Fueling for Fitness

Choosing Comparing And Deciding Which AppleWhether you are a weekend warrior or a highly skilled athlete, the food you choose to eat plays an important part in your athletic performance. Food is fuel for your body. Just as gasoline provides the energy needed to run your car, food provides the energy needed for your body to function properly.

Quality Makes a Difference.  Few of us would choose to put low-grade gasoline in our cars. You don’t want to risk damage to your car or a break down, especially on a long journey. So make sure you are giving your body what it needs to complete your workout and finish strong.

Contrary to what you see advertised on television, sports drinks, protein bars and Wheaties will not make you run faster or jump higher. What your body really needs is nutrient-dense whole foods. Not chemical and sugar-laden processed foods. Nutrient dense foods will help you maximize muscle growth and replace the glycogen stores used up during your workout. Glycogen is the storage form of glucose, which is the main source of fuel for your cells.

Regardless of your fitness goals, you need to eat before and after your workouts.

Don’t Drive On Empty. Be sure to eat one to two hours before exercising.

  •  Choose complex carbohydrates. Not the starchy flour-based products. Best choices are fruits, vegetables and good whole grains, such as quinoa, brown-rice, or whole-grain sprouted bread.
  • Avoid saturated fats and a lot of protein. These types of foods take longer to digest and may lead to an upset stomach during a workout.
  • Hydrate with water. Avoid sugary sports drinks and flavored water.
  • If it’s not possible to fit in a meal prior to your workout, grab a piece of fruit. Bananas are a good choice.

Make a Pit Stop. Stay hydrated with frequent sips of water.  If you are going to be active for longer than an hour, such as hiking or a long bike ride, be sure to take a snack with you. Here are some good options:

  • Raisins
  • Bananas and apples
  • Nuts
  • Seeds, such as chia, sunflower, or pumpkin

Refill Your Tank. It’s best to take in a combination of carbohydrates and protein after your workout. As stated before, carbohydrates will help replenish your glycogen stores, which were used up during the workout. Protein is not burned as a fuel source during exercise, but it is essential for repairing muscle tissue and building new muscle. Some suggestions:

  • Protein shake. Research has shown that individuals consuming a high-quality protein shake immediately after strength training build more lean muscle tissue than those who do not.
  • Grilled chicken with vegetables
  • Veggie omelet with avocado
  • Grilled salmon with wild rice

Making wise food choices before, during and after your workouts will leave you feeling energized and strong.


Time to Bulk Up: The Importance of Fiber

Wooden bowl of mixed saladFiber plays an essential role in the health of your heart and the health of your gut. According to the Institute of Medicine, the average adult woman needs at least 25 grams of fiber per day. The adult man needs at least 38 grams. The problem is that most of us don’t eat anywhere near this amount of fiber. The average American gets only about 10 to 15 grams per day. Our intake is so low in this country because Americans tend to eat a lot of processed foods and fast foods, which are notoriously low in fiber.

What is fiber? Fiber is a carbohydrate found in the skeletal structure of plant foods, such as vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes. Fiber is very different from other essential nutrients in that we do not actually digest it. Fiber passes through our digestive tract mostly intact.

There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble.  Both are important to your health. Soluble fiber partially dissolves in water and creates a gel-like substance that helps lower blood cholesterol levels and glucose levels. Examples of soluble fiber include oatmeal, nuts, seeds, legumes, apples, blueberries, and strawberries. Insoluble fiber absorbs water and passes through the intestines largely intact. It is present in whole grains, seeds, celery, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, and brown rice. Seventy percent of the fiber in our diet is insoluble.

Why is fiber so important? There have been numerous research studies pointing to the importance of fiber for your body. Fiber has been shown to

  • help regulate blood sugar levels and lower your risk of getting Type 2 Diabetes
  • help prevent gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulitis
  • prevent hemorrhoids
  • reduce the  risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and hypertension
  • help you lose weight

How do you get more fiber in your diet?

  • Eat more whole fruits and vegetables, preferably uncooked.
  • Don’t peel edible skins from fruits and vegetables. Skins are a great source of fiber.
  • Add lentils, beans and split peas to your soups. If you are using canned beans, be sure to rinse in a colander before using to remove excess starch and salt.
  • Try a palm-full of almonds as a snack.
  • Eat healthy grains, such as quinoa, brown rice, steel cut oats. Bulgur wheat has the most fiber of all the whole grains.

Exceptions:  There are some individuals for whom a fiber-restricted diet is recommended. People who are receiving certain radiation treatments or who have undergone bowel surgery may need to restrict their fiber intake for a period of time. Be sure to check with your doctor.

