Stay on Track With Your Fitness During Stress

23 Nov

 Posted by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA – Vice President, Worldwide Sports Performance and Fitness 

Take a walk to reduce stress.

When life delivers difficult situations, you must learn to find your balance and stay on track.

Today, I want to share a personal experience with you—one that involves a stressful situation where I found myself hardly eating and being inactive for several days.

It made me realize what an impact emotional wellness has on our health and fitness goals. We need fuel, we need to be active and we need to find balance, even when life poses challenges.

I’m always the first to tell people that being active will boost your positive emotions during times of stress; however, I found myself in a situation where I wasn’t following my own advice.

I didn’t even realize I wasn’t being active until my daughter asked me why I hadn’t been dragging them on a family walk with the dogs, and why my yoga mat and weights weren’t in the family room (they usually take up space). Her concerned tone made me jump up, get my three other kids ready, put leashes on the dogs, pack some healthy snacks and go on our family walk.

We were out for three hours and, I must admit, our family walk made me feel less stressed. I realized that it was time for me to follow my own advice and write some tips on how to keep balanced during challenging times. It was also the perfect opportunity for me to lead by example and show my children that you must get outside and be active, even during times of stress.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has gotten off track due to stress, so I want to share some ways to tackle emotional stress without taking it out on the body. First, ask yourself some questions to help you keep your health and fitness goals on track:

  • What is your go-to safety mechanism when dealing with a stressful or emotional situation?
  • Are you a stress eater or someone who fasts during times of stress?
  • Do you sit around, or do you exercise to keep your mind off the issue at hand?

I have been at all ends of the spectrum when it comes to how emotions have affected my body and exercise habits. When I was balancing my young triplets and a toddler, I found myself reaching for sweet foods and coffee to make me feel better. It led to weight gain and a lack in confidence. During times of emotional stress, I find that I don’t eat enough. My reason for writing a fitness post about feelings is because life often throws us stressful situations. How you deal with them can truly impact your health, your weight and your fitness goals.

Not finding balance during stressful times can have major consequences on health and well-being. Here are some tips to help stay focused when your emotions get the best of you.

How to Get the Stress Out

Keep a list

Writing out a to-do list is a great way to make sure you accomplish all of your tasks. Checking things off your list will also make you feel good, and ensure you don’t add any more stress by dropping your responsibilities. Even if your mind is preoccupied, your to-do list will ensure you don’t forget things.

Plan your meals

I’ve found that planning meals in advance can mean that you don’t find reasons to skip eating or reach for junk food. Put grocery shopping on your to-do list and fill your list with loads of fruits and veggies. It’s essential for your body to get proper fuel during stressful times.

Plan fun activities

Looking forward to something can help boost your mood. It can be something as simple as a yoga class, or a bowling night with friends or family. Just as long as you plan to get out of the house for a little while, it can make a difference in the way you feel.

Make time for a walk

Whether you’re at home or at the office, schedule regular walking breaks. Not only is it a way to clear your mind and get some fresh air, it’s the perfect way to get active when you have other things on your mind.

Spend active time with friends and family

Spending time with loved ones during stressful times may help keep your mind off the root of the problem. Active time is much better than simply sitting around, because it’s less of an opportunity to start snacking or pondering unhelpful thoughts. Spending time with loved ones will also give you the emotional support you need during difficult times.

Avoid unhealthy snacks

Eating sugary foods will only give you a temporary feel-good moment. The extra sugar in your system may temporarily boost your energy levels, but it’s always followed by a crash. My advice is to snack on healthy protein-rich foods.

I hope you can use some of my tips to help stay on track next time you have a stressful situation. Your emotional well-being is just as important as your physical health. The two seem to be linked pretty closely, so be aware of your actions and try to protect your health.


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How to Build an Achievable Fitness Plan

26 Sep
 Posted by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA – Vice President, Worldwide Sports Performance and Fitness  0 Comment
Create a fitness plan with attainable goals.

Do you have a fitness plan? I think you need one, and these are my tips on how to kick-start your year with a renewed commitment to stay in shape OR get in shape.

I know that starting a new fitness plan can be daunting, especially if you haven’t worked out in a while or you’ve started and stopped before. But with a new approach and a determined attitude, success may be closer than you think.

