health

5 Minute Energy Boosters; Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual

It's 3pm, and you're f***ing tired.

Maybe you sit behind a desk all day. Or maybe you stay at home and run around with your little humans. Or possibly you're a fitness coach and moving non-stop is your job. It doesn't matter who you are or what you do on a daily basis, I will bet my bank account that you get a case of the yawns at some point during the day. We all do, even if not every single day. 

The easy fix may be to reach for another cup of coffee, an energy drink, or sugary snack of sorts. These things can provide temporary energy, but negative effects usually outweigh the short lived boost. Relying on stimulants such as caffeine and sugar can cause blood sugar imbalances, resulting in energy crashes, cravings, mood swings, and hormonal disruption. 

I'm all about moderation and I LOVE my coffee, but it's important to have tools to maintain energy without relying on caffeine. Here is a list of some of my favorite ways to boost energy that you can do in 5 minutes or less. 
 

5-Minute Energy Boosters 

  • Deep breathing: Notice how you're breathing right now. Are you taking relaxed, full belly breaths? If not, you may be taking short and shallow breaths or even holding your breath for short periods. This limits the oxygen that gets to your brain and your body, hence the yawn mechanism.
  • Move: If you're feeling tired and sluggish, moving your body may be the last thing you feel like doing. Even a short walk or several minutes of movement can get the blood flowing and give you a nice burst of energy. Try doing a couple sets of something that requires your whole body, such as 10-15 squat jumps, push-ups, or burpees. If you're concerned about getting sweaty, try a brisk walk or some stretching. 
  • Laugh: Getting some giggles is a great way to shift your energy and lift your mood, especially if fatigue is a result of mental energy expenditure. Listen to a few minutes of your favorite comedy or watch kitten videos if that's more your thing.
  • Gratitude: Low energy is not always a physical issue, but is often mental, emotional, or spiritual. If you're feeling down or sluggish, try taking a few minutes to focus your attention on the good things in your life. Numerous studies are showing that directing your focus to gratitude has a powerful impact on health and happiness. Read more here
  • Music: Listen to a song or two that make you feel AWESOME. We all have those jams that bring back good memories or calm us down. Keep a few on hand for those mid-day blues.  
  • Healthy snacks: As I mentioned above, stimulants such as caffeine and sugary snacks can provide a temporary boost but usually cause a drop of energy later on, leaving you needing more. Have a protein rich snack to promote a steadier release of energy. A protein bar, nuts, hummus and veggies, or a small green smoothie are all excellent options
  • A focused and fun task: Sometimes boosting energy can be as simple as shifting your attention. A fun, yet mentally stimulating task such as juggling, engaging in a sport, playing a computer game, or drawing can give you a temporary break from your work and leave you feeling refreshed and focused. This can be anything that requires all of your attention so that your a taking a "brain break.

The next time you find yourself falling asleep at your desk, try one of these strategies before pouring that tenth coffee. If you're especially tuned in to your energy, take note of whether your fatigue is physical, mental, or emotional/spiritual. Fatigue isn't always about sleep deprivation or lack of healthy snacks. Sometimes it's a result of mentally taxing work or a stressful day. Feeling overwhelmed and frustrated is draining in itself, in which case you may need a gratitude list or comedian. Play around with it, and find what works for you.

To Brew or Not to Brew: the effects of coffee on your health

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" So...what about coffee? Is it good or bad?" This is probably one of the most common questions I get asked from clients, students, and friends. If you are one of the 250 million Americans who consume coffee regularly, you may be wondering the same thing (and crossing fingers that my opinion supports your mild addiction).Here's my honest take on coffee: as with many foods, there is no clean cut answer. There are many factors to consider that determine whether it's a good addition to your diet/lifestyle or not. Let me give you the good, the bad, my personal experience, and the same advice I give to my clients. From there, you can be the judge.

 

The Pro's:

  • The caffeine in coffee can help boost energy and productivity. It has also been shown to increase mood and help alleviate depression.
  • Caffeine can increase physical performance and allow you to gain more from your workouts. Some studies also suggest that it helps break down fat cells to be used as energy. Therefore, a cup of joe 30 minutes before training can help burn fat and increase performance.
  • Coffee contains antioxidants and flavanoids that help fight inflammation and protect tissues. (See specifics below) 
  • Contains the following vitamins and minerals (per 8 ounces black coffee):
    • Riboflavin: .2 mg, 11% DV
    • Folate: 4.7 mcg, 1% DV
    • Niacin: .5 mg, 2% DV
    • Pantothenic acid: .6 mg, 6%
    • Choline: 6.2 mg (no DV established)
    • Magnesium: 7.1 mg 2% DV
    • Phosphorus: 7.1 mg, 1% DV
    • Potassium: 116 mg 3% DV