Water Vital to the Health of Your Heart

Active woman drinking water     Many of us take water for granted, and we certainly don’t think of it as a nutrient, like vitamins and minerals. But, in fact, water is an essential nutrient. Meaning it is essential to our survival. We must have an adequate amount of water in our diet in order for our body to function properly.

Why is water so vital for life?

  • It transports vital minerals, vitamins, and glucose to the cells.
  • It’s needed for the chemical reactions that breakdown protein and carbohydrates.
  • It protects your tissues, spinal cord and joints.
  • It removes waste products, including toxins, from the body.
  • It helps to regulate the body’s temperature.

Getting enough water is also critical for the health of your heart. Your heart pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood a day. A well hydrated body will allow the heart to pump blood more easily. If there is not enough water in your system, your blood becomes thicker and your heart has to work harder by beating faster. In addition, when the heart has to work harder to push thicker blood through the veins, the result is elevated blood pressure.

So how much water do you need to stay well hydrated? Well, you may be surprised to hear that there is no scientific evidence to support the specific advice to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. Though 8 x 8 is an easy formula for people to remember, the amount of hydration you need depends on many factors:

  • body size
  • age
  • diet
  • illnesses
  • climate
  • physical activity

The Food and Nutrition Board does not specify exact requirements for water intake. It does give a general recommendation of approximately 91 ounces (about 11 cups) of water per day for women and 125 ounces (about 15 cups) of water per day for men. This is the total water intake from both food and beverages. Some foods, such as fruits and vegetables, have high water content. While processed foods, such as cereals, breads and chips, contain very little water and may in fact absorb water from your system.

Bottom line: To stay well hydrated, drink fluids throughout the day and eat water-containing foods, like fruits and vegetables, with each meal. Be aware that certain medical conditions, intense exercise and a diet high in processed foods may require you to drink more.

Eggs Are Back on the Menu!

2 fried eggs

For 40 years the US government has warned us about eating cholesterol laden foods, such as eggs, butter,  and bacon. Just the mention of cholesterol conjured up images of heart attacks and strokes. The new dietary guidelines put out by the nation’s top nutrition advisory panel, however, may change all that.

Most nutrition scientists are now in agreement that the cholesterol in your food does little to impact the cholesterol in your bloodstream. And it’s the cholesterol in your bloodstream that is most associated with cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Steven Nissen, chair of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, stated that “it’s the right decision. We got the dietary guidelines wrong.” He says the science was never there to support the dietary restriction of cholesterol. The recommendations were not scientifically sound and were based on bad research.

Cholesterol has a very bad reputation, but it is vital for your health and survival. It is so vital that your liver makes it daily. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in every cell of your body.  It is necessary for

  • nerve cell function
  • production of hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen
  • production of vitamin d from sunlight
  • production of bile acids

About 80% of the cholesterol in your body is produced by your liver. The body tightly regulates the amount of cholesterol in your blood. When you eat more cholesterol, the body makes less. When you eat less cholesterol, the body makes more.

Scientist now say that the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream is determined by many factors, including your genetics, how much you exercise, and your overall level of nutrition. It is a much more complicated process than we once presumed it to be.

Here’s what most experts agree on when it comes to improving the health of your heart:

  • If you are a smoker, quit.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a high fiber diet.
  • Eliminate trans fats from your diet.
  • Cut back on sugary foods and processed foods.

So skip the egg-white omelet next time and eat the yolks.


Yoga May Prevent Heart Disease

health club           A recent study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that the practice of yoga can be as good for your heart as more traditional exercises, such as walking or cycling. Researchers analyzed the results of 37 separate studies involving more than 2,700 individuals. The study found that people who practiced yoga had

  • lower blood pressure
  • lower LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • lower body mass index
  • increased HDL (good) cholesterol

In fact, when researchers compared those who did yoga with those who did more conventional aerobic exercise, there was little to no difference in improving heart health.

How can this be? Key components of yoga are breathing and relaxation. While you are practicing these techniques you are turning off your stress response, which is usually in high gear most of the day. Turning off your stress response will allow you to lower your blood pressure, lower your heart rate and respiratory rate, and decrease the stress hormones being released. Those stress hormones can lead to damaging inflammation in the body.  Inflammation is your body’s way of responding to injury and harmful situations. Inflammation is at the root of many diseases, including heart disease.

Most of us take very shallow breaths when we are anxious, stressed or afraid. Shallow breathing (chest breathing) causes a constriction of the chest and decreases the flow of oxygen to your tissues.  Yoga breathing techniques promote belly breathing, also called diaphragmatic breathing.  This type of breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system and promotes what is known as the relaxation response.