The most important first step to becoming fit is making a workable fitness plan—otherwise it’s too easy to lose focus. Ask yourself these five questions below and make sure you answer them completely honestly.

1. What are your bad health habits?
Your answers might be poor eating, having too many snacks or sitting down for too many hours.2. Where do you rate yourself on a scale of 1-10?>
One being completely out of shape, breathing heavily while doing daily tasks; 10 being perfect fitness.

3. How much time do you currently dedicate to exercise or activity each week?
And is it enough? Would you like to be more fit and do you want to have more energy?

4. What three fitness activities do you most enjoy?
Be honest. Do you like walking, exercise classes or simply playing outdoors with your kids? Don’t hold back from putting something more adventurous down as a bonus answer. You can work up to high-powered activities as you build your fitness.

5. What roadblocks have caused you to lose focus in the past?
Maybe you’ve stopped exercising because you’ve become busy at work, or your routine was interrupted and you didn’t get back into fitness. Put down anything that derailed your plans.

Now, let’s use your answers to make a fitness plan

You can decide to fix just one thing at a time so that you don’t overwhelm yourself. Let’s go through your answers and build a fitness plan you can stick to all year. You don’t need to aim too high. Right now, we just want to improve on where you are now.

Overcoming bad habits

If you eat unhealthily, then you should focus on making your next meal more healthy. You can’t change what you’ve eaten in the past, but you can make sure your next meal meets all your nutritional needs. Approach fitness in the same way: focus on your current or next workout and do the best you can. Decide right now when you are going to do an activity—or even go and grab your running shoes and prepare for an activity session as soon as you finish reading this.

Your fitness rating

It’s good to know where you are, but you also need to think about where you want to be. I’d like you to aim for two points higher than your current number. So, if you rate a five, then your fitness plan should slowly take you up to a seven. And if you’re already at level 10, then I know you’re ready for any challenge, but maybe you could diversify? Think about whether there are any areas you could further develop or learn to love more?

Your exercise routine

If you want to give more time in your life to exercise, then try to increase your exercise habits by 10 minutes per week until you reach at least 30 minutes of activity a day. Exercise doesn’t have to be daunting: if you currently sit down in an office for long periods, then promise yourself that you’ll go and visit a colleague instead of emailing at least twice each day. Or, plan a walk straight after work—even if you only go around the block, then at least you’re out and about. As you build your fitness plan, you’ll soon see that adding 10 minutes of activity here and there can make your day more fun, and that has to be better than thinking of exercise as a chore.

Choosing an activity

You can start out by only doing the activities on your list—the ones you listed in answer to question four. The start of your fitness plan is not a good time to try new types of exercise, so focus on your favorites—they’ll help you feel confident and comfortable for the first few weeks. Activities like walking, jogging and body-weight exercises are a great way to start out. I love the phrase “Don’t run before you can walk,” because a slow and steady approach builds results that will last.

Avoiding roadblocks

If you find yourself always stumbling because of one particular obstacle, then avoid it. It sounds simple, I know, but if you always plan early morning workouts and you can’t get out of bed, then consider lunchtime or evening sessions. You know yourself and your fitness plan needs to be tailored to who you are, so don’t pledge to do something that you won’t enjoy—because then you’re less likely to succeed.

Finalizing your fitness plan

Now you should have everything you need to create a fitness plan that meets your needs. You know what you want to achieve, how you what to achieve it and why. You even know what might knock you off course. With your fitness plan, be kind to yourself and choose an easier route that you know you will be happy navigating over the long term.

Once you have gathered all your thoughts, why not write them out clearly? For me, transferring my thoughts to paper helps to make them concrete. And if I have my goals written down, I know I can’t ignore them. Place your fitness plan somewhere prominent to remind you of your starting point and your aims. I recommend sticking it on the fridge, because keeping it visible will help to keep you motivated. I also always keep an exercise journal, because it’s a great way to track my progress. And when it works, you want to be able to remember how you did it.

7 Exercises That Will Have You Feeling and Looking Good

26 Sep


 Posted by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA – Vice President, Worldwide Sports Performance and Fitness  0 Comment
Strength your core with forearm planks

Let’s be honest – sometimes, our goals are tied to looking and feeling a certain way in our clothes, whether it’s a new dress or that pair of jeans in the back of your closet – and that’s okay.

