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How to Take the Perfect Selfie

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Eyes open, and smile.

Whether you like to take pictures or shy away from the camera, it seems that it’s nearly impossible to avoid taking a selfie at some point. Since these pictures will most likely be plastered all over social media, here are a few tips to make sure your selfies come out picture perfect!

I just came back from a huge event in Chicago, Illinois, called an Herbalife Extravaganza, where there were thousands of people in attendance. There were so many photo opportunities and everyone was taking “selfies” to post to their respective social media sites. People would say, “Jacquie, take a selfie with me for Facebook, I’ll tag you.” Or, “Take a selfie with me so I can put it on Twitter.” A few of us started laughing because everyone was posting photos of themselves at a rapid pace. Then I got worried. After taking so many selfies, I realized I could potentially look like a hot mess out there in cyber world. So, I thought, ‘I can’t be the only one with some awful photos online.’ It’s time to master the art of taking a proper selfie.

Everyone these days has some kind of social media account. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so many other platforms are just loaded with selfies. For those who might have been asleep for the last few years, a selfie is defined in the dictionary as “a photograph that is taken by oneself with a digital camera or a front facing smartphone, tablet or webcam, especially for posting on a social-networking or photo sharing website.” And trust me, everyone is doing it.

I’ve seen some amazing selfies. I’ve seen celebrities and people I know post the most amazing group or individual selfies. Alternatively, I’ve heard of a few selfies that have broken up marriages. Let’s just say they were a bit over exposed, if you know what I mean. And then there are some selfies where I’m more interested in what’s going on in the background than the person in the photo.

There’s definitely an art to creating a good selfie. I’ve been part of some disastrous selfies where half of my head is cut out, the lighting is off, I look 10 years older, my face looks grainy or the angle makes me look like I gained 10 pounds. It’s difficult to be both behind the camera and in front of the camera, so lets get to the bottom of this and learn 8 tips on how to take some perfect pictures.

Here are some top tips for the perfect selfie

Take a quick look at yourself

This tip should be obvious but you’d be surprised. It’s important to give yourself a quick once over before the picture is taken. This isn’t a big deal if it’s just you in the photo, because you can simply hit delete and take another one. But think about the group selfie that your friend tagged you in on Instagram. Your friend looked perfect while your hair was sticking up, your eyeliner was smudged or you had food on your face. Friends only post the selfies that they look great in. Trust me.

Be aware of what’s behind you

If you truly want to be the focus of your selfie, then make sure you check out your background. There is nothing worse than a selfie taken in a messy bedroom. I always check out the backgrounds in photos. You can see what kind of furniture people have, if they leave their clothes on the floor, what kind of food they eat. A good background is important. I recently saw a selfie where a guy was smiling from ear to ear as someone’s house was burning to the ground behind him. Not Cool. Look for solid colored backdrops or unique textures to really make your photos pop. A messy background can really ruin a good selfie.

Lighting is everything

No doubt about it, lighting is the most important thing when it comes to taking a good photo. Indoor lighting is never the best. It’s just not as flattering as natural light. It’s all about the sun. The sunlight can be our best friend when it comes to snapping that perfect pic. For the best result, try facing the sun. When it’s behind you, it can cause a lot of unflattering shadows.

There’s strength in numbers

The beauty of today’s cameras and mobile devices is that they can take hundreds of pics at a rapid pace.  So, click away. Change it up a bit with every click, even if it’s just slightly moving the position of your head with a little tilt. It’s rare to get the perfect selfie when you take just one picture. The more pics you take, the better your chances are of capturing a really awesome photo.

Strike a pose

The best thing about a selfie is that you can take it when you’re all alone. Have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously. You can practice your poses and your angles, and you can get that perfect reach down so your arm isn’t in the picture. The more selfies you take, the more you can critique. When you finally get that perfect photo, the one that shows off your muscles and your sexy little smile, you can practice duplicating it. So, when your friend wants to take a selfie with you at the gym, you’ll be ready to breakout your signature pose with all of your angles just right. While you’re practicing, just remember to delete the ridiculous ones immediately! You never know who might get their hands on them.

