Keeping your muscle as you age is ESSENTIAL! I don’t use the word ESSENTIAL very often, but in this case I’d yell that first line I wrote from the rooftops.
Maintaining muscle will keep you healthy, fit and functional, and I guarantee the quality of your life will be so much better if you pay attention to this advice.
Unless you do something to prevent it, you’ll lose muscle as you age. That makes you susceptible to a host of health problems, including fat gain, sexual dysfunction, and depression.
Here are two steps you can take to rebuild or maintain your muscle mass.
1. Eliminate Aerobics.
I know I’m taking on a sacred cow here but there are different kinds of aerobics. Research shows that low-exertion, long-duration aerobic exercise causes muscle loss and actually shrinks your heart and lungs. So, unless you are in training for a marathon or long distance race, do this instead.
Your exercise routine should include short bursts of high-intensity exercise with gradually changing intervals over time. It’s the most effective way to burn fat and obtain a muscular body with functional strength.
For instance, this morning I went swimming. I didn’t swim a steady long distance. Instead, I treaded water for a minute and then swam 30 strokes, treaded again and swam again. Over and over again. I did this in the ocean so I got my heart rate up with the 30 strokes and then used all the muscles in my body for treading. Be creative and create your own high-intensity intervals.
2. Take Muscle-Supporting Nutrients.
You can also take nutrients daily to build and maintain muscle. Some of the best include:
Protein (as the main focus of every meal). Your body needs protein to maintain your muscles and support new muscle growth. Throw away carb-heavy snacks and snack on protein snacks instead. A piece of celery with some almond butter is a good snack. Or an egg and a few nuts.
Creatine Creatine increases speed, performance, endurance, and strength. It increases the amount of muscle you build during resistance training.
L-Arginine (500-1,000 mg a day). L-arginine is an essential amino acid that builds strength and muscle mass.
Carnosine (500 mg a day). Made from two amino acids, carnosine helps protect the integrity of your muscles and makes sure new muscle will be healthy and will last.
Glutamine (5 g a day as a powder in a shake). This amino acid helps stabilize energy levels and boost the production of natural growth hormone in your body. That tells your body to shed fat and build muscle. It also helps prevent muscle breakdown.
Remember, supplements are to “supplement”. Always, always eat real food first. Don’t eat poorly and then think supplements will make up for the rest. That’s never good for creating optimum health or a muscular body.
One question I get very often from both women and men is, “How can I firm up my backside?” They don’t always ask that question using such polite words, but that’s what they mean. I’ve met very few people who don’t want a better looking butt!
Most of you are familiar with lunges. You see lots of women doing lunges, whether in gyms or on the street.
Often it’s a good idea, but unfortunately I see a lot of bad execution.
The right way to do lunges is one leg at a time.
Do not alternate between both legs or do walking lunges. It is hard on the knees, and it doesn’t take advantage of the mind/body connection that focusing on one leg at a time can give you.
Here are some lunge tips for you:
1. Work out the muscles on the first leg with both mental and physical focus.
2. After you do one leg, do the other.
3. Rest one minute. Then do a set of 20 squats using dumbbells or just your body weight.
4. Repeat the lunge exercise, one leg at a time, then the squat. That should be plenty for most of you. You’re done!
That’s two super sets: two sets of one-legged lunges and two sets of squats. That’s it. You can do it in less than 10 minutes.
Not only is this a great exercise for your legs, but your butt will be screaming for mercy. Try this and let me know what you think!
Here’s a topic that we spent quite a bit of time discussing last semester in the class I teach called Fit for Life. The topic is Healthy Fast Food Breakfasts.
I first have to say that I rarely, and I do mean rarely, eat breakfast away from my home. So, I have to admit that although I’m going to pass this information along to you, I have never tasted any of these breakfast choices. I do know that many people take breakfast to go and that it’s important to keep those to-go choices as healthy as possible.
This list was compiled by Health Magazine. They looked at the best breakfasts that would combine complex carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats in a “fast-food” breakfast. Here’s what they came up with.