The truth is, when you feel great, you radiate confidence, which can go a long way in influencing how you look – not just in that dress, but overall. Wondering what you can do to feel and look your best? Try this three-step approach that focuses on toning your physique, eating right and the importance of stretching and standing tall.

Let’s get toned

A well-balanced exercise plan contains both cardio and resistance training. Here are seven moves to add to your routine and help you feel confident and strong.

Multi-directional squat with bar – this exercise challenges your coordination, engages your glutes and works your inner thigh muscles. As an added benefit, lower body exercises burn significant calories.

Box jumps – this total lower body cardio move engages your glutes and challenges your calves and core muscles.

Burpees – this total-body mix of a squat, step-back, plank, push-up and jump is intense, but it can help enhance your coordination and strengthen several muscles at the same time.

Curtsy lunge followed by single leg deadlift – this exercise focuses on the outer glutes and the hamstrings.

Forearm plank (hold for 60 seconds) – this exercise is great for pulling in and strengthening your core. Take deep breaths and be sure you’re not putting too much pressure on your neck or back. Try to let your abs do most of the work.

Pike roll with an exercise ball (hold for 30 seconds) – this is a great move for toning your shoulders and abs. Get into a push-up position with your feet placed on an exercise ball instead of the floor. The closer the ball is to your abs, the higher the difficulty. Keeping your abs tight, press your hips up towards the ceiling. Then, come back to your original straight position. Keep your back flat throughout this exercise.

You’re eating right, right?

If you want to see differences in your physique, you’ve got to be dedicated when it comes to your eating habits. The best workout program in the world won’t give you the results you want if you’re not paying attention to what’s on your plate. For tips on jump-starting a new plan, go here. To find a meal plan that’s right for you, check out this guide. And, if you find you need help getting your hunger under control, check out these tips.

Sit up straight

Who hasn’t found themselves hunched over their computer during a long day? Focus on pulling your shoulders back and try to incorporate regular yoga stretches into your day – this can really help lengthen and streamline your posture. And if you’ve made it this far, go ahead and reward yourself with a good stretch.

Whether it’s a new dress that’s motivating you or just a desire to feel your best, you’re on the right track. Go ahead and give these confidence-boosting healthy habits a try. Don’t feel like you need to do them all at once, either. Change creates change, so start with small changes (like posture) and work your way up to bigger ones (burpees, we’re looking at you).

Why Carbohydrates Are So Important for Athletes

08 Sep
 Posted by Susan Bowerman, M.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Senior Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training  0 Comment
Take in carbs before and after workout.

Carbohydrates are the best fuel for the body’s engine, more so than proteins or fats. The right carbs taken at the right time are key to good athletic performance.

Carbohydrates are the most important source of fuel in an athlete’s diet. And yet some athletes experiment with popular low-carbohydrate regimens, mistakenly believing that these diets will somehow “train” the body to burn more fat for fuel, or that carbohydrates interfere with the body’s ability to burn fat. But carbohydrates are a critically important energy source during exercise. In fact, the body cannot use fat for energy unless carbohydrate is present.

Why Carbohydrates Are So Important for Athletes

Carbohydrates are the fuel that makes the body’s engine run, and athletes need plenty of carbohydrates before, during and after exercise.

While fats can be (and are) used as a source of energy, the main function of the carbohydrates you eat is to supply energy to cells. This is particularly true for high-intensity exercise, the level at which most athletes train and compete.

The body generates energy from carbohydrates much more rapidly than it does from fat, and the brain and central nervous system rely exclusively on carbohydrate for fuel.

It’s often said that “fats burn in a carbohydrate flame” in the body. What this means is that in order for fats to be broken down completely to result in the release of energy, carbohydrate breakdown has to happen simultaneously.

This is because one of the products of carbohydrate metabolism is a substance called pyruvate. Pyruvate plays a critical role in the release of energy from fat. Without enough carbohydrate in the diet, pyruvate production drops, which impairs the release of energy from fat.

Eating enough carbohydrate is also important because it helps prevent the body from using protein for energy. While your body can use protein to supply energy, the protein you eat supports many more important functions in the body. Its primary role is to build body proteins such as muscle, bone, skin, hair, enzymes and hormones.