Edit your selfies before you post

Sometimes we get all caught up in the moment and just want to get our pics out on social media immediately. We want to see how many likes, comments or shares we can get and we don’t want to wait. But slow down. If you want your photos to be the best, you may have to do a little bit of editing before they are posted. This only takes a couple of minutes, and many cameras and phones have the capabilities of cleaning up photos prior to posting. You can crop, brighten, reduce red eye and even turn your selfie into an amazing black and white or sepia photo with just a few screen taps. A good filter can even make a blemish disappear. So, take the time to do a little self-editing before you post. You’ll be happy you waited.

Rock the silly selfies

OK, lets face it, we all get sick of seeing our friends’ photos that are exactly the same over and over again. The clothing and the scenery may change, but the face and the pose are exactly the same. Yes, you need to find the perfect pose, but once in a while you also need to let loose and just get goofy. These are selfies that become the most memorable and the ones that get shared and liked the most. So, make a silly face or wear a crazy hat. If you’re doing a group selfie get everyone to make crazy faces like they are surprised, scared, sexy, whatever. Just have fun. The end result will be worth it.

Front camera vs. back camera – the great debate

I’ll be honest: I like to use the front facing option on my smartphone to take my selfies. This is the feature that allows you to take a photo of yourself like you’re looking in a mirror. The great debate, however, says they aren’t as good in quality as the back-facing camera. With the back-facing camera, you take a photo and then turn the phone around to look at the picture. Admittedly, with the back-facing camera I have to take a dozen pics to get the right one. With a front-facing camera, I can see what I look like and practice my pout before I hit the button. Front-facing photos have a lower resolutions, I’ve been told. I guess this is a personal choice.  Be sure to practice using the back and front camera so you can see the difference and decide what’s best for you.

***

Taking the perfect selfie can be very challenging when you have to direct and star in your own photo shoot. Executing your perfect pose while finding good lighting is hard enough, and having a steady arm that doesn’t wobble can also be a pain. Be as still as possible, take a deep breath, relax, hold your pose and click away. Sunlight, your good side, a little tilt of the head, and you have the perfect selfie.

And just for fun, here are selfies of my friends Susan Bowerman and Samantha Clayton. You’ll see that what makes a really great selfie is a personal, friendly approach.

How to master the perfect ‘selfie’How to master the perfect ‘selfie’

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Summer Skin: Safe, Healthy and Hydrated

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Make sure to have a plan before leaving home.

Summer is here! That means plenty of outdoor events and activities. But be careful, and don’t let the summer fun become a summer nightmare.

Make sure to get the family involved in the planning before leaving home, this way everyone will be aware of wearing the proper clothes, protecting the skin from the sun and staying hydrated.

It is essential to wear the proper attire during summer days to avoid sunburns and rashes. Try to find clothing made from jersey or cotton. These are breathable materials that help to keep the body cool during hot days. Make sure to avoid clothing made of polyester or nylon because, even though they may look nice, they are not breathable materials. Look for light colored fabrics when choosing outdoor attire like pastels, as they will absorb less heat than a darker color. There are numerous great options in the marketplace that provide UVA/UVB protection to enjoy the outdoor summer fun without the worry.

To avoid sunburns during a summer day, make sure to apply a broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen on every family member 30 minutes before sun exposure, this will allow the product’s ingredients to fully bind with the skin. Wear a hat and shades between 10 am and 3 pm, when the sun is at its strongest, and don’t forget about the hidden areas on the body like the back of the head, ears, hands and feet. If planning strenuous or water activities, use a product that is water resistant, and make sure to reapply every two hours. Strenuous activities during summer months can lead to substantial water and electrolyte loss. To prevent dehydration from happening, it is essential to keep the body hydrated. Don’t leave home without the cooler full of hydrating drinks and foods. Plain water is good, but adding a little low-sugar hydrating powder or fresh fruit to cold water will infuse flavor, and it might encourage the family to drink more often. Don’t forget that eating fruit is also an excellent way to stay hydrated. It is crucial to stay away from sugary drinks like sodas, as they can act as a dehydrating agent and increase thirst.

