

5. Adoring Experts—

There are a lot of know-it-alls in the world who want to sell you the latest workout equipment, recovery drink, or weight loss pill, and promise they have the answers to all your fitness needs. But you will learn what works best for you through trial and error, and not through the exercise world equivalent of magic beans. Ignore them.

Proper Gym Etiquette Tip: Some of these “experts” may be walking around your gym in the form of people with “pro-tips” to help you work out better. Because they don’t know your medical history, fitness level or physical limitations, this behavior is not only egotistical, it’s completely irresponsible. Ignore them, too.

 

Remember to adjust the machines to your size, mix up your routine to work different muscle groups, and most importantly, listen to your body. If you experience sharp pain, stop immediately, and be sure to take days off to let your body rest and heal.

If you follow the 5 tips above, you’ll blend in quickly at you gym and look like you’ve been there for years.

Jogging Rejuvenation: 7 Tips to Make the Run Feel More Fun

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As with any type of workout, running can eventually become humdrum, making a once-invigorating activity feel like a drag. The same route, the same pace, the same time, etcetera… and pretty soon there’s nothing exhilarating left to the exercise you used to love.

But there are plenty of ways to pull ourselves out of this running rut and put the joy back into the jog. By switching things up, finding new motivation, and looking at this excellent exercise in a different way, we can breathe new life into a running regimen that’s gone stale.

Below are 7 tips recommended by regular runners to rejuvenate your run:

 

1. Blaze a New Trail—

Most runners have a set route because they’ve measured the distance and know it meets the requirements for adequate exercise or caloric burn.

But what if you stop thinking about running as your daily workout, and remember the excitement you felt when you first discovered the path you now know by heart? Wasn’t it exciting to see the sights for the first time?

You can have that again simply by changing to a different route, or even switching to trail running if you’re usually a city-slicker. Consider a new neighborhood, or even mixing it up by driving to a nature trail and running on a non-cement (and more knee-friendly) dirt or grass surface.

 

2. Howdy, Partner—

If you’ve always been a lone runner, joining a running club can open up your social circle, help motivate with group accountability, and spice up the exercise experience with interesting conversations.

Running clubs are a great way to make friends with healthy, like-minded people who might also be able to teach you about new areas or trails you hadn’t yet heard about in your area.

 

3. The End of the Rainbow—

Speaking of socializing, many pals find that running with a specific destination in mind at the end of the run, such as brunch, lunch or an afternoon cocktail/coffee break can majorly motivate both parties to propel toward the prize.

To try this, pick an informal meeting place, such as a restaurant or bar located midway between you and your friend, and set a time to meet for a treat.

By ending running time with entertainment, food or libations, you can create a positive association that makes you look forward to the entire exercise—and eliminate guilt over the calories consumed once you get there.

 

4. The Early Bird Catches the Motivation—

Studies have shown that exercising early can help the brain perform better and increase energy for the rest of the day.

Many find that something about getting the blood circulating and the whole system up and running seems to set the pace for high productivity.

If you’re a night owl, try getting to bed early on the night before your next run, wake up with the sun, and see how it feels to be an early bird. You may be pleasantly surprised by the extra energy you experience.

 

5. Make It Musical—

If you run in silence, consider adding music to your routine. Music can inspire us and brighten our day with lyrics that encourage, and melodies that enhance the exercise experience with aural energy.

Consider making a special playlist of songs that push you or challenge you, make you remember how strong you are, or simply choose tunes with a good beat to keep your pace moving steadily forward.

More of an NPR in the car kind of person? Listen to interesting podcasts or audio books while you move it.

 

6. Set a Schedule—

If running is something you half-heartedly do when you can squeak it into your week, consider upping the ante and putting on the books.

By setting up appointments in your daily planner for your run, you will elevate it to a new status in your life which can give it a feeling of importance that may motivate you to stick with it or enjoy it more. Because now you’re not just an occasional runner: you’re the real deal.

 

7. Be a Running Writer—

If you’re having trouble getting into your runs, keeping a diary or journal to record your distance and times can give you a tangible way to track your progress and feel good about it.

Starting a blog is another way to talk about running and reach out to other runners who may be experiencing the same blahs you’re going through. Sometimes knowing you’re not the only one feeling a certain way can get you through a rough patch.