1. Spinach Florentine Breakfast Wrap: Cosi.
2. Protein Artisan Snack Plate : Starbucks
3. Berry Topper Ideal Meal: Jamba Juice
4. Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal: Au Bon Pain
5. Scrambled Egg Whites, Chicken Sausage, and Fruit: Denny’s
6. Fruit and Maple Oatmeal: McDonald’s
7. Simple and Fit Veggie Omelette: IHOP
8. Western Egg White and Cheese Muffin Melt: Subway
9. Egg White Turkey Sausage Wake-Up Wrap: Dunkin’ Donuts
10. Breakfast Power Sandwich: Panera Bread
Don’t do the take-out breakfast routine too often. You’ll eat healthier, eat less and save a ton of money if you get in the home breakfast making mode. Speaking of which, it’s time for my breakfast! Most days that’s a smoothie which these days consists of berries, protein powder, green drink, walnuts, yogurt, and pumpkin seeds. Yummy!
This week here’s a tip about boosting your energy flow. It comes from my friend and colleague, acupuncturist Felix Wolf.
When you are feeling “stuck, out of balance, disconnected, or depressed” (and who doesn’t, on occasion), give this a try. It’s called the “microcosmic orbit breath”.
Before I give you the “technique”, let me share with you what Felix has to say.
“Keep it it simple. The exercise is simply to circulate the energy along the core meridians with the help of the breath.
Inhale up the spine to the top of the head while contracting the perinneal muscles and anal sphincter and exhale down the front to the perinneum while relaxing all your muscles. It is recommended to connect the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth during the exercise. The breathing should be abdominal, smooth, round and with a normal rhythm.
It can be done as a meditation or integrated into daily activities, e.g. while waiting for a red light to turn green, while waiting in line, or at bedtime. Don’t over think it or set any special intentions and NO specific knowledge required.”
Thanks Felix! Here’s a link for you to look at : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microcosmic_orbit
Do you have “bad feet”? Have you often wondered if it’s genetic? It can be.
I read a recent report that supports this claim, particularly if you have bunions or high arches. Some researchers believe that foot function and mechanics may have more to do with mimicking parents’ movement rather than heredity.
In either case, given that your foot has 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments, some regular foot care seems appropriate so you don’t get to feeling deFEETed!
1. Take care of your foot tissue health by using a small ball. I use a tennis ball and when I’m standing I’ll put it under my arch and roll out my feet. By this I mean roll your foot back and forth over the ball.
2. Walking barefoot on grass or sand or around the house gives your feet plenty of proprioceptive information. Without getting too technical here, this is a good thing! When your feet are hidden all day in shoes, they forget how to be feet. So go barefoot and let your bones, muscles, and joints come alive.
3. Many of the tendons that attach to your feet come from muscles that originate from above your ankles. So while focusing on your feet, remember to pay attention to any tension or aches you may feel in your calfs or upper legs.
4. Yoga Toes. I’ve mentioned Yoga Toes many times and I’ve been using mine for years as part of my foot care program. At the end of the day they are great.
So don’t TipToe around these helpful hints; give them a try!
I thought this week we’d have some fun and discuss an article I read called Food Trends To Watch.
I’ll tell you about some of them and you can see what you think.
While you don’t all live in the same area of America that I do, and in fact many of you live outside the U.S., I’d be curious to know if you’re seeing any of the trends this article mentions in your own backyard. Give it a read and let me know!
Apparently, last year was the year of bacon! Bacon with anything (chocolate and even gluten-free foods). I don’t live in a very trendy area so I didn’t notice this, but maybe some of you did.
1. The cupcake craze is winding down but PIES are all the rage. Years ago when I lived in San Diego there was a restaurant in my neighborhood called House Of Pies. Everything was homemade and seasonal. I don’t live in San Diego anymore and House Of Pies was long ago replaced by a (you guessed it) Starbucks, but much like most folks, I do enjoy fresh homemade pies so I’ll be on the look-out for this upcoming food trend.