If you were to burn protein as an energy source, it would impact the body’s ability to perform these more important functions.

How Carbohydrates Fuel Activity

When you digest the carbs in the foods you eat, the end product enters your bloodstream in the form of glucose, or blood sugar. This is then transported to the cells to be used for energy.

Any glucose that is not used immediately can be converted into a storage form of carbohydrate called glycogen. Glycogen gets stashed away in your liver and muscles where it can be tapped into during activity.

Working muscles require a steady source of fuel, which can come from both the bloodstream and from the glycogen that is stored away. But there’s a limit to how much glycogen your body can store. If activity lasts long enough, the glycogen stores can become depleted. That’s why it’s so important to fuel properly—and regularly.

Athletes Need Carbohydrates Before, During and After Exercise

For the average person, a well-balanced diet will usually provide enough carbohydrate to fuel daily activity. But athletes who train hard know that they need to properly fuel up before starting out, and to keep the carbs coming in during activity and to refuel properly afterwards.

If your regular workouts are strenuous and longer than an hour or so, here are some tips to keep your performance at its peak:

Before starting out, it’s a good idea to ‘top off the tank’ with some low-fat, high-carb foods to help maintain blood sugar, particularly if you exercise first thing in the morning. The best choices are foods that are easy to digest like a smoothie, a carton of yogurt or a small bowl of hot or cold cereal. Low-fat and low fiber foods are best to help avoid any stomach upset. Foods with fat and fiber delay digestion time, so they’re better eaten after exercising. If it’s hard for you to eat much in the morning, start with something small and light like a few bites of banana or a slice of toast.

During activity, specially formulated sports drinks can help keep your tank topped off.  In addition to providing much-needed fluid, sports drinks are designed to provide the amount of carbohydrate recommended during activity (30-60 grams an hour for the first few hours). That’s about the amount in a liter of a typical sports drink. For longer events, some people also carry foods like low-fat cookies, sports gels, gummy candies or cereal bars for an extra boost of carbohydrate.

Refueling after a workout is critical—most of the stored glycogen will have been used up. Since your muscles are craving carbs, they’ll take them up readily and store them away for the next bout of activity. This is the time to load up on higher fiber carbs, since digestion time is no longer a concern. A dab of protein helps repair muscles, too, so ideal recovery foods include both protein and carbohydrate. It’s also important to refuel within about 30 minutes after exercise to maximize the effects of protein and carbohydrate on muscle recovery. Specialized recovery foods and beverages are convenient. Otherwise, work in plenty of healthy carbohydrates in the form of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and dairy products. A sandwich on whole-grain bread, a protein shake made with milk, or a bowl of lentil soup with a piece of fruit are all great post-exercise meals.


What to eat after your workout

What to eat before you work out

How to find your best workout

For Athletes, Meal Timing Is Key to Good Performance

08 Sep
 Posted by Susan Bowerman, M.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Senior Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training  0 Comment
Find the right balance of nutrients for performance.

When I was a child, I loved to spend summer days swimming in the pool. I used to get really annoyed at my mom, who always insisted that I wait an hour after lunch before diving back in so I wouldn’t “get a bellyache.” At the time I thought she was being unreasonable, but it turns out her advice was scientifically sound. When you’re doing strenuous exercise, paying attention to what you eat and when, it can have a big impact on your performance.

Athletes are usually on a constant quest to craft the perfect diet to give them the winning edge. While many athletes go through a bit of trial-and-error with their diet until they come up with a plan that works for them, there are a few key points that all athletes should keep in mind when trying to match their meals and snacks to their activity.