 

No matter how bored you’ve become with your running routine, don’t give up. It’s normal to occasionally lose interest in an exercise regimen, but if you hang in there and use some of the motivational tips listed above, you can definitely put the fun back into your run!

Good-Looking Cooking: 7 Eye-Catching Kitchen Design Trends

Modern Kitchen (2)

 

Kitchen design trends come and go, and every decade has a defining characteristic that sets it apart from the others, be it a color palette, type of materials used, or even a structural element that makes it clear to the viewer when the last redecorating was done. But there are many kitchen designs that seem to last throughout the different eras with a classic style that endures.

 

Listed below are 7 of the most current kitchen design trends seen lately in the world of home décor. 

 

1. Goodbye, Granite—

For the longest time, granite countertops have been the only player in the kitchen game. While many still adore this lovely hard surface, the days of granite-only are over.

Marble countertops are becoming more popular every year, adding a striking swirled surface to any kitchen that looks amazing with brass kitchen sinks, or polished nickel hardware.

Quartz is another rising star in the countertop category, with a surface visually similar to granite that offers greater durability and stain resistance with easier cleaning.

 

2. Going Green—

Using sustainable materials in the kitchen, such as bamboo flooring, counters, and butcher blocks is becoming more prevalent, as are touch-less faucets that save homeowners money on water bills.

Wood is commonly the focus of this design, with recycled glass and formaldehyde-free products being used more often than ever before.

Exposed wooden beams, repurposed barn wood tables and cabinetry, and energy-saving appliances are also very eco-friendly elements of the green movement, making this rustic design trend a smart development in kitchen style.

 

3. Multiple Metals—

For the longest time, chrome and brushed nickel have been the metals of choice throughout modern kitchen design, perhaps because of the stainless steel appliance frenzy. But this year, we’re seeing assorted types of metal hardware, sinks and lighting coming into the picture.

Copper, brass, iron, aged gold and even black hardware and light fixtures are showing up in kitchens, with striking results. Because they’ve been used for so long, these antique metals have a natural elegance and timelessness associated with them that they add to any room.

 

4. Universal Design—

Universal design been included in kitchen renovations more often over the last decade, possibly because of the poor economy. As homeowners feel less financial stability, they become determined to make their home user-friendly in case they won’t be able to retire elsewhere.

Built-in and easily accessible appliances are a big part of this trend, and lowered storage areas to accommodate those with limited mobility are also included for elderly convenience.

This thoughtful design is also a wonderful way to help older parents who’ve moved in with their children have more mobility and independence in the kitchen.

 

5. Nice and Neutral—

While the ‘70s were all about avocado and gold, and the ‘80s were primary and bright, the last few decades have vacillated between changing color schemes every year or so, giving homeowners more freedom to decorate according to preference.

But recently, monochromatically mellow rooms have become popular, allowing for pops of color in smaller details while the walls, backsplashes and countertops remain neutral.

White cabinets with white subway tile backsplashes, or rooms in shades of pale gray are becoming the new cream and beige, with this palette being echoed in the trendy white and gray marble countertops.

 

6. Clear Glass Cabinet Doors/Open Shelving—

Open shelving is a great way to make a smaller kitchen look more spacious. By opening up the cabinets with glass, the view goes all the way back to the wall rather than stopping at the cabinet fronts.

The drawback to this style, of course, is that now everyone can see your dishware, necessitating organization and color-coordination if you don’t want a messy vibe.

Clear glass cabinets can actually add a very charming element of style to a kitchen when done well; especially when all dishware on the other side of the glass is the same color.

Another very modern version of this involves removing cabinet doors completely, or installing only shelves with no upper cabinets, again, facilitating the need for constant organizational vigilance.

 

7. Layers of Lighting—

Long gone are the days of one large, intense light source for the entire kitchen; with lighting instead specifically placed wherever illumination is needed. In addition to saving energy, this creates a much more pleasant atmosphere.

Chandeliers or metal fixtures now hang over eating and food prep areas, and wall sconces gently direct light upward to brighten the room without being harsh on the eyes.

 

The kitchen is the room where your family gathers for meals, and the hub of any social gathering, making it important to give it style and function. If you’re thinking about renovating your kitchen décor, consider implementing one of the latest kitchen design trends described above to make it feel brand new. Most of the ideas can be done in affordable increments, so get started and make your kitchen the most eye-catching room in the house.