Exercise For A Healthier Brain

Exercise For A Healthier Brain

“Beginning in our late 20s, most of us will lose about 1 percent annually of the volume of the hippocampus, a key portion of the brain related to memory and certain types of learning.”

Everyone knows that exercising can help your heart, weight, and countless health benefits,  but what many don’t know is that exercising can also make you smarter and better at what you do.”Exercise is really for the brain, not the body. It affects mood, vitality, alertness, and feelings of well-being.” says John J. Ratey, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Exercise affects many sites within the nervous system and sets off pleasure chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine that make us feel calm, happy, and euphoric.

“When one exercises,” Anderson says, “you can think more clearly, perform better, and your morale is better. This is pure science — stimulate your nervous system and function at a higher level.” In a recent publication by the New York Times, even more ground breaking evidence and research has been linked to a healthier brain as a result of exercise. Here is a summary of the research and studies.

 “For more than a decade, neuroscientists and physiologists have been gathering evidence of the beneficial relationship between exercise and brainpower. But the newest findings make it clear that this isn’t just a relationship; it is THE RELATIONSHIP. The most persuasive evidence comes from several new studies of lab animals living in busy, exciting cages.

The Experiment

Researchers at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois, gathered four groups of mice and set them into four distinct living arrangements.

  1. Group 1-Lived in a world of sensual and gustatory plenty, dining on nuts, fruits and cheeses, their food occasionally dusted with cinnamon, all of it washed down with variously flavored waters. Their “beds” were colorful plastic igloos occupying one corner of the cage. Neon-hued balls, plastic tunnels, nibble-able blocks, mirrors and seesaws filled other parts of the cage.
  2. Group 2-Had access to all of these pleasures, plus they had small disc-shaped running wheels in their cages.
  3. Group 3- Had cages held no embellishments, and they received standard, dull kibble.
  4. Group 4- This group’s homes contained the running wheels but no other toys or treats.
  • All the animals completed a series of cognitive tests at the start of the study and were injected with a substance that allows scientists to track changes in their brain structures. Then they ran, played or, if their environment was unenriched, lolled about in their cages for several months.

The Results

“Only one thing had mattered,” Rhodes says, “and that’s whether they had a running wheel.” Animals that exercised, whether or not they had any other enrichments in their cages, had healthier brains and performed significantly better on cognitive tests than the other mice. Animals that didn’t run, no matter how enriched their world was otherwise, did not improve their brainpower in the complex, lasting ways that Rhodes’s team was studying. “They loved the toys,” Rhodes says, and the mice rarely ventured into the empty, quieter portions of their cages. But unless they also exercised, they did not become smarter.

The Science

The brain, like all muscles and organs, is a tissue, and its function declines with underuse and age. Beginning in our late 20s, most of us will lose about 1 percent annually of the volume of the hippocampus, a key portion of the brain related to memory and certain types of learning.Exercise though seems to slow or reverse the brain’s physical decay, much as it does with muscles. Even more heartening, scientists found that exercise jump-starts neurogenesis. Mice and rats that ran for a few weeks generally had about twice as many new neurons in their hippocampi as sedentary animals. Their brains, like other muscles, were bulking up.

Here is a link to the full article

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/magazine/how-exercise-could-lead-to-a-better-brain.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&seid=auto&smid=tw-nytimes

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions or comments.

From South Bend,

Kevin
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The Best Additions For A Healthy Salad

The Best Additions For A Healthy Salad

The term “FAT FREE” is misleading because excess carbohydrates in your diet end up as excess body fat.

Dressings

This is the BIGGEST mistake people make when eating a salad. Picking the wrong dressing can transform a typical healthy dish into a saturated fat/sugar-loaded nightmare. Here are 2 things to be aware of when picking a dressing:

  • Serving Size– Don’t load up dressing on your salad. Measure out a serving size with a tablespoon to know exactly how many calories you are taking in.  Most people are shocked when they realize how small”1 serving size” is.
  • Ingredients– Dont be mislead by labels and disclaimers such as “reduced-fat” when choosing a dressing. These labels are not regulated by the FDA and the marketing gurus will say anything to promote their brands and products. Look for hidden ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup, and fructose the are artificial alternatives to sugars.  As a general rule stay away from dressings with a long list of ingredients or additives.