    • •Carbohydrates are primarily what the body relies on for energy. But the body needs a fairly steady source from the diet, since there’s only so much carbohydrate the body can store (in the form of glycogen) in the muscles and the liver.
    • •It’s important to ‘top off the tank’ with some carbohydrate before an athletic event. But in choosing what to eat, the athlete needs to consider how much time they have to digest before activity starts.
    • •Foods high in fiber and fat delay digestion time; it’s best to save them for after the event.
    • •Light or liquid meals digest more quickly than solid ones. For athletes who have only an hour or less to digest before an event, a smoothie or a carton of yogurt would be easy on the stomach.
    • •If there’s an hour or two before the event, then a lighter, solid meal—some cottage cheese and toast, a bowl of low fiber cereal would work. If there are three hours or more until the event, then a regular meal will do.
    • •During continuous activity that lasts longer than an hour, athletes need to keep the carbohydrate coming in. Specially designed sports drinks are ideal for this purpose, since they provide fluid and salts as well as the right amount of carbohydrate to keep muscles well-fueled. Some also provide small amounts of protein, which help with muscle recovery.
    • •Post-exercise, the body is ready to take up plenty of carbohydrate to replenish the stores in the liver and muscles. Ideally, athletes should try to eat within 30 minutes or so after the event is over. Fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans and dairy products are all terrific recovery foods. That’s the time to load back up on the higher fiber carbs, since digestion time is no longer a concern.
    •Whey and casein—proteins derived from dairy products—are also needed after exercise to help promote muscle recovery. A sandwich on a whole grain bread with a glass of milk, some yogurt with a piece of fruit, or a protein smoothie made with milk and fruit are all post-exercise meals that would fill the bill.


Nighttime Nutrition for Athletes

01 Sep


 Posted by Susan Bowerman, M.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Senior Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training
Cottage cheese or yogurt make great bedtime snacks

The right snacks at bedtime help athletes recover and also perform at their best the next day.

Most highly active people are pretty good about keeping tabs on their nutrient intake during the day. They’ll plan out their meals and snacks, and what they’ll be eating before their workout and afterwards for recovery. But if athletes aren’t snacking at bedtime, they might be missing out on an opportunity to optimize their nutrition.

 When you’re asleep, your body doesn’t generally have any nutrients coming in (unless you’re one of those fanatical athletes who schedules during-the-night feedings). This means that if you can supply your body with the right nutrients before you nod off, it could help your body recover, help reduce muscle soreness and help you get ready to train the next day.

Most athletes can benefit from nighttime snacking

 Protein is the usual target for nighttime snacking, particularly for strength athletes. While the total amount of protein eaten over the course of the day is key, the timing of when that protein is eaten is also important when it comes to maximizing muscle development. Most strength athletes know that protein is important after a workout, but may not realize that a dose of protein at bedtime can help them optimize protein intake and muscle development.

During sleep, muscle tissues are in repair mode and rely on a steady supply of amino acids in the bloodstream to support muscle protein synthesis. One of the best sources of protein to take in at bedtime is casein – one of the two major proteins (along with whey) in milk and milk products.

Whey raises blood levels of amino acids faster and earlier than casein, which is why whey is the go-to protein after a workout to get the recovery process started.  But casein digests more slowly than whey – taking about 6 to 7 hours to digest – which means that it delivers an overnight supply of amino acids that can assist with muscle repair and growth.

For this reason, milk and milk products make great bedtime snacks – cottage cheese or yogurt, for instance – as do specially formulated casein-rich protein powders that can be made into a smoothie.

While nighttime protein snacking is most often associated with strength athletes, endurance athletes may benefit, too. That’s because protein supports many different functions beyond just muscle growth and repair. Dietary protein supplies the body with the amino acid building blocks the body uses to produce important body proteins such as hormones, and enzymes that help your body convert food into energy.

Carbs at night can help athletes, too

Some carbohydrates at nighttime can be beneficial for athletes, too. For an endurance athlete competing in an early morning event, a balanced snack of protein and carbohydrates at bedtime can help to support muscle repair overnight, but it will also bolster carbohydrate stores for the next day. And for athletes of all types who train or have competitions late in the evening, a balanced bedtime snack can serve as a recovery meal.

Some athletes are concerned about eating before bedtime, under the false assumption that this will somehow affect body fat breakdown during sleep and impede their progress towards becoming more lean. But as long as caloric balance is maintained, taking in supplemental protein or carbohydrate in athletes shouldn’t lead to weight gain. And for those athletes who are trying to gain weight, a balanced bedtime snack is a great time to sneak in some extra nutrition and calories.

What Motivation Do You Need to Get Healthier?

22 Aug
Posted by Susan Bowerman, M.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Senior Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training
Now is the right time to get started.

People have different reasons for wanting to shape up. Finding the motivation you need can help you stay on track.