2. Have you noticed that menus are full of adjectives and descriptions about how the food is cooked? Meant to impress us, I suppose. Well now we’ll see less of that and more useful plain talk that will let us know about ingredients.
3. Say good-bye to burgers and hello to hot dogs. Seems like hot dogs will get an upgrade and come with all different kinds of toppings.
4. Meatless Mondays and Fish Fridays will be new additions in many restaurants. It’s not just to serve vegetarians, but also to help “healthy-minded” people eat less meat.
5. Apparently there is going to be a yogurt revolution! Yogurt is already a go-to ingredient, but now you’ll see sun dried and freeze dried, smoked and pressed yogurt. I have noticed many new yogurt stores opening up around town. I’m not much of a frozen yogurt girl and frankly, sun dried and smoked yogurt sounds awful. But if I happen to pass a yogurt shop that offers these new trendy yogurts and they’ll give me a sample, I wouldn’t refuse!
Let me know what new food trends you notice and keep an eye out for these.
I field a lot of questions about gluten-free grains. So this week I thought I’d give you the basics.
Many people must avoid gluten because of Celiac’s disease. However, even if that’s not the case for you, it’s fun to learn about and experiment with these gluten-free options. Nutritionally, these grains add more benefit to your diet than wheat, corn, oats, and rice.
1. Amaranth comes from Central and South America. It’s actually a seed, but it’s used like a grain. It has a nutty flavor, is high in protein, higher in fiber than whole wheat, and contains high amounts of minerals. Cooked it can be used as a cereal or added to soups. Amaranth flour can also be added to baked goods. Looking for a sweet treat? Pop the seeds like popcorn in a dry skillet and coat them with honey.
2. Buckwheat is a relative of rhubarb and not related to wheat at all. It’s actually a fruit seed that’s a good source of protein because it contains all eight essential amino acids. It also contains magnesium, fiber, calcium, iron, and the whole range of B vitamins.
I’ve written about buckwheat before because my favorite way to eat it is as kasha. That’s when it’s toasted and cooked. It also makes a great breakfast cereal, can be used in soups or as flour used to make buckwheat pancakes or crepes. Japanese soba noodles, when they are made from 100% buckwheat flour, is a fun way to eat buckwheat.
3. Millet gives you more protein than wheat, corn, and rice. It’s a good source of fiber, iron, and B vitamins. When cooked it can be used as a pilaf or rice substitute. If you want to eat it as a breakfast cereal, when you cook it increase the water and cook the millet longer.
4. Quinoa is native to South America and technically a seed. Considered a “super grain,” it contains all eight essential amino acids and has a protein profile similar to milk. It beats whole wheat in that it has more calcium, iron, and magnesium. Quinoa comes in either white, red, or black varieties.
Quinoa cooks faster than most grains and is also lighter and fluffier. Use it as a hot dish but also in cold salads. There is also quinoa pasta.
5. Teff is the world’s smallest grain and is native to Africa. Ethiopians use teff to make injera, a flat spongy bread. It contains protein, calcium and a good assortment of minerals. Teff works well as a breakfast cereal or mixed with other grains. It’s got a nutty and slightly sweet flavor, so give it a try.
There you have it, 5 great gluten-free options. Give them all a try and I’m sure you’ll find you favor one or two of them!
More and more good news keeps coming out about boosting brain health for seniors. I think it also applies to the rest of us, which is why I pass this information along to you.
Our brains are capable of superior performance even into the 10th decade and beyond! If the brain remains healthy and free from disease, it can continue to function normally for as long as we live.
What can you do for your mental and physical health to promote a healthy brain? The answers will, I hope, not be much of a surprise!
1. Exercise. Neuroscientists recommend swimming, dancing, gardening, knitting and more frequent use of the nondominant hand and leg, and walking 10,000 steps on a daily basis. In one study it’s suggested that aerobic exercise is the key to lowering the odds of getting Alzheimer’s by 60%. A daily 20 minute walk can cut the risk of having a stroke by 57%. Think of exercise as fertilizer for your brain!