What To Choose:

Balsamic Vinegar– 2 tbsp (which is all you need) of balsamic vinegar has 50 calories. Balsamic vinegar contains polyphenols, antioxidants that can protect the body from heart disease and cancer and has enzymes that break protein down into smaller amino acids that can be more easily absorbed by the body.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil–  A moderate serving of olive oil has the healthy monounsaturated fats that can lower your LDL (bad cholesterol) and has been proven to help promote healthy skin and hair.

Alternative Oils- Alternative oils such as coconut,  macadamia, or walnut oil will provide a healthy source of Omega 3’s and give you a variety from traditional olive oil.

Make your own– If you get tired of the balsamic vinegar and oil combo try this.

½ cup Greek yogurt
1 handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 Tbsp red onion, finely diced
Juice from 1 lime
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp cumin

What to Stay Away From

Any pre-made salad dressings from the store like:

Ranch- One serving of ranch dressing contains approximately 140 calories and 14 grams (mostly saturated) of fat. Of the 140 calories, 130 are from fat. Don’t be deceived by the “low-fat” or “light” alternatives as they boast more unhealthy additives and sugars that are equally as bad.

Blue Cheese-Blue cheese dressing is a quick way to ruin a healthy salad. The average brand contains 152 calories and 15.6 grams of fat making blue cheese a diet blunder.

Italian-  With more than 14 grams of fat per serving and a hefty load of processed ingredients, Italian can be a real detriment to your diet.

Thousand Island– Another cream-based, fat-laden topping, Thousand Island dressing will cost you 140 calories and 14 grams of fat and  a long list of unknown ingredients.

French-French dressing is one of the worst salad additives around. Though it is technically a “vinaigrette”, French dressing still has an overwhelming 14.2 grams of fat and unnecessary sugars.

Caeser- The average brand contains more than 165 calories and 18 grams of fat. Even some of the “light” brands still pack more than 12 grams of fat per two tablespoons.

Great Additives 

Avacado- Many people dismiss the health benefits of avocado simply due to its high calorie count. However, avocados have 54% of your recommended daily value of fiber which gives this fruit much of its fat burning abilities. Just one avocado provides your body with vitamins A, C, E, K, and B6, along with  1000 mg of potassium. (About twice as many as a banana)

Flaxseed- 1/2 tbsp of flaxseed gives you your complete recommended daily amount of omega 3’s and can help lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. Flaxseed will help regulate digestion and contains 3 grams of fiber/serving. 

Eggs- Eggs are a great source of protein that are loaded with vitamins, including vitamin A, potassium, and many B vitamins like folic acid, choline and biotin. Very few foods share the same diverse nutrient makeup available in a single egg.

Walnuts- A handful of walnuts contains almost twice as much antioxidants as an equivalent amount of any other commonly consumed nut. Walnuts are a great source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. 

Black Beans- Black beans are very high in fiber, folate, protein, and antioxidants, along with numerous other vitamins and minerals.

Edamame-These legumes pack as much protein as most animal products, without the unwanted saturated fat. Being loaded with fiber makes them filling, refreshing, and great a alternative source of protein too add in your diet.

Artichokes- The artichoke is a low-calorie, nutrient-rich vegetable that is a great natural source of antioxidants. According to the USDA, one medium artichoke is an excellent source of fiber and vitamin C, and a good source of folate and magnesium.

 Conclusion

Create your salad base with some sort of healthy/dark green leaf such as spinach, kale, arugula, or mixed greens. Add some of the ingredients listed above with some lean protein and top it off with a healthy dressing to create a great meal that will provide essential vitamins and minerals. Incorporating meals like these are crucial to a well balanced diet and will help contribute to a healthy lifestyle.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions or comments.

From South Bend,

Kevin

Elliptical vs. Treadmill

Elliptical vs. Treadmill

elliptical vs treadmill 1 Elliptical vs. Treadmill: Which is Better?

Ever wonder which machine is better in terms of burning fat, increasing athletic performance, burning calories, or for cardiovascular benefits? I analyzed the pros and cons to both machines and offer up suggestions on which machine to choose and why. The blog for today can be found at http://www.builtlean.com/ another great source of health, nutrition, and wellness to achieve a balanced lifestyle.

http://www.builtlean.com/2012/04/20/elliptical-vs-treadmill/

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions or comments.

From Hawaii!

Kevin

The Truth About Stretching And Warming Up

The Truth About Stretching And Warming Up

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”
― Mae West

There are many schools of thought with regards to stretching, warming up, and cooling down. Let’s get one thing right before we start. Each individual has different needs and requirements for their own body. There is no universal principle that applies to everyone, whether it be stretching, working out, or eating. The most important aspect is to find out what works best for YOU and refine your craft from there.With that being said, here is the new school of thought about stretching.