There’s no doubt about it, change is hard. I frequently tell my clients that my job is much easier than theirs. My role is to advise them on how to eat better, while they’ve got the more difficult task of having to actually do it. But my job doesn’t stop at simply handing out advice: I also try to help people find the motivation to help them make the changes they need. The reasons are all over the map. For some, just the goal of getting healthier is all it takes to kick-start the process. On the other hand, that probably won’t motivate those who tell me (and I’ve heard this more times than I can count), “I’m perfectly healthy, I’m just fat.”

What’s Your Motivation?

blog_may3Whether you’re trying to lose weight, add muscle, shape up or just want to eat healthier, you’ll probably be more successful if you can figure out what’s driving you to do it in the first place. Everybody is different, there’s no right or wrong reason. Most people focus on the positive, like, “I want to have the energy to keep up with my kids” or “I want to look better in (or out of) my clothes.” Others take the opposite approach and focus on moving away from the negative, like, “I don’t want to avoid the mirror any more” or “I don’t want to feel so tired all the time.” Sometimes, unfortunately, it takes a health scare before people ‘wake up and smell the coffee.’ But it can drive people to make incredible strides towards better health. And, as the saying goes, better late than never.

Some people have specific goals that motivate them, like wanting to look good at an upcoming wedding or reunion, or being able to fit into their favorite jeans. One client of mine had a very specific goal. She wanted to be able to just hop into the driver’s seat of her car, rather than having to first move the seat all the way back in order to accommodate her enormous belly before climbing in.

How Does It Feel?

You might get motivated by thinking about how good you’ll feel as you get healthier and fit. How terrific would it be to have more energy, to feel more flexible and strong, or to look great in some new clothes? If ‘avoiding the negative’ is what gets you going, then it might help you to think about how you’ll feel if you don’t take action.

When you feel your motivation waning—which happens to mostly everyone—remind yourself why you embarked on this makeover in the first place. Keep your focus on your feats rather than your failures. Try paying less attention to what the scale says, and give yourself a pat on the back for all the behaviors you’ve changed. After all, the positive changes you make in your diet and lifestyle are really what drive you towards your goal. The fact that you also get healthier and fit is just “icing on the cake.”

5 Ways to Keep Your Child’s Heart Healthy

17 Jun
 Posted by Louis Ignarro, PhD  0 Comment
Start good heart-healthy habits with your child.

Find out how to keep your precious child’s heart healthy. At some point in their lives, most adults are educated on the importance of caring for their hearts, but do we pay the same attention to our children’s hearts? Adults are told to exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, reduce their stress levels and get plenty of sleep and rest. And the older a person gets, the more doctors tend to advise a focus on cardiovascular wellness.

But did you know that heart health is a concern as early as infancy? Research published in the journal Proceedings of the Nutrition Society found that endothelial health can be impacted during the first decade of life. The endothelium is an organ that lines 60,000 miles of blood vessels throughout a child’s body (100,000 miles in adults). Its primary function is to produce Nitric Oxide (NO), a critical signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system that tells the blood vessels to expand or contract in response to pressures placed on the arteries. Basically, Nitric Oxide helps the cardiovascular system function smoothly. A healthy child will have a healthy endothelium that’s producing plenty of Nitric Oxide.

In the past, as recently as 50 years ago or so, endothelial health wasn’t as much of a concern in young children. But changes in diet (fast, convenient food that lacks critical nutrients) and activity (more time indoors using electronic devices) have resulted in a generation that needs to refocus on heart health. Kids need adult guidance to get back to the basics: good food, lots of movement, and a life of happiness and vitality.

5 ways you can support your child’s heart health

#1 Get active

Kids don’t exercise the same way adults do, but they can still be active. Set limits on the amount of screen time your child is allowed each day, and encourage outside play. If weather doesn’t allow outdoor time, promote active play indoors to keep your kids moving. They don’t need to be playing catch, but even hide and seek is more active than sitting on the couch! Or, make a game out of doing chores, such as cleaning the house. Consider going to a local community center or gym. Most cities have low-cost options that offer endless opportunities to get your child moving. For younger children, libraries often offer a “music time” to let them wiggle and move around. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends at least 60 minutes of daily activity for children and adolescents, so be creative in how you get your child moving.

