Vegetables: The Superheroes of Nutrition

vegtablesWe are all familiar with the WHO’s recommendations to consume 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that at least half of your every meal should consist of vegetables. But what are the actual health benefits of veggies and are all of them equally good for you? Do you know which vegetables contain the most health promoting elements?

Nutrients

From an early age we are told that vegetables are healthy because they contain vitamins. That, of course, is true but they contain many more health promoting nutrients. To name a few, most veggies are rich in Vitamins A, E, B and C and potassium. Dietary fiber, present in vegetables is a very important ingredient of a healthy diet – it is responsible for bowel health and it helps us feel full for longer leading to a potential caloric intake decrease (weight loss).

Benefits

Consuming enough vegetables will help keep your blood sugar at a healthy level and ‘bad’ cholesterol at bay. It will help reduce your risk of many cancers (including colon cancer) and heart disease. Since vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber (which gives you the feeling of satiety), they help maintain a healthy weight and avoid all obesity related diseases. Potassium, present in veggies, helps prevent kidney stones and bone loss.

The Stars Among Veggies

Let’s take a look at a few particular vegetables so rich in nutrients and antioxidants that they are considered superfoods.

  1. Kale – this lovely salad leaf (also great steamed or as a smoothie ingredient) is packed with vitamin C.
  2. Broccoli – high in fiber and iron as well as vitamins C and K. It has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Delicious in soups, raw or cooked.
  3. Red Peppers – low calorie, 1 medium pepper provides 150% of your daily recommended vitamin C intake. Eat raw or get creative and stuff them with fillings or your choice.
  4. Alfalfa Sprouts – This tiny veggie superhero contains beta-carotene, an antioxidant that can prevent lung cancer and is responsible for healthy skin, hair, nails, gums and bones.
  5. Beets – in all forms are full of vitamins and contain lutein which helps maintain healthy eyes.
  6. Brussels Sprouts – eating these small guys can enhance our body’s detox systems, and offers plenty of fiber vitamins K, C, and B-6, and minerals like manganese, folate, and copper. Brussels sprouts also contain omega-3 fatty acids.
  7. Spinach – contains phytochemicals that have anti-inflammatory properties. Spinach is also a great source of vitamins A, K, and E as well as calcium. Can be enjoyed raw in salads, smoothies or cooked.
  8. Asparagus – truly delicious and very healthy – it is packed with folic acid essential for tissue growth and regeneration.

 

These are just some examples of the healthiest vegetables that are also low in calories and contain no (or almost no) fat. Remember to add vegetables to your every meal to remain strong, fit and healthy.

Vitamin Supplementation: The Benefits of Vitamin B

vitamin b

Introduction

Vitamin B complex is a group of water-soluble vitamins that are usually present in the same foods. It makes sense to discuss them and their uses and benefits separately. Over all though, they are responsible for the functioning of the metabolism, the nervous system, red blood cell production and the protection of DNA (they serve as powerful antioxidants). The vitamin B group really is essential to keeping good health and staying youthful.

Let’s take a closer look

THIAMINE (Vitamin B1)

According to research it is very useful for treating conditions such as cataracts, kidney disease in people with diabetes and painful menstruation.
Thiamine is also used for digestive problems including poor appetite, ulcerative colitis, diarrhea, enhancing learning abilities, increasing energy, fighting stress and preventing memory loss, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Remember, that tannins present in coffee and tea react with thiamine making it less accessible for our bodies. Vitamin C has the ability of stopping the reaction and protecting us from thiamine deficiencies.

Raw freshwater fish and shellfish also react with thiamine – they contain chemicals that destroy it. Cooking the fish can prevent the reaction.

When it comes to supplementation, 1-2mg of thiamine is recommended per day. A good thiamine vitamin to try is Now Foods B-1 Thiamine.

Foods such as yeast, cereal grains, beans, nuts, and meat are great sources of thiamine.
RIBOFLAVIN (Vitamin B2)

Vitamin B2 is the only that can be visually observed passing through the body as it turns our urine bright yellow. It affects the metabolism and iron levels in the body. It helps transform fat into energy and takes part in many other complex metabolic processes. Great sources of riboflavin are spinach, beet greens, and broccoli. These, among other foods protect the body from DNA damage caused by free radicals. B2 is a great antioxidant. It also improves the metabolism of iron.

NIACIN (Vitamin B3)

Niacin’s health benefits are also significant, just like all the other group B vitamins. It increases the good cholesterol (HDL) and lowers bad cholesterol (LDL). It can also reduce hardening of the arteries and the risk of suffering heart attacks. Some studies show that it may decrease the threat of developing Alzheimer’s.

Niacin plays a crucial role in energy transfer reactions in the metabolism of glucose, fat and alcohol.

Apart from supplements, it can be found in red fish, cereals, legumes, and seeds.