Once the family gets home, make sure to remove any sweaty or wet attire as quickly as possible. This will help prevent body rashes and skin irritation. Make sure to use a body wash free of harsh sulfates, parabens, added colors and dyes, as these types of ingredients can irritate the skin. Look for products with soothing ingredients like aloe vera and shea butter, which will soothe the skin and make it feel amazing after a long, fun, active day. Summer months are always a fun time to spend with family and friends, and these simple tips will keep the body healthy and safe all summer long.

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Stay on Track With Your Fitness During Stress

 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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5 Best Skin Care Tips

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Don’t forget to smile!

Someone asked me recently for my top five best skin care tips. The question actually stopped me in my tracks, because I have way more than five and narrowing them down and prioritizing seemed impossible for me to do! But let’s face it, we all probably have five things that we do religiously for skin care.

When I think of skin care, I think of the importance of protecting it from the harmful UVA and UVB rays of the sun, because those rays are most responsible for aging the skin. I think about dirt and oil on my skin and immediately start to squirm and want to run and jump in the shower. I think about proper hydration, especially since my skin is a bit on the drier side most days. There are so many things to think about when it comes to skin care.

I look at my bare feet and my mind races just thinking about my heels, toes, soles and nails and all the things I can do to make my feet look better. And that’s just my feet. So, I’ll entertain this exercise if you do the same. It’s a challenge, but I’ll narrow the list down to my five best skin care tips.

Here we go. My five best skin care tips…

Hands off!

Grimy dirt, sticky oils, dried up skin cells and way too many other terrible things to think about are everywhere! Our skin is in contact with a lot more than we can see. All these things can wreak absolute havoc on our skin. We need to properly care for our skin and that proper care starts with cleaning. Dirt, excess makeup and oil left on the skin can clog pores and make the skin look rough, tired and uneven. Keeping the skin free from all these things is important, not only for our skin to look its very best.

  • Always wash your hands before you start your skin care regimen. Whether it’s cleansing, moisturizing or masking, you should always start with freshly cleansed hands so as not to transmit any more grime onto your skin.
  • Try not to touch your face if you can. Every time you touch your face, you run the risk of transferring something onto your skin.
  • Make sure your makeup brushes are cleaned on a regular basis, and the same thing goes for your telephone. Anything that comes into direct contact with your skin needs to be clean. You would be surprised how many people complain about one side of their face having breakouts, only to realize that it’s the side they hold their grimy phone up to when they talk.

Clean skin is definitely in the top five for me. Without a clean template to start with, the rest of your skin care regimen becomes compromised. And, by the way, I never go anywhere without a hand sanitizer to keep my hands clean, and neither should you.

Beware of the sun

I’m the first one to admit that I was a seasoned sun worshiper. I’ve fried my body in the sun like it was a piece of chicken just for that summertime deep, dark tan. But, boy, have I paid the price for it. I learned this bad practice from my mother, who to this day is a sun worshiper. No matter how many times I tell her to stay out of the sun, she just laughs at me. She has a year round tan but swears she’s never in the sun. She’s simply impossible. While I’ll never give up on pestering her about it, I know I’m fighting a losing battle. It’s because sunscreen is not a word that’s in her vocabulary—no matter what she says! Sunscreen, however, is in my vocabulary, and I truly value its importance when it comes to staying healthy and fending off signs of aging.

The sun’s rays (UVB rays) not only burn the skin, they also age the skin (UVA rays). Skin cancer aside, which is everyone’s main concern, the sun’s rays are responsible for skin spotting and discoloration, freckling, fine lines and course wrinkles. And the destruction of elastin and collagen tissue that can lead to sagging skin and wrinkles. It can even be responsible for dilation of small blood vessels under the skin. When skin is not protected, it can suffer a tremendous amount of damage at the hands of the sun. This damage is easy to prevent if we take the proactive measures necessary.