“Although it’s often prescribed as an injury-prevention measure, static stretching before a workout might be the worst of all strategies.”

Static stretching before a workout forces your muscles to relax, in effect making them weaker in the short-term. This causes imbalances with surrounding muscle groups which will affect your strength gains and performance along with opening yourself up for injury.

“Static stretching also reduces blood flow to your muscles and decreases the activity of your central nervous system—meaning it inhibits your brain’s ability to communicate with your muscles, which limits your capacity to generate force.”

What To Do Instead

Self-Myofascial Release

Self-myofascial release is a self-massage using objects like foam rollers, medicine balls, or even tennis and golf balls. Performing some SMR prior to training will increase blood flow and oxygen to the muscle. Also, SMR will alleviate any minor soft tissue restrictions that could hinder your performance.

Example: IT band foam roll

  1. Start by lying on your side, support your body weight with your legs and arms, and lie with a foam roller or ball under the upper, outside portion of your thigh – this is the proximal portion of your IT band.
  2. Use your legs and arms to roll the length of your IT band along the ball, traveling right down to just above your knee-joint. As you get closer to your knee, you may feel more tenderness, so be prepared to use your arms and legs to ease pressure off of your IT band.
  3. Complete for 30 seconds/body part.

Dynamic Mobility

Dynamic stretching improves your “active” flexibility, the kind you need in every type of athletic endeavor. Dynamic stretching also excites your central nervous system,  increases blood flow,  and increases strength and power production.

Example: Dynamic Inchworm

  1. Standing with your feet hip-distance apart,  bend at the waist, keeping your legs as straight as possible, until your hands touch the floor about 8 to 12 inches from your feet
  2.  Walk your hands out to pushup position (or extended out in front for shoulder activation as well)
  3.  Walk your feet in toward your hands with short choppy steps. Complete for 15-20 yards.

Muscle Activation

Muscle activation utilizes exercises that improve the mind – muscle connection and ensures that all of the important stabilizer muscles are maximally turned on and functioning properly.

Example: Back bridge with single leg option

  1. Lying on the back with knees bent at 90 degrees, arms extended sideward at 45 degrees and feet on the ground, raise the hips off of the ground until the trunk and thighs form a generally straight line. The spine must not arch to achieve this position.
  2. With the buttocks still up, straighten the left leg until it aligns with the trunk and thigh. Don’t let the trunk and pelvis sag on the unsupported side. Hold five seconds, and then switch to the other leg.
  3. Repeat for one minute. If the spine begins to sag, arch, or tilt, lower to the starting position, rest for 3 to 5 seconds, then, try again

CNS Activation (Central Nervous System)

In the CNS Activation stage, fast and explosive movements are utilized to continue to prepare the body for a workout These types of activities are heavily CNS-dominant and therefore ensure that your CNS is primed and ready for the more intense lifts to follow.

Example: Box Jumps

  1. Stand in front of a sturdy box or bench, your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Bend your knees, then jump onto the box, landing softly.
  3.  Step down to return to start. That’s one rep. Complete 8-12 reps.

When To Incorporate Static Stretching

“Improvements in flexibility are specific to your body position and speed of movement. So if you do only static stretching—as most poeple are advised—you’ll primarily boost your flexibility in that exact posture while moving at a slow speed. While certainly effective if you’re a contortionist, it has limited carryover to the flexibility you need in sports and weight training, which require your muscles to stretch at fast speeds in various body positions.”

Abandoning static stretching all together isn’t necessary. Most studies show to increase general flexibility you need to stretch twice a day, every day. Any less frequently and you won’t maintain your gains in flexibility. This is why most flexibility plans don’t work. A structured plan of post workout static stretching and stretching before bed(15-20 seconds/stretch) can help with your overall well being and general functionality as an upright human.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions or comments.

From South Bend,

Kevin

Balance Your Day With These Great Meals

Balance Your Day With These Great Meals

According to MayoClinic.com, eating more frequently reduces your risk of obesity by decreasing the blood insulin response to long fasts that increase fat storage and weight gain. It’s important to plan your grazing to ensure you eat the right amount of calories and get the vitamins and minerals you need over the span of 14-18 hours.