Here is a simple belly breathing technique you can try at home or at work:

  1. Sit in a chair or lie on your back. If you are sitting in a chair, imagine a string is lifting up your chest.
  2. Place one hand on your chest and one on your abdomen with the thumb near your navel.
  3. Breathe in slowly through your nose. Allow the abdomen to expand and fill with air like a balloon. You     should feel the hand on the abdomen rise while the one on your chest remains still.
  4. Exhale deeply through your nose pushing as much air out of your lungs as possible. Your rib cage         and abdomen should gently contract.
  5. Repeat this cycle 4 to 5 times. Be very mindful and focus only on the breathing process.



Tips to Bust Your Workout Boredom

2 People Fitness Walking         You are one month into your New Year’s resolution to work out more often, and you’re already bored and finding more excuses than reasons to exercise. What do you do?

Sometimes small changes will go a long way to reignite interest and provide motivation.

1.    Add variety. Your body is designed to adapt quickly to the specific exercises you do. For that reason, changing your workout routine periodically will not only benefit you mentally, but physically as well. Doing the same workout over and over will limit your overall fitness and may lead to injury due to overuse of certain muscles.

If your normal routine is to walk on the treadmill, try switching to an elliptical trainer or stationary bike for a few weeks. Pick certain days to focus on strength training instead of your usual cardio workout, or vice versa.

Group exercises classes are another great option. Zumba, circuit training, cycling, yoga and Pilates—each of these workouts will challenge your body in a new way. The lively music and interaction with other participants may provide that extra motivation you need to get to the gym.

2.    Change the scenery. Take your workouts outside. Walking, running, or cycling outdoors can energize and revitalize you in a way being at a gym cannot. Being outdoors has been shown to clear the mind and increase our sense of well-being.

An added benefit of exercising outdoors is that you tend to work out longer. When you are distracted by your environment, you are less aware of the effort. This is why an hour hiking through the woods is much more enjoyable than an hour walking on a treadmill.

 3.    Get a friend involved. Like exercising outside, working out with a buddy will make the time pass more quickly. Plus there’s the added benefit of extra accountability. You’re less likely to hit the snooze button if you know someone is waiting for you. Having a workout partner will also help limit the negative self-talk. Seeing someone similar to you complete a physical activity will strengthen your belief in your own abilities.

4.    Set a fitness goal. Start with a 5K, which is just 3.1 miles. You may think you need to be a serious athlete to participate in races, but that’s definitely not the case. People of all ages and sizes come out for these events. You can walk, run or do a combination. Find an event about 6 to 8 weeks away. Write it on your calendar and use it as motivation to be consistent with your workouts. Get your friend involved too!

Remember, being physically active improves the length and the quality of your life. So keep on moving!




5 Tips for Organizing Your Weight Loss

Research from the University of Scranton says that about 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. The top two most popular resolutions are losing weight and getting organized.  My experience as a weight loss coach has taught me that these two goals are strongly linked. It is very difficult for people to lose weight unless they are able to bring more organization into their lives.

Before you throw your hands up in discouragement, please read on. The type of organization I’m talking about does not require cleaning out all your closets and cabinets—although  those changes can be extremely helpful. There are small steps you can take that will make a big difference.

Woman makes her shopping list on his phone connected to the refr

  1. Plan your meals. Pick 8 to 10 healthy recipes that you can rotate through for the next several months. Keep the list of ingredients for each recipe on your phone. You can type the list in or just take a picture of it. Then you will always have it with you.
  2. Have healthy snacks handy at home and at work. Having these available will make you less tempted to hit the vending machine or grab the bag of chips when the hunger pangs start.
  3. Plan when you will go to the grocery store and take a list. Look at the week ahead and decide what day works best with your schedule. Work from a list when grocery shopping, so you are not impulse buying. You will get in and out of the store much quicker and won’t get home and realize you forgot an essential ingredient.
  4. Schedule your workouts for the week. Just as with grocery shopping, review your calendar and decide in advance when is the best time to hit the gym or take a walk.  Treat your workouts like doctor’s appointments and don’t miss them. Outside of quitting smoking, exercising regularly is the number one thing you can do to improve your health and longevity.
  5. Prep your gym clothes in advance. If you are exercising first thing in the morning, having your gym clothes laying out where you can see them may serve as extra motivation. If you’re hitting the gym on the way to or from work, be sure to pack your bag the night before.

If you can follow these 5 tips for the next several months, I believe you will begin to see changes in your weight and your energy level.