PANTOTHENIC ACID (Vitamin B5)

Similarly to the others, vitamin B5 is also essential for the functioning of our metabolism. It has proven to help treat ulcers connected with diabetes, lower cholesterol and helps maintain healthy strong hair. Most foods contain some but especially avocado, whole-grain cereals, legumes, eggs, meat, royal jelly, and yoghurt.

PYRIDOXINE (Vitamin B6)

Needed for the metabolism of carbohydrates and for the production of red blood cells. Interestingly, it is also very important in nervous system health – for example, a deficiency of Pyridoxine can cause depression. Three key neurotransmitters— GABA, dopamine, and serotonin—all need the presence of vitamin B6 for synthesis. Scientists concluded that the risk of low mood is higher in people with lower levels of vitamin B6. This vitamin also supports liver cleansing. It can be found in tuna, sweet potatoes, turkey and spinach.

 BIOTIN (Vitamin B7)

Biotin, similarly to other vitamins B, is very important for the health of our metabolism and has multiple uses in our bodies. To name a few, it is essential for tissue growth such as muscle, tendons and hair. It helps maintain stable blood sugar and regulate the metabolism it also helps maintain a healthy body weight. It can be found in fish, egg yolks oats and nuts.

 FOLIC ACID (Vitamin B9)

Folic acid such as  is recommended especially for pregnant women. But why? Because it is crucial for proper brain function and the production of DNA and RNA. It is especially important when cells and tissues are growing rapidly, such as during infancy, adolescence, and pregnancy. According to medical studies folic acid can reduce the risk of some cancers such as colon, breast, cervical and stomach cancer.

COBALAMIN (Vitamin B12)

This vitamin is necessary for proper red blood cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis. It’s naturally found in animal products such as fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and dairy, vegetarians are especially at risk of deficiency. In that case supplements and fortified cereals may be of great use.

You should maintain a healthy balanced diet to avoid vitamin B deficiency as it can be detrimental to your health. These vitamins are responsible for cell repair and our metabolic system functioning properly. If you think you may need additional supplementation you should take advantage of the products available on the market such as Doctor’s Best B12..

Remember: Overdosing on any vitamin can be just as dangerous as vitamin deficiency. Always consult your doctor when you begin supplementation with vitamins or minerals. If you choose supplements, make sure you invest in high quality products. Some products only contain traces of active ingredients or their bioavailability is low.

 

 

 

 

 

Is Nutrition and Exercise all you Need to Build Muscle?

 

Nutrition and exercise

You work out 4 or 5 times a week, your diet is spot on, yet you feel tired and there is something missing. Maybe you’re not observing the results you wish for. What else, apart from good nutrition and a solid training routine, can help you develop that dream physique?

There are things we underestimate (mostly due to the lack of time) which can change everything in the bodybuilding and fitness game. These are: I am talking about Recovery- rest and sleep.

Recovery – Rest is just as important as training!

  1. Sleep:

During sleep your whole body recovers and regenerates. Old and damaged cells are replaced by new ones or repaired. Getting enough sleep is vital to staying immune to disease and in good shape. Remember your muscles grow not during training but during the recovery and rest period afterwards. That’s why proper nutrition and rest are the keys to growth.

You may worry about fasting for a long time during sleep and you’re right – fasting puts us in a catabolic state. That’s why it’s important to eat a balanced meal before bed (or consider nocturnal eating). Don’t worry too much since the energy expenditure is lowered during sleep (that’s why we rarely get woken by hunger pangs).

Also, don’t take it to the extreme and sleep 12 hours! Fasting for so long will not be good for muscle hypertrophy and the oversleeping will make you feel sluggish.

Patterns of rising and declining adenosine (a neurotransmitter responsible for alertness) during sleep suggest that in that time (especially during the REM phase) the brain recharges. People who get sufficient sleep are more efficient, can train harder and have higher levels of motivation.

2.     Rest:

Once again – during training your muscles are broken down and it’s the recovery of the cells that facilitates growth. No rest=no growth!

Also, I’m sure you will agree that you can work out much harder while rested.

Why is rest so crucial for muscle recovery? During rest, our levels of Growth Hormone are at their peak (among other factors, it helps our cells grow and repair themselves). It is essential to ensure that our bodies have the best recovery conditions possible as soon as possible after a workout. Following up with rest and a protein shake such as whey protein gold standard will help to refuel and rebuild your muscles.

More doesn’t always mean better. The more tired you are the less efficient your workout will be. Also, your muscles will be depleted of glycogen and look flat. Your metabolism may slow down and you will probably hit a plateau. Our bodies like change and they are stimulated by it – therefore periods of extreme hard training followed by periods of rest and sleep are a great environment to which your body will respond by turning it up a notch. After a good night’s sleep or day’s rest you will perform even better than the last time!