16 ounces of cold water

  • The first thing I do when I wake up is have 16 ounces of cold water. Water is the most important nutrient for your body and sleeping 6-10 hours without fluid intake induces mild dehydration.
  • Studies show that drinking cold water can increase metabolism as much as 25% for 2 hours after finishing.

 Breakfast

Half a grapefruit- Grapefruits are high in enzymes that burn fat. They have high amounts of water content which helps boost metabolism as well as containing numerous antioxidants.

  1. Calories- 40
  2. Carbs- 9g
  3. Fat- 0g
  4. Protein- 1g
  5. Sodium-0g
  6. Sugar-5g

2 eggs scrambled & chicken breast- Eggs and chicken are great sources of lean protein that are loaded with vitamins and minerals. Studies show that a breakfast high in protein will keep you feeling full throughout the morning. 

  1. Calories- 300
  2. Carbs- 0g
  3. Fat- 13 g
  4. Protein- 37 g
  5. Sodium-270g
  6. Sugar-0g

Vegetable mix broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, & hummus- Vegetables in the morning allow you to get a good balance of vitamins and minerals to start of your day. Vegetables mixed with the healthy fats from the hummus can help stabilize blood sugar levels.

  1. Calories- 180
  2. Carbs- 25g
  3. Fat- 3 g
  4. Protein- 8 g
  5. Sodium-250g
  6. Sugar-9g

100% Organic arabica black coffeeCoffee beans are loaded with antioxidants that help combat cancer and prevent type 2 diabetes. 

  1. Calories- 5
  2. Carbs- 0g
  3. Fat- 0g
  4. Protein- 0 g
  5. Sodium-0g
  6. Sugar-0g

Mid Morning Snack 

Plain greek yogurt with whey protein/flaxseed – With twice the protein of normal yogurt and no preservatives or artificial flavors, greek yogurt paired with flaxseed and whey protein is a great source of probiotics and omega 3 fatty acids.

  1. Calories- 300
  2. Carbs- 12g
  3. Fat- 4g
  4. Protein- 38 g
  5. Sodium-100 g
  6. Sugar-11g
Kiwi-Kiwi fruits are rich in many vitamins, flavonoids and minerals. In particular, they contain a high amount of vitamin C (more than oranges), as much potassium as bananas and a good amount of beta-carotene.
  1. Calories- 50
  2. Carbs- 11g
  3. Fat- 0g
  4. Protein- 1 g
  5. Sodium-0 g
  6. Sugar-7g

Lunch

Steel cut oats/quinoa with walnuts/chia seeds/mixed berries/cinnamon- This oatmeal blend is a great source of slow digesting carbohydrates that can be used for energy. The walnuts/berries/cinnamon provide healthy fats and potent antioxidants. For more info see on this meal see http://www.builtlean.com/2012/03/14/steel-cut-oats-recipe/

  1. Calories- 390
  2. Carbs- 35 g
  3. Fat- 5 g
  4. Protein- 11 g
  5. Sodium-60 g
  6. Sugar-10g

Edamame- Soy beans are a great alternative source of protein and dietary fiber superstar. 

  1. Calories- 120
  2. Carbs- 10 g
  3. Fat- 5 g
  4. Protein- 11 g
  5. Sodium- 5 g
  6. Sugar-2 g

Post Workout

10 g of Branch Chain Amino Acids (during workout)BCAA’s support everything from anabolic muscle-building to high intensity endurance training and are among the 9 essential amino acids that help fuel muscle repair and recovery. 

100% Whey isolate protein (unflavored/no additives) with glutamine– A great source of protein with no added sugars or artificial flavors you get with most products. Glutamine helps minimize breakdown of muscle and improve protein metabolism

  1. Calories- 120
  2. Carbs- 1 g
  3. Fat- 0 g
  4. Protein- 25 g
  5. Sodium- 30 g
  6. Sugar-1 g

Banana-Eating food rich in carbohydrates, like a banana, between 15 and 60 minutes after a workout is most advantageous to your muscles and glycogen recovery. The nutrition-rich fruit contains potassium, carbohydrates, protein and vitamin C.

  1. Calories- 100
  2. Carbs- 27 g
  3. Fat- 0 g
  4. Protein- 1 g
  5. Sodium- 0 g
  6. Sugar-14 g

Mid Afternoon Snack

Broccoli with natural almond butter- Broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse with noteworthy nutrients including vitamin a, c, beta-carotene, calcium, folic acid, and fiber. Pair this with healthy monounsaturated fats and the protein you get with almond butter makes this combination a great snack.

