Monthly Archives: June 2020

The Pros and Cons of Intermittent Fasting

You may have heard about a current diet trend called intermittent fasting. This weight loss approach has been around in different forms for many years but has seen a recent rise in popularity. Intermittent fasting is not necessarily a diet, but more of a pattern of eating that involves cycling between times of eating and fasting, ranging from a few hours to a few days at a time. Intermittent fasting can offer some weight loss benefits but also has several drawbacks, and it is not safe for everyone.

There are several ways intermittent fasting can be done, but figuring out which way works best will depend on each individual. While one of the main attractions of intermittent fasting is not having to count calories and track foods, weight loss benefits will only occur if  you stick to healthy foods during your eating windows, and do not use it as an excuse to eat high-calorie, junk foods. When fasting, you may still drink water, coffee, and other no-calorie beverages which can help reduce hunger and keep you hydrated.

Four methods of fasting

  • The 16/8 method: This method requires you to fast every day for 14-16 hours while you restrict your daily eating window to between 8-10 hours. This method is simple and can be accomplished by skipping breakfast and not eating after dinner, while you eat two or more meals during the eating window.
  • The 5:2 diet: This method involves eating normally five days a week and then restricting calories to 500-600 for two days of the week. Women should stick to 500 calories on fasting days, while men can consume 600 calories.
  • 24-hour fast: Some people prefer to eat a normal diet most days of the week and then do a 24-hour fast once or twice a week. This method is the most difficult to maintain.
  • Alternate-day fasting: With this method, you fast every other day. Some variations of this method allow you to eat 500 calories on fasting days, while others require one day of eating, followed by one day of fasting, and so on. This method is also very hard to sustain in the long term.

Benefits and drawbacks of fasting
Intermittent fasting can be helpful for weight loss. Studies have shown that when meals are restricted to an eight to 10-hour period during the day, it does aid in weight loss. However, weight loss results from fasting diets may not last. When you are done fasting and return to a normal diet, you may regain the weight or even more.

Another common pitfall to intermittent fasting is that it is difficult to maintain for the long term. And fasting can lead to deficiencies in important nutrients, vitamins, and minerals which can cause fatigue, dizziness, constipation, and other health problems. Fasting can also lead to dehydration, which can be dangerous.

There are certain people who should not try fasting at all, including those with diabetes, pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding, elderly people, children, and anyone with a chronic disease. Before trying intermittent fasting, you should consult your doctor to make sure it’s a safe choice for you.

What is essential in learning any new skill or practice is self-discipline, and this applies when adopting the practice of fasting as well as resuming a healthy diet once fasting has ended. Each person needs to find positive ways to motivate himself/herself to maintain the discipline that is required.

 

Lower Back Pain and Exercise

Easing Lower Back Pain Through Exercise

If you suffer from lower back pain, you are not alone. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), nearly 80 percent of Americans will experience some level of lower back pain at some time in their lives. It is the most common reason for doctor visits and for job-related disability. Lower back pain is usually caused by injury, although some back pain can be caused by certain diseases such as arthritis, a ruptured or herniated disc, or more rarely, cancer.

Lower back pain can be either acute, meaning it lasts a few days to weeks, or chronic, lasting longer than three months. It’s important to see a doctor for any new back pain to rule out underlying disease. If your lower back pain is the result of an injury, the best way to keep your symptoms under control is by staying active. Regular exercise can help the muscles in your back relax and can increase blood flow to the area.

When exercising after a mild back injury or with chronic back pain, there are some important things to keep in mind so you don’t make your symptoms worse.

Get out of bed.
When your back hurts, it’s tempting to just lie in bed and watch television. While resting for a day or two is fine, any longer will make your pain worse, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The sooner you get up and moving, the quicker you will feel some relief. Start slowly, with simple activities such as a 10-15 minute walk two times a day.

Stretch the right way.
Performing the right types of stretches and doing them correctly can really help calm lower back spasms. Do the exercises recommended here two times per day to help relieve back pain and strengthen back muscles. Click here to find eight back stretches.

Don’t push through the pain.
If certain exercises are making your back pain worse, stop doing them. Pushing into a painful position can damage tissue further and make back pain worse.

Check your posture.
Regularly slumping or slouching, especially while sitting for long periods of time, such as at an office desk, is a common reason for lower back pain. Focus on sitting and standing up straight, and make sure your desk chair is ergonomically built to support your back while working. Also, wearing high heels can exacerbate the problem as can being overweight or obese.

Avoid high-impact activities.
Running, high-impact aerobics, basketball, and other activities that place a lot of stress on your joints can make back pain worse. Avoid these types of activities until your pain gets better. Instead, focus on lower impact exercises such as walking or riding the stationary bike or elliptical machine. Swimming and aquatic exercise are also especially helpful when dealing with lower back pain.

Be careful with weight lifting.
When you’re experiencing back pain, avoid doing overhead weight moves such as shoulder presses and weighted squats. These types of weight movements can add pressure to your spinal discs and cause back pain to worsen.

Once you make these changes to your exercise routine, your lower back pain should start to improve significantly. If it does not, you should consult your doctor.

 

 

Start Your Day with a Powerful Breakfast

The importance of Breakfast Nutrition

You’ve probably heard the mantra – breakfast is the most important meal of the day! But what exactly does that mean? What are the healthiest foods to eat for breakfast?

Eating a healthy breakfast is the best way to start your day. A good breakfast will help you think and perform better at your job or at school and can help you maintain a healthy weight and promote heart health.