 

 

 

 

Motivation: Learn to Love the Process

motivation

 

Whether you’re an experienced bodybuilder, a recreational fitness enthusiast or a novice – you probably find yourself lacking motivation sometimes. The media reinforce this feeling telling us that we should strive for a goal – beautiful body, big muscles or a slim fit frame while forgetting completely about mentioning the real means to get there. For example, we always see easy and quick fixes for the perfect physique. Or magic potions that will make you youthful overnight. We never hear about long term nutrition and exercise plans for a good body or avoiding sun and hydration/diet for a beautiful skin. Everything is quick and easy on TV.

What about reality? It’s no surprise that being brought up surrounded by such marketing nonsense we feel lost and disappointed when we can’t achieve a goal overnight. It may be hard to stay motivated for months, work hard every day and see the scale budge really slowly.

Loving the Process

This is when you need to understand and accept the process that will really help you achieve your goals. Once you have a clear diet and workout plan, accept that from here on out it’s going to be sweat blood and tears. You should enjoy every minute because it will make you a better person. Once you see effects they will push you to stay consistent. Loving the process may sound like a cliché but it happens to many people. You get into something (such as gym training) to achieve a result (a better physique) and you end up liking the training itself so much that it becomes your goal not just a means to one.

Hard Work and Satisfaction

Hard work is usually satisfying in the long run, especially when it’s work that you set for yourself. Psychologists say that internal motivation (something YOU really want to do) is stronger and more lasting than external (work for money or other incentives).

The second difference is one between instant gratification and long term accomplishment. Small pleasures are an important part of our lives but we shouldn’t be addicted to short lived pleasure. Having a reward here and there will help you on a path to your long term goal but be careful. Longing for instant gratification can throw you off balance and cloud your focus.

Tips

It may be really hard to remain far sighted when it comes to reaching your goals. The couch, TV and snacks are here and now and they will make you feel ‘oh soooo good’ as opposed to hardcore training. But guess what – TV and chips will pass quickly and you won’t even remember them tomorrow. Beating the temptation however, and working out will be one more step towards becoming the person you want to be.

TIP: Try cheating your mind into thinking that it can have instant gratification – imagine you already look how you ultimately want to look. Embrace it and imagine how happy and satisfied you are. What clothes are you wearing? What compliments are you getting? Visualize the outcome and it will help you stay motivated.

Muscle: A Quick Anatomy Lesson

muscle lesson

It may seem obvious – you know well enough what muscles are, right? It’s the stuff that makes you look great and allows you to move and, more importantly lift weights! Well, let me tell you, there’s much more to muscle than that. Without muscle you’d not only be immobile but you wouldn’t be able to eat or breathe. You may have never thought about it this way. Muscles have so many functions all vital to our life and health that they should not be neglected. Let’s talk more about kinds of muscle and their specifics.

Basics: What is Muscle

Muscle is a soft tissue found in the bodies of humans and most animals, made of proteins actin and myosin that when moved against each other create contractions which influence the cells’ shape and length. Such changes create energy and movement in the muscle.
The muscles are controlled by the central nervous system and tiny nerves which tell them what to do and when to contract.
We all have between 650 and 800 muscles in our bodies – it is hard to tell exactly. They take up around half of your body weight or more.

Types of Muscle

Even though you may associate muscle with the visible tissue which you work out at themuscle chart gym, we have three kinds of muscles in our bodies: skeletal, smooth and cardiac muscles. Some are not visible nor can we consciously control them, but they are literally essential to living.

  1. Skeletal muscles are essential for moving your body including arms and legs. This is indeed the tissue which gives us a curvy, aesthetic appearance and we work those out at the gym.

    They are attached to the bone either directly or via tendons. We can move them voluntarily –consciously and the movement is visible to the naked eye. From walking and lifting things to moving your eyeballs all these movements are controlled by skeletal muscles.

Even though they make you look aesthetically, they primary function is to support our core and organs as well as joints and bones. They guarantee good posture.

Lastly, muscles generate enrgy and heat from what we consume, glycogen stores but also fat. Use muscle=lose fat – EASY!

Skeletal muscles fibers are divided into slow and fast twitch. Slow twitch fibers are denser and can contract for longer periods (for example, standing upright) as opposed to fast twitch muscle fibers contracting rapidly and strongly but for shorter periods of time (for example during exercise). It is the fast twitch fibers which are mostly responsible for muscle growth and give you that muscular look.

  1. Smooth muscles – enable the movements in the stomach, intestines, arteries, and hollow organs.

Smooth muscles are also called visceral muscles. They work automatically (without our control) and they enable us eat and digest food, shrink and expand our pupils for and even facilitate childbirth (the infamous contractions are caused by smooth muscle).

3.Cardiac muscles are muscles of the heart which are responsible for heartbeat.
They also work automatically and constantly (that’s why you’re still alive!). They are responsible for pumping blood through the heart so it can distribute oxygen all over your body to all cells and tissues.