The Con’s:

  • Coffee is acid-forming in the body. All of our body’s tissues and organs (except the stomach) like to be at a nice alkaline pH to function optimally.
  • Caffeine creates a stress response in the body, stimulating the release of epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol. When the body is in a constant state of “fight or flight”, especially at rest, we are causing some serious wear and tear on the adrenals.
  • This increase in cortisol also elevates blood sugar levels, which contributes to insulin resistance, mood and energy swings, and excess fat storage.
  • Even if consumed early in the day, caffeine can disrupt sleep patterns.
  • Digestion: this caffeine-induced stress response impairs digestion and nutrient absorption by diverting blood away from the digestive system. It also may impair the absorption of key minerals such as magnesium, iron, calcium, and zinc.

Personal Experience: I love coffee. Love the taste, love the smell, love the buzz. In fact, I'm sipping on a 1/2 decaf americano as I write this. I especially love the kick before a hard workout or a long run/hike. But I also know that when I've been off it for at least a week I sleep better and both my energy and mood are more stable throughout the day. The biggest impact I feel personally is digestion. Caffeine seems to dampen my hunger/satiety signals. Intuitive eating (eating when hungry and stopping when full) is a huge factor in how I approach my daily diet, and I don't like when I feel out of tune with this. I'd love to say that I can avoid the stuff completely, but I do indulge here and there. I just have to weigh if the consequences are worth it for that day. 

If you just have to have it: believe me, I get it. Whether you have a deep romance with your french press or you're in desperate need of a pick-me-up, sometimes you just want some coffee. Here are some ways to help minimize any negative affects it may have on your body. 

  • Consider the quality of your coffee. Try to find an organic brand that you can brew at home, or a local coffee shop that uses organic beans. If you can, always get the real stuff as opposed to instant coffee. 
  • Be aware of what you're putting in your joe. Adding loads of refined sugars, syrups, and cream is going to add even more harmful stress on your body. Aim to reduce these additives, or opt for more natural flavorings like honey, maple, organic milk, or a non-dairy alternative such as coconut or almond milk. Cinnamon and raw cacao powder are a couple other delicious and health-promoting options. 
  • Consider what you are consuming with your coffee. As we discussed earlier, coffee is acid-forming in the body. Avoid having coffee on an empty stomach, but rather try it in conjunction with some nutrient rich foods such as fresh fruits/veggies, green smoothies, green powders, ginger, probiotics, or flaxseeds. This will help minimize irritation to digestion and keep the body alkalinized. (I like to take a shot of apple cider vinegar first thing in the morning if I know I'm going to be having coffee with breakfast. Gross, I know. But it seems to help my stomach be less pissed off.) 
  • Timing: when you have your coffee matters. Have your coffee early in the day (before noon), to avoid possible sleep disruption. Also consider what you will be doing in the hours following consumption. Try to avoid it when you know you will be fairly inactive. Again- caffeine produces a stress response in the body, and those stress hormones can be better metabolized if you get your body moving.

Summary: Still not sure? Here's what I tell people when they ask me if they "should" drink coffee. For healthy individuals, coffee in moderation (less than 2 cups daily) is probably no big deal. For people who are dealing with adrenal fatigue, chronic stress, anxiety, excess weight, sleep issues, digestive issues, or aiming to detox- I'd say you're best without it. It doesn't mean you have to give it up forever, but at least until your endocrine system, metabolism, and digestion are functioning optimally. Lastly, never discount your personal experience, as your body is the best health coach you have! Note how you feel (energy, mood, sleep, physical performance, digestion, etc) when you've gone at least two weeks without coffee. Note the same when you're having the stuff regularly. 

 

Resources:

Bauman, E., Friedlander, J. (2011). Therapeutic Nutrition. Penngrove, CA: Bauman College.

"Coffee, Brewed from Grounds, Prepared with Tap Water." SELF NutritionData. SELF NutritionData, 2014. Web. 18 Feb. 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fnutritiondata.self.com%2Ffacts%2Fbeverages%2F3898%2F2>.

Lukaczer, D., Jones, D., Lerman, R. (2004). Clinical Nutrition: A Functional Approach. Gig Harbor, Washington. The Institute of Functional Medicine

Walsh, Bryan. "Coffee and Hormones." Precision Nutrition. Precision Nutrition, 26 Jan. 2010. Web. 18 Feb. 2015. <http://www.precisionnutrition.com/coffee-and-hormones>.