Don’t Skip!
Many people skip breakfast, either because they aren’t hungry in the morning, feel like they’re too pressed for time, or as a way to lose weight. But studies show that breakfast skippers are not only sabotaging weight loss attempts, but they may also be impacting their body’s ability to control blood sugar as well as affecting their quality of sleep.

What’s for breakfast?
Getting into the habit of eating breakfast is important, but equally important is what you eat for breakfast. Grabbing a protein bar or shake is better than nothing, but highly processed foods like these are not the best choices for your first meal of the day. Eating a balanced breakfast that’s packed full of protein and nutrients will give you the most health benefits.

When planning your meals, focus on pairing carbohydrates with proteins for breakfast. Carbohydrates will fuel your brain and supply your body with the energy it needs to begin the day. Protein will help you feel full and satisfied until lunchtime.

A breakfast that’s high in protein has also been shown to support weight loss by increasing muscle mass, helping regulate blood sugar, helping you feel full longer, and curbing the urge to snack at night. Aim for 20-30 grams of protein at breakfast; this can be accomplished with an 8 oz. cup of Greek yogurt or one egg with a couple of turkey sausage links, for example.

Protein-packed breakfast ideas
Skip the donuts and danishes, and try some of these ideas for a healthier breakfast that pairs the right amount of proteins and carbs.

  • Greek yogurt with berries and almonds
  • Steel-cut oatmeal with berries and 6 oz. Greek yogurt
  • Avocado toast with egg
  • Whole wheat toast with 1 tbsp. of nut butter and sliced banana
  • Berry and yogurt smoothie
  • Peanut butter and banana smoothie
  • Whole wheat English muffin with egg and low-fat cheese
  • Sausage and egg casserole with a side of fresh fruit
  • Whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk and topped with berries and almonds
  • Egg scramble with turkey sausage, low-fat cheese, and veggies with a side of berries

 

Your Sunscreen Questions Answered

Summertime has arrived and with more time spent outdoors, you’ll want to make sure to use a good sunscreen to protect your skin. Unlike the 1970s and 1980s when tanning oils and the bronzed look were all the rage, we now know that using sunscreen is essential to preventing not only sunburn but long-term damage from the sun—including skin cancer.

While most people adhere to this advice and aren’t breaking out the baby oil to get a deep, dark tan, they still have misconceptions when it comes to sun protection. What SPF is best? How much sunscreen do I need? How often should I reapply? If I tan well, do I really need sunscreen?

Below are answers to some of the most common questions about sunscreen:

Are higher SPFs better?
Sunscreens are available with SPFs (sun protection factors) ranging from SPF 4 to SPF 100+. Most people mistakenly think that the higher the SPF, the more sun protection the product offers, but that is not necessarily true.

Dermatologists recommend that everyone use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. SPF 30 blocks approximately 97 percent of UVB rays, which are the ones that cause skin cancer. For products with anything higher than a SPF 30, the difference in sun protection is minimal. No sunscreen can can offer 100 percent protection from UVB rays, and products with higher SPFs often contain more chemical ingredients that can irritate the skin. And sunscreens with higher SPFs are often more expensive.

Which sunscreen is best?
There are so many different brands and different types of sunscreens available, it would be hard to choose the best one. A lot depends on your personal preferences—whether you prefer a lotion, spray, or cream, or whether you want a chemical versus a physical sunscreen, and your preference for a specific fragrance or no fragrance at all, etc.

Whatever sunscreen you choose, always make sure it is at least SPF 30 and is labeled “broad spectrum.” Broad spectrum sunscreens protect the skin against both UVA and UVB rays; that is, they protect against both the UVA rays that can cause premature skin aging, wrinkles, and age spots and the UVB rays that cause sunburn, which over time, can lead to skin cancer.

How often do I need to reapply sunscreen?
How many times have you gotten to the beach or the pool and applied your sunscreen, and then spent the day swimming and playing in the sun—forgetting to reapply and ending up with red, sore sunburned skin later that evening? One of the biggest mistakes that many people make is not reapplying their sunscreen either at all or often enough.

All sunscreens need to be reapplied at least every two hours while outdoors. If you will be spending a lot of time in the water or if you are sweating a lot, such as when exercising outdoors, then you should reapply more often. Even if a product is labeled “water-resistant,” it still needs to be reapplied at least every two hours—no sunscreen is completely water-proof.

How much sunscreen do I need?
If you use too little sunscreen, you may end up with a painful sunburn. Dermatologists recommend using enough sunscreen to fill a shot glass (about two tablespoons) to cover all exposed areas of the body and face. If you prefer to use a spray, always make sure to rub in the sunscreen after spraying it on your skin to get even coverage.

It’s cloudy, do I really need to wear sunscreen?
Yes, you do! Don’t skimp on the sunscreen on overcast days. The sun’s UV rays can easily pass through clouds, and you can still get a sunburn.

My skin tans well, do I still have to use sunscreen?
All dermatologists will tell you that there is no such thing as a healthy or safe tan. A tan is a sign that skin damage has already occurred, and it does not offer any protection against future sun exposure. A so-called “base tan” only provides the equivalent of about a SPF 4, so a tan will not protect against sunburn or skin cancer.

Whether a tan is from an indoor tanning bed or from the sun, tanning causes skin damage over time. This damage may not only lead to premature skin aging and more wrinkles, it can also lead to skin cancer.