2. Mental activity. Use your brain to keep it healthy. How? Play board games, do crossword puzzles, learn a second language, read, take a class and acquire new skills.
3. Healthy diet. Balanced nutrition is essential for brain health. Emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts and decrease added sugar. Water is also essential for nervous system electrical transmissions that will keep your brain functional.
There you have it. Maybe nothing new, but a good gentle reminder. If you’re lacking in these three areas, get with the program now. It’s never too late to give your brain cells a boost!
Although I mention salt often, I recently received a good question: “What’s the difference between sea salt, kosher salt, and table salt?”
Salt has become very trendy, yet we also receive messages about reducing sodium intake. Confusing, right?
Chemically speaking, there is little difference between these salts. They are all sodium chloride. What differs are their origins and how they are processed.
Sea salt is derived from the evaporation of sea water. Because it is usually unrefined, it contains natural traces of minerals found in sea water. Kosher salt refers to a flake salt. Both are flavorful. Good old table salt comes from salt mines. It is refined and in most cases iodized.
Sea salt is marketed as a healthier alternative and can be a better choice. It has larger granules, and both sea salt and kosher salt contain less salt per pinch than table salt.
Regardless of which salt you use, please note that the current recommendation is to limit daily intake of sodium to no more than 2,300 mg or 1,500 mg for people with hypertension, African Americans and adults 51 or older.
Again, if you eat a lot of processed or packaged food, watch the sodium content. That’s where you’re likely to go way beyond these guidelines.
Do your daily activities cause you pain?
Let’s take a look.
Time spent standing, sitting and even sleeping can be causing you pain. It’s the cumulative hours you spend in these positions that can lead to prolonged damage to both your muscles and fascia.
If you go to a professional who works in the field of corrective exercise, you’ll get help alleviating some of the problems caused by improper seated, standing, and sleeping postures. But there are also some simple adjustments you can make yourself.
Your body is designed to be upright and weight bearing on two feet, with your hips, torso, and head in good alignment. We spend way too much time sitting!
Get out of your chair several times a day. This helps keep your hips, legs, and spine extended. If you can, convert your work space into a standing desk or walk instead of always driving places.
Change chairs and positions often or alternate between sitting and standing when you work.
I’ve mentioned before that I work mostly standing up and use a counter as a workspace. I also have two different chairs I sit on when I read or write but mostly I sit on the floor. As I write this I am sitting on the floor!
Sitting too much can weaken your arches. When this happens, your feet are less able to accept your body weight and your arches collapse. Notice if you often shift from side to side when you stand. You are trying to redistribute your body weight and get more comfortable.
Besides examining your shoe choices (which is a big topic that we’ll cover in another newsletter) eliminate, or at least reduce, the time your spend in high heels.
Pay attention to your upper-body position when standing. Do you cross your arms, talk on a cell phone a lot, carry a bag on one shoulder or constantly have your hands in your pockets? All of these will over time create tight muscles and fascia. Paying attention to how you stand is the first step.
If you have chronic tightness or muscular imbalances from sitting too much or standing with poor posture, sleeping is often uncomfortable too. Adopting better sleeping positions will help reduce pain.
Sleep on your back. Make sure your bed is firm enough so that neither your lower back or thoracic spine sinks into the mattress. Sometimes putting a wedge or pillow under your knees makes you more comfortable. Start off in this position for just a few minutes each night and gradually increase the amount of time you spend like this. As your spine adjusts, the use of the pillow can be reduced.
Choose a pillow that supports your head so that your eyes are in a position perpendicular to the ceiling. And make sure your pillow thickness doesn’t push your head too far forward.
If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your knees. This keeps your knees in line with your hip socket.
Avoid sleeping on your stomach. That over arches your lower back and puts too much twist on your neck.
We all have to sit, stand, and sleep so it’s important to do them in ways that don’t cause PAIN!