#2 Join a group or team

Most areas have activity groups for young children. And as your children reach school age, and especially into their teens, organized sports are a great way to get them moving. Your child will learn a sport, develop coordination, make friends, and discover the importance of teamwork all while keep their heart healthy.

#3 Snack healthy

Even if you’re feeding your child healthy, balanced meals, it can be easy to reach for a quick and convenient snack between mealtimes. Instead, opt for heart healthier choices like celery sticks with peanut butter, avocado on whole wheat toast, or apple slices paired with low-fat cheese. Remember that it’s just as important for children to eat healthy between meals as it is at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

#4 Laugh more

There’s nothing sweeter than a child’s laugh, and it turns out that cracking jokes can help support heart health. Research conducted at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore found that “laughter is linked to healthy function of blood vessels.” The researchers found that laughter causes the endothelium to dilate, or expand, in order to increase blood flow. So, have fun and get your child laughing to help keep their heart healthy.

#5 Move as a family

Families who move together stay healthy together. If you like to jog, then ask your child to accompany you on their bike. Go for an after-dinner walk; turn off the television and head to the local bowling alley for a game or two; shoot hoops at the local park; or even walk to the grocery store. It doesn’t matter how you move—just that you do it.


Good habits in childhood and adolescence set the foundation for a lifetime of wellness. Be an example of healthy living, and encourage kids to adopt heart-healthy habits. It’s never too early to start focusing on the heart.

Written by Louis Ignarro, Ph.D.  Dr. Ignarro is a member of both the Editorial and Nutrition Advisory Boards of the Herbalife Nutrition Institute and receives compensation for his endorsement of Herbalife® products. 

5 Tips to Help Your Child Athlete Fuel Up for Exercise

17 Jun


 Posted by Susan Bowerman, M.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Senior Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training  0 Comment
Active children need regular hydration.

Getting fueled up for activity is really no different for kids than it is for adults. Be sure their getting the right pre-sport meals, staying hydrated and refueling after their sporting event.

Active children can burn through a lot of calories—so much so, that it often seems there’s no way to satisfy their appetites. Children who participate in sports may have intensive practices and games several times a week, burning through calories like there’s no tomorrow.

When their appetites are out-of-control, it’s tempting to let active children eat what they want, thinking that they’ll just burn it off. But even when calorie needs are high, kids and their parents need to understand that it doesn’t give them license to eat foods with little nutritional value.

Getting fueled up for activity is really no different for kids than it is for adults. They need the right pre-sport meals, to stay hydrated and refuel after the event, which are the biggest concerns. The only wrinkle is that kids are often more picky about what they’ll eat than adults are, so it can be a bit more challenging to meet the nutritional needs of a child athlete.

Kids who are serious about sports are often more receptive than others to trying new foods. When children understand that a healthy diet can help them with performance, it’s often a lot easier to encourage them to take in more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans—and less fat and sugar.

Energy Food for the Child Athlete

Children need to understand that their body is like an engine, one that needs the right fuel to run properly. Healthy carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables and grains (like whole grain breads, crackers, cereals or pasta) are the body’s preferred source of fuel. They help to not only sustain exercise, but are needed afterwards to help replenish body stores.

The body also needs healthy lean proteins from foods like lean meats, poultry, fish, milk, yogurt, eggs and soybeans. These help build and repair muscles after exercising. And small amounts of healthy fats from foods like avocados or nuts help meet calorie needs.

  • Before games or practice, kids need to ‘top off the tank’ with some carbohydrates to provide energy. Give them something easy to digest like a smoothie, a carton of yogurt or a small bowl of cereal and milk. Keep meals low in fat so they’ll be easy to digest.
  • During exercise, keeping kids hydrated is vital. Water is fine, but a hydration drink is great for extended exercise or when the weather is particularly hot or humid.
  • After exercise, it’s important to refuel muscles with some beneficial carbohydrates and protein. Chocolate milk is an all-time favorite recovery food, since it provides fluid, potassium, carbohydrates and protein—all of which the body craves after activity. Other great post-exercise foods are sandwiches, fruits, yogurt and smoothies.
  • Kids need fiber, but it’s best to offer high-fiber foods after exercise to avoid stomach upset. Save the whole grain breads and pastas for after the game.
  • For those kids with high calorie needs, you can offer higher calorie foods that are also nutrient-rich like nuts, 100% fruit juices, dried fruits, peanut butter and trail mix.