Reflect on Your New Year

school education

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.”      Margaret Wheatley

Whether you are someone who makes resolutions, or you are not, the New Year does offer a unique opportunity for reflection, for looking at past choices and for dreaming about the future. It’s the perfect time to lay ground work for meaningful change in your life.

If you are not taking time for reflection, as the quote says, you will move blindly forward. I believe most of us would rather choose our paths than stumble around aimlessly. It’s hard to avoid the rocks and holes in the path when your eyes are closed. If we are being mindful in our lives we are always learning. Sometimes the lessons are big and sometimes they’re small.

So this year give yourself the gift of time. Curl up on the couch with your journal or head to your favorite coffee shop. Here are some steps to help you get started:

  1. Write down the lessons you learned in 2014?  Most resolutions are about our health, our wealth and our personal relationships. These are the things that matter to us the most because they impact our lives the most. Make a list of what worked and what didn’t work in these three areas of your life. Be very honest with yourself.
  2. What do you want to accomplish or change in 2015? You can consider these resolutions or goals. They need to be things you have control over and have the power to change. I suggest focusing on no more than 3 goals at this time. We may have the best of intentions, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
  3. Make a list of small changes you can make next month that will help you achieve your larger goal. Be very specific about what you plan to do. Small changes are easier to achieve and to maintain. When we are successful at maintaining these, we build self-confidence and satisfaction. In time, these small changes can become habits.  The keys to long-term change are persistence and patience.

Enjoy your time of reflection. I hope it leads to new insights and positive changes in your life.

25 Ways to Improve Your Health & Vitality

Making these simple dietary changes will have a significant impact on your health and vitality. For tips 1 through 10, check out my previous blog posts: http://janacurriewellness.com/janas-blog.

11. Artificial sweeteners—a poor substitute. Food manufacturers would have you believe that the calorie-free sweeteners in their products are healthier than regular sugar and less likely to cause weight gain. Research, however, tells a different story. A study by the University of Texas published in the Journal of Obesity in 2008 found that people who drank artificially sweetened beverages gained 47 percent more weight over a 7 to 8 year period than people who avoided these sweeteners.

Why is this so? Researchers aren’t sure, but speculate that because calorie-free sweeteners are up to 13,000 times sweeter than regular sugar they create a craving for intensely sweet, high-caloric food. Also, they may trigger the release of insulin and disrupt the blood sugar balance in the body.

It’s best to limit your intake of sweeteners such as saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low), aspartame (Nutrasweet/Equal), and sucralose (Splenda). Any product labeled “sugar free” will most likely contain one of these sweeteners. So read those labels.

If you enjoy your beverage sweetened, it’s best to stick with sweeteners that are less processed and closer to their natural state, such as raw sugar, honey, agave nectar, and maple syrup.


25 Ways to Improve Your Health & Vitality

9. Start your day with a delicious and nutritious breakfast. If your mama told you that breakfast was the most important meal of the day, she was right. Research shows that people who eat breakfast are more likely to maintain a healthy weight. Studies also indicate that children who eat breakfast perform better on cognitive tests. Your brain, just like your body, needs to be refueled on a regular basis.

A healthy breakfast doesn’t need to take a long time to prepare. Here are some great options:

  • A hard boiled egg and slice of whole grain toast
  • Full-fat yogurt with nuts and berries
  • Chopped apple with nuts, shaved coconut and some dried fruit. Add a splash of milk.
  • Breakfast smoothies with a handful of greens, ground flax seed, fruit & yogurt

10. Bulk Up! Eating fiber-rich foods does wonders for your body. It helps to regulate blood-sugar levels, reduces risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes and obesity. It’s also linked to reducing your risk of breast and colon cancer and a number of gastrointestinal disorders, such as reflux, irritable bowel and diverticulitis. A lack of fiber in the diet has been associated with elevated toxins in the body. The average American eats only 8 grams of fiber a day, which is much lower than the recommended 20 to 40 grams. The good news is that there are lots of tasty ways to add fiber to your diet. Fiber-rich foods include beans, raw fruits & vegetables, whole grains, brown rice, nuts and seeds.

For tips 1 – 8, check out my previous blog posts at www.JanaCurrie.com/janas-blog.

It’s hard to recall my mindset from 12 weeks ago when I started with Jana. I vaguely remember thinking, ‘This is not going to work….I won’t be able to do this.’ But to my delight, I was wrong! Eating better became enjoyable and easy, and I noticed that if I did eat something unhealthy, I wasn’t actually satisfied. Having Jana as my accountability partner was a key part of my success, and it feels great to be able to say, ‘I choose to eat this’, or ‘I choose not to eat that.’ Also, people telling me I look great doesn’t hurt either. Thanks Jana! Heather W.