  1. Calories 210
  2. Carbs- 12 g
  3. Fat- 16 g
  4. Protein- 10 g
  5. Sodium- 80 g
  6. Sugar-3 g

Tea (Chinese oolong)-Tea is loaded with catechins which is essential in aiding your immune system and can reduce the risk of four of the major health problems: stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes.

Dinner

Wild Atlantic Salmon-Salmon is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins A, B and D as well as the minerals calcium, iron, phosphorus and selenium. This is also an excellent source of lean protein. 

  1. Calories 300
  2. Carbs- 0 g
  3. Fat- 20 g
  4. Protein- 35 g
  5. Sodium- 100 g
  6. Sugar-0 g

Brussels sprouts/mushroom/onion mix-Brussels sprouts are  high in protein, accounting for more than a quarter of their calories. The sprouts are very high in fiber and belong to the disease-fighting cabbage  family.

  1. Calories 120
  2. Carbs- 10 g
  3. Fat- 0 g
  4. Protein- 10 g
  5. Sodium- 10 g
  6. Sugar-4 g

Spinach salad with tomatoes/mixed peppers/avocado/flaxseed- Spinach is another super-food that should be apart of everyone’s daily regimen in combination with antioxidant loaded mixed peppers/tomatoes and the healthy fats from avocado and flaxseed make this a great side.

  1. Calories 150
  2. Carbs- 7 g
  3. Fat- 10 g
  4. Protein- 10 g
  5. Sodium- 30 g
  6. Sugar-10 g
Nightime Snack
Cottage CheeseCottage cheese before bed gives you an excellent source of casein protein which is a slow absorbing protein that will help your muscles recover over night. 
  1. Calories 100
  2. Carbs- 0 g
  3. Fat- 2 g
  4. Protein- 15 g
  5. Sodium- 400 g
  6. Sugar-5 g

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions or comments.

From South Bend,

Kevin

 

Cheat Day

Cheat Day

A wake up call statement before we get started. The FDA makes no serious effort to control the use of the word “natural” on nutrition labels. Case in point: 7UP boasts that it’s made with “100% Natural Flavors” when, in fact, the soda is sweetened with a decidedly un-natural dose of high fructose corn syrup. Be careful of misleading food labels.

The concept of a cheat meal or cheat day has been around since the inception of diet’s themselves. Staying disciplined for 7-14 days in a row can be both physically and mentally challenging. Whether you are trying to gain muscle or lose weight, eating a disciplined diet that is filled with protein, healthy complex carbohydrates, and adequate caloric intake can be become monotonous. This is where the “cheat meal” or “cheat day” comes into play. Most of the issues people have with dieting are mental and not physical. Cravings are powerful and can be taxing on the physical and mental side of humans. The good thing is cheat days or cheat meals can actually have physical benefits for your metabolism as well as giving you a mental break

Physically

Cheat meals keep the body guessing. Similar to when your muscles adapt to the same exercises and rep range from routine and repetitiveness, your metabolism adjusts based on your calorie levels in the same fashion. Just when your body starts to think it has things figured out you surprise it with a radical change in your diet. If you eat the same thing everyday within a few weeks your body will adapt to the caloric intake. You have to spice things up and keep the body confused.

The Science

Leptin is a protein hormone that plays a key role in regulating energy intake and energy expenditure, including appetite and metabolism. Leptin signifies a slowing metabolism. Whenever you are on a diet for an extended period of time, your body will begin to adjust its metabolic functions in an effort to ‘make due’ with the amount of fuel that it is being given. Your goal is to periodically kick your leptin levels back up so as to avoid the intense physical hunger and the slowed-to-a-crawl metabolism.

Psychologically

The cheat meal can provide a mental break even more so than as a physical break. Mid-week cravings can be pushed aside knowing that you have an awesome reward in the form of a meal coming on the weekend. Allowing yourself this mental break can inhibit future cravings in the weeks to come.

Sunday Brunch; My Cheat Meal

 

Recommendations

Leptin is highly responsive to glucose metabolism. So, when eating a cheat meal,  you will benefit much more if the majority of your excess calories are coming from good sources of carbohydrates that will turn into glucose.  One day a week increase your caloric intake by 25 to 50% in any way you want but preferably in the form of healthy carbohydrates. The sudden spike in your calories will keep the body guessing and force your metabolism to readjust following the meal along with giving you a mental break.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions or comments.

From South Bend,

Kevin