12 Reasons to Work Out Today

06 Nov
Posted by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA – Vice President, Worldwide Sports Performance and Fitness

Exercise for a wide range of health benefits.

Are you struggling to find some fitness motivation this week? Is the idea of squeezing into that outfit or adjusting your belt buckle to a smaller hole not giving you the motivational push you need? If you’re looking for some reasons to get in shape, here are 12 winners to get you motivated today.

Improved health is the primary reason we need to exercise and consume a nutritious diet. We are often easily motivated by our external appearance, but that’s always changing—especially as we age. It feels like we have to work twice as hard and be twice as disciplined to get the same results that came so easily when we were younger. Change is something we all have to accept. Your body may be continually changing, both internally and externally, but your desire to be healthy should never change.

12 Tips on Fitness Motivation

1. Heart health

Engaging in cardiovascular activity is good for your heart. Your heart is a muscle, and pushing it to work hard a few days each week may help to improve your cardiac output. If you engage in cardiovascular activity on a regular basis, you may lower your overall resting heart rate, which is good for your health long-term.

2. Glowing skin

When you exercise, you increase the blood flow around your body. Your post-workout glow may not last all day, but you’ll look more radiant right after your session. If you’re lucky, the healthy glow will make you look and feel great.

3. Improved posture

Exercising on a regular basis may make you become more aware of your posture. As you gain body confidence and movement awareness, you become more conscious of what feels right for your body. Slouching may become a bad habit of the past. As an extra bonus, good posture makes you look taller.

4. Fewer aches and pains

If you have sore and stiff joints that are caused from sitting down all day, moving more often will help to alleviate that stiffness. Joints that are immobile tend to get sore. Once you’re moving on a regular basis, you improve the range of motion, and movements of everyday living become easier to perform.

5. Improved body composition

When you make exercise a part of your lifestyle, you’ll start to notice changes in how you look and feel. You may lose excess body fat and gain lean muscle mass, which is great for your appearance and it also helps your body to become more efficient at burning calories. Having a high percentage of lean muscle mass requires more calories just to sustain itself than someone of the same weight who has a higher percentage of body fat.

6. Feel happier

Performing physical exercise can make you feel happier in your daily life. One of the reasons for this is that your body releases an increased amount of endorphins when you’re active. Endorphins are your body’s natural happy hormone. You may also feel happier because you’re taking good care of your body. This sense of accomplishment can often make you have a greater sense of well-being.

7. Control your weight

Exercise can help prevent excess weight gain and help maintain weight loss. When you engage in physical activity, you burn calories. The more intense the activity, the more calories you burn.

8. More energy

Regular physical activity can improve your muscle strength and boost your endurance. When you exercise, your body must deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues to help your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. When your heart and lungs work more efficiently, you have more energy to go about your daily tasks.

9. Boost brain power

Working out on a regular basis may help to improve your brain function. Various studies have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells (neurogenesis) and improve overall brain performance. Studies suggest that a tough workout may also increase levels of a brain-derived protein (known as BDNF) in the body. BDNF is believed to help with decision-making and higher learning.

10. Less stress

Exercise may act as a temporary diversion to daily stress. When you’re exercising or having fun doing activities, you’re generally not thinking about the things in your life that are difficult. Taking time out of your busy day to focus on yourself can reduce the feeling of stress. Less stress can also help with weight loss, because many people eat unhealthy foods to combat stress.

11. Meet new people

Exercise provides an opportunity for social interaction that may otherwise be lacking in your life. Starting a new activity can help you find a new circle of friends or provide you with a healthier opportunity to reconnect with old ones. So often we go out to eat to socialize, but doing an activity is much better for your waistline.

12. Better sleep

Being active can help to improve your sleep habits for several reasons. Exercising raises your body’s core temperature. As it cools back down to normal, it can help you to feel relaxed and ready to sleep. Because activity can help reduce your stress levels, drifting off at night may become easier.

There you have it—my top 12 fitness motivation reasons.