  • Never go into the sun without wearing a product that contains SPF (Sun Protection Factor). SPF products are available as daytime facial moisturizers, body lotions, cosmetics, hair care products, you name it. There are no excuses when it comes to incorporating SPF into our daytime skin care regimen. From lip products to eye products, there are always options that contain sun protection. Look for those products containing SPF 30 or more for daily protection. If you’ll be swimming or sweating, choose a product that’s water resistant—and remember, you must reapply throughout the day for maximum protection.
  • Stay covered up: use a wide-brimmed hat, big sunglasses, gloves and even a shady tree can help keep your skin protected. If your skin is exposed and unprotected, it’ll most likely suffer the damaging effects of the sun. Keep yourself covered up with SPF and articles of clothing whenever you’re in the sun.
  • Sun protection must start at an early age. Keep your kids protected by applying product before they head off to school, and make sure they have a tube of sunscreen in their back packs. Be sure to teach them about the importance of SPF, and encourage them to apply before recess. If you start early, it’ll become a natural part of their everyday activities.
  • These are drug products, so remember to use them as indicated on the label.

Exfoliate

Exfoliating is one of my favorite things to do. If you want to remove the dead skin cells from the surface of your skin, you must exfoliate. As teenagers, our bodies completely shed skin about every two weeks on average. As we age, that process gets slower and slower. It needs our help, and that’s where a good exfoliating scrub comes in. Not only will a good scrubbing reveal the youthful skin cells beneath the dead skin cell build up, it also does something very important. These scrubs remove the barrier that prevents our skin care products from penetrating into the skin to do their job to the best of their ability. If you want your products to deliver their maximum benefits, you must exfoliate on a regular basis.

  • “Physical” exfoliating scrubs, also called manual scrubs, contain exfoliating particles such as blueberry seeds, jojoba beads, nut shells, sugars and salts just to name a few. These particles, when massaged into the skin, provide a physical scrubbing effect that helps to remove the skin cell buildup and other debris.
  • Chemical exfoliating scrubs contain ingredients such as enzymes and other ingredients to help dissolve the dead skin cells. Some examples include commonly known acids such as Glycolic, Salicylic and Lactic acids. There’s no manual scrubbing with chemical exfoliants, and this type of exfoliating scrub may not be suitable for all skin types, as they can be a bit harsh for those with sensitive skin.
  • Everyone can benefit from a facial scrub. Men and women alike will feel and see a difference in their skin after using. I use mine 1-3 times a week for maximum benefit. Remember, always use according to label instructions.

Moisturize all day, every day

When your skin is hydrated, it looks more youthful and has a radiant glow. Hydrated skin doesn’t come easily for most people. A daytime moisturizer and a rich night cream are necessary to maintain our skin’s moisture barrier and nourish the skin. Moisturizer is not just for the face, but also important for the body as well. And we all should make it part of our daily regimen to moisturize, from head to toe, each and every day.

  • Look for facial moisturizers that are clinically tested. We need the hydration, so why not capitalize on other key benefits as well. We want to improve our moisture for 8 hours or more, minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and use SPF to protect us during the day. Yes, we can have it all!
  • Nighttime hydration is just as important, if not more, then daytime hydration. So, never go to bed without a rich, hydrating night cream. It’ll do all the work while you sleep.
  • Apply your body moisturizer when you first get out of the shower, while skin is still damp. This will help to maximize the moisture already in the skin, which the product can help you retain.

Last, but certainly not least (and some of you will say that I am cheating, but honestly I’m not)…here it goes…

Smile!

Technically this isn’t a skin care tip. But I thought about eyes, lips, serums and all of those other great skin care products that are necessary for us to look our best—and a smile out ranks them all. Smiling will take years off of a person’s appearance for sure. There’s nothing more unapproachable, or unattractive for that matter, than a pouty puss. If you look happy, people will perceive you as happy. If you look grumpy and mean, well who wants to be around that? All those best skin care tips and products might be wasted, because no one will notice your fabulous skin behind that mean face.

 

S
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How to Build an Achievable Fitness Plan

 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.

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7 Exercises That Will Have You Feeling and Looking Good

 

 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).

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Why Carbohydrates Are So Important for Athletes

 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.

More:

What to eat after your workout

What to eat before you work out

How to find your best workout

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For Athletes, Meal Timing Is Key to Good Performance

 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.

 

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Nighttime Nutrition for Athletes

 

 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.

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What Motivation Do You Need to Get Healthier?

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.”