Diets, Disorders, and Real Nutrition

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Clients and friends often ask me what "diet" I'm on or what I eat to look the way I do. Every time I'm asked about my diet, I find myself stumbling over my words and not being able to really come up with an answer. So how is it that I can be so passionate about good nutrition and health and yet have nothing to say when asked about my OWN diet?Because I don't have an answer. Not an easy one anyway. 

We live in a society that is obsessed with weight loss and dieting. Just look at the countless diets and meal plans that are out there, as well as all the Joe Shmoes who just wrote that new book on the food plan that REALLY WORKS! We are also a society that wants everything to be as quick and easy as possible. LOSE 70 POUNDS IN TWO HOURS!! REALLY WORKS!!SHED ALL YOUR BELLY FAT AND CELLULITE AND CURE WRINKLES AND HAIR LOSS AND CROOKED TEETH WITH THIS ONE EASY TRICK!! And we buy it. 

Yikes. 

All these things can sound so promising and magical, but what they don't tell you is that there is NO REPLACEMENT for good nutrition, effort, and TIME.  What they don't tell you is what a tightrope walk dieting and food restriction is, or what can happen if you fall off the wrong side of the tightrope and land in a heap of eating disorders. 

I'm not in any way claiming that dieting leads to disordered eating, but I am claiming to know first hand that it is an easy trap to slide into. Too much time of my own life was lost to restricting, starving, bingeing, purging, abusing laxatives, and not to mention a difficult journey to recovery. And the scariest part about it all...I didn't fall into that spiral by "dieting" or trying to lose weight. I wanted to get healthy. I wanted to stop eating Taco Bell for breakfast and clean up my nutrition. Which is why I am so cautious about offering quick advice on nutrition to clients and even friends. Because food and body issues are not just for Victoria's Secret models. They're not JUST FOR WOMEN. 

So here is my answer to these questions, and beware, if you are looking for a quick trick, easy solution, or even a cut and dry one, look elsewhere yo. 

The way I eat has been years, 5 at least, in the making. It has been a lot of trial and error, and error, and error to figure out what works for me. I'm not even there yet. My "diet" is always evolving as I learn more about food and my own body. I have had to do all kinds of food experiments on myself to find what works for me. I've had to figure out what makes me feel good and energized, not just in my body but in my mind and emotions as well. Hear this: Food doesn't just interact with your body! It interacts with your mind, emotions, lifestyle, and relationships too! That is why I believe that there is no one diet or system that will work with everyone. 

Here's where I give you a little tough lovin'. Your body and what you put in it are IMPORTANT. Stop looking for easy answers. GET EDUCATED and take the time to create your own system of nutrition that works for you. Find legit sources to learn about carbs, fat, protein and how they function in your body. Learn about micro-nutrients, chemicals, preservatives, and the processes your food goes through to get to your plate. I know there's a lot of info out there, and it can be overwhelming, but START SOMEWHERE. And ladies...SHAPE and Cosmo magazine, even Women's Health, are NOT good sources. In fact, that shit's garbage. If you got em', toss em'. Find a mentor who lives a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Ask a professional, but make sure the emphasis is on the whole person and not just the physical body, calorie count, or a number on the scale. 

Accept that this will take some time and effort. You didn't develop your unhealthy habits overnight, so don't expect to unwind them quickly.  YOU HAVE ONE BODY and one life, and IT MATTERS! If you don't have your health, the rest of your life will suffer. Promise. Everyone makes room for what matters to them. Spend less time on Facebook. Cut your TV time. Take that $5 that you spend on your frappamochalatte whatever and buy some fresh produce. You CAN make it work, it's just a matter of how. Make small, doable changes. Pick one food to cut out for a couple weeks and see how your body reacts. Make your body your own science experiment. Learn to listen to and TRUST your body rather than accepting everything you hear and read. Even the best information might not be what's right for you. What feels good in my system might tear yours apart. Get educated, then embark on the beautiful and scary journey of going inside and asking YOURSELF what you need and don't need. Enjoy the adventure. It's worth it. 

One final note: If you do suffer from any kind of disordered eating, reach out! It's not easy, I know. Seek professional help, no matter the cost. You are valuable, and deserve to live a vibrant and healthy life. 

photo courtesy of http://mediagallery.usatoday.com/Diet-advertisements-throughout-the-ages/